Wednesday, November 26, 2014

AAR: Treason! - a 15th century skirmish

A battle report using the Lord of the Rings ruleset depicting
a 15th century surprise attack on a castle


Introduction

After some time focusing on other periods and rulesets it was long overdue to get a game or two in of our late medieval Swedish civil war campaign. As suspected other commitments delayed the AAR but here it is, and hopefully it was worth the wait.

The scene is late 15th century Sweden that suffered from civil war
as different families and factions struggled for power. Later historians could describe it the end of a rather long, although not peaceful, Nordic union (”Kalmarunionen”, 1397-1523) with Sweden breaking away from Danish influence.

With the Rebel Bishop involuntary isolated in the sanctuary of the church (see how that happened in the AAR HERE) the Rebels now plotted their revenge and next move. During the fall more bad news arrived as it became clear that some factions of the Thott family negotiated with the Unionists. Being pragmatic a young lord of the powerful Thott family apparently had noticed the weakened rebel cause and now looked into other options. Rebel spies informed that a Unionist leader, the local Sheriff, now secretly visited the Thott lord at his castle to negotiate future collaborations. The long hated Sheriff was a man who just refused to die! Only a year or so earlier he miraculously survived a close encounter with two rebel crossbow bolts! (see how that happened in the AAR HERE).

The Rebels realized they had to act decisively in order to stop more men from leaving their ranks. What better way to fight the traitor of the Thott family than with treason? To fight fire with fire. By old loyalty - and promise of lots of gold - one of the Thott soldiers was ready to betray his master and open the castle gates for the rebel attackers. A plan was made and the Rebel knights rallied their men and the allmoge peasant soldiers loyal to their cause. The castle should burn – and the traitors and Sheriff with it!

The scenario start with the castle gates being opened by the rebel traitor at dawn to allow a small group of selected rebel soldiers, having snuck up to the castle walls during the dark hours of the night, to enter the caste. They are tasked with holding the gatehouse - and keep the gates open and portcullis up - giving time for the rest of attackers to leave cover and charge across the open ground to the castle. As the remaining castle guards are sure to raise the alarm the defenders will wake up and randomly arrive to try and repulse the attackers.

The game was played using a slightly adapted version of GW’s Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game with 28mm miniatures from Perry miniatures on a 6x4' table.

The opposing forces

The Castle Retinue (Unionists)

Castle Warband 1
1 Sheriff (Non-playing Character)

Castle Warband 2
1 Knight on foot (the young Lord Tott)
12 Soldiers with halberds and spears

Castle Warband 3
1 Veteran Captain in full plate

Castle Warband 4
1 Veteran Captain
8 Soldiers with crossbows and handguns

Castle Warband 5
1 Veteran Captain in full plate
5 Castle Guard Soldiers (including 2 handgunners and 1 archer)



The Attackers (Rebels)

Rebel with a cause 1
1 Traitor

Rebel Warband 2 
1 Knight Captain on Warhors
8 Men-at-arms on Warhorses

Rebel Warband 3
1 Rebel Noble
10 Peasants Allmoge Soldiers with halberds

Rebel Warband 4
1 Peasant Veteran Captain
10 Peasants Allmoge Soldiers with crossbows

Rebel Warband 5
1 Peasant Levy Leader
10 Peasant Levy with spears




Initial set up

A 6x4 table.


Deployment

Red = Rebel Deployment.
Blue = Union Deployment.
Green = Difficult Ground.


The Game

Dawn broke over the Thott castle. The castle was protected by a marsh that not only covered its rear and sides but also passed between the front of the castle and the firm ground of the close by forrest. A road from the forrest and a wooden bridge gave dry passage to the castle gate.

As the first rays of sun hit the castle the traitor guard, loyal to the rebels, uncermoniously dispatched his fellow guard at the gatehouse, took the stairs down and opened the castle gate. 


"I never liked him anyway." The traitor kills his guard colleague at dawn.

