Sunday 9 December 2018

Silent Night...

Apologies for the Christmas title but I could not resist for this post, especially having just returned from a weekends gaming at the Mulligan household where some members of the family have really been taken by the festive spirit! On Friday I visited Stuart from and we continued with our ever evolving games of Renaissance Rampant using modified Lion Rampant rules mixed in with The Pikeman's Lament. We returned to the familiar battleground of the English Campaign in France in 1513, having come up with some new scenarios we wanted to try. As always the photos are acutally from the games and rather than give a blow by blow account of them I will give a summary which, when read with the accompanying photos and captions, should give an idea of how the games went.

Some of the photos are really dark. This is partly due to wargaming in South Wales in December and partly because the biggest scenario we played out was a dawn attack (a Camisado perhaps!) by the English on the French earthworks. I really like the night style photos and they look fine on my PC but I apologise in advance if they don't really work on the device you are viewing them on. Perhaps "night time raids" may be a good excuse for future games played in the evening when the light isn't great! Stuart took command of the English for all of the scenarios with myself in the General's Saddle for the French.

As the English army marches towards Thérouanne they encounter this small village, hastily fortified by the French.

Beyond the river we'll encamp ourselves

For our first game we played out a fictional scenario where a contingent of the English army had been sent to remove a French force that was attempting to slow the English advance into French territory. The French had hastily fortified a small village in an effort to stall the English progress or at least prove to be a thorn in the side of the English if they ignored them and marched on. The game started with half of the French force deployed in the fortified village and half off the table, entering from behind the village on a "move" activation. The entire English force started off table as well, similarly entering the game to the front of the village, on the other side of the stream, with a "move" activation.

The barricades counted as rough terrain and gave a +1 to the "armour" of units within 3" when shot at. We also had a rule that the barricades themselves could be targetted, counting as large targets, with an "armour" of 3 that could be destroyed in 3 hits, although targetting the barricades never happended in the game. The English and French both had to try and occupy the two terrain tiles in which the village was set up in order to achieve victory. The forces were as follows:

The English

2 Units of Foot knights (One is Sir Richard Carew - Retinue Leader)
1 Unit of Garrison Bow
1 Unit of Garrison Bill
1 Unit of Shire Bow
1 Unit of Shire Bill
1 Culverin
1 Organ Gun

The French Defenders

Starting in the village:
1 Unit of French Men-at-Arms (Retinue Leader)
1 Unit Landsknecht Arquebusiers
1 Unit of Aventuriers
1 Culverin

Entering during the game:
1 Unit of Aventuriers
2 Units of Dismounted French "Archers" with halberds
1 Unit of Landsknecht Halberdiers

The English Archers lead the assault.

The French Aventuriers leave the defences of the village to harrass the English as they advance.

The English advance in numbers.

This was a close fought game. The English advanced only be fired upon by the Culverin in the centre of the village and by the Aventuriers who advanced on either side of the French stockade. The French were further cheered by the arrival of a band of Stradiots in the pay of the French King who were patrolling the area and joined the village's forces for the fight. The English Archers suffered badly from these ranged attacks and it looked for a moment that the Tudor forces may never even successfully cross the stream let alone take the village.

The tide turned once the English Foot Knights and Billmen did reach the barricades. The first fighting took place on the French right flank where the Foot Knights under George Neville attacked the dismounted French Cavalry and sent them back. The Stradiots rode off seeing things take a turn for the worse. The English Billmen clambered over the improvised barricades and managed to lure the rash French Men-at-Arms, who were waiting as a reserve within the village, into attacking them. In the confused melee admist the defences the Billmen were sent back but the French Heavy Cavalry were disorganised and defeated when they attempted a second less effective charge.

The French left flank was held by a force of Landsknechts and Aventuriers. The Aventuriers skirmished with the English but were eventually put to flight by the English Bows. The Landsknechts then began to panic as the English rolled up their organ gun and events on the other side of the Village left them as the only troops still in good order. The German Mercenaries melted away and the English had taken the position.

