Sunday, 10 May 2015

Lion Rampant & The Wars of the Roses Revisited

"I marveill ye come not forth with all your carts of gunnes, bowes, with oder 
ordinance, that ye set forward to come to my manor of Wotton to bete it 
down upon my head. I let you wit, ye shall not need to come so nye...

...I require thee of knighthood and of manhood to appoint a day to meet me 
half-way, there to try between God and our two hands all our quarrel and 
title, for to eschew the shedding of Christian menns bloud; or else at the 
same day bringe the uttermost of thy power, and I shall mete thee".

- Viscount Lisle challenges Lord Berkeley, March 1469 (1470).

Previously I posted about using Lion Rampant for the Wars of the Roses, based on my initial readings of the rules. Since then I have not only become more familiar with the rules themselves, but also their author - Dan Mersey, has since written an article in Wargames Soldiers & Strategy 77 about using Lion Rampant in the 15th Century, thus providing official rules for elements I fudged myself. I have also been busy working on a series of posts about Wars of the Roses armies, which has also changed the way I view them too, so in all the original post is somewhat redundant now. 

With the above factors in mind, this post is essentially a revision of the previous post on using Lion Rampant for low-level warfare in the Wars of the Roses Era. The relevant tables and notes are compiled into a Word file and can be downloaded from Dropbox here. At some future point I will be extending my take on using Lion Rampant for Late Medieval Warfare to the Franco-Burgundian War of 1477 to 1482.  

Local Wars for Local People

Like the original Feudal setting of Lion Rampant, the core assumption at the level of game we are playing is that each player's force are the men he is able to gather together to fight on his behalf; whether they are paid retainers, or the tenants and workers of his land fighting out of some form of obligation. We are not talking about the direct followers of Dukes and Earls, but those of low-ranking knights, esquires and gentry... although these may themselves be the local representatives of someone higher up the social scale and acting on their behalf.

There are three main ways you can go about representing a roughly 'historical' force. Firstly you can take the premise that your retinue represents the entirety of a single lord's manpower; this will give you the largest and most varied force figure-wise, and it will utilise pretty much every troop class in the list. Secondly you can represent the picked forces of a lord and a number of his retainers, giving a force that contains a smaller number of fairly high quality units. Finally you can amass a force which falls somewhere between the two.

All the above options are equally valid and as I said in the previous article, the points system can be used in a modular style, with your first twelve points representing the lord's household men and retainers, the second twelve for the best of the tenants and servants and if you like thirty six point games, the final twelve points can be dedicated to the lowest quality units in the list. In other words the quality of men raised steadily decreases with the more men you raise from within your population pool.

If you are playing in a campaign environment, either with a single player controlling several manors, or in a multi-player setting, you can mix and match the forces at your disposal. Conceivably you might amass the cream of three retinues for a strike on one of your opponent's manors, who defends them with a single multi-quality force described above. There is no reason why, presuming you have the figures at your disposal, that all games have to be played with similar forces. The context of the game or the narrative leading up to it, can result in quite some variety in the forces fielded.


Dan Mersey suggested upgrading Archers to 'Expert' to represent Longbowmen, which is fine when you are looking at Crecy, Poitiers and other Early Hundred Years War battles, but once you begin to see full plate armour from the turn of the 15th Century onwards, along with brigandines, or jacks reinforced with pieces of plate and/or mail for the ordinary soldier, any advantage is reduced in comparison to earlier bows versus mail effects. For the unprotected, a longbow arrow can still only kill you once. I simply just leave them as they are under the rules to reflect this general increase in protection.

The forces of the Hundred Years War were also picked professionals, who had to test out to be signed up as archers, while in the usually quickly raised forces for campaigns during the Wars of the Roses, if you carried a bow you were an archer. The professional bowmen of the households of a lord and his retainers would typically be represented by men of a similar standard to those of the retinues of lords during the Hundred Years War, the remainder somewhat less so.

In a nation seemingly teeming with Archers, the fact that by 1492 an English 'cavalry arm' had re-emerged within an army, that during the Hundred Years War became famous for dismounting its Men at Arms, the bulk of archers raised were apparently not all of the same standard as Agincourt's 'band of brothers'. This will be reflected in their relative sections.

The Sum of Parts

As the names given to the different troop types in the game have no actual bearing on the game itself, I have drifted away from the classifications Dan has used, in favour of more period specific terms. That being said, these themselves were not clearly defined terms until the end of the period, which has caused some confusion amongst rule and army list writers. In some cases a single troop type could apparently have a different label given to it depending on the role it was performing at any given time.

I have opted to use the later classifications that appeared around 1492, which more clearly defined troops of the period than the somewhat haphazard labels applied in earlier sources. I have however included these other terms in the descriptions for ease of use. As I do not intend re-inventing the wheel as it were, these are very much similar to the distinctions drawn by Dan in the original classifications in the Lion Rampant rules themselves.

Men At Arms/Dismounted Men at Arms
These are very much the social elite of the military classes, however rather than the ubiquitous 'knights trained from birth' of earlier times, they now also include individuals who have attained the status and trappings of knighthood, without the martial tradition that went with it in earlier times. Other members of this class are actually experienced professionals, who although lacking gentility of birth and formal tuition in the martial arts, are tough if somewhat graceless fighters.

A group of Men at Arms (also called Lances or Spears) consists of an even mix of fully harnessed men, some of whom have armour for their mounts and their costrils (or custrels); armed 'seconds' who are slightly less well protected than the man at arms himself, but who fight with them. When mounted the unit is armed with heavy lances, sword and usually a war hammer or axe. When dismounted they typically carry pole-axes or similar staff weapons as Dismounted Men at Arms.

Demi-lances (or Prickers)
From the start of the 15th Century there were those who were unable to afford the full panoply of the Man at Arms, nor to outfit a costril in addition. For much of the Hundred Years War period these men were included within the Man At Arms class as a whole, particularly while the tactic of dismounting versus enemies with larger mounted forces was in vogue.

While their protection met the minimums required to draw pay as a man at arms, the ever widening gulf between the two types led to their formal recognition as a distinct troop type by 1492. From this point the use of the terms 'Spears' and 'Men at Arms' was almost always applied to the fully-harnessed troops mentioned above.

The use of bodies of horsemen in partial plate, or other substantial forms of armour, pre-dates 1492 and occasionally the term Pricker is encountered in reference to them. 16th Century Border Reivers had previously been referred to as Prickers themselves, although they were seemingly somewhat more lightly-armoured than Demi-lances. In either case we are talking about men armed with lance, light lance or spear as a primary weapon.

Mounted Archers
While the popular conception of Mounted Archers is of merely mounted versions of the archetypical English Archer, they could not be more wrong. In an age where soldiers supplied their own mounts, the mounted archer was above all a horse owner, a status far above the means of the typical man in the street. Discounting those professionals who had worked their way to becoming horse-owning soldiers, the class of people who formed this group were a mere income level below the poorest men at arms and were largely minor landholders too.

It was said of Cheshire that many of their mounted archers had the same status as men at arms elsewhere. Families across England might supply a man at arms (or demilance), with a son or sibling serving with them as a mounted archer. Clearly these were not mere 'donkey whallopers' riding nags suitable only to plod from A to B. Owning a horse implies the ability to ride and while almost certainly they dismounted for battle, writing off their ability to operate as mounted fighters (if not actually shooters) in a skirmish does them a great disservice.

Given the frequency with which men serving in the Hundred Years War as mounted archers in one season, then appear on subsequent payrolls as men at arms, before sometimes appearing again as archers sometime later, the degree of armour worn by some mounted archers must have matched that of some men at arms. A household archer in the service of the Duke of Norfolk was presented with two spears, along with the more usual items you might gift an archer with, to what purpose he was to put these to was not stated however.

With all of the above in mind it seems entirely possible that mounted archers could be either employed in their dismounted shooting role, but could also be employed as a lighter Demi-lance after a fashion. Again I would be loathe to label these men as light cavalry in a traditional sense, but certainly they fulfilled a mounted role in addition to their usual dismounted role.

There is a school of thought that Mounted Archers were capable of shooting while mounted. This is physically possible with a longbow. It was also a common hunting practice of the time and if you can bring down a stag, you can bring down a man. The stag of course is not shooting back and generally hunters halt their mount before shooting.

Given that some contemporary illustrations apparently show archers shooting from horseback, I have accommodated this but at nothing like the ranges or effectiveness of foot archers. We are not talking 'English horse archers' here, but at the level of game Lion Rampant is pitched at it is a valid tactic, albeit not without its perils.

Also called Scurriers, Curriers, CurroursHarbingers and also somewhat confusingly Prickers, these are essentially lightly-armoured Demilances. These are perhaps the closest thing to light cavalry in English armies and were paid a couple of pence more than Mounted Archers, but less than a Man at Arms.

Their performance varied from the expert, i.e. Edward IV's scowrers, who harried Margaret's Army prior to Tewkesbury in 1471, to the really poor, i.e. Warwick's scowrers who reported Margaret's Army as being 'nine miles distant' just before they flank-attacked Warwick at St. Albans.

While armed with spears or light lances, they lack the armour to go toe-to-toe with Demilances or Men at Arms, but by use of evading and the support of Archers and/or Men at Arms, can cause your enemy some problems and when the time is right, will charge in themselves to add their weight to the melee.  

Dismounted Spears
Men at Arms dismount as 'Men at Arms' as you might expect. Men at Arms and Demilances together are termed 'Dismounted Spears' and form twelve figure groups, as opposed to the six of the Men at Arms. While they lack the armour and aggression of a group purely of Men at Arms (and their Costrils), they can take more punishment due to their numbers. They are primarily armed with various types of pole or staff weapons, spears or swords, according to the personal preference of each individual.

Due to successive legislation requiring ownership and practice with the bow (or crossbow), England had a large number of Archers. While not the majority of infantry available, they were the ones routinely selected to form the infantry contingent of Hundred Years War armies. In social terms they were the elite of the walking classes and in today's terms would encompass everyone who works full-time hours at above minimum wage.

A single archer class does not really cover the variety of sub-sets within this broad class. At  the lowest end we have the men possessing little armour above perhaps a helmet, at the other we have men in brigandines, or jacks with mail shirts. Secondary weaponry also varied, with the high end men wielding sword and buckler, or similar weapons, while at the bottom end some only had daggers.

I have opted to represent Archers at three levels. Firstly there are the Yeomen Archers, who are the smaller landholders and wealthier tradesmen, who would otherwise be mounted archers if they owned horses. They are invariably armoured with at least a jack and some additional mail or plate, wear helmets and have a side-arm of some form. When we think of archers of the Hundred Years War, it is men from this class who formed the majority of them.

Secondly there are the archers proper, some of whom have jacks and/or helmets, along with additional weapons of some form. A group of these might include a few yeomen, but the average over the whole of the group is somewhat lower than one entirely formed from them. When there is a shortage of archers in an area, their numbers might be bolstered by men armed with bills and/or spears in their group.

Finally there are the remainder who possess bows, but who demonstrate no particular skill with them. Such men are never encountered in units solely composed of archers, but are a minority troop type within a larger group of men armed with bills and/or spears. While lacking the skill to use their weapons and its range to its full potential, they can nevertheless be of some minimal value.  

With the exception of some relatively wealthy individuals, who for some reason had never been able to demonstrate the ability to shoot a bow, but who otherwise possessed, or were equipped with armour, the bulk of footmen were largely unarmoured and unarmed. With communities collectively providing weapons and armour and some lords stockpiling them, small numbers of well-equipped troops could be raised. The more men you raised however, the worse they got as stocks and stockpiles ran out. If a mass raising of men had ever actually occurred, a fair number would have no protection and would carry farm tools.

What military value they had was largely that they were available and as they were largely the tenants and labourers of the lord or his retainers, they were obliged by law to defend his land and to preserve the King's Peace at the direction of their parish constables (who were also usually tied to the local lord in some way). Should necessity require them to serve outside of their locale, they were also half the price of archers in terms of wages. Some men were quite happy to do this and volunteered, while others would not be as keen.

The bill or voulge was the most common weapon in these groups, but some men wielded spears or other weapons within their numbers. Regional variations could alter the ratio, i.e. there were more spearmen in groups drawn from the Scots Border regions and North Wales, as well as the tradition of forming closely packed immobile groups, termed 'schiltrons' in Lion Rampant. As mentioned under Archers, some of their number might also be bowmen, giving such groups a limited shooting ability into the bargain.    

Surprisingly perhaps there were English crossbowmen and even handgunners, besides the oft-mentioned foreign mercenaries. Practice with a crossbow instead of a longbow had always been permitted to forest dwellers and was only finally restricted during the reign of Henry VIII. Crossbows and handguns appear with the Pastons during the siege of Caister Castle and the City of Coventry possessed handguns in its arsenal too. The 'Bridport Muster Roll' shows one in the possession of one of its citizens.

While there was unlikely to be either weapon in sufficient quantity to form a twelve figure unit, the option of forming a six figure skirmishing group armed with either weapon seems reasonable. Alternatively adding the odd crossbowman to an archer unit would probably be a more realistic depiction, albeit that it would have no actual in-game effect.

Besides the crossbows and handguns, a group of skirmishing longbows is another option. The North Welsh apparently continued to use their longbows as a close-range 'sniper rifle', as they had done for centuries and given the occasional nobleman laid low by 'Black Will', or some other such named individual, suggests that small groups of marksmen were out and about and shooting individual targets.

New Rules

I do not want to get carried away here, the rules in Lion Rampant are mostly fine as they are, but they were after all written for an earlier time than the Late 15th Century. That being said, I am a great believer in "if it is not broken, do not try to fix it". The following additional 'special rules' are therefore offered to enhance the game rather than to change it.

A significant portion of any Man at Arms or Demilance unit stand to lose their lands and income (if not their heads) if things go badly, and if the cry 'spare the commons, kill the nobles' comes out, it cannot be good. While mounted troops have a good chance of making their escape, those on foot are going to be out-paced by more lightly armoured foot. Fleeing or surrendering is not really an option for them, unless it all seems totally lost.

  • Committed Troops do not test courage for casualties, nor for receiving half casualties unless their nearest friendly unit is routing. 

This is merely the 'Drilled' rule by another name... 'Drilled' seems just wrong somehow.

Be they stakes, pits or caltrops, English archers were fond of evening the odds by use of a range of casualty inflicting obstacles. The typical game does not allow time for these to be deployed, so they are assumed to be already in place. Their use is lost if the archers move, even if it is just a change of facing.

Cry Havoc
Some archers were both well-protected and equipped with a variety of mêlée weapons. They were also prepared to use them. This rule represents such aggressive archers.

What About...?

Lion Rampant is about local conflict between rival lords and while foreign troops were employed in very small numbers by individuals (like the Pastons for example), large numbers of Scots Spears, Burgundian or French pikemen, crossbowmen or handgunners, do not fit into this context sufficiently to warrant the creation of troop profiles for them. I will at a later date be expanding Lion Rampant for my Franco-Burgundian project and this will include some of these types.

Forming A Retinue

Pretty much you can please yourself here. Your character will only be found in a unit of Men at Arms or Demi-lances (whether either are on foot or mounted), so you need at least one unit of either of them. If you want to be unerringly historically accurate (and who wouldn't?), you should have at least two Mounted Archers/Yeomen Archers for every Man at arms or Demi-lancer figure, and overall between four to ten other figures per Man at Arms or Demi-lance, of which the bulk should be archers (of any type).

Due to regional variations, or whether it was a volunteer picked force, or a rushed raising of whoever would be prepared to march, the remainder of the troops you choose will fit the context you set your game in. For a full picture of rough proportions of types, the posts on the English in this blog will hopefully give you some idea and inspiration. As a loose rule of thumb however, men at arms and demi-lances combined formed about 10% of a 'typical army', actual knights and nobles around 1% (i.e. your character). Mounted Archers/Yeomen Archers come in at around 20-40%.

The rest would depend on the popularity of your character or cause, likely rewards that would be passed down through the ranks and things like that. It is conceivable that the remaining 50% of an army could be entirely drawn from 'Archers' (and Footmen if you are inclined to include them), without recourse to the 'Tenants'; or vice-versa of course.

There is very little that was fixed however. There would be a mass of tenants at Towton, particularly in the Lancastrian Army, which was pretty much on 'home turf'. By the same token the Earl of Warwick, would be denied most of his from the same area and would only be able to raise those from his Midland estates. Edward IV's army at Tewkesbury would have been drawn from the cream of the army he led at Barnet, so as to move rapidly to intercept Queen Margaret's force before it linked up with that led by Jasper Tudor.

For every example I could offer, there is another which makes setting fixed quantities and ratios quite impossible; they simply did not happen in real life. The 'narrative' of your retinue and game will set the scene far better than any 'hidden knowledge' that some army list makers would have you believe they possessed.

