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The Battle of Garigliano, 1503


The Italian Wars, Pike & Shotte, 28mm

These days, when we don’t know what else to play at the club, my German friend Michael Schneider suggests a Renaissance game. We’ve played a few of these now, and they always look good, despite Michael’s minimalist approach to scenery. He likes battlefields stripped of ancillary detail – a sort of Scandinavian design approach to wargaming. Still, in this case he has a point. The original battle of Garigliano was fought in late December, so the usually pleasant valley filled with crops and groves might well have been barren, and devoid of cover. Anyway, our table was – apart from the river there was a small low hill with a redoubt on top – representing the fortified village of Suio.In our game, my French held the hill with a small force of crossbowmen, supported by some cavalry. Facing the main Spanish army was a line of entrenchments overlooking the river, defended by pikemen, halberdiers, artillery and my best cavalry. In between was another hill with a gun and a unit of handgunners. Michael didn’t have a Spanish army, so the Imperialists stood in for them – three blocks of Landsknechts, and several units of supporting halberdiers, crossbowmen and handgunners.He also had cavalry – two units of light cavalry on the right flank. and three units of heavies facing my gendarmes on the Spanish/Imperialist right. One of these Landsknecht pike blocks was mine – the one in the photo below, lined up opposite the Suio hill. I’d taken seven years to paint this particular unit – I did six landsknechts a year, then ran out of steam, and took a year off in the middle. This, after all that time, was their first outing! It and the other Imperial troops near Suio on the Imperialist right were commanded by Michael, while Bart took command of the Imperial left wing, facing my entrenchments on the far bank of the Garigliano.The battle began with a blunder. Bart’s cavalry blundered, and retired off the table for two moves. So far so good. His pike blocks ground forward though, and began crossing the Garigliano River. Unfortunately it was easily fordable, and was only an obstacle that delayed rather than prevented their advance. So, my two guns blazed away, and for the next three turns they seemed to hit with almost every shot.So too did my crossbowmen on Suio, and by disordering the skirmishing handgunners who led the Landsknecht pikes over there, the Imperial right hook stalled for a bit. This bought me enough time to bring up my handgunners and cavalry to support the crossbows. A third gun of mine kept hitting a unit of halberdiers on Michael’s left wing, and when it became disordered my handgunners charged it in the flank, shooting before they went in. The halberdiers broke, and my skirmishers piled into the flank of a light gun behind them. On the other side of Suio hill my mounted archers charged and broke a unit of mounted crossbowmen, and drove back the Stradiots behind them So, in a few turns the two flanks of Michael’s attack had been demolished, and the advance stalled. Yay!

Back downstream the Imperial cavalry had finally crossed the river, and charged a unit of French arnchers. my horse were driven back, but the Imperialists withdrew too, thanks to being shaken. My gendarmes were left, to prop up my right flank. The cavalry threatened to charge a gun, but closing fire stopped that, and the Imperialist cavalry were forced back again. A unit of handgunners had advanced to support them, but seizing their moment my halberdiers sprang out of the defences and assaulted them. The handgunners were broken, but the next turn my halberdiers were too, thanks to close range fire from an Imperial gun. My own guns though, kept inflicting “disordering” hits on the Lansdsknecht pike blocks, which stopped them from advancing. With the attack faltering, Bart launched a last-ditch cavalry charge – his men-at-arms against mine. It was a deciding moment, but the French gendarmes emerged victorious, and the day was saved. With time running out, and their attacks stalled all along the line, Michael and Bart called it a day. So, a French victory, won thanks to firepower and French cavalry charges rather than push of pike.

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