Early Renaissance in Usk 2014
Italian Wars French vs Ming Chinese
Usk - this year with less snow, and with a Renaissance theme that also included some tweaked and updated armies that were refugees from the end of the FoGAM period - which was probably for the good, as the number of FoGR players now outnumbered those in AM by some distance.
A dreadfully early start involving leaving London around 630 was only briefly enlivened by an unromantic interlude in a Costa Coffee in the M4 services just outside Bristol, and then the intrepid band of four Central London warriors were across the bridge and into the land of mountains and dragons - sort of like in the Hobbit, but without quite so many, erm, hobbits… although come to think of it, Dave is a little short, definitely likes his breakfast …and none of us have ever seen his feet.
The army we had selected was French Italian Wars. A classic choice, building on the experience gained in the Southampton round of the Southern League at the end of 2013, but with added Reiters. These unfashionable Average Shooty-Pistol armed Horse were potentially our secret weapon, with two 6-packs complementing 2 units of full-fat fully leaded Gendarmes, and a brace of Kiels - Swiss and Landsnecht. Either that or they would be our downfall…..
The lists for the Italian Wars French and Ming Chinese from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Usk can be seen here in the FoGR Wiki.
The draw had been, erm, sort of random, and therefore we dived headlong into unhistorical combat as our post-High Medieval European army found itself facing a Ming horde of Asiatic warriors, recently having invented gunpowder and having clearly embraced it far more enthusiastically than the French.
Note - The quality of photo is a little iffy at times in these reports - whilst it was a bright sunny day, the curtains were closed in the room for much of the morning as otherwise the blinding sun shone directly into the faces of about half of the players present. This means some photos were taken in quite poor light
The table had a fair amount of terrain, most of which fell on our opponents side, leaving the Chinese little option but to do what they probably would have done anyway, and deploy all of their troops in a massively wide line just over 6" from the back of the board behind a wall of artillery. The French tactic was unsubtle - charge home, survive the shooting and then batter the Chinese in close combat. Not clever, but hopefully within our capabilities to execute, even off the back of a 5am alarm call.
Infantry need to be more than 6" from the rear edge of the table, or more than 12" from the sides or they will count a "threatened flank", giving them a -1 in shooting against enemy infantry. This keeps infantry away from the areas of the battlefield usually occupied by Cavalry, and also means you cank skulk at the back too much...
The right wing was heavily mounted - the French Gendarmes and Reiters were vulnerable to shooting by the Chinese artillery, but they would close quickly, and as long as a couple of units made it into contact they should cut through the loose formation Chinese foot like a hot knife through soft and overly fermented artisanal cheese.
In the other gap in the terrain the Landsnechts were steaming forwards - no artillery facing them, just a lot of shooting units all with regimental guns (or probably organic light artillery, the Chinese being unlikely in my estimation to have copied the idea from Gustavus Adolphus' Swedesn some one hundred years in the future)
What's Going on Here Then?
The Chinese are deployed in a line as the French rush at them. This is unlikely to change...
Alongside the Gendarmes charged the Swiss, straight at the artillery. The deployment order meant that the Chinese had actually deployed the artillery park after the Swiss had been placed, but in any case a huge resilient unit that moves faster than normal foote was probably not the worst target we could wish for the artillery to have chosen.
The Italian Wars French army reviewed
With a luxury of targets the Chinese artillery were struggling to make a decision as where best to aim - but the lead Gendarme unit was taking the initial brunt of firing, losing bases and cohesion as they galloped towards the orientals front line, encouraged by one of the four French Generals. Even if the Gendarmes were battered they could at least contact the artillery and prevent it from firing at the second wave of French troops.
On the far left of the table the French faced denser terrain and less opposition. Unsure as to whether they might actually be totally pants, the French Reiters and Carbine armed Light Horse advanced cautiously towards a small European town garrisoned by Chinese skirmishers, as in the distance some Chinese Cavalry also tried to work out if an average 6-pack of pistol armed Horse was something to fear or pity..
The main force of the French army had been advancing unimpeded and was now nearing charge range. The lead (or possible an alloy, however you'd need to ask Naismith what they are cast from) Gendarmes were now reduced to 2 bases, and peeled away to the right in order to try and survive at least into contact with some of the Chinese pedestrians as the waves of other Horse rode onwards, as did the Swiss who had suffered fearful casualties as they closed on the enemy guns
The Landsnechts were having an easier ride, with no artillery facing them - but as soon as they inched any closer they would be subject to a furious barrage of light artillery and arrows from the countless numbers of Chinese infantry. The French generals dithered as to whether the French arquebusiers could play a useful role in absorbing some enemy shooting and helping the Landsnechts get in..
Everyone was now poised to go in - it would be a fearsome clash, and one which the loose formations of the Chinese foot would be severely pressed to withstand the dense blocks of French Horse and Swiss foote.
The two lines clashed… although by now the 14-stong Swiss block had been reduced to just 10 bases.
