Ars5: The Battle of Fornham

I'm going to try something different on the Sunday at Grand Tribunal UK this year, on the Sunday. I'm going to use the Ars5 combat system to run a full blown pitched battle that involves hundreds of participants. It can handle 16 players, but I suspect we will only see 4 or 5 on the day, playing multiple characters (and groups under their command!) each...

The Historical Setting

It is October 1173 and parts of East Anglia have risen in revolt against King Henry II under Earl Hugh Bigod. Furthermore Bigod has been joined by an invasion force led by the Earl of Leicester, Robert Beaumont, and his wife Petronella. Had they not brought 300 Flemish mercenaries with them things might have not been so bad for Henry!

Unfortunately Leicester failed to take the port of Dunwich, whose citizens put up a spirited resistance against the invasion. Joining with Bigod the two men planned to march east towards Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge, planning to rendezvous with men from Leicester itself and then turn on London. There are no royalist forces between them and the capital, but unfortunately they delayed and so royalist forces marched in ot East Anglia.

Meanwhile Leicester's beautiful wife Petronella fell out with their ally Hugh Bigod's wife while at Framlingham Castle, Bigod's home. While Bigod and his men prepared to march on London, it was necessary for Leicester to move on quickly, and raise his own vassals in the East Midlands, as the two women could not stand the sight of each other.

Between Leicester and his goal stood a small group of loyalist knights led by the Justiciar Robert Lucy, but more and more knights rode out as the Abbot of Bury St Edmunds sent his 50 knights to the block the rebels crossing the River Lark, and Bury shut its gates against the invaders, who delayed while considering an assault. Meanwhile Bigod was still trying to placate his wife, and had not moved to join Leicester.

As Leicester's army decided to bypass Bury head east towards Risby and Cambridge they met the forces of Sir Hugh de Bohun, High Constable of England, who took up positions to guard the river crossing at Fornham. Battle was now inevitable.

All the above is historically correct, as is the terrain they will be fighting over. I lived on the battlefield as it happens as a child...

The Plan

The players take on a character and command of a body of men, and fight for or against Henry! The rules are normal ''Ars Magica'', with groups. This is 1173 as it might have been in the world of ''Ars Magica ''though, so be prepared for anything!

'''Rebel Characters'''

''ROBERT BEAUMONT.'' Earl of Leicester
Commands 4 groups of trained knights (36 knights)

''PETRONELLA BEAUMONT,'' the Earl's scheming wife.
Has a bodyguard group (4 knights)

''DIGGO OF KASSEL,'' leader of the Flemish Crossbowmen mercenaries
Commands 5 units of crossbowmen (100 crossbowmen)
and 2 units of archers (40 archers)

''MENFRID OF GHENT, ''leader of the Flemish spearmen
Commands 5 units of spearmen (100 men)

'''Loyalist Characters'''

Commands 5 groups of knights (25 knights) and 10 groups of Bury Townfolk (1,200 untrained men with improvised weapons)

Commands 12 groups of knights (96 knights) and 3 groups of untrained spearmen (120 men)

Commands 10 groups of knights (90 knights)

Commands 5 groups of knights (30 knights)from Essex

Commands 5 groups of knights (30 knights) from Castle Rising, Norfolk

Commands 5 groups of knights (30 knights) from Bristol

Commands 3 groups of knights (15 knights) from Truro

One group of himself and bodyguard (3 knights)


A little girl & her brother

''MAGGY ''
An elderly lady out collecting sticks

A monk in the wrong place at the wrong time

A Quaesitor on important business!

Anyway should be a lot of fun. Anyone tried anything like this? Unfortunately I don't think I can afford enough miniatures so it may have to be fought with painted counters, but visually should be appealing, and the "odd ball" characters will cause lots of confusion i am sure as they meander their way across the battlefield! I'm using the group rules from the Core Rules and movement rates from Lords of Men, plus some rules from that I hope. My plan is to treat groups as characters effectively, but give each named character a character sheet, so they can engage in one on one heroics. Each character will have a set of personal goals which score them points, but there will be loads of scope for proper roleplaying too- in some senses it is as much trad rpg or freeform as it is a wargame.

Any advice or thoughts?

Oh and if anyone interested in playing do sign up for Grand Tribunal UK - prices go up on August 1st, and full details here -
Support your UK Ars Magica convention, or soon we may not have one!

cj x

Good luck!

I'll want an after action report you know :wink:

For Tellus, and anyone else interested, game write-up and photos here - ... nham-1173/

Thank you - most enjoyable.

I think the work behind that game must have been colossal. I am impressed.

There is one aspect I am most curious about : the role of Lucian of Guernicus in the battle and how he avoided interfering with the mundanes. Would you care developing on that aspect?

Ah yes of course! Lucian is aware that there is another member of the Order of Hermes on the battlefield, and they are interfering with mundanes big time, in a manner very liable to bring "ruin upon their sodales". As a result they are looking for them, with the intention of finding the offender and hard evidence of their wrongdoing, and then doing something to stop any unpleasant mundane repercussions. They must of course however avoid any such interference themselves. In our game they did the latter, but never achieved the former. I'm loathe to say more because I want to make the game available to any member of the Special Ops Atlas Demo team who fancies running it at a con or similar; I can provide the character sheets, maps and counters ready to cut out, but painting up a sheet and building buildings and finding some little figures i will leave to them. I'm hoping it may run at Grand Tribunal America in 2013 -- I'll probably create a new game for Grand tribunal UK next year, but as I'm writing a freeform "The Canterbury Cycle" I don't know if i will have time.

And despite all the effort my Ars Magica tabletop scenario "Lost in the Wash" was even more popular, so I may well write that up for Sub Rosa magazine if they want it. Unfortunately (?) I'm still actively writing for the Line so I have limited development time for these unpaid projects.

Oh and if anyone looked earlier at the blog and saw a mass of almost unreadable text, I fixed the formatting errors now so it's MUCH easier to read!

cj x

I must say that I find this project most inspiring. I would like to include something similar on a somewhat smaller scale in my saga. I only have to see if my players are interested!