Dark Ages at Warfare 2023
Carolingian Frankish vs Patrician Roman
With a little more time that was strictly necessary to peruse the show between my 1030 finish and the 1pm start for the final round I had been able to pop in on a few Britcon exhibitors, eat a pasty, decide to buy some camel Cataphracts from Forged in battle and remark upon the lack of Victrix Numidian cavalry on any trade stand before the last game of the weekend hove into view.
And what a matchup it would be - with the Carolingians nestled in 4th place, an intra-club challenge match against the inestimable Mr Case and his as-yet undefeated Patrician Roman army was the match of the day, with both of us having the opportunity to potentially leapfrog the York on York, Paul oon Paul showdown on top table and sneak away with the Warfare prize for 2023, maybe allowing me to go one better than my 2nd place finish in the same event the previous year with the unfancied Myceneans
Anyways, having just trampled a Patrician Roman army in double-short order and taken down two almost-Patrician Early Byzantine outfits too during the weekend I was in high spirits as the game commenced
There are lots of ways to field Patrician. If you expect them all to be the same, you are at risk of being found out as being a bit of a mug..
The lists for the Carolingian Frankish and Patrician Roman 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.
The two armies were arrayed across a table which had been narrowed by a Roman-laid waterway along the Carolingian left flank. A plantation dominated the forward part of the Carolingian side of the table, creating problems for the French-originated horsemen who had a well known distaste for uneven ground bestrewn with vines
The Roman army however was a surprising composition, stacked full of Heavy Infantry Gothic-style Foederate foot and with hardly any mounted elements at all. Even the compulsory Auxilia were kept off to the side, facing off against the twice-unreliable sullen cousin in charge of the Carolingian's smallest command
The game began, and the thunderous hooves of the Carolingian noble cavalry resonated through the battlefield as they began to charge forward with the ferocity of a tempest, keen just to do the same to these Roman upstarts as they had in the previous game
The sullen cousin was still in a sulk though, having been largely ignored in the previous victory, and not even invited to share the Emperors pasty at lunchtime either.
For the third game in a row he rolled an initial "1", making him and his command non-combatants for the initial phases at least of this vital almost top-table clash in which trophies and prizes would almost certainly be decided
Charlemagne and the Carolingians
Cavalry and Infantry:
The Carolingian army was a mix of cavalry and infantry. Charlemagne placed a strong emphasis on well-trained cavalry, which became a formidable force on the battlefield.
The cavalry consisted of heavily armoured proto-knights armed with lances and swords. Infantry, including spearmen and archers, supported the cavalry.
This combined arms approach made the Carolingian army versatile and effective in various combat situations
Ignoring the lack of supporting troops to his right, Charlemagne led his brightly attired cavalry forward to start the process of sidestepping the plantation, as if transfixed by its verdant array of home-made foliage and imbuing it with a far greater effect on his men than in reality it possessed
The Romans - or more accurately their Foederati native-fighting-style cannon fodder infantry prepared to receive a Carolingian Feudal horseman charge at the halt, as the Auxilia dithered with whether to advance to threaten the enemy flanks, or hold back a little in case the sullen cousin suddenly re-joined the fray and piled into them in an unwisely advanced position
What's The Odds of That Then ?
This chart shows the casualties that can be expected when Impact Armoured Cavalry charge into unsupported Auxilia in the open. The outcome would normally be carnage for the Auxilia - and this is only showing Average vs Average, so with many Impact Cv being Elite it would be even worse. No wonder I always bang on about "Medium foot in the open" eh?
But, add Rear Support to the Auxilia, at a bargain price of 1 point per base, and the odds swing dramatically as follows:
The Auxilia are now only run down in one outcome in 36, compared to almost 1 in 3 without support, and while they don't win any more often they are far, far more resilient.
Make the Auxilia Elite too and they become a very tough proposition for even Elite Heavy Cavalry Lancers to take on frontally.
On the coastal plain the Carolingian almost-knights had arrayed themselves with military precision, lining up for a well telegraphed charge against a largely static line of infantry and slightly sub-par Roman cavalrymen.
The plan was obvious and simple, with only the smallest finessing involving a unit of archers softening up the enemy foot being a concession to military imagination
The thunderous hooves of the Carolingian noble cavalry resonated through the battlefield as they charged with the ferocity of a tempest.
The cavalry surged forward like a tidal wave crashing upon the rocky shores, breaking against the stoic wall of hairy Gothic and Frankish warriors.
Swords and axes whirled in a deadly dance as the Carolingian nobles and their adversaries became entangled in a chaotic ballet of death.
Christopher Lee's Heavy metal Song about Charlemagne and the Franks
(honestly, this is true..)
The Gothic and Frankish infantry, like ancient oaks in a storm, had largely withstood the initial onslaught, their axes biting into the armour of the onrushing cavalry.
But lo! the resolve of the Franks and Foederate Goths was not as high and wide as their line of shields, and at one point of weakness, one moment of wavering Germanic resolve, the Carolingians crashed through, trampling the pedestrian wannabe Romans underfoot to achieve what could prove to be a vital early breakthrough !