A view of the French defences from the side. Aventuriers skirmish on either flank of the position with Landsknechts and French Men-at-Arms holding the village.

The Landsknechts in French Service.

Dismounted French Cavalry engage with George Neville, Third Lord of Bergavennny, as the English storm the village. A group of patrolling Stradiots in French Service has also joined the engagement.

The English Bill cross the defences and the French Men-at-Arms loose their discipline, charging in to fight amongst the defences.

Despite the Men-at-Arms being disadvantaged in the village fighting they still succeed in pushing the English back.

The English set back is only temporary. They clear the French right flank of the village before then mopping up the French left flank and putting the Lansknechts to flight.

A view of Thérouanne from the English siege lines.

Piercing the night's dull ear

In the next scenario the English were now at the walls of Thérouanne. Before they could invest the town more closely they had to clear the French from the earthworks in front of the medieval walls. Our scenario played this through with an initial English raiding force attempting to surprise the French troops and force them out of the "Sconces" they were holed up in. As dawn broke, relief forces for both sides would enter the table from a random table edge as the Garrison became aware of the attack and the English threw in support in their attempt to move nearer to the walls.

We modified the "Beating up Quarters" Scenario from The Pikeman's Lament for this game and had the Sconces with troops in them instead of houses. The French troops in the Sconces had to be awakened as in the original scenario but once awake they didn't need to come out of the Sconce they could remain in it. The Sconces could not be destroyed but could be occupied. They counted as rough terrain and gave a +2 to the "armour" of troops inside when under missile attack. We kept the rules in the scenario about poor visibility until the day broke and decided that reinforcements would arrive for both sides once it was daylight. The reinforcements were both Retinues in their own right with their own Leaders. Victory would go to whoever could occupy as many of the 5 Sconces at the end of the game.

We used some Irish Kern in this scenario and the one following it. I am aware that although they were employed extensively in France and Scotland by the English in the 1540s there are no records, that I am aware of, of them being recruited in the 1513 campaign. Despite this we wanted to give them an outing as we are currently trying to develop our Irish lists for this period, and they are of course great figures. This historical inaccuracy aside the armies were as follows:

The French

The French in the Earthworks

1 Unit of Foot Knights - The French Captain (Retinue Leader)
5 Units of French skirmishers  (we trialled the smaller units of "Commanded Shot" from The Pikeman's Lament for these defenders)
1 Unit of Landsknecht Shot
1 Unit of French infantry with polearms

The French Relief force from inside the Walls

1 Unit of Gendarmes (Retinue Leader)
1 Unit of Stradiots
1 Unit of Landsknecht Pike
1 Unit French pike
1 Unit of Aventuriers

The English

The English Raiders

Sir Richard Carew  - 1 Unit of Foot Knights (Retinue Leader)
2 Units of Shire Bow
1 Unit of  Shire Bill
2 Units of Irish Kern

The English Relief force from the English Camp

2 Units of Demilancers (one is Sir Rhys ap Thomas, Retinue leader)
1 Unit of Border Horse
1 Unit of Landsknecht Arquebusiers
1 Unit of Landsknecht Pike

In the darkness the English guns can be discerned in the foreground with French earthworks in front of the Walls of Thérouanne.

In the darkness Irish Kern hired by the English storm a French Sconce.

Another Sconce is assaulted by the Kern.

We started this game in the evening to give the impression of a dawn assault and then ended (for the obligatory trip to the pub) once we had rolled for the sun coming up, continuing with the game the following morning. The fighting started when the Irish Kern crept up on two of the Sconces and attacked the stunned guards inside. The Irish managed to clear one of the earthworks but were defeated at the other. As the defenders awoke they began to fire upon the English and Irish attackers from the safety of their defences and were successful in keeping them at bay. In the light of the morning the French Captain and Sir Richard Carew lived up to their chivalric ideals and fought a brief but inconclusive duel in no man's land.

Alerted by the fighting in front of the walls some Landsknechts from the English camp entered the fray but in the early light they stumbled into a strong French force who sallied out in defence. Chaos reigned as more English joined and most of the fighting focused around the single Sconce that was initially cleared by the Kern. It was then taken by some French Aventuriers  who were attacked and killed by the English Border horse. They themselves were then chased off by the French Garrison's Stradiots!

The fighting centred around this one earthwork and the area where both the French sally and the English relief force had arrived. The rest of the Sconces were held successfully by the French. The English could not get near to them as the defenders of each earthwork could keep up a withering rain of crossbow bolts and arquebus shot, mutually supporting each other against attack. The English Archers who had been part of the initial raid drove back the Landsknecht Arquebusiers in French pay who came out to meet them but the Germans rallied and sent the Archers reeling with a hail of shot. As the troops from the Garrison's sally and the English relief force engaged in various melees in the open ground the English broke off the engagement realising that the element of surprise had been lost and that the earthworks would not be taken so easily.

French infantry patrol the earthworks after hearing disturbances in the night.

A view from the Walls of Thérouanne.

As dawn breaks Sir Richard Carew, Captain of the Calais Garrison in 1513, engages in an inconclusive fight with a French Captain.

Alerted by the attempt to push closer to the walls French reinforcements sally out of the town only to crash into English reinforcements who are also being sent into the clash.

A view from the English siege lines as dawn breaks.

Not all of the soldiers in Henry VIII's employ are concerned by the chaos developing in front of the town walls!

The English Border Horse have succeeded in clearing one of the Sconces.

English Demilancers and Imperial Landsknechts join the fighting.

The Border Horse flee from the Sconce they had captured as Stradiots in French employ retake it.

A view from the trenches!

On the other side of the field Landsknecht Arquebusiers in French employ see off the English Archers with a savage hail of shot.

Sir Rhys ap Thomas trys to bring order to the chaotic dawn encounter...

...but the English haven't succeeded in clearing any of the Sconces.

After further assualts the earthworks are clear and the English have pushed their guns right up to the town walls.

With fatal mouths gaping on girded Thérouanne

Our final game saw the English beneath the Walls of Thérouanne, having pushed the defenders back. The besiegers have built a heavily fortified battery as close to the walls as possible and are bringing up a large bombard to join the other ordnance and help create a breach. Panicked by the direction the siege has taken the French forces in the locality have gathered and decide to launch a surprise attack in an attempt to halt Henry VIII's progress.

We played this game as a failry straight battle scenario and both chose our forces ourselves from the list and figures availble. The English army deployed in front of the Gun Battery at the walls of the town and the French army would enter on "move" activation orders from the crest beyond the stream. This was the wargaming classic of "lets just see who can do the most damage to the other side" kind of game with victory going to whoever could smash the opposing army! The forces were as follows:

The English

Sir Richard Carew  - 1 Unit of Foot Knights (Retinue Leader)
1 Unit of Shire Bow
1 Unit of  Shire Bill
2 Units of Irish Kern
1 Culverin
1 Unit of Landsknecht Pike
1 Unit of Landsknecht Shot
1 Unit of Demilancers

The French

1 Unit of Foot Knights - The French Captain (Retinue Leader)
1 Unit of Landsknecht Pike
1 Unit of French Pike
1 Unit of Stradiots
1 Unit of Ordonnance Archers with Bows
2 Units of Gendarmes

The besiegers have heavily fortified a forward battery and are bringing up a large bombard, see the wagon in the centre of the picture, to open a large breach.

The French, aware of how close the English are getting to succeeding, have sent a force to skirt around the siege lines and attack the forward battery from behind.

