None of the 6 players had any prior knowledge about the two army compositions or even which armies were to do battle when Andre chose and positioned the terrain for the evenings game. Andre was very ‘liberal’ in his choice of terrain pieces and the layout was what can only be described as ‘cluttered’ with woods, broken ground, hills and escarpments along the centre of the table between the opposing armies. This was not cavalry friendly terrain!
The dice decided the two teams, choice of army, table edge and first move. Steve, Chris and Mike chose the Teutonic Order and Tony, Dave and I deployed our French army second, thanks to the di roll. The advantage of deploying second gave us the opportunity to formulate a bold game plan based on the already visible positions of the various Teutonic units. Tony positioned all the French cavalry on our right wing, ready for an all out dash for and through the woodland hexes adjacent to the road. Dave was to take the bulk of the infantry on the left wing as a flanking force able to operate in terrain unsuitable for cavalry. Meanwhile, my mission was to use my 5 units of French crossbow, which were equipped with pavisses, to hold the centre with a shooting line.
All seemed well until the French lost the di roll for first move, which enabled the Teutonic infantry commanded by Mike, advancing in column, to close on the woodland hexes before Tony’s cavalry. Mike, a fairly inexperienced player had unknowingly, smashed the French battle plan! Tony had to watch as a formidable line of Teutonic spearmen and crossbow units formed a solid line in the woodland hexes adjacent to the and therefore controlling the road. This had the profound effect of severely limiting the movement options of the massed French cavalry.
The opposing lines of crossbows engaged in a shooting battle in the centre as Dave moved his French infantry on a slow flanking manoeuvre, shadowed by the 3 units of Teutonic mounted crossbows. Steve and Chris started to move the Teutonic knights forward and Tony positioned French knights ready to receive a charge as best he could given the local terrain restrictions.
My line of French crossbow were charged by 3 units of Teutonic knights and out – shot by the Teutonic crossbow. The resulting demolition left just 6 stands of French crossbow on the table out of the original 20 and these were sent fleeing disrupted! Tony was forced to sacrifice units of French sergeants into impossible to win combats just to create space for his French knights to counter-attack the Teutonic knights. The French had no infantry on the right to challenge Teutonic infantry in the woods and so in the restricted space the opposing heavy cavalry went head-to-head in which the Teutonic knights had the slight advantage.
Chris and Steve by this point had begun to realise that Dave’s flanking march was purely a deliberate distraction and started to move all their cavalry towards the centre where the battle would be decided. As both sides forced more and more units into a hand-to-hand fight in a very restricted space it became reminiscent of the Spartans at the battle of Thermopolea – the French cavalry numbers would ‘count for nothing’ just like the Persians. There was no space for units to recoil or flee and as the Teutonic infantry started to follow-up the success of their cavalry and advance in support, the French looked to be beaten.
With all my French crossbow units all but destroyed, I had time to study the game objectively and when Tony said, ‘I think we’re beat’, I was inclined to agree with him. This belief was further reinforced when Chris moved his mounted crossbow units onto the small hill from where they could shoot down upon the French knights. With no hexes in which to recoil to, they would be eliminated with just 3 hits from the shooting dice forcing a recoil. Three times Chris failed to achieve the hits required and failed to deliver the killing blow against Tony’s cavalry. There was no justice here, the dice gods were decidedly French!
A unit of Teutonic knights accompanied by a precious general that had demolished everything before it was finally trapped and eliminated – another ‘let-off’ for we French. The remainder of the French infantry from the left were now beginning to close on the ongoing carnage in the centre. The Teutonic infantry had failed to follow-up quickly enough to exploit the Teutonic advantage and deliver the killing blow to the remnants of the French cavalry.
Time was now pressing and all players agreed to call the game a draw. However, I did a quick unit count and although the Teutonic Order had lost 3 of their 5 units of knights, most of their infantry was still on the table and the French army had lost most of its cavalry and crossbows. Any final points count would probably favour the Teutonic Order!
At the start of the game, the French deployment and battle plan was to quickly pass the cavalry through the woodland into open ground where their much greater number of knights and mounted sergeants could out manoeuvre and swamp the Teutonics. Chris, Steve and Mike who had a more balanced deployment, stole the initiative with the first move of the game, effectively wrecking the French plan by forcing the French cavalry to fight on a narrow frontage thus giving the Teutonic knights an advantage. Throughout the game Tony, Dave and I failed to break the very strong Teutonic defence or adapt our battle plan in response to changing circumstances.