A Medieval Fortress

The year before last, I bought a medieval fortress set from Kallistra at CRISIS. This is a substantial set, with a couple of walls, towers, a keep and a gate. I’ve been collecting siege scenarios for the Wars of the Roses as well as for El Cid and was looking forward to having games. However, I abysmally failed when it came to painting, and this was not for trying. After two attempts, I angrily packed the whole thing and stored it in the cupboard.

So when I discovered that my new gaming chum Sigur is a professional painter and proprietor of Battle Brush Studios, I decided to hand the whole hotchpotch over into his capable hands. As was expected, Sigur revealed himself to be a real wizard of the brush: reliable, fast and extremely talented! I’m very happy with how the fortress turned out.

Assembling all my already painted siege stuff, including my scratch built mine, I staged a mock siege just for the fun of it. Here are some pictures of the whole set up:

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I’m really looking forward to having a game with the fortress. I can also highly recommend Battle Brush Studios if you need a reliable painting service that delivers stunning results.

To Catch a Queen – WotR AAR

Recently, we had K.’s brother J. and his son over to play a game of medieval Sharp Practice. Some of you might remember that I built a medieval cog once – well, it was time to finally put her on the table!

The scenario was set after the Battle of Northampton in 1460, where the Yorkists managed to capture King Henry. Queen Margaret, however, managed to escape to Wales, despite being ambushed on the way by some Yorkists, who took all her valuables.

In our story, the Queen wants to escape to the coast to take a ship to France, no doubt to get some money from her father to raise an army. The Queen was escorted by her loyal bodyguard of Men-at-Arms and some mercenary handgonners. Waiting for her on the beach were a group of Archers and a detachment of sailors from the ship’s crew. Hot on her heels were the Yorkists, who had a slight superiority in troop quality, fielding two groups of Billmen, one of Archers and one of Men-at-Arms.

K. and the kid played the Lancastarians while J. and me took the Yorkists. We decided to split our forces: the Billmen were deployed to pursue the Queen’s entourage while the Men-at-Arms and the Archers were to advance on the beach.

"Any sign of them yet?"
“Any sign of them yet?”
The Queen and her retinue.
The Queen and her retinue.
Yorkist Billmen hot on their heels.
Yorkist Billmen hot on their heels.

The Yorkist Billmen stepped lively and were able to engage the handgonners positioned to the rear of the column. The handgonners shooting hurt but didn’t deter the brave lads.

Billmen engaging handgonners.
Billmen engaging handgonners.

Still, the handgonners kept up an efficient defence, falling back without breaking when attacked, shooting and blocking the way for their pursuers. In the end, they succumbed to the greater numbers, but they had successfully delayed the Yorkists’ advance.

The Handgonners' fighting retreat.
The Handgonners’ fighting retreat.

Meanwhile, on the beach – nothing happened. K. and the kid had deployed their troops to secure the embarkment and waited.

Lancastarians waiting.
Lancastarians waiting.

Unfortunately, neither of our two Big Men positioned on the beach could be activated, as their cards just wouldn’t turn up before Tiffin ended the turn. This went on turn after turn, and we were getting quite frustrated, as we knew we had almost no chance to stop the Lancastarians now. Finally, we got the Archers and Men-at-Arms going, but it was too late.

Finally the Yorkists advance.
Finally the Yorkists advance.

The Archers managed to do some damage and our Men-at-Arms took their anger out on the poor sailors, but this couldn’t change to inevitable result: The Queen embarked in her boat, and while the Archers took one last shot at her she was rowed to the ship, which set sails and took her to France.

The end.
The end.

It was great fun to play with J. and the kid, and I was happy to get the boat out and use the beach mat for medievals. However, the game was very frustrating for J. and myself. I felt like a bad host as J. didn’t have much opportunity to actually play! Perhaps I should consider to soften the effect of the Tiffin card a bit, at least in scenarios like this, where a chase is going on and it is not even very plausible for the pursuers to stand around and do nothing.

Still, everyone agreed that they had a good time, so I’m sure we’ll have an opportunity to play again soon.

A Broken Axle – WotR AAR

Last week, K.’s brother J. and his girlfriend L. visited us for a couple of day. They had a pretty intense program of sightseeing, but we nevertheless managed to squeeze a game in. L. had heard about the strange games we play but had no experience with wargaming. We gave her a short introduction to the Sharp Practice rules and she teamed up with J. against K., while I decided to play the role of umpire for a couple of turns.

The scenario revolved around a broken down cart with the Yorkist regimental cash box. The cart was guarded by a group of handgonners and skirmishers, who were eagerly awaiting reinforcements consisting of archers and men-at-arms. The Lancastrians attacked with archers, billmen and men-at-arms. To repair the cart, the Yorkist players (J. and L.) had to roll 2D6 each Tiffin and add up the pips. If the sum was 28, the cart was repaired and could move next turn.

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K. started her attack pretty straightforward, moving her billmen and men-at-arms through the pasture directly towards the defenders. J. and L. had two groups of archers on their right flank, which advanced leisurely, all the while shooting at K.’s group of archers and slowing it down considerably. The other reinforcements rushed through the fields to aid the handgonners and skirmishers. The handgonners got off a volley before being hit by K.’s men-at-arms. The predictable result was handgonners turning tail and running.

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Things were looking good for K. However, as I was tired of being umpire, I decided to join her side and help her a bit. Alas, my ‘help’ confounded the Lancastrian command structure and as our styles of playing are very different, our troops soon were following contradictory orders.

In the meantime, the Yorkists had brought up their reinforcements and now had a group of fresh men-at-arms at the cart, while their archers were marching in from the right flank. Another couple of melees near the cart saw the Yorkist skirmishers flee but unfortunately also finished off the Lancastrian men-at-arms.

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And then Goofus and Doofus repairing the cart announced they were finished and the cart took off, still in possession of the Yorkists. Our billmen were left standing in the rain, facing enemy men-at-arms, while the still fresh Yorkist archers were rushing towards the centre. A clear Lancastrian victory!

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The game was more exciting than I would have thought. At first, it looked like the Lancastrians were doing well and J. and L. were a bit annoyed that their archers were off at the far right, quite a distance from the melee in the middle. However, in the end this was a good decision: They took out one group of Lancastrian archers and then formed a handy reserve that could dominate the field after the tin cans had beaten each other to pieces. For the Lancastrians, speed was of essence and had they reached the cart before the Yorkist reinforcements arrived, the situation would have looked different.

Considering that Sharp Practice is not the simplest set of rules, especially for beginners, L. had the knack of it in no time. Only the number and variety of modifiers for shooting and melee caused some confusion. But she announced that she is looking forward to having another go!

Skirmish at Merrybridge

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.

Do I see some movement over there?
Do I spot movement over there?
Gonna make a nice crispy bacon for the Lord!
Gonna make some nice crispy bacon for the Lord!

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).

Hurry up men!
Step lively men!
Hey, someone forgot to pack the arrows!
Hey, someone forgot to pack the arrows!

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.

Let's beat them back!
Let’s beat them back!

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.

It's only a flesh wound!
It’s only a flesh wound!

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.

The end.
The end.

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!