Thursday, August 8, 2013

Battle Report: Novara 1513

   This battle was run Saturday evening at Historicon, using my own Band of Brothers 2nd edition rules by Piquet. All of the players had at least some experience to much experience with Piquet/Field of Battle and related games. The cast of characters was a s follows:

DAVID as Hauptmnan von Zurich (Swiss Main Body)
ROGER as Hauptmann von Lucerne (Swiss Diversionary Attack)
MICHAEL(later BARRY) as Maximillian Sforza

GABRIEL as La Tremouille and Sieur de Beamont
JED (later ADFOLFO) (in Milan T shirt) as Florange
TIM as Robert, Duc d' Bourdillion and Sieur de la Bodice

    The scenario has been presented previously (adapted from that of James Roach). Briefly, the Swiss and their Milanese allies under Maximillian Sforza were attempting to retake control of Milan from the French. The French were aware of the approach of a Swiss relief force, but considered that they were too far distant to pose a threat until late the following day. Thus, when the Swiss attacked at dawn, the French were woefully unprepared, the Commander in chief, La Tremouille, narrowly escaping capture in the village where he had bedded down for the night.

Maximilian Sforza's command - Milanese EHC Famiglia, LI skirmish crossbowmen, and a small unit of Swiss MI Halberdiers

Overview of the French starting positions, in and around the village of Trecate. Not seen - 4 units of French EHC/HC, the men still asleep (or otherwise "engaged") in the village as dawn breaks. The stack of gopld coins are the starting French Morale chips.

The Swiss Diversionary force (near) and the Landsknechts in French service, far.

The Swiss Main Attack. My Swiss pike blocks for this game "only" had 52 figures each.

View of the French defenders from the opposite side. 

The French skirmishers advance to harass an advancing battery in Swiss service.

Note the entrenched French camp; loss of this would have serious consequences for the French morale!

    Unfortunately, at this point I ran out of room on my digital camera's memory card - a first for a Historicon (or elsewhere) for me! Gabriel took some of his own exceptional photos, and they can be viewed here on his blog! I blame the Pyrates for demanding that I take so many pics of their excellent game.... We used the "Charlotte Rule of 1/3" for impetus, and it was a very good thing that we did!  Michael, as Swiss C-in-C had an extremely hot D20 for impetus, winning the vast majority of roll-offs. 

    The Swiss main attack advanced and drove off the Landsknecht skirmishers. They took moderate losses from the French heavy artillery as they advanced, but were able to drag their own guns forward and these in turn fired to effect on the opposing Landsknecht Pikes. The Swiss Diversionary attack, aided by a screen of arquebus armed sharpshooters, drove off and dispersed the majority of the poor quality French crossbowmen. The Milanese attack on the French camp was the only one that had trouble making adequate headway. The four units of French Heavy/Extra Heavy cavalry in bed in the village proved quite slow to mount up (They had to pass a Leadership test to mount up, then another to raise them from Disorder to Unformed, and yet a third to restore good order. It was only once a unit was in good order that it could exit the village via one of the four roads. The good cavaliers of one unit of Gendarmes in particular drew curses from the French commander, but hoots and hollers of approval from the rest of the French gentry, as they ignored the call to arms not once, not twice, but three times, each time evidently marking another round "in the saddle" with their hot-blooded Italian bed warmers; Formidable, indeed!

    At roughly this juncture, the Swiss turned the Pillage and Loot card; this wound up compelling the Italian Famiglia and the Swiss Diversionary pike force to advance pell-mell upon the French camp and sack it!  While happily so engaged, they could undertake no other action (except rallying from looting on a Leader Check card), and counted as disordered out of command skirmishers for melee. Ouch!  On the other hand, whenever their was a Swiss unit in the French camp, each time a Swiss Leader Check card was turned, the French would lose D6 Morale points. Double ouch!

    Meanwhile, the Swiss pikes of the Main attack came to push of pike with their hated imitators, the Landsknechts. An attempt by the Swiss "verlorene haufe" of halberdiers to get under the enemy pikes and disrupt their formation failed. The resultant melees swung back and forth indecisively for an extended time, but ultimately *both* of the Swiss pike blocks were ()nominally) routed!  By this time the morale chips were running very low on both sides... these being still the Swiss of old, they would rally automatically on the next Swiss Leader Check card... as long as they had a Morale Chip to pay for the privilege!

    At the same time, the French cavalry were now all formed up and in good order, and ready to issue forth from the village. All, that is, except our formidable friends. At this point the French commander decided to stop even wasting impetus trying to rouse them, instead allowing them to sleep off their amorous escapades undisturbed, the din of the nearby battle evidently being insufficient to arouse them as well!  Love is evidently deaf as well as blind!

   One unit of French cavalry exited opposite the woods, where the Swiss marksmen were sheltering. The cavalry tried to intimidate the arquebusiers (using a cavalry morale challenge), but their morale was so high that they were utterly unfazed. The skirmishers evaded a french charge, and later returned to the woods. Their repeated fire ultimately disordered, and then at last routed the proud Frenchmen!

