Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Formigny: 15 April 1450

Our latest Hail Caesar battle was to be a late medieval re-fight to allow Richard to field his new acquisitions for a fledgling War of the Roses army.  To this end I dipped in to my history of the Hundred Years War and went straight to the end, y'know - the bit we English tend to forget about as it doesn't shower us in all that much glory.

Formigny was the response to the French recapture of Normandy in 1449.  Thomas Kyriell Assembled a dismally small force even by English standards, and landed at Cherbourg with scarcely half a plan.  By the time he started heading inland toward Bayeux a month after landing his force had swelled a little to 4,000 men, comprising 800 men at arms and the remainder of his force being archers.

On route, the Constable of Richemont and the Count of Cleremont planned to intercept the English.  They had a force of roughly similar numbers but had the advantage of being able to attack at their leisure, being well provisioned, and having access to both mounted knights and artillery.

Thus the grounds for the battle were set, and in keeping with the historical scenario I set the forces and battlefield up:

The English deployed along a ridge with their right flank covered by a brook, and their rear by enclosed gardens.  On the day they had time to dig small pits and place some stakes to their front, but these were not considered significant, so in game terms they would nullify the clash value of attackers and would be lost if an English unit chose to move.  Richard as the English had 2 units of Men at Arms, 4 of Veteran Bowmen and 4 of Shire levy bows.  He placed the latter in the front line whilst the rest formed a solid line on the hill behind stakes, with the men at arms in the centre.

By contrast the French were initially only the troops of Claremont; 2 small units of mounted knights, 2 full sized groups on foot, 2 units of Pavisiers, one of Brigans and one of crossbowmen, and finally a detachment of Culverins.  The French had reserves in the shape of Richemont, but these could not be expected to arrive for four or five turns at the very least.

In an attempt to emulate history I threw forward a general attack, but only getting an order off to the infantry, meant Claremont unintentionally left his cavalry and artillery in reserve.

Some of the English bowmen came forward to meet the attack and were able to hold the French at bay, driving several units back every time they advanced.  In fact at this stage the battle seemed to be going so well for the English, that Kyiell considered a full fledged counter attack.  He knew there were other French in the area, but not where or when they might arrive.

In the end he erred on the side of caution perhaps a little too long.  For just as he released half his regular troops from the defensive lines, the men of Richemont arrived:

Richemont had a full unit of mounted Knights, alongside a unit of Pavisiers backed up by yet more Brigans.  And as soon as they arrived, the French chivalry were up for the less than chivalrous action of charging the distant English archers in the rear.

This began a frenzied phase for the French in which four English archer units were destroyed, three by the Knights and one by the men at arms of Claremont, supported by brigans. In amongst this a rash personal charge by Kyriell had resulted in his death, and he was to be replaced by a less able, but sterner commander.

However, when Richmont tried to order his horse onto the now exposed flank of the English, their exhaustion and confusion over orders led rather to their retiring pell mell toward their own lines

For a little time the attempt to lead the attack reverted to Claremont, who finally was able to bring up his artillery and cavalry, having withdrawn him most demoralised troops.  The artillery finally began to fire, at extreme range, on the English; who themselves took time to reform their defensive cordon.

Richemont rallied his knights and they eagerly charged back up the hill for another attack.  At the same time Claremont tried to get his smaller squadrons of cavalry to act in the same way, but in general they were having nothing of it and constantly were deflected from the English line by a hail of arrows.

A hard battle atop the hill saw the French knights retire a spent force, but the English too by now were all but a broken force.  I n a last desperate throw of the dice Kyriell's junior led his men at arms against Richemonts pavisiers; but even here they failed to win a victory, and the English commander was lucky to escape alive this time.

Whilst his back was turned the infantry of Claremont had climbed the hill and engaged the archers in irresistible force.  By now it was a lost cause for the English and they sought only to escape in what numbers they could.

Despite an oft lacklustre attack from Claremont, the coordination of two separate attacks on the English line had proved their undoing.  And in that the re-fight was almost an exact replica of the original battle, should historical accounts be believed.

Kyriell too had little difficulty containing one enemy, even managing to capture the French guns, but was lost when Richemont's fresh troops arrived on his exposed flank.  In the event little more than 250 English escaped alive.  For once French losses did not seem significant.

For this game we played the rules fairly straight, using generally the higher stats for given heavy and missilery troop types.  I translated every 400 men in real life to a unit of 16 infantry, with the French also having one unit of 200 or so knights represented as 12 figures, and two groups of a hundred or so under Claremont in sixes.  Overall the battle seemed balanced by the reserves rule - that the number of French turns, plus the result of a 2d6 roll must equal or beat 15 for the reserves to arrive - and both sides had every chance of winning.  In the end it was a repeat of history, and a rare victory for my normally beleaguered French.



  1. Very Interesting battle. The rules looked to have worked very well for this battle