Saturday, 20 December 2014

Marignano solo - Turn 2

The French activate at the first attempt in the first few cards turned.
The crash of artillery fire at the entrenchments carries to the French mainward. 

The Landsknechts come to order and the Gendarmerie mount their steeds in readiness to confront the spiteful Swiss. 
At the entrenchments things are not going well for the French. All along the line the Swiss begin to break in.
Schinner is lucky to escape with his life - he rolls ones on each command card but lives to tell the tale.
Cardinal Schinner is in the thick of things, rallying the Swiss to even greater efforts.

The Gascons are collapsing without much of a fight.
The die rolls here are very unequal - the French pike will roll two very low rolls in a row and they will be severely punished for it. They will not be worth a 'stubborn morale chip' payment to save at 5 UI lost and vexed.
The Swiss charge Bourbons reserve line of Picard pike men and Gendarmes.

The Landsknechts are the first to move forward in response to the call to arms.
Fighting at the entrenchments is buying time but, is it buying enough.
Resistance at the entrenchments is almost over and the Swiss pike are still in fine fettle.

The second French line of defence is now clearly taking shape. 
Note the Gendarmes under Francis I (mid distance,on the right) making
 their way to a position on the right flank of the Swiss pike squares.
The Picard pike fight poorly and are routed in short order. A clash of greater import is about to occur between two arch enemies: There is going to be a 'bad war'.

The Swiss captain (centre figure on the round base) rolls 'one' on his first
attempt to rally the routers, followed by a second 'one' on his survival die. The
command is now rolling a D6 for motivation - that will slow the Swiss up.
The French are having some success too. Bourbons horse manage to rout a unit of halberdiers and their brave captain (Swiss command group commander) is killed whilst trying to rally them.
The positions at the end of turn two. The Swiss still have 35 morale points left. The French have 41.
I'm really enjoying this. It is a much closer run thing than the last time it was played. 

The killing field is, at the moment, full of living men scrambling grimly towards each other. Things are about to get very bloody. 

At this rate, I'm going to get another solo game in over the holidays! I wonder what period / battle I should do? Any suggestions?

Friday, 19 December 2014

Marignano solo - Turn 1


The Swiss rush forward under the stern direction of Cardinal Schinner. The French cavalry screen scatters in an attempt to take up better positions to engage the Swiss and to try and clear firing lanes for the guns to their rear.
Light horse is no match for pike men but, even so, they do remarkably well with their shooting against the Swiss arquebus before the pike squares engage. 
The echeloned Swiss advance steadily forward brushing aside everything in their path
The French horse looks helplessly outmatched next to the hedgehogs of pike.
The French infantry behind the entrenchments brace themselves for impact. 

The Swiss vanguard of arquebus and halberdiers (including a unit of shielded Italian foot standing in for a yet unpainted unit of halberdiers - sorry about that) are at the ditch. Flouranges' cavalry is almost spent.
The French infantry shoot as the Swiss rush the entrenchments but their volleys have little impact. Yet again. the unworthiness of French infantry to hold a position is proved. D class infantry!

The crash of the artillery fairs a little better, but little will not be enough. Schinner can see the French - he hates the French -and he is urging the Swiss on to do their bloodthirsty worst.
 As the turn ends, the Swiss (those pesky shielded Italian stand ins again) cross the earthworks and over run the first French gun. A second is about to be removed after fighting hard in hand to hand.
The first turn is over. The Swiss have done much better than they did a couple of weeks ago. This time their March cards fell more in their favour and the addition of the Ciao Bella card kept them to their purpose. 

The next turn should be very interesting. Much will depend on how quickly Bourbon can get his reserves into the fray.

The First Day of Marignano 1515 - The Scenario.

The following scenario is an attempt to re-fight this battle using my collection of figures and terrain. Consequently, there are one or two fudges here and there and, in the interests of balance, some stretching of numbers and topography. Some of these have been detailed in previous posts on the subject. The scenario was written for use with my Hell Broke Loose rules. Figure scale is approximately 1:50.

War game nights fall awkwardly over this year's holiday season. So, over the Christmas period, so I don't suffer withdrawal (and I hate cold turkey), I intend to play this scenario as a solo game and, all being well, report accordingly.