On the opposite side, bereft of support from the snivelling little attention-seeking sub commander and his mounted archer-lancers, Charlemagne was carefully positioning his men for a charge which would inevitably see them swiftly outflanked by the as yet unopposed Roman Auxiliaries.
The knights, mounted on powerful steeds, desperately wanted to charge home and see if they could break the cohesion of the Gothic and Frankish infantry, but the foot soldiers stood firm, raising a solid shield wall which put a shiver of pragmatic reality into the boastful bravery of the Carolingians combative cries of bravery and resolution.
In the heart of the melee, the clash of metal on metal echoed like a haunting melody, each strike a note in the brutal symphony of war as the two sides strained and exhorted themselves to try and gain the upper hand.
The Carolingians who had earlier broken through the enemy line of infantry now found themselves chasing Roman light horse off into the far distance instead of wheeling round and re-joining the line of scrimmage in a devastating rear attack, as their Impetuosity got the better of their logic, as out of control they careened forward
My Carolingian Army List
Included Ordinary General
1 Caballeri, Heavy Cavalry Impact, Elite (with General)
2 Mounted Archers, Medium Cavalry Impact
This command is a support to one of the other two, and also a textbook "give nothing away" first command to go down in the deployment sequence, meaning the enemy will most likely have deployed 2 of their commands before Charlemagne puts down anything of note at all.
The "Mounted Archers with lance" can (bizarrely) opt to dismount as, erm, Archers in any game, but it's hard to imagine a situation where it would be a good idea to do this in. I do however own the figures (from baueda) so I felt it only fair to put them on table in the army as mounted archers anyway.
An unreliable included General is as cheap as you can get, allowing me to squeeze a few more units into the rest of the army and bulk up the break point - but at a risk of him being unreliable, which clearly has happened a rather statistically improbable 3 times out of 5 in this event. A more sensible strategy with Unreliable and Allied commands is to plonk them in the middle of the army and adopt a defensive stance, so the enemy has to approach them - but in the interests of making life exciting, and adopting a more "Feudal" command structure, here he is sat out on a wing in every game, in an army committed to immediate all-out attack. One for the "lessons learned the hard way" book I suspect!
Time waits for no man, not even the great Emperor Charlemagne, and so now it was time for a do or die charge against the Gothic foot.
The Carolingian knights harged home with the desperation of lions, their swords flashing like beams of sunlight against the gritty determination of the line of hirsute and rather sweaty barely-Romaized infantry, both sides now locked in a desperate struggle, the battlefield becoming a cauldron of blood and sweat under the relentless artificial light of the Farnborough Expo hall.
Amidst the swirling dust of the other flank, the combatants continued to grappled in a dance of life and death, the Gothic and Frankish warriors refusing to yield ground even as the Carolingian cavalry swirled around them hacking and stabbing with swords and broken lances.
But with their initial impetus long since spent, the cavalry charge was slowly dissolving into a chaotic swirl of the grind of dust and blood, as individual duels played out in the midst of the larger maelstrom in which the more numerous and stoic Franks and Goths started to realise they could now simply outlast the fragile Carolingian horsemen, and see a route to win by sheer staying power alone.
As ever greater numbers of Carolingian horsemen fell to fatigue and attrition, the field of battle opened up for the Franks and Goths.
Surging forward, their axe blades glowed like molten fire in the midst of the clash, the Gothic and Frankish infantry instantly switched from being a formidable and unyielding obstacle to Charlemagne's almost-knights to being wild and aggressive hunters of the second string, second line supporting infantry who made up the supernumerary elements of Charlemagnes eclectic force.
Finally, with the battle ebbing away but the opportunity for game-turning heroics no doubt fresh in his mind, the sullen sub commander decided now was the moment to rejoin the fray and see if he could perhaps usurp his ungrateful uncles throne with a display of heroism for the ages.
The cavalry slowly ground into action and started to lumber towards the now-frightened Roman auxiliaries and archers, who promptly scurried away into the safety of the nearest terrain they could find.
The battlefield became a tableau of carnage, with the Carolingian knights hacking and slashing against the wall of stoic Gothic and Frankish defenders, but at the same time taking many mighty blows in return that unhorsed warrior after warrior as the strength of Charlemagne's mounted strike force was eroded away horse by horse.
The close-quarters combat now resembled a deadly chess game, each move calculated and strategic, with lives hanging in the balance as the Gothic and Frankish warriors, like wolves defending their den, fought tooth and nail against the encroaching tide of mounted adversaries.
But, the Roman Auxilia were now unopposed in their flanking positions, and they could sense that the defeat of the Carolingian was not far away. Or, at least was a lot closer than the onrushing formerly unreliable force of Carolingian cavalry bearing down on them - they readied their charge and sought to finish the job asap.
As the battlefield thinned out, axe and sword met spear in a relentless exchange, the Frankish infantry seemingly determined to prove that their ancestral French aggression was far more strongly rooted than the effete Carolingians who had succeeded them on the storied pages of history.
