The Battle of Middleburn (Week 1, North)
Buoyed with (over)confidence that the blessings of the Nine were with them, the Church forces advanced boldly towards the Royalist blockade. They arrived piecemeal, starting with the advance guard consisting of two units of crossbowmen. A turn later, the two units of elite Temple Guards that had been screening the column's flanks reached the field. The main body of the Archbishop's "Pilgrimage" - three units of knights and four more units of Temple Guardsmen, were a half hour behind on the road.
Instead of waiting to form up or take a defensive position, the commander of the advance guard decided to boldly advance head on to try to engage the Royalists before the rest of the Church forces arrived. (This was determined by a roll on a table in the scenario) These crossbowmen had the dubious honour of firing the first shots of the Civil War, driving one unit of archers back from the edge of the hill to the south.
The Duke decided to match boldness with boldness and personally led his knights out to sweep the crossbowmen from the field. This they did, but not before taking significant casualties from bowfire on the charge in.
The Temple Guard units both raced in from either flank, but were too late to support the doomed crossbowmen, who streamed from the field in total rout. The northern flank unit drew the attention of the Duke, who charged them. This proved to be one charge too many for the tired and weakened knights, and the Elite Temple Guardsmen wielding their Rods of Might were more than a match for them. The Duke's unit were routed, and the Duke himself wounded and forced to retire to the nearby farmhouse where he was treated for the rest of the battle.
The Elite Temple Guards victory was short lived, as the second unit of knights then swept in from the flank and totally overran them with barely a pause. The southern flank guard unit decided discretion was the better part of valour, and retired south to the hills where it threatened the archers' flanks.
As the main body of the Archbishop's "Pilgrimage of Hope" arrived, consisting of three units of knights and four units of Temple Guards (... oh and probably some priests and pilgrims and possibly a donkey - it's not a proper pilgrimage if there isn't a donkey) things weren't looking bad for the Royalists. The scenario setup had determined that they would lose the scenario if they took three units lost, and by extrapolating out I'd decided that the Church forces would similarly break when they'd taken five units lost. So far the Church had lost three units to the Royalists' one. But on the other hand, the Royalists had lost their Leader unit, which was one of their army's heavy hitters, and the other unit of knights was severely weakened.
The scenario called for a roll to determine the Main Body's tactics when it arrived, and true to form the result was "bold advance without waiting to deploy, cavalry on the flank". I interpreted this as a pell-mell rush down the field towards the pass, in two bodies - knights and Temple Guards. This move brought the knights into the field of fire from the Royalist archers on the southern hill who having fended off the southern flank guards, duly blackened the sky and rained arrows down on the knights. The lead unit of knights responded to the fire by racing ahead to try to get to safety, which split them off from the main body of knights.
Pushing onwards the lead unit of knights ignored the men at arms stationed along the edge of the nearby woods and instead pushed past the farm towards the pass. There, they were met by the remaining unit of Royalist knights, who had rallied there after their earlier action and now stood as the only thing between the Archbishop and the road south.
The tired and battered Royalist knights lost their nerve and fell back in the face of the rebel knights. Rallying momentarily, they knew to a man that the next time the Archbishop's knights charged, they would not be able to hold and the battle would be lost. Meanwhile the remaining body of knights moved up to rejoin the breakaway unit, and the main force of Temple Guards advanced to threaten the Royalist men-at-arms.
And here the battle turned. The rearguard unit of the knights took a murderous fire from the archers on the hill, battering them until the few survivors quit the field in terror. Meanwhile the other unit of archers loosed a volley at the southern flank Temple Guard unit, who had been loitering nearby for some turns. In response the Elite Temple Guard inexplicably turned heels and ran away.
Archbishop Trente was furious. Riding at the head of his knights, he could see the gates to the pass South before him and felt victory within his grasp. But the shouts and screams behind him told the tale of his epic "Pilgrimage of Hope" collapsing into chaos. Biting off a curse, he snapped his horses reins around, turned and ordered the army to retire to West Eastcliffe.
There you have it, the opening battle in the Novembre Civil War campaign, and what a nailbiter it was. This was my first time playing Rally Round The King, and after some initial befuddlement it quickly fell into place like all the best rulesets seem to do. It helps if you're used to the way THW rulesets normally work, though interestingly this game seems less interrupt-driven than most others. I'm playing this relatively fast and loose - not calculating detailed points values or army lists, and pretty much assigning troop stats and the like on the fly. Even the map and the whole setting of Novembre was created out of whole cloth yesterday in about an hour. Instead of spending too much time in preparation and background work, as an experiment I'm trying to just get stuck in and play, and letting the background fluff evolve naturally out of the games. For example, we now know that the Duke of Medwinde will be walking with a limp for the next few battles from the great wound he took at the Battle of Middleburn.