Brief Historical Background

Louis XII of France lost Milan after the Battle of Novara in the summer of 1513. Here, Maximilian Sforza, self styled Duke of Milan, and his army of mercenary Swiss gave the French a good licking by making a surprise attack on the ill prepared French camp. Almost at once Louis XII began working for the recapture of Milan but, whatever his plans, he did not to see it come to fruition: He died, suffering from severe gout, at the end of 1514. 

His successor, Francis I, did not take long to pick up the dynastic gauntlet. Within a few months the nineteen year old king had raised an army and renewed alliances that would enable him to invade across the Alps.

In June 1515 Francis left Paris at the head of an army mustering 30,000 combatants. The army was particularly strong in cavalry - perhaps 10,000 of them - including 2,500 lances of the compagnies d'ordonnance. There were 20,000 infantry: 10,000 native French and 10,000 Landsknechts. In the style of most Royal French armies it was very well provided with artillery. This army would link up with Venetian army with over a further 10,000 men for the final reduction of the Milanese.

Crossing the Alps via the Col d'Argetier pass the French emerged into Italy outflanking the Swiss who had been sent to oppose him. The Swiss withdrew to Milan and the French followed up until they came to Marignano (10 miles from Milan), where they encamped. The French then entered into negotiations with the Swiss to sell Milan to Francis. Whilst negotiations went on, and so as not to have a repeat of Novara two years previously, the French entrenched their camp. Many of the Swiss were easily swayed with ready cash and the promise of more and 12,000 shamefully took the money and departed back to their Cantons. 

Francis was convinced that Milan would now fall, without resistance, for a little more time and money. So it would have done but for the extraordinary efforts of Cardinal Matthias Schinner. Engineering a skirmish with French pickets he manipulated the news, delivered a rousing speech from the steps of the cathedral in Milan, and convinced the Swiss who remained that, rather than negotiating, the French were attacking. Late in the afternoon, leading an army of less than 18,000 Swiss and several hundred Milanese horse Schinner launched an attack on the French camp, arriving there sometime around 5pm.

Orders of Battle and Scenario Notes

French Army

The army is formed into four divisions

Cavalry Screen under Flouranges (1 commander, 40 cavalry)
1 unit of 8 Gendarmes (B class, fierce)
2 units of 8 Mounted Crossbows (C class)
2 units of 8 Stradiots (C class, swift)
Flouranges' cavalry screen in front of the ditch and earthworks manned by the French crossbowmen and artillery of Bourbon's vanguard; Bourbon's cavalry and French pike are held in reserve in before the village of Zuido.
Vanguard under Bourbon (2 commanders, 32 cavalry, 136 infantry, 5 artillery)
4 units of 16 Gascon Crossbowmen (D class)
1 unit of 72 French Pike (D class)
4 units of 8 Gendarmes (2 x A class, fierce; 2 x B class, fierce)
3 heavy artillery pieces (C class)
2 ultra light artillery pieces (D class)

The village of Zuido and the mainward under Francis I (positioned at the far left of the line) behind a screen of artillery.
Mainward under Francis I (3 commanders including C-in-C, 72 cavalry, 212 infantry, 3 artillery)
6 units of 8 Gendarmes (3 x A class, fierce; 3 x B class fierce)
2 units of 8 Mounted Crossbowmen (C class)
1 unit of 8 Mounted Arquebus (C class)
2 units of 90 Landsknecht Pike (B class, fierce, swift, murderous Vs Swiss)
2 units of 16 Landsknecht Arquebus (C class, swift, murderous Vs Swiss)
3 heavy artillery pieces (C class)

The French camps and, behind them at Santa Brigida, D'Alencon's rearguard. The small town of Marignano, top right, will feature little in the scenario.

