Ancestors of the French : A Tournament in Normandy, 2023
Norman vs Normans
Finally, with round 3 starting at a dusk-threatening 4pm, the long-awaited Norman Civil War (NCW) was conjured out of the wargaming ether by the powers of computerized Gallic magic.
This would see my Normans facing more Normans under the command of a players called, well, Nicolas - just going to prove that you can't have everything in life lining up perfectly all of the time
Normans are pretty much the same as Normans, with charging Knights many of whom can be Elite, a textbook block of heavy infantry spearmen which in 1066 can be stiffened by dismounted Knights clad in chainmail armour. You also get a flock of bowmen, as seen on the Bayeux Tapestry (but sadly not the mounted archers clearly represented in the very last panel of the embroidered epic bedsheet). A Breton ally is a very tempting 3rd command to give a bit more skirmishing capacity with light horse and javelin-armed medium cavalry as well.
In this game it turned out that I'd gone for the Bretons (as you already know) and Nicolas had leant much more heavily on the armoured spearmen front, as well as ducking the Guillame Le Conquerant option too
The lists for the Norman and Normans from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Normandy can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
I'd won the initiative (Guilliame doing his stuff) and attacked my opponent in the "Bois" (woods in France), partly as I hoped to pen parts of his army in and swarm the rest of it, but more significantly to demonstrate the fact that I knew the French word for "Woods" and could pronounce it with a very passable French accent
With Nicolas dropping a coast and a small wood I further bulked out the terrain with more woods and a hill, cluttering the enemy side of the table and splitting their deployment options
This resulted in the opposing rebel Normans putting their large infantry command next to the waterway, which I had opposed with the skirmishing Breton ally, allowing me to throw loads of Knights at the other, much more open flank.
This was truly a wall of Knights against a wall of Knights - almost nothing else seemed to matter, or indeed be keen to sneak into the photo to disturb the linear knightliness of this teatime festival of charging at the end of a long pointy stick
OK, well maybe apart from my block of Spearmen who were keen to neutralise some of the opposing Knights in order to give my own mounted force an opportunity to engineer an overwhelming advantage on the right hand end of my line where the opposition light horse scouts waited nervously smoking their Gitanes and polishing their onions in the fast-fading afternoon light
Next to the gently lapping waves along the coastal shoreline, an almost uncountable (OK, 6 units and 48 figures, plus assorted archers too) number of armoured Norman spearmen were trying to work out what to do next, and also what they might have done to deserve the sort of contempt that the fact their enemies had decided that sending a lone unit spearmen to oppose them might imply for their manly Gallic military prowess
Why is Normandy so "Viking-ey?"
If you can stay in a line, stay in a line is often the easiest answer to the question of how to play any sort of pre-1900's wargame, and my Normans were absolutely taking it to their little lead Galoise-inhaling hearts this afternoon as their wall of kite-shaped shields stretched ever further to the far end of the playing surface, much to the chagrin of the opposition Norman cavalry force.
The opposing mounted scouts had already seen the writing on the playing cloth, and bugged out at some speed.
What's in my list then?
The third and final command is a classic sledgehammer, intended for hurling at the enemy but with a smidge of capability to function on its own in extremis too.
This command was made up of:
- 2 Milites Elite
- 2 Milites Ordinary
- 1 Breton Scout Light Horseman with javelin
The General is Competent and included in one of the Elite Milites. Having a Competent general included does mean his loss in (an inevitable) combat would have a more significant impact on the overall morale of the army than if he had been an Ordinary general, but with 4 Impetuous Knights under his command, and in a list where they will need to coordinate with Knights in the CinCs command as well I decided that the extra command and control that comes with Competence was worth the tradeoff (whereas I thought it wasn't for the 3 knight command in the Berber list from Alicante 2023).
Including him saves 3 points to be spent elsewhere, and commits him to the fight as well - adding his own combat power to some of the best units in the army. Once he is in combat his ability to control his troops practically evaporates, but given the other 3 knighst will be in combat alongside him by then, and his LH can evade if they get into danger too that wasn't really a material consideration either.
A Norman army is always likely to have a load of knights screaming down the middle of the table, so this command is one hat can be placed down first in the ADLG command-by-command deployment sequence without giving too much away as well!
With my Spearmen having steamed forward the opposition decided that this was the best time to start the battle proper, and issuing loud Norman French battle cries stirred their steeds into motion to come crashing into the line of defensively-minded infantry lanciers
Somehow I had conspired to involve one of the units of my non-elite Knights in this maelstrom of military action, as their more Elite daffodil-planting colleagues slipped effortlessly into the role of providers of high quality overlaps in combat
The rest of the enemy's Knights echeloned gently outwards, refusing to be easily overlapped while still being somewhat intimidated by the sheer numbers of essentially identical future opponents still hammering toward them at some speed
Aaaah! Who needs to be elite eh?
The first cataclysmic clash of mounted warriors had resulted in a massive hole being ripped in the enemy rebel Norman line, right at what appeared to be the worst imaginable place as my Ordinary Milites trampled their opponents underfoot to remove them from the game
The second block of rebel Milites were now in real trouble, and boy did they know it as their eyes widened beneath their conical nasal-defending metal helmets!
