Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Maisnon - An Italian Wars BatRep

To the Strongest! was put through the paces in a Renaissance game set during the Italian Wars.  This battle was the first outing for my Italian Wars collection and my troops found themselves pitted against an army of Charles V.  I, as Francois I, would take on the command of a French and Allied force to push the foreigners out.

The scenario was developed by Jake (see: Battle of Maisnon for scenario details).  The battle sees two comparable forces face off across open, farm land.  The French left is flanked by a river and lightly wooded hill while the right is hemmed in by heavy woods on a hill.  On the French right, Francois deploys his veteran Gendarmes.  Powerful units that have the potential for great destruction if given a free rein to engage the Spanish horse.  The army of Charles V has an advantage, though.  Two guns are situated on the hills overlooking the battlefield with none for the French.  To close with the enemy, Francois must cross the battlefield in the face of these deadly guns.  Would this imbalance affect the outcome of battle?   We will see.  
Battle deployments as both sides advance
The battle begins with a general advance by both Charles V and Francois I in an attempt to decide the outcome on their enemy's ground.  The French plan to destroy Charles' Army while taking control of the vital ford over the river.  To win, Charles needs to preserve his army while denying the ford to Francois.  
General advance
While the two main armies in the center plod towards one another, the cavalry on the wings strike.  Charles' light cavalry on his right flank advance along the west bank of the river and scatter the mounted crossbowmen with little effort.  One hit and the crossbowmen vanish.
The French advance on the right
On the right, Francois advances his cavalry both heavy and light.  While the light cavalry work its way along the edge of the wooded hills, the Gendarmes and Ordonannce Archers trot straight ahead to threaten the Spanish left.  Without warning, the lead French Gendarme troop charges into an attack on the gun situated on the hill.  The Spanish gun fires to no effect.  With no protection to aid the guns' defense, the French overrun the guns and scatter the crew causing panic among the Spanish troops.  Charles is horrified at the sight of his guns taken out with such seeming ease.    
Gendarmes take out a battery
With the destruction of the Spanish guns, the lead Gendarmes find themselves in a precarious situation.  Now, German Men-At-Arms are to their front while their flank is threatened by Doppelsoldners and handgunners.
French Gendarmes into the frying pan
Charles sets to avenging the loss of his prized gun.  With an exposed flank offered up, the Doppelsoldners turn to allow the Spanish to attack the Gendarmes from two fronts.  Having its commander attached, the Gendarmes, while suffering casualties, heed his commands and fall back to preserve their formation.  
Gendarmes under pressure from two fronts
Back on the French left, light troops from both armies clash near the ford.  As the pike blocks advance, Spanish missile fire begins to take a toll on the advancing French.  Long range artillery fire begins causing casualties against the left-most pike block while the unhindered Spanish cavalry works its way around the French left. 
Action picks up on the left
Having found the range, the Spanish guns on Charles' right continue sending projectiles down range into the deep ranks of the pikemen.  The French pike scatter.  With most of the French light troops cleared out of the way and one Gendarme troop eliminated, Charles' pike blocks advance.  On the French left, the second French pike block is destroyed by a combination of Jinnete flanking attacks and frontal push of pike.  With the Ordonannce Archers maneuvering onto the German MAA's flank, the German cavalry turn to face this new threat.  In the clash of lance and sword, neither can gain the upper hand. 
The French left shows signs of collapse as
Spanish right advances
In little time, the French left has completely collapsed.  Mustering strength for one last attack, the Swiss clash in push of pike with the Spanish pikemen.  Even though the Swiss win their individual battle, Francois realizes the battle lost.  With Charles on his flank and front, Francois orders a general withdrawal to save what remains of his army.  Having lost two of his three heavy infantry blocks, Francois seeks cover among his Swiss as the army retires.  Charles V holds the field and the ford.  To take back their country, the French must gather a new army and make preparations to strike again. 
Charles maneuvers to turn the French left
While the battle looked close, Charles' missile fire, early on, was instrumental in delivering victory.  Time after time, the Spanish guns scored hits with almost every round.  The hapless French, some in deep formation, failed to stand up to these bombardments when save after save came up short.  The French lost many of their light units to either artillery or arquebus fire.  Those French light troops were one hit wonders.  For Charles, losing the gun at the outset of the battle shook his nerve but he regained composure and launched combined arms attacks against the French left with devastating results.

Many a punch or counter-punch was stopped dead in its tracks due to a frequent turning of an Ace.  These herky-jerky activations seemed much too common in this battle.  These starts and stops led to a number of uncoordinated moves/countermoves as brigades moved then stalled repeatedly or did nothing at all, for no reason at all.  While we, as players, may not be privy to the machinations carried out by our generals down on the field, the view from above ought to at least provide a plausible narrative.  This discontinuity due to frequent, Ace-drawing shocks to the system made seizing and sustaining momentum a difficult task.  Being lucky is better than being good.

Fortunately, time remained for a rematch.  Troops were reset for battle and a second game undertaken.  Will the result be any different in Game 2?  Well, that battle account is for another time. 

46 comments:

  1. Fascinating and some good insight into armies and a period that I have not really bothered with, but which seem to have a great mix of units for good wargaming interests.

    I am part hoping that the run of aces Vs the situation was something of an extreme that the individual game threw up, rather than being indicative of what the system in general will regularly deliver. Looking forward to the re-match to better settle that matter.

    Is is good that the game played quickly enough to get another game in .... or did a shorter game leave you wishing for something meatier?

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    1. Norm, your thoughtful comments are much appreciated.

      While I am approaching a half dozen games in the books, still too early to put out a definitive assessment. Luck seems a big factor in the game. Besides the abrupt stoppage on the drawing of an Ace, the equivalent of a D10, uniform distribution (playing cards 1-10) resolution provides high variability in results. Perhaps that is warranted in tournament play?

      It is good that games can be completed in under three hours. We managed two games in six hours with a long lunch break. I was wishing for a more meaningful result in which both players felt their tactics influenced the outcome. My opponent said this felt like playing the card game "War" with miniatures.

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  2. An enjoyable report and great looking game. Are you enjoying using playing cards in the games?

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    1. Peter, thank you for your encouragement!

      The use of playing cards is a fine means of quickly resolving actions. Since we clean up the table of cards after each brigades failed activation, the table does not look cluttered between activations.

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  3. A lovely looking scenario Jonathan.I have used the ECW equivalent rules and was very impressed by them I will be very interested to see how these new ideas play out..

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    1. Thank you, Robbie!

      I know the Renaissance addition is a work in progress and we used the latest amendments found on Peter's blog, http://blundersonthedanube.blogspot.com/.

      I look forward to giving the ECW rules a shot.

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  4. Nice report, Jonathan! Have you enjoyed the TtS system?

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    1. Thanks, Dmitry! For fast and decisive games with friends, TtS! is a good choice. A fine set of Beer and Pretzels rules.

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  5. Great write up of an interesting battle. Thanks Jonathan, your efforts are greatly appreciated.

    Cheers, Ross

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    1. Thanks, Ross! Your support and encouragements are very well received!

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  6. Great game and a very interesting report on TtS. Is this a variant on Simon's Ancient Rules, or and extension of For King and Parliament? I have lost track a little of the latest developments.

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    1. Thank you, Lawrence!

      This is a variant of TtS! and is a work in progress. For latest summarizations and development thoughts, please visit Peter's blog at,
      http://blundersonthedanube.blogspot.com/search/label/To%20the%20Strongest.

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  7. Great looking game! Nice to see your lovely figures out on the table! I found Tts! Gave a rapid fun game, albeit with a certain amount of luck but you get that with most rule sets, I'm planning on having a go with warlords pike and shot, which I have used for ECW, although I will also be having a go with king and parliament ,too much choice!
    Best Iain

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    1. Thanks, Iain!

      Yes, it was great to FINALLY get my troops out onto the gaming table. Hopefully, they will not remain in storage boxes for quite so long before they see action again.

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  8. Congrats on getting the splendid troops to the table and having a fun game. The real victory. 😀

    Bad cards = bad dice , and any game is susceptible to it. I suspect only wargamers and gamblers play enough to experience the swings in probability. Still some rule sets have more luck than others.

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    1. Quite right, Stew! Sharing a day with a friend over a table loaded with troops is a victory, itself.

      Some rules are more driven by luck than others, no doubt. In the two games played on this day, the outcomes of the day were driven largely by chance.
      Both players were affected equally in this respect.

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  9. An excellent battle report Jonathon, very atmospheric.

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  10. Lovely looking game Jonathan, interested in your views of TTS as I just can’t get it myself ?

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    1. Thank you, Matt.

      I know your position on grid games and I understand the aesthetics argument. I need more TtS! games under my belt before delivering a final verdict. As seen in my assessment of this game, luck tended to be a driving factor. My sense is that luck dominates skill and a lucky player can beat a skilled player routinely. My assessment may change with more playings. Maybe not.

