Thursday, 16 November 2006

The Bishop of Caen's Feudal Levy

Picking the Army

I`d like to be able to say that this army was carefully chosen after hours of painstaking research and pouring over army lists. Id like to, but my nose would be a foot long and growing by the minute.

I initially purchased a bunch of minatures that would match the "Army" the players would command in that Bloodstones roleplaying campaign for D&D. Basically, the Barony of Bloodstone recruits the characters to stiffen up the aged Barons meagre forces – 240 spearmen, 240 swordsman, 12 archers and about 480 "militia" .

(Aside: What the scenario pack calls miitia anyone else would describe as civilians: women, children and old men. Well, I’d have to buy some mini’s to represent panicking civilians on the battlefield and they could be useful for building fortifications and tending the wounded, but no way in hell was I going to let my players actually make em fight).

Anyway, I was going to use the massed battle rules for 3rd ed D&D published in "Cry Havoc" by Malhavoc Press, which would mean a ratio of 1 fig to ten men. So, I needed 24 lightly armoured spearmen, 24 lightly armoured swordsmen and 12 unarmoured archers. The scenario also allows players the option of recruiting additional allies through diplomacy and mercantilism but as the guys who will be playing are also probably the only ones reading this blog, I wont reveal any spoilers.

Suffice to say, this is not the most balanced force in the world and in the end I didn’t even get around to modelling it accurately. I was having a heck of a time coming up with un-armoured Dark Age’s Frank miniatures with swords and used that as an excuse to let buy some armoured spearmen instead (Dont look for a logical progression there, cos there isn't one). Since the setting in question has been at war for ten years and the Kings Army was wiped out nearby a year before the Bloodstones campaign begins, it didn’t seem too unlikely that the local feudal levy would be better equipped than normal.

As units larger than about 120 men become impossibly difficult to control under the Cry Havoc rules, I decided that the 480 trained defenders would be organised into 4 units of 12 spearmen each ( 2 armoured, 2 not). So my basic order was for 18 armoured spearmen miniatures, 18 unarmoured, 12 unarmoured archers and 4 three man command units for the spearmen, all from Perry Miniatures. Thrown into the mix (basically because I liked the models) were 12 armoured sword/axemen, 12 Crusader Knights and the Mounted Crusader Character pack.

Much to my surprise, all arrived the next day. And in very nice packaging too - reminiscent of the cardboard boxes jewellery is packed in, in fact. Not bad for a company set up as just a "hobby" eh?.

Id also ordered two civilian packs from Foundry and the Norman Character pack with some nicely posed casualties, a decent unit commander and two Normans (one mounted) with wooden clubs. I mean, why clubs? Are they supposed to be churchmen or something?. Ah well, the club boys will make nice parts for my bits box. Dont ask me why I ordered them, I just bought em on impulse along with the civilians. Perry and Gripping Beast do some very nice civilian packs themselves, so I will probably pick up a few of these later for roleplaying purposes and to populate the medieval village (say about a dozen huts, a church and a small fortified manor house) that I intend to build later. Once I have my own house sorted out.

But of course the Wargaming bug bit (otherwise known as Warhammer Ancientitis) and I realised these units would in no way make a playable Army. So, as well as ordering the shields and transfers I mentioned yesterday, I ordered (for no apparent reason) a four man command pack from Gripping Beast (with no musicians, just two commanders and two banner bearers. Strange that).

I also plan on bulking out the existing Perry Miniatures with 3 packs of armoured crossbowmen (a total of 18), and both pilgrim packs (more civilians –especially useful for the raid scenario in Shield Wall as well as my Bloodstone campaign). I plan on using one of the Gripping Beast Commanders and the Foundry Musician to round out this up to the 20 man mark.

Another purchase of 6 mounted Perry Crusaders with spears held over-arm will do me for throwing spear armed Breton Cavalry. I'll use of the Crusader Character miniatures to take this number up to seven. As you'll see below, I wont actually be able to field them in my main army list, but they'll work well in a few varient lists I have in mind.

To bulk out the spear armed units, unarmoured archers and sword/axemen I intend to buy some Norman packs from Crusader Minatures. Though not as nice as the Perry figures they come in packs of eight (very useful) and will increase the variety of poses I can have in each unit. I aim to buy one pack of armoured spearmen, one pack of spearmen in padded doublet and one pack of unarmoured spearmen, all in attacking poses to complement the Perry Minaitures.

These will give me (with Command Groups added) two units of 21 armoured spearmen (with a little help from the bits box and a few old figs I have scattered around) and one unit of 21 unarmoured Spearmen. The doublet armed spearmen give me a few extra options: I can place them all in the "unarmoured" unit to create a "light armour" unit or place them in one of the "armoured" units to reduce them from heavy armour overall to light armour overall. Clever eh?

I`m also going to order a pack of eight axemen from Crusader to bulk up the axe/sword unit. I`ll also use the fourth Perry Command Team here so I`ll have a few spare figs left over for other purposes as well (vignettes etc).

Finally, an eight pack of unarmoured Crusader Miniatures Norman Archers will give me a total of twenty archers which I can split into two groups. However, as you can see from the Army list below I need another two archers to make up the numbers– fortunately one of the figs in the Foundry pack is a wounded archer clutching his side. He’ll do for one figure. The other is a little more problematic but I`ll certainly think of something.

P.S It occurs to me that for the cost of two archers I could give my "light" cavalry a musician and a standard bearer to go with their leader. Hmmm. No contest really, but the idea of a banner and a musician doesn’t quite fit my image of these raiding cavalry.