Luxuriating in the sheer spectacle, I took the opportunity to take another shot from a different angle of the incredibly neat and tidy Chinese line. The Reiters and Gendarmes are in contact in the foreground, with the thinned out Swiss next, and over the hill the Landsnechts too are ready to go in.
On the far side the Reiters had finished reading the rules, and were pushing forwards against the confused Chinese cavalry. Whilst reading the rules on their own combat capabilities they had also stumbled across a section on LH vs LF combat and LH move distances in Difficult Terrian, which they had passed onto the grateful yet still somewhat surprised LH Carabins, who were as a result chasing the Chinese LH back through the village in tandem with some Landsnecht handgunners!
The Landsnechts themselves were ready now for combat, and had fared far better than the Swiss, with the whole unit still being intact as they got to nostril-snorting range with the Chinese bowmen opposing them.
The charge of the Gendarmes had unsurprisingly ridden straight through the lightly armed and armoured Chinese infantry, and all 6 surviving bases were now in full pursuit of the tattered remnants of the units they had been fighting and were gleefully heading to the supporting lines of units cowering behind, hoping to catch a couple of Chinese generals on the way.
The 2-base unit on the left has interpenetrated the gunnes they captured when they beat the troops supporting them… although looking back now, this might be a bit suspect as there seems to be another Chinese unit in contact with the left-hand base of the same artillery unit, so whether the gunnes should count as captured is debatable
The Gendarmes were unstoppable, in the way that troops who are +2 POAs up in most phases tend to be. They rushed onwards riding down anything in their path, not even worrying about going into rough terrain as they clamoured to cut down more Chinese infantry
What's Going on Here Then?
The Chinese left has been crushed by the Gendarmes, who are about to roll up their lines. The two Kiels are bogged down in combat
Like the Swiss however, the Landsnechts were making heavy going of beating their opponents, even though their pikes and armour were giving them similar levels of advantage In combat to the Gendarmes.
Rather irritatingly and improbably they found themselves losing bases and cohesion against a theoretically inferior foe.
But the Swiss were doing even worse - admittedly they were facing Heavy Weapon armed troops who were counting ++ for the overlaps, but even so this was not going according to plan. The big Swiss Kiel was now hanging on as a Fragmented marker made a surprising appearance
The Landsnechts continued to struggle as well, as their commanded committed himself to the front line in an attempt to stop the rot
But the rot afflicting the roots of the oak tree of Swiss Pikeness was proving to be so pervasive that the only saving grace was that William Tell was not using it for archery practice that day, as the Kiel turned and fled with only 7 bases left out of the initial 14 - at the very edge of Autobreak, and not a single base loss inflicted on the Chinese in return!!
In a vain attempt to try and make the report more interesting than a long series of photos of the same two lines of units locked in stationary combat, enlivened only by the appearance and removal of the occasional marker the French had moved up their Arquebusiers to add a little variety to the composition. Taking this role altogether too seriously they immediately added yet more interest to the "spot the difference" competition by themselves picking up a DISR marker from the Chinese shooting. Ouch!
On the far left the Chinese LF had now retreated clean through the village in the face of the French LH, and the Reiters were locked in a rather ineffectual death struggle with the Chinese cavalry facing them. If the Chinese cavalry could be beaten, three units of light gunnes lay in the path of the Reiters - a chance for the unfashionable pistoleers to play a decisive role in the game perhaps?
Finally the Landsnechts, perhaps hearing from their own handgunners how well things were going suddenly decided that the time had now arrived to make hay in the Chinese suncshine. As the strains of Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees" from the classic album "The Bends" swelled to a crescendo whilst writing thus very sentence, the Landsnechts made one huge extra push, and brought the unit acing them to the brink of autobreak! This would surely open up a huge hole in the Chinese lines through which soon they surely would be advancing, no doubt marching to the tap tap of the keyboard and the epic rock vibrato guitar chords of track 5, "Bones"…..
Bloody Hell! In a near-unique example of "Practice" following in the well trodden footsteps of "Theory", the Reiters had also selected this moment to achieve a decisive breakthrough against the Chinese cavalry - their better weapons, armour and 50% advantage in numbers finally telling as the Oriental horsemen lost bases and cohesion - something they, in their general-less state were never going to now recover from! Like a favourable 5th round FA Cup draw for Fulham in which the winner of the replay finds that they will get a home game against lower league opposition whilst the top 4 in the Premier League are all drawn against each other, the path to the Chinese artillery park was now a veritable road to Wembley almost tangibly within the grasp of the previously unfancied Reiters
Whilst "FA Cup Glory" now appeared to be the destiny of the Reiters, at least the French Arquebusiers were still upholding their end of the overstretched metaphor by emulating Fulham's EPL (that's for any American readers) form and had failed to survive the peppering of archery and had now turned and broken.
But as the proto-musketeers fled, the Landsnechts had finally gotten over the finish line - the Chinese facing them gave up their stubborn resistance and routed, to be pursued by the jubilant Germanic mercenaries who now also saw a soft Chinese underbelly appearing before them, ready to be crushed under the teutonic boot !
The Gendarmes too had finally gotten bored of running down 2nd string peasant formations, and had gotten their sh-t back together sufficiently to reform, and turn their attentions to rolling up the Chinese infantry who had proved so successful against the Swiss earlier in the game. The Chinese had done well, but the Gendarmes were a different proposition entirely,,
The Reiters continued their spectacular cup run with an away win on the road against an under strength light artillery unit who were by now saving their ammunition for an upcoming midweek league 6-pointer, their cup dreams of a win against the Reiters sacrificed for the long game of avoiding relegation back down to FoGAM.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Gendarmes are continuing to roll up the line from the right of frame, and whilst the Swiss and Arquebusiers have been routed the Landsnechts have also smashed through the Chinese Centre. On the left French horse are rolling up the other flank having gone past and through the village
With the Gendarmes now rolling up the Chinese line from right to left, the Landsnechts also turned left and started their own Chinese carpet rolling trick. Things now looked bleaker than a bleak thing on a bleak night in Bleak House on Bleaker Street for the Ming.
Here's the same sort of photo again, just in case you missed it last time.
The Gendarmes were busily making sure the Chinese deployed all of their available cohesion markers as they drove the enemy infantry back behind the line of by now extremely worried Chinese gunners
The Chinese Halberdiers were already exhausted from their exertions against the Swiss, and proved only a minor obstacle for the rampant French Nobility. They turned and fled, leaving the gunnes undefended
The Gendarmes gratefully took advantage of the open goal and racked up even more APs in their grand ride through the Chinese rear echelons
Finally, in a glorious foretaste of Wembley in May of this year, the Reiters threw off their patchy league form and lifted the final AP trophy in the form of the last Light artillery unit to send the 23 BG Ming army spiralling to defeat!
The Result is a 21-4 victory for the French!!.
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 Wars French Commander
Incroyable! Une Trop Grand Victoire pour Les Bleus! Mon plan was simple, but with a passive opponent I needed not to tax my brain and instead could spend more time taxing my loyal pre-revolutionary subjects such that I could even begin to dream of a time when in the future cake rather than bread could perchance be the staple food of all of the residents of my glorious country!
Those loyal friends of mine the Gendarmerie were more than adequately policing themselves towards a victory buolt not on the backs of the idel oppr, but wrought by the hands of the otherwise idle rich, and I feel that no more will Rue des Beneeeefits be needed to be performed in the playhouses across our glorious landes, as from now on the peasants can only be revolting insofar as they have forgotten their fear of tonnes of well armoured horseflesh bearing down on them at some speed. Mon Dieu!
My Royal Treasury - which many ladies and not a few men have remarked favourably upon it's size after being shown it in a somewhat tipsy moment of pride late after a ball at the Eleysee Palace - will further be enriched as a result of the debacle of the Suisse. As some of my best paid mercenaries I am disappointed to lose them in this fashion, however as some of my best paid mercenaries there are of course other advantages in them not being around after the battle to collect their fees as well...
Most importantly they have also no doubt contributed to the longer term strategy for the weekend, as their loss means we have not recorded an Alasdair-threatening score and so sit nicley tucked in behind the leading pack (again reminding me of post-ball occasions of days past), ready poised to spring up the table in later rounds.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Dear dear me - what an unimaginative and poorly executed assault that was, as bereft of any militay prowess as if it were sketched by a three-year old on a sheet of laundry instead of conjured up by a man apparently schooled in the military world from birth and destined by God himself to lead. I can see how your men might well be inclined to follow you anywhere, but I fear this would only be out of curiosity...
Yet again, like a man with a room temperature IQ you fell for the idiocy of believing your Swiss to be invincible, and yet again you blundered badly and were caught by the explosive failure of this overly simple plan. Attacking gunnes is a risk, and is one I agree is worth taking, however you landed in a wide formation, too shallow to maintain the 4 ranks of pikemen necessary to claim additional decisive POAs against the enemy, and allowing yourself to be overlapped on both flanks in combat by men armes with pole weapons - what idiocy is this, especially as your superlative Gendarmes were mere steps away at the time?
Your ability to beat the Halberdiers depended on you first beating them in combat, and then them failing morale tests due to the additional negative modifiers of being loose formation foote facing Close formation foot in close combat - so taking on two units simultaneously, at evens POAs and with double ++ overlaps was not really going to achieve this, was it? With the enemy stationary and in a big line it would not have been hard to maneuver better - however you Sir couldn't organise 50% leave in a 2 man submarine! Fortunately the Landsnechts did their German pork-based thing and saved your bacon, and your two wings of Horse managed to fight through the risk of being ++ up all the time against all opponents to grasp a win as well. Lets see how you do against what will no doubt be classier opposition in the next game
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