      On the game vs simulation spectrum, I peg this much closer to the "Game" end of the continuum than "Simulation." I find TtS! farther toward "Game" than Commands & Colors, I grid game I enjoy very much.

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  11. A great write up Jonathan and your collection looks splendid on the field!

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    1. Thank you, Oli! Mine is not as impressive as your gorgeous collection but, for me, it will do.

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  12. Lovely looking game. I've grown to love gridded games for their ease of play and don't mind the card system. IIRC someone has come up with a 2D6 variant, but I'm not certain.

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    1. Thanks, Steve. I enjoy gridded games for their ease of use too. The mechanism of using cards is fine as well.

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  13. A wonderful looking game Jonathan! Great to see Italian wars in it's colorful setting. I would like to see you try it out with Impetus 2.

    Christopher

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    1. Much appreciated, Christopher! We actually discussed giving this scenario a try with Impetvs 2.

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  14. It was an entertaining game, thanks for posting it. I do like the quick resolution for TTS! I think it is ideally suited for large participation games in conventions where you run the risk of things bogging down and players trying to run out of synch. For one to one play, I quite enjoyed it for ancients, but still haven't decided on it for the this era. I was thinking of giving it a whirl with my Sengoku era Japanese to see if I liked it better for that period as well.

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    1. It was good fun to see our collections out on the gaming table and to get in a couple of fun games. To get through two games in one session was a bonus.

      Resolution is quick and bloody. I would not mind giving this scenario another try if for no other reason than to correct some of the mistakes made. Maybe better tactics would improve my lights' survivability.

      What do you think are the major differences in playing TtS! between Ancients and Renaissance that worked for Ancients but not Reniassance? Since the Renaissance version is still in development, we could try alternative options to see if play improves. Let me know how your Samurai test case turns out.

      Thanks again for making the journey up north for a day of gaming.

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    2. I think it may be the Skirmishers. Reflecting the interplay of the Zweihanders/halberdiers and handgunners with their parent blocks seems less 'organic' under these rules. We seemed to have an easier time keeping our units in-line with the ancients as well.

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    3. We may have to come up with some remedies for this.

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  15. Great looking game! For sure luck plays an important role here, but the system definitely rewards better tactics (and especially, more efficient choices of activations). This era sees artillery becoming an important factor on the battlefield for the first time, perhaps even more so than the later ECW, perhaps in part due to the unforgettable targets created by the dense pike blocks.
    The French gendarmes seemed like they under-performed a bit; they can be *very* difficult to kill!

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    1. Glad you liked the look of the battle, Peter! It was fun to see components of both of our Italian Wars collections out on the table for battle.

      The extra deep pike blocks were definitely artillery magnets. The battery on the Spanish right kept hitting and its targets kept failing their saves. In the second game, that gun was not nearly as effective. Thank goodness!

      The French Gendarmes may have under-performed but they still were very tough to kill. Jake would agree with that!

      Thanks for your comments!

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    2. If the Gendarmes truly under performed, then they are truly frightening. I could not put a dent in them.

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    3. Much to my disappointment, you managed to kill one stand of Gendarmes in Game 1.

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  16. I would certainly agree that TTS is along the "game side of the wargames continuum than the simulation side. If too many completely failed command activations trouble youi, a simple change would be that the FIRST activation of a command, if "easy", ie needing only a 2+, would be allowed a free replay if an Ace is turned. A second Ace would then still end the turn for that command, unless that could be replayed by the General.

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    1. Thanks for the suggested FIRST activation modification. We may give that a try next time out. We also need to become more accustomed to the geometry of a large grid for LOS, movement, LOF, melee, etc..

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  17. Interesting report Jonathan ….the lack of control/predictability is one of the central themes of To the Strongest - depending on your view and personality, its either the greatest boon or the worst fault!

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    1. Exactly right, Keith! For now, I may lay somewhere between those two extremes.

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  18. A great report Jonathan, its certainly getting my juices going I can tell you!!
    I painted up a huge 25mm army for Pavia years ago. I settled on Age of Discovery rules, what put me off were the army list, you need a LOT of for want of a better word "Crap" light cavalry. Like in your report, one fire on the mounted crossbows and they were off. I couldn't justify the cost of all those units so I flogged them all off!!! Sigh!
    But not long after I bought it all again in 15mm, I've now got lots of light cavalry! I should really get a game with these its been years!!!

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    1. Thank you, Ray!

      I like your perseverance! I would enjoy seeing these armies in 15mm out on your gaming table!

      My friend has two large 25mm armies for Flodden. His are based for Age of Discovery too. I should convince him to bring these armies out for battle using TtS!

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