Monday, 14 September 2020

War Wagons

Building an Ottoman army for the early 1500s I had to include war wagons, especially as they can also be used for much of my 16th century collection. Developed during the Hussite Wars of the early 15th Century, in which they were found to be particularly effective when combined with gunpowder weapons, by the 1500s war wagons were used in many armies, particularly those of Eastern Europe. The war wagons may not have played such a key tactical role in other armies as they did for the Bohemians but they were useful for fortifying camps and providing a mobile defensive structure. The Ottomans had adopted them by the end of the 15th century when they could be deployed with battlefield entrenchments and manned by the Sultan's janissaries when the Ottomans fought pitched battles.

I have used resin models from 1st Corps which look to have been based on Hussite wagons. As I intend to use them for different parts of the collection I am happy to use these as they are and haven't done any conversion work on them. War wagons seem to have taken all manner of forms so I have included a few contemporary images below to give an idea of how they may have looked. The first, probably most well known, image is from the later 15th century, and shows a German fortified camp. It is full of lovely details, such as the chap going to the toilet in the bottom right and the guards at the swing bar gate at the camp entrance on the left. The wagons used to form the camp walls would probably be more accurately described as "wooden shields on wheels", similar to mantlets, although the second wagon ring is clearly of proper wagons.

The next two images show details of war wagons from the "Battle before the gates of Nürnberg" depicting the forces of Kasimir von Brandenburg-Kulmbach in his clash with Nuremberg in 1502. The city deployed forty war wagons for the encounter which can be seen in the image. For more detailed images and a write up of this battle Daniel S has written two excellent blog posts: and The wagons in these images look closer in design to those I have painted up from 1st Corps.

The final image is another late 15th century one which shows a quite different style, more like a wooden "pill box". It is being used as a moveable fortification as the gate for a set of siege works. Although these images are all from the late 15th early 16th centuries war wagons continued to be used throughout the 1500s. Henry VIII took twenty to the Siege of Boulogne in 1544 which fully covered the horses who trotted inside the wagons frames! The Duke of Albany's Scots forces in 1523, which have featured in the games myself and Stuart have played recently, included war wagons covered in steel and brass, carrying men and artillery pieces. Even as late as 1573 they were used by the Dutch in an attempt to relieve those besieged in Haarlem during the Eighty Years' War.

A classic image of war wagons - or perhaps wheeled wooden barricades if you look more closely. From the House Book Master- The Camp outside Neuss, after 1475.

Detail from the "Battle before the gates of Nürnberg" 1502. A line of war wagons can clearly been seen.

The war wagons from the "Battle before the gates of Nürnberg" 1502.

Detail from the Kriegsbuch, Philipp Mönch, 1496. The gateway to the siege works is clearly covered by a "pill box" style war wagon in the centre of the image.

An Ottoman early 16th century wagon fort.

To show how they look with the figures here are two sets of photos. The first set shows the Ottoman battlefield entrenchments. A combination of trenches, stakes, gabions, mantlets and wagons protects the Turkish guns and the janissaries deployed within the fortifications. The wagons are based so that they will fit in with the mantlet and gabion bases that I made for my artillery pieces a while back. This gives a bit of continuity and means they all fit together well, presenting a formidable set of defences.

The second set shows the wagons forming the edge of a briefly paused Imperial marching column which is hastily forming a defensive set up against a river bank. I specifically painted up some janissaries to man the wagons for the Ottomans but for the landsknecht I have crewed the wagons with figures that still remain unbased from the "Great Rebasing of 2015", a laborious event that is still etched in my memory! I think they work well in both set ups and will hopefully be useful in a whole host of wargaming scenarios. They have even got me tempted to attempt some figures for the German Peasants' War but I guess that will have to wait!

A trench, stakes, gabions,mantlets and war wagons make up the temporary fortifications

The Ottoman wagon fortifications from behind.

A 28mm Ottoman wagon fort.

Note the open doors that form the steps into the wagons.

A smaller wagon with an artillery piece mounted.

A Landsknecht temporary camp.

A close up of one of the war wagons.

Some of the detail from the wagon interiors.

The defenders within the wagon line.

Landsknecht crewmen man one of the artillery wagons.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

The Siege of the Castle of St George, Kefalonia, 1500

A change in scenery from the north of Tudor England and the fighting around Wark to the Venetian fortress of St George on the Island of Kefalonia. Last week my friend Tom visited and we decided to give the Ottomans a test run and play a scenario set during the Ottoman-Venetian War of 1499-1503, the Siege of the Castle of St George. This was a campaign that was made more unusual by the Venetians being joined by Gonzala de Cordoba in a effort to recapture their island.

