Wars of the Roses
Having now assembled a large number of 15mm Wars of the Roses figures for use with the Impetus set of rules, I decided to try out 'The
Pretender' campaign featured in 'Extra Impetus 3'. Eventually I want to enlarge and try out the campaign with all six of our gaming group taking
active roles but to see how it played Nige and I decided to give it a whirl. Nige (Lancastrians) chose to be 'The Pretender', whilst I commanded
the Yorkist forces of the true King, Edward IV.
The campaign is very simple and uses similar mechanics to those used in the rules, allowing linked battles to be played, plus a degree of
treachery and friction, making it exciting but with a minimum of record keeping required.
Basically the campaign allows for a strategic phase using a basic map of Britain, and a tactical phase involving tabletop battles using Impetus.
A Rebel force lands at one of six locations, diced for randomly; Ravenspur, Sandwich, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Milford Haven or Furness. The
King's army is in London but one force under a Lord, whose loyalty is in some question and liable to treachery, must be dispatched to another
location some distance from London and/or possible landing areas.
Part 1 Invasion and the Battle of Bristol
King Edward IV was hawking with his brother Richard when he learned that Margaret’s forces (200 pts) had landed a week earlier at
Plymouth. It was not unexpected. Yorkist and Burgundian spies in the Lancastrian court in France had been warning the King that Margaret of
Anjou, the Duke of Somerset and King Henry had been recruiting and planning an invasion for some time with French assistance. With a
favourable wind Margaret had set sail at the beginning of March.
Edward had dispatched Lord Grey of Ruthin, Earl of Kent, to Coventry with a force (90 pts) to be ideally centrally located, against any
Lancastrian incursions in the midlands and north, whilst the main Royal army (210 pts) was mustering close to London to protect the south
and rich pro-Yorkist capital.
The King sent out commissions of array and began to recruit men to his banner to meet Margaret’s army. There was little need for panic
however. Margaret had decided to spend time at Plymouth to allow the pro-Lancastrian nobles of the south west to gather their forces and
march to her army. Edward’s urgency increased however when Coventry immediately declared for Margaret after learning of the invasion. The
Rebel Lancastrian army received a much better reception than King Edward had unexpected and a flood of recruits flocked to King Henry's
King Edward ordered the Duke of Kent to travel south to effect a union at London, though taking time to recruit from the Yorkist Lords of the
midlands. King Edward’s Royal army continued to grow (310 pts) as the Earl of Kent arrived in London, via St Albans, during the first week in
April. The Earl had done well. Though Coventry had declared for the Lancastrian cause it was an isolated case, and Kent’s force had almost
doubled in size (170 pts). The Royal army too had increased rapidly (380 pts) and the united Royal army set off westwards during the second
week of April.
Margaret had soon learned of Coventry’s loyalty and the slow southwards progress of the Earl of Kent. The then Lord Ruthin had defected to
the Yorkist cause at the disasterous Battle of Northampton in 1460 and though rewarded with an Earldom, and marriage of his son to the King
Edward’s sister, Margaret believed his loyalty to King Edward was lukewarm at best. To the Lancastrian’s he seemed to be dragging his heels
making pretence of recruiting but clearly unwilling to commit.
Margaret’s recruiting was going well but progress had been painfully slow. Learning that Kent was at St Albans and that union with the
usurper Edward was imminent, she began to march north towards Bristol via the Exeter road. The Lancastrian army (370 pts) had to halt close
to Bristol to recover from the exhaustion of the march when Margaret learned that the united Yorkist army (550 pts) had forced marched rapidly
to Reading after rousing speeches and exhortations to the men from King Edward. Furthermore Edward successfully welcomed further
recruits at the town swelling his Royal army (590 pts) before setting off westwards on yet another forced march.
Margaret’s army, now fully recovered at Bristol, was alarmed to see the rapid progress of the enemy and hastily welcomed more recruits to her
banners in preparation for the coming clash.
At the end of April the Yorkist army of King Edward (590 pts) was sighted on the horizon by Margaret’s scouts. The Duke of Somerset had
called a council of war and had drawn up the Rebel army (480 pts) to offer battle.
The Battle of Bristol
The Lancastrian van extended across the field and, commanded by Lord Roos, consisted of a force of Welsh archers protected by
fortifications, flanked on their left by mercenary crossbowmen and retinue archers, and on the right a force of bill armed retainers.
A small rise rose from the largely flat plain in front of the crossbowmen, and another infront of the billmen on their right. The Lancastrian left
was covered by a small copse. Unbeknown to the Lancastrians, the Earl of Kent had sent a unit of handgunners to occupy the copse, to
threaten the flank when the time was ripe. Hidden behind the copse were also a small unit of Scourers and the Earl’s personal household
troops on foot.
The Lancastrian rearguard commanded by the Duke of Somerset, accompanied by the King Henry and Margaret (the bitch!) comprised a force
of mounted nobles, billmen on nags and Scourers. The Lancastrian army also consisted of around 10,000 men.
