The Worlds in Charleroi 2016
Italian Condotta - Florence vs Italian Condotta
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Yes folks, this is the big one. The first time ADLG has been played at The Worlds, and the first time I've gone for, erm, 2 years since playing FoGR in Germany fairly unsuccessfully in 2014. This year the event has held in the glamorous and chic Belgian town of Charleroi, famous amongst other things for being the home to Brussels second best airport and also being one of Europes leading tourist hubs for fans of post-industrial decay on a quite staggering scale.
The relatively uneventful but inevitably delayed by 30 minutes Channel Tunnel crossing succesfully achieved, Teutonic engineering was unleashed on the motorway network of first France, and then Belgium as we no doubt took some sort of historic invasion route in reverse and duly arrived in Charleroi to ensconce ourselves at the picturesque Ibis near the Railway Station, which, as it turned out, was probably the most atttractive view in the whole town right now
The first night saw us head through the heart of downtown and plant ourselves first in a bar selling odd beer, and then, attracted like moths to a flame ended up in a Moules & Frites place with 2Kg of moules per head. With beer.
Despite its staggering beauty the key point about Charleroi is that it is in Belgium, so it has the twin advantages of being both good for beer, and convenient for getting their either by train or car from the UK. Which of these two seemingly unconnected factors was more instrumental in Team Central London putting together a fearsome five-pack of top quality players you can decide for yourself....
I had chosen to take Italian Condotta, maninly on the basis that I had just won a tournament with it, and being busy with work meant I hadn't really had any time to work out something different.
The Condotta army I took was slightly tweaked from the previous competition, where I had 2 included generals. This time I took both of them out of units and used them unattached, on the basis that the cost (in army break points) of losing a General and the unit he is embedded with could be quite painful for the 20-odd unit sized army which was my Condotta list. Other than that it was still a Knight command, a Bow/Crossbow command with stiffening Pikes and an allied command of the Free Company to chomp enemy foot.
After an interesting drive through deserted steelworks and a quick water and juice stop at a Kurdish supermarket Team Central London arrived at the enormous Nissen Hut which was the venue, and the first round slid gently into place. L'Art de la Guerre was the biggest period on offer at the event this year, attracting 50% more players than FoGAM and the ADLG field was made up of 45 players drawn from 6 countries, including the US, Spain, Italy, France, Belgium and our motley band of fools from the UK ... and in round 1 I was paired up with another Condotta (Venetian?), driven by a chap from Belgium who looked disconcertingly like the younger McNeill....
The lists for the Italian Condotta - Florence and Italian Condotta from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Charleroi can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
Potentially disconcertingly, the opposing Venetian (lets just go with that) Condotta army was put together in a very different way to mine, and also, through the use of large numbers of Light Foot handgunners, seemed to outnumber my army as well by a goodly distance. In a congested table I had deployed with the Free Company on the left, the Bow/Crossbow command in the centre and the Knights on my right, ready hopefully to push round a hill and threaten the flank of an advancing enemy.
The first skirmishes of this entire weekend too place, somewhat fittingly for an event so proximate to the Ardennes, on a wooded hill on my left flank as Venetian handgunners explained at close range to my men that "many" handgunners are better than "fewer" handgunners. I was on the back foot straight away...
With the Free Company hopefully better than their opponents, and not too much in the way of troops holding the open space to the right flank my army pushed forward to bring the opposition to battle. Their Knights were wedged inbetween their infantry and the wooded hill, ideally placed for the Longbows and Crossbows of the Florentines to degrade them before the Knight-on-Knight clash happened.
And, with the crossbowmen finding their range almost immediately, that was what started to happen with the Venetians picking up markers as the bolts rained into them on a flat trajectory which somewhat eroded the accuracy of the whole rain-based metaphor.
Pictures of Medieval Foot in 15mm from my Ancients Photo Directory
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With not enough space to fit and faced in any case by high quality foot the English Longbowmen in the Free Company command had been tasked with helping shore up the left flank from the maraudering handgunners. A lone LH started to get cold feet about his plan to silently sack a camp...
What's Going on Here Then?
The Venetians have deployed between two wooded hills, protecting their flanks and allowing them to put out a solid line of combat-capable troops in the open. My forces are designed on the assumption of a wider playing surface, and more enemy mounted and so some of the bowmen in my army, who hope to shoot enemy mounted, instead now find themselves positioned as combat troops in the line whilst others simply do not fit and are being tasked with contesting the wooded hills on the flanks to protect my advance into combat in the centre where the Free Company halberdiers should have the edge on the Venetian spearmen.
The two armies were moving towards each other, but the spearpoint of the Venetian army was their small Swiss block of Pikemen and halberdiers. These units greatly outclassed both my own Poor Pikemen and also the Spear/Crossbow combined units making up this flank - and with the Pikemen also having taken a shooting hit they really didn't want to play until at least they recovered. Knowing they would soon be in combat, the Crossbow/Pavisers shot furiously at the enemy Knights with partial success, hoping to forge an opening for their own Knights before they were Swissed over.
The initial charge of the Florentine knights was a great success, hitting the bowfire-weakend Venetians and smashing through their brittle front line at first contact! The Condotta were playing a bold and dicey game, as the over-extended charge had left their flanks vulnerable, but if the enemy were to try and take advantage of this opportunity they too would find themselves at the mercy of the second wave of Florentine infantry. The Swiss suddenly had too many targets to overpower...
Elsewhere on the table the Free Company were definitely in contact against a mirror-image command of Italians - halberdiers on halberdiers is a pretty brutal combat but the more numerous enemy army had positioned itself so there were overlaps at both ends of their lines, a potentially tricky situation for Hawksmoor and his men...
Everyone was engaged in a close-quarters struggle, where the "+1 if you win" ability of the halberdiers threatened to resolve the combats far faster than it would do with more normal infantry on infantry slogging matches.
By now the bowmen were into the woods on the flank, supporting the Florentine skirmishers and looking to use their greater mass to push the Venetians out and maybe even open up the flanks of the line of combat to some bow charging downhill into them. After all, that's what would happen in FoG, right?
The right was starting to get bogged down into an attritional sideshow, with both sides spending their movement pips elsewhere trying to eke an advantage in the Knight on Knight combat. Here, shooting to and from a wood, nothing much was happening - probably much to the relief of the mostly mercenary forces which made up both sides armies.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Venetians waiting game has seen the Florentines advance into something of an envelopment - and even where the Florentine forces have been able to push forwards (on the right against the Venetian Knights) the Venetians rock-solid Swiss Pikemen have held back the rest of my line and effectively created internal flanks against my successful Knights. Unable to realistically contest either wooded hill, although still frittering away units and pips in a half-hearted attempt to do so, my army is also now suffering from threats to both outer flanks as well. Florentine success will depend on a series of swift victories for the Free Company dismounted knights and halberdiers - a tricky thing to achieve when they are faced with overlaps and fighting resilient 4-hit enemy HF, even when some of their opponents are Poor quality.
Despite in theory being pretty evenly matched, the weight of casualties was very much falling on the Florentines, with some newish medieval hit markers appearing on the table to denote step losses for the units from Florence.
The fighting was hand to hand and desperate, with both sides collecting hits like they were late middle ages schoolboys with Pannini football stickers, but in this case featuring famous Condottieri generals through the decades instead of millionaire players with silly haircuts and orange boots. The Venetian knights in particular were in trouble, and their demise would allow Florence's nights into the rear areas of Venice - but the Florentines and their much smaller army size could not afford this level of losses for much longer either,
The Free Company were not doing well at all however, outnumbered, overlapped and out fought they were seeing large holes appear in their once-solid formation. And holes mean overlaps, and overlaps mean crushing defeat.
The Knights were almost through - both sides flung non-combat-ready troops into combat to try and tip the balance in their favour
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Bowmen can't charge enemy troops they can shoot at, but they can move into overlap positions to support friends already engaged. In combat, not in a matrimonial fashion, obvs...
They were through! Battered, down in hits, but now flowing round the Swiss like water. San Pelligrino presumably...
Hawksmoor and his me were however just about done, and the Venetian infantry flowed around them like something from a medieval horror movie emerging from any number of dark places..
What's Going on Here Then?