    The second unit of French cavalry exited the village and came up behind the dispersed, looting french pikemen, gaily chopping them up on each Melee card! The third French cavalry unit exited the village late along the causeway through the marsh, and never wound up playing any important role. The sole unit of French Gendarmes which had started out the game ready to fight gradually swung wide around their camp. and ultimately wound up engaging the pillaging Famiglia, gradually grinding them into Italian sausage!

    Finally, the Stradiots, which had been briefly disordered by the fire of the Italian crossbowmen accompanying Maximillian Sforza's attack, set themselves in order (rallied on a Leader Check card), and engaged the Swiss Halberds. These wild Albanian horsemen inflicted some damage upon the lightly armored Halberdiers with their javelins before engaging them in a see-saw melee in which they ultimately prevailed. 

   Meanwhile, the two large pike blocks of the Swiss main attack at last rallied, and reformed to attack the Landsknecht pikes once more.  he French artillery again inflicted losses upon them as they advanced, but not as serious as those suffered in their earlier attack. In a Heroic moment, one block of Swiss  charged home, and the other was then counter-charged by the opposing Landsknechts; this time the German 2-handed swordsmen tried to slip under the Swiss pikes, but failed to do so. The resulting melees swung back and forth repeatedly, neither side being able to do more than push the other back a few yards at a time. While this epic push of pike ebbed and flowed first one way and then the other, the French exhausted their Morale points, and started paying them to the Swiss - the loss of the camp was proving too costly to be outweighed by the "free hacks" at the pillaging Swiss and Milanese. Ultimately, the last of the Milanese nobles were killed or captured. The Swiss were made of sterner stuff, and managed to rally into a Hedgehog, making them all but impervious to the further attacks of the French Cavalry, if immobile. However, they were immobile right *within* the French camp, and thus the continuing drain of French Morale would make the battle one in which it was now  impossible to prevail. The French survived a Major Morale Check unscathed, but decided that it was time to concede the field and the honors of the day to the Swiss. It is doubtful that many of the Landsknechts would be able to escape the fury of the Swiss, but eh bien, they were mercenaries, and thus little more than jumped up peasants... of little importance compared to the flower of French chivalry!

   This game was an absolute blast to play, and left both winner and loser exhilarated by the experience... as well as the GM The action was close and tense throughout, with both sides in the running until the very end of the game. Although I was rusty on my own rules and doubtless made a number of mistakes as GM, we were all reminded how much fun classic Piquet can be when played by experienced gamers who don't allow a bad run of impetus rolls or an unfavorable sequence of cards defeat *them* before their troops are beaten. Having said that, without Eric's Rule of 1/3 this game would have been FAR less interesting and fun, and I think that it is one rule that is a keeper for all future games. 

Pike Block vs. Pike Block Melees

  I made a significant mistake in the Pike block vs. Pike block melees, but I actually like the way I did it better than the original rule, so I will probably switch to this (for PB/Tercio vs PB/Tercio melees only), namely in any round where the winning side doesn't inflict enough hits to remove a stand (i.e, less than 4), the losing side is pushed back the difference in inches, Unformed, and the winner will follow up immediately, continuing the melee. If a unit which is already Unformed suffers another Unformed result, it will become Disordered as usual, and unit that is already Disordered suffers no ill effects from an Unformed result, but will Rout if it suffers another Disordered result, also as usual. Tied melees will be "won" according to the standard tie breakers in the Master Rules, but the only effect is that the loser becomes Unformed.

   On the real life front, it is just 2 days now until the wedding of my older daughter (aka, for the puprposes of this blog, the Princess Imperial). The weather report looks favorable for Saturday, and we look forward to celebrating the day with family and friends. Now I need to go pick up my Tuxedo, get my hair cut (such of it as remains, LOL), and do some office work!



  1. I like this scenario, sounds like it played well.

    Good luck to you and yours on Saturday. Let me know if it's easier to be the father of the bride than it is to be the groom.

    1. It played out great, Mike.

      Being the Groom (31 years ago in a few weeks) was easy; I was just antsy the day of the wedding because I had a lot of time before the ceremony and nothing much to do with it; my best man/closest friend/roommate from College etc was a big help there once he arrived at my house, and no, we *didn't* play a wargame that day, LOL!

      I'll let you know how being Father of the Bride goes! :-)

  2. Sounds like a lot of fun was had by all. Wish I could have been there to play too. Your games are awesome to play.

    Congrats on the wedding for your daughter!

    1. Thanks, Victor!

      I enjoyed having you play in past, VIctor. It's expensive to come to Historicon from the West Coast, but hopefully you'll be able to make the trip again some year. There is a great crew of Piquet/FoB gamers who are pretty regular attendees!

  3. This game was the highlight of the convention for me. Very well done, Peter; and 'well done' to James, too, for such an excellent scenario.

    Enjoy the Imperial nuptials, best to you and yours, and may the Princess and her Prince find a great and lasting joy!

    1. It was for me as well, and of course it was the game that was easily the least work to plan and set up!

      Thanks for the best wishes!

    2. I got my pictures of the battle up to supplement your post:

    3. Excellent!

      Thanks, Gabriel. I have revised the post to include the link.

  4. Interesting looking game and scenario as always