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"Battles Decided by Treachery - Worth Doing?" Topic

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Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP17 Sep 2017 6:05 a.m. PST

In the opinion of everyone, are Northampton 1460 and Bosworth 1485 worth refighting? Or even better, if you have refought them, how did you do it? Battles decided by straight up treachery seem hard to do. Do you include the treachery or not?

Ottoathome Inactive Member17 Sep 2017 6:21 a.m. PST

I have, several times. They are never received well, by either side.

Great War Ace Inactive Member17 Sep 2017 7:23 a.m. PST

Making treachery a random chance thing turns the battle into alternate history when the treachery doesn't happen. Bosworth is fun, because it is double treachery. The rearguard never moves when Dickon commands them to. And the Stanleys actively attack him when he attacks Tudor. If either event is randomized (just go with 50/50 to keep it simple, then tinker from there), the whole battle changes to favor the king.

Antioch in the First Crusade only happened because of treachery, otherwise the crusaders would never have got inside the city. So, no treachery, no assault.

You can take any battle that did not have treachery, add it in as a possibility, and then see what happens when the treachery occurs. It can be as simple as not moving (a la Northumberland at Bosworth). Imagine Hastings if the Bretons decided that the Bastard was a bastard anyway and threw in their lot with the Godwinsons.

But you are right, the players on the betrayed side are not going to enjoy the game.

A different sort of "treachery" that I have seen a couple of times (years ago) is player rivalry. One of the players decides to cook the scenario, to get at the GM or someone on the other side, or they throw the game to get at someone on their own side. They mess up what they are supposed to do and deliberately betray the scenario. I have seen this work where the player doing the sabotage deliberately behaves in a perfidious manner, for example charging like mad Knights into overwhelming odds of horsearchers, when, as a crusader veteran, the commander/player of said-Knights would use his infantry as a screen and is expected to. Imagine how Arsuf goes when the Hospitaller player simply decides to hive off on his own at the very beginning of the battle, and is wiped out. Etc………

Perris070717 Sep 2017 8:45 a.m. PST

Often wondered about that when thinking about several Byzantine battles. Manzikert and Acheloos in particular.

MajorB17 Sep 2017 8:52 a.m. PST

The Northampton Battlefields Society have published a game of Northampton 1460:

Phil Steel has produced a very successful scenario for Bosworth using DBA v3.0:

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP17 Sep 2017 9:04 a.m. PST

We used to have a player who, if he didn't get overall command, would do things like march his entire command, including SHC cataphracts, into the woods and then leave.

Thomas Thomas17 Sep 2017 10:41 a.m. PST

Its generally now agreed that there was no active treachery in Richard's army (other than shaky Stanleys). Northumberland could not advance due to a swamp to his front which allowed the Tudor's to concentrate on the other end of the line.

It comes from now knowing where the battle took place. The ground never lies.

DBM simulated the period by requiring you to have at least on Allied General rather than all reliable Sub-generals. If you rolled a "1" Allies first PIP they won't move. Happened to me in the final round of the doubles National Championship round. As we were playing doubles my wife had the command and so smugly sat doing nothing but offering advice while I struggled to survive with just 2/3s of our army active.


Major Function18 Sep 2017 1:45 a.m. PST

This is not treachery related but I think it has a similar theme, many many years ago a mate and I played a game based on historical background where in the actual battle two families were related and fought on opposite sides. Historically they did not fight each other and took little part in the battle. So to represent this we played that they could not attack each other but could attack any other enemy.

Great War Ace Inactive Member18 Sep 2017 7:24 a.m. PST

Sounds like the Normans, who often found themselves on opposite sides in the early 11th century in Italy, but did not attack each other. Although that did not stop Normans from attacking other Normans as they muscled for land. Just not when ranged as mercenaries on opposite sides.

At Zompi Bridge in Asia Minor, the Normans on the Byzantine side cavorted around looking purposeful until the Normans on the "Norman side" (led by Rousell de Balliol, formerly in Byzantine employ, but since Manzikert, out to form his own domain in the vacuum) crossed the bridge, then the whole Norman presence united and turned on the Byzantines and worsted them.

Warspite1 Inactive Member18 Sep 2017 5:09 p.m. PST

Treachery is fun and a major part of more than just Northampton and Bosworth. In the WOTR games I play with 'GT' we use two packs of cards.

Because we are lazy with Army Lists the first pack of cards are all the troops that we own for the Wars of the Roses divided into a roughly equal numbers of points per card. For my 'Bills Bows and Bloodshed' rules we use cards of 100 to 110 points per card. We have 15 cards now and the rule is (for a handy sized game) that we deal out five or six cards each side but ONE card has to be dumped after we turn them over. The only choice we get is which card we wish to dump. This greatly speeds up choosing armies and laying out. Also… no general in history EVER had a bespoke army, he had to fight with what he could get, not what he wanted.

Moving on to Treachery… the second set of cards are events or defences against these events. For example the 'Treachery' card means that one of us could lose a minor unit. A major unit is not lost as that might shift the game too far with a small number of units per side.

I will dig out the card texts and list them below…


Warspite1 Inactive Member18 Sep 2017 5:28 p.m. PST

Treachery 1 card
One of your opponent's units is disaffected and willing to declare for the true cause, yours of course! If you use this card one of his/her units transfers to your side. Your choice of unit may be any Mercenary, Levy, Welsh, Scots or Irish unit or any Border Horse or Retinue Horse unit. Others are unaffected.
Beware. If you play this card you must also roll a die. Any score of '1' on a D6 and the enemy has bounced this back upon you. Instead of losing one of his/her units, they take one of yours on the same basis. Treachery is a coin with two sides.
Play immediately after opponent lays out army OR hold in your hand as a dummy for the rest of the game.

Wavering 1 card
One of your opponent's units is vacillating and does not appear on the battlefield e.g. Lord Stanley not appearing at Blore Heath. If you use this card one of his/her units refuses to appear on the field and is removed from play. Your choice of unit may be any Mercenary, Levy, Welsh, or Irish unit or any Border Horse or Retinue Horse unit.
Play immediately after opponent lays out army.

Counter-intelligence Treachery 2 cards
This card has no combat value. However any attempt by the enemy to play a Treachery card upon you negates his/her card AND increases the chance of one of their units defecting to '1 to 3' on a D6.
Hold as a dummy. Only declare if Treachery is played upon you.

Counter-intelligence Wavering 2 cards
This card has no combat value. However any attempt by the enemy to play a Wavering card upon you means the nominated unit remains out of play until you wish to deploy it. The previously missing unit will now appear on your right hand table edge at any point you wish and make an immediate full move. It may also charge, if it can.
Hold as a dummy. If used pretend that you have lost your unit and declare this card during any subsequent move phase.

Ambush 1 card
If there is cover anywhere on your half of the table, a unit may be concealed within it. That unit may be light foot, Border Horse, Retinue Horse or Mercenary HG/XB. This unit is declared to be 'off table'. A written note/map is kept of which cover they are concealed in. Concealing cover is a depression or scrub for foot or woodland for all types.
Keep in hand until ambush is revealed.

Not an ambush 2 cards
One unit of light foot, Border Horse, Retinue Horse or Mercenary HG/XB may be declared 'off table' as if it is in ambush. Make a written note of something on paper to further the illusion that an ambush has been prepared by you. This may promote excessive caution in the enemy. Bring missing unit on table behind your centre/captain when the need for the illusion of an ambush has passed.
Keep in hand until no longer needed. Play on move phase.

