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Clash in Redesdale, 1388


Misc., Medieval, Within the Hollow Crown, 28mm

During a rare summertime foray to the Edinburgh club I was invited to take part in a Medieval game. While Medieval aren’t really “my bag”, several of my pals were taking part in this multi-player affair, and the figures look terrific. Oh, as for this site being called “Edinburgh Wargames” even though I’m rarely in Edinburgh these days, it was easier keeping the name than changing it to Edinburgh and Orkney. Come winter I tend to flee south to Edinburgh anyway, so normality will be resumed soon enough! Also, while technically this game took place at the end of August, September might be a poor gaming month, and I didn’t get round to writing this until the first of the month. Anyway – on to the game…This battle was all about play-testing the rules – a new set concocted by Ian Beal, and designed to support the excellent 14th century figures produced by Claymore Castings. I presume Claymore will market them when they’re ready. This was a straight “three battle” clash, with both sides fielding an Anglo-Scots force of three divisions – one led by Henry “Hotspur” Percy, the other – I think by the Earl of Douglas. I’m not really strong on Medieval heraldry, and I couldn’t tell you who my battle/division commander was, but mine seemed to be English, and were ranged against a Scottish contingent led by a Graham. Strangely, I recognised the scallop shell -decorated flag from Bonnie Dundee’s time, three centuries later. Hell, even I was impressed buy that little heraldic tit-bit! While the game was loosely set around the time of the Battle of Otterburn (1388), this wasn’t a historic battle.

The way the system works, both sides dice for initiative, and the winners can move and fire. The other side then does the same. Moving is fairly straightforward, although some of the sub-units of archers make divisions difficult to keep together. The longbowmen need to be in their arrow-head formation to fire at full effect – the exception being small clusters of skirmishing archers, who don’t carry longbows. Shooting can be pretty deadly (“4,5,6 to hit” sort of stuff), but the target gets saving throws, with fully-armoured dismounted knights saving on anything but a “1”. The two sides lumbered forward, although I held my division back a little compared to my fellow division commanders, as I wanted to make the most of my archers. Actually it was the graham archers who inflicted the first hits, but my own archers outnumbered them, and eventually saw them off. That let me concentrated my bow fire on the advancing enemy shiltron, led by Graham and his knights.Over on my right things weren’t going so well. Dave Imrie’s centre battle had advanced quickly, but was badly shot up by enemy archers, who wiped out half of Dave’s spearmen in about three turns. This led to something of an impasse in the centre, but our side were now in no position to win the day. Over on our far right flank Ian Beal’s troops were charged by a brace of Scottish spear schiltrons, and while the battle was still raging when we packed up the game, our side were being pushed back, and looking as if they couldn’t hold on much longer.

The battle clearly wasn’t going well. In fact with two of our three battles/divisions in dire straits it was probably time to flee the field. Still, my guys were still doing their bit, firing arrows into the advancing Graham schiltron, and inflicting heavy casualties – or at least they were once a rules quirk was overcome. This game took a lot longer than it normally would have, but were were – after all – play-testing the rules, so there was a lot of looking things up, discussing various situations and generally doing things other than moving lead around. Two things which came out of all this resulted in a rewriting of the archery rules. While they allowed for overhead fire, one guy was firing over a small hill, at a target he couldn’t see. This would have been tricky enough with a spotter and a radio link, let alone for a block of medieval archers, firing at a completely hidden target. The rules was changed.Then, the real advantage of overhead fire was that longbowmen could fire up into the air, bringing arrows down almost vertically on the ranks of an enemy. This meant they fell on the well-armed knights at the front as well as the poorly-armed guys in the rear ranks, but the saving throw gave everyone the protection of the knights. We changed that, and allocated the arrow hits proportionately – a much better system that went some way – so people argued – towards reflecting the tactics of the period. Within the Hollow Crown is shaping up to be a playable little set of rules, but it’ll be a while yet before they’re ready for production. The real joy though, was playing with such nicely-painted figures. Dave Imrie did most of the painting, and he’s also the owner of Claymore Castings, whose range specifically covers this period. You can see more of his painting on his wargaming blog. While it would take a lot to get me back into Medievals, these figures make it all very tempting…

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