Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Battle of Hexham (1464) at BRITCON 2014

BRITCON is primarily an event for competition gamers, but it does have a reasonable trader presence and the Lance & Longbow Society (along with other societies) has for several years put on  demonstration games.  For this event we chose a scenario from the Wars of the Roses, Hexham (1464).   It follows on from the battle of Hedgeley Moor, which we put on at Phalanx this year.  Historically, it was rather a one-sided encounter.  The Lancastrians, under the Duke of Somerset, were caught unprepared by the Yorkist advance and found themselves outnumbered and fighting with their backs against a river.  The Lancastrian right, commanded by Lord Roos, did not wait for the onslaught, but fled, sealing the fate of the remaining Lancastrians.  Some drowned in the river, but most were captured in the pursuit.  For the captured leaders there was no mercy, over 30 were executed.  With their deaths the opposition to Edward IV in the North collapsed and England had five years of relative peace before the Earl of Warwick's defection to the Lancastrian cause ushered in another round of conflict.

The exact location of the battle is open to discussion with historians putting forward diffierent theories.  To try and create a more balanced game, and give the Lancastrians a slim chance, Steve and I chose the option where Somerset has had sufficient time to organise his forces on a spur of land overlooking the route the Yorkists would take to reach Hexham.  Perhaps he was hoping to ambush them, using surprise to offset his inferiority in numbers.  The Lancastrians gained a melee advantage from the hill, which in practice did offset the better armour of the Yorkists.

View of the table with the Lancastrians on the hill.
Because we hoped to attract people to participate in the game we chose some straight forward rules, Warmaster and Basic Impetus. Both sets can be distilled down to an A5 playsheet and give a quick game.  Over the weekend the game was played five times, each one lasting between an hour and an hour and a half.  Although the Lancastrians did not win a game, they did manage one draw, where both commanders were killed in melee.  Lord Roos did not flee, indeed on balance he did rather well against the  Yorkist left.  On the Lancastrian left, the peasant levies fared poorly, usually being butchered by concentrated archery.


   The two rule sets gave different types of games.  With Warmaster there was much more of a chance element.  Being able to move and fire without penalty aided the Yorkists, who could, with luck, advance into range and then get in the first archery.  Also the need to roll dice to establish command meant that movement was not automatic.  In one game the inactivity of the Yorkist melee troops allowed Somerset to push forward and eliminate all of Montague's  archers.

Impetus gave the advantage to the Lancastrians in that the Yorkists had to advance into range, but the freedom of movement made it easier for the Yorkists to outflank the outnumbered Lancastrians.

Next to our game was the Mailed Fist group with their impressive 'Marston Moor' game which was also at Phalanx .

1 comment:

  1. Good work. I think five one hour games is far preferable to one five hour game.