Lucky omen 1 card
Three suns have appeared in the morning sky, an eagle has dropped a lion cub into your lap and a Cardinal has turned up to bless the troops. Which ever way you want to play this, THIS is your day! Your CinC's unit gets a +1 MP on its fighting skills and adds one to morale throws until it suffers a pushback.
Play on first move to gain any benefits

Not a lucky omen 1 card
Your standard falls over at dawn, an eagle defecates on your tent and the Cardinal says he is busy. Your CinC's unit gets a -1MP on its fighting skills and subtracts one from all morale throws until it causes a pushback.
Declare immediately failure to declare this card forfeits game

Three witches meet Macbeth 1 card
You have paid a 'wise woman' to put a curse on the enemy's army. His CinC's unit gets a -1MP on its fighting skills and subtracts one from all morale throws until it causes a pushback.
Declare immediately failure to declare forfeits game

Burn the witch! 2 cards
If the other side admits it has consulted the dark arts and has employed a witch, you get them condemned as heretics. This card negates Three witches meet Macbeth. Instead it causes that card to take effect on the enemy. His unit is now disheartened at the threat of their imminent excommunication.
Hold as a dummy or declare if the other side tries to play 'Three witches meet Macbeth'.

Wind assist 1 card
The wind is blowing from behind you for the first four moves of the game. During this period your longbow fire reaches two inches further than expected (add to both long and short ranges) plus your first salvo goes off at short range values, '5' or '6' to hit.
Declare immediately

Inspirational leadership 2 cards
Once per game a unit being personally led by your Captain (CinC) or Sub-Captain may convert a rout decision into a 'stand disordered' decision including after a melee. This unit is immune to any other reaction tests for one complete move so if this card is played during the melee phase it lasts until the end of the next melee phase, etc. If not in melee or being charged, this unit ends the move reformed.
Hold this card in your hand and play when you best need it.

Fighting fury 2 cards
Once per game any Captain or Sub-Captain may double his melee bonus for one move in a melee. Next move his melee bonus halves due to fatigue. His normal bonus returns on the third move, after he is given good wine and a breather. Play card at start of melee turn.
Hold this card in your hand and play when you best need it.

Fleet of foot 2 cards
Once per game a unit led by any Captain or Sub-Captain may double its rolled move for one move. This may not be used to charge or otherwise move within two inches of an enemy unit. It may also not be used while disordered or in disordering terrain. Play card before die roll.
Hold this card in your hand and play when you best need it.

Wet gunpowder 1 card
At start of game you may declare this card and play it on an opponent. He/she has failed to keep their gunpowder dry. All gunpowder weapons now halve to shoot one die per two modules. Also: roll a die: score of '1' or '2' and this penalty also applies to YOUR army as well.
Play at start of game OR hold in hand as a dummy for the rest of the game.


I hope you will note that for some cards there are two possible counter cards. A few – such as Wet Gunpowder or Wind assist are one-offs with no counter card.
Note also that use of any of the more powerful cards carries the chance of your attempt bouncing back on yourself. Any optional cards you decide not to play remain in your hand unseen as dummies. You know they are useless, the other side does not know! :) :) :)

Create the number of cards of each type (I use old-fashioned 3 inch by 5 inch file cards) and shuffle the deck. At the start of the game, three, four or five cards are dealt to each player and the rest are discarded and put into a box or envelope where they cannot be reviewed for the rest of the game. The idea is to create as much doubt about what the other side are up to. Yes, we ARE playing poker!

Keep any cards that you do not intend to use face-down and concealed from your enemy. He/she will not know whether you have a handful of dross (such as a clutch counter cards) or whether you are holding a dummy ambush, two Fighting Furies and one Inspirational Leadership.

Warspite1 Inactive Member18 Sep 2017 6:12 p.m. PST

You will note that several of these events occurred during the Wars of the Roses.

Wind assist is Towton.
Wet gunpowder is Northampton.
Wavering is Blore Heath
Treachery is Bosworth, Northampton, Ludford Bridge, etc
Ambush is Tewkesbury and maybe a couple of others.
Three Witches Meet Macbeth is a bit of a stretch as witchcraft was normally used as a political smear tactic to discredit someone by suggesting his wife was a witch or dabbled in the dark arts. This was used against Humphrey of Gloucester in 1441 and against Jacquetta Duchess of Bedford during the WOTR. In the later case it was an attempt to discredit the Woodvilles and Queen Elizabeth, Jacquetta's daughter. She was exonerated in 1470.


