“A DAY OF ILL OMENS”

A Wars of the Roses game.

This was a small Wars of the Roses game using The Perfect Captain’s excellent “A Coat of Steel” rules. The rather unlikely scenario had the Duke of Somerset encountering a Yorkist force commanded by the Earl of Warwick. With Somerset were Lord Clifford, John Neville of Raby and Lord Roos. Warwick was accompanied by John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, Lord Scrope of Masham and William Neville, Baron Fauconberg.

The Lancastrians drew up with Somerset in the centre, Clifford on their left and Roos and John Neville (with Neville in command) on the right. The Yorkists for their part deployed along a ridge with the centre commanded by Warwick, along with a “gonne,” their right by Norfolk and the Left under Fauconberg and Scrope, with the able Fauconberg commanding.

Before the battle, Somerset addressed his men. As he spoke a rainbow appeared in the sky behind him. Deeming it a sign from Heaven, Somerset assured his men of victory. Warwick surveyed the situation from the ridge. The ground would be soggy and the threat of rain was in the air, possibly nullifying his small artillery advantage. Also, he couldn’t be sure that Norfolk would act, the Duke having reported an illness that seemed to manifest whenever the threat of battle loomed. On the positive side he had the able Fauconberg whom he tasked with luring the impetuous John Neville into an incautious advance.

^The Yorkists on the ridge. The gunners struggle in the damp conditions.

The Lancastrians began to advance with both their wings. Somerset, for his part, remained in reserve, ready to reinforce where needed. John Clifford marched grimly forward. He had passed a fitful night, with dreams of grave portents. The darkening skies matched his mood, and his normal confidence had been replaced by doubts and dark thoughts. As the rain began to fall, Warwick looked to his gunners, and saw that his artillery would be useless. He signalled the advance, determined to take the initiative and dare Norfolk to join him.

^The armies advance.

In the poor visibility the armies had not deployed with wards directly opposite, so it was Clifford and Warwick who approached each other. Clifford ordered a volley of arrows. But his preoccupations caused him to misjudge the range, and the arrows fell short. Warwick’s men advanced and shot a volley of their own, with little effect. The weather was inhibiting effective archery, Clifford and Warwick would come ‘to hands.’ As cries of “A Warwick” rang out, Warwick was gratified to see the White Lion banner of the Duke of Norfolk advancing to his right.

^Warwick and Clifford clash. Somerset begins to advance. Norfolk moves off the ridge.

^Fauconberg (Red lion on blue/white) and Scrope (chough banner) await John Neville’s advance.

Clifford shook himself out of his dark mood and, recapturing something of his own vigour, fought manfully in the front rank. His efforts appeared in vain however as the tide of battle turned in Warwick’s favour. Meanwhile, on the Lancastrian right, John Neville attempted to close quickly with Fauconberg. The wily Fauconberg had ensured that his men had kept their bowstrings dry and now let loose a withering arrowstorm. Neville’s ordered advance became ragged. A short range volley further discomforted the Lancastrians and Fauconberg ordered his men forward against the disordered foe.

Norfolk had formed up on Warwicks right rear, but now halted, unsure of whether to join the fray or march to the centre and engage Somerset. Somerset had his own decision, whether to join Clifford against Warwick or to try and aid John Neville in what appeared a perilous situation. Putting his trust in Clifford’s ability to hold on, he ordered a swift advance against Scrope.

^Mowbray hesitates to commit, while in the background Somerset engages Scrope.

As Somerset hurried to his aid, John Neville was wounded as his men began to get the worse of it against Scrope and Fauconberg. Clifford too was wounded as he struggled to contain Warwick’s onslaught.

^The skies darken as Somerset engages Scrope. Fauconberg continues to make headway against John Neville.

Somerset charges Scrope to relieve the pressure on the Lancastrian right. Scrope himself loses his footing on the muddy ground and is wounded. However, the Lancastrian right finally breaks. Lord Roos flees but John Neville resolves to stand. His standard bearer is cut down next to him and his men drag him away to safety.

On the Yorkist right, Norfolk finally advances to join the fray. Warwick is injured in the fighting but eventually Clifford himself was cut down, his dark premonitions proving all too accurate. The Lancastrians broke.

^Clifford’s men flee on his death. Norfolk makes a show of willingness.

With both wings collapsed, Somerset took advantage of the Yorkist pursuit to make his escape. He brushed Scrope aside and led his men from the field. John Neville was captured in the pursuit and brought to Fauconberg. A good day for the Yorkists, with the dangerous Clifford slain and Neville captured. For the Lancastrians, it seemed that Somerset’s rainbow was a sign for him alone, and not for the cause for which he fought. By the end, few had escaped unscathed. Clifford was dead, Neville captured; Warwick, Fauconberg and Scrope would all have scars to show.

Overall this was the best game we’ve done so far. A Coat of Steel has plenty of character and we were lucky in the way the random events fell, the rain, Somerset’s celestial omen and Clifford’s dark dreams all fitted together nicely. I’d thoroughly recommend the rules. They are free, the Perfect Captain requests only that you make a donation to charity. There is a lot of printing to do, however. And I mean a lot! But the production values are better than most published sets. The rules can be downloaded here.

Figures by Front Rank with a few Foundry and the occasional Renegade Miniatures.

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One Response to “A DAY OF ILL OMENS”

  1. Phil says:

    Stunning pictures, these armies are really impressive, love the flags too…

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