One might consider the irony. One of the complaints against the rule of Edward II was his ineffectualness in fighting the Scots on the battlefield and quashing their quest of independence. Yet when Thomas of Lancaster lead a Baron’s revolt against Edward, he turned to the Scots for their support. In January, Scottish raids in Northern England were intended to distract Edward from his fight with the rebels. Unfortunately for Lancaster, Edward chose to ignore the Scots and focus on the rebellion, defeating them at the Battle of Boroughbridge.
That completed, Edward turned his attentions to Scotland. But as Edward prepared his invasion north, Robert the Bruce was preparing to receive him. Bruce retreated before the English advance, destroying crops and livestock and leaving the English army unable to provision themselves. While the English wreaked some minor havoc, they were ultimately forced to retreat their starving army back to England in what was seen as a humiliation. Bruce capitalized upon the drop in morale by striking south with his own attack.
Unlike Edward’s excursion, Roberts raid was a success. English property was destroyed and prizes and provisions were taken back to Scotland. On October 14th, the Scots approached the abbey at Rievaulx, where Edward and Isabella were residing. The English fielded an army under John of Brittany, Earl of Richmond and placed it in a strong defensive position between the Scots and Reivaulx Abbey. The ensuing fight, the Battle of Old Byland, has been reproduced as a user-made scenario in Field of Glory.
Compared to the Boroughbridge fight earlier in the year, this battle fits much better with what Field of Glory‘s rules and programmed opponent can handle. The armies are deployed in line against each other and while the terrain between them is a bit rugged, there are no artificial choke points to befuddle the AI.
The “twist” in this fight is that the Scots had advanced a force of highlanders, under command of Black Douglas, scaling cliffs so as to fall on the rear of the English lines while the main body of Scotland attacked the English position atop a steep slope. It would seem that it was this operational decision that won the battle, making the tactical fight a foregone conclusion. A more conventional plan would have had Bruce attempt to maneuver around the English on the heights, but Robert hoped to capture Edward himself and this required that victory come quickly.
The default setup has the player as the Scots and the AI taking the English. This seems completely unwinnable for the AI, although there were no notes in the scenario setup about its one-sidedness.
Switching sides, I started up a second run, this time as the English. I also tried to pretend I didn’t know about the highlanders approaching my rear until I actually saw them present via the fog of war settings. This is probably impossible as a) it is the key feature of the battle, if you’ve read anything about it all and b) the scenario preview shows the initial disposition of the troops, even though they are hidden when the scenario starts. The resulting challenge for the player is genuine. You must find a way to fend of the main Scottish attack from the front and defeat a second attack from the rear at the same time. In my playthrough (above screenshot), I was unable to accomplish both and lost.
In this case, the new and more aggressive AI of the FoG(U) version probably helps. The Scots attack vigorously and so the player doesn’t have the luxury of simply holding back and defeating the Scottish attacks in detail as the come on.
As you can see in my screenshot, I brought Edward forward onto the battlefield in the hopes that his personal guard could push my army across the finish line. It was too little, too late. Even as Edward began a successful charge against Bruce’s entourage, the English lines were collapsing all around him.
In reality, Edward fled the abbey just as the English forces were fleeing the field. His departure was so rapid that he was forced to leave behind all that he traveled with, including his personal armor and his privy seal. Sir Walter Steward’s cavalry attempted to pursue the fleeing king, but chose the wrong route. For several more weeks, the Scottish raids continued with Edward essentially on the run nearby, but he was never captured by the Scots. The added humiliation of this episode surely would not help his reputation in his trials to come.