As better lighting returned finally to the battlefield the rest of my Knights almost all made it into combat too. Horseflesh, lances and swords were now flying liberally around as generations of Norman Imperial horsemanship and noble breeding merged into one furious linear whirlwind of intense battle malarkey, but with added soft cheese
The cavalry drama seemed a very long way off to the rebel Norman infantry, who were still plodding their way forward out of their seaside deployment zone towards the patiently waiting Williamite Spearmen.
In their slow motion eagerness to get into action the enemy infantry had become something of a jumbled traffic jam of mail-clad pedestrians, all jostling together as they tried valiantly to walk forward and find someone to poke with a sharpened stick
The rest of the enemy knights were still impaled on my wall of spearmen, and now were being rolled up by one of the countless units of my own Milites who had broken away from the all-mounted melee.
The enemy rebel Normans fought with a ferocity born of years of training and a deep sense of duty to their lords and their country.
They swung their swords with all their might, aiming for the chinks in the spearmen's wall of shields, but the stoic infantrymen successfully parried and blocked every blow aimed their way.
Stinking Comte! As the two companies of knights milled together, the thunderous sound of metal splintering through wood echoed across the battlefield.
The clash of steel roiled like an approaching storm rang out as the knights brutal melee continued on unabated, swords flashing in the sunlight everywhere you looked.
The fight was intense and chaotic, with knights grappling and wrestling each other to the ground. Horses neighed in terror as they trampled over fallen knights, adding to the cacophony of battle - but Guilliame's men had the vital advantage of position and numbers, and slowly and surely they started to lap around the flanks of the embattled rebel Milites.
Andouillette Enorme! The knights fought with honour and chivalry, but the heat of the moment often caused them to lose sight of their code of conduct. They used their fists, elbows, and even their helmets to bludgeon their opponents in close-quarters combat, ignoring the rules of etiquette that dictated they should only fight with their swords.
Proper BBC History
Creme de la menthe! As the battle raged on, the rebel knights grew weary, but their determination never wavered.
They fought with a single-minded purpose, driven by their loyalty to their lord, their desire for victory and the passion which can only be created by regular soakings in a bath of room temperature Calvados.
However, all of that was for naught when set against the in-game advantages of double overlaps and smashing a furious Norman Milites into the flank as well - the Loyalist Faction was creeping ever closer to victory!
Calvados in a Cupcake! The rebel spearmen's thoughts turned to an evening of fruit-covered pastry consumption as the realisation slowly dawned on them that they had been taken out of the game by the lopsided Loyalist deployment and the delaying tactics of the extremely fragrant smelling Bretons
Ah! The day was not quite done for the rebel spearmen! Finally they reached the edge of the Loyalist centre, and giving blood curdling cried they charged into the tapestry-filling Bowmen of Guillame and his army
Bain Marie! This was a test the Norman archers were not really prepared for, nor one they were capable of winning.
Their prayers turned to their Noble Lords, and hoping that the enemy army could be crushed by their Milites before their own death occurred at the hands of the enemy heavy foot
The Bretons were now taunting the rebel spearmen with their own buttocks, safe in the knowledge that even if the enemy charged them it would simply be the signal for them to head to the already-warmed creperie hotplate nestled gently in the heart of their own encampment
Viking of Frenchman?
The Rebel Normans were being erased from the battlefield, and erased from the embroidery of history as Guillame's men surged back and forth at will
The battlefield was littered with the fallen, their armour glinting in the fading light of day as Guillame's army inched painstakingly towards a win.
Finally, fittingly, the telling blow was struck by Guillame and his knights. Standing tall in his saddle, helmet held aloft, he accalimed the victory as his nobles removed the last Rebel knight to reclaim the crown of Caen for their lord and master!
The Result is a victory to end the first day!
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 Norman Commander
Well well well Mr Grimsdale, what a victory, and in terms of Norman Wisdom I can confidently say that predicting that an opponent will look to anchor their heavy infantry against a waterway and deploying accordingly is a nugget of knowledge that is well worth remembering for future reference.
Using that expectation - and being right - allowed my army to massively outnumber the enemy Milites in the open flank, putting a huge advantage in numbers into deadly effect.
The solution as always is simple, local superiority, elan, dash and martial fury, and a love of French cuisine which exceeds the love your opponent has for the same set of cream, pear and apple-based foodstuffs.
In the end, as my descendants will say, God is on the side of the big battalions.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Oh, how William, the conqueror, hath lost his wits! Thou art a gluttonous swine, gorging thyself on the spoils of war and much local food and drinks whilst thy kingdom hangs by a thread.
Dost thou not remember the perilous times when thou wast on the brink of losing thy throne to these rebels? Hast thou become so blind with indulgence that thou dost forget the hardships that thou hast faced?
Thou art a foolish and shortsighted ruler, who dost not see the treacherous enemies that still plot against thee. Thou dost squander the victory that thy soldiers hath won for thee, and thy arrogance shall be the downfall of thy reign.
Remember, oh William, that a true king must be vigilant and resolute, for his kingdom is ever under threat from within and without. Thy recklessness doth insult thy brother, who hath the foresight to see the dangers that lie ahead. Thou art a disgrace to thy lineage and thy subjects, who shall surely suffer for thy folly in the next game
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition