The Italian Wars – Pike & Shotte, 28mm.
When is a game too big? When there’s so much lead on the table that three-quarters of the troops on each side don’t even get into action. That was the case here – hence me calling it a “clash” rather than a “battle”. The other problem is that while it was played out on a relatively commodious 8×6 foot table, the two sides came on along the shorter ends. A stream snaked its way across the table’s centre, and on average it would take infantry 12 moves to get there. To add to the problem there was a staged arrival, with light troops in the vanguard first, followed by infantry, guns and men-at-arms.My own Venetian contingent (and the pro-Imperial Florentine contingent in the other army entered on Turn 3, although at least we came on a couple of feet along the long side of the table from everyone else. Essentially the game was too big and too loosely concocted to let the fur fly. There was also something about escorting a baggage train – both sides had one on the main road – but as the two armies were about three units deep, the chances of getting past the enemy front line in three hours of play were minimal. Still – it looked good – really good – and that counts for a lot.So, in this game an Imperialist army commanded by Michael and Campbell faced off against a French one led by Bart and Donald. Jack’s Florentines sided with the Imperialists, while my Venetians joined the French. German Michael umpired – with a degree of partiality linked to the live screening of a Germany v France football game through in the bar. France beat Germany 2:0, and we were hoping for a similar result. In the end we had to settle for a goal apiece draw. The game began with the light cavalry skirmishing with each other along one end of the river. This went every which way for a couple of turns, but eventually Bart’s stradiots and argoulets routed their Imperialist counterparts – mainly coustilliers and mounted crossbowmen. The two main forces seemed to take an age to reach the river, largely thanks to some unfortunate command die rolls by both commanders.My own Venetian cavalry occupied the centre, but found themselves failing to charge the screen of enemy mounted crossbowmen in front of them. Instead they found themselves charged – and my mounted crossbow unit was routed by their Imperial counterparts. They then did a sweeping advance into the stationary Venetian heavy cavalry – a unit of lanze spezzate – but my men-at-arms held. The next turn they broke the crossbowmen, and launched their own charge into another Imperial unit, which they broke. Finally my third unit – my stradiots – forced the last Imperial cavalry unit to retire.Job done, the Venetian horse trotted away to the south, to join forces with the Venetian infantry that had just come onto the table. That cleared the way for the French gendarmes, which were now trotting towards the river. Over on the French right Bart’s stradiots had just finished rolling up the Imperial flank, but they’d been badly blooded in the process, and withdrew to “rally off hits”.What followed was a sort of lull in the battle. On the French right nothing much was happening, in the centre the gendarmes were squaring up against the Imperialist artillery and landsknechts, while on the left my Venetians were facing off the Florentines. Jack tried to charge my militia crossbowmen with his own unit of lanze spezzate and mercenary landsknechts, but the cavalry kept getting disordered (which stopped them charging), and the landsknechts kept failing to move forward. they were now getting a bit of a pounding from the French and Venetian guns which had come up, but after three turns of dithering both Florentine units charged in, during what would prove to be the last turn of play.The crossbowmen were routed, but the Florentine lanze spezzate were brought to a halt by being shaken. Also, they now faced my own block of mercenary Tyrolean and Graubunden mercenary pikemen. The gun disordered the enemy landsknechts, but was overrun. That’s where the game ended – still with everything top play for. On the final turn the French gendarmes failed to charge, and while the Venetians and Florentines were now embroiled in a tough fight, elsewhere both armies were sort of standing back from the river, waiting for something to happen. So, the game ended as a draw, with fairly light casualties on both sides. It might have been a bit of a non-game, but it did look terrific, and I’m keen to play another, albeit with smaller armies or a more ready-for-battle deployment.