Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Battle for the Gun Battery

This is the second of the Lion Rampant scenarios that I played out last month, again pitting the French against the English in a skirmish set during the 1513 English Invasion of France. This time we join the English attempting to encircle Therouanne. The scenario is set when a French sally is attempted from Therouanne, led by the indomitable Bayard. The French target is an English gun battery which is being set up and looks to have been left vulnerable to attack. I don't know if Bayard led such an attack but such sudden assaults by defenders were very common during 16th century sieges, and attacks certainly occurred during the siege of Therouanne. Stradiots were noted as being particularly effective in riding out and attacking the besiegers. During one sally an attempt was made to seize an English standard, perhaps an idea for a future scenario.

In this game the French have timed their attack poorly. As they have marched around the walls to take the newly established battery in the flank the English besiegers have been alerted to the threat and have rushed to defend their guns in a force led by Sir Richard Carew, captain of the Calais Garrison. The scenario played out was "Hold on Tight", an objective in the middle of the board must be seized and held by a unit for 5 turns in order for that side to achieve victory. The objective was the space directly behind the central bombard in the gun battery, shown in the second image below. Holding this represents either the French taking control of the battery for long enough to effectively destroy it or for the English holding it for long enough to secure it. The figures forming the battery cannot take any part in the game and count as impassable terrain. The whole structure the battery is mounted on counts as rough terrain.

Therouanne with the two forces arrayed in front. 

The objective for this "Hold on Tight" scenario is the area directly behind the bombard. Holding this area represents having control of the gun battery. The gun battery itself cannot play any part in the game. The whole earthwork that the Battery is on is counted as rough terrain.

As in my previous "Convoy" game I scaled up the size of units but they still had the same number of damage points as standard Lion Rampant units. Again I used Stuart's 1513 Rosters, adding Landsknecht Pike as an extra unit. They joined the game as fairly tough infantry with the ability to Counter Charge against other infantry. I fielded the Landsknecht Pike as units six bases strong, totaling around 36 figures. These look good for larger sized skirmishes, making a small pike block.

The forces were as follows:

The English

Sir Richard Carew and a unit of Garrison Billmen
2 units of Shire Archers
A unit of Shire Billmen
A unit of Border Horse
A unit of Landsknecht Shot
A unit of Landsknecht Pike
A unit of Burgundian Men-at-Arms

This is meant to represent a mix of English troops supported by Maximilian's Burgundian and German Auxiliaries, the Men-at-Arms and Landsknechts.

The French

Pierre Terrail, seigneur de Bayard and a unit of French Men-at-Arms
2 Units of Picard Pike
2 Units of Aventuriers
2 Units of Stradiots
A unit of Landsknecht Shot
A unit of Landsknecht Pike

As can be seen above the French decided to sally forth with a mixture of native French troops supported by a considerable number of mercenaries in true early 16th century style.

The deployment of the two forces can be seen in the pictures above. During the deployment I tried to stick to the 3" between units rule for this game, which was quickly abandoned once the game started! I think this deployment hampered the French quite badly as it left their Picard infantry out of most of the action and seemed to allow the English to fight in a more concentrated fashion (if such a thing can ever be said to happen in Lion Rampant!). This had consequences on the game as will be seen.

The two forces begin a rush for control of the guns.

A view from the French lines showing the Stradiots and Picard Pike.

Initially the two forces both rushed forward. The first clash, predictably, taking place between the skirmishing horse of both sides. Unlike in the "Convoy" game, the Border Horse attacked the Stradiots with great ferocity and caused heavy casualties. The other unit of Stradiots in French employ were more successful and managed to get to the gun battery first, securing it for Bayard. Their position in the earthworks was threatened however by the advancing English archers so Bayard and his Men-at-Arms rushed forward in order to neutralise the threat the bowmen posed.

The English Border Horse attack the Stradiots.

The other group of Stradiots reach the objective.

Closer to the town walls the French Aventuriers advance towards the Landsknechts in English pay. 

The English Border Horse have caused casualties to the Stradiots while the other Stradiots holding the objective have harassed the Burgundian Men-at-Arms.

Bayard in the centre advances on the English Bowmen seeing that they will dominate the objective with archery. Closer to the town the Landsknecht Arquebusiers move towards the Aventuriers.

Closer to the town walls the French Aventuriers advanced and sent a hail of bolts at the English, causing some casualties. The Stradiots holding the gun battery harassed the Burgundian Men-at-Arms. Apart from the clash between the Border Horse and Stradiots furthest from the town the advantage looked to be heavily with the French. This was compounded by the English archers who faltered and allowed themselves to be charged in their panic by the French Men-at-Arms without even shooting at them. The archers were driven back by the armoured horsemen.

Bayard prepares to charge down the English Archers

The objective is, predictably, the focus of attention for both sides.

Bayard charges one group of Archers forcing them back after they have faltered and panicked in the face of the advancing Men-at-Arms.

Bayard's charge into the archers seemed to be the high water mark for the French. The French Men-at-Arms were charged by the Burgundians who drove them back with casualties. The remaining unit of archers not smashed by the French sent a rain of arrows onto the Stradiots holding the battery and drove them back. Closer to the town the Landsknecht arquebusiers in English service sent some of the Aventuriers back with a devastating hail of shot.

Bayard and his Men-at-Arms are driven back from the English lines by the Burgundian Men-at-Arms. In the foreground the Landsknechts in English service have fired upon the Aventuriers and sent them back.

The English Billmen flood into the Earthworks to defend the Gun Battery.

Under a rain of English arrows the Stradiots are driven off the objective.

Although still threatened by the Burgundians, Bayard charges the remaining English Archers and sends them back.

At the far end of the field the English Border horse finally chased off the Stradiots. In the centre Bayard continued to press his attack, charging the second group of English archers who were predictably pushed back. The Burgundian Men-at-Arms, who had put in a much more determined effort than the last game, charged Bayard for a second time. This time the French leader was unhorsed and his remaining Men-at-Arms scattered.

The fall of their leader seemed to stop the entire French sortie. Some of the Aventuriers fled immediately along with the Stradiots who had been holding the gun battery for the French. The Landsknechts in French service were then attacked by the remaining English archers and the Border Horse who rode closer to the town following their victory over the Stradiots at the far end of the field. This pressure forced the "French" Landsknechts back and, as the remaining Aventuriers fell back in the face of the Landsknechts in English employ, only the Picard infantry were left in any order.

As the English leader, Sir Richard Carew, secured the gun battery, these native French Pikemen wisely called it a day seeing the English Border Horse riding back towards them. They quickly marched back to the relative safety of Therouanne. The result was a decisive English victory with the French sally halted for the loss of only one unit of English archers.

Having charged the Archers Bayard is himself charged by the Burgundians for a second clash of arms with them.

This time Bayard is unhorsed and his horsemen are defeated.

Following the fall of Bayard the Landsknechts who were supporting his cavalry come under threat from the English Border Horse and the archers. They are soon broken by them and flee.

Some of the Aventuriers flee on hearing that Bayard is down leaving their comrades to the mercy of the Landsknechts.

Having yet to engage in combat Sir Richard Carew secures the Gun Battery.

A couple of things became apparent playing through this game. Firstly when Lion Rampant is played with the forces starting at relatively close quarters it can be over really quickly. When both armies are fighting for one objective, as in this scenario, this effect is only compounded and the result is inevitably a punch up pretty much straight away. Having more of the French deployed behind hedges and cottages at the far end of the field meant the English could really maximize their numbers on the French they faced, although it was the English archers combined with Bayards unsupported assault that really led to the French being defeated so soundly.

A briefer and more one sided game than I had expected. It reminded me of many games I played when I was younger that were often over very quickly, normally with my armies being sent running in record time! This game was fun nonetheless and I learnt some things about Lion Rampant from it. When I get time I will post up my next game where I returned to an old favourite of mine, the War for Naples 1499-1504, and tested out some Lion Rampant Italian Wars troops.