Rearward under D'Alencon (2 commanders, 56 cavalry, 48 infantry)
3 units of 8 Gendarmes (B class, fierce)
3 units of 8 Archer Cavalry (C class)
1 unit of 8 Mounted Crossbows (C class)
1 unit of 8 Mounted Arquebus (C class)
3 units of 16 Gascon Crossbowmen (D class)

Francis I and Bourbon are D12 commanders. All other commanders are D10. The French will use a D10* army die and sequence deck. The French will start the game with 75 morale points plus the following characterisation cards: 

  • Stratagem cards (extra card) 
  • Command 'Deft Cavalry' card (automatically rally 1 cavalry unit from pursuit or vexation - replace Command card)
  • 1 Artillery Action 'Artillery Bounce Through' (artillery may target two units in the line of fire at normal effect - replace Artillery Action card). 
Stratagem 1 - 2 card definition: 
  • The mainward and rearward are activated by contact with the enemy or on a successful Stratagem card check. Until activated units may shoot but take no other action. The mainward must activate before the rearward can.
  • On the turn one neither Stratagem card is valid and they are ignored. On turn two Stratagem 1 is valid. From turn three both Stratagem cards are valid. 
  • On the appearance of a valid stratagem the French player will roll D10 Vs D8 to activate a command (mainward or rearward). If successful the whole command activates and the Stratagem card is removed from the sequence deck. Only one command can activate on each card.

The Army of Milan

The army is formed into two divisions

The Swiss (2 commanders including Schinner, 384 infantry, 2 artillery)
3 units of 96 Swiss Pike (A class, fierce, swift, grizzled, murderous Vs Landsknechts)
4 units of 16 Swiss Arquebus (B class, grizzled, swift)
2 units of 16 Swiss Halberd (A class, fierce, swift, grizzled, murderous Vs Landsknechts)
2 light artillery pieces (D class)

The Swiss, formed up in three pike squares and a vanguard are supported by a small Milanese cavalry contingent under Sforza.
The Milanese (1 commander - Sforza Duke of Milan, 16 cavalry)
1 unit of 8 Gendarmes (B class, fierce)
1 unit of 8 Mounted Arquebus (C class)

Schinner is a D12 C-in-C, the Swiss commander is D10, and Sforza is a D8 commander. The Swiss will use a D10 army die and sequence deck

The Swiss start the game with 50 Morale points plus the following Sequence card: 1 Ciao Bella card (Wild card - replaces 1 Lull card).

The Swiss can add to their morale point count by destroying French heavy artillery pieces. For each heavy artillery piece destroyed the Swiss will add three morale points to their total.

The Swiss win the battle if they are in contact with one of the French camps at the end of turn six.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Marignano update

 My thoughts about the French cavalry screen were correct. They were more of a hindrance than a help. They covered the advance of the Swiss from artillery fire.
 The Swiss vanguard stormed over the ditch, taking out a battery of guns, before being repelled by supporting pike.
 At the end of the evening, the Swiss had managed to gain the ditch in most places. The French reserves did not manage to activate.
 At some points the French defenders managed to put up a fight.
But generally speaking the French were no match for the Swiss juggernaut.

So far so good. This week,probably the last game before the festivities, the game will continue. 

I did forget a factor for the Swiss which i'll add this week. The Swiss are 'grizzled' giving them Up1 defence die.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Marignano 1515 - A little more detail

I have finalised the set up for game start. As well as adding the terrain clutter to make the place look more lived in, I have made two changes to the terrain layout.
Looking from behind the Swiss 'up table' towards Marignano (top right). Swiss pike do look very scary, but they have a lot to do and some distance to travel to win. Their objectives are the tented camps three quarters the way up the table.

I have moved the river bounding the French left flank closer to the table edge to increase the size of the battle area to its practical maximum. This move, of almost 8 inches, has added much more space than you might think. It has, effectively, given room for the flanking cavalry to deploy properly. It also led to the addition of the same length of ditch and earthwork to the French front line entrenchments, so this line is also less cramped. I could have removed the stream but it gives a hard flank and the impression that the field was actually quite cramped. There should be another deep ditch running on the other flank but I don't have enough ditch to do this even if I wanted to.

I have moved Zuido somewhat further to the French rear than it should be to increase the depth of what I predict will be the main area of battle. This latter move might disturb some geographical purists, but the area between the ditch and the village of Zuido needs to be big enough to allow room for the French cavalry to manoeuvre. I'm also sure the unit footprints are completely out of sync with the ground scale anyway and this move goes some way towards making it closer to being right in the main battle area. The area to the rear of Zuido is now compressed, but as this is a distinct 'rear area' it can be artificially be expanded by the special scenario rules for French activation.

