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"Measuring C15th commanders' military abilities?" Topic

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327 hits since 7 Feb 2017
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redcoat07 Feb 2017 5:55 a.m. PST

Hi all,

I am looking at the issue of commanders (army or battalion) in the English Wars of the Roses, and am struggling to assess how to evaluate individuals' military abilities?

Might anyone please suggest either attributes or instances that one could use in pursuing this line?

For example, at the TACTICAL level:
--Warwick killed his horse before Towton, demonstrating (we suppose) the ability to INSPIRE his men.
--Richard III personally slew Henry's standard bearer at Bosworth, showing HORSEMANSHIP/SKILL-AT-ARMS.
--What more was there to tactical-level leadership? How much control did commanders really exert once battle commenced?

How else might you measure a commander's military abilities, beyond the tactical level? What did they need at the OPERATIONAL level, for example?

Are there any books that I can grab that might focus on this specific issue any thematic studies of warfare of the period, for example, that look at the issues of command?

I should add that I am quite interested in Richard III himself, so any pointers regarding him would be especially fascinating.

Many, many, many thanks in advance for *any* tips and advice, folks!!

idontbelieveit Supporting Member of TMP07 Feb 2017 7:28 a.m. PST

I don't know whether you've looked at them or not, but you might take a look at the Perfect Captain's A Coat of Steel rules. They are free online and ask that you make a donation to one of a number of charities if you play them. They have a number of ways of differentiating magnates (nobles and thus potential commanders): each is rated for puissance and forwardness and some have attributes such as being an "old soldier" or "impetuous" which impacts what they can do during a game.

That doesn't answer the historical analysis question you've asked, but presents one authors distillation of some of those things.

Personal logo Great War Ace Supporting Member of TMP07 Feb 2017 10:08 a.m. PST

If you take the battle each dominant commander is famous for, just go with that. A single tactical or strategic attribute to sway the campaign or battle ought to be sufficient to infuse a commander influence. There isn't much to go on in any case. Often the "commander" is merely the most eminent nobleman and gets ignored/disobeyed by the rest anyway………..

Thomas Thomas07 Feb 2017 10:20 a.m. PST

A commander's ability to keep a grip on his army tended to overwhelm any other consideration. Henry V, Edward III and to a lesser extend the Black Prince had this ability and it made a huge difference. So as in many periods Command Control is the most important consideration (and the most commonly ignored in gaming).

Personal prowess at arms could still count for something, Edward IV being a prime example. Richard III also seemed to have this ability (whatever his physical condition), though its limits for winning battles is demonstrated by Bosworth.

In A Game of Fire and Ice which covers the War of the Roses, I rate Generals as Calculating (they get a base of 4 PIPs but can add 1 or subtract one based on PIP rolls), Erratic (they just roll 1d6 for PIPs), Tricky (they can force opponent to re-roll PIP die). In addition some Generals can be rated as "Heros" for personal prowess and even "Knighted" which gives more punch but if in melee they lose their "General" ability.

By this manner you can vary the personalities of Generals within the DBX PIP system.

Thomas J. Thomas
Fame and Glory Games

redcoat08 Feb 2017 3:26 a.m. PST

This is very interesting, folks.

Which WotR battle was it in which the commander (Edward IV?) kept back a hidden reserve that is credited with winning the battle? This is seemingly cited as some kind of indication of military genius – which must have those familiar with later warfare scratching their heads in wonder.

uglyfatbloke08 Feb 2017 3:36 a.m. PST

There's a common perception that medieval people were somehow more stupid than we are today, so if they are seen to have pulled off anything at all clever somebody shouts 'genius!'

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