The Yorkist army concentrated on the Lancastrian left. Mindful of the Earl of Kent’s lack of enthusiasm King Edward provided the Earl with a
small command consisting of Scourers and Currours, pike and handgun armed mercenaries and the Earl’s personal household retainers. To
ensure no offence King Edward gave the Earl the honour of commanding the right of his Yorkist battle line.
The Duke of Norfolk commanded the small left Vanguard, consisting of mostly retinue archers and the artillery of the Royal ordinance, with a
force of mercenary handgunners. The Duke had occupied a small wood to his front, and adjacent to a low rise, with those same handgunners.
The centre was commanded personally by the King being comprised of the mass of liveried footsoldiers with retinue archers far in the majority
and few billmen, though all mounted on nags, with the King’s personal household forming a mounted reserve. The King’s force numbering
also about 10,000 souls.
As the Yorkist army moved rapidly towards the Lancastrians on their nag mounts, the Royal artillery opened up a desultory fire upon the Welsh
bowmen, causing little effect. The Lancastrian bills on their right moved up to the low hill to their front, being careful to remain behind the
crest. Crossbowmen occupied the low rise to their front too as the Lancastrians occupied what little high ground there was.
Far outnumbering their opponents, King Edward’s Yorkist archers fired volley after volley, the rear ranks firing overhead of those to their front.
Lancastrian archers opposite replied in kind, though far outnumbered.
The Duke of Norfolk’s archers swung round to fire long range into the flank of the Lancastrian crossbowmen, accompanied by some light
bombards, prompting Lord Roos to send half of his Welsh archers out of the lines of fortifications in an effort to counter this.
Quickly Norfolk’s archers turned to face the threat to their front and in a short time these Welsh, no longer protected by fortifications, were
routed from the field. However, the Yorkist artillery were also routed by crossbowmen firing from the rise. Norfolk’s handgunners then
advanced from their hiding place in the woods opposite the crossbowmen.
King Edward’s numerically superior archers were now gaining the upper hand though still firing only from long range, causing much disorder
and casualties amongst the enemy’s front line. Whilst this was occurring the Earl of Kent had sent his Scourers around the wood on the
Lancastrian left prompting much contemplation on the part of Somerset and Margaret, but no response as yet.
Lord Roos now decided to take the initiative and push back the Yorkist archers to his front by menacing them with his billmen.
Though the arrow storm unleashed at them was furious as the Lancastrians closed, the ensuing melee was short and swift as Norfolk’s
archers were routed and his command fled the field in disarray.
The Lancastrian billmen then decided to withdraw back behind the high ground.
It was now very obvious though that even though Norfolk’s small command had been routed the Lancastrians were in danger of losing their
entire army with the mass of Yorkists bearing down on their left. Wisely Somerset decided to retreat from the table whilst he could still do so in
some order. As weakened crossbow and archer companies were withdrawn King Edward pressed on encouraging his men to follow on in an
attempt to catch the enemy before they could do so.
The Earl of Kent sprung a surprise attack into the extreme left flank of the Lancastrian line. The handgunners closed swiftly to point blank
range before discharging their pieces into the archers ranks, routing them.
Kent’s Scourers then appeared and pushed back Somerset’s Currours who had advanced upon them much disordered. Massed archery then
poured into the flank of the Lancastrian horse who routed in disarray. The Yorkist horse then launched a timely flank attack into the disordered
and withdrawing archers.
The Lancastrian position was now unravelling and the situation was untenable. Somerset ordered a full scale withdrawl before his army
degenerated in panic. A last ditch attempt to seize the Pretender saw a charge delivered by the Yorkist Currours into the flank of the
Lancastrian nobles, accompanied by Somerset, King Henry and Margaret, was only just defeated and routed with the Lancastrian Royal party
fighting for their very survival.
At this the exhausted and disordered Yorkist army halted and the Lancastrians disengaged. The battle and Yorkist victory had been very
bloody but mostly due to long range archery rather than actual hand to hand combat.
For those familiar with the Impetus system the battle was decided really by the quality of commanders and initiative rolls. All three Yorkist
commands managed to successfully roll double 6 at some stage, upping their levels to Charismatic (Edward IV), Expert (Norfolk) and Poor
(Kent) and seemed to win 90% of the initiative rolls making the Lancastrians dance to their tune throughout the game. The Yorkist archery was
consistently good with that of the Lancastrians quite poor meaning that as the Yorkist commander I didn't really have to try to engage in close
combat. Nige opted for more bill armed units than bows, whereas I chose far more bow units than bills. As the Lancastrians were just over
70% of the points total of the Yorkist army, this meant a significant and telling advantage in terms of bowmen for King Edward.
King Edward IV's Yorkist Army had lost 197 points, and that of the King Henry 176 points, leaving the Yorkist 'Royal' Army with 393 points and
that of the Lancastrian 'Rebels' 304 points.
The Lancastrians being the defeated side must therefore rally two areas away, and chose to flee north east to Coventry. The campaign
Part 2 to follow shortly....