No, this not the result of an early kick-off outside Preston North End's ground, but an episode from early 14th century Lancashire. Ill-feeling towards the de Holland's by other Lancashire families, had spilled over into open warfare. The rebels had raided de Holland estates in southern Lancashire and then turned their attentions northwards. Thomas, Earl of Lancaster had ordered the sheriff of Lancaster to assemble some of Lancster's own retinue,plus the posse comitatus and put down the rebellion. The two forces met near Preston in early November 1315.
Very little is known of the battle apart from the result, which was a decisive victory for the Earl's men. We are planning to put on this game at the Phalanx show at St Helens in June this year and therefore have begun some play testing with the WAB rules,with the aim of getting used to them and also identifying any 'tweaks' which may be needed.
So, we assembled a motley collection of medieval figures and tried out one of the historic alternatives, where a vanguard of the Earl's forces attacks the rebels before the main body arrives. The contemporary accounts suggest that this vanguard was soundly beaten, but when the main body appeared, the rebels were quickly routed. The vanguard, although outnumbered, had a greater percentage of mounted knights and overall the Earl's men were of better quality.
Some outstanding shooting by the raw rebel archers initially drove off the vanguard's crossbowmen and the two bodies of mounted knights crashed into each other. There then followed a prolonged melee in which neither side managed to inflict any casualties. The rebels manoeuvred a second unit of knights into a position where they could charge the vanguard's flank. Against the odds, this charge not only made little impact, but the vanguard inflicted sufficient casualties to rout their opponents. After further rounds of ineffectual 'hacking and slashing' we decreed that both units of knights would fallback to reform.
The main body of the Earl's army now arrived and found the rebel forces somewhat disorganised. A second body of knights charged a unit of rebel peasants. As the peasants feared any formed enemy they had to take a panic test, which they failed. As a result they rolled three d6 to see how far they would flee. The knights had begun their charge from 12 inches away, so any total of 5 or more would save the peasants, they rolled three ones and were cut down.
This event set the precedent for some rather eccentric die rolling which resulted in over half the Earl's force heading for the baseline as they failed tests. By the end of the battle each side had two units of infantry left and the rebels were deemed to have won, simply by not being driven from the field.
In the post battle review we decided that the units would have to be larger, not only to increase the chance of inflicting casualties, but also to stand up to losses better. The saving throws also seemed rather generous for the knights (only being killed if a 1 was rolled). So it is back to the drawing board to see what alterations we can develop to make things less of a lottery.
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