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.


  1. Great scenarios. I particularly like the sconces. The games themselves are up to the very high standard I have come to expect from you and Stuart. Well done.

  2. Spectacular and impressive pictures...Gorgeous!!

  3. Top display oli, a real treat of wonderful miniatures and terrian, i dont think i ever seen anyone do night time effect before, it sure adds to the atmos of the photos, bravo!

  4. Glorious eye candy as always Oli, spectacular stuff all around. The night t8me siege pictures are especially good.

  5. Splendide pictures !
    Especially those with the walls at the bottom, very realistic !
    Bravo !

  6. just beautiful! can o come over for a game some day?

  7. Excellent write up and photographs Oli, they came out really well and tell the story. Some of them are reminiscent of woodcuts. As ever I was enthused to do all sorts of projects but I've focused attention on starting Poynings. Great games as ever, looking forward to the next one.

  8. What great fun! The sconces are splendid as are the mantles and gabions and work so well in the game to add atmosphere,I didn't think landsknechts liked this kind of little war,leaving it to lesser soldiers!
    Best Iain

  9. Fine stuff altogether. In pre-internet days I came across a reference to Ormonde arranging for the services of native Irish troops for this campaign. I cannot remember where I saw it but it stuck in my mind.

  10. very nice, in the future could you do the conquest of Naples in 1501 (when the Spanish and French fought together to take out the kingdom of Naples)