The two units of Picard Pike have yet to cross the hedges and take any part in the fighting. As the English hold the Gun Battery and the sally has failed they wisely retire.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Landsknechts and Men-at-Arms

This unit was the result of a couple of things. Firstly I wanted to paint up a base of figures for each of the excellent Steel Fist Miniatures Renaissance Men-At-Arms. Having backed the Kickstarter for the figures on foot a while ago I was keen to make the most of each miniature. Of course for a lot of the figures in dynamic attacking poses placing them on a base of Landsknechts was the obvious answer. Secondly having played some games of Lion Rampant I wanted some Landsknecht halberdiers that could be used in more skirmish style games. The advantage of these bases is that while they can indeed be used for a small band of Landsknechts in a skirmish game they can also be added to my pike blocks to form even more formidable formations. At some point I will get some photos of them in the centre of a pike block around the flags, in the front and on the flanks. I am keen to see how this will look and have based them so they should fit in well with my existing pike.

So why are the Men-at-Arms with the Landsknechts in the first place? The chap in the lower quality munition harness could well be a Landsknecht himself, I will discuss him separately. The other two in full Maximilian harnesses could be Landsknecht captains, however we have many depictions of such characters and while they are often well armoured they rarely seem to be depicted in such full "cap-a-pie" harness. I think they are more suitable as dismounted nobles who have joined the ranks of the Landsknechts. This seems to have happened on occasion.

While Maximilian I himself was keen on dismounting and entering cities at the head of his gaudily attired infantry, notably Cologne in 1505 and Milan in 1516, and Henry VIII decided it was wise to position himself amongst his Landsknecht mercenaries during a French attack while on the march in July 1513, it is from the French that some of the best examples of dismounting and fighting amongst mercenary pike can be found. Robert de La Marck, better known as Fleuranges, accompanied by his brother, fought on foot with the Landsknechts in French service at the battle of Novarra in 1513. He was said to have sustained over forty wounds in the fighting! Anne de Montmorency was under nominal command of the Swiss at La Bicocca in 1522 and accompanied by other French nobles joined them in their ill-fated assault on the sunken road. He was wounded in the head and was the only French noble who joined the assault that managed to survive. I thought about painting separate bases with the dismounted Men-at-Arms and their squires or armed valets accompanying them and may return to this idea later as I couldn't think of suitable figures for the accompanying retinues.

Another question we need to address is would "Grotesque" style armour have been worn on the battlefield? It is certainly true that battlefield armours tended to be more simple and functional than parade and tournament armours. However it is also important to remember that armour was a status symbol and as much about fashion as functionality, more so when dealing with the parade elements but this still played a big part in war. What is often forgotten today is that by wearing an extremely expensive or elaborate eye catching harness, while obviously drawing attention to yourself, it was also a form of insurance policy, not just in terms of protection. Why would ordinary infantrymen want to kill you if you were dressed in such armour? Surely you must be of importance and worth an enormous ransom?

A convincing argument as to why the Swiss or Reisläufer were so reticent to take prisoners and slaughtered Men-at-Arms against whom they were fighting was that their captains were only too aware of how valuable they could be if captured and ransomed. Capturing these men would inevitably lead to a breakdown in the formations discipline and cohesion; the key thing that held them together and allowed them to hold firm against repeated charges by mounted knights. So their reputation for brutally probably stemmed from the realisation that taking prisoners could be their undoing. Imagine what would happen to a pike block if groups of men in the front kept slipping off dragging downed gendarmes with them! It wouldn't be a pike block for long.

To get back to my point about the "Grotesque" style armour what I am arguing is that is could have been worn on the battlefield, although of course it may not have been common battlefield attire. It could have served to denote status and it's high value may have acted as a useful insurance policy, meaning you were obviously more valuable alive than dead. Unless you were facing the Swiss that is! Warfare really was changing rapidly in this period and certainly becoming more lethal (if such a thing can be said) than Medieval Warfare.