Outside a small group of chosen rebel soldiers waited. They had carefully moved into position at the darkest hours of the night and now quickly advanced into the castle. As they did so they put custom made poles up against the portculis, blocking it and making it impossible to release unless you entered the vault and removed the poles.

"Psst! Let's go!" The rebel assault group gets moving as the traitor open the gate.


As they entered the courtyard the armoured men came face to face with a monk on his way to Matins, the morning prayers. Pausing momentarily they were still looking at each other when shots and calls of alarm rang out from the main tower. The intruders were detected!


"Pax vobiscum? No?" As the monk finds out
the intruders are not men of peace. At all.

The guards in the main tower raise the alarm and open fire...

...killing a rebel intruder.

Now many things happened at once. The rebel main force who had been waiting in the tree line broke cover and started their advance across the marshy ground before the castle. More shots were fired from the tower. Also, shouting were heard as the change of the guards, already dressed, were about to enter the court yard.



Rebels in the woods.

The attack is lauched.


The mounted rebels took the lead as they spurred their horses across the wooden bridge. They galloped along the road to get to the now open gates.  They had to get there before the small group of rebels holding the castle entrance were overwhelmed and the portcullis dropped. The rebels on foot carrying ladders were not as fast. In particular the rebels tasked with flanking the castle had to wade through the boggy ground losing momentum - and getting very wet.

The mounted rebels gallop across the bridge...


...while the rebel infantry has a long way to go.

In the courtyard the small group of intruders held their ground. At least for the moment as more and more defenders poured into the yard. With them the young Thott lord in his white feathered helmet.


"Who dares to attack my castle?"
The young Lord Thott arrives on the scene.
The Unionist defenders advance against
the intruders holding the open gate.

The exchange of bullets, crossbow bolts and arrows intensified both in- and outside the walls. As the fight for control of the gatehouse continued the rest of the rebels closed on the castle. The defenders was now getting more men on the walls as the guards of the main tower also kept firing.  Although some bullets found their mark, overall it had little effect on the rebels so far.
The Unionists man the walls and open fire.


Rebels closing in on the castle,
wading through the boggy ground.

The fight for the gatehouse intensifies as more defenders arrive.


The defending unionist now started to find their mark. Some rebel peasants fell dead from unionist shooting and one mounted men at arm fell from his sadle as the road forced the cavarly dangerously close to the ramparts. 

The rebels take casualties as they advance through the boggy ground.


More and more defenders arrived in the yard and the rebel intruders were forced back. The rebel traitor learned the price of treason as he was cut down during the melee.

A traitor's reward. The rebel sympathiser is cut down.


The small group of rebel soldiers holding the gate house were now hard pressed and were forced back yet again, their backs literally against the wall. Almost all of them lay dead in the mud as the last three survivors fought like mad men to hold off the unionists. The wooden poles blocking the portcullis was only a few steps away for the young Thott Lord as he alarmed saw the rebel men at arms dismounting outside the still open gates. In a last attempt to get the portcullis to drop he furiously hacked his opponent down, but before he could remove the poles he was himself attacked by no other than the Lord Sture himself. The opportunity to drop the portcullis was lost.
White feathered young Lord Thott is almost at the gate!

The few rebel intruders are hard pressed - three
against thirteen! - but help is on the way.

The cavalry arrives at the gate, dismounts and storms through the gateway.


"For Sture!" The water lily pads of the Sture family banner fly
inside the castle. Bad news for the defending unionists!
The bad news continued for the defenders as the rebels were now also at the walls raising their siege ladders. Also, some rebels had taken up positions and was showering the walls and tower with crossbow bolts. The defenders were not giving up however and killed the first man up a ladder and more rebels were shot from the tower. In the end though a rebel leader was able to gain the first foothold on the castle walls. 

The rebels get the ladders to the walls, paying in blood.

Rebel fire support from the bridge...

...as the rebels scale the walls.

First rebel on the ramparts. The Rebel Levy Captain attack.


"This is not looking good."
The Sheriff in the window is considering his options.

