Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Novara 6th June 1513: A Scenario

This will not be the first time we have re-fought this battle. Indeed, it's not even the first time will have re-fought it using our house rules Hell Broke Loose. However, the set up is different, especially with regards to the placement of the Landsknechts.

The game also has a few more troops in use than before. To enhance the visual spectacle without increasing the number of units I'm using 50% more stands per unit (e.g. a four stand unit is six stands strong). I have chosen a figure scale of 1:40 and a dollop of fudge.

The historical background is a cut and paste job from the original scenario. The order of battle and scenario notes are fresh, and I've put them together with notes about why I have chosen to do the set up the way I have and what fudges I've chosen to use.

A Short Historical Background
In 1512, following the Battle of Ravenna, France somehow failed to capitalise on her victory. In fact, the campaign proved to be a disaster, and she lost Milan. In mid May 1513, Louis XII of France dispatched an army, under the command of La Tremouille, over the Alps to retake his lost duchy.

By early June, much of the duchy had been retaken, and Tremouille had moved to besiege Novara (the duchy’s second city) where the duchy’s new, Swiss backed duke, Massimiliano Sforza, was holed up with 4000 Swiss.

Shortly after the French invested Novara a Swiss army arrived to its relief. On their approach La Tremouille, not wishing to be caught in his siege lines, withdrew his army. At nightfall, the dispersed units of the French army made camp around the village of Trecate. Unexpectedly, the Swiss did not tarry after their long march to Novara. They linked up with the garrison there and immediately followed up the French as they withdrew. Using local guides they made their way, in the dark, to within striking distance of the French army. Just before dawn, they attacked.

The attack began with skirmish between Swiss ‘enfants perdus’ and French pickets in the village of Trecate. La Tremouille, who had taken a billet in the village, narrowly escaped capture. But, the Swiss skirmishers did not follow up this attack. It was a feint, and their skirmishers withdrew to a wood that lay within shooting distance of Trecate’s houses from where they kept up a noisy fire.

The alarm had been sounded and French troops, bleary eyed and disorientated, were called to stand-to. They had no time to re-doploy to face their attackers – the Swiss were everywhere upon them.

This is where this scenario begins.

The Battlefield

I have set up the battle on a 12 x 6 table.

The battlefield is dominated by the town of Trecate. This small town (located at 45 25 58 N, 8 44 17 E) lies about six miles east of Novara. Oman describes it as being sited on rising ground and that is how I have set it; in fact the ground only falls away gently to the south, the approaches being across a dead flat plain from other directions. The whole town counts as (type III) rough terrain and heavy cover. Cavalry may operate on the roads and in the square but not in other parts of the town.

I have chosen to place the outskirts of Romentino at the extreme northern end of the table. This lies about two miles from Trecate and is useful as a boundary to the battlefield. It is not necessary for the scenario, the table edge would suffice.

East of the Trecate, between it and Novara, and within arquebus shot, there is a large wood. This wood helped to screen the advance of the Swiss from from the French when they marched from Novara. It counts as (type III) rough terrain and heavy cover.

To the north of the town there is an expanse of boggy ground. The nature of this ground is contested. Tremouille used it as a reason for not supporting his Landsknechts with his heavy cavalry, however, Robert de Bouillon managed to lead his cavalry across the marshy ground in support of his son Florange. I have chosen to make this ground a patchwork of different terrain; areas of 'solid bog' pieces are impassable; the area marked with tufts represent ground that looks worse than it is - it counts as (type II) rough terrain for movement on odd rolls, otherwise (type I) open terrain. It does not provide cover.

To the south of the town is the French camp. For game purposes it is bounded by the walls extending from the south east quarter of Trecate. To French troops it counts as open terrain and does not provide cover. After its French defenders quit the camp the Swiss troops started to plunder it; I think the simplest way to represent this, whilst preventing a French rule lawyer from using the camp as a tool to stop the Swiss, is to say that any Swiss troops, fully in the camp, treat it as (type III) rough terrain for movement purposes - they can't move on odd rolls and move at half rate on even rolls.

There are two large cornfields on the table. These were placed to cover the approach of the main Swiss column and the flanking force sent to attack the French camp. Oman says that standing crops helped to conceal the approach of the Swiss and caused the French artillery to fire high. Consequently, the fields provide light cover vs fire.

The French

For this scenario I'm going to heavily penalise the French in three ways. This, I believe, is the only way to give the Swiss a fighting chance of performing as they did historically whilst still giving the French a fighting chance.

Tremouille, regardless of former glories, must be rated as a poor commander. His lack of initiative and direction severely effected the French response to the surprise Swiss attack. Consequently, the French will use a D8 sequence deck and army die.

