It was more than 20 years ago when I painted my first English knights and archers with the intention of one day seeing them in action against the French in a re-fight of Crécy (1346). It has taken me until now to amass enough miniatures to give it a go.
Crécy is a difficult battle to replicate on the wargames table as with historical hindsight no one would charge mounted knights uphill against massed longbowmen backed up by dismounted men at arms and spearmen.
Therefore, rather than a conventional game, I decided to have two players on the French side with the English being umpire controlled. The two French players, representing the Comte d’Alençon and the Johan von Luxembourg, would vie with each other for reputation and prestige. The victory points encouraged them to behave as chivalric 14th century knights rather than 21st century wargamers.
The game was played remotely via Zoom. I umpired and moved the miniatures while the two French players rolled the dice for their actions. They were awarded prestige points for chivalrous and heroic actions such as charging enemy men at arms or capturing valuable prisoners. Actions against archers or spearmen were considered beneath them and not worthy of note.
I deployed the troops historically with as close a recreation of the Crécy battlefield as I could on an 8’ x 6’ table (played lengthwise).
The English deployed in 3 battles — the Black Prince on the right, Northumberland on the left and King Edward in reserve at the rear.
The French would be attacking from line of march behind a screen of Genoese crossbowmen. Alençon was forward and angling right, Luxembourg slightly behind and angling left. King Philip Valois and the militia (both umpire controlled) took up the rear.
As mentioned in the previous post, I decided to adapt Andy Callan’s excellent Never Mind the Billhooks rules from the Wars of the Roses to the Hundred Years War, further adapting them to suite my element based armies. I made up suitable HYW cards and order tokens, used casualties as daunted markers, arrows on counters to keep track of archer shots, and small pebbles to recored 'casualties' on my element -based units.
The game played out much like the historical battle. Both Alençon and Luxembourg surged forward, anxious to gain glory in combat with enemy men of rank.
The English archers and cannon made short work of the Genoese crossbowmen and shot apart the lead units of French knights. When the French first managed to charge home across the hidden pits in front of the enemy positions, the English archers held their ground rather than falling back behind the supporting men at arms (determined by a die roll).
This deprived the French of honourable combat against worthy opponents. Instead they had to contend with exchanging blows with mere peasants and the Ignominy of then being forced to retire when the peasants held their ground.
The French charged again and again.
Finally Luxembourg managed to drive back the Black Prince’s archers and engage the Prince and his dismounted knights in honourable combat. Even though he was driven back, Luxembourg could claim greater glory than Alençon.
By this time most of the French knights were retiring and although King Philip had yet to engage there was little point in yet another charge. The game had come to a natural end with Luxembourg in ascendancy and Alençon licking his wounds.
Despite suffering enormous casualties (while very few English died) moral victory certainly went to the French. Not only did the English knights cower behind peasants but they also used smoky, filfy cannons which spoke of witchcraft!
Although there is still work to do in adapting Never Mind the Billhooks for my element based armies they worked well for the Hundred Years War, giving us a fun remote game that came to completion in 3 hours.