These armies were pitted against each other in two club games in consecutive weeks with the terrain set by a none-playing club member.
The 8 hex escarpment, forest and low hill created a division of the battlefield, one third/two thirds and the central wood, 8 hex hill and 4 hex escarpment on the English side of the were key tactical terrain features. Gary and I (French), advanced our line of foot men-at-arms with the 6 units of mounted knights close behind. The French crossbow units were given the task of taking and holding the 8 hex escarpment which would provide an excellent shooting position to help control the centre of the field.
The English (Tony, Dave and Chris) advanced the majority of their longbow to face the French men-at-arms and sent a sizeable cavalry force to challenge the crossbow units holding the aforementioned escarpment. Two units of English longbow provided ‘fire Support’ for this mission and the opposing units were quickly engaged. After initial French success resulting in the loss of a unit of mounted sergeants, the English gained the upper-hand pushing the French crossbow backwards with the loss of 3 units. In response we decided to send 2 units of men-at-arms from the French centre to help in this struggle.
Tony then switched the English cavalry away from the fight on the escarpment back behind the English centre. Gary and I were ready at this point launch the French knights against the line of English longbow. We hesitated! It was a win or lose charge just like the famous historical encounters and we held back. In the next tactical move, Dave pulled the longbow units back towards an 8 hex hill – a strong defensive position, and our opportunity was lost!
We next attacked the central English position with infantry against the English units defending the woodland and the 4 hex escarpment beyond. This battle of attrition whittled down the foot men-at-arms on both sides and after capturing the wood, we were able to charge our French knights through a 2 hex wide channel to try and cut the English army in two. This proved to be a very tight space in which to use cavalry, and after initial success our knights and 2 generals became trapped on top of the 4 hex escarpment. Another unit of French knights defeated and pursued a unit of English mounted sergeants only to be surrounded, trapped, and destroyed. The English longbow were now advancing against the French infantry which were now devoid of any missile troops of their own.
With the French now with only one general left against the English 3, most of the French knights gone and the bulk of the English longbow beginning to encircle what remained of the French army we gracefully accepted defeat!
The charge of the French knights against the English longbow could have given the French a quick and decisive victory. We let the opportunity slip away and as a result our strength was gradually whittled down by the accurate shooting of the English longbow.
The same 2 armies met again the following week. This time Tony, Dave and Gary had the English and Tim, Chris and I the French. The terrain was selected and positioned by Andre and the French won the di roll for choice of table edge and chose the side with a central escarpment. The English deployed and moved first.
With the French crossbow units deployed with their pavisses atop the central escarpment, the infantry of the two forces were soon advancing towards each other on either wing, deliberately avoiding the open centre below the escarpment. There were small woods and hills on both wings of the table and this provided useful cover against the shooting of the English longbow. We assaulted the longbow units in the woods with the French infantry keeping the bulk of the French knights out of the fray ready to confront any advance by the English cavalry.
With the French infantry being pushed back on our right wing we reluctantly committed two units of French knights to the extreme right to out-flank the English position. It soon became apparent that our French crossbow units occupying the central escarpment were not going to play any significant role and so they left the security of the escarpment and were gradually fed into the growing infantry struggle on the right.
As the opposing cavalry units stood still and stared at each other in the centre of the battlefield, infantry carnage was taking place on the right. With both sides reluctant to commit their precious cavalry, this battle of infantry attrition was set to continue for three more game turns. The casualty trays were filling up with men-at-arms, mostly French, but a growing number of English longbow units also, which significantly reduced the shooting power of the English army.
The English knights and mounted sergeants finally ‘bit the bullet’ and charge across the centre of the battlefield towards the French left demolishing the French crossbow units on the hill. After this very brutal round of hand-to-hand combat for the French, Tony, quite correctly pointed out that the French army was probably down to half strength – an English win! However, all players were happy for the game to continue – it was too much fun to quit now! In the next French tactical move, 4 units of French knights accompanied by 2 generals slammed into the English cavalry and infantry, which were now exposed in open hexes outside the wood. The English units were trapped in a sandwich, could not flee or recoil and were lost. The French infantry recaptured the woodland and forced the English general out of the wood into the hands of the French knights.
By this point of the battle, the field resembled the closing moves of a closely fought chess game with few pieces left on the table. The English army was all but destroyed with their 2 remaining generals surrounded by French knights. The French infantry, or rather what was left of it held the centre unopposed still with 3 living generals!
I suppose both sides could claim a victory if the 50% rule was applied. The defeat of the English longbow units in and around the woodland and the devastating charge of the French knights at the close of the game perhaps finally edged the game to a French win.