This game turned out to be a bit too much like the historical "Battle of the Spurs" for my liking! I had gambled on choosing a French list with two units of Gendarmes which I hoped would smash the English if I kept them close together but events went rather differently! As the English turned and organised themselves for the unexpected attack the French mounted archers were successful in riding forward, dismounting and sending a rain of arrows at the Irish Kern. The unarmoured Kern were caught in the open and fled from the field.

During this opening exchange the English had managed to get their Landsknecht Auxiliaries in good order and they tempted the hot headed Gendarmes into a series of charges. The Landsknechts defended themselves admirably but the repeated attacks by the heavily armoured cavalry were enough to defeat them. Unfortunately for the French however, seeing this bloody engagement from the crest of the hill the Landsknechts in their own pay decided they had seen enough and promptly turned around, leaving the field in good order!

Despite the loss of their German Mercenaries the French continued to press the attack but their elite cavalry had been severely weakened by the fight with the Imperial Landsknechts and the English had by now had time to form a defensive line ready to meet the French attack. The English Archers and  Foot Knights together were succesful in defeating the French captain and his own retinue of Foot Knights while the French pike, packed in close order, suffered badly from the fire of the English Culverin. The French were quickly defeated, allowing the besiegers to turn their attention back to breaching the town's walls.

French Gendarmes and Pikemen lead the assault on the English earthworks.

Maximilian's Landsknechts see off both bodies of French Gendarmes as they attempt to sweep away the English army.

The Landsknechts in French employ have fled, leaving the remaining French force, having also lost most of its cavalry, to continue with the assault.

The English have time to form a defensive line to protect their guns and easily see the French attack off.

It was great to try out the new scenarios, the dawn attack and the fortified village, and put the Sconces and earthworks to good use. What I particularly liked about these games is that if you do any reading on warfare in the 16th Century much of the fighting took place around sieges and earthworks, with set battles being much rarer. It's great fun to actually bring these clashes in front of the walls, that would have been so painfully familiar to soldiers in the 1500s, to life on the tabletop. More detail on the Sconces we used can be found here: when they made their debut in our Pavia game, and detail on the mantlets and gabions is here: Of course these games have left me with many more ideas of what to paint and what scenarios to play out. I think for the next set of clashes with Stuart we may focus on the Siege of Venlo in 1511 and Sir Edward Poynings command of 1,500 English in that campaign.

Sunday 18 November 2018

Earthworks and Cats on Pikes!

While the work on my 1540s Landsknecht Pike Block continues (they will be finished eventually!), I thought I would post up some pictures from the Summer of my repainted set of Earthworks. The original paint work on them can be seen here:, in one of the Pavia games Stuart and I played early in the year. With a new battlefield of a different coloured earth it was also necessary to repaint the Earthworks. In the photos you will also notice a couple of the Sconces in the same style as Stuart's ones that we used in that game. These were made by David Marshall of TM Terrain and are really useful terrain pieces. I included some contemporary pictures of these Sconces in the write up of the Pavia games, linked above.

The repainted Earthworks are resin and nearly 20 years old! They were from a manufacturer called Stronghold Miniatures if I remember correctly. The pieces are so old that I had painted them up before painting my old battlefield. The battlefield was a really dark reddish earthern colour, see the link above, simply because I had already painted the Earthworks that way! In fact they even appeared in the background of a couple of photos in my first ever post on this blog: They were definitely in need of a good repaint!

Getting the Earthworks to match the same colour as the earth on the terrain boards, the ditches and the Sconces did not go well. I tried all sorts of different paint mixes and when I did get the same match it just made the Earthworks look like Blancmange, it didn't work well, something to do with the texture of the resin. For this reason I repainted them in a slightly browner earth tone which although not perfect seems to fit the other earth well and stops the Earthworks looking too different from the rest of the terrain. What do you think? I would be interested to know if the contrast is still too great? I suppose freshly dug earth or repaired Earthworks would look different to older fortifications anyway or is this just my excuse!

