Dark Ages at Warfare 2023
Carolingian Frankish vs Justinian Byzantine
Another year, another trip down the M3 to Farnborough Aerodrome for the Warfare ADLG competition and this time a first outing for the Carolingian Franks. As well as being new figures, they had the other advantage of being quite a different style of army to those I'd played with earlier in the year, so a good chance to test out some new tactics and approaches too
This army was a lockdown purchase (painted up after it ended) and one mainly based around getting my sweaty hands on some Baueda figures to see how they came out once painted, and with me already owning other manufacturers versions of most of their other ranges the Carolingians ended up being almost the only choice. The other reason of course being my longstanding obsession with The Hold Steady, in who's early songs the character of Charlemagne features regularly
Having said that I supplemented the core Baueda figures with some Forged in Battle chaps too, mainly to get some more variety into the Impetuous cavalry elements of the list, but also to pick up some figures slightly cheaper than the Baueda ones
Carolingian is one of those relatively few armies that isn't really morphable from, or into other lists. The mix of round shield, distinctive helmet-ed cavalry and relatively few support troops doesn't really fit with anything else I owned, and even though the core idea (lots of charging cavalry) is pretty simple that does mean a unique painting and purchasing regime to get hold of them and deploy them.
There are two variations, either uncontrollable Impetuous cavalry or highly trained drilled Impact lancers, both with a decent amount of Elite quality. It's not subtle, but it has the potential to be effective, and to get a quick resolution - which is always important at a trade-show event like Warfare.
I even bought some infantry - these are almost all from Baueda - but really they play a supporting role in this army to the main strike force of Elite Impact Heavy Cavalry.
With the benefit of one practice game, and a strong infusion of Saturday morning coffee soon the Carolingians wee heading down the motorway to the wide open spaces of the Farnborough expo centre to take on their first opponent of the weekend - the Justinian Byzantines led by my several-times-a-year opponent Darryl Pearce
The lists for the Carolingian Frankish and Justinian Byzantine from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Warfare can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
Justinian is a classic Byzantine list, still in the early phase of top quality shooting or charging cavalry, before the armies start to become firstly double-armed shoot and scoot experts, and then finally morph into Knight delivery mechanisms.
That early status does mean the main foot are some Romanized Skoutatoi who are basically degraded legionaries, and a fair wedge of impetuous charging Heruls and the like in a near-Patrician type Foederate way. All in all a good army for a straight up fight with the equally lance-ish Carolingians
Both armies were led by Strategists, so the challenge of winning initiative was down to the dice - a roll-off in which Charlemagne defeated Justin, allowing the Carolingians to attack in the open plains
With neither side too keen on terrain the table had fallen relatively open, with some pieces scattered around the edges and a temptingly placed plantation into which the Byzantines had clearly dropped an ambush of some sort
This had however not exactly worked out in the Byzantines favour, as they plonked an ambush from their central command into the plantation - only to realise this meant Justinian and his command needed to be deployed entirely to the left of the hidden troops!
Well, at least that is what it looked like - there was of course the possibility that this was yet another cunning Byzantine ruse, of the type which they were rightly famous for.
But, at 9am on a wet Saturday morning... let's face it, probably not!
As the Carolingian horsemen swept forward across the open ground intent on overwhelming the rather isolated Byzantine cavalry wing, Justinian scrabbled frantically to redeploy his Skoutatoi and cavalry to try and plug the gaping hole in the middle of the Byzantine battle line
The Carolingian Army Organisation
With thunderous hooves and gleaming swords raised high, Carolingian Caballeros charged recklessly forward, their war cries echoing across the battlefield.
OK, with a Strategist and a Brilliant Commander, they weren't entirely reckless - the iron discipline of Charlemagne and his Barons kept the Impetuous elements of the army in check, allowing them to judge the best distance at which to stop in front of the Byzantine horse archers, just out of range of their arrows
The Byzantines were brave, or aware of the possibility of being caught in an evade (pick one) - they stepped up and unleashed a volley of archery
Charlemagne annd the Franks
Suddenly the table turned into a maelstrom of melee, a clash of combat and a fury of fighting as the Carolingians smashed into the Byzantine line - led by their far right hand Bukellarii unit, who had sought to charge down the Carolingian archers only to come a bit of a cropper in the first round.
