Sunday, 9 December 2007

The Battle of The Shrine - 5th December 2007

Papal State
Army value: 146 florins.
Battle posture: Defence
Battle hand: 7, 3, 2 & 2 VPs.
Ruse de guerre cards played: Morale stratagem - Sacred emblem, 30 secret reinforcements.
Morale Cards: Cavalry up 1 in melee, extra opportunity chip.
Morale Chips: 21.

Army value 125 florins.
Battle posture: Defence.
Battle Hand: Jack, 9, 6 & 4 VPs.
Ruse de guerre cards played: 18” earthworks.
Morale Cards: Combat stratagem: Heroic charge, extra leader check card.
Morale Chips: 25.

The battlefield was a flat plain except for two low hills (type II), one in each deployment zone; the Venetian hill worth 2 VPs. The Venetian’s left centre combat zone was dominated by a large deep lake surrounded by trees and dense undergrowth (type V), fed by a small stream (type I). In the centre of the field was a crossroads whereat stood a small shrine from which the battle derived its name; the road exit on the Venetian side worth 3 VPs. The Papal State deployed its camp, worth 6 VPs, to the right of its deployment zone. Venice deployed its camp, worth 15 VPs, to the left of its road exit.

The Forces and Deployment

Papal State
A: C-in-C and heavy guns.
B: 1 unit Casa.
C: 1 unit Lance Spezatte.
D: Landsknecht pike (15 stands), 1 unit Italian arquebus (SK), 1 unit mounted arquebus (SK).
E: Landsknecht pike (15 stands), 1 unit Italian arquebus (SK), 1 unit mounted crossbow (SK), 1 unit limbered light guns.
F: Romagnol pike (6 stands), 2 units of provisionati crossbow, 1 unit Swiss Guard halberdiers.

1. C-in-C and Casa.
2. 1 unit of Condottiere (EHC), 1 unit of Condottiere (HC).
3. 1 unit Condottiere (HC), 1 unit Stradiots.
4. Swiss pike (9 stands), 1 unit Swiss arquebus (SK), 1 unit Schiavoni, 18” earthworks.
5. Landsknecht pike (15 stands), 1 unit Landsknecht arquebus (SK), 1 unit Italian arquebus (SK), 1 unit medium guns.

The Battle
The battle started late in the day. The afternoon sun was already low in the sky when the first boom of cannon signalled the Papal advance (The battle was to last only 5 turns – 2d4 +3). The soldiers of the Papacy marched towards the enemy positions on all fronts and en-masse. The Venetians, feeling secure in the defence of over two thirds of the battlefield victory points, braced themselves. As the distance between the armies closed the positional guns of both sides hammered away at the dense masses of defenceless pike to good effect.

The first clashes came when the Papal light cavalry issued forth from behind the Landsknechts to engage the lines of skirmishers in front of the Venetian Landsknechts. This skirmishing was very sharp. The Papal cavalry was dominant (both rolled up as determined units) and soon put their adversaries to flight. They then rallied back to the protection of the pike.

As the left hand column of Papal Landsknechts (command E) drew level with the hill, they dispatched their skirmishers to engage the Venetian Condottiere, then wheeled right to threaten the Venetian guns, leaving their exposed flank to the protection of the Italian infantry (command F) coming up on their left. This plan, although sound, relied on the Italian infantry to move swiftly. They did not, and the Venetian Condottiere (command 2) advanced, dispersing some shielding skirmishers, then charged furiously into the Landsknechts rear causing great slaughter as they “tunnelled” their way into them.

In the centre the great columns of opposing Landsknechts (commands 5 and D) washed into each other like two great waves on opposing courses, whilst in front of the earthworks a fire fight between the shot took place. On the hill the Venetian gunners were forced to take cover under their guns by the accurate fire of the mounted Arquebusier. As soon as the did so the light cavalry charged and cut them down to a man.

On the Venetian left the Papal heavy cavalry (commands B and C) crossed the stream and were promptly, if desperately, charged by some light Condottiere cavalry (command 3).The struggle was brief. The Casa cavalry of the Pope dispersed them with ease, then their commander desperately tried to rally them again as the Venetian Casa advanced upon them.

The first breakthrough came for the Venetians. Their Condottiere had by now caused severe loss to the Landsknechts on the hill – their commander fell and they broke. Now it was the turn of the Venetian cavalry to desperately try and rally before the Papal supports could close.

As the sun began to dip beyond the horizon (in the last turn) the battle was decided. The Venetian cavalry, disordered and exhausted by their slaughter of the Landsknechts, were unable to reform before a spirited charge by the mounted crossbowmen, which had withdrawn to reform, took them in the flank and pursued them from the field. The Italian infantry, coming up better late than never, routed the supporting unit of Condottiere with a hail of crossbow bolts and a pike charge. The Papacy now controlled the hill. On the Venetian left, the Papal Casa reformed and were upon the enemy Casa in a flash, routing them with severe losses. They rallied again and prepared to move on the enemy camp. In the centre the push of pike had been tremendous. The advantage swung one way then the other, but gradually the Papal pike got the upper hand. With one last effort the Papal Landsknechts won the day. As their fellow countrymen fled, they wheeled onto the flank of the Swiss pike (thus contesting both the road exit and Venetian camp battlefield VPs), but spent by their previous exertions did not press the advantage.

So ended the day. With the Venetians still contesting both the road exit and camp VPs, the Papacy achieved a somewhat surprising, if marginal, victory. The victory was undoubtedly due to the amount of initiative gained and the fact that the Papacy only failed to act on one movement card. The Papacy gained 5 campaign VPs but lost 36 army value points. The Venetians lost 91 army value points and were forced to retire to Ferrera.

On reflection
Following the battle there has been much discussion about battlefield victory points (VPs) being the sole arbiter of victory. I have been convinced that an additional factor must also be introduced. We are working on it for version 2.

Written, painted and photographed by James Roach.

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