Wednesday, April 17, 2013

AAR: Sanctuary - a 15th century skirmish

A battle report using the Lord of the Rings ruleset depicting a 15th century peasant ambush on a bishop and his retinue.



With a teaser being posted earlier it is now time for yet another installment of our late 15th century campaign using the rules from the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game.

As in earlier battles the scene is 15th century Sweden which at the time was torn asunder in what is maybe best described as a civil war with foreign (i e Danish) interference. Peasant soldiers as well as full time professionals were found on both sides with noble families forming (and breaking!) alliances as they saw fit through-out the war.

This time a rebel bishop is on the road with a small retinue of mounted men-at-arms and mercenary Lübeck soldiers when some Unionist peasant allmoge soldiers attack.

For this fight we played most of the Unionist allmoge peasants as seasoned warriors. So even though the bishop’s retinue included some high quality troops the peasant allmoge could almost match them man to man in fighting skill. In gaming terms both sides were about 500+ points.

The scenario we played was a slightly modified “Take the High Ground” scenario. We played it as an ambush with both sides trying to rout the other, with extra points being given for controlling the high ground in front of the church at the end of the game. The latter as we had a hunch that the cowardly bishop would claim asylum (“sanctuary”) in the nearby church straight away if things got dangerous…

The opposing forces

The Bishop and his retinue (Rebels)

Non-playing Character
1 Bishop

Rebel Warband 1 (R1)
1 Rebel Noble

Rebel Warband 2 (R2)
1 Knight Captain on Warhorse
8 Men-at-arms on Warhorses

Rebel Warband 3 (R3)
1 Veteran Captain in full plate
5 Lübeck Mercenary Soldiers (including 2 handgunners and 1 archer)

Rebel Warband 4 (R4)
1 Veteran Captain in full plate
9 Lübeck Mercenary Pikemen

The Bishop and Noble together with the retinue of men-at-arms and Lübeck mercenaries.

The Peasant Allmoge (Unionists)

Unionist Warband 1 (U1)
1 Unionist Knight on Warhorse

Unionist Warband 2 (U2)
1 Peasant Veteran Captain
10 Peasants Allmoge Soldiers with halberds

Unionist Warband 3 (U3)
1 Peasant Veteran Captain
10 Peasants Allmoge Soldiers with crossbows

Unionist Warband 4 (U4)
1 Peasant Levy Leader
10 Peasant Levy with spears

The Unionist Peasant Soldiers with their Captains.

The initial set up

A 6x4' table.


Deployment with the Rebel and Unionist Warbands, and the High Ground marked in yellow.
Men-at-arms in the front of the Bishop's column...

...with Lübeck pikemen forming up the rear.

The Unionist peasant soldiers lying in ambush.

The Game

Turn 1 (Peasant priority)

The Peasant Allmoge suddenly appeared on the right flank of the retinue’s column and started to advance up the hill.

With a yell of warning the Knight Captain of the Sture family led his mounted men-at-arms to counter the threat. The men-at-arms spurred their horses and turned on the lowly peasants, galloping across the open area in front of the church.

"We are under attack! Monks, please care for our most honourable bishop while we sort out this small interference."

The men-at-arms charge across the hilltop...

...against the waiting peasant soldiers.

However, the veteran allmoge peasant soldiers steadily held their ground, took aim with their heavy crossbows and let loose against the men-at-arms with horrifying results. Two men-at-arms fell with crossbow bolts punched though their armour while two others had their horses shot from under them, throwing the riders to the ground.

The peasants' crossbows seriously thins the ranks of the men-at-arms.

The bishop lifted his long robes and moved as fast as he could towards the safety of the church while his retinue advanced on the peasants. Getting a glimpse of the advancing peasant levy the Lübeck archer shot one peasant dead.

The bishop is rather safe than sorry and run for the church.

