Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Biggest Little Game You'll Ever Play

Last Saturday was a fairly quiet day at the Hamilton Road Gaming Group. The weather was warm and sunny, which makes many Canadians go outside. One of our most active members was at an AWI reenactment at Black Creek Pioneer Village near Toronto. So Martin and I plotted to hold a large-army DBA game. Robby and Derrick joined us. Martin fielded a "French Ordnance" Army (1445-1503) while I faced him with a medieval Irish army (dates are unimportant). Since I was short in points, my Nikephenorian Byzantines contributed a lot of cavalry. {Ridiculous I know, but it's a game!}

We laid out terrain and Martin proceeded to take some away by flooding  it by adding sea shore. Ah, well. As a wary Irish commander, I'd have wanted loads of forest and hills, but the French need fields to run their knights through.

Well, to business... Here's a view of the field.

Robby surveys the minimal terrain. Martin took all the photos with his
trusty Ipad.

The initial set-up - Byzantine allies on the far left, Galloglaich at left centre,
Bonnachts to right centre, and Kern and cavalry on the right flank.
French - Knight on their own left, bows and Men-at-Arms, interspersed in
their centre, and Squires and bows on their own right.

'Tis his very self, setting out Bonnachts... and there were
a ton of 'em.

A word of explanation for those unfamiliar with the old Irish military terms. "Galloglaich" (or Galloglass, if you're Shakespeare) "Young foreign warriors", were well armoured troops with two-handed axes and swords with decent morale. Originally of Scots-Norse origin, there were a fixture in Ireland. "Bonnachts" ("Billeted Men") were lightly armed professional warriors who could be as heavily armoured and armed as Galloglaich, but usually were lightly armed. "Kern" ("Warband" maybe? It's controversial.) were lightly armed troops - javelin, bow, light spear, sword, Celtic Hand Rock M1A1. The Cavalry were divided into "Spears" (armoured cavalry with spear or lance and shield) and "Horse Boys" who were lighter and armed with javelins and darts. Sometimes Anglo-Irish true knights, Welsh longbows, and Scots pikes and swordsmen would be joined in. (the Scots were often called "Redshanks".)

Martin and Derrick advanced slowly toward Robby and me. I tried to push the Irish forward but I didn't always get the pips for enough command to do this. (Robby handled the flanks - Irish horse and Byzantines)
When the crunch came, my Bonnachts supported the Kern and pushed through the small bits of forest that were there. The Galloglach were slow to come up, because I didn't push them. I found the French archery - put together in imitation of the English who had cut them up for so long - galling (I know - Ouch!) I had nothing to return fire with, not knowing that the Irish could have bows - an over sight I have corrected with a re-basing project! Martin's Swiss pikes were daunting, knowing their reputation, but that's for later.
     The Byzantine light horse slowed the French advance, but the Cataphractoi only got into the battle later. The "Romans" suffered from the archers, but they held their flank until close to the end, when their morale failed. It was an all-cavalry force and a smaller one whose morale couldn't hold up.
     The Irish horse - Horse Boys, Spears, and irregular knights - faced up to the flower of French chivalry and gave as good as they got for quite a while. When the French knights finally broke through the Irish horse, they faced their nightmare - well armed and supported Bonnachts holding a hill top. 
     My Kern and Bonnachts faced the mixed bows and halbrediers and it was a see-saw affair.  Meanwhile, the Galloglaich went for the archers on the other side of the Swiss and earned their respect. Some faced the column of Swiss pikes (who were heard to chant "Hut-Dich-Baur Ich Komm!” “Look out. Here I come!”)... and threw them back! I was amazed.

Looking from the Irish left - still early in the game. You can see the aggressive
Byzantine light cavalry almost ready to hit the French bows.

Robby faces down Derrick's knights. The Horse Boys are almost spent, but
they're expendable. Kern hold the hill, and the Bonnachts begin their climb.
Soon the Irish knights and spears would mix it up with the French and do
rather well for a while.

From my perspective. Dead centre on the table, the mass of Bonnachts are
almost ready to reach the bows.

Ah, Martin, Martin, Martin. Martin has a thing for documenting casualties.
Especially when they're his opponents. Yes, the Irish took it on the chin,
but there were A LOT OF THEM! The French were so much more expensive.

When we ran out of time, we declared it a winning draw for the French, with the Celts withdrawing at  nightfall. The Irish had been bloodied, but the French were breathing hard and things were tough for their centre. Both Irish flanks had collapsed, more or less - the Byzantines were demoralised. The French centre was in trouble, facing the Galloglaich and a huge
division of Bonnachts. Even the Swiss were impressed. It would have taken a while, but the Galloglaich might have chewed through their formation, especially since it might have been flanked.
     I do enjoy this set of rules and I'm rebasing my Irish. I hope to try the DBR, pike and shot version. I could make a good showing in that period as well. My wife's Cossack/Polish Commonwealth army could be very, very tough. We'll see and I'll report later.
     I'll leave you with some Wargaming wisdom  from the Auld Sod.

Is fheàrr teicheadh math na droch fhuireach.   ["Better a good retreat than a bad stand."]

Brìgh gach cluiche gu dheireadh.  ["The essence of a game is at its end."]
                                                         ...and the essence of the game is fun!

1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.