After having repaired the old wooden bridge at Merrybridge, the Yorkist commander ordered his man to put up camp. His scouts told him that there were no enemies nearby, so he didn’t take any special precautions apart from positioning one lonely sentry at the other side of the river. Alas, his scouts were wrong! The Lancastarians had, in fact, already dispatched a small force to attack the Yorkist camp at dawn.
This scenario was inspired by the skirmish at Ferrybridge in 1461, which was a prelude to the Battle of Towton. The Lancastarians had surprised a Yorkist detachment that had repaired the bridge and even managed to kill its commander, Lord FitzWalter. Only the quick response of Warwick and King Edward IV (then still allies), who mobilized reinforcements and sent a flanking force to cross a ford and attack the Lancastarians on the other side of the river, made it possible to retake the bridge.
For our scenario, I had the whole Yorkist force sleeping. As soon as the alarm was sounded, they could, on the Tiffin card, roll for each Big Man and unit to test if they would wake up (for most units, this was 5+). The alarm would be sounded as soon as the sentry had reached the camp – but before he could move, the sentry had to identify (uncover) at least one of the Lancastarian blinds. The Yorkists had one unit more (five against the Lancastarian four), but I was certain that it would be difficult enough to mobilise all their troops in time.
So, at the beginning of the game, the board looked quite peaceful. The lone sentry was watching the horizon while, in the camp, the eager cook already had started to prepare breakfast.
It wasn’t to stay that quiet. Due to some good dice rolling, the sentry uncovered the blinds pretty fast and hurried back to the camp. The Lancastarians rushed in column formation along the road to cross the bridge before the Yorkists would wake up. To their shock, one group of Lancastarian archers realised that they had forgot to pack their arrows in the excitement! (K. drew the ‘Out of Ammo’ card, which was only the start of a deplorable series of bad luck).
Also, as soon as the sentry reached the camp and sounded the alarm, most of the Yorkist Big Men and groups came rushing out of their tents – another surprisingly good set of dice rolls by me. Only the men-at-arms and the second-in-command, Sir Percival Pillbeam, didn’t hear the trumpets and snored on.
I rushed my archers to the barricades to shoot at the approaching troops while leading the handgonners and the billmen out of the camp to confront the Lancastarians at the bridge.
Unfortunately, my handgonners were a bit too eager and rushed headlong into the enemy’s billmen, who threw them back without difficulties. Meanwhile, the Lancastarian archers started to pick off my troops. They even hit and wounded poor James Merridew, my Big Man 3; fortunately he was able to continue fighting.
The fighting around the bridge was very fierce. My archery took its toll, but finally the Lancastarian men-at-arms managed to break through and attack my bowmen at the barricades. However, my men-at-arms had also finally finished putting on their armour and were preparing to counterattack. Still no sign of Percy Pillbeam, however! A dreadful suspicion started to grow in my commander’s mind… Could it be treachery?
Well, I drew the ‘Treachery’ card, which meant that I had to retreat with the commander’s group for one turn. So a very angry Sir Nicholas Bradwardyn lead his men-at-arms to the tent of Percy Pillbeam only to discover that the treacherous son of a sloth had slunk off! However, this impulsive move allowed the Lancastarian men-at-arms to enter the camp, where they started to destroy the tents.
At this point, we decided to call it a day. With most of the Yorkist troops taking to their heals, Sir Bradwardyn on a personal vendetta against his second-in-command and Lancastarians in the camp, it looked like a Lancastarian victory. However, the Yorkist men-at-arms were still fresh and as soon as Sir Bradwardyn’s head would get a bit clearer he could cause havoc among the battered Lancastarians. So in the end, we agreed to declare it a draw.
This was another great game. As always, Sharp Practice delivered a cracking narrative – the whole story of the sleeping Percy Pillbeam, who turned out not be sleeping at all, provided a lot of colour to the carnage that went on at the bridge and at the barricades. However, when I designed the scenario, I didn’t think that the Yorkists would come out of their tents that fast – it would have been interesting if the Lancastarians had advanced further before I could organise my defence. But at the moment, I really seem to have a lucky streak when rolling the dice!