So finally I got to host a game for Lord Raglan and repay his hospitality from 18 months ago! As Gareth is getting into Italian Wars in his usual full on style we decided a game at my place might be a nice little motivator.
I chose the armies from the lists to our rules and set out the terrain but deployment had to wait until Gareth arrived and had time to study the ground on behalf of his majesty King Francis I. The Spanish Imperialists, under Don Antonio de Leyva chose to have a powerful infantry centre and punchy cavalry left wing; the right, behind the river, was home for the camp, the guns and a solitary Italian crossbow unit. The Spanish foot, under d’Urbina. formed the first line of the centre alternating shot and pike units across the front with a second line of two landsknecht pike, under Frundsberg, behind the shot to fill the gaps as they fell back, the left was formed of five cavalry units in line being a mix of Archers and Knights, under de Leyva himself, supported by two units of condottierre, under the Marquis of Marignano, behind them; in a fit of stupidity the Imperial commander (me) completely forgot about the wooded pond on this flank and so when it came to deployment realised that the Swabian & Burgundian knights were right behind it! The French opted to deploy the bulk of their Gendarmes & Archers in the centre supported by Gascons, under Vicomte Lautrec, where the going was better with the Swiss on the centre left and two units of Italian mercenary horse supported by Archers, under La Palice, on the far left; the right wing was the the Italian mercenary command under the Marquis of Saluzzo comprising two units of condottierre and two units of crossbow just behind the villages.
The opening moves saw a general advance all along the front as much as the skills of the generals would allow – each General has a Military Skill, ranging from 1 to 5, which is the number of units he can attempt to activate, usually the units outnumber the skill level. The French advance was a bit more disjointed than the solid central infantry block rolling forward on the Imperial side, on the far left the Italian cavalry just would not move and after several turns of La Palice urging them forward (and using up valuable skill points) they were left to their own devices, on the right Saluzzo was having trouble negotiating the villages which both slowed and disordered the condottierre of Malvezzo & Pitigliano; that said, the Imperialists had their own motivational problems with the condottierre of Varolo & Bentivoglio but it didn’t matter too much because the Swabian & Burgundian knights were going so slowly through the ponds!
Apart from some desultory firing, the first real action was on the Imperial left where Count Porto’s men at arms (the ones not stuck behind a wooded pond!) charged Malvezzo’s cavalry as they cleared the villages and scattered them (a specific morale failure rule were each base/squadron goes in a random direction until rallied, looks quite messy and renders the unit out of action for a couple of moves), the glory was short lived however as the charge exposed their flank to Longueville’s Archers who scattered them in turn with some well placed crossbow bolts.
In the centre, the bulk of the Gendarmes & Archers quickly realised that taking fire from the Spanish arquebusiers was not going to win them anything so a series of glorious charges were launched (and it was glorious to watch) which did see off Zamudio’s arquebusiers but Biron & Grammont’s gendarmes along with Lorraine’s Archers fell beneath Spanish pikes, with Grammont himself losing his life. All was not lost however as de Prie’s gendarmes utterly shattered the Burgundian knights and von Schaumburgs Archers and in the pursuit captured de Leyva who stupidly hadn’t got out of the way!
Despite the loss of their commander (and his skill points) the Imperialists fought on and on their left Bentoviglio’s condottierre surged forward and saw off their opposite numbers under Pitigliano which should have seen their way clear to the French camp but the two Italian crossbow units had managed to get themselves into decent positions amongst the buildings and halted any further advance thus effectively ending the action on that flank.
As the day wore on the action inevitably transferred to the centre as the opposing foot neared each other. The Imperial plan of alternating the shot and pike units along the line had worked so far but with Zamudio gone on the right and the Burgundians destroyed on the left, the flanks were open and de Prie and Montmorency were roaming free forcing the landsknechts to form schiltron to prevent their flanks being attacked – although the cavalry units were quite small the flanks of a pike unit could do very little against a charge; this left Ramassot to face the Swiss avalanche alone and despite some valiant fighting his unit gave way with heavy losses.
With the light fading the chance of a decisive victory was fading with it. The collapse of Ramassot left Frundsberg’s block to face both Swiss columns and although this was a veteran block the result would eventually only go one way. Sittlich’s block was pinned waiting for de Prie’s inevitable charge which it would crush but this meant it couldn’t help Frundberg. In the middle of the field the advance of Cardonna’s pike flanked by the arquebusiers of Arriaga & Romaeo was pretty much unopposed other than by the less than effective Gascons and they could look behind to see the Swabians and Varollo moving up to support.
Night fell and what did we have? The Swiss had powered on through and made a hole and were pretty much unassailable, the competing condottierre had cancelled each other out on the village wing and in the middle of the field the remaining Spanish were as isolated as the Swiss.
Marginal French victory we thought, mainly due to the Swiss and bonus points for some glorious gendarme charges.
Overall I think we had a reasonable approximation of an Italian Wars battle, as much as we can tell from the information available to us, the rules played well and Gareth seemed to pick them up pretty quickly which is always a relief as a rules writer. Most importantly we had fun and hopefully it wont be 18 months to the next one!