Saturday, 15 July 2017

The Convoy

A bit of a landmark post this. It's my first Battle Report, so to speak, using only my figures and terrain. The scene is the summer of 1513 in Northern France where the English are besieging Therouanne. A supply column for the English Army is on the move, guarded by troops under the leadership of Sir Rhys ap Thomas. Sir Rhys ap Thomas was a veteran of Bosworth who played an active role in the 1513 campaign leading Border Horse and Welsh cavalry in reconaissance and skirmishes with the French. Unfortunately for the English the redoubtable Pierre Terrail, or Bayard as most of the world knows him, has other ideas about this supply column and has set out to ambush it with his Gendarme company and some supporting light cavalry.

I played the game using a scaled up version of Lion Rampant and Stuart's 1513 army rosters. The scenario is "The Convoy". In this game cavalry units are formed of 12 rather than 6 figures, but still only have 6 "damage points" and infantry units are 6 bases strong but still only have 12 "damage points". Casualties weren't removed during the game until a unit was routed or destroyed. I wanted it to be a real spectacle and look impressive as a larger scale skirmish. The photos are of the actual game, so apologies for any lighting issues and the parts of the room that show up in the background! You also get to see some of my exceptional photo editing with the deployment zones and forces labelled. The height of professionalism I am sure you will agree!

The location Bayard has chosen for his ambush of the English

The field is as above with the English deploying in the top left corner and having to make their way with 3 convoy markers, the large wagons, to the diagonally opposite end of the board. The ambushing French cavalry deploy in the other three corners of the board with the English going first.

The forces are as follows:

The English

Sir Rhys ap Thomas, the English (well Welsh!) Leader and a unit of Demilancers
A unit of Border Horse
A unit of Burgundian Men-at-Arms, more on them later...
2 Units of Garrison Archers
2 Units of Garrison Billmen.

The Garrison Troops represent experienced soldiers, perhaps from noble retinues or part of the Calais Garrison "Crews" as they were called. In this game they marched under the standards of Sir Richard Carew, captain of the Calais Garrison, and Sir Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk. While they personally are not meant to be in the skirmish Carew had 1000 men under his command in this campaign and Brandon 3,200. It is from these contingents that the forces to guard convoy are assumed to have been drawn along with Sir Rhys ap Thomas's horse and a contingent of Maximilian I's Burgundian horsemen who, as will be seen, are keener on getting paid than doing any fighting!

The French

Pierre Terrail, seigneur de Bayard and his Gendarme Company:
2 units on French Gendarmes, one of which includes Bayard
2 units of French Ordonnance Archers armed with Lances

Accompanying Mercenaries
2 Units of Stradiots or Stradiotti
1 Unit of Mounted Crossbowmen, these chaps put in an even poorer performance than the Burgundian men-at-arms!

As you can see the French force is entirely mounted representing Bayard's men and the accompanying mercenaries who have taken the field in an attempt to catch and ambush the slower moving English convoy.

The English Convoy, I chucked the small wagon and pigs in there just to add to the look of it being a supply convoy. They didn't count for anything in the game. The three large wagons represent the convoy markers.

The initial deployment

The above two photos show the initial deployment of the forces. Bayard waits with his Gendarme Company at the end of the table while the Stradiots and Mounted crossbowmen have been sent forward to harass the oncoming English. The English have placed the wagons in the centre protected by the veteran infantry while the cavalry form the "wings" of the convoy. With the units being the size they were I found it impossible to keep to the rule about units being 3" apart so this was not followed. I couldn't have rules stopping the game from looking good!

The best way to follow the action is probably to read the captions under each photo. I have tried to place them in a way which tells the story of the game. It basically started with a disaster for the French as the Mounted Crossbowmen rolled a "blunder" and rode off during the French first turn! Obviously they were unhappy with pay and thought it better to sit this action out.

The English saw this as an opportunity to use a local advantage and crush the outnumbered Stradiots, with the Border Horse riding up to attack them. This was not to be and the skirmishing shots from the Stradiots sent the Border Horsemen reeling back into the English column which effectively destroyed them as a fighting unit. Flushed with success the Stradiots pressed an attack on the advancing column harassing the English archers and Burgundian men-at-arms.

After the Mounted Crossbowmen have ridden off in the first turn the Border Horse lead an attack on the Stradiots in an attempt to wipe them out as they are isolated from the rest of the French force.

The Border Horse are however repulsed by the Stradiots and fall back on the column

The English convoy starts to wind its way forward

The Stradiots push forward harassing the convoy having routed the Border Horse.

The Stradiots cross the hedges to harass the archers.

As the emboldened Stradiots came forward to attack the English the Burgundian men-at-arms launched an attack on them which was successfully evaded by the skirmishing horsemen. The Burgundian horsemen then had a "blunder" result themselves and retreated back moaning over pay and the fact they weren't employed to chase these savages who they had no hope of catching in the field. The English archers, however, held their nerve and the greater power of their warbows was finally successful in driving the Greek and Albanian mercenaries off the field although the horsemens harassing attacks caused casualties.

The Burgundian Heavy Cavalry charge the Stradiots but the Greek and Albanian cavalry evade them and cause casualties to both the Burgundians and the English Archers.

The English archery soon starts to take it's toll on the Balkan horsemen however.

One group of Stradiots is driven off leaving the others to come under a rain of arrows. The Hedges offer little protection.

As the English column is distracted by the engagement with the light horsemen the rest of the French slowly advance to trap them.

The Stradiots continue to be a thorn in the English side, driving back the Burgundian mercenaries with skirmishing attacks.

Bayard looks on from a very safe position at the back of the French lines!

The second group of Stradiots are finally driven off and the English continue their advance into the teeth of the French cavalry.

The French Ordonnance archers (mounted lancers) come under a rain of arrows.

With the Stradiots finally seen off it was time for the English to turn their attention to a much bigger threat; Bayard's Gendarme Company blocking the road ahead. Bayard himself had some awful activation roles so sat right at the end of the table for ages but the rest of his company had managed to move up, tightening the noose around the English column.

Initially it all went the way of the English with the archers inflicting damage on the Ordonnance Cavalry and the Sir Rhys ap Thomas winning the first clash of arms against the better armoured and horsed French Gendarmes. Both units of Ordonnance Archers charged the English bowmen only for both units to be seen off in a heroic defence by the English soldiers.

Sir Rhys ap Thomas leads his Demilancers head on into the French

In the first clash Sir Rhys drives back the Gendarmes despite their heavier armour and horses.

The first cavalry melee

The French Gendarmes are driven back but not without cost to the Demilancers

The first group of French Ordonnance archers charge the English archers. Already weakened by the power of the bows they are driven off.... the second wing of Ordonnance archers charges in only to be sent reeling by a heroic defence from the English Soldiers!

Having regrouped from the first clash the Gendarmes charge Sir Rhys ap Thomas again.

The English luck did not hold and Sir Rhys ap Thomas was unhorsed and left for dead in the second clash with the Gendarmes. The weight of the French cavalry attacks was beginning to tell. With the loss of their leader the English force began to falter. The heroic English archers were finally driven back into the corn fields, loosing one of the English wagons to the French. This loss was followed swiftly by another as the victorious French Gendarmes then charged the English Bill guarding a second wagon and sent them fleeing from the field.

Having spent much of the engagement in his command position (at the back!) Bayard finally rides up to watch his Gendarme Company as they engage with the English

Having seen off two previous charges by the French Cavalry the archers are finally pushed back into the corn fields. One of the Wagons is destroyed by the French.

Having defeated Sir Rhys ap Thomas and his Demilancers the French Gendarmes crash into the English Billmen in an attempt to destroy a second wagon.

With only one wagon left the English falter and Bayards Gendarme company repositions itself in preparation for another attack. The Burgundian men-at-arms, right at the back of the convoy, decide they have had enough and ride off having never engaged in any combat.

As the French regrouped the Burgundian Cavalry decided retreat was now the best option and rode off leaving the English infantry to their fate. The English archers managed to destroy the lead Gendarme unit that had caused such havoc to the English advance but the battle had already been decided. Abandoned by their cavalry the English Billmen and Archers were ridden down by Bayard's Gendarmes and the last wagon was destroyed. Victory went to the French although Bayard would have preferred the ambush to have been less damaging to his Ordonnance Company!

The final group of Billmen is ridden down by Bayard 

I really enjoyed this game and loved how some of the units would simply not do what was asked of them. The French Mounted Crossbowmen rode off in the first turn and the Burgundian men-at-arms similarly did nothing for the rest of the game after a failed charge at the Stradiots seemed to completely demoralise them! As soon as they saw things getting tough for the convoy up ahead they were off. 

Similarly Bayard and his Gendarmes were motionless for the first half of the game, constantly failing activation roles and giving the initiative to the English.This seemed to pay off in the end though as the English had a tough time dealing with the Stradiots harassing their flank and were too strung out along the road to effectively fight off the French cavalry when they did crash into the front of them. Despite some heroic fighting by the English archers the Chivalry of France triumphed.

"The Convoy" makes for an exciting scenario. The depth of the board, playing across it longways, combined with the chaos that failed activation roles can bring in Lion Rampant meant this game swung back and forth and it was hard to see who would win. Initially I thought the French would be destroyed piecemeal and it would be an easy English victory! I am keen to try this one again, possibly an Italian Wars version with the Spanish ambushing the French in a mountain pass in 1502. That could be interesting. Of course a younger Bayard will have to be present to lead Louis XII's forces!

This leaves the archers who earlier saw off the Stradiots. They are left to the mercy of the French cavalry who have destroyed the convoy but with heavier losses than Bayard would have wished to his Gendarme Company.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

A few more casualties of war...

While working on another unit of Landsknechts, that never seems to get finished, I have also completed a few more casualty bases for gaming. Some of these I have tried to do as mini-vignettes, in the picture above for example a priest is offering the last rites to a fallen man-at-arms. I also tried a bit of sculpting on the base pictured below, bringing a Perry Miniatures Wars of the Roses miniature into the 16th Century by changing his livery jacket into a base coat. This is a copy of Stuarts conversion on Army Royal,, in fact it was Stuart who was kind enough to spend some time showing me how to sculpt these base coats. While it's nowhere near his standard I am really pleased with the results. I have chosen to depict them as a French man-at-arms and retainer so I can use them in the Italian Wars or against the English in Northern France.

A wounded French man-at-arms is helped from the Battlefield

Greenstuff has been added to make the "skirt" of the Base Coat and the sleeves at the shoulders of the coat.

Below are some old Redoubt Miniatures pieces. Two fallen horses on larger 60mm diameter bases that Warbases were happy to make for me on request, and then a more generic halberdier in a breastplate, tassets and sallet and a fallen Tudor Archer. I reused figures from a small vignette I painted up a couple of years ago, (nothing is free from chopping and changing in my collection!) to make the next base. Two infantrymen look over their fallen lord or captain. The final casualty base is for the Spanish, it's a converted Perry Wars of the Roses figure meant to represent a wounded Jinete or Spanish Infantryman. A head swap and the addition on an Adarga have brought the figure from the 15th Century into the early 16th Century. 

Two fallen horses, note the broken lance above the barded horse.

A dead English Archer and a Halberdier.

A fallen captain is mourned by his men

A wounded Jinete or Spanish soldier

The re-enactment season is again in full swing, not that I ever make it to many events! I re-enact the Wars of the Roses rather than anything in the 16th Century. Over the past few years I have been trying to improve the standard of my kit and to recreate the images of 15th Century Soldiers seen in contemporary pictures rather than looking like a re-enactor. To do this I have done away with the trusted old padded jack that I wore for years but made me look huge! I wanted to try and recreate the much more fitted silhouette of the 15th century images. So I am now in a very tightly fitted arming doublet that is pointed to my hose.

The other big change was my armour. When I discovered that the costs of armour could be increased by up to 80% by having it polished or "all white" as it was sometimes called in England, I started wondering if maybe it would be better to simplify the kit and go for something more subdued but probably more realistic/authentic. So here it is below - left black from the forge, which of course would also make the maintenance of it much easier. For the re-enactment field I have had to make a concession and lace the Bevor to the top of the Breastplate for safety which there is no evidence for in the 15th Century and I also still wear my gauntlets which aren't shown here. I am meant to be representing a late 15th Century Soldier - I won't say "Billman" as who knows whether they even really existed during the Wars of the Roses, the only evidence for them comes from the early 16th Century!

I have had some time off work recently in which I played a few games of Lion Rampant - experimenting with some 16th century rules and army sizes. Hopefully I will get these posted up soon as I reckon they will make quite nice battle reports with lots of pictures to accompany them.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017


I have been slowly working through the Steel Fist 16th Century Foot Knights, having backed the Kickstarter last year. The idea is that each one will be the focus of their own base of supporting figures and I have already used two of them in this way as command bases. The chaps shown here are destined to lead bases of tightly packed attacking Landsknechts into battle but before I home them permanently on such bases I couldn't resist getting some shots of them dueling with each other.

When I first saw these figures the poses instantly reminded me of the prints from Maximilian's Freydal. His tournament book that painstakingly recreates all kinds of permutations of mounted and dismounted sporting combat in the early 16th Century. They also reminded me of the two scenes shown below from his Weisskunig (this blog can't go for a few months without some Weisskunig prints!). Maybe they aren't using longswords but one does have similarly bizarre pointed head attire to the miniature with a "grotesque" helmet. In the prints case I think they may be metal attachments rather than feathers. My scenes in miniature are hardly an exact replication but you get the idea. I bought the figures as part of a Kickstarter but they are now available here:

Poleaxe Combat as depicted in Der Weisskunig c.1516

Spear Combat from Der Weisskunig c.1516

Historical European Martial Arts have never really been my thing but I have dabbled in a few "Fechtbücher" in the past. I can recommend the 15th Century works of Hans Talhoffer,, and Fiore dei Liberi (which is Italian so not really a fechtbuch!), as worth a look if you do have a beginners interest. When I first encountered these works I found it quite an eye opener how different the armed combat of the later medieval period really was compared to what is seen in film and TV. Of course there are lots of caveats as to how you approach these works. Some fighting techniques are for specific judicial duels. Some are for armoured combat only. Even when these things are made clear you realise there was a whole culture of "martial arts" that has now long died. They were often extremely brutal and also more physical than the later styles of sword combat we are used to in the 21st century. It's surprising how much wrestling and grappling style moves feature, as well as surprises such as launching the sword at an opponent like a dart!

If you can get through the really tedious chapter that discusses how in later centuries they tried to apply maths to fencing techniques then the Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe is worth a read: I was particularly amused by the jousting section. Fight Masters would go into great detail on how to hit an opponent in all sorts of locations and to demonstrate various levels of skill and flair with the lance. In contrast the advice for real war was always very simple: just aim for the other riders horse! I would also recommend the Scholagladiatoria channel on Youtube, This channel has lots of videos on renaissance weaponry and how it was used and what the symbolism of it was. There are some great videos on there in the Wallace Collection with Tobias Capwell as well as an in depth discussion of an early 15th Century Tomb effigy and the armour it represents:

That's probably enough rambling for now. Hopefully I will get these Men at Arms based up with the Landsknechts soon, I am about half way through painting the halberdiers that will be supporting them. I am also working on a few more casualty bases, they may be a bit grisly but I have enjoyed working on them and they are very useful on the gaming table.

16th Century Men at Arms by Steel Fist Miniatures

Men at Arms in early 16th Century Harness, one with a "Grotesque" visor.

The Landsknechts look on as they duel

Saturday, 3 June 2017

16th Century Casualty and Battered Markers

Following my games of Lion Rampant I have prepared a few gaming pieces that will, hopefully, encourage me to actually play some more games! Not perhaps the most exciting pieces but they will look much nicer on a gaming table than dice or other types of tokens.

First up are eight casualty bases. The bases themselves are from Warbases: . I think they are a great idea for marking casualties on a unit. I am not a huge fan of removing casualties during games and these bases mean that you don't have to do that. Using these bases I may try some games of Lion Rampant with much larger units, probably 12 for cavalry and 24-36 for infantry but keep the same 6 or 12 points of damage per unit. It will simply allow me to fight larger scale skirmishes and get more of the collection on the table. That's what the games are all about at the end of the day!

The bases in the picture below are of fairly generic 16th century troop types. There is a fallen man at arms from the Perry Miniatures Wars of the Roses range. He is in a late 15th century harness but that is fine for the very early 1500s which much of my collection is for. Below him is an old Citadel Mordheim casualty who has been based up as a fallen arquebusier. Beside him is another Perry Miniatures figure who with the addition of a bit of green stuff and a plastic crossbow and quiver has been turned into an early 16th century crossbowman. Finally above him is another old Mordheim figure who has simply had enough and is burying his head in his hands.

16th Century Casualty Markers - From top right clockwise: a man at arms, an arquebusier, a crossbowman and a generic infantryman

The remaining four bases represent fallen Landsknechts. All the figures are from the Pro Gloria range that is now sold by Warlord Games. One has his hat next to him while another has dropped his halberd as he falls to the ground. I left the others without weapons as it means I can use them as fallen pike, arquebusiers or halberdiers. I may do some more with specific weaponry. The casualty bases are meant to be more representative than anything else. I wouldn't have an issue using a Landsknecht one for some french crossbowmen if I had run out of other markers for example. They are just a visually pleasing way of marking the damage. Having said that it is nice to have different markers representing different troop types. I still have a dozen more of these bases and some other casualty figures so will probably paint up some additional bases in the next few weeks.

Landsknecht Casualty Markers

The smaller counters in the next couple of pictures are used to represent when a unit has become "Battered" in Lion Rampant. They could be used in any game system where a token is required to mark the degradation of the morale of a unit. I quite enjoyed choosing all sorts of bits and pieces from my spares to make up the 24 markers below. There is a real mixture of debris from gun carriage wheels, arrows and broken lances through to a trumpet, an arquebus, an adarga and a warhammer. I may have pinched a fair few ideas from Stuarts counters here. Using these counters really adds to the tabletop appeal of a game by giving some extra 1500s flavour and also stopping the gaming table from becoming cluttered with lots of dice or other markers. Now I just have to make the effort to play some more games! This is easier said than done as I am much more of a painter by temperament than a gamer.

"Battered" Markers - an assortment of debris from a 16th Century battlefield

The Battered markers from above