Landsknecht Halberdiers and some dismounted Men-at-Arms in early 16th Century Harness

Landsknechts attacking, including one in a munition quality blackened harness with a painted visor

The central figure above, I feel, represents well what a better armed Landsknecht may have looked like. He is in a full early 16th century harness but rather than it being a shiny Maximilian style affair it is unpolished and of munition quality. This is one of the reasons the "Doppelsöldner" were given double pay. Not only did they often fill the more dangerous front, side and rear ranks but they also owned better equipment which would justify their higher pay. The helmet is a copy of the painted Sallet from the Wallace collection shown below. Living in London and the Wallace Collection being free to visit I am lucky enough to have seen this piece at least half a dozen times!

There was no way I was going to try and attempt to paint the helmet as it is below, anyone who has read this blog for a while will know my loathing of such fine detail painting! What I have opted for instead is a red painted visor with a "scary" face painted on it, paying homage to the original. I concede it does look a little "Super Hero" but otherwise I quite like it. Even with my lack of fine brush skills there is something about those painted eyes below the eye slits that looks very sinister and disturbing!

Painted Sallet from the Wallace Collection

The Landsknechts that accompany the Men-at-Arms are a mix of old Wargames Foundry and Progloria metal Landsknechts, now available from Warlord Games. The Steel Fist figures are availble here: http://www.steelfistminiatures.com/products/renaissance_knights. At some point I have to tackle the Steel Fist Gendarmes, but I am still steeling myself for such a task. I have recently completed a couple of Tudor guns which I will post up at some point as well getting some photos of these chaps in amongst the pike and possibly even seeing action in some games.

Landsknecht command group with a Man-at-Arms in Maximilian Harness
Landsknechts back up a Man-at-Arms in Maximilian Harness with a "Grotesque" Visor
Lansknecht Officer and Halberdier bodyguards

Saturday, 15 July 2017

The Convoy

A bit of a landmark post this. It's my first Battle Report, so to speak, using only my figures and terrain. The scene is the summer of 1513 in Northern France where the English are besieging Therouanne. A supply column for the English Army is on the move, guarded by troops under the leadership of Sir Rhys ap Thomas. Sir Rhys ap Thomas was a veteran of Bosworth who played an active role in the 1513 campaign leading Border Horse and Welsh cavalry in reconaissance and skirmishes with the French. Unfortunately for the English the redoubtable Pierre Terrail, or Bayard as most of the world knows him, has other ideas about this supply column and has set out to ambush it with his Gendarme company and some supporting light cavalry.

I played the game using a scaled up version of Lion Rampant and Stuart's 1513 army rosters. The scenario is "The Convoy". In this game cavalry units are formed of 12 rather than 6 figures, but still only have 6 "damage points" and infantry units are 6 bases strong but still only have 12 "damage points". Casualties weren't removed during the game until a unit was routed or destroyed. I wanted it to be a real spectacle and look impressive as a larger scale skirmish. The photos are of the actual game, so apologies for any lighting issues and the parts of the room that show up in the background! You also get to see some of my exceptional photo editing with the deployment zones and forces labelled. The height of professionalism I am sure you will agree!

The location Bayard has chosen for his ambush of the English

The field is as above with the English deploying in the top left corner and having to make their way with 3 convoy markers, the large wagons, to the diagonally opposite end of the board. The ambushing French cavalry deploy in the other three corners of the board with the English going first.

The forces are as follows:

The English

Sir Rhys ap Thomas, the English (well Welsh!) Leader and a unit of Demilancers
A unit of Border Horse
A unit of Burgundian Men-at-Arms, more on them later...
2 Units of Garrison Archers
2 Units of Garrison Billmen.

The Garrison Troops represent experienced soldiers, perhaps from noble retinues or part of the Calais Garrison "Crews" as they were called. In this game they marched under the standards of Sir Richard Carew, captain of the Calais Garrison, and Sir Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk. While they personally are not meant to be in the skirmish Carew had 1000 men under his command in this campaign and Brandon 3,200. It is from these contingents that the forces to guard convoy are assumed to have been drawn along with Sir Rhys ap Thomas's horse and a contingent of Maximilian I's Burgundian horsemen who, as will be seen, are keener on getting paid than doing any fighting!

The French

Pierre Terrail, seigneur de Bayard and his Gendarme Company:
2 units on French Gendarmes, one of which includes Bayard
2 units of French Ordonnance Archers armed with Lances

Accompanying Mercenaries
2 Units of Stradiots or Stradiotti
1 Unit of Mounted Crossbowmen, these chaps put in an even poorer performance than the Burgundian men-at-arms!

As you can see the French force is entirely mounted representing Bayard's men and the accompanying mercenaries who have taken the field in an attempt to catch and ambush the slower moving English convoy.

The English Convoy, I chucked the small wagon and pigs in there just to add to the look of it being a supply convoy. They didn't count for anything in the game. The three large wagons represent the convoy markers.

The initial deployment

The above two photos show the initial deployment of the forces. Bayard waits with his Gendarme Company at the end of the table while the Stradiots and Mounted crossbowmen have been sent forward to harass the oncoming English. The English have placed the wagons in the centre protected by the veteran infantry while the cavalry form the "wings" of the convoy. With the units being the size they were I found it impossible to keep to the rule about units being 3" apart so this was not followed. I couldn't have rules stopping the game from looking good!

The best way to follow the action is probably to read the captions under each photo. I have tried to place them in a way which tells the story of the game. It basically started with a disaster for the French as the Mounted Crossbowmen rolled a "blunder" and rode off during the French first turn! Obviously they were unhappy with pay and thought it better to sit this action out.

The English saw this as an opportunity to use a local advantage and crush the outnumbered Stradiots, with the Border Horse riding up to attack them. This was not to be and the skirmishing shots from the Stradiots sent the Border Horsemen reeling back into the English column which effectively destroyed them as a fighting unit. Flushed with success the Stradiots pressed an attack on the advancing column harassing the English archers and Burgundian men-at-arms.

After the Mounted Crossbowmen have ridden off in the first turn the Border Horse lead an attack on the Stradiots in an attempt to wipe them out as they are isolated from the rest of the French force.

The Border Horse are however repulsed by the Stradiots and fall back on the column

The English convoy starts to wind its way forward

The Stradiots push forward harassing the convoy having routed the Border Horse.

The Stradiots cross the hedges to harass the archers.

As the emboldened Stradiots came forward to attack the English the Burgundian men-at-arms launched an attack on them which was successfully evaded by the skirmishing horsemen. The Burgundian horsemen then had a "blunder" result themselves and retreated back moaning over pay and the fact they weren't employed to chase these savages who they had no hope of catching in the field. The English archers, however, held their nerve and the greater power of their warbows was finally successful in driving the Greek and Albanian mercenaries off the field although the horsemens harassing attacks caused casualties.

The Burgundian Heavy Cavalry charge the Stradiots but the Greek and Albanian cavalry evade them and cause casualties to both the Burgundians and the English Archers.

The English archery soon starts to take it's toll on the Balkan horsemen however.

One group of Stradiots is driven off leaving the others to come under a rain of arrows. The Hedges offer little protection.

As the English column is distracted by the engagement with the light horsemen the rest of the French slowly advance to trap them.

The Stradiots continue to be a thorn in the English side, driving back the Burgundian mercenaries with skirmishing attacks.

Bayard looks on from a very safe position at the back of the French lines!

The second group of Stradiots are finally driven off and the English continue their advance into the teeth of the French cavalry.

The French Ordonnance archers (mounted lancers) come under a rain of arrows.