Turn 2 (Retinue priority)

The men-at-arms’ charge was in disarray from the peasant crossbow volley. Realizing that they would suffer more of the same before they could reach the unsportsmanlike crossbowmen the men-at-arms turned on an closer and easier target. With the Lübeck pikemen moving up in support the men-at-arms charged downhill towards the peasant levy. Their bad luck continued, however, as one of the horses took a wrong step jumping down the hill side throwing yet another armoured rider crashing to the ground.

The men-at-arms shy away from the deadly crossbow bolts looking for easier targets.
The two men-at-arms previously having their horses killed struggled to their feet only to be killed by yet another volley from the allmoge crossbowmen.

Yet two more of the men-at-arms suffer the effect of the peasants' crossbows.

In return, the retinue’s handgunners shot the Unionist Knight’s horse from under him as he was moving to meet the retinue’s cavalry charge.

As some of the (now few!) remaining men-at-arms crashed into the peasant levy yet another rider was killed by peasant spearmen as the two Captains fought each other with no conclusive result.

The men-at-arms clash with the peasant levy.

The peace and quiet of the countyside is no more. 

Turn 3 (Peasant priority)

The Bishop was welcomed by the monks who offered him sanctuary in their church, which he hurriedly accepted.

"Pax vobiscum and all that. Can you take me inside?"

Trying to get the upper hand the Pikemens' Captain yelled “with me!” and charged the peasants. Not being caught out the opposing Peasant Levy Leader wrestled the initiative back, however, and led his men in a charge against the Lübeck pikemen.

The peasant levy takes the fight to Lübeck pikemen.
The Peasant Levy took advantage of their leaders’s initiative and also charged the men-at-arms who had trouble negotiating the steep hillside.

As both sides advanced the Lübeck mercenary handgunners again fired but this time to no effect.

Both sides advance under fire.
The Peasant Levy now pressed between both pikemen and men-at-arms fought bravely. Two peasants died fighting the professional pikemen but the Peasant Levy Leader got through and killed a pikeman up close and personal. Also the Levy managed to keep the men-at-arms at bay.

The Peasant Levy stand up to the men-at-arms.

Turn 4 (Retinue priority)

Although in small numbers the men-at-arms' superior skill and armament started to make itself felt as they fought down the hillside hacking at the Peasants Levy at their feet. They were joined by the Lübeck Captain and a few of his pikemen who left the others behind to charge the Unionist Knight. Being attacked from many directions the Unionist Knight, earlier unhorsed, was killed together with two of the peasant levy. For a moment it looked like the peasant left wing would collapse but the Peasant Levy Leader in his outdated armour fought furiously killing one of the six(!) pikemen surrounding him and keeping the others from advancing.    

The Unionist Knight is killed.
"Is this all you've got?" The Levy Leader laugh at the odds.

Time was of an essence for the retinue’s men-at-arms as the Veteran Peasant Soldiers was advancing on them, halberds ready. One halberdier fell to the Lübeck handgunners but that could not stop them from closing in on the pre-occupied men-at-arms.

The Peasant Veteran Soldiers close in on the men-at-arms.

Turn 5 (Retinue priority)

The Unionist crossbowmen had their field of fire blocked by the swirling melee and the high ground and started to move up the hill.

The men-at-arms used their gained momentum to attack the peasant halberdiers and remaining levy while some pikemen returned to where they came from to try and take care of that most troublesome Peasant Levy Leader. Trying to get to grips with the men of the retinue one peasant halberdier leaped down the rocky hillside but as others before him lost balance and fell on his face. A very treacherous hillside indeed!

Again the ranged combat was sporadic with one peasant halberdier being killed by a handgunner’s bullet.

Lübeck gunners reloading.

Although completely surrounded the Peasant Levy Leader again won the upper hand, this time against seven opponents! The peasants’ good fortune continued as a single peasant of the levy fighting a man-at arm standard bearer, the Pikemen's Captain, and a pikeman not only held them off but managed to get his spear though a weak spot of the standard bearer’s armour, killing him instantly. Simultaneously, peasant halberdiers managed to drag the other standard bearer, carrying the Sture heraldry, from his saddle and unceremoniously killed him on the ground. In rage from seeing his family banner on the ground the Knight Captain fought on, decapitating a peasant halberdier.

The peasant soldiers drag the rebels' banners in the mud, and their bearers with them. 

Turn 6 (Peasant priority)

The unionist crossbowmen took position on the hilltop, dominating the area in front of the church.

More peasant halberdiers continued to pour into combat with the retinue as the Rebel Noble and his small group of hardened warriors closed in on the Peasant Levy Leader holding up the rebels advance.

The Lübeck archer managed to fell a lone peasant halberdier on the hill while his companions failed to find their mark.

The Peasant Levy Leader facing impossible odds. Again.

The Peasant Levy Leader standing next to the plowed field finally found some worthy opponents in the Rebel Noble, a Veteran Captain in full plate armour and one of the men-at-arms. Never the less he still came out on top with a supreme display of swordsmanship, pushing his opponents back!

The peasants fighting the Knight Captain and pikemen weren’t as lucky though as three of them fell with mortal wounds.

The battle on the hillside in full swing.
Turn 7 (Retinue priority)

The fully armoured Peasant Captain failed to sieze the initiative as his retinue counterpart together with the mounted Knight Captain once again charged into the peasants. As the last peasant crossbowmen took position on the hill the Peasant Levy Leader again found himself surrounded by retinue warriors.

The Lübeck handgunners and archer opened fire on the peasant crossbowmen on the hill but failed to find their mark. In return a devastating volley of peasant crossbow bolts flew across the hilltop killing two out of the three mercenaries.

Arrows, bolts and bullets fly over the open ground.
Having fought overwhelming numbers at the peasants' left wing for quite some time the Peasant Levy Leader’s time was finally up. Surrounded by high quality fighters the Rebel Noble found an opening and brought the Unionist to his knees where he was hacked to death.

On the hillside the Knight Captain together with some pikemen held their own against the peasants, killing a halberdier.

Both sides were now getting dangerously low in numbers.

The Man of the Match is finally brought down by the rebels.
The Knigh Captain of the Sture family fights on against a seemingly never ending tide of peasant soldiers.

Turn 8 (Peasant priority)

With all but a few soldiers now locked in combat the fighting swayed back and forth on the crest of the hill and on the hillside down towards the farmstead and plowed field.

The peasant crossbowmen now firmly in position shot down the last Lübeck handgunner opposing them across the open hilltop, now being in total control of the area in front of the church.

In a swirling melee with both sides desperately trying to get the other to flee the battlefield a peasant halberdier was killed together with two pikemen from the retinue. Also, the Knight Captain having been in the thick of it all battle finally run out of steam and was dragged from his saddle, wrestled to the ground and killed.  

The Knight Captain goes down.

Turn 9 (Peasant priority)

With the Knight Captain dead the Bishop’s retinue was now below its breaking point. All was not lost however as they still had three capable leaders in the field. As the men looked towards their captains for encouraging calls to stand fast all three of them instead promptly turned tail and fled!

Running away? Not very inspiring leaders.
Now leaderless and outnumbered the remnants of the Bishop’s retinue fled the field of battle leaving the Bishop locked up in the church, only protected by the laws of sanctuary.

The Unionist Peasants had won!

"My Lord Bishop. It looks like you might have to stay in here for quite some time."


What a blast! A great game with many feats of courage and cowardry along the way. Early on it looked like it would be a walk in the park for the ambushing peasant soldiers as their crossbows seriously weakened the men-at-arms charge with their devastating first volley. Also, with the Peasant Levy Leader(certainly the Man of the Match!) holding up the advance of the Lübeck mercenary pikemen and others for ages it looked like the retinue would fail to come to serious grips with the peasants, leaving the few surviving men-at-arms to take on the peasants by themselves. As battle was joined the slightly higher quality of the retinue fighters made its mark however and at the end the peasants were only a few casualties away from their break point. But with the retinue below their break point in what turned out to be the last turn all three of the retinues remaining leaders - quite chocking - failed their break tests so the unionist peasants never had to see what their morale would stand for. Also, with the hilltop in the firm grip of the peasant soldier crossbowmen it ended as quite a solid victory for the unionist peasants.

Now, if only the Bishop would come out and play…

"Bishop, come out! We just want to talk to you! Promise!"


  1. WOW !!!!!

    Stunning aar, pictures and especially the church !

    Seems like a realy nice game, and get me thinking about basing, not good...

    Keep it up !!!

    Best regards Michael

  2. I really like the pictures and terrain, and seen a couple of conversion ideas i need to try out. A great read!

  3. Nice report and a great looking table and minis!! Good stuff.


  4. Fantastic! Great looking report, with wonderful figures and battlefield!

  5. Excellent stuff!

    Great report, great minis and great terrain. That church is just ... wow!

  6. Loved the report, sounds like it wa a whole heap of fun to play. Do you many changes to the basic LOTR rules?

  7. Thanks alot, gentlemen! Thank you very much for taking the time to comment. Much appreciated!

    @Dalauppror: Well, we can't promise not to post more of the Kalmar Union War with single bases miniatures. Sorry. But stay strong - we hate to lose your multibased and very inspiring version. ;-)

    @oldschool: We hardly make any real changes but rather try and find statlines that gives a good representation for the troop type we had in mind for the particular game at hand. And at times we call the rule something else or represent its effect in a diffent way. For example we don't have that many shields (it is late 15t c after all!). So we represent its hightened Defence value through types of armour instead. For instance, our Veteran Captains used the stats from Dol Amroth Captains with D7. According to the LotR rules such a captain has heavy armour and shield. Our Captains had full plate instead, with D7. Simple!
    Another thing we do is to give halberdiers the choice of using the rules for spears or twohanded weapons each turn.
    When it comes to different troop types the men-at-arms, for this game, used the statline and point cost for Minas Tirith Knights and the Peasant Levy used orc stats for instance (with veteran peasant soldiers using uruk-hai stats).
    All in all we don't bother that much over specific point costs but rather try and create a balanced game with stats and points for the different troop types that gives us the flavour we are after.

  8. Thanks for that. I've often looked at LOTR but have always been put off by the way the rules handle quality in a fight. Only counting the Fight value in drawn dice rolls doesn't seem to give the better fighters enough of an edge. It seems odd that a man-at-arms and a peasant have virtually the same chance of hitting each other, The man-at-arms only has a one-in-six advantage and there is no benefit in having a much higher Fight value than an opponent.

    How do you find it works in practice?


  9. Thanks for some input!
    I agree that differences in troop quality somewhat lacks impact in hand to hand combat. For characters that have a higher number of attacks (i e roll more dice) that isn't a problem but in the example you mentioned that "problem" excist. In a game it really doesn't disturb the gaming experience though as a higher fight value give an edge over the course of the game, lasting several turns.
    Also, the game mechanics itself with rolling for priority to go first each turn and having access to a limited amount of "heroic actions" to supercede that order of priority is in its simplicity just great. All in all it is quite a simple game mechanics that still allows for tactical gaming. A great rule set as far as we are concerned.
    Having said that it would be easy to give better fighters more of an impact by for example giving the fighter with the better fight value +1 on his die roll.

  10. Glad to hear it works in practice, I kind of thought it probably would.

    I had thought of using different dice D6 D8 D10 and D12. So the man-at-arms would roll a D10 and the peasant a D6, Fight value would still resolve draws.

    A simple addition wolud be easier, although I would probably use the +1 if the Fight value is two or more higher So the peasant effectively has to beat the man-at-arms by two to win.