The Earthworks from behind with the Sconces in front. Note the Gateway to the Earthworks on the left and the Sally Port on the right.

The two Sconces in front of the Ditch and Earthworks, again note the Sally Port, this time on the left.

The Earthworks Gateway.

When I bought these years ago I tried to order a really extensive set of pieces that could be used for loads of different defensive set ups. There are some nice touches to the set including a breached section, bastions, corner and end pieces, a gateway and a smaller sally port to allow the defenders to sally out unoticed and disrupt an assault. It's great that with a fresh lick of paint they are still going strong. Even a cursory reading around the subject of 16th Century Warfare will reveal that earthern defences were a key part of both attack and defence. They had been used extensively in Ancient Warfare and onwards but the rapid increase in the use of gunpowder weaponry that the late 15th to early 16th Century witnessed made them even more necessary. Many of the key Italian Wars battles, Garigliano, Ravenna and Bicocca to name but a few, were centred around assaults on Earthworks, it's difficult to playout the battles, sieges and skirmishes of the era without a decent set of them. These really do the job, especially when combined with the Trenches on the boards and the castle pieces I have already collected.

Below are some photos of the Trenches and Earthworks in action from a game I played out over the Summer. The game was set in the Autumn of 1503 where a stalemate had developed between the French and Spanish forces on either side of the Garigliano River. Eventually this was resolved by Gonzalo de Cordoba's daring attack across the river which won the Battle of Garigliano on 29th December 1503. Prior to this however the French under Francesco Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua, had formed a fortified bridgehead across the river and attempted to dislodge the Spanish in a number of assaults from this position. Gonzaga passed command to Ludovico of Saluzzo when these attempts failed and before the Spanish attack in late December. My refight of one of these French assaults turned out to be rather dull with the French failing miserably in the face of a trench and the defended Spanish Earthworks so I didn't write a blog post on it. It is a conflict I will play out again at some point but with a few tweaks. The photos shown below are all from the game.

A small redoubt, this time the end sections have been added to the set up.

Swiss mercenaries attempt to storm defended Earthworks in the early 1500s.

Early Landsknecht defend the Earthworks against a Reisläufer assault in the War for Naples. 

Spanish Arquebusiers and Landsknecht provided by Maximilian I defend Spanish Earthworks against a French assault from their bridgehead across the Garigliano River in the Autumn of 1503.

While on the subject of fortifications I couldn't resist including a couple of rather odd things I discovered a while back but have never written a blog post where these findings fit in. I was reading through Ambroise Paré's "Journeys in Diverse Places", which can be found online:é was a surgeon to the French Monarchs in the Mid 16th Century and wrote a fascinating account of the campaigns he took part in, one of which was the Siege of Metz in 1552. As one of the defenders he notes how during the siege the Imperialists knocked down one of the City Walls only to find a large Earthwork behind it:

"The wall having fallen, our men cried out at those outside, “Fox, fox, fox,” and they vented a thousand insults against one another. M. de Guise forbade any man on pain of death to speak with those outside, for fear there should be some traitor who would betray what was being done within the town. After this order, our men tied live cats to the ends of their pikes, and put them over the wall and cried with the cats, “Miaut, Miaut.

Truly the Imperials were much enraged, having been so long making a breach, at great loss, which was eighty paces wide, that fifty men of their front rank should enter in, only to find a rampart stronger than the wall. They threw themselves upon the poor cats, and shot them with arquebuses as men shoot at the popinjay."

It seems that as a taunt to the Imperialists besieging the city, the French hung live cats from their pikes and dangled them over the defences! This seems odd but it also reminded me of an image I had seen before depicting the Siege of Padua in 1509, completed around 1521. The image, shown below, depicts an assault on a bastion of Padua where the defenders are holding a cat out on a pike while the attack is taking place! Was this some 16th Century Siege tradition? Does it have something to do with traitors or cowardice? If anyone knows anymore about the meaning of this taunt and if it was something that went on regularly I would be interested to know more? The traditions and cultures of 16th Century Warfare always fascinate me.

