Thursday, 22 November 2007

The Relief of Naples (Part 2) - 14th November 2007

The French gun line was in trouble. The French knew it and the Spanish knew it. Then something unexpected happened. The unit of Genitors, engaged in rolling up the main French gun line from the flank, took to flight for no apparent reason. Perhaps it mistook the advancing Spanish / Italian masses as French, but whatever the reason, the gun line was saved. The Spanish failed a major morale check d20 vs. d6! Three units were forced to check under Band of Brother 2’s optional, and our preferred, rule. The unit of Genitors routed.

At the open end of the Spanish earthwork the French mercenary Lance Spezatte charged the depleted ranks of the Colunella defending it. They were halted by fire before coming in contact. In Piquet terms, the cavalry moved to contact taking fire as they came in and were unable to turn a melee resolution card before the Colunella stepped back. The Landsknecht’s frontal attack against the earthworks was also halted by fire – shot to pieces by volley after volley of deliberate fire from the Arquebusier of the Spanish Colunellas – it withdrew from the field in great disorder.

The other French unit of Lance Spezatte, now on the other, and wrong, side of the stream withdrew to a more favourable position on the right side of the stream. This valuable unit took no further active part in the battle. It was doomed to watch the debacle of the French unfold.

French heavy cavalry moves back across the stream.

The Spanish, Italian and Landsknecht mercenaries, detailed to attack the French left, continued to press their advantage. This was led by a unit of Stradiots, which charged into the flank of the French medium artillery battery, routing them, and chasing them off table picking up objective points at the French road exit en-route.

Stradiots attack the French guns.

Now the only threat to this massed attack was the isolated unit of Swiss marching determinedly toward it. Almost completely surrounded the Swiss charged the heavy cavalry before them, shattering them, and driving them from the field. Before the Swiss could re-order, the Spanish Landsknechts charged, somewhat flank-wise. The Swiss proved their worth – turning to engage their old enemy in a long and vicious push of pike. It was touch and go. Which would break first? What remained of the French light troops almost decided the issue, delivering withering flank fire into the struggling Landsknechts. The Landsknecht and Swiss commanders had both fallen leading their troops in what was developing into a titanic struggle. The issue was finally settled by the timely charge of some Spanish heavy cavalry. The Swiss broke. We had decided not to use Band of Brother 2’s optional rule for Swiss during this campaign: although more historical it makes the Swiss too powerful in a “fun” game.

Landsknechts and Swiss prepare to attack. one another.

Back at the earthwork the final act was played out: the confrontation between the French heavy cavalry and the Colunella was decided. On their third charge the cavalry routed their stubborn tormentors, cutting them down as they ran. Enter stage right: The Spanish C-in-C and his bodyguard charging into the pursuing mass of disordered French cavalry. They stood no chance after their long deadly struggle with the Spanish infantry and were slaughtered.

The battle ended with the Spanish in possession of all of the battlefield objectives and the French virtually destroyed and unable to contest any of the objectives. Naples had been relieved. This battle was a bloody affair, especially amongst the officers. Of the 11 commanders engaged six fell on the field; French 75%, Spanish 43%.

Using version 2 of the Pike & Plunder campaign rules the result was assessed as follows:

Spain - Crushing Victory. 9VPs +3 to C-in-C’s next battlefield quality roll. Losses: 38% - 32 Army Value.
France - Crushing Defeat. Army completely destroyed.

Version 2 of the Pike & Plunder campaign rules are nearly ready and will be released soon.

On reflection
The French deployed badly. In trying to defend everything they defended nothing. Being more suited to attack than defence, this greatly reduced the weight of attack the army could deliver. The French were hampered by the difference in morale points – they were reduced to zero before the battle was half way through – and the Spanish ended the battle with more morale chips than the French started with.

Written and photographed by James Roach

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