The Florentine Knights have broken through, but bad phasing of the attacks by the various commands has also seen the Venetians gain the upper hand against the Free Company and so the victorious Florentine Knights may be too late, and too exhausted to have an impact on the rest of the Venetian army. The Venetian army is still largely intact, with many low-points-cost units safe from attack on the wooded hills on both flanks where they are able to influence the battle with relative impunity due to the lack of rough-terrain-capable units in my Florentine army.
The whole command was now gone, sort of justifying the decision to take a separate general... but not really doing much for my chance of victory.
The bowmen continued to stare each other out as knightly hooves thundered around them. The Knights were poised to attack so many targets of opportunity, but the Venetians moved first and turned the Swiss Kiel into the flank of one of the knights, smiting him a mighty blow....
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Hit someone in the flank and they fight at zero, and you add +1 for hitting a flank. In this case, the two units started in side-to-side combat, so the pike turn to face the Knights is a "free" conform move, made for zero pips, as this is a rules mechanism to allow a line of combats to more easily continue. As this is a continuation of an earlier combat, neither side counts as charging so there are no charge-related bonuses or effects (Impact & Furious Charge for example) in this combat.
It was a blow which could not be survived. The Knight was eliminated, and with it the Florentine army. A major defeat...
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition, or read on for the post match summaries from the Generals involved, as well as another episode of legendary expert analysis from Hannibal
Post Match Summary from the Italian Condotta - Florence Commander
Well, that certainly did not proceed as planned. After my series of victories using this army at Devizes earlier this campaigning season I was expecting my brave yet mostly hired for money soldiery to put up a better fight, yet here they seemed to struggle to get across the start line far less close out the game.
I had hoped that the narrower frontage to the open space on the table would suit my men, but the enemy army seemed better designed and more numerous in almost every dimension, and my 6-wide set of Longbowmen and Crossbowmen could find few targets in the solid wall of fairly decent quality heavy metal which in the end faced us.
Discovering the fact that LF also have a role in holding terrain in ADLG was something which I am sure I have known before, but which perhaps too may Belgian beers the preceding night in camp stole from my brain and spirited away? I was also wishing for the return to my Devizes list of the second LH, as in the excitement to try to improve things by taking my Generals out of units (and out of risk of death in combat) I had lost a LH and with him an important extra point in the duel for initiative.
Perhaps my halberdiers were a little unlucky not to break through the enemy infantry line sooner, but really this did feel like we were attacking a bigger, wider and better constructed army from the very start and that psychological challenge proved insurmountable. There are many things to ponder here as I begin to understand that perhaps being a victor in England does not cut much ice on the European stage...
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
What a debacle, but after the unjust victory of Devizes one which had so clearly been eager in waiting in the darkness for you to stumble, booze-soaked, out of whatever fleapit hostelry you reside in to ambush you and your men and administer a stout dose of harsh reality to your fantasy visions of your own competence.
This was plain and simple a loss down to the greater experience of your opponent who knew the importance of a well constructed army. Your knights, all in one command, were no match for the flexibility of having multiple groups of mounted men under command of two generals and split across the board, your mismatched and all close formation infantry force had not enough answer to the pretty obvious challenge of dealing with rough or difficult terrain, and in simple numeracy your paltry 20 proved to be a long way short of the requirement to stand toe to toe and trade units when necessary
Added to this you made the fatal mistake of, at the most pivotal moment, of attempting to play an entirely different game when your longbowmen ventured into the woods against uphill handgunners. Not since Goldilocks and the 3 Bears has someone been so unprepared for going down to the woods...you have even sold all of your FoG army lists and rules, but even so you attempted to play that matchup as if the rules were still extant, not dead and buried on a bring and buyi
This was a thoroughly deserved loss, where poor list design, poor planning and poor play combined into an entirely predictable outcome. You my foul smelling acquaintance are at the beginning of what could be a long, long weekend in which you will almost certainly have proved to you that "Johnny Foreigner" and his 8 years of practice and experience at this seemingly simple game is in fact worth a great deal more than your soft-won so-called victories against similarly inexperienced noviates in the land of milk and full fat butter. Let us read on for more shame....in the next game
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition