Sunday, March 04, 2012

Scottorum Malleus

Last week Dan Mersey, author of the Dux Bellorum rules which will be published by Osprey in August this year, sent me a draft of Scottorum Malleus, his medieval rules aimed primarily at feudal and medieval English warfare (as apparent from the title of the rules) for playtesting an comments.

At the heart of the rules is an Orders Chart with 12 different orders a player can issue to his units during a turn. At the start of each turn, players take turns 'claiming' orders (which they may then issue during the turn), such that if the order for Rally is already claimed by the other player, you may not claim or issue the order Rally for this turn - however, there are duplicate for some orders like Battle, Move, and Shoot. This system requires the player to prioritise on what orders to claim during a turn, and also what orders to deny his opponent. Combat is a DBA-ish - units either stand, recoil, or rout and are removed.

As WOTR is a period my friends and I do, I decided to try a game using WOTR troops. As my figures are not with me, I printed out and used the paper figures from Junior General once again. As the figures they have there are for the battle of Towton, I decided that would be the scenario I would use.

The basic game recommended 8 units or so per side - I used 9 for the Yorkists and 11 for the Lancastrians (I planned on the mounted ambush and reinforcements but decided not to play them). The frontage of the battlefield was narrow, which prevented the Lancastrians from bringing their superior numbers to bear right from the start.

I gave Edward 4 orders per turn and Somerset 3, which gave Edward the initiative throughout the battle. The Yorkists advanced towards the Lancastrians, started to trade volleys, before closing in for melee.

Once melee is joined, the whole thing became a scrum. Since I matched like troop for like, and those who were most able to deal out damage were also the ones who could absorb the most damage, and damage resulted in a morale check but was not carried over from turn to turn, melee was rather indecisive.

After a few turns gaps did appear in the Yorkist line, and Edward tried to 'hog' the Charge order to prevent the Lancastrians from bringing their free units into the flanks, but this wasn't always successful. After many turns of trading blows with neither side giving way, I decided to end the game.

While it wasn't a very exciting scenario, I think it is fair to say that this represented WOTR warfare rather well - historically it was the arrival of flanking units that shifted the tide of the battle first one way and then the other; evenly matched opponents going at it face-to-face tended to result in a grind.

The use of the orders chart, while interesting, made things a little artificial - by hogging the 'Charge' order, Edward was able to prevent Somerset from bringing his available units into melee - perhaps the Unstoppable Force order can be modified to allow one unit to Charge and Battle an enemy unit?

I think it will be interesting to see how these rules work for armies with different troops, for example the Scots and English, or the Welsh and English. Hopefully other playtesters will be posting their battle reports soon too.

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