At the gate house the fight continued as rebels poured through the gatehouse. The exhausted rebel men at arm who led the first group of intruders was killed just as the rebels were beginning to get the upper hand at the castle entrance.

The rebels gains more ground at the castle entrance.

With the rebels now up on the ramparts on two different places and the rebel men at arms in firm posession of the castle entrance it certainly looked bad for the unionists. The unionists still fought on but they could not turn the tide. Men fell on both sides as the fight continued none the less. But step by step the unionists were pushed back, down from the ramparts and into the yard itself.
The sly union Sheriff realized he had to act in order not to be caught by the rebels. There was fierce hand to hand combat almost all over the castle as the sheriff unnoticed climbed up the rampart overlooking the vast swamp on the back of the castle. With assistance of one of the union loyal monks he go hold of a ladder and sliped over the wall. He was gone.

"Let's get out of here!"


"He who fights and runs away may live to fight another day."
The Sheriff leaves the fight to others but is really good at the running away bit.
The Sheriff flees into the swamp.

As more unionist fell and the rest got cornered in the yard the young Lord Thott realised all was lost. The unionists laid down their weapons and surrendered the castle to the rebels.

The Rebels had won!

Surrounded and outnumbered the unionists surrender.

"Monk, are you sure this is the way?" As night falls the monk continues
to lead the Sheriff on hidden paths through the swamp.



Conclusion

In the end the unionist defenders were overwhelmed but it was some really close moments during the game. The young Thott Lord was only one turn away from being able to remove the wooden poles blocking the portcullis. Had it droped the outcome would have been something else completly. As it now was the rebels were not able to resist the attack at three places at once.

Interestingly the castle itself helped the attacking rebels in the fight for the gatehouse. Being build to help the defenders withstand a larger attacking force the passage inside the gatehouse is quite narrow. This now worked to the attackers advantage as the unionist could not benefit from their initial advantage in numbers. That, and a bit of luck, helped the rebels in holding the gate until the Sture cavalry arrived.

The castle was also very much the prime motivator for the scenario itself. We wanted a battle that took place both in and around our newly finished castle model. The treason concept and narrative then followed naturally and gave us a great game and part of our continued campaign.



13 comments:

  1. I really like this report and all the pictures are great.I will also give a big compliment to you for the castle that I think is spot on and very, very good. Did you use plaster on the walls? Keep up the good work.

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  2. Excellent!! I enjoyed this report, beautiful pictures and figures, great write-up, and a wonderful castle...thanks!

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  3. Wow - what a great looking game and report. Very inspirational! Loving that castle.

    Frank
    http://adventuresinlead.blogspot.com.au/

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  4. Great looking game.

    The buildings and the terrains are beutiful.

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  5. As those above: An really good AAR and an awesome castle.

    If I remember you right is both the castle and the church slightly modified kits, but I don't remember the maker.

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  6. You guys have some impressive terrain out there. That castle is amazing! Also, the more I see those modular terrain boards with details like the realistic water, the more I'm convinced this will be the way forward for my "at home" battle board. Are they Ziterdes, GW or something completely different?

    Regards
    Sören

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  7. Thanks alot gentlemen! All comments and kind words are much appreciated.

    The castle was build by our very own Jocke using bits from Valdemar miniatures, using similar techniques - including "painting" with filler - as with our church as described here: http://northern-wargaming.blogspot.se/2013/05/building-medieval-church-in-28mm-scale.html
    The terrain boards are indeed GW. They are pricey but do offer a good modular sollution. The "pits of skulls" of the GW board were used to make water features or in some cases covered completly.
    Thanks again!

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  8. Very nice report indeed! That castle is just amazing.

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  9. Exellent AAR mateys!! The best ever I Think!!!

    It was realy nice to visit your gaming session and see it IRL !

    Best regards Michael

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  10. Can't say much more than what everyone else already have, great AAR and a totally bad ass castle!

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  11. Thanks again! Much appreciated.

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