Monday, 2 September 2013

Flodden 500 - the game

The refight of Flodden Field 500 years on took place as promised this Saturday, - a few days early, but close enough.

I commanded the English, assisted by Monday Night regular Ian. My old friend Derek took the role of James IV, assisted by another Monday Night-er, Chris A. To enable me to play with my toys for once Phil agreed to umpire and oversee fair play.

We used Advanced Armati, with a few amendments specific to Flodden and also using some changes that Phil had developed through his regulalr playing of the renaissance rules. The tweaks and the Orbats we used are posted on the Downloads section, top right, for those of you interested, together with some changes I have thought of since.

Having had lunch (cheese and ham baguettes, flapjack,smartie cookies & tea/coffee as desired) we settled down for an afternoon's action, simply pausing to note that as it was close to Phil's birthday we'd stop for afternoon tea & birthday cake about 3ish.

When Phil & I did the play test I ran the Scots. I didn't realise, until I sat down on the other side of the table to them, how nasty they look to fight. There's lots of them, and they have lots of armour and long pointy sticks.

This is the Scottish main battle, with James IV proudly clutching his pike in the middle of the unit. Derek started with James at the rear of the army on his horse, but gamely playing historically dismounted and took his place with his nobles*. We then opened the game with the artillery duel. One of the rules I put in for this game was that the artillery had to shoot at each other for at least the first turn. Ian proved to be very effective on his flank, inflicting hits with both of his guns & escaping unscathed. I, however, did a fair exchange pretty much.

The Scots sat on their ridge line for the first turn, and refused to move.

King of Scots on the left, Duc D'Aussi on the right
Ian and I stepped forward off the ridge line to get below the elevation of the Scottish guns, and also to ensure we were on the line of the brook wherever possible to get as much benefit from the terrain as we could.

A second round of artillery fire enabled me to inflict a disorder hit on the King's battle, which had the effect of provoking James to advance.

A puff of cotton wool marks the first artillery strike.
I can understand why the Scots advanced, but I think they missed a trick by not getting their left wing ahead of the game. As this has the easiest target (regardless of the terrain) it presents them with the best chance of turning the English line if they can get into action early enough.

The English under the Admiral close up to the brook.
Even so, it still looks pretty hairy for the English. The Highlanders on the Scottish left (just visible under the Saltire, top left) have impetus in combat and if they were to break their opponents in the first round it could all turn out badly.

At this point it is also worthwhile pointing out that the longbows were proving gloriously ineffective, although another round or two of artillery fire had inflicted a couple of hits on the Scottish steamroller.

Soon my battle was squaring up to the Scottish main battle across the stream.

That's Surrey, standing on the closest thing I could find to a carriage, behind my battle. A few provocative comments and some point blank longbow shots were enough to provoke the Scots to charge across the brook and, I hoped, their eternal damnation.

To my right the Scots had got to the stream line ahead of Ian, but no matter. We were confident that they would likewise commit the folly of charging us across the stream.

The key thing for us at this point was to provoke the Scots to fight in the middle ahead of the combat out on our right. By hanging back we seemed to have achieved this.

Soon we were locked in bloody combat across the stream. The few hits inflicted as the Scots approached and the rough ground gave the English a slight advantage, except in the middle where the presence of James evened things up a bit.

The Admiral, however, had it slightly easier despite not getting to the streamline for the first round of combat. The wider frontage of the English battle allowed for multiple unit combat to the English advantage. Plus we had Ian rolling dice at this end of the table.

However, regardless of how it was all going the Scots looked pretty pleased with themselves.

The combat between Surrey and James was hard fought, but the English had the first breakthrough, routing the Scot's left hand front unit of nobles, here seen fleeing up the slope.

Okay, so in Armati you're supposed to take the figures straight off, but where's the harm in posing a few of them for the photo? However, having broken the front rank this still left the lowland levy to deal with.

 Meanwhile the Scottish left wing had finally made contact with the English right. The initial contact was a great shock to the English, with the Highlanders making full use of their charge.

The extreme right English bill & bow unit broke under the charge and was soon heading off table at great speed. By this point we'd run out of casualty figures, so were using laminated chits to record casualties.

Some relief came for the English in the middle, where the Admiral's battle was finally making its presence felt as another unit of nobles threw down their pikes and fled.

However it hadn't been an easy victory as the presence of the casualty and fatigue markers clearly show. The right wing was now under even more pressure, with another unit broken.

You can't see it in this picture, but Dacre's border horse had been moved up to cover this flank, so the rear Scottish units have about faced to form a schiltron.

In the centre the Admiral had seen off the other noble unit facing him, but was still hotly engaged with the second rank units.

Surrey was also managing to grind out steady progress as another unit of nobles broke.

James is still in there, tho' hacking his way towards Surrey. The English right has completely collapsed and is streaming off the board in greater numbers.

To make matters worse for the English the rear ranks, following their about face, have split off and off picture are heading towards the middle of the table to turn the flank of the Admiral's division.

At this point the absence of Stanley's division was becoming a worry as it continued to fail its arrival roll.

Just in the nick of time the Admiral broke another unit in their opponent's battle causing the entire battle to break and flee. A chink of light for the English?

Almost immediately after King James' standard wavered and went down as Surrey's men hacked through the King's bodyguard. The unit routed, bursting through the unit behind which likewise followed them back up Branxton Hill.

Notwithstanding this victory, the rest of the battle held on, exchanging blow for blow with their English opponents. Until the next turn, that is, when one of the levy units cracked, causing the entire battle to flee.

 And so that was game over. The main Scottish army broken, the King dead, and Stanley still nowhere to be seen.

Overall, a pretty good historical result, and a game that was at times quite tense. If the Scots had got to grips on their left flank quicker it might have made all the difference.

It was mainly a case of the English holding their nerve and trusting to long term outcome of bill over pike. On reflection Surrey's battle was too strong and I've noted that on the briefing pack. It might have been more tense if the bill units only had a special combat factor of 1, rather than 2 as we modified it, as that would have prolonged the combat and left the Scottish left wing get into the game more.

So, in summary, a thoroughly satisfactory afternoon's gaming with my oldest "grown up" army. I started collecting the figures in about 1980 and added to them on and off for over a decade and Derek has done likewise with his Scottish. Thanks to Phil, Ian, Chris and, of course, Derek, for taking part.

Wargaming. A hobby for life.

* Alas we didn't have enough time to fight the battle again without James in the front rank. I think it would make a real difference.


  1. for someone who once said they don't do battle reports, you do them awfully well. Very interesting read, making me think of looking at Armati again. By the way, why two clocks on the wall?

    1. Sean,

      Thanks for the compliment. I try not to write turn-by-turn bore-fests but capture the sort of ebb and flow. Plus I never take good enough notes to enable a really full description anyway.

      Armati is a brilliant set of rules as long as you play them without being "cheesy". There are some tournament style moves that ruin it, but if you just set armies up and get on with it they work really well.

      The two is a real clock, the other is an ELC school teaching aid that is used as a battle clock, should the need arise.

      Plus I had space that needed filling up.