I've decided to assign army characterisation cards rather than deal them out randomly, and the French do not do well. The French are due 6 cards from the characterisation deck: they get 26 morale chips [5,5,5,5,6]; 1 Stubborn army morale card. I added the latter card because the French cavalry hung about for some time after it became obvious they had lost the battle.

Finally, the French are deployed not fully prepared to meet the Swiss attack. The French are deployed in five commands. Four of these commands are historical, the fifth has been used to split the French gendarmerie into two commands to allow Robert de Bouilon to act independently of Tremouille and with more panache.

The French order of battle comprises 1,000 lances (about 3000 heavy cavalry); 1,000 light cavalry, 4,000 Gascon and Navarrese crossbowmen; 6000 Landsknecht; well provided artillery train.

C-in-C: Louis de La Tremouille
D8 motivation die.
Commanding 500 lances.
Three units of French Gendarmes.
These units start the game vexed [surprised], unarmed and unformed.  They are not counted as armoured unless they use the first Formation Change card to arm (at which point they can remove the 'broken wheel' counter). If they choose to do this they cannot change formation on the same card. Unformed troops present rear in all directions until they change formation on a Formation Change card.

Robert de Bouillon
D10 motivation die.
Commanding 500 lances.
Three units of French Gendarmes.
These units start the game vexed [surprised], unarmed and unformed. (See notes above). If Bouillon takes personal command of a unit of Gendarmes it becomes elite whilst he leads it. He can use this ability once in the game. It represents his attempts to save his sons serving with the Landsknechts.

Louis de Beaumont
D8 motivation die.
Commanding 4000 Gascon and Navarrese crossbowmen.
Four units of French crossbowmen.
Oman describes these troops as being "imperfectly formed" when the blow fell. To represent this all of the units count as vexed [surprised]. Two of the units (front to back, second and fourth) are completely unformed and require a Formation Change card to present a front.

D10 motivation die.
Commanding 1,000 light cavalry.
One unit of Stradiots and one unit of mounted crossbows.
These units seem to have managed to mount some sort of defence from the outset. They start the game vexed [surprised].

Florange, Robert de la Marck
D10 motivation die.
Commanding 6,000 Landsknechts and the artillery train.
Three pike blocks (counting 6 stands each); one unit of Landsknecht shot; three medium guns.
This command managed to organise a defence from the start. All units start the game vexed [surprised]. I have chosen not to make the Landsknechts Murderous in this particular battle due to their rather poor performance. Note that these troops have been deployed as per the description by Oman, who says that the shot were placed to one side and the artillery was deployed in front. He also says that the Swiss approached somewhat flank-wise, so I have deployed the bulk of the Landsknechts obliquely to the Swiss approach.

The Swiss

The Swiss order of battle comprised about 9,000 Swiss, a handful of Milanese cavalry and 8 falconets. These were disposed in the traditional Swiss manner, three columns under the nominal command of their employer Maximilian Sforza.

I have chosen to misread, fudge and lie about the number of Milanese cavalry present. Oman sets their number at 200. This would mean a unit of four or five figures, which isn't worth representing. I have chosen to say 200 lances, which gives a unit of around twelve. Given that this unit is the only cavalry present in the army it shouldn't undo the general balance of the forces.

I have assigned a D10* sequence deck and a D10 army die to the Swiss (Milanese) army. They have also done quite well with their four army characterisation cards, getting 20 morale chips [10,10] and two aggressive melee cards.

Note that the names of the Swiss captains, Graff and Mottinus, are two names listed among the Swiss casualties. Both fell leading the main column but, as I do not know the name of the second column's captain, I have redeployed Graff to command it.

C-in-C Maximilian Sforza
D10 motivation Die
Commanding 1000 Swiss pike and 200 [lances?] heavy cavalry.
1 unit (counting 4 stands) of Swiss pike and one unit of Milanese men-at-arms.
This column marched around the town unseen to attack the French camp.

D10 motivation die.
Commanding 2000 Swiss pike plus supporting troops.
1 unit (counting 4 stands) of Swiss pike, two units of Swiss shot and one light gun.
I have chosen to concentrate all of the Swiss shot with this column. I have also chosen to attach the artillery to it; I believe the artillery would have used the road from Novara so this seems appropriate.

D10 motivation die.
Commanding 6,000 Swiss pike plus supports.
Three Swiss pike squares (counting 6 stands each); one unit of Swiss halberdiers.
The halberdiers were, according to Oman, a distinct body set to one side of the column. They attacked the Landsknecht shot before charging onto the flank of the Landsknecht pike. No numbers are given, so I have chosen to attach a full unit.

Victory Conditions
The victory conditions are simple: The destruction of the enemy as per the general rules in Hell Broke Loose.

Unit definitions

Novara Unit definitions (pdf)

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