Charging forward through the smashed line where once Charlemagne's proud cavalry had stood an died, the Franks swiftly ran down and extinguished any hope of resistance that the Carolingian archers and spearmen may have harboured to bring the game ever closer to a decisive end
In the heart of the melee, the few remaining Carolingian nobles grunted and shouted, the air thick with the acrid scent of sweat, blood, and the iron tang of weapons as they finally admitted defeat against the unyielding wall of Foederate foot warriors.
Charlemagne's dreams of reconstituting the Roman Empire were dashed, by, erm The Roman Empire.
The knights, mounted on powerful steeds and motivated by the considerable personal financial upsides of Feudalism had sought to break the cohesion of the Gothic and Frankish infantry, but the Roman-paid foot soldiers had stood firm as one of the shield walls of ancient times, repulsing their charge, and then clobbering the posh Francophone nobility in a protracted and increasingly uneven struggle to claim the game - and indeed the trophy - for the Earliest Empire of the two bookends of this competition theme.
The Result is a hearty and violent defeat for Charlemagne
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, I stand before thee today not as a triumphant sovereign but as a shepherd in the shadows of adversity. The wind of fate, capricious and unyielding, hath blown against us, and the fields that witnessed our valour have also borne witness to the bitter taste of defeat.
In this moment where glory was dashed so cruelly from our hands by of our most some hairy and pedestrian ancestors, let us remember not forget the fallen, whose valour lights the path to our shared destiny for the greater good of what shall become known one day as France.
Raise thy goblets, my noble companions, and let the mead flow in their honour. As we celebrate the victory of our own ancestors this day, let it be known that the spirit of chivalry and the flame of noble endeavour shall burn eternal in the heart of the Holy Roman Empire.
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, even though we ourselves have just lost out to generations who should frankly (see what I did there?) have been dead a long time hence.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
At last! The sort of crushing defeat that your lack of imagination and any semblance of skills seemed somehow to be destined to avoid! Justice has been done, and you have been undone by an imagination that is as feeble as a flickering candle in the vast darkness of intellectual destitution
This was a game where even a little thought could have transformed your fortunes. Perhaps delaying your wild assault until the full scope of your army came online? Or even putting the potentially unrelaible command in a place where the enemy would need to attack it - rather than one where you needed it to be online in order to execute your plan?
How about perhaps remembering that a Plantation (which you yourself put down remember..?) is only Rough terrain, and so your horsemen could have easily rode across it in their first turn rather than trying to squeeze around it, totally shifting the axis of your attack to the squishy part of the Roman line?
But no - thou art nowt but a stagnant pond, where the waters of imagination stagnate and putrefy, bereft of innovation's breeze, and so you chose to try and repeat the tactics of previous games with not a thought as to how hard that might be to pull off against an enemy totally different in composition to any you had previously faced
Like a moth drawn to the flame of conformity, thou singest the dull ballad of unoriginality, an intellectual pauper who beggest for the alms of creativity, yet who's cup remaineth - thankfully - empty of success
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Aachen Cathedral: Charlemagne's Place
Aachen was the home town of the Holy Roman Empire, and it has a quite literal cathedral to Carolingian Munificence.
We visited it on the way to the Braubach tournament in 2022, and took some photos. The place survived for almost a thousand years after the end of Charlemagne's dynasty, mainly we suspected because Aachen's one way system is so snarled up it would have been a right bugger to find anywhere nearby to park while you were carting away the stone to make your own little palace. Anyways, the Cathedral is a staggering wonder of decorative tiling all built around a unique octagonal central knave.
Charlemagne was buried here in 814, and between 936 to 1531 the Cathedral saw the coronation of thirty-one German kings and twelve queens - and probably overshadowed them all
The place suffered a large amount of damage in a Viking raid in 881 (they were just barbarians weren't they?) and was then restored in 983.
Sizzling Schnitzels! The tourism bureau of Aachen had been lobbying the Pope and whoever else would listen for years to promote the place more widely, and in 1165 Frederick Barbarossa canonized Charlemagne, ushering in a new golden era of religious tourism and providing a massive boost to manufacturers of dodgy knock-off religious relics in the wider metropolitan area which lasted for many year
Hopefully no-one told them that those striped arches are typically found in Mosques, especially those in Southern Spain converted to churches at the end of the Reconquista!
After this much munificence, thoughts of anything other than Charlemagne and how cool he was become almost inescapable - after all, what sort of dude could cook up a building like this in the Middle Ages?
No matter how brown and generally ink-washed the rest of Europe was, this chap had style and cash, and that may also mean his troops can also be painted in bright and cool Contrast paints, and in a more uniform style with cleaner colours.
Or possibly he was just a bit of a dodgy dude running numbers between cars, and running girls between bars whilst working on that whole Holy Roman Emperor schtick in his downtime?
Anyways, the cathedral was pretty trashed in WW2, and afterwards someone did a great job re-doing a whole new set of stained glass windows that overlook Charlemagne's actual tomb (probably)
Someone must have had a badly cricked neck by the time they had finished this little lot
The glue used in the tiling would also presumably be worthy of a place on any wargamers table, as if the pieces fell down out of your hand then it would be a lot harder to get them than finding small plastic kit components in a shagpile carpet