I have moved the French troops about quite a bit in the last few days. I have tried to make the deployment look more like it does in the Marignano booklet published by The Lance and Longbow Society. I have also deployed the heavy cavalry in deep formation which will allow it to manoeuvre more easily - as the Swiss have little missilery this, I think, will work well for them.

The area between the ditch and Zuido, initially the deployment area for Bourbon's vanguard, will probably be the key battle area. It is now big enough for the troops to operate. 

Walls, minor ditches and trees have no effect on the game and can be moved about - they are just aesthetic clutter. 

Fields with crops, or that are ploughed or similar, are type II terrain features and cannot be moved about.
 At Zuido, I have now deployed the Landknechts and Gendarmes of the French mainward with the infantry in the centre and the cavalry to the flanks. This should allow both elements to move forward and operate as they did historically. 

This command will operate and activate as an 'off table reserve'. 

Stratagem 1 and 2 cards have been added to the French sequence deck. 

On the first turn none are valid. On turn 2 only Stratagem 1 is valid. From turn three on, both Stratagem cards are valid. On the appearance of a valid stratagem the French player will roll army die Vs D8. If successful the mainward command activates fully. Until it does it cannot move, but it may shoot. The mainward automatically activates if a Swiss unit comes to contact with any part of it. Once the mainward is activated D'Alencon's rearguard may be activated.

D'Alencons command is now about as far to the rear as it is possible to get. After the French mainward is activated D'Alencons command activates in a similar manner  except that only the Stratagem 2 card is valid. The rearward automatically activates if a Swiss unit comes with 12".

The Victory conditions are simple. If the Swiss have a unit in contact with a French camp at the end of turn six they win. 

The end of turn six is nightfall. 

They have 44 Morale points plus the following Sequence card: Army Morale 'stubborn' card (automatically pass Army Morale - replace 1 Army morale card).

They have a D10 army die and sequence deck.
 The Swiss have only these two units of Italian cavalry. This will leave the flanks of their pike squares vulnerable to attack.
 Initially the French have a problem. Their shooting troops, including their pike square killing artillery is screened by their light cavalry screen under Flouranges. The Swiss can use them to advance unscathed. 

I think the French might have to sacrifice the screen, by charging as they did historically, just to get them clear and get their artillery going.
Bourbon's heavy troops begin the game activated. There are not that many of them: Just 32 Gendarmes and 72 French pike to fend off over 300 battle hardened Swiss pike and halberdiers - so I don't hold out much hope for them.

I think the French will be relying on Francis I getting the mainward activated.

The French will start the Game with 68 morale points plus the following cards: 2 Stratagem cards (extra card), 1 Command 'Deft Cavalry' card (automatically rally 1 cavalry unit from pursuit or vexation - replace Command card), 1 Ciao Bella card (Wild card - replace Lull card).

They have a D10* army die and sequence deck.

So, I am set for Graham and Peter tomorrow. I think We will play the game with two French and one Swiss player. One French player manning each long table edge will help when moving things about. I really don't have a clue if this scenario format is going to work. It's a tall order to get this kind of unbalanced scenario to work anything like it should. We will see...................

Friday, 5 December 2014

Next week's game - Marignano

Next Wednesday night's game will be a first run through of my Marignano 1515 game. I've based the scenario on the map in Marignano 1515 by Moraitis, Pacou and Erskine-Riddel published by The Lance and Longbow Society, and Oman's The Art of War in the Sixteenth Century. I've used some information from other books, but these are the main sources for the scenario. I've also used Google Earth for topography - it is a very flat place and all slopes are very slight and low. You can find the field at approx 45 23 43N 9 17 49E. Marignano is now Melegnano.

I still have to decide on how the French will come to action. Setting up the battle will help this because real war gaming distances can be measured. In fact, setting up the battle has thrown up a bit of a surprise. I had been convinced that I would have to use my full table's length (15') but  it comfortably fits on a 12' x 6' (having to put up the drop leaf restricts movement around the room, so I'm rather pleased with this). 