At the scale of warfare Lion Rampant presents, you could quite legitimately field a force composed entirely of men at arms and mounted archers (or alternatively yeomen archers representing them dismounted), as your character's riding retinue; the Lancastrian Army at St. Albans in 1455 was made up that way. Alternatively one unit of Demi-lances and a host of tenants would quite adequately portray a force led by 'Robin of Redesdale', or someone like him; hopefully you would have better luck with them though.   


  1. Thank you for this. I'm interested in WOTR, but had no idea where to begin. I think a mounted skirmish force is just the thing for me. :)

    1. ... and they said no woman's ever going to want to talk about Medieval Warfare with you. ;-)

      You're welcome! Part of the reason I've done all this is because when I started out I had the same problem as you and nobody wanted to help... it would be easier to join the Masons than get some guidance.

      Not everyone might agree with my take on things and there is always several ways to look at the evidence... but let them do their own if they're not happy. :-D

      As far as mounted raiders goes, they would be quite valid, even in the Hundred Years War period. I would still be inclined to have a couple of archer units on foot though, as the desultory shooting of mounted archers has neither the range or volume of a foot unit.

    2. XD I've always been into Knights and such, "Excalibur" and "Ivanhoe" started me out. :)

      Sorry I didn't see your reply 'til now. So, I could probably start a good force out of a box of MMA and a box of Archers from Perry? That sounds great!

    3. You certainly could. Two groups of six MMA are 12 points and you will get two groups of twelve Yeomen for another 12 points, with some figures left over.

      Half a box of FMA gives you the option to fight with everyone on foot. The other half can be saved for your next retinue. ;-)

      I should be on a commission from the Perrys. :-D

    4. I hope the Perry Brothers appreciate it. XD

      I'm going to go for this when I can, I think it's a good way to start WOTR while I gather refs and learn more. :)

    5. Don't take this as patronising, but Sharon Penman's 'The Sunne in Splendour' is a really good historical novel... okay it's a bit girly and romantic in parts, but it's a great read regardless and will certainly get you in the mood.

    6. LOL - I *like* Girly and romantic, as well as combat and such. :)

      I'll track down a copy, and thank you. :)

    7. :-D I was meaning more that I was suggesting a girly novel, rather than one of those 'serious' history books with the big words in. Having read it myself the 'girly romantic' parts weren't the issue.

      Still I do have a manly image to preserve. Good job nobody else is reading this... oh. :-/

    8. XD If it didn't have girls and romance, then what are all those guys fighting for?

    9. They were English, a reason to fight has never been high on anyone's agenda... for some reason it just appears to be what we do. Some, like the Duke of Exeter, also appear to be violent psychotics; even by English standards. :-D

    10. "Even by English standards" XD

      LOL - I'm 1/2 English & 1/2 German. I warn people, neither side of my heritage is known for art, haute cuisine, or much of anything besides ass-kicking. XD

  2. There is very little, if any, evidence for the use of horse armour in the WOTR.

    1. There is little evidence for a lot of things as regards the Wars of the Roses. Nevertheless that sets and parts of horse barding have survived from that time and there are, if I recall correctly, records of its purchase before, during and after the wars, it would tend to imply that it was used... by some people at least.

      Universally used? Certainly not. I do imagine that part and parcel of qualifying for the enhanced pay of a man at arms, as opposed to the reduced pay of the 'demi-lancer, at the end of the period, would require something to justify that extra money though.

      In any case the rules don't differentiate between barded and un-barded horses, so the point is moot. It does however provide a visual clue to who are men at arms and who are not.

  3. That's interesting. Can you tell me where these sets and parts of horse barding that have survived can be found? Or any records that you refer to? I have been trying to find evidence for the use of horse barding in the WOTR but so far without success (hence my previous comment) so if you can tell me where to look I would be most grateful

  4. Thanks for sharing this, I know I am late to the party (this blog post has just been linked from the Lion Rampant Facebook group).
    I have a question, for the skirmishers you have a handgunners upgrade that costs 0 pts for this get a 3+ to hit but no decrease in range, is this a typo? It just seems pretty good for free.
    Thanks again for sharing.

    1. Hi Robert and you're welcome!

      Well done on spotting that typo, the range should be 8" and I've amended the pdf accordingly; it's a straight exchange of +1 Shooting Value for -4" range.

      My justification for the low range is that as we are talking dispersed units of men, the handgunners need to be close to get any accuracy... you might therefore allow them 12" range against men in 'Schiltron' perhaps?