The Siege of the Castle of Saint George, 1500

The Ottoman-Venetian War of 1499-1503 began with an Ottoman attack on Venetian held Lepanto, which was taken in August 1499. The war had continued to go badly for the Serene Republic with a ferocious storming of Modon (modern day Methoni) in August 1500 following a bitter siege. This led to the surrender of the nearby Venetian positions of Coron and Navarino. By the end of the year, aided by the diplomacy of Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI, El Gran Capitan, Gonzala de Cordoba, and his Spanish veterans joined a Venetian force under Bendetto Pesaro, launching an assault on the Greek island of Kefalonia in an attempt to strike back at the Ottomans who had recently taken the island and its primary fortification, the Castle of St George.

The commander of the fortress was a tough Albanian named Gisdar Aga. He refused an offer to surrender from de Cordoba instead sending him a gift of a bow and golden plated quiver filled with arrows. He had a determined garrison of seven to eight hundred men under his command which included Janissaries. The Spanish and Venetians laid siege to the castle with the aid of Pedro Navarro who de Cordoba had recently recruited into his service.  Depsite Navarro's natural talent for mining and engineering the Ottomans held on, hurling fireballs onto the attackers and "fishing" them with iron hooks  nicknamed "wolves" if they got too near the walls. One of de Cordoba's Captains, Diego Garcia de Paredes, known as the "Samson of Estremedura " was caught by one of these hooks. Dangling and being lifted up to his death he was only saved by an arquebusier climbing onto the cliffs and shooting the defender who was "fishing" his captain.

Everytime the Spanish would approach the gates the intensity of the Ottoman arrows and the sallys from the gate were such that El Gran Capitan had his men make a large armoured box on wheels from which they could safely shoot artillery at the gate. Gisdar's men even attempted to bury their way out, building a tunnel through which they intended to assault the Spanish from and attack de Cordoba and his officers in their camp! The camp sentries heard the digging and Navarro countermined the tunnel leading to some particularly unpleasant deaths for the Ottoman miners. An indication of the savagery of the siege is given by the fact the Venetians impaled some of the Turkish survivors of the mine. An assault by 2,000 Venetians, advised against by de Cordoba was also repulsed. The castle finally fell on 24 December 1500 following days of mining and bombardment and an assault on five different points of the castle.

A view of the table from the Spanish and Venetian camp. The Spanish retinue are deployed in the camp with the armoured wagon while the Venetians are positioned around the gun battery. Gisdar Aga's troops will enter from the Castle of St George, seen at the top of the photo. The Ottoman surprise attack will come from one of the Spanish and Venetian flanks.

The Game

The game combined various events of the siege into one action. The Spanish had to try and push the armoured wagon to within range of the gates while Pedro Navarro would attempt to plant an explosive mine against the walls. At the same time the Ottoman Garrison would sally out of the gates to defend while another force, perhaps having emerged from a secret tunnel, would attempt to strike the Venetian and Spanish camp.

As normal we played the game using the modified "Renaissance Rampant" rules that Stuart and myself have adapted.


The ditch gave +1 armour against shooting and was difficult terrain for combat and movement.

The hill was not special terrain.

The Earthworks (around the Spanish Venetian camp) were half move to cross, unless using the gate. If a unit behind them was atttacked the defender fought as normal while the attacker counted as in difficult terrain. Units defending the earthworks got +1 armour from ranged attacks.

The Venetian Gun Battery could not be moved through but the earthwork around was difficult terrain for combat and movement.

The sconce (in front of the castle walls) gave +1 armour from ranged attacks if any part of a unit was in it and counted as difficult terrain for combat. There was no movement penalty for moving through it.


The Venetians deployed around their gun battery (see the picture above).

The Spanish deployed with the war wagon inside the camp (see the picture above).

The Ottomans did not start on the table.

Gisdar Aga and his garrison could sally out at any time from the castle gates with a move activation.

The surprise attack retinue could only arrive once the first fighting, ranged or close combat had taken place between Gisdar Aga's sally and the Venetians or Spanish.  On a D6 roll of  5+ the Ottoman player could attempt to bring them on in that turn. If this failed they could come on in the following turn on a 4+ and so on. They entered the table via move activations but the Ottoman player had to roll a D6 once the 1st move activation was successful. On a 1-3 the counter attack would arrive on the Spanish and Venetian left flank and on a 4-6 they would arrive on the Spanish and Venetian right flank. Until this dice roll neither player would know what side they would arrive from.

The "Armoured" Artillery Wagon

This started the game deployed with a Spanish unit who could push it 6" a turn. They could still fire when pushing it but could not attack. The wagon gave a pushing unit +1 armour against missile attacks. The Spanish Venetian objective was to get the wagon to the edge of the ditch in front of the castle gates. It could be pushed over the battery earthwork at half move.

If the unit pushing the wagon was destroyed then another infantry unit, Spanish or Venetian, but not mounted, could begin to push it on a move activation to the Wagon.

If unguarded, ie no unit was accompanying it, Ottoman units could move into contact with the wagon and destroy it on an activation of 8+ on 2D6 the following turn. They could make repteaded attempts to do this. It could not be destroyed by missile attacks.

The Gun Battery 

If an Ottoman unit could get into base to base contact with the sides or the rear of any part of the gun battery on the following turn they could destroy in on a 2D6 roll of 7+. They could make repeated attempts to do this. The battery itself was in difficult terrain, that being the earthwork it was on.

The Venetian and Spanish Camp

If an Ottoman unit could get into base to base contact with the large tent in the camp the following turn they could destroy in on a 2D6 roll of 6+. They could make repeated attempts to do this.

Pedro Navarro and the powder charge

If Navarro's Arquebusier unit could get to any part of the walls of the Castle of St George the following turn on the 2D6 roll of 7+ they could plant a powder charge. The unit could make repeated attempts to do this.

Honour Points

Victory was based on Honour Points. These were as follows.

The Spanish and Venetians

6 Honour Points if they could get the wagon into position in front of the castle gate.
5 Honour Points if Pedro Navarro could plant the charge against the walls.
5 Honour Points if they could kill Gisdar Aga.

The Ottomans

3 Honour Points for destroying the armoured Wagon.
3 Honour points for killing Gonzala de Cordoba, El Gran Capitan.
3 Honour points for killing Diego Garcia de Paredes.
3 Honour points for killing Pedro Navarro.
3 Honour points for killing Bendetto Pesaro.
3 Honour points for destroying the Venetian Battery.
3 Honour points for raiding the Venetian Spanish camp - to be considered to have done this they had to destroy the large tent in the centre.

The Venetian Gun Battery. In this game it was an objective for the Ottomans to try and reach and destroy.

The Armies

The armies were as below. Tom took command of the Spanish and Venetian Retinues whilst I took command of Gisdar Aga's Ottomans.

 Gonzala de Cordoba's Spanish

1 Unit of Foot Knights (Gonzala de Cordoba, El Gran Capitan)
1 Unit of Foot Knights (Diego Garcia de Paredes)
1 Unit of Spanish Arquebusiers (Pedro Navarro)
2 Units of Rodeleros
1 Unit of Spanish Arquebusiers

Bendetto Pesaro and the Venetians

1 Unit of Foot Knights (Bendetto Pesaro)
2 Units of Italian Infantry
2 Units of Venetian/Balkan Archers
2 Units of Stradiots
1 Unit of Italian Pike

Gisdar Aga's Garrison

1 Janissary Agha (Gisdar Aga)
1 Unit of Janissary Archers
2 Units of Janissary Infantry
2 Units of Azab Archers
1 Unit of Azab Handguns
1 Unit of Azab Infantry

The Ottoman Surprise Attack

1 Unit of Zirhli Nefer (Armoured Retinue leader)
2 Units of Janissary Archers
1 Unit of Janissary Infantry
2 Units of Azab Archers
2 Units of Azab Infantry

The first units of Ottoman defenders sally from the castle gates.

A view from the walls of the Castle of St George. Gisdar Aga and his men can be seen surging out of the gates to meet the oncoming attack.

Ottoman handgunners take up a defensive position in the castle's dry ditch.

The battle developed slowly with the Spanish and Venetians cautiously pushing forward, obviously aware that the Ottoman defenders may have had something up their sleeves. Gisdar Aga and his retinue emerged from the castle gates and took up positions in the fort's dry ditch. One unit of Janissaries pressed on down the rocky slopes and engaged with some of the Venetians, only to be sent back in retreat when the stradiots, no strangers to warfare with the Turks, began to skirmish with them.

