Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Swiss Test Run

Last weekend, I had the unexpected opportunity to get my 25mm Medieval Swiss army out for a test run.  My gaming friend Jacob agreed to a Field of Glory game, even though he is usually a Warrior player, and we did an 800 point matchup at the regular, bi-weekly meeting of the Hartford Area Historical Gaming Society (HAHGS), held in the gaming basement of the Time Machine Hobby Shop in Manchester, Connecticut.  We played the game on a 5 foot deep by 8 foot wide table, using a measurement standard of 1 MU equal to 40mm.

Jacob brought an army of Medieval Irish from the Storm of Arrows supplement.  The Irish outnumbered the Swiss in Light Infantry and Light Cavalry, and was otherwise composed of a mass of protected, superior, heavy weapon armed Galloglaigh, with several big blocks of medium foot light spear armed Kerns, suitable for fighting in terrain.  Additionally, the Irish were stiffened by an unit of armored lancer cavalry, and since Jacob played the Edward Bruce Special Campaign option, he also had an unit of offensive spearmen with an unit of heavily armored knights.

The Swiss lost the initiative roll, of course - that's something I will have to anticipate for most games, since they have a pre-battle initiative modifier of zero.  That meant that the Irish were able to mess up the battlefield with terrain that was inconvenient for the Swiss pike, including a large forest right in the middle that the Irish obviously meant to use to split the Swiss deployment.

Above, you can see most of the Swiss deployment to start the game.  I put the majority of the army to the right of the centrally placed forest, with most of my light foot in the woods, and small units of halberdiers in either rear support or as flank protection.  Note that the closest unit of pike in this photo uses the Perry Miniatures plastics, and that I added the flags included with the box set to the front rank bases.

The remainder of the army, including two pike blocks, a supporting unit of halberdiers, and a single unit of light horse crossbows, were placed to the left of the center forest.  This turned out not to be the best tactical move, and I'm sure that I would have be better off concentrating the pike instead, even though it turns out that things actually didn't turn out too badly for me.  Here is a photo of the isolated wing of pikemen at the start of deployment.

Giving equal exposure to the Irish, here is a photo below of the initial deployment of most of their battle line.

And here is the unit of Irish knights, hoping to get into a position to charge into the flanks of the Swiss pike blocks.

Once things got rolling, the battle was really a race, with the Swiss hoping to get into contact with the front of the Irish foot as quickly as possible before all the Irish could get through the terrain onto the flanks of the mass of pikemen.  To do this, I was going to have to delay on both flanks, but most particularly on the left, where my two units of isolated pike were significantly outnumbered.  Here are my mounted crossbow and an unit of handgunners, hoping to be able to hold off the hordes of barefoot Kerns and lance-armed cavalry.

Gotta get the basing finished to polish off the look of this army, I know!

Here is the majority of my pike, double moving to start the game, trying to close up as rapidly as possible on the main Irish battle line.

Of course, as is usual for me, I once again mismanaged my light troops.  I moved my light foot into the woods, thinking that they could shoot out from cover there at my opponents light foot, not realizing that since troops in woods shoot in only one rank, my opponent would be shooting back at me with twice the dice.  And I got my handgunners and mounted crossbow too far forward and into trouble.

But the left did hold long enough for the main pike blocks to do their work.  One pike unit was able to take out two units of Kerns who came out of terrain, and another was sacrificed to fight off the lancers while simultaneously getting shot up by light troops firing into the rear ranks of the pikes composed of bases not contributing dice to the combat.  The single unit of supporting halberdiers performed an about face and was able to contain an unit of Irish light horse that had gotten to the rear of the rest of the Swiss.

Although the Swiss ended up holding their own on the left flank, it was on the right where the battle actually was won.  The pike was able to get into contact all along their front, with the only complication being when a single unit pursued long chasing off the Irish light foot, thereby contacting the whole Irish line on it's own.  But the combination of superior quality with rear support and an attached general allowed that unit to avoid any loss in stands or cohesion until the next Swiss turn when the rest of the pike came up in support.

Here is the initial Swiss contact with the Irish battle line.

In the next Irish turn, their knights almost turned the Swiss pike flank by attempting to charge into the side of the pike block on the outside of the formation.  This would have been devastating for the Swiss since the contacted unit would have been disordered and would have lost all of the pike POA's versus lancers.  Once they had broken, it would have been likely that the knights could have pursued down along the entire length of the Swiss length, taking out each unit in succession.  Fortunately for the Swiss, the Irish knights did not have a single base completely behind the front of the Swiss unit they wanted to charge, so this ended up not being a legal charge at all.  See the photo below of the knights trying to get into the flank of the Swiss pike.

Actually, in order to have made those pike less vulnerable to the attempted flank charge, I should have put them into orb formation, since they were out on the end of the line, hanging there unsupported. I will have to review the orb rules to make sure that I'm prepared to use them the next time I get into this situation.

Anyway, the main Swiss line ended up tearing it's way through the center of the Irish line, and we called the game soon afterward.  The Swiss did end up with heavy skirmisher loses, along with the loss of an unit of halberdiers and the probable loss of a pike unit, but overall it was a good margin win for the Swiss.

Lessons learned:

Try to keep the pike concentrated in one block, or at least positioned so all of the pike units can mutually support one another.  Definitely do not position them on opposite sides of a disordering terrain piece.

Remember that all units, including skirmishers, shoot with one rank in woods.

Consider orb formation when pike blocks get outflanked.

I'll be looking forward to another opportunity to practice with the Swiss soon, especially once I get my halberdiers done and all the bases finished.

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