Battle of Marignano

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Battle of Marignano

Post by Rmarsden » Fri Jan 09, 2015 2:32 am

Short Version = Shoot! Shoot! Shoot! Skirmish!

Long Version=

This battle is similar to Novara, where an outclassed French army needs to take on the vaunted Swiss pike.

In Novara, the Swiss attacked from all directions, and so their efforts were scattered and terrain hampered them. Marignano had the Swiss with four pike blocks on my left, three in my center and two on my right, with a smattering of arquebuses, crossbowmen, and cavalry to support them.

A stream is the only terrain of note that bisects the field and it did little to nothing to stop the Swiss.

Knowing a one-to-one matchup wouldn't work well, my army was filled to the brim with crossbowmen, arquebuses, light cavalry and as many cannons as I could purchase. My strategy was to have my cavalry and skirmishers cross the river and try to direct as much firepower on a single pike block as possible, while my more melee-oriented cavalry took out any non-pike units the Swiss had.

My pikes, numbering only 6 to the Swiss 9, focused a little on the left and center, and I abandoned any effort to hold the right. Outnumbered in terms of pike units, and outclassed, my strategy was one of mobility and fire-power and a hope that the river would act as a means to even the odds.

The plan to route all the non-pike units quickly worked well. Not a one reached the river, save for a fragmented cavalry on the run.

The plan to use my firepower on the Swiss-pike before they reached the river did not work quite as well. One pike unit was routed before the others started to reach the river. Thankfully, some of the Swiss pike took to chasing down my gendarme cavalry, and many became disrupted under my volleys.

Of those that reached the river, I matched up two of mine against two Swiss on the left. Both of mine routed after a few turns and the Swiss rampaged through my artillery while my skirmishers whittled away at them for the rest of the battle.

In the center, the Swiss arrived much slower and disjointed and I was able to bring two pike units to each of theirs, often with the Swiss being disrupted by my skirmishers giving my men a chance at victory. Even so, the Landsknecht routed if not backed up and I had to do some tricky maneuvering to arrange for charges to the rear, while stalling other Swiss units with cavalry and skirmishers.

On my right, one Swiss pike routed under a concentration of cannon fire and a horde of arquebusers. The other crossed the river and gradually made its way to my rear-most artillery.

The Swiss, once hunting my artillery, made themselves vulnerable to my skirmishers and enough routed to win me the battle, 61% to 34%.

In hindsight, if I knew the stream would be of no value, I would have pulled my pike-blocks back as far as I could, letting my skirmishers route the Swiss. Had the Swiss chased them, they'd be lucky to catch up, and even if they did, it would move them out of position. My choice to try and hold the river could have cost me the battle, but my strategy was 'good enough' to pull out the win on the first attempt.

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Re: Battle of Marignano

Post by fogman » Sun Feb 01, 2015 8:55 pm

thanks for your detailed aar; having a particular fondness for the early italian wars, i find them interesting to read and also frustrating in what they relate.

marignano illustrates the problem with the game at this moment. The swiss should never be beaten by a horde of uncatchable skirmishers, period.

looking at every major battle involving the swiss in their 'prime' from 1500 to 1522, Cerignola, Agnadello, Novara, Marignano, Biccoca, their adversaries resorted to fighting them behind entrenchments; it was standard practice against superior enemy pikes (also true for Ravenna where they were absent). At the battles where they lost, Cerignola, Marignano and Biccoca, they were stopped not by firepower but the entrenchments. In all three battles, unable to break through, they retreated in good order, largely unmolested. It was not possible to rout them with firepower and they never were, even though they fought in front of the french grand battery at marignano for dozen of hours.

1) in the game, it is far too easy for large formations to get disrupted and fragmented by firearms; they shouldn't be at any range until a century later with massed salvo fire, and only at point blank range. at Lutzen the attacking Swedes were ordered to wait for the imperial discharge first so their musketeers can walk up and blast the imperial line at close range (the plan went awry when the imperials held their nerves and waited until point blank range to fire). Ceresoles featured a famous episode related by montluc of two sides waiting until pike contact to open fire. that dropped the entire front rank of both formations but hardly stopped them.

2) and i repeat, black gun powder smoke would make firing at long range impractical (not to mention imprecise smoothbore weapons). firing at advancing enemy units would only obscure them and