The cautious start to the fighting allowed de Cordoba's veterans to push forward with the war wagon. A unit of Venetian infantry was the first to attempt an assault on the castle itself. Throwing back some of the garrison's archers they succeeded in charging into the dry ditch and taking on Gisdar and his Janissary bodyguards. In a surprise turn of events the castle's captain was the first to be slain in the melee, his bodyguards beating a hasty retreat towards the walls! Things were not going well for the Ottomans.

A unit of Janissary archers moves forward to engage with the Venetians.

The Janissaries are pushed back with casualties as the stradiots skirmish with them.

Most of the Ottomans in front of the castle take cover in the ditch as the stradiots ride forward.

A unit of Venetian infantry engages with some of Gisdar's azab archers as they push on in the assault.

The scene in front of the castle gates.

The Venetian infantry charge into the ditch and Gisdar Aga is slain!

As Gisdar fell in front on the gates a roar went up from the plain beneath the castle walls as the Ottoman counter attack was launched. Janissaries and azabs struck the Spanish and Venetian right flank. As the stradiots caught in the charge attempted to ride out of the way the two units of Spanish arquebusiers, one under the command of Pedro Navarro found themselves in the perfect position to unleash a hail of shot into the oncoming Janissaries. With two devastating volleys they instantly took the momentum out of the Ottoman surprise assault.

At the same time the fighting at the dry ditch beneath the castle's walls intensified. The Venetian infantry who had defeated Gisdar continued to fight on against numerous attacks from the Turks whilst the rodeleros pushing up the war wagon came under increasingly heavy attacks from the Ottoman archers and handgunners. The wagon provided them with extra cover but it was not enough to shelter all of them and their casualties mounted.

As the castle's commander falls the Ottoman surprise attack surges onto the field. Unfortunately for the Ottoman attackers they have charged right in front of two units of Spanish arquebusiers!

An overview of the battlefield. The Spanish can be seen pushing the wagon into position whilst the Venetian infantry are still attacking in the ditch. To the left of the picture the Ottoman counter attack can be seen.

The Spanish rodeleros push the armoured wagon into position so that it's gun can be used against the gates.

Having already pushed the rodeleros from their position defending the wagon the defenders then try and stop the Venetian commander, Bendetto Pesaro, and his men from protecting it.

The Spanish veterans succesfully pushed the war wagon, with the artillery mounted inside it, into position in front of the castle gates. Things were certainly going well for the Spanish and Serene Republic. When the rodeleros were finally forced from their perilous position by the constant Ottoman attacks the Venetian Captain, Bendettto Pesaro took on the mantle of protecting the wagon and gun. His Italian and Balkan troops continued to skirmish with the Turks in the ditch.

In the centre of the field the Ottoman counter attack did make some head way. The archers drove Pedro Navarro's arquebusiers back and he finally fled, being unable to reach the walls of St George's Castle and plant the explosive charge his men were carrying. As some of the Ottomans attempted to reach the Spanish and Venetian camp their armoured Janissary leader engaged in a duel with de Cordoba. As the melee swarmed around them both they were parted and the fight was inconclusive.

Balkan light archers in Venetian employ skirmish with the defenders in the castle's ditch.

Despite constant attacks Bendetto Pesaro and his retainers defend the Spanish artillery wagon. Behind him Pedro Navarro is about to flee the field following a sustained attack on his Spanish veterans.

The armoured Janissary captain of the counter attack engages El Gran Capitan in a brief and inconclusive duel.

The Spanish and Venetians have succeeded in keeping the surprise attack in check.

The fighting on the now bloodied slopes in front of the castle continued with the Venetian pikemen trying to force the ditch. They were sent back and Bendetto Pesaro and his bodyguards were left to fend for themselves against the Ottoman defenders. In the centre of the field the counter attack had by now been well and truly checked. A band of jinetes who had been out scouting the island returned to reinforce the camp and help fight off the Turks. A unit of azab archers did make it into the camp only to be chased down by the "Samson of Estremedura",  Diego Garcia de Paredes, who soon sent them fleeing back to the walls of the castle.

The defenders at the gate finally managed to push the Venetian Captain, Bendetto Pesaro, and his men at arms away from the war wagon. Their aim had been to capture or slay Pesaro but he managed to get safely back down the rocky hill where the Venetians and Spanish still had numbers. In a final act of defiance the Ottomans in the dry ditch managed to topple the war wagon and dismount the gun it was protecting. It had been a long and bloody day for both sides.

Back at the castle walls the Venetian pikemen lead an assault up the already bloodied slopes.

