After Action Report; Feudal English versus Feudal Scots (Impetus rules) 19 Oct 2014
Both armies in this game were supplied by myself and comprised 300 points using 15mm figures from a range of manufacturers, mainly Essex Miniatures. The rules to be used were Impetus (Lorenzo Sartori; Dadi&Piombo, 2008). My opponent, Ian, commanded the English whilst I took on the Scots. I hoped to examine how the rules coped with the rather unique Scots schiltron formation. The rules appear to give some benefits to the schiltron formation: the units are ‘Large’ (2 bases deep) which imparts considerable resilience; they gain a depth bonus in combat; they are armed with ‘Long Spears’ which negates the impetus bonus of mounted troops; and they do not suffer from flank attacks because they are ‘hedgehog’ formations. Against these advantages they do suffer from a major disadvantage, they become ‘Disordered’ whenever they move. This carries a small negative modifier in combat and, more importantly, means they can never make multiple moves in a turn. This greatly reduces the speed of the army when advancing and makes response to enemy flanking or breakthrough moves difficult. Also, the disorder prevents the Scots schiltrons from operating as ‘Groups’ and making well co-ordinated attacks with multiple units impossible.
The game was fought on a 6’x4’ table with the Scots left flank protected by a castle (impassable terrain), and the right flank protected by woods. Otherwise there was a couple of gentle hills, a marsh and a patch of rough ground, but generally these terrain features played a minor role in the game. My deployment involved setting my 8 schiltron units in a chequer board fashion across my front. I hoped this would force the enemy bowmen to fire at the front schiltrons and enable my rear schiltrons to move through and engage the enemy whilst still fresh and untouched. On my left flank I deployed my 2 highland units, who I hoped would be particularly effective because of their high strength (VBU=5) combined with being armed with bows. The Scots knights where held back in reserve to act as a ‘fire brigade’ against English breakthroughs. The English deployed all their knights, backed by 2 units of bows, facing my left flank. The remaining English foot faced most of my schiltrons, with bows backed by English spearmen.
The Scots advanced steadily. The English bow fire at long range was largely ineffective, except on the Scots left flank where the highland units were devastated. As the Scots began to close, the loses from the English bows started to tell, this was expected and planned for. At this point Ian unleashed the might of the English knights. The second rank of Scots schiltrons moved through the weakened front rank schiltrons, and the English spearmen moved through the English archers to engage them. Close combat was occurring across the whole battlefront. The schiltrons did achieve some success against the English foot but took loses themselves. The schiltrons also held against the English knights, again taking more loses, but they failed to destroy any of the English knights. The best Scots success was a unit of bow armed skirmishers who whittled down a unit of English knights over a few turns. I finally released my Scots knights to meet the English advance, but in hindsight I should have done this one or two turns earlier, because before they could arrive the Scots army broke due to loses accumulated.
Another English win! Over the years the Scots have never won, their best results have only ever been draws, irrespective of whether they were commanded by me or by my opponents. I am undecided about whether my chequer board deployment was helpful. It did protect my second rank of schiltrons from archery degradation, but the high loses inflicted on my front schiltrons may have contributed to my defeat. I have previously used a more solid, compact, broad front tactic but this has not proved more successful, so the jury is still out on this question. I think in future games I may try using more disruptive terrain to break up the battlefield, and include more auxiliary Scots troops (Islemen etc.) as well to exploit such terrain. After the game Ian admitted concern about the loses the English foot were suffering. This is illusory because each English foot unit lost only concedes a single victory point, and the Scots must destroy English knights to have any chance of victory. If the English player rashly throws his knights in very early in the battle then the Scots may achieve a victory. If the English player holds his knights whilst weakening the slow moving Scots schiltrons with bow fire, then English victory is almost certain, even if the English foot are eliminated later. From my, Scots, perspective the key points of the game were: the early loss of the highlanders (who I had big hopes for), and the initiative order on the turn before the Scots schiltrons finally closed with the English. In his turn Ian won the initiative dice roll, effectively giving him 2 successive actions firing at my schiltrons at close range causing significant loses. If this had not occurred then possibly the game would have continued for a further couple of turns. I would then have had a chance to eliminate some of the weakened English knights, and my own knights would have arrived on the scene.Irrespective of possible what-if’s, this was another solid win for Ian (my third defeat in a row). The game was very enjoyable and tense, and was completed in just over 2 hours. Our next game will again be Impetus, this time featuring a pair of armies supplied by Ian; Thracians versus Greek hoplites.