Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Battle of Dreux, 1562 AD

The Battle of Dreux was fought on 19 December 1562 between Catholics and Huguenots. The Catholics were led by Anne de Montmorency while Louis I, Prince of Condé led the Huguenots. The first general engagement of the civil wars. The Protestant army ran into the Catholic army on the road to Dreux, because of a criminal lack of foresight by Condé in posting any kind of advance scouts. Although both sides probably had roughly the same amount of cavalry with them, the Catholics had much more infantry and the benefit of superior organization (although not a more intelligent commander). The two armies stood around for two hours looking at each other before the action began -- La Noue says in his Discours that this was because it was the first time two French armies had faced each other in over a century, and each had friends and brothers on the other side and was afraid to begin what would no doubt become the first act in a great tragedy.

In the center is a pike square, with some arquebusiers firing under their protection. The first rank of pikemen crouch low so that the rank behind them can also lower their pikes to accept the charge against them -- the arquebusiers have to scoot for cover. They are being attacked by cavalry from the front and flank. This is a detail from the whole battle scene (which I do not have). At the top is the village of Bleinville, which marked the left of the Catholic line, which was routed by Admiral Coligny's horse. The Catholic right fared much better, letting Condé exhaust his cavalry on futile charges against a solid Swiss pike phalanx before Guise brought out his reserves of horse and foot. The remains of the Huguenot army retreated in good order under Coligny, who maintained completely his freedom of movement in the countryside. It is an intense irony that each of the commanders-in-chief, Montmorency for the Catholics and Condé for the Huguenots, was captured by the other side because each was behaving more like a front-line cavalry captain than the general of army -- a chronic incapacity that they both shared. Montmorency was still leading charges at 70 years old. -Wikipedia

Big ole game of Might of Arms II the other night, using the Pike and Shot variant. This was a test run for Bob's Historicon game later this summer, so the action was fast and furious. Other than the article above, I can't say too much about the details of the actual battle! I can safely say that I played on the French side, but then again, they were all French!

Games of this magnitude, on a large table, with great terrain and fully painted armies are always nothing less than a the "spectacle" that is wargaming. For a game to truly take off it needs to hit on all cylinders to succeed, and the case the other night did exactly that; good terrain, nice looking armies, solid rules, well-written scenario, and good friends.

I felt I was a lot more competent in this very historical battle than some of my past participations. I had some cannons that did little, but I effectively moved my blocks of troops to charge and counter-charge, harass the flanks, and decimate those I could get close enough to. I also had some huge rolls that weren't letting me down.

Steady on!

The fighting in the middle got thick, fast

In a big game like this there's plenty of action going on at any given moment. It's cool because on a long table (this one was ten feet I think) full of smaller 15mm figs, there's action going on all up and down the length of it. Plus, it comfortably handled five players but I think it could've gone as high as eight, fitting for a con game. Tom and I were on one side, with Andy, Brian, and Bob on the other. We held our own for a while, but the tide was turning.

The din of battle, this is the spectacle

My cannon battery outside the town

I felt I was doing well, but I think that was because my half of the army was only fighting one third of the enemy. This meant Tom's half of the army had his hands full fighting the other two thirds of the enemy. His flank was slowly, but surely, getting rolled up and on a ten foot table it was next to impossible for me to maneuver around and get over there to help out. We eventually called it, there might have been another lucky turn or two left on our side, but the outcome of the battle was pretty clear. It was truly one of those games where it doesn't matter who actually won or not though, it was all about that 'spectacle' I had mentioned.

Calling it early did mean we snuck in a bonus game of Dominion!

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