Getting the French activation timings right will probably be the key to making this scenario work as a game. Too soon will mean the Swiss will never gain the ditch; too late and the Swiss will sweep up the table, all the way to Marignano, like a steam roller. Setting up the game has also put the task awaiting the Swiss into stark focus - I know they are good but, how many French! As I laid the French out on the table, going repeatedly back and forth to the cabinet, I began to think blimey this is a lot of troops. Most especially, the amount of cavalry is astounding. I had to use almost my full stock of cavalry, and as the Swiss only have two units, there are an awful lot of them pointing in one direction.

Anyway, I'm loathe to put too much detail in writing up this scenario yet. A play through of a few ideas will give me a much better idea of how the scenario can be made to work. I'm more interested in a tight game than anything else. A tight game should make the battle feel like its historical counterpart. Marignano, on the first day, was a very hard fought, close run, thing. It was so close that only nightfall brought about a lull in the fighting without a victor. Unusually for the period, both armies stayed in the field and reformed on the following morning for round two!

I have added no 'aesthetic terrain' at present to enable distances to be measured and to allow things to be moved about during set up more easily. The area was very heavily cultivated and fertile so I'll be adding quite a few terrain pieces to clutter it up. They might not actually count in game terms. I'm convinced there will be several changes before Wednesday.

Anyway, I thought you might to see what the game looks like at its most simple so, some shots:

The Swiss echeloned and crossing the Santa Giuliano - Carpianello road.

In the foreground, The Duke of Milan and his condottieri.
The Swiss advance guard, including a unit of halberdiers (which will please Mr. Puster no end), are thrown forward. 

I suppose they should be more advanced than this but, if they too far advanced they will get swamped by Floranges' cavalry screen before the main bodies come up. As a compromise I think this might work better.
Swiss in three blocks of 96 pike each with a unit of arquebusier. The Swiss also have two light guns (total) they can drag into action.
The French. 

Ahead of the ditch is the cavalry screen under Flouranges. 

Historically they charged and were defeated in short order.

Then Bourbon.

Then Francis I.

Then D'Alencon.
There are far too many cavalry under Flouranges for the Swiss advance guard to cope with alone.

This is one of those war gamey things. Sometimes historical accuracy looks impossible!
Bourbon's vanguard: French infantry, artillery and Gendarmerie. 

They are in two lines behind their entrenchments. Note the very light artillery with some of the Gascon crossbowmen. 

These entrenchments will not be too formidable - they should slow, not stop, the Swiss.
The French mainward under Francis: Landsknechts, in two blocks of 90 (this might change) and cavalry. 

The Guns entrenched in front of the village of Zuido also belong to Francis.

In the background, Marignano is the multi-building place with the church.
Finally, D'Alencon's rearguard at Santa Brigida: French crossbowmen and mixed cavalry.

As if they needed more.
Francis has a lot of cavalry. He has 72 mounted figures including 48 Gendarmes.

The French have 208 cavalry figures (26 units) in total.

I still have a unit of heavy cavalry to paint (only 25 units are present), but I doubt they'll miss it.
And his Landsknecht pike might also be very useful.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Is that an Eagle? No, that's an Osprey.

November 2014 has ended on a bit of a war gaming high note for me. 

Firstly, though in no particular order, a family member has added £150 to my Seven Years War Austrian lead pile (Xmas / Birthday), with figures by Front Rank, doubling the number of units waiting tobe painted - so now I have fifteen more units to paint, not that I'm complaining - thank you, no really, thank you.

Cover Picture for Honours of War
Secondly, I've been asked to contribute some photographs of my stuff for Osprey's Seven Years War rules Honours of War by Keith Flint. I'm not sure how many photos will be used but, I have to ask myself the question again, 'I'm going to be in an Osprey?', good grief, an Osprey no less.

Thirdly, and if I thought 'secondly' was out of the blue, I've been invited to join The League of Gentleman Wargamers for a weekends gaming at a hostelry in Kirriemuir next March by a client for whom I've painted many a WoR figure - and that's the game, a huge WoRfest on a huge table based map of Kingmaker - so I'm preparing myself for a weekend of Royal duplicity and single malts - my wife's told me no wenches, and it doesn't matter how Royal I'm feeling.

So there is my news. News is, apparently, like overdue buses: Nothing then everything at once!