Queen Catherine Inactive Member19 Sep 2017 7:42 a.m. PST

I think you can do such things, but you have to specifically exert the effor to make it balanced and fun no matter what happens.

I think one way to do it is to have a set of victory conditions for if the treachery occurs, and then have them change if it does not.

For example, Side X wins if it takes the hill despite the treachery. Side X must also drive the enemy from the field if the treachery does not occur.

Playing any kind of "gotcha" in a game that is intended to be fun and diverting usually stinks unless someone has an amazing sense of humor.

El Jocko19 Sep 2017 4:09 p.m. PST

QC, I like the idea of alternate victory conditions that are triggered if the treachery occurs. That allows the scenario to remain balanced and gives the players something else to consider. The devil's in the details, of course. Coming up with a suitable change in the victory conditions would be key.

Warspite1 Inactive Member21 Sep 2017 10:24 a.m. PST

The other thing to remember is that treachery like fear is infectious. In many sets of rules seeing a panic-stricken rout will trigger a morale test. Seeing a nearby 'friendly' unit change sides should trigger at least a morale test. If the unit fails the test its options then become to rout/vacillate/change sides.

At Bosworth it is fairly clear that at least one Stanley changed sides immediately but the elder brother seems to have held on for a while before also committing himself. Meanwhile Norfolk carried on fighting while Northumberland vacillated or at least refused to advance. Whether this was part of a plan or whether Northumberland just jumped on the passing band wagon is a moot point.

At Barnet the mere cry of treachery was enough to trigger a collapse in the Lancastrian force after the famous friendly fire incident. But given that Warwick's Lancastrian force was an unholy alliance of ex-Yorkists (Warwick and Montague) twinned with ardent Lancastrians like Exeter and Oxford, that army could been seen as unusually brittle.

At Northampton we have some Lancastrian troops changing sides and pulling Yorkists into the artillery fort. At Ludford Bridge


the defections took place overnight and saw the only 'Government' unit, the Calais garrison, go over to the king's side as they were his troops and his government was their paymaster.


UshCha01 Oct 2017 8:55 a.m. PST

Having the battle turn decisively due to treachery would be no fun to me. I have run actions where the game is to get "points". Nominally there are two sides with multiple players and points come from winning against ones opponents or by sacrificing other of you own for personal gain. However this rapidly becomes more of an RPG than a war game. So to be honest its OK as an occasional bit of social fun but not really a war game as such.

Warspite1 Inactive Member01 Oct 2017 11:26 a.m. PST


If you consult the cards which I posted above you will see that treachery features but does not, in itself, decide the game.
Plus any attempt to play treachery contains a 1 in 6 chance of it rebounding, rising to 50/50 if the other side play the counter-intelligence treachery card.

Thus treachery may be one factor (along with others) without knocking the game out of shape.

UshCha01 Oct 2017 1:13 p.m. PST

To be honest treachery as a function in a game really does nothing. It just seems to add random for no good reason as its not real treachery but a random or pseudo random event. I guess it's individual preference, like trying to make good and bad generals.

Warspite1 Inactive Member02 Oct 2017 7:06 a.m. PST


As with many human actions, or reactions, treachery is a choice and all our choices have consequences.

My thinking was that (see cards above) basic treachery would confer a risk that it might rebound but allowing a counter-treachery card to be in play with an even higher rebound rate should make the player think carefully about whether to go down that route. Yes there are consequences but if the other guy is holding the 'counter' card those consequences become greater. A crude mirror held up to life but not as arbitrary as you are suggesting, I think.


UshCha02 Oct 2017 11:29 a.m. PST

I think you are right its about personal preference.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP04 Oct 2017 8:53 p.m. PST

for a game played for fun, and considering how 'treachery' is generally viewed, I can't see many finding treachery even as a chance event among many being popular--or enjoyable.

But, yes, it would be a personal preference…

Bandolier05 Oct 2017 5:56 p.m. PST

You have some nice ideas there Barry aka Warspite1.
I will give them a try.

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