With the Stradiots finally seen off it was time for the English to turn their attention to a much bigger threat; Bayard's Gendarme Company blocking the road ahead. Bayard himself had some awful activation roles so sat right at the end of the table for ages but the rest of his company had managed to move up, tightening the noose around the English column.

Initially it all went the way of the English with the archers inflicting damage on the Ordonnance Cavalry and the Sir Rhys ap Thomas winning the first clash of arms against the better armoured and horsed French Gendarmes. Both units of Ordonnance Archers charged the English bowmen only for both units to be seen off in a heroic defence by the English soldiers.

Sir Rhys ap Thomas leads his Demilancers head on into the French

In the first clash Sir Rhys drives back the Gendarmes despite their heavier armour and horses.

The first cavalry melee

The French Gendarmes are driven back but not without cost to the Demilancers

The first group of French Ordonnance archers charge the English archers. Already weakened by the power of the bows they are driven off....

....so the second wing of Ordonnance archers charges in only to be sent reeling by a heroic defence from the English Soldiers!

Having regrouped from the first clash the Gendarmes charge Sir Rhys ap Thomas again.

The English luck did not hold and Sir Rhys ap Thomas was unhorsed and left for dead in the second clash with the Gendarmes. The weight of the French cavalry attacks was beginning to tell. With the loss of their leader the English force began to falter. The heroic English archers were finally driven back into the corn fields, loosing one of the English wagons to the French. This loss was followed swiftly by another as the victorious French Gendarmes then charged the English Bill guarding a second wagon and sent them fleeing from the field.

Having spent much of the engagement in his command position (at the back!) Bayard finally rides up to watch his Gendarme Company as they engage with the English

Having seen off two previous charges by the French Cavalry the archers are finally pushed back into the corn fields. One of the Wagons is destroyed by the French.

Having defeated Sir Rhys ap Thomas and his Demilancers the French Gendarmes crash into the English Billmen in an attempt to destroy a second wagon.

With only one wagon left the English falter and Bayards Gendarme company repositions itself in preparation for another attack. The Burgundian men-at-arms, right at the back of the convoy, decide they have had enough and ride off having never engaged in any combat.

As the French regrouped the Burgundian Cavalry decided retreat was now the best option and rode off leaving the English infantry to their fate. The English archers managed to destroy the lead Gendarme unit that had caused such havoc to the English advance but the battle had already been decided. Abandoned by their cavalry the English Billmen and Archers were ridden down by Bayard's Gendarmes and the last wagon was destroyed. Victory went to the French although Bayard would have preferred the ambush to have been less damaging to his Ordonnance Company!

The final group of Billmen is ridden down by Bayard 

I really enjoyed this game and loved how some of the units would simply not do what was asked of them. The French Mounted Crossbowmen rode off in the first turn and the Burgundian men-at-arms similarly did nothing for the rest of the game after a failed charge at the Stradiots seemed to completely demoralise them! As soon as they saw things getting tough for the convoy up ahead they were off. 

Similarly Bayard and his Gendarmes were motionless for the first half of the game, constantly failing activation roles and giving the initiative to the English.This seemed to pay off in the end though as the English had a tough time dealing with the Stradiots harassing their flank and were too strung out along the road to effectively fight off the French cavalry when they did crash into the front of them. Despite some heroic fighting by the English archers the Chivalry of France triumphed.

"The Convoy" makes for an exciting scenario. The depth of the board, playing across it longways, combined with the chaos that failed activation roles can bring in Lion Rampant meant this game swung back and forth and it was hard to see who would win. Initially I thought the French would be destroyed piecemeal and it would be an easy English victory! I am keen to try this one again, possibly an Italian Wars version with the Spanish ambushing the French in a mountain pass in 1502. That could be interesting. Of course a younger Bayard will have to be present to lead Louis XII's forces!

This leaves the archers who earlier saw off the Stradiots. They are left to the mercy of the French cavalry who have destroyed the convoy but with heavier losses than Bayard would have wished to his Gendarme Company.