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