What's The Odds of That Then ?
This chart shows the casualties that can be expected when an Armoured Cavalryman charges into a supposedly squishy Bowman nestled between 2 supporting spearmen
The Cavalry's "Furious Charge" bonus hit means that both sides can expect to do almost exactly the same number of hits in total (23 vs 22), however the important thing for the Bowmen is that they are only eliminated in 1/12 outcomes, only lose in 5/18, and actually win in 5/12 outcomes
Even if the cavalry do win out, they are faced with a difficult choice of either advancing into a position where either spearman can then flank them next turn, or the possibility of having enemy spearmen conform into them, drawing them into a protracted melee where they are 1-2 factors down anyway
The bowmen now had the bit between their teeth, secure in their double-spear-support, and they unsheathed their nasty little daggers and dragged the Byzantine cavalryman to his doom
Catastrophe then piled upon disaster for Justinian's men, as the routing cavalry burst through the Sub General's Bukellarii unit to their rear, causing them to lose a second hit (having been injured by archery earlier in the game).
The Sub-General then was forced to roll for the loss... and recorded a "1", falling off his own horse and in the process taking his own unit down too. A 2-unit gap had now appeared at the end of the Byzantine line, with two of their best units and one of it's leadership cadre's leading lights already lost.
Charlemagne and the Carolingians
Charlemagne, also known as Charles the Great, was the King of the Franks and Lombards and eventually became the Emperor of the Carolingian Empire, which covered much of Western Europe during the early Middle Ages. His military campaigns and reforms had a significant impact on the Carolingian army.
Early Military Campaigns:
Charlemagne's military career began in the late 8th century. One of his earliest and most notable campaigns was against the Lombards in Italy in 773.
He defeated King Desiderius and became the King of the Lombards.
Charlemagne also faced repeated incursions from the Moors in Spain and successfully defended his kingdom against them.
The jubilant archers then launched themselves into the opportunely exposed flank of the Justinian line, eager to add more Bukellarii to their roster of victims in this early morning conflagration of combat.
As the clash of steel met the clash of shields, the Carolingian Caballeros, energized by the support their hitherto unremarkable archers were delivering, carved a path through enemy cavalry, their disciplined formations breaking under the relentless assault.
Over on the opposite flank, the micro command of mounted archers was busy driving off a series of small packets of second tier Byzantine cavalry. On this flank too the support of the infantry archers was proving decisive, as the unprotected Byzantine reservists dare not tarry too long in range of the accurate and fast-firing shooters
Obscure Hold Steady Reference Hint - Charlemagne is a pimp and drug dealer who is often mentioned in Hold Steady songs. Holly mistakes him for her saviour.
Because Charlemagne is dealing drugs (and given the many pop culture and musical references in Hold Steady songs), it is possible that the name is meant to be a reference to the Steely Dan song "Kid Charlemagne" which is loosely based on the LSD-chemist Augustus Owsley Stanley III.
Kid Charlemagne, by Steely Dan
With the archers having destroyed the enemy right flank almost singlehanded, the Caballero's in the centre were making sure they too could claim some glory.
The impact of the charging chivalric horsemen against the enemy cavalry was like a force of nature, horses and riders alike tumbling under the sheer momentum of the Carolingian onslaught.
My Carolingian Army List
Charlemagne as Strategist
2 Caballeri, Heavy Cavalry Impact, Elite
2 Caballeri, Heavy Cavalry Impetuous, Elite
2 Caballeri, Medium Cavalry Impetuous
1 Basque Light Cavalry Javelin
1 Basque Light Infantry Javelin
2 Infantry Spearmen, Heavy Spearmen, Mediocre
1 Archer, Bowmen
The whole point of this army is to apply a load of Heavy Cavalry lancers to a relatively weak point in the enemy line as quickly as possible, aiming to overwhelm them before they can react. In this command that is the two blocks of Elite Caballerii, with the 2 Medium non-Elite guys either widening the core line of 4 Elites or sitting behind in a rear rank which gets "left behind" when the front line charges home, creating a tasty reserve which can either exploit any gaps the front line create, or fill any gaps where they stumble.
