Saturday, May 28, 2022

FoG2 Medieval: Florence versus the Papal States

 I can't believe it's been two years since I posted here. There are a number of reasons for my absence, including some health issues and a general lack of interest in posting (though not gaming) during the past two years. It may be that this marks a return to semi-regular posting. Certainly, I have an interest in talking to the void about history and gaming that I haven't had in some time. No promises, but it's probably worth checking back occasionally.

One thing that has happened in the past couple of years is that my interest in gaming has shifted towards miniatures gaming over board games. I still play board games, but my ability to create any sort of scenario I want to explore using minis has a lot of appeal. I'm less interested in the painting and collecting aspects of the hobby. Hence, I've ended up with several armies of plexiglass minis from Wofun Games, all 18mm. When I want to play solo, I've found the Field of Glory games to be a great substitute. They look like minis games, the rules are pretty decent for the period covered, and one can throw together a custom battle with about half-a-dozen mouse clicks. The custom battles cover 75%-80% of what I want to play, and the editor allows me to quickly build more specific scenarios when I want to.

I'm particularly interested in the armies of the late Renaissance right now. Today's FoG 2 Medieval battle was a custom battle pitting the forces of Florence versus the Papal States sometime in the last 20 or so years of the 15th century. Having recently played a number of games set in the Wars of the Roses or the Hundred Years War as the English, I leaned toward a heavy selection of missile troops during army setup.

Florence versus the Papal States

The composition of my Florentine army is very much not the typical condottiere army of the period. The AI selected a mix of troops that was probably much more reflective of history. The Papal army is heavy on mercenary men-at-arms without much in the way of missile troops. Most of those are fighting dismounted, but the AI has retained a decent cavalry arm to match my own. As soon as I saw the AI deployment I knew I was in trouble. I decided to go ahead with the battle though, just to see how a primarily missile armed force would fare versus the heavy infantry force deployed against me.

I set up my force in three battles. The left and right were made up mostly of crossbows, some with pavises, others not, a smattering of handgunners, and stiffened with some heavier infantry. The right was formed around two units of bills, while the left relied on a pike block. Both contained a second rank of crossbows for support and were preceded by skirmishers and mounted crossbows. These battles were deployed slightly in advance of my third battle, made up entirely of mounted mercenary men-at-arms. My plan/hope was to advance the force to missile range, shoot up the Papal infantry as they closed, and then charge home into their hopefully disordered ranks with my cavalry. 

Left and right battles in advance of my cavalry

There were two other items of tactical note. First, my left was set up at the base of a hill that ran almost all the way to the Papal line. If I could move on to this hill and hold the high ground, in missile range of the Papal troops, it would make it difficult for the Papal infantry to attack my crossbows. It was pretty clear that this was the key terrain on the battlefield and I needed to seize and hold it. Along with this my right extended well beyond the end of the left flank of the Papal army. If I could hold on my left, showering the Papal troops with arrows and then envelope the Papal left with my right, I might well seriously discomfort the heavy infantry that would otherwise steamroll me. That then, was my plan.

Skirmishers on my right and the advancing infantry make short work of the Papal light troops

On the right my skirmishers move to harass the enemy artillery

The first turns went well for Florence. The Papal State army decided to stand pat, and the light troops engaged as my army moved up. The Papal skirmishers definitely came off the worst in the match and I was able to seize the critical high ground.

The Papal States advance

Pretty soon the Pope's lads had enough and lunged forward. My left wasn't quite to the edge of the hill yet, meaning I needed to move forward there quickly to get into the advantageous position.

More in echelon than the V formation I really wanted

My right was lagging due to the delay of the skirmishers fighting on that side. The good news was the Papal left was completely lapped by my right. The bad news was that my center and left were considerably in advance of my right, and likely to be engaged before I was in a good position to flank and fire.

Collision on the slopes

As expected, the first major fighting happened on the hill on my left. Fortunately, my left flank was secured by a river and the right side of the force on the hill was guarded by the cavalry in my center. Unfortunately, My crossbowmen were being attacked by dismounted men-at-arms and I didn't have high hopes for their ability to last long in the melee. I hadn't managed to hold the enemy at range long enough to do much missile damage.

Assailed from all sides

I advanced the pikes on my left forward of the main line of missile troops to "tank" for them in the hopes of allowing them to get off more fire at the Papal infantry. In short order, the pikemen were under attack from multiple groups of mounted and dismounted men-at-arms. Though the initial exchanges went in favor of the pikes,  losses amounted quickly due to them being badly outnumbered. I was obliged to charge in with the cavalry in my center to take some pressure off the pike block. My right was still trying to get into the fight.

Well, damn

Although my left was under pressure, things were going my way. A small but significant portion of the Papal army had been routed while my force was intact. It was looking okay, if not good. Then Papal reinforcements in the form of more cavalry arrived on my right flank.

Fighting on the hill and in the center

As expected, the hill quickly became the focus of the fighting. Also as expected, the bows and pikes of my left couldn't hold out for long against the much tougher mercenary men-at-arms. Despite heavy fighting in the center and my right starting to make itself felt, the troops on my left, including the pike block I had high hopes for started to collapse and flee the fight. Not even stiffening that side with my C-in-C was enough to turn the tide.

The battle see-saws back and forth

Still, the Papal force wasn't having it all their way as my center and right pretty much did to their left what they were doing to mine. The battle titled back and forth for several turns as I continued to cling to the high ground.

Reinforcements arrive

The arrival of the Papal cavalry reinforcements was enough to tip the fight in their favor. Fresh cavalry hitting crossbows and tired bills shattered my remaining defense. Papal losses were high but Florence had nothing left to fight with, and the high ground advantage was lost.

Last stand

In just a couple of turns after the reinforcing cavalry first charged home, it was all over. The exhausted Florentine troops shattered like glass and ran.

A costly victory for the Pope

The important lesson here is don't rely almost entirely on missile troops for your Renaissance army. I was impressed my force lasted as long as it did, but it definitely wouldn't have if I'd been playing another human rather than the game AI. As I learned from my Wars of the Roses games, the dismounted men-at-arms supported by bows and spearmen are an effective combination. Missile troops caught in melee against men-at-arms have a short life-span

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