That is probably enough rambling for today, I'd better get back to finishing this next block of Landsknechts!

The Siege of Padua, Agostini c.1521

Saturday 20 October 2018

Landsknecht Arquebusiers, Mid 16th Century

Todays post shows the first part of my current project, a set of Landsknechts to cover the mid 16th Century. I know for a lot of wargamers a Landsknecht is a Landsknecht which is fine but, as you may have noticed from my previous posts on this topic, I do love to obsess over the finer details of how their fashions, arms and armour changed from around 1500 through to the end of the 16th Century. I have had my eye on The Assault Group "Royal Swiss" figures for a while now and already having some Mid 16th Century Tudors and more generic pike and shot I was keen to get them into my collection somehow. A unit of Swiss was not really what I wanted and it doesn't take much to turn them from Swiss into convincing mid century Landsknecht.

So far I have painted up the armoured part of the pike unit, the unarmoured ranks and command are yet to be done. The shot are complete and shown here. Beards or moustaches have been added to most of them, as Landsknecht images from the 1530s to 1550s tend to show them with impressive facial hair! They also all wear Katzbalgers, the characteristic German short sword, at jaunty angles as seen in the contemporary art work. The extra bits and pieces on the Warlord Games Plastic Landsknecht sprues were really useful for converting these. Any of the stitched on crosses that the figures had sculpted on them have been removed. I think the pike and command will have more elements that clearly demarcate them as being from the middle of the 1500s so will leave a full discussion of the images and armour for when the pike are completed. I have included a couple of period images just to give an example of the look I am aiming for.

Assault Group Miniatures "Royal Swiss" converted into Landsknechts.

Landsknecht Arquebusiers for the Mid 16th Century.

Landsknecht Shot c.1530-1550.

The Landsknecht Arquebusiers in the tapestry image below don't differ that much from those of the 1510s and 1520s and at a pinch this arquebusier unit would be fine for the mid 1520s right up until the mid 1550s when the "Pluderhosen" become pretty much universal for the Landsknecht. If you have a look at the picture of the armoured soldier from the Códice De Trajes and the armoured "work in progress" figures the style of infantry armour of the mid 1500s becomes clearer. While the Arquebusier miniatures fit into a wider time frame I feel the armoured troops are more specifically for the 1530s and 1540s. I have 40 figures yet to paint for the pike and command and need to do all the pikes for them. Hopefully this shouldn't take too long despite Landsknecht being very time consuming. So far these have been a joy to paint though.

Landsknecht Arquebusiers during the attack on Goleta in 1535, the tapestries depicting the Tunis Campaign were made in the 1540s.

Códice De Trajes, 1547 Habsburg Soldiers

WIP - The Landsknecht Mid Century Pike so far, note the addition of beards to a lot of the TAG figures.

WIP - The Armoured Mid 16th Century Landsknecht so far

While on the subject of Landsknecht, last month I posted some pictures of my Reenactment kit and wondered if any of you would like to see pictures of the Wargames Foundry event at Stoke in June. Rather than put up any pictures here I am going to post links to some really good photos on Facebook that show the event in detail. All of the albums can be viewed without actually joining Facebook, even if it tries to get you to log in you don't need to! They show recreations of what the English, Irish and German troops who took part in the battle in 1487 may have looked like. I am well aware that the German troops in 1487 certainly didn't look like those shown in the photos but at least there was some acknowledgement that these mercenaries took part and I reckon they have made an admirable effort to look like the earlier 16th Century Landsknecht. I guess not everyone can be obsessive about the clothing of German mercenaries over 500 years ago.The albums can be found here here and here If you do take the time to look at these you will see that we were filming a documentary about the battle which can be viewed here . I will warn you now though it's a pretty bad documentary but you may find it fun.