Some of the Turkish azabs attempt to get into the Spanish camp and loot it. They are stopped by the "Samson of Estremedura",  Diego Garcia de Paredes. Accompanied by his fellow dismounted men at arms he makes short work of them.

In the bloody melee around the castle ditch the Venetian captain, Bendetto Pesaro, has been pushed back. 

The Ottoman's manage to topple the unprotected armoured wagon but they have suffered heavily in the engagement with the loss of nearly all of the counter attacking force and the garrison's captain, Gisdar Aga.

This was a scenario where the various objectives and the element of surprise really helped to create an exciting and challenging game. Both of us were constantly having to decide what objectives to focus on whilst letting the chance to achieve others escape. Until the Ottoman counter attack arrived neither Tom nor I knew which flank it was going to be from and this added a great element of tension. In the end the Ottomans did rather badly only managing to remove Pedro Navarro from the game and toppling the war wagon. The Spanish and Venetians did succeed in getting the war wagon into position although we never clarified whether it had to be there at the end of the game! They were also successful in killing Gisdar, the tough Ottoman captain.

I may have to revisit this campaign as there were other elements such as the fire balls launched down the slopes and the "wolves", or iron hooks, the defenders used that could be fun to incorporate in another scenario. As a final note the actual Castle of St George can be seen here: It is easy to see why it was such a tough nut to crack back in the autumn of 1500.

Monday, 17 August 2020

The Siege of Wark, 1523

The battles on the border continue. Following our games based around Dacre's assault on Ferniehurst, this weekend Stuart,, and I played another couple of scenarios based on the Scottish retaliation that came late in 1523. These were centred on the Siege of Wark in the autumn of that year, in which the captain of the castle's garrison led, according to English accounts at least, a heroic sally forcing the attackers from the battered walls in panic.

The Siege of Wark, 1523

Following Surrey and Dacres raiding into Scotland in September 1523,, the Scots struck back the same year, this quick response coming as something of a shock to the English. John Stuart, Duke of Albany, raised a large force, which some English spies estimated to be as high as 60,000, including around 3,000 French. Luckily for the unprepared English the presence of the French brought back too many memories of Flodden 10 years previously and the Scottish troops would not cross the Tweed. He despatched the French force with some Scottish support, most of which was artillery, under the borderer Dan Kerr to attack Wark Castle. They reached the bank opposite the castle on 29th October 1523.

Wark was no stranger to an assault. Having originally been a Motte and Bailey style fortification, it's position meant it had been besieged three times in the 12th century, being rebuilt in 1157. It was burnt in 1399 and had been bombarded into surrender by James IV on his ill fated journey to Flodden in 1513. Since then the castle had undergone a rebuild in 1517, the keep being turned into a 6 sided artillery tower 5 stories high. A great representation of how it may have looked in 1523 can be found here: Opposing the three thousand Frenchmen and their Scots supporters was Sir William Lyle with around one hundred men. Following a bombardment by the Scots guns the French launched an amphibious assault on the outer wall using  appropriated boats and makeshift rafts. Lyle was unable to prevent the French storming the outer defences of the castle.

Edward Hall's chroncile describes the action as such:

"The night before the Scottes had sent ouer the water into England. iii or iiii M. men to lay siege to a lytle castle called the Castle of Warke, whiche stadeth nere the border: the great ordinaunce of Scotland sore bet the castle, and Dan Car amd the Frenchemen whiche came out of Fraunce with the duke of Albany gaue to the castle a strong assaut: with the castle was sir Willia Lyle with a C. persones, but the Scottes were so many in nomber, that they got the vttermoste warde called the Barnkyns where the beastes and barnes were, whiche seyng, the capitaine sent in all hast to the Erle of Surrey aduerisyng him of their distres, which in all hast assembled his capitaines to reskue the castle, therby hopyng that Duke Ihon of Albany would enter into England. The Frenchmen and Scottes lay styll about the castle cotinually shotyng ordinaunce Sonday & Monday the fyrst and second day of Nouember, and then the Scottes thinkyng the place assautable, coragiously set on the castle and by strength entred the second warde. Sir Willya Lyle perceiuyng that the Scottes had gotten the false brayes and that nothing remained but only the inner warde or dogeon, sayd to his company, sirs for our honor and mahod let vs issue and fight with the proude Scottes and stately Frenchmen, for more shall our honor be to dye in fight, then to be murthered with gunnes, to whiche his company that were left agreed: for his C. men he had lost alomst xl. at the other assautes. Then they issued boldly and shot coragiously as men that shot for a vauntage, and with shotyng and fightyng they draue their enemies clene out of the place & slew of them & chiefly of the Frenchmen CCC whiche lay there dead in sight when the Erle came thither, beside suche as dyed of woundes & were drouned. Then the Scottes remoued their ordinaunce, in great hast ouer the water, and by that tyme was the Erle of Surrey come w v.M. men on horsebacke & all his great army folowed & was very sory that his enemies were gone, & muche praised sir Williyam Lyle for his valiauntnes."

Trapped in the inner ward of the castle the English garrison made the decision to sally out in a last ditch effort to push the attackers back. The fighting was at close quarters within the castle walls and the French were driven back leaving some three hundred dead. The news that the Earl of Surrey was on his way with a rapidly raised force of five thousand horse meant that the Scots gunners panicked and limbered up the guns ready to withdraw, rather than offering much support to the French. John Leslie in his "History of Scotland" from 1578, puts the defeat down to the terrible autumn weather as much as the ferocity of the English defence, his quite different account of events being as follows:

"And fra that the haill army passit to Caldstreame upoun Tweid, and send our the watter certaine great artailyerie, with ane cumpany of Frensche and Scottis men, and Dand Kar with thame, and laid siege to the castell of Wark, quhilk wes keipit be Sir Williame Lylle captaine thairof, with ane great cumpnay of Inglishmen being thairin, quhilk wes weill furneisset with all kind of provisioun and munitioune necessar. And at the first assault, the utter barmkin wes won, and the saide cumpany of Scottis and Frensche men lay within the same , pursewand the castell. In the meynteime the Erle of Surry, with xlm men, wes lyand at Anwyk nocht far fra the said castell, and send the Marques Dorset with ane greit cumpany to keip the toun of Berwyk, feiring the same suld haif bene seigeit alsua; bot the said Erle durst approche na nearrir the said army of Scotland. In the meyne tyme ane new assault wes givin to the inner barmkine, and wan the same; and tharfoire thay sett one the castell and pursewit it at ane parte, quhilk wes brokin with the artailyerie lyand on the Scottis syde of the watter of Tweid, and pressit to enter thairat, quhair thair wes great slauchter maide, and speciallie one thame quha wes within the house; and the assault lestit quhill the nycht, that thay wor constranit be mirknes to retire thairfra, purposeing the nixt day, being the feird of November to haif assailyeit the same of new; bot thair wes that nycht sic ane vehement storm of tempestious wooddar, qhairby thay weir constranit to leif thair interprice at that tyme , and to retire thame to thair army, lest be the ryseing of the watter of Tweid thay mycht haif bene cutt of be thair ennemies."

For both of the games Stuart played the English while I took command of the Franco-Scottish force. The photos are from the games and the captions underneath the photos will help in following the action.

A view of Wark from the artillery tower. The French hold the outer walls in the top of the photo while Sir William Lyle and his garrison will sally from the bottom right corner. 

A view of the whole castle. The French and Scots will enter from the gatehouse and the breach. Their objectives are to burn the barn and stable that can be seen in front of the inner wall and to attempt to reach the artillery tower at the top of the photo. The English will sally from the gap in the inner wall with the objective of throwing the French and Scots out of the outer ward. The Scots artillery could support from the side of the table with the breach and boats on it all the way up to the inner wall.

The battle took place within the "Barnkyn" as Hall called it or the outer ward of the castle. The representation of the castle can be seen in the photo above. The outer ward has been enlarged to allow for more of a game to be able to take place within the area.  The English deployed inside the inner ward and the French could place up to two units at the gate and breach otherwise they deployed oustide the walls.


The castle gate could be moved through without penalty and the breach was half movement rate and rough terrain for combat. The inner ward of Wark on the hill did not incur a movement penalty or combat penalty.

"murthered with gunnes"

To represent the fact that the English were still in possession of a state of the art artillery tower and that the French had the support of the Scots guns across the water both sides could call on the support of the artillery during the game. Each player took 8 cards from a normal deck at the start of the game. At the start of their turn they could decide to use their artillery, expending a card. The English Player was able to target any enemy unit with 36" of the artillery tower as with a Culverin shot and the French and Scots Player was able to target any enemy with 24" of the far side of the outerward (see the photo above) with a Culverin shot. The Culverin range rules would apply but line of sight wouldn't. This reflected the fact the English gun tower was so tall and also the sheer volume of guns the Scots had accross the river.

