Friday, June 15, 2012

Ville en Croute: 1446

Four of us got together at the weekend at the Nightowls for a mediaevals game, featuring my French against Richards English - well English aided and abetted by knights of Gondor and Riders of Rohan!

This was a fairly straight forward linear battle, using Hail Caesar, the only special rules for the game being that each side's Commander in Chief had the equivalent of the 'Follow Me' rule from Black Powder, and the Camps.  If either player had their camp occupied by the enemy, even if resisted by their own troops, it would count as an additional broken division.

The two sides, myself and Rich with the French and Richard and James the English, drew maps for deployment and then fielded our men.  I always enjoy using map deployment as you cannot tit-for-tat deploy into a chalk vs. chalk situation as you tend to get with other methods.  As it was both sides fielded their cavalry to their left which meant they were miles apart.

The French gained initiative but chose to see the English move first.  This they undertook in an unwilling fashion, their cavalry failing to move and only the centre advancing slowly.  The English right refused the flank intentionally.  The French then responded quickly and brought their cavalry over a low hill beside some open woodland.  Elements of the centre advanced slowly, but all missilery remained out of range:

Concerned by the press of the French cavalry, some of which looked already to threaten the English flank; their general ordered the Cavalry to turn and dash the field to engage them.  This they approached with what would turn out to be a signature reticence (moving but a single action per turn for the rest of the game, and not always towards the enemy even!).  The French commander, Rich, internally wiped his brow in relief as his flank became secured as the enemy knights retired; his junior commander, for my part, decided to strike whilst the moment was opportune.  I charged the flower of the French into the leading elements of English bowmen.

The English bows fought bravely, but were found wanting and destroyed, however the follow up charge of the French showed them to be a blown force, and the billmen of the second rank were able to throw the French temporarily back.

Elsewhere French cannon and crossbow fire caused a unit of Mercenary crossbowmen to lose heart and quit the English centre.  This emboldened the well led Burgundian allies of the French to advance their mass of pike towards the middle of the English line, whilst some deft reforming of the French knights saw them charge the English afresh; though to no better an outcome.  At this stage their mounted sergeants also began an attack on the extreme right of the English line.

At this stage the French cavalry as a whole was making no progress and had to retire.  I would fall to the French general to intervene and help to rally them.  But for now the Burgundian pike got stuck in to the tough-nuts of the English bows.  Notice in the rear of shot the breathless advance of the highly motivated English knights; the conclusion being they were recruited from the Cinque Ports and had little stomach for fighting their neighbours...

The last functional unit of French sergeants went in against the exhausted English bows covering the flank and managed to rout it, which did little to disguise its' valiant stand and the resolve of the English right.  Those units left were without a commander, killed in a previous engagement, but under the command of their C in C their resolve remained firm.  In the centre they exacted some revenge on the Burgundians, but the tide of French units coming in to support them was becoming overwhelming.

And to add insult, the first contact with the enemy, at range no less, made the 'Engl-ish' cavalry retire; for fear of damage to their shiny armour!

The grande melee in the centre swung heavily to the favour of the French, whilst their rallied cavalry reformed for a fresh advance to menace the English knights.  With all their bowmen beaten or captured, the English line was formed of a rump of billmen and men at arms, whilst the French could offer them crossbow bolts and fine swords aplenty to feast upon.  With two broken divisions and a dead general; the English admitted defeat, cursing their allies more than luck for the result.

I cant decide if it was luck, generalship or game balance that made the French victory seem routine?  Maybe a combination of all three.  Certainly afterwards, Rich wondered why the English made his life so much easier by retiring away from his open flank.  The English cavalry played no part in the battle whatsoever, not even distracting our fire, and so it was effectively three divisions versus two for the whole battle.  The French and Burgundian generals ran rings round the English, who should have excelled in combat, but rather failed to do so.

In the end I think the same battle with a unit less of Pike and no Sergeants would've been more even, but there is no accounting for plans that fall short of the battlefield they are employed on.

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