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The Battle of Cernigola, 1503


The Italian Wars, Pike & Shotte, 28mm

Michael Schneider is our club’s true Renaissance man. Rather, he’s the one with most of the lead, and keep staging games. Donald has quite a few figures too, and recently I’ve got in on the act by starting a small Venetian army. Anyway, Michael organised this game, which was based on the Battle of Cernigola. The Spaniards had the smaller army, and were defending – hiding behind a ditch and earthwork.  Their army was commanded by Campbell and Bart. The French, played by Peter, Donald and I, had to attack them. This of course was no easy matter, as we had no guns to bombard the enemy’s defences. they were somewhere off table, and struggling to get to the battlefield.True to form Donald proved as rash as the Duke of Nemours was in real life – after a few turns of this passive waiting he decided to launch an attack – with his gendarmes. Chivalric bravado and Gallic elan would no doubt overcome Hispanic perfidity and firepower. Actually, this gives a slightly false impression. My own flank – the right one – was also ordered to charge forward, as was our centre. it was an all-out assault, with our high quality Swiss foot pinning the enemy centre while our cavalry rolled up the flanks.The trouble was, for four crucial turns, my cavalry refused to move. I can understand why. Nobody wants to charge into earthworks lines by arquebusiers and guns.  The infantry attack was supported by my two units of Venetian crossbowmen, posing as Frenchmen for the day. That’s one of them in the picture below. They did a good job of shooting up the defenders, but it really wasn’t enough to prepare the way for the cavalry charge – or the Swiss. What we needed were guns, and they were still coming up the road. So, with one French flank refusing to move, and the infantry centre plodding forward slowly, Donald’s wing of cavalry raced forward and launched its left hook. It swept past the front of the Spanish earthworks to attack its flank.This area was held by the French cavalry, and by smaller units of pikemen and guns. The initial charge was met by the Spanish cavalry, who were bested by the gendarmes, and withdrew back into the Spanish camp. All that lay between the French and victory was a ditch, and earthwork, guns and infantry! Donald charged anyway, and cut his way deep into the enemy defences. it was doomed though – gallant but doomed.One after the other the three French cavalry units were chopped to pieces, and Donald’s alter ego died heroically – stabbed by Toledo steel. That was something of a disaster, but by now three things were happening – the Swiss were approaching the centre of the Spanish earthworks, my cavalry were finally moving forward, and at long last our guns had arrived on the table. We could still win this!Actually, we couldn’t, but we thought we still had a chance. My cavalry swept forward, and saw off the enemy cavalry on the Spanish left flank. That though, still left the inner defences. They had a light gun, which kept peppering my stradiots, and arquebusiers who proved to be useless shots. That though, was all that happened. By the time my troops were lined up to charge, and our guns had deployed to support them, the battle was decided.In the centre you see, the Swiss had reached the ditch. Peter had plodded forward steadily, and with three pike blocks (landsknechts and Swiss) he stood a good chance of forcing his way into the enemy’s defences. However, his pikes kept on being disordered by close-range arquebus fire, and that stopped them from charging home. After a few turns of this they had enough “hit” points to force a Break test. They all passed, but now the tests were coming every turn.After three turns of this the Swiss and one of the two landsknecht pike blocks broke and ran. That effectively ended the battle. the French had made a good stab at it, but a combination of rashness, piecemeal attacks and stout defending meant that the battle ended in an emphatic Spanish victory.

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