The opposing player could try and prevent this artillery shot by also expending a card. Both players played one of the 8 cards and the highest would either get to make the shot if it was their turn or if the player attempting to "block" the shot played the highest card it wouldn't take place.

"where the beastes and barnes were"

If the French and Scots could reach the barn or stables positioned against the inner wall they could try and set fire to them to earn three honour points fo each objective. To try to set fire to a building they had to have at least one base from a unit in contact with it at the start of their activation phase. As an ordered activation, they could use that unit to try to set fire to the objective (instead of Moving, Attacking, or Shooting). If there were 7 or more models in the unit the fire started on a roll of 8+ on 2D6; if there were 6 or fewer models in the unit the fire started on a roll of 9+ on 2D6. The English would earn two honour points for each building if the barn and stables were not burnt.

Honour Points

Victory for this game was decided on honour points.


3 Honour Points if Dan Kerr was killed/routed.
2 Honour Points for each target building, being the Barn and Stables, that was not burnt down.
2 Honour Points for each unit that could reach the shore of the Tweed to drive back the French.


3 Honour Points if Sir William Lyle was killed/routed.
3 Honour Points each if the barn and stables could be destroyed.
2 Honour Points if a unit could reach the artillery tower in the effort to storm the fortress.

The retinues were as follows:

The Franco Scottish Attackers

1 Unit of Foot Knights (Dan Kerr retinue leader)
1 Unit of Foot Knights - French Captain
1 Unit of Garrison Bill (Kerr's dismounted Borderers)
1 Unit of French Halberdiers
2 Units of Aventuriers
2 Units of Francs Archer Bowmen
1 Unit of Picard Pike

The English Defenders

1 Unit of Foot Knights (Sir William Lyle retinue leader)
1 Unit of Foot Knights
2 Units of Garrison Bow
2 Units of Garrison Bill
1 Units of Shire Bow
1 Organ Gun

Dan Kerr and his Borderers accompany the French Captain and his archers and pikemen at the gate house while French halberdiers, aventuriers and more archers hold the breach.

The French at the breach. A boat they have used to cross the Tweed can be seen in the background.

The English Garrison under Sir William Lyle prepare to sally out "for more shall our honor be to dye in fight, then to be murthered with gunnes".

The English charge out into the outer ward but some French aventuriers have already reached the stables.

A view of the English sallying forth!

The French captain engages with members of the garrison.

This was a tense game where the balance swung back and forth a couple of times. Initially the French charged into the castle courtyard as the English charged out. One of the groups of aventuriers reached the stables and immediately set fire to them. The French and Scots who were in possession of the gate house charged forward to engage the garrison. Sir William Lyle "issued boldly" only to be instantly struck down by one of the French captains in the close quarters melee. The Franco-Scottish force had already achieved two of their objectives and looked to be heading towards a stunning victory but the morale of the rest of the garrison held and they fought on.

It was now the turn of the English archers to show what they were made of. While hand to hand fighting broke out around the gate house the archers defended the rest of the courtyard and routed the French halberdiers and aventuriers who were unable to put up with the storm of arrows. From the inner ward the garrison wheeled out a nasty surprise from their collection of ordnance; the organ gun was fired into the oncoming French and succeeded in momentarily checking their advance.

English archers unleash a hail of arrows at the attacking French.

The fighting in the castle outer ward.

The garrison of Wark have wheeled out one of castle organ guns and use it on the attacking French.

Sir William Lyle is cut down in the early stages of the sally. The rest of the garrison do not falter.

Kerr's borderers clash with the castle's veteran garrison.

Their captain may have fallen but Lyle's retinue defend valiantly against the attacking French and Scots.

A particularly mean band of Kerr's borderers, eager for revenge after the fighting in the woods around Ferniehurst, managed to drive the English back. Many of the garrison's billmen and archers were slain in the fighting and with more French pouring through the gate house and over the breach it looked as though, despite a fierce counter attack, the garrison were going to succumb to the superior numbers of the besiegers and be overwhelmed. French archers and more aventuriers, accompanied by Dan Kerr entered the outer ward and joined the fray.

Having lost most of their melee troops in the fighting the English drew back to the inner ward and formed a last line of defence. Still keeping up a constant rain of arrows they managed to slow the oncoming French and Scots, Dan Kerr went down and the attackers morale faltered. French aventuriers and archers still held the courtyard but they were no match for the handful of men at arms that formed part of Lyle's garrison. Now was the time that the Scot's artillery on the other side of the Tweed would have been able to lend valuable support but it was not to be. The fully armoured men at arms were able to lead a second sally and send the besiegers fleeing from Wark.

