Friday, April 03, 2015

Agincourt 1415 - Plans & Arrays

On the 28th March we had an all day session at the Headingley Games Club; mainly devoted to board games, but myself, Paul and two of the James' were to play a re-fight of Agincourt.  A little early in the year but nonetheless an appropriate anniversary - 600 years - to commemorate.

I volunteered to take the junior role in command and to umpire the rules and set the scenario.  For this I read three different treatments of the battle (Carey and Allfree's, Seward's and Seymour's).  And pondered the forces and deployments.

an map, lifted from the internet...

Now, although certain modern scholars who I can't agree with suggest the English were not that outnumbered on the day of battle, the general consensus is that the French had around a 3:1 advantage in numbers.  They were all clear that there were three lines with dismounted men at arms and infantry in the first two and a large cavalry contingent in the third.  Small numbers of cavalry under the Count of Vendome flanked the first lines of men.  For the English, it was far easier to establish numbers, there being a general agreement of less than a thousand men at arms or heavy infantry, and 6-7,000 archers.

And so I arrayed the armies for Hail Caesar.  My personal choice of rules for this scale, even if they don't directly cover quite this period they have all the profiles and special rules needed to do so.  For reference The armies were:

The English:
  • Henry V of England with one small unit of Men at Arms and two units of longbowmen
  • The Duke of York with one unit of Billmen and two units of longbowmen
  • Lord Camoys with one unit of Billmen and two units of longbowmen
Longbowmen were given the sharpshooter rules (renamed volley fire) to reflect their mass of shoots usually finding a target.  They also had stakes which so long as they did not move would act as Pikes for the first round of any combat.  Lastly those on open terrain were given the Wedge formation. 

Most writers and chroniclers talk about Henry deploying his archers wedges at Agincourt, what this translated to is open to debate, but within the rules the Wedge provides advantages to an isolated shooting unit, and so made sense.  In effect the units had no flanks and a 180 degree arc of fire. 

The French:
  • Constable D'Albret of France with eight units of dismounted men at arms and two units of Genoese crossbows
  • Count of Vendome with two small units of mounted knights
  • Duke Alencon with eight units of infantry spearmen and two units of French crossbows
  • Count Dammartin with eight units of mounted men at arms
  • Ysembart D'Azincourt with a tiny unit of squires and attendants and a large unit of peasants
Although records talk of maybe twice as many Francs archers as crossbowmen there is no indication of them taking any useful part in the battle, so I disregarded them.  The men at arms counted as close foot thanks to their heavy armour but otherwise there were few special rules to govern their men.  Ysembart represented the flank attack on the English camp and was timed to occur once the first line had met the English.

All told the English were to number about 160 models representing about 7000 men, the French around 480 models reflecting some 23-25,000 men.

As to the battlefield; the intention was to represent the two key factors of the day, the narrowing defile formed by Acincourt and Tramencourt woods, and the ploughed common land between the two that turned the rain-sodden ground into a quagmire.

Not that one.
The woods were normal difficult terrain, but all the ground on the table between the woods was also treated as difficult ground, and therefore only single moves were possible, slowing any advance down hugely.  This should permit plenty of time for the English bowmen to find their mark.  

Lastly the woodland was deployed so that its position on the battlefield gradually narrowed; where the French began the gap was four feet wide, but at the English it was only three feet across.  This would ensure the French attacks were funnelled and slowed, at least this was the plan.

And so to the deployments on the day.  I made a plan and deployed the forces rigidly to it, considering it to be a reasonable interpretation of the initial positions on the day.  After that the commanders would be free to do as they wished, but they would at least begin from where the leaders' counsel placed their battles:

The overall battlefield
 We had an eight by five foot table for the day (as big as the club can offer really).  The English are closer to the camera with their camp to the bottom right.  The village of Agincourt is to the top left.

The English centre
 In their wedge formations behind the stakes the English await the French horde.  And what a horde it is:

 #vast numbers of French in three lines await the order to advance.

The qualities of the three lines are clear here.
 The Crossbowmen were thrown forward of the main lines.

Seen from the French lines the English look an easy target.
The French mass was ready, the English line was prepared to meet them.  Who would come out victorious.  All was ready for us to find out.

But more on that another day.


  1. Gorgeous armies. Very impressive.

  2. Great looking game - very well researched.

  3. Very impressive, great looking armies and pictures!

  4. Loved the scenario. Thanks for organising and setting up the game.

  5. Very nice looking armies and an impressive layout!

  6. looks fantastic I can't wait to see what happens. What a test for the rules. My first wargame was Agincourt. Played with what ever Timpo figures I had, six trees and the Terry Wise introduction to Battle Gaming rules.

  7. Fantastic looking table and miniatures, would make fighting the battle very enjoyable.