Thursday 1 August 2019

Agnadello, 1509

A couple of weekends ago Stuart,, visited for another set of games in our series of clashes. Although we have played some fairly large scale scenarios for this occasion we opted to play our largest set piece battle yet, choosing Agnadello in 1509. This would mean Stuart had a chance to focus on working on his French army rather than the Tudors and I could field lots of my Italian style troops. It also gave us the chance to test units we haven't yet used much, like the dreaded Swiss Pike, and the chance to work on some rules for larger battles where retinues can fail more than one activation and guns can be fielded in batterys.

Agnadello, 1509

" This happened afterwards at Vaila, where in one battle they lost that which in eight hundred years they had acquired with so much trouble. From such mercenaries conquests come slowly, are long delayed and are not very significant. The losses however are sudden and very great."  The Prince, Nicolo Machiavelli.

The Battle of Agnadello, also known as Vaila, was the result of an anti-Venetian alliance encouraged by the "Warrior Pope", Julius II , forming the League of Cambrai with Louis XII of France, Ferdinand of Aragon and Maximilian I in an effort to cut Venice down to size. Suffice to say this alliance didn't last long, as was the case with many alliances in the Italian Wars. The league was formed late in 1508 and by the Spring of 1509 Louis XII led his troops from Milan in attempt to bring the Venetians to battle in their own territory. On 14 May 1509 as the Venetians were moving camp they were caught by the French advance guard. The Ventian general Niccolo Orisini de Pitigliano had decided on a strategy of blockade and outmanoeuvering of the French, avoiding a pitched battle. His cousin and second in command, Bartolomeo D'Alviano was keener on engaging the French directly.

As the French advance guard caught part of the rear Venetian column D'Alviano hurried back to join it, the infantry captains Pietro del Monte and Saccoccio da Spoleto having already organised a defence behind a dry canal bed (or irrigation ditches). The French artillery concentrated it's fire on the Venetian infantry prompting them to attack accross the canal bed before D'Alviano arrived. D'Alviano arrived with his men-at-arms in time to support the infantry attack accross the canal bed which had been counterattacked by the French horse. More of the Venetian column was drawn into the conflict but Pitigliano did not return to aid D'Alviano. Facing the Swiss infantry of the French King and his Gendarmes the Venetians were overwhelmed. Del Monte and Da Spoleto were both killed in the fighting and D'Alviano was captured.

As always we played out the game using our modified Lion Rampant rules to which we added a few extra rules to deal with the fact this was a larger battle rather than a skirmish or "small war" style encounter. The armies were somewhat idealised and not based on possible numbers of the troop types who fought although this seems to be up for debate anyway. We included a few of the known "Characters" who took part in the battle as this always makes the games more fun and helps add to the period feel.

Large Retinues and activation

For this game each army was divided up into a mounted retinue, infantry retinue and artillery retinue. Each of the cavalry and infantry retinues had too many units for the normal activation rules of Lion Rampant to apply. For each retinue (but not the artillery) each turn the player drew a card from a standard deck (we used my replica late 15th Century French playing cards for this to give some extra period feel!). The numbered cards (1-10) were halved rounding up to give that retinue that many rerolls for activations that turn. This meant 1-5 rerolls per retinue per turn.

If a jack, king or queen was taken the player continued to take cards until a number card was drawn but held onto the picture card or cards. These were kept for that retinue and played on a unit at any time. When played on a unit that unit would automatically activate and get a roll on the "Bonus" Chart . This meant that a player could attempt to strategise to get certain things done on the battlefield for each retinue but things could still go wrong and activations could still repeatedly fail.  If a player rolled a double 1, a "Blunder" result, this did not end that retinues turn but meant they could not attempt to activate that unit again that turn after rolling on the "Blunder" chart.

The ability to allow extra rolls on the "Bonus" chart also gave both forces the possibly to get reinforcements as happened in the battle. Reinforcements were allowed to be brought on more than once if a 6 was rolled on the "Bonus" chart.


Knowing the table was going to be very crowded with units we decided that units retreating through other units could do so if the retreating unit had the Skirmish, Fleet of Foot and/or Evade abilities. The unit they moved through must make a courage test as the unit moved through them.

If a unit did not have any of these abilities and had to retreat through another unit then the player must decide if he wanted to let the unit through. If the player did so then the unit it was moving through automatically became "battered" as it was so disrupted by the retreating troops pushing though. If the player decided the unit could not pass through then the retreating unit was removed from play as it had been destroyed as it was considered to have been entirely broken up as it met the organised unit behind.

The Artillery

The 4 Culverins in each army were in their own retinue. They did not have a retinue leader and they could all try and activate each turn. Each gun had to be placed at least 6" from another culverin at the start of the game. This meant that the artillery could effectively be separated into 2 sets of guns during the game.

All of the photos are from the actual game. Stuart took command of the French, as he provided most of the figures for this army, while I took command of the Venetians.

The French infantry form up against the Venetian foot.

The French Cavalry under Louis XII, from right to left, "Archers" armed with lances, Louis XII and some Men at Arms in front and then the Gendarmes.

Three blocks of Swiss Pike form the spearhead of the French infantry.

The Armies

The French

Louis XII and the French Cavalry
Louis XII (1 Unit of French Gendarmes)
Louis II La Trimouille (1 Unit of French Gendarmes)
1 Unit of French Gendarmes
1 Unit of French Ordonnance Archers with Bows
3 Units of French Ordonnance Archers with Demilance
2 Units of French Men At Arms

9 Mounted Units

Charles II d'Amboise and the French Infantry
Charles II d'Amboise (1 Unit of Foot Knights)
The Chevalier Bayard (1 Unit of Foot Knights)
(At Agnadello Bayard and his retinue "showed surprising bravery" as they "waded through a marsh up to their wastes in water" according to "The Story of the Chevalier Bayard" so we chose to field Bayard on foot in this game)
3 Units of Swiss Pike
1 Unit of Swiss Shot
1 Unit of French Pike
1 Unit of French Halberdiers
1 Unit of French Archers
2 Units of French Aventuriers

11 Foot Units

4 Culverins

See the Artillery rules above.

The Venetian Cavalry, Stradiots and Mounted Crossbowmen form a skirmish line infront of Gendarmes and Men at Arms.

The Venetian Infantry formed up behind the dry canal bed in the Vineyard.

The Republic of Venice

Bartolomeo D'Alviano and the Venetian Horse

Bartolomeo D'Alviano (1 Unit of Venetian Gendarmes)
2 Units of Venetian Gendarmes               
The Condottiere Captain, Pandolfo IV Malatesta  (1 Unit of Elmeti)
2 Units of Elmeti
3 Units of Stradiots or Stradioti
2 Units of Mounted Crossbowmen

11 Mounted Units

Pietro del Monte and the Venetian Infantry
Pietro del Monte (1 Unit of Foot Knights)*
Saccoccio da Spoleto  (1 Unit of Foot Knights)
3 Units of Romagnol Pike
1 Unit of Italian Pike
2 Units of Italian Infantry
2 Units of Italian Crossbowmen
1 Unit of Balkan Archers

11 Foot Units

*Interestingly Monte may well be the author of the "Collectanea" a fascinating text discussing everything pertaining to the practice of arms in the late 15th Century. It discusses everything from how people of the four different humours will fight through to what armour it is best to wear and how it should be constructed. The introduction discusses whether or not it was him that was killed at Agnadello in 1509. It's well worth a read:

4 Culverins

See the Artillery rules above.

The Swiss advance and Venetian Crossbowmen take shots at them from the ditch.

French Aventuriers push forward under the cover of the dry canal.

Both the French Cavalry and Infantry advance.

Although we hadn't set any specific rules about how we deployed the armies the nature of the terrain meant that we both ended up with our armies in similar dispostions to the real battle with the Venetian infantry defending the dry canal bed and facing the French infantry contingent while both cavalry forces delpoyed in the more open terrain.

Due to the size of the armies this game was carnage from the first turn. The French infantry pushed forward towards the Italians in the Vineyard while the Venetian infantry aimed everything they had at the rapidly advancing Swiss Pike. On the Cavalry wing the French charged forward to be engaged by swarms of Venetian Light Cavalry who were initially successful, inflicting casualties on the heavier French horse. The Venetian light horse were soon in trouble as they did not have the space to avoid and manoeuvre in the face of the oncoming French. The French charged into them and while some evaded, some were hit and fled while the others were pushed back onto the Venetian Men at Arms and Gendarmes.

The Cavalry engagement starts with the Venetian Skirmishing horse causing casualties to the heavier French horse.

A view down the battlefield as the clashes start.

The Italian infantry ready themselves as the Swiss reach the canal.

A view from above as the Swiss reach the Venetian positions.

As the Swiss reached the dry canal or irrigation ditch a series of fierce clashes began as the Italian infantry and Romagnol Pike launched attacks on the Reisläufer mercenaries while their formations were disrupted as they crossed the obstacle. Disadvantaged by the terrain and having already been galled by the Italian artillery and crossbow shots the Venetians were able to hold back the fury of the Swiss assault.

One of the French guns misfired at this point but the Venetian's could not celebrate for long as another gun was quickly brough on to reinforce the French King's artillery. The Venetians were also reinforced by some Stradiots who had ridden back from Pitigliano's Vanguard which hadn't commited. Again Venetian celebrations were muted as these additional light cavalry were simply fed into the swirling melee of men and horses where the Venetians were rapidly being pushed back by the French.

In the cavalry engagement the Venetians have been driven back with losses.

The French deploy another culverin after one is put out of action by a misfire.

The Venetian Men at Arms and Gendarmes enter the fray in an attempt to push back the French.

Fierce fighting is taking place at the dry canal between the Ventian infantry and the Swiss.

The Romagnol pike brace themselves as theVenetian front line engages.

A clash between the mercenaries of both sides, the Swiss and Romagnol pike.

For a moment it looks like the Venetian horse have turned the tide against the French heavy cavalry.

Surrounded by their light cavalry the heavier contingent of the Venetian horse broke through and attempted to push back the French Gendarmes and Men at Arms. They were successful at first with D'Alviano and the Condottierre Pandolfo Malatesta leading the charge. Unfortunately D'Alviano was soon unhorsed and captured by the French which would have serious consequences for the morale of the Venetian Cavalry. Despite having previously been harried by the Venetian Stradiots and Mounted Crossbowmen the heavier armed French cavalry were still more than a match for their Venetian counterparts, especially when the French King himself was present.

At the dry ditch things seemed to be going badly for the French, or perhaps more accurately their mercenary pikemen, as assault after assault was thrown back by the Italians. The combination of Romagnol Pike, sword and shield armed lighter infantry and the retinues of both Pietro del Monte and Saccoccio da Spoleto was helping to keep the Swiss back. The French infantry behind the Swiss were hesistant in supporting the assault.

The Venetian guns and infantry in combination with the canal have kept the Swiss at bay despite a series of bloody melees.

The Italian Condottiere Captain, Pandolfo IV Malatesta followed by the Venetian commander, Bartolomeo d'Alviano, enter the cavalry clash.

The Veteran French Captain, Louis II La Trimouille, leads his Gendarmes into the fray.

The Venetian infatry captain, Saccoccio da Spoleto , surveys the scene during a brief moment of respite.

The Ventian overall commander, D'Alviano, has been downed in the cavalry battle, moments after this La Trimouille takes on the Malatesta cavalry.

Things are going badly for the Venetian horse with may riders being driven back or seeking cover across the dry ditch.

The Swiss have been stalled at the dry canal but not defeated. Behind them the French infantry, Aventuriers and Halberdiers move up in support.

A view from the dry canal.

The Venetian crossbowmen are driven back by the Swiss, but this puts the Reisläufer, dangerously close to the Venetian guns. In the top right, Charles II d'Amboise, can be seen directing the attack.

In the chaos of the melee around the dry canal the captain of the Venetian infantry, del Monte, attempted to take on Charles d'Amboise and his dismounted knights, only to be slain in the attempt. This meant that both of the primary Italian commanders were now out of action. In the Cavalry battle the French King, Louis XII, entered the engagement. After a couple of failed charges by the remaining Venetian heavy horse all of the remaining Venetian horsemen fled.

The Swiss did manage to cross the ditch at the far end of the field in the Vineyard but they had come under attack from so many angles during the assault that their cohesion soon fell apart and they were defeated. While most of the Venetian infantry had been scarificed in defence of the ditch the Romagnol Pike were still organised and effective despite having been under constant long range fire from the French guns and having clashed with the Swiss.

With all of the Venetian cavalry gone along with both of the Italian Commanders, D'Alviano and del Monte, the Romagnol Pike and what was left of the Venetian infantry were not in a great position. They received a couple of units as reinforcements from the Venetian Vanguard but were facing a still effective French mounted arm along with uncommited French units. Bayard hadn't even entered the fray yet! As more reinforcements arrived for the French infantry the battered Venetian force fled or surrendered. It had been a costly victory for the French King.

In the chaos of the infantry fight the overall Venetian infantry commander, Pietro del Monte, has been killed in a clash with the retinue of  Charles II d'Amboise.

The Venetian cavalry continue to resist the French horse.

Some of the Swiss are across the ditch.

D'Alviano has already fallen, his remaining retinue are charged by the French King, Louis XII.

Fallen horses and Men at Arms litter the scene of the cavalry clash.

The Swiss that crossed the ditch are sent back but their are still plenty of French infantry behind them.

The Romagnol Pike take cover in the dry canal. They have stopped the Swiss but the remaining Venetian cavalry have all fled and the French still have plenty of their own infantry in reserve.

As you can probably tell from the photos and write up this was a hell of a game. We played it in a marathon session from 11:30am to around 7:30pm, of course with a few breaks for lunch, bottles of cider and cups of tea! It was very different from our past games of Lion Rampant. The size of the armies made us both more willing to throw unit after unit into the fray and the fact that we could each have multiple failed activations for our retinues meant that we were less cautious about which units we decided to activate and when. I think if we had kept the standard rule of once of retinues unit fails an activation it's turn ends it would have made the game take forever as well as driving us both mad!

It was really fun being able to use lots of guns on both sides and this meant that the artillery could actually have an effect in the game. This has rarely been the case in our previous games but then again as many of these have been skirmishes that does make sense. Fielded as batteries in a pitched battle, and removing the failed activation rules for them, the guns are certainly more effective. We also used more heavy cavalry than previously which worked well and created the feeling of a swirling melee of horsemen. We are still yet to see the Swiss fighting on open ground but they were very dangerous in this game even when stalled by a ditch, artillery and pikemen! I think it has taught us that we can use lots of these higher value troops as long as we keep a good balance on both sides. I also really enjoyed being able to field my collection as the Venetians, I have been wanting to get my Venetian flags and Italian infantry on the table for ages, especially as Pete does an excellent Venetian flag sheet specificically for Agnadello,

Once we have recovered from this marathon there could well be more massed battles in the future!

At the top of the photo is Francesco Gonzaga and his retinue. In the centre and bottom are Venetian Gendarmes attempting to block his escape.

Our Agnadello refight was an epic of a wargame but despite this and some sore heads from the pub the night before we did manage to play out one other scenario that tied in with the campaign against the Venetians in 1509.

The Capture of Francesco Gonzaga

Venice recovered surprisingly quickly following it's defeat at Agnadello. The Venetian Government shrewdly decided to cut it's losses and hand back the lands it had taken off the Papacy in the Romagna as well as the territories on the Italian East Coast that it had taken after the Kingdom of Naples had fallen. This effectively took the Papacy and the Spanish out the game as they were far more concerned with keeping a power balance than seeing the Venetians removed from the political map. Another bonus was the capture of Francesco Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua, in August 1509. He was no longer fighting the French, as he had done at Fornovo in 1495, but rather, in true condottiere style, leading one of their contingents.

This was an all cavalry game in which the Venetians attempted to capture Gonzaga on the road.

This game was played as per the Hammer and Anvil scenario in Lion Rampant, page 55, with Gonzaga and the French being the "Attackers" who were attempting to flee and the Venetians playing the "Defenders" who had to stop him. As in the previous game Stuart took the French and I played the Venetians.

The Armies

The French

Francesco Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua (1 Unit of French Gendarmes)
1 Unit of French Gendarmes
1 Unit of French Ordonnance Archers with Bows
1 Unit of French Ordonnance Archers with Demilance
2 Units of French Men At Arms

The Venetians
2 Units of Venetian Gendarmes (1 is the Unit Leader)
1 Unit of Mounted Crossbowmen
1 Unit of Stradiots or Stradioti
2 Units of Elmeti

Francesco Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua, and his French Cavalry.

Venetian forces have entered the table in pursuit of Gonzaga. A Unit of French Men at Arms moves back to stop their advance.

So compared to the previous encounter this was a relatively straightforward clash. After the epic of Agnadello we couldn't have handled a larger game! The French rode towards the river crossing and were quickly pursued by Venetian Men at Arms, Stradiots and Mounted Crossbowmen who arrived on the scene behind the French. One by one French units turned around and attempted to fight a rearguard action against the Venetians. Each time they were quickly overwhelmed by the combination of Skirmishers and Men at Arms.

At the river the French Archers dismounted and guarded the other horsemen as their horses waded across. The archers kept the Venetian heavy cavalry at bay temporarily but as soon as Gonzaga was across the Venetians pounced. In a brief round of clashes some of the Venetians fell back but Gonzaga was captured, despite defeating the Venetian Captain in single combat. With the lighter Venetian horse attacking from the rear the game was up. True to history the Marquess of Mantua was a Venetian prisoner.