Have to think about that one.

The 2000pt Army Roster (with plenty of "loose" Miniatures to spare) is as follows:


Warhammer Ancients "SHIELDWALL" Dutchy of Normandy Army.

This Army represents the forces of a single Diocese and as such works on a 1 fig to 1 man scale.


Up to 25 % of the Army's points can be spent on characters.

Bishop Baldwin of Caen
I Bishop: Acting as Army General (Obviously a Milite himself before taking the cloth).
Warhorse, Heavy Armour, Shield, Lance, Throwing Spear, Handweapon. 151 points.

I might regret not taking a "Dux" as Army General Letter and placing a Bishop with his ability to make an entire unit immune to panic in with my elite knights is probably not the best use for him, but this is a case of "theme" and "flavour" prevailing over good tactics.

I`ll also probably lament the lack of any Comte’s to bolster the line (especially where my Leadership 6 Libre Spearmen are concerned) and its not as if a Bishop wouldn’t have reliable senior knights who owe him fealty, but c`est la vie as the Normans would say. Maybe when (if) I expand the army to 3000 pts.

Common Troops:

At least 50% of the army must be Milites and Pueri

11 Norman Mounted Milites (Mounted Knights)
Warhorse, Heavy Armour, Shield, Lance, Handweapon. Includes Standard Bearer and Musician. Normally led by the Bishop himself. 390 pts.
Ferocious Charge, Rank Bonus

These represent the Bishops elite attendants and vassal knights, those he would consider his personal retainers and closest friends. One or two of them may even be churchmen themselves. Being Norman, they are equipped with Lances rather than thrusting spears and their Ferocious Charge ability (automatically breaking any unit they defeat in the first round of combat) makes them formidable foes indeed. Additionally, unlike most cavalry, Norman Milites can benefit from a +1 rank bonus.

21 Norman Dismounted Milites. (Knights and Retainers)
Heavy Armour, Shield, Thrusting Spear, Handweapon, Includes Standard Bearer, Musician and Leader. 330 points

21 Norman Dismounted Milites (as above) 330 points

These two units give me a solid core of very tough infantry to support the knights, either in the attack or to form a solid base from which the knights can sally in the defence. By grouping together all eight of my doublet-wearing spearmen into one of these units I can rationalise the unit as having "light armour" overall and save some points.

7 Peuri (Light Cavalry - poor milites, poor squires and a maybe a rich freeman or two)
Warhorse, Light Armour, Throwing Spear. Includes leader. 133 points

For an extra "few" points I could have made these Breton Exiles, which would allow them a "shoot and scoot" move after throwing their spears. However, they would then have come out of the Uncommon Points Allocation. If Id done that, some of my mercenary serjeants would have had to become knights due to the maximum point allocation rules. Or else I could remove the Liberi spearman. Either way I just couldn’t include them and and still have everything else I wanted. So bog standard Peuri they are.

Uncommon Troops:

Up to 33% of the armies points value can be Liberi, Coloni, or Dogs of War.

21 Liberi (free peasants).
Thrusting Spear, Shield. Includes Standard Bearer and Musician 131 points
Can be used Light Infantry for free (optional)

These are the unarmoured Spearmen (and you were probably beginning to wonder what had happened to them, eh?). This unit represents the free farmers and tenants of the Bishops land. Being as he is such a rich man and all, I`ve decided that he has gone and equipped these lads at his own expense and that they shall therefore all have the same symbol on their shields (very unusual for the period). Also, by placing all eight of the doublet-wearing spearmen in this one unit, I can "upgrade" them to light armour at a stretch. These are low leadership troops by Norman standards but the Light Infantry ability always comes in handy.

10 Coloni (non-free Peasants)
Bow, Handweapon 50 points

12 Coloni 60 points
Bow, Handweapon

These represent the Bishops serfs. Not being a complete idiot, he wouldn’t want to strip the fields of all his serfs (think of the taxes he’d lose) so I imagine these are the best archers and *ahem* gamekeepers (Honest me lud, this un' deer I ave on me back if dur is graces's supper. S'true it is!) in the Diocese, called up in service of their Lord. They can also Skirmish, very handy as missile support and as sacrificial lambs to draw out those pesky berserkers. Alas, with their depressingly low leadership (I dont even want to think about it!) they wont stick around long afterwords.

21 Mercenary Serjents
Light Armour, Handweapon, Shield, includes leader, standard bearer and musicians 183 points

21 Mercenary Serjents 240 points
Light Armour, Handweapon, Crossbow.

As I said, our young Bishop is very rich and can afford to hire on the odd pack of mercenaries. These are tough troops and steadier than Liberi, as well as better armoured. Alas, their also not the most reliable troops in the world and refuse to do what they're told if I roll a 1 on a D6 when giving the orders.

Total: 1999 points

And there you have it, a fairly large Norman army and quite tough with it. It numbers 126 infantry and 19 Cavalry. It should come as a bit of a surprise to all those Shield Wall players who expect a Norman force to be fairly small and chock full of mounted troops. No doubt I`ll expand it to 3000 points later, with the addition of the Bishop’s Overlord (the Dux), another large unit of Mounted Milites and a Comte or too to stiffen the Armies resolve. Watch this space. But for the moments such thoughts should be left for far into the future. I haven`t even gotton around to finishing the first unit of Milite spearmen yet.

More on that (with pics) anon.

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