Two Spearmen and an archer is a substitute for the lack of skirmishing cavalry in the army list, as they can sit on a flank and create a 3-unit-wide obstacle that enemy Cavalry, and especially LH dare not approach too closely. A bowman and 2 mediocre spearmen are a tricky combination for enemy mounted (or even foot) to approach, as the bow can dish out quite a lot of damage, with even a single hit usually evening the odds for anyone thinking they can attack the fairly brittle spearmen with impunity. The Basque Light Infantryman provides a screen to one of the Spearmen against enemy shooting, or an extra overlap if anyone does date to attack them.
The Light Horse is there to do odd jobs, covering the Lancers from an initial round of shooting maybe, helping the MCv to fill in gaps that may arise as combat is joined, or even sneaking round the back of an outflanked enemy and preventing enemy LH from evading when they are charged by the Carolingian spearmen
Charlemagne as a Strategist is near-obligatory, as otherwise why would you use the army? Using him gives you extra command points, his extra terrain movement will also help clear a broad open space for the Caballerii charge, and he is also a boost towards winning initiative, allowing the army to get first mover advantage to further reinforce its swift attack philosophy.
The embattled Justinians had no answer to the wave after wave of aggressive Carolingian lancers.
Mounted archery had failed to even the odds, and now only a small pocket of resistance was left standing - the Carolingians were zipping back and forward everywhere like Adderall-addled lunatics, and the Justinian's were frankly nowhere.
Charlemagne in Sweatpants
When he's holding them, the streetlamps, they seem an awful lot like spotlights
Yeah, sometimes Charlemagne gets uptight,
Running numbers between bars, running girls between the cars
And sometimes Charlemagne feels alright, alright, alright..
Finally, the last man standing was Justinian himself - surrounded, stripped of his men, and stripped of his dignity by the barbarous Christians of the new Holy Roman Empire
Every single Byzantine cavalryman in the centre of the field had been removed from play, as the ex-Roman army had failed to recover from its deployment mishap and simply been steamrollered by an unsubtle attack of furious-charging lancers
The Result is a huge win for Charlemagne !
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 Carolingian Frankish Commander
Lords and Ladies, noble vassals and gallant knights, I stand before thee today not as a sovereign in isolation, but as a humble shepherd of a realm made great by the valour and blood of each one gathered in this hallowed assembly. Let the trumpets sound and the banners unfurl, for today we revel not just in the triumph of battle, but in the culmination of destiny's dance.
Behold, the tapestry of our conquests, woven with the golden threads of bravery and sacrifice. The echoes of the battlefield still linger in the air, and the soil beneath our feet is consecrated by the footsteps of warriors who pledged their lives to our cause - and also of course to the enemy who were not quite as good as our knights, and so gave their lives even more generously too.
On this sacred ground (OK, hard concrete exhibition hall floor), beneath heaven's gaze, we stand not only as conquerors but as architects of a new era in which Impact Heavy Cavalry can reign supreme!
My loyal knights, your mettle hath been tested in the crucible of war, and like the finest steel, you emerged unyielding, unbroken. With a heart unshaken and blades unsheathed, you faced the tempest of chaos and guided our realm through the storm. And, of course, a word for the bowmen and spears who did such sterling work on the left flank to hold off, defeat and then roll up the enemy line.
Onward, then, to a future where our deeds shall be sung in the annals of history, and our legacy, a beacon for generations yet unborn!
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Seriously? Just charging at the enemy? And you deign to bring such a paucity of military imagination before one such as I, the mighty Hannibal?
In the vast tapestry of wit, thou art but a threadbare patch of repetition, incapable of any thought other than putting cavalry front and centre and praying to the gods that they do the work your mind is clearly incapable of doing itself
A bard without a spark, thou bringest forth tales as dull as a worn blade in which troops line up, charge home and roll dice - not a spark of interest flickers in the windows of your petty mind I wager.
If imagination were a ship, thou wouldst be stranded in the doldrums of mediocrity, but let us see if the stuff breeze of competition can provoke you to move towards competence in the next game?
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition