July 06, 1495,
French army of 18 units opposed to Holy League army of 29 units
for a battle of complexity 0.66 at Regiment(III) level
on a 2.5 Km/Hex map
for 48 turns of 6 Hours each.
by Mark Stevens submited on 11-02-2006
Rugged-Defense Playing Statistics
The Battle of Fornovo, 1495
PO for both sides, but do play a friend if you have any.
This scenario is using the XIXth Century database engine. You can download it here
This took place on 6th July, in the valley of the River Taro, some distance from the Italian city of Parma.
In 1494 Charles VIII of France had swept down the Italian peninsula and conquered the Kingdom of Naples to which he had some hereditary claim, supposedly as a stepping stone on his way to a crusade. His dramatic success caused the formation of an alliance of the two most powerful Italian states, Venice and Milan, plus many of the smaller states and principalities, together with the King of Aragon and the Holy Roman Emperor. With the dubious benefit of the blessing of Pope Alexander VI (Borgia) this was known as the Holy League.
Charles' problem was then to fight his way north from Naples to regain contact with the Italian states which remained loyal to him, and eventually with France itself.
The Holy League army of 2,400 mercenary men-at-arms ('condottieri'), 2,000 light horse and 10,000 infantry, arranged a giant ambush in the valley of the River Taro - the intention being not merely to block the progress of, but to soundly defeat, the French Army as it marched along the single road. The infantry were of very poor quality, except for some 1,500 or so German landsknechts, but the men-at-arms were well-armed and equipped professionals. A body of light cavalry - Stradiots and crossbowmen - were sent to block the direct route north.
The French, with some 900 gendarmes, around 200 mounted crossbowmen in the Royal Guard, 3,000 Swiss and 4,000 French infantry were heavily outnumbered, and encumbered by their baggage train, stuffed with Neapolitan loot.
Under the polite conventions of Italian condottieri warfare, with its emphasis on manoeuvre and ransoms, this was effectively 'checkmate': a larger force had the smaller strung out in column with its back to steep hills. After some skirmishing the French should have realised their position and begun negotiations.
A minor inconvenience for the Holy League army was that there had been an unexpected storm the night before, swelling the insignificant stream of the Taro into a more serious obstacle. Apart from the hills to either side, there were patches of marsh, rocky ground and shrub, but generally the terrain was good for the sort of cavalry battles favoured by the condottieri.
Far more serious, and even more unexpected, was that the French weren't playing by the same standards. The Swiss and gendarmes in particular were not after ransoms, but were going to cut through anyone in their way and force a path through to the north.
Mark Stevens, January 2006
It's very revealing that on the day after the battle the Holy League commander, Prince Gonzago of Mantua - a typical condottieri - sent to the French asking about the ransoms for his uncle and three cousins, all of whom had charged with his men-at-arms at the French centre: when he learned that all four were dead it was apparent that the style of warfare in Italy would have to change.
To reflect this, the French have far higher proficiencies than the Holy League troops.
The aim of the French Player is to get as many units as possible into the borders of the area of the road running off to the north of the map - in order of importance, Charles VIII, the baggage, the artillery, the Swiss pike and gendarmes, named leaders (other than Charles) and, lastly, the infantry - and to hold the position against any Holy League pursuit.
The Italians have to stop them.
If the French baggage is lost, the French suffer a 10% shock penalty. If Charles is killed, 20% (the two aren't cumulative).
If Gonzago is killed, or the Holy League camp is lost, the Italians will suffer a 20% penalty: again, this isn't cumulative.
To make a game against the French PO more interesting there's a 25% chance that the French will go over to the offensive once any units reach safety to the north, and attempt to storm the Holy League camp. If the King is killed, there's a 25% chance that the French will fall back into Fornovo. In this case the PO can't 'win', but the human player in command of the Holy League should follow them up and inflict a bloody massacre.
In the actual battle the French attacked the Holy League troops as soon as they started their advance, the Swiss slaughtered the Landsknechts, the gendarmes shattered the condottiere and the army escaped to the north while the rest of the Italians hung back. Can you do any better?
Despite what the automatic calendar says, each turn is around a quarter of an hour and the game should last around twelve hours (i.e 48 turns) before darkness and exhaustion bring the fighting to a close.
Given the short duration there are no replacements but units (not named commanders, the artillery or baggage) may reform - the French around the village of Fornovo, the Holy League in their camp. This represents routed units rallying.
This scenario uses the XIXth Century engine: (see map for address) so crossbowmen and artillery can carry out ranged attacks or support other units.
Cavalry shouldn't really dig in, but the PO will, so think of the bonus being gained as the units charge down from slight folds in the ground. (Best I can think of!)
Thanks to Piero Falotti, whose 'Marignan 1515' opened my eyes to the possibilities of trying eras outside the traditional XIXth century scenarios using this modified database.
The only liberty I've taken is to double the number of pikemen in the two Swiss and Landsknecht units - I don't consider that the modified database really reflects the strength of these massed pike blocks (but, to be fair, it wasn't intended to.)