On Friday I managed to get in a second game in two days - amazing! It was back to me old mate Julian's for another Medieval game, this time using his 25/28mm figures and involving two other players, Chris and John.
This time, the scenario had moved to southern Italy in the 12th century, when the Normans were busy establishing their hegemony in the region
The scenario was the battle of Nocera - outlined below by Mr Wiki.....
The Battle of Nocera or Scafati was the first major battle of Roger II of Sicily and one of two of his major defeats (the other being the Battle of Rignano) at the hands of Count Ranulf of Alife.
In 1132, the disaffected Ranulf had garnered a large force with his ally, the prince of Capua, Robert II. The rebels massed outside of Benevento and that city, usually faithful to Roger, gave in. Roger, in shock, wheeled his army around and turned instead for Nocera, the greatest fortified city of the prince of Capua, other than Capua itself. The retreat over the Apennines was miraculously quick, but the rebels moved equally speedily to meet the royal army at Nocera, but Roger destroyed the sole bridge spanning the river Sarno. The rebels, with rapidity equally miraculous, constructed a temporary bridge and moved in on the Noceran siege.
Roger raised his siege at the coming of the rebel army and Ranulf sent 250 knights ahead to the city walls to divert a fraction of the royal troops. The rebel army formed into two wings. Robert of Capua headed up the left wing and Ranulf the right. Each of the rebel wings was itself deployed into three divisions. Robert's divisions were formed in column, with mounted troops in the first and third lines, and foot soldiers in the second line. Ranulf formed his all-cavalry wing with his divisions in line. King Roger formed his army into eight divisions. These were deployed opposite Robert's wing in a column, that is, one division behind the other. The royal army, which included Muslim infantry, was said to have 3,000 cavalry and 40,000 infantry, "numbers which are certainly inflated."
Having forced a crossing, the rebel army was "in a dangerous tactical position, for with the river at their backs, there would be scant possibility of an orderly retreat across the single bridge over the Sarno."
On 24 July, a Sunday, Roger initiated the engagement, charging the prince's knights. The royal troops broke Robert's first and second lines. The Capuan infantry retreated over the makeshift bridge, which collapsed and a thousand supposedly drowned. The Capuan third division held firm and counterattacked. By this time, the second royal division had been sent into the contest. Roger ordered a second charge, which was initially successful, pushing back the remaining Capuans.
At this moment, Ranulf joined the fray with 500 of the mounted men from his centre. He hit Roger's left flank and the royalists began to waver. Before reinforcements could be sent to help them, Ranulf had sent in his right and then his left divisions. The royal troops crumbled under the "successive shocks as they came into action." Roger himself tried to inspire them, but they were already in retreat, the flight of the first two divisions having panicked the others. The king barely escaped to Salerno guarded by only four knights. The rebel victory was absolute.
Seven hundred knights were captured and twenty-four loyalist barons, along with the royal camp. The royal infantry suffered heavy losses in the rout. The booty was immense, according to both rebel-sympathising chroniclers, like Falco of Benevento, and royalists, like Henry, Bishop of Saint Agatha. Among the booty was the bull of Antipope Anacletus II granting Roger the royal title. The battle was of little long-term importance, however, because the Pope Innocent II and Emperor Lothair II did not continue past Rome and so the rebels, without further assistance, lost many of their gains and were forced to surrender by July 1134.
The two sides are referred to as the Sicilians (Roger II) and the Apulians (Ranulf) in the scenario. The Apulians had a lot more troops but they were mostly arrow fodder - Grade 8 levy spearmen in the main. They had 4 or 5 units of cavalry but mostly Grade 6 or 7 and even one of their mounted units was Grade 8!
The Sicilians had less troops but had 6 units of good knights - either Grade 5 (elite) or Grade 6. They also had three commanders as compared with the two on the Apulian side. We turned over cards to pick sides - the highest two being the Sicilians. Chris and I drew the two higher cards - and that was about the last thing that went right for us in this game!
A count before commencement revealed 27 points on the Sicilian side (9 morale coins) to 45 points on the Apulians (15 coins)
We were obliged to enter the table up a road in column, as per the initial deployment in the scenario. The Apulians were clustered around a bridge over the river at the other end of the road - their cavalry to the fore. In our pre game discussion, all four players had established that the key to victory was to avoid doing anything like the original commanders did - so we did NOT charge straight down the road, but took time to deploy right and left off it as we entered the table. On the other side, Julian and John immediately advanced with their archers and cavalry, and in move two, most of the mounted troops were already engaged. This quick closing of the gap meant we were unable to charge the lower grade cavalry and get the bonus of our lances in the initial combat.
Fundamentally, from move two, it was just a slogging match and thanks to Chris and I having abysmal luck with the card turning, we came off second best in almost every case. I think Chris killed off one or maybe two units of Johns troops but that was our sole success. Julian in particular was running rampant, and even his Grade 8 cavalry who were attacked by my commander and his Grade 5 elite bodyguard, stoically refused to draw a losing card. On three or four turns I hit them multiple times and I did manage to make them disrupted, but Julian continued to turn over an 8 or higher card every time they had a saving turn! Meanwhile, behind this combat, Julian's better quality knights initially destroyed one of Chris's cavalry units and then dealt to my other unit of knights too. I think when the game ended after a couple of hours of torturous card turning on the Sicilian side, the Apulians still had 10 or 11 coins and we had none - a complete disaster from start to finish - but we did have some great company and a nice Thai meal in the middle of proceedings
Hopefully the images came out ok in the subdued lighting of Julian's dining room!
Initial Sicilian deployment - but we had to remove them as we decided it was unfair having them deployed like this two boxes away from the Apulians - we had to march on down the road one unit behind the other
The initial Apulian deployment - backs to the river. If we could drive any unit into contact with that river, they died!
View from the Apulian side of the river, looking down the road up which the Sicilians had to advance
First moves - Julian's Apulians advance
The Sicilian cavalry confronts advancing Apulians
My first combat - Grade 5 leader attacks Grade 8 cavalry - this melee was to last the entire game!
My second unit of knights is confronted by two units of Julian's Apulian cavalry
On the other flank, Johns crossbowmen advance, supported by his cavalry
First combat - Julian's cavalry have disrupted one of Chris's units of knights
Another view of Chris's disrupted unit just before it failed a morale turn and disappeared!
On the other wing, Chris's second command engages Johns advancing troops
The Sicilian infantry deploy - they were mostly Grade 8 rubbish too - but with a few Moorish archers and spearmen who were Grade 7
The combat between my leader and his Grade 8 opponents continues- they are now disrupted!
A big mess on our right wing as Chris, John and Julian's units interpenetrate each other in all directions
The centre of the Sicilian infantry line from above
Two of Chris's mounted units, the rearmost is disordered
One of Julian's cavalry units attacks my Grade 8 spearmen....
And the spearmen win - disrupting their attackers....this shot shows how the Apulian advance pinned the Sicilians virtually on their own base line
The final position - we were down to no coins and had lost two or three units of knights as well as some infantry and one of our leaders was wounded
And one FINAL shot of the Grade 8 cavalry, still disrupted and still turning over 8's and 9's to confound my elite Grade 5 knights!
A stunning victory for the Apulians, who hardly turned a bad card - well John may have had a few but Julian more than made up for it with his turning prowess - whereas Chris and I had no luck at all for the entire game!