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Arquebus: Men of Iron Volume IV» Forums » Sessions

Subject: French Misery rss

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Simon Bracegirdle
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My main man Andy O and I have now played the first five scenarios. Great fun, but five, yes five, French defeats.

Cerignola
Yes, the French should lose this and lose it badly; and they did.

Fornovo
I have already chipped in on another forum about my poor handling of the French here. The Venetians nipped over the river and cut through the French who might have been in a better position to resist if they had used an army activation and not bothered so much about their baggage train.

Agnadello

A massive French army and some open Venetian flanks. What could go wrong? Well two crucial things work against the French. First their flight level is very low at 25, so that huge army has to be carefully husbanded. Second, their huge army contains quite a lot of light cavalry, or as we call them victims.
The French started well. They got their reinforcements early and sent them on a move to sweep around their left flank. Meanwhile, Chaumont started to outflank the Venetian left. Chaumont picked off some Venetian artillery on the extreme left flank and moved up his crossbowmen to take out the rest, with his mounted knights ready to pounce on any withdrawals. The Venetians launched a desperate attack to clear the crossbowmen. On their right the Venetians launched an attack to hit some of king Louis' light cavalry before Tremoille's reinforcements could get into position. A lucky series of activations helped the Venetians and one disordered sword and buckler unit cut through the flanks of the crossbow on the left.
It was enough to put the French to flight.

Ravenna
This was a good close battle. The incessant French artillery fire had Spanish units retiring at regular intervals and the Spanish took early standard actions to counteract this.
The French moved to swoop around the Spanish right flank, but a combination of Pescara's light horse and units shuffled over from Olivero's battle held the line. Too late in the day the French realised that the Spanish battle wagons and artillery line was not as strong as it looked and is in fact very vulnerable to artillery fire from the French artillery. But the Spanish were making inroads on their right and eventually French losses caught up with them.

Marignano
Some mad Swiss charge a huge French army bristling with artillery. How can the French lose? Quite easily actually.
The -2 to Swiss activation rolls was crucial. The Swiss just came and came and came and when the French got a turn the Swiss used two successful seizures to stop them. This was a massacre. It was impressive to see the larger army just get chewed to pieces. The French brought on their reinforcements just to boost the flight level, but it did not help. The French flight points reached over 105 by the game end. The Swiss had about 12.
The darkness rule is a little too fuzzy we thought. The Swiss never considered bringing on their reinforcements. they were doing too well, so why let darkness fall and run into all the disadvantages that then brings for the Swiss.
If the Swiss had been doing badly and needed the flight level boost that the reinforcements provide, then all the bad stuff that happens over night is only going to result in them doing more badly.
We felt a better timing mechanism would help.
Perhaps the darkness marker could descend every time the successful continuation marker hits number 3. That would stop an endless first day that relies on entry of reinforcements.
As an aside, we have played many scenarios from many games in the series and we have never seen a timed battle get anywhere close to the timed side losing on the time marker moving. I would be surprised if the time marker has moved more than 2 or 3 times in all the timed battles we have played. We are too busy fighting a battle to consider passing.

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Ralph Shelton
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At Agnadello, did you increase the French Flight Level when they brought in their reinforcements?

At Marignano, if the Swiss roll very well on Activations, then something like this can happen. I’ve seen it go the other way many times. I am pleased to see the Swiss won, as they never did in playtesting. They came close, but never won.

In my games the time marker doesn’t move much either. It is there to encourage those players who would otherwise be too cautious.
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Simon Bracegirdle
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revnye wrote:
At Agnadello, did you increase the French Flight Level when they brought in their reinforcements?


Of course not. That would mean getting it right. Completely missed that.
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Ralph Shelton
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Frog3 wrote:
revnye wrote:
At Agnadello, did you increase the French Flight Level when they brought in their reinforcements?


Of course not. That would mean getting it right. Completely missed that.
We had a couple of games in playtest where the French didn't have to bring on their reinforcements and crushed the Venetians really quickly. So we split their Flight Level to encourage the French to do so and give the Venetians a pause while they brought them on.

When you get a chance try it again!
 
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Simon Bracegirdle
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Ralph
I definitely think there is replay value in all of the ones tried so far, except Cerignola. And to be fair to Cerignola it did allow us to get familiar with some new unit types, and it does have a hypothetical scenario for balance.
There is nothing not to like here.
 
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Ralph Shelton
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Yes, indeed. Cerignola was included largely as a smaller learning scenario.
 
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Simon Bracegirdle
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The French continued to look for that elusive first victory...

Biocca
Things looked grim for French hopes here.

To start things off a bunch of very brave mounted arquebusiers used a seizure to cross the sunken road and occupy the manor house.
The terrain effects chart permits mounted units to occupy the house, which we thought strange, but we went with it.
The effect of this was to stop the clock.
The French then proceeded to slowly move Montmorency's battle through the marsh on their right flank in an attempt to avoid the Venetian front and outflank the position.
This proved to be a good idea. The Venetian SB and PK units sent to cover this move have no firepower and started to get chewed up. The Venetian mounted knights were retired twice but crucially escaped elimination.
The Venetians started to strip AQs from their front to provide some firepower against the outflanking force.
While all this was going on Lescun waited on the French left flank and watched, as more Venetians were called away to meet the imminent threat. The French judged that the Venetian front had been thinned sufficiently to try and breach the Venetian right flank. They were wrong and they took heavy losses.
Meanwhile the two Venetian mounted knights, having recovered again were sent around the flank of Montmorency (which by now was hanging in the vicinity of the imperial camp). The knights charged and caused havoc, cutting though the rear and flank of several units of pike.
These losses proved too much for the French who hit their flight level.
Another French defeat, but I thought they made a good fist of it.

Ceresole
This looked like an even battle on paper, although I was a little wary of the scenario notes which suggested it was balanced in favour of the French as a result of their superior horse. They have two MM units, one of which looks anything but superior.
Both sides started the battle by advancing cautiously. Except it turned out that the French commander (me) had in fact advanced rashly. Salerno's battle used a continuation to hit the French left. They destroyed two French guns whilst they were still lumbering forward and generally cause disruption to the French lines. Next Madruzzo's high quality pikemen hit the French centre before the French had regained their equilibrium. And that was kind of that.
The French tried a few things and Boutieres caused some casualties on the right, but essentially their inauspicious start led to a rout. Oh, and their "superior" horse ended up in the dead pile.

So the French are 0 and 7 with one to play. Of course the one left to play is the biggie, Pavia, but I am left wondering how on earth it took them 50 years to lose this war.

That is not a comment on the quality of the scenarios, merely a reflection on our particular play throughs. I am certain things could have gone differently.

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Edwin S
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Interesting reports Simon. Looking forward to playing through all of these. Incidentally, we found the Cerignola hypothetical scenario was if anything pro-French; certainly competitive and worth a go, although the optimum French strategy is probably just blasting away with the artillery rather than storming the ditch.
 
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Ralph Shelton
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Glad you are enjoying it. Sounds like the French have had a run of bad luck. Maybe Pavia will reverse the trend?
 
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Simon Bracegirdle
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Absolutely. A battle that destroyed the French will no doubt be the one where they find their mojo in my kitchen.
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Simon Bracegirdle
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Andy and I got together last night and at last were able to fight the final battle...

Pavia
The scenario notes tell us that the game balance is highly in favour of the Spanish here. The notes tell us that the Spanish outnumber the French and have a 2:1 advantage.
But there is more than numbers at play here. First, a significant proportion of the French army is composed of light cavalry; second a significant proportion of their infantry have no arquebus capability; third a significant proportion of their pike are Swiss and must get past the Swiss shock reluctance rule.
But, in their favour the French are on the map, they have an advantage in the double free activation mechanic and most of the Spanish appear to be hemmed in, either outside the wall or in Pavia itself.
In the SW Spanish came pouring out of Pavia to engage Alencon and Montmorency.
Montmorency tried to anchor his position on San Giacomo. Alencon attempted to form a line between his earthworks and the wall near San Giuseppe.
In the NE Pescara's battle infiltrated through the light woods to the NE of Castello Mirabello. They were met by de la Pole's battle. Meanwhile Frundsberg began the slow (but not too, too slow) process of entering the map.
De la Pole, with help from the King got the better of Pescara.
A French line composed of part of de la Pole's battle and Flourance formed a line of pike and artillery between the irrigation ditch and Vernavola stream.
Meanwhile Terranova's huge Pavia garrison were demolishing Alencon's men. Montmorency fared a little better in his exchanges with the Spanish, but on his own would have no chance against Pescara's huge force.
With the French flight level hurting from the carnage inflicted on Alencon, Frundsberg hit the French line in the north. He took a few disorders, but immediately overran the French guns and started to pummel the 'pike only' armed infantry and light horse of Flourance.
Mercifully a 9 was rolled after the next French free activation and this was enough for them to lose the battle.
A huge Spanish win, and in our post mortem, between us we could not envisage another outcome.

Some of the thoughts we had were:

1. The Alencon rearguard rules suggest that the Spanish need to be careful about engaging Alencon's battle too early. We thought that there is no reason for the Spanish to worry about this battle. Pescara has it beat in terms of numbers and quality and should engage it as early as possible to get the French flight level moving. Once Alencon is active and engaged the French have no option but to activate him each turn and this hinders any efforts they might want to make to organise the other forces I this area of the battle.

2. The Borgo Ticino force. we assume it is on the map for reasons of historical completeness only. In our game the French did not try to cross the bridge. No Spanish player in his right mind would leave the bridge gate unguarded (and it only takes 1 unit. The French units have no missile capability, so can only close, take fire, and roll at a huge disadvantage on the shock table. To attempt the crossing just looked like an exercise in upping the flight level. I suppose you could hope to get retired results against them so that they could magically transport over the uncrossable river to the French standard.

3. Light cavalry. We find it hard to see how such a significant part of the fighting forces cannot fight. In Blood & Roses "cavalry" are pretty weak but you can use them and they can help run down disordered units. I can accept that light cavalry would be useless in a fight, but they can get attacked and can defend themselves (unlike artillery) when they are attacked. Even if they had a -3 when attacking any class of unit they could at least be used for something. Even their screening ability is of dubious utility, because if they get shot at and disordered they cannot retreat before combat and even if they maintain good order and can retreat before combat they are then disordered after moving at most
3 hexes, which is a short enough distance for units to close and attack with another activation.

4. Generally we felt a little disappointed with Pavia. It is the set piece battle that we had been working towards with much anticipation, but the event itself was something of an anti-climax. We are keen to replay several battles in the set, notably Ravenna, Fornovo and Ceresole, but we will not be rushing back to Pavia.

That last comment is a bit negative and I think I need to add that we have found Arquebus to be great fun and a worthy addition to the system. Remember this is a wargame that I have already played 8 times. There are plenty in my collection that have not been played once. It has been very interesting to see how the new units interact and to play out each tactical situation. If you have seen some of my nitpicks in the posts above, do not let them put you off this game or the system as a whole. If I had not enjoyed it, I would not be writing this; it would have just got put back on the shelf with nothing more to say. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who is undecided about giving it a go.
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Ralph Shelton
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We found that the French have to force the battle to be in the NE. Due to their automatic two Activations, they have to put pressure on the Spanish there to keep the Spanish player from using their automatic Activation in the south.
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