In the end the French and Scots achieved two of their objectives,slaying Sir William Lyle and burning down the stables. The English garrison gained more Honour Points as they prevented the barn from being destroyed, killed Dan Kerr and managed to have three units left who could make it to the banks of the Tweed and drive the attackers back. The artillery rules provided much entertainment despite the fact the guns never fired! I repeatedly attempted to fire shots into the courtyard in an effort to push back the English counter attack but they failed everytime.

The English line holds.

Aventuriers, flushed by the success of burning down the stables, attempt to reach the barn.

Following the fierce fighting the English form a defence line in front of the inner ward.

Dan Kerr has fallen in the counter attack leaving some of the remaining English men at arms to throw the attackers out of the castle. The defenders may have been outnumbered but they successfully defended Wark in a bitter struggle. 

Fearful of the arrival of the Earl of Surrey and a relief force, part of Albany's Franco-Scottish force prepares to leave the castle.

 "and to retire thame to thair army, lest be the ryseing of the watter of Tweid thay mycht haif bene cutt of be thair ennemies."

For our second game we decided to combine a couple of the scenarios from the Lion Rampant rule book to represent the besieging Franco-Scottish force beating a hasty retreat from the border with the arrival of the news that the Earl of Surrey was on his way with a relief force. The armies would deploy as per the "Hammer and Anvil" scenario on page 55 of Lion Rampant. We wanted to include a representation of a battered Wark on the table which meant the Scots deployment zone was very narrow. Due to this the English player would roll a D6 on turn 3 and on a 1-2 they could bring troops on next turn, 3-4 after two turns and 5-6 after 3 turns. English units would be brought on via a "move" activation, not being able to attack or shoot on the turn they entered the game.

For the victory conditions and wagon rules we used those from "The Convoy" scenario on page 50 of Lion Rampant.

The retinues were as follows:

The Earl of Surrey's relief force

1 Unit of English Men at Arms (Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey)
2 Unit of Demi Lancers
2 Units of Border Horse
1 Unit of Garrison Bow (dismounted archers)
1 Unit of Shire Bow (dismounted archers)

The Duke of Albany's retreating Scots

1 Unit of Men at Arms (The Duke of Albany)
2 Units of Border Horse
1 Unit of Shire Bow
1 Unit of Scots Pike
1 Unit of Borders (Garrison Billmen)
1 Unit of French Aventuriers

The surviving members of the English garrison watch from the artillery tower.

The Scots army is on the move, they leave a battered but defiant Wark behind them.

As the Scots leave a force of demi lancers and dismounted archers attempts to block their path.

The second game was not quite as close. The Scots succeeded in heading off at a real pace with the units accompanying the wagons going first in an attempt to get away before the rest of the English cavalry arrived. They were met by a unit of demi lancers and a force of dismounted archers who formed a defensive line in an attempt to prevent the wagons from escaping. The demi lancers charged the borderers accompanying one of the wagons and managed to scatter them but they were a spent force after this and fled themselves.The dismounted archers blocking the Scot's escape route began to disrupt the oncoming column with a steady hail of arrows but they were too heavily outnumbered. As the Scots archers returned the compliment and their border horse rode up to harrass the English the archers broke leaving the escape route clear.

By now the rest of the English cavalry had arrived, save Surrey himself who was taking an age to appear. The English border horse gave chase to the column but some of the surviving French and a force of Scots border horse hung back and prevented them from catching the column which was already well on its way. As the remaining two wagons headed north the English had to be content that they had prevented one from getting away and that a battered but triumphant Wark had withstood yet another assault in its long history.

A fight breaks out on the river bank.

The demi lancers charge the borderers and their baggage.

The exhausted but relieved garrison look on from the castle walls. The demi lancers defeat the borderers and prevent one of the wagons from escaping.

Some of Surrey's border horse arrive.

Supported by more demi lancers the English border horse begin to harrass the retreating Scots, some of whom turn to fight back. The main part of the column has escaped.

A fun couple of clashes on the northern border which, as always, left us with even more ideas for future games. From the 1523 campaigns alone the assaults on Jedburgh and Cessford Castle still stand out as notable actions that would be worthy of scenarios which I am sure we will get to at some point. We also managed to avoid any terrible hangovers which is always a bonus on any gaming weekend, now I guess I better get back to painting more Ottomans!