Certeyne Ceducious Persones, 1469: Onside Review by Nick Luft
A few years ago – 2019 – I ran a multiplayer game “Shameless, Impudent, and Indebted Lords” at the Holborn Group. It was based on the Robin Redesdale rebellion and Earl of Warwick’s treachery in May 1469.
I reckon that the game engaged and entertained the players at the time. There was a lot of post game banter and chat, about who did what to who and when and what really happened and what they would do to each other given another chance etc.
However, I was left with a grumpy feeling of failure. I thought the game was flawed and Graham Evans also agreed with me. Graham had come down from Northampton to join the game, and he is as a subject matter expert after his excellent book on the 1469, Edgecote battle. He knew what he was talking about.
The flaw was simple – the military units in my game behaved like modern armies – they were recruited, they marched, they fought and – if not defeated – they stayed in the field. Wars of the Roses campaigns were usually short – a few days or a couple of weeks in duration – followed by one or two big battles and then it all ended.
So my aim in running this new version was to rectify this. To create a game where the armies were recruited, they marched and they did not last longer than the campaign in which they fought.
The game structure was as follows
- Historic Briefing
- Main game – repeating these phases
- End of game
I had 6 players divided into three teams.
- Earl of Warwick – Bruce Walton
- Robin of Redesdale – Mukul Patel
- Earl of Pembroke – Andy Hadley and Evan D’Alessandro
- Earl of Devon – Deborah Southwell and Jon Casey
The game started with a verbal briefing – as I had forgotten to print out the briefing, after I sent it via email. This was the only time the players were together.
I started the game with the rebellion of Robin Redesdales, near Doncaster. He announced a manifesto that said that the King was surrounded by evil advisors and the King might suffer the same fate as Edward II, Richard II, and Henry VI! The evil advisors were named as the Woodville Family, relatives of Edward IVs Queen, the Earl of Devon and the Earl of Pembroke.
Historians are now very sure that Robin was one of the Earl of Warwick’s men and this was effectively a put up job. A few weeks after Robin’s launched his manifesto the Earl of Warwick issued a very similar manifesto under his own name and seal and started mustering his forces. This was just after he had married his daughter, Isabel, to the Duke of Clarence, the younger brother of King Edward IV and the heir presumptive.
So I landed the players in the middle of an already hatched plot. My intention was to run a game that included the mustering, marching and deployment of several armies. The scenario was just an excuse to try out my rules.
The players of course reacted marvellously to my machinations.
Bruce, playing the Earl of Warwick, and Mukul, playing Robin of Redesdale hatched a plan and put it into effect. Warwick sent out letters asking all lords to muster and join him at (I think) Northampton. This was obviously a ruse to distract the loyal Earls of Devon and Pembroke. The cunning plan was for Robin (Mukul) to march south and then turn away from London and go towards the King who was somewhere in Norfolk, most likely Norwich.
At the same time, Warwick decided to muster in Canterbury and not bother to collect the Calais Garrison in person. He then marched across Kent, went around London, and marched up the north road to St Albans. He then did an about turn just south of Northampton and went back to St Albans and back again. (Later Bruce explained this was his diversionary tactic, to let Robin have a free march towards the King in Norfolk.)
Pembroke and Devon decided to meet at Oxford and see what the King was upto and where the Rebels were. So they mustered and marched their forces, Pembroke getting their about a week before Devon, who was less hasty in addition to having a longer route.
The first contact was made by Pembroke’s scouts near St Albans and they easily drove in the scouts of Warwick. The reports were quite confusing as the scouts reported Warwick was retreating to London and the next day announced he was advancing to Northampton on a road slightly to the east of the road he was first found on.
Eventually Pembroke and Devon met in Oxford but by then it was all a bit too late and the next day Robin attacked the King who had not quite got his act together – he was a NPC and this is what the historic Edward did – and defeated him in a well fought battle. The King managed to flee, with some of the Woodvilles and take refuge on a ship from King’s Lynn to the Burgundian Court. Other minor Woodvilles were captured and summarily executed.
Warwick then announced the marriage of his daughter to Isabel, declared Clarence King and attempted to persuade the rather annoyed Pembroke and Devon that he was going to let them stay Earls etc. Unfortunately Warwick now had engineered a rather tricky situation. What would he do with the rebel Robin? If he rewarded him it would like exactly what it was an underhand, cunning plot to unseat Edward IV. And what would he do now that there were three Kings of England – Henry VI in the Tower of London, Edward IV in Bruges and George I (Duke of Clarence) in London? And what would happen if there was a proper Lancastrian revolt? Would Margaret of Anjou get an expedition together and invade? Would some Lancastrians lead a revolt? And what would the other Yorkists now do? Pitch in Warwick – the King unmaker?
I think it was a very tricky situation that Warwick had engineered for himself.
The historic outcome – further thoughts
In the historic record we know that Robin did come down south and caught Pembroke and Devon near Northampton, and then defeated them at the Battle of Edgecote. We are not exactly sure the route he took as he had to go around the King who was then at Nottingham. The Earl of Warwick spent more time going to Calais and back which delayed the mustering of his army so he did not quite manage to meet up with Robin at Edgcote.
After Edgecote, Edward IV’s army melted away and he went on the run, eventually being caught by Neville’s brother the Archbishop of York somewhere near Rugby. Warwick then kept Edward as a prisoner in Middleham Castle, near York and attempted to bully Edward into doing his bidding but it never quite worked and eventually Edward eventually is freed and takes back power.
Now that I have thought this scenario through some more I am beginning to suspect that fighting a Battle like Edgecote was his real aim. He wanted to defeat and kill the “evil counsellors”, Devon, Pembroke and Woodvilles. He did not want to kill the king and set up George as King. It would make him look like the duplicitous shit he really was. Having the Duke of Clarence under his control was his fall back position. I don’t think killing and replacing Edward was Warwick’s aim – it was too risky, looking too like a power grab and by killing off the evil counsellors he had achieved his aim – and freed up a lot of land and titles for Warwick’s followers.
I think I got a better result in this version of the game, than the one at Holborn. In this game the armies were mustered over time, and challenged by the problems of logistics, cohesion, stragglers and march discipline. Eventually all the armies would have ceased to be organised bodies of armed men and ceased to operate as a unit. Which is what happened historically.
Motivating your Army to follow you
One disappointment and something I need to think carefully about was Warwick’s perambulation around St. Albans. It made tactical sense in a game, but would not make any sense in the real world. One aspect of these mediaeval armed hosts was that they are totally ad hoc social and political groups. To get thousands of men, to arm, march and turn up must have required a lot of political persuasion and motivation. So when you are leading them, you must be telling them and motivating them with your political objectives / aims etc. And also persuading them how it is in their interests too. But to march them up to St. Albans and back again – like a much later grand old Duke of York – would have been political suicide.
My thoughts on this was that I need to make all players state their case – rather like Robin did with his manifesto. This would be best done as a few lines. And if the player then deviated from this later there should be consequences leading to a draining away of support.
Messaging – written notes v phone messaging
I know that running a postal service in a game is always a lot of hassle. You have to collect, read and then calculate the delay all the messages between players. It should generally be the work of one Control, freeing the other to manage the maps etc.
I deliberately said “do not use your phones”. Now I think about it, perhaps to ease my burden as an overworked Control I should have said, yes, use your phones, realising that the message storm would create misunderstandings, misinformation and confusion and relieve me of the burden of being a postie. I would then have been freed to go round the tables give timed news announcements and check their map deployments.
So yes, next time I will let them use whatever messaging service they want to sort out between them – Whats App, SMS, email etc.