For our latest gaming evening Gerco had created a scenario based on the battle of Westbroek in 1481. This was the time of the “hoekse en kabeljauwse twisten” in the Netherlands, a period not that well known today. The interesting part of this battle is that the village of Westbroek is only a few miles north of where we play, and it is a village where during the summer my family and me often cycle through and take a rest for an ice cream.
The game turned out to be one of those games of all games; a close call and in the balance until the very last combat. The two opposing armies were those of David of Burgundy (Holland) commanded by Joost van Lalaing against the city of Utrecht under the command of Vincent van der Zwanenborg. The army of Holland was mostly comprised of professional heavy mercenaries and that of Utrecht of city medium militia. We typically base out armies on the medieval german list and in this case we had 400 points each.
The commanders of Hollands had the orders to maintain control of the village of Westbroek while keeping the army intact, which meant not losing more than one command, and break the army of Utrecht. The orders for Utrecht were to capture the village of Westbroek.
I was on the Holland side and we based out plan on the fact that the infantry of Utrecht were nearly all militia. We figured that the knights of the Utrecht army were likely to speed ahead of the infantry who would need 7 or less in order to advance. So first murder all the knights and then the rest. Utrecht on the other hand decided to pull all their knights together and make a dash for the Holland left flank while the infantry would make a broad general advance towards Westbroek.
First things went badly wrong for Holland. The Utrecht militia turned out to be in an advancing mood and no gaps appeared between the knights and the infantry. The advance was so rapid that in turn two the right flank of Holland was already up for some hard choices; to charge or not to charge, that was the question. In true knightly fashion the charge was chosen; poorly so it proved to be. The first combat was lost and in such a way that the unit of Holland knights broke and the general leading was slain. The other unit of Holland knights was more lucky, won the first round and during the next broke the unit of Utrecht knights opposing them. However, there was a third unit of Utrecht knights who now crashed into a unit of crossbowmen, show were supported on their flank by a unit of heavy infantry. The crossbowmen were quickly broken. As a result the supporting unit must also make a break test using the same modifier as the broken unit. In other words, a perfect way of getting rid of tough guys is to charge the weak guys supporting them and induce a rotten break test on them. So two units of expensive mercenaries disappeared from the field, overall breaking the right flank command of Holland.
On the other flank things were relatively quite. Both commands not being very keen on following orders. From the centre a unit of Holland knights was dispatched to support the right. Together with the units in Westbroek an attempt was made to destroy the Utrecht centre before the victorious right flank of Utrecht had regrouped. The first charge was into a unit of crossbowmen that were well supported to both flank and rear. The knights were successful but not breaking the enemy units. Because the infantry failed to charge we decided not to pursue and pull back in order to keep the knight in control. In the subsequent Utrecht turn the knights were charged by two units of Holland knights from the victorious right. So we had one unit of Holland knights facing two units of Utrecht and both with generals in their front line. The dice were on the side of Holland and by a large amount. Because the two units of Utrecht knights had seen combat before in the game they both had already a reasonable number of casualties; knights against knights is a messy business in HC. This meant that with excess casualties going to the supports that both were shaken after combat, add poor dice for the break test and off they went.
Again we decided to regroup the knights. They now had 5 hits, but were good to go once more. In the meantime the Holland infantry in the centre had inflicted some short range hits and induced the middle units of the Utrecht command to retreat one move. Opportunity seemed to present itself. We used initiative for charging one side of the Utrecht command with all the Holland infantry and a follow me for having the knights charge the other. Then came the Oooooppppsss-moment. The Utrecht militia had been given long spears. We picked up the rules. We threw a die, disordering the knights and learned that the charge bonus did not apply. So were were facing not a 3+ to hit situation but a 5+ against the 4+ of the infantry. Hmmmmmmm, why didn’t I…?
Anyway, the knights did survive and were able to pull out and a rally on me saved them for Holland. On the other side the Holland mercenaries pushed back their opponents and ended up, like their opponents, being shaken and so we used the victors move to have the forn unit fall back behind their supports.
In the meantime the right flank of Holland had advanced and was bashing away on Utrecht, breaking some units but not more than halve. Nonetheless, these mercenaries were well on their way towards the city of Utrecht were plunder was awaiting them.
In front of Westbroek the centre commander of Utrecht now pulled out a unit of crossbowmen from behind his spears and these let go at the knights. Three hits and the resulting minus 2 on the break test resulted in a fall back result. Normally not a problem but in this case with their backs against the BUA of Westbroek and no where to go meant a break result. This pushed the Holland army to the limit and the game to a final round in which fate would decide the day. Both commands were one unit from breaking and the one that broke would break their army. The Hollands infantry were now in a combat that was greatly to their advantage. However, the unit opposing them and their support were already shaken. None of the unshaken Utrecht units were easily in reach for Hollands. So Holland had to rely on destroying the shaken units and then hit the rest. The mercenaries were successful but received to many hits with the result that they became shaken. Breaking their command, breaking the army of Holland and giving victory to the citizens of Utrecht.
What was difficult to keep track of were the numbers of generals that fell. Medieval commanders of course lead and bleed, and in this game no less than 5 or 6 generals fell. In the case of one command Jan II, became Jan III and Jan IV stumbled heavily wounded back home.