The Men at Arms are defeated so some French Gendarmes move back to fight the rearguard action.

Further down the field the French lancers attempt to clear a path and succeed in pushing back the Venetian heavy horse.

The French forces have been divided and Gonzaga is captured by the Venetian heavy cavalry.

Another great weekend of gaming. The big game took so much out of us we didn't even get a "Generals" photo this time, although the obligatory trip to the pub did feature. Now we just need to think of what area to focus on next time.


  1. Wow, your AAR's are so inspiring! Wonderful stuff!

    1. Thank you Peter, it was a lot of fun.

  2. Now that is a epic marathon of a game, great armies and terrain, a splendid display of Renaissance grandeur!

    1. Cheers Chris, we decided to try and get as many figures as possible in this one while still keeping it "gameable"

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you Willie, it's always fun to do a large scale battle

  4. Wow Oli this looks amazing, epic batrep. This has really made me look forward to our game in September even more!

    1. Cheers Tom, yes I think Seminara in 1495 is still the way to go for that game

  5. Fantastic looking games and two historical results! Great fun,does sound like a marathon!
    Best Iain

    1. Thank you Iain, it was a marathon but the end result was worth it.

  6. Those pictures look wonderful. Very inspiring.

    1. Cheers Carole, we wanted to use loads of figures and less terrain for this game.

  7. A wonderful report and a great advert for the Italian Wars. I have fought this battle but using Pike and Shotte. The poor Venetians have little chance against the Swiss and the gendarmes.Well done to you and Stuart for a class battle.

    1. Thank you, yes the Venetians looked like they had the day a couple of time but the French were just too strong.

  8. Marvelous battle report, Oli! The narrative coupled with photos of your beautiful armies is a real pleasure to see. Great stuff! Pete’s Venetian flags are so colorful. Glad to see them on the table.

    1. Cheers Jonathan, I had been meaning to give my collection an outing on the table as the Venetians for a while and this was a great opportunity. It's always far more rewarding to do the game with lots of the correct flags being flown.

  9. That is one truly epic game! And you even had time for one skermish round as well! Good times.

    1. Thank you, I think it was the largest 28mm game I have played.

  10. The card-based reroll system is a good idea for such a large game but still with only 2 players.

    1. Thank you, I know this is a game you have played out a couple of times. The cards did change the game significantly.

  11. An excellent write up and some cracking photographs which really capture the chaos of the game. It was a marathon of a day but thoroughly enjoyable. It also changed my gaming style, I think that's the most aggressive I've played as opposed to my usual cautious manouvering ! You definitely got the Swiss just right, it'll be interesting to see them in open country, perhaps a two day refight of Marignano is on the cards ?
    Excellent company too mate, it's always a pleasure.


    1. I really enjoyed it mate. The marathon nature of the game is my excuse for the drinking that followed afterwards! We will have to think of the next campaign/scenario to game, as always I have about 200 ideas!

      Now how could we do special rules for Marignano...

  12. Replies
    1. Cheers Simon, you will notice a decent amount of Steel Fist minis made it into the game, it was the debut for my newly finished Light Cavalry.

  13. Wow, what a great AAR! I love this era, own armies for it but in 18mm (Blue Moon). Your paint jobs are spectacular. Pete's flags are wonderful, I use his too.
    Can't wait to read about your next clash. Keep up the great work!

    1. Thank you Joseph, I did this period in 15mm previously but have sold my armies now. There are some great sculpts for the Italian Wars in 15mm and of course it means you can have even bigger games!

  14. Superb, I need to fire the laptop up and see it at the size it deserved to be seen.

    1. Cheers Phil - yes have a look on the laptop for some of the little details on the table.

  15. Great batrep for a little seen battle. Nice.

    1. Cheers Hendrid - yes it doesnt get as much coverage as some of the other battles. I like the fact it is an Italian Wars battle where one of the Italian States fields a large force independently.

  16. Could I have your scale of game, otherwise how many soldiers a unit of cavalry represents ,? infantry , light cavalry , heavy cavalry

    1. Hi Rudi, I don't game to any particular scale - all the games are far more abstract and stylised. Getting the aesthetic and the look of the troops and banners is key for me as well as trying to get the correct troop types that were in the battle or skirmish I am recreating. The units are based on what I feel looks right - so pike units have more figures and are denser, skirmish units have far less and are spaced out but in the rules we use they both have 12 "points" of damage.