The Battle of Deerwood 1263-ish

With our Crusades project getting to the stage where there’s some danger of figures hitting the table in the near future, we decided to get an early feel for ‘the Perfect Captain’s ‘ Ironbow rules. So we dusted off some partly finished Feudal armies and had a go at the Feudal equivalent of Ironbow, Strongbow.

The armies used were English and French, and the battlefield was generated using The Perfect Captain’s excellent Battlefield Finder system. The English, under the Earl of Leicester took up a rather constrained position between a large wood and a river. The French were more spread out opposite. Due to the small amount of figures available, most of the commands were single unit commands.

(Above) The English deployment. The commander of the English left, the Earl of Oxford, remained in his tent, still awaiting delivery of his surcoat and standard.

(Above) The armies face off. The English plan was to quickly overwhelm the knights on the French left, and then attack the flank of the infantry while pinning the rest of the French with the Crossbows and Oxford’s knights. Basically, the same old Alexandrian plan I use in every battle. . . . .

(Above) Fortunately for the English, due to some confusion over orders, the French left advanced alone. The English plan was going well, but was going to be one of those that wouldn’t survive first contact with the enemy. Not even close.

(Above) Some moves later. The French knights had beaten off the first wave of English and was holding their own against Leicester’s knights as well. Meantime, the French centre had woken from its lethargy and pressed forward in support. The moment had been lost. However, in reaction to the new French threat, and entirely contrary to orders, Oxford’s men spontaneously launched themselves into the fray.

(Above) Oxford’s charge resulted in the French knights routing before contact was even made, fleeing through their infantry who in turn broke before contact. The English knights pursued the French from the field smashing a huge hole in the French centre. The knights on the French right had arrived too late to intervene and Leicester now turned to face them supported by his crossbowmen. The French, realising the day was lost, withdrew.

(Above) With Oxford still in his tent, Leicester prudently takes credit for the English victory.

The game was thoroughly entertaining and rested more on orders and reactions to events than actual melees. The breaking of the French centre was something of a fluke of course, the chances of two units breaking in response to charges are very slim. The only melees were fought between knights and were largely inconclusive. The order system is what makes the game really, each commander has an aggression rating and this influences the likelihood of him properly interpreting an order. Furthermore, the higher the rank of the commander the harder he is to control. In this battle, Oxford had the highest aggression rating possible, and was of equal rank to the commander, so was always likely to want to get amongst the fighting.

We’ll probably need to play Strongbow a few more times to get a better feel for it, but initial impressions are very good. I’d urge anyone to go and have a look at the Perfect Captain site, lots of well-produced rules, battlefield generators and campaign settings and all free for download. They ask only that you make a voluntary contribution to charity, which is only reasonable considering they’re giving away rulesets that they could be selling for £25 each.

Figures are the Black Hat 15mm Feudal range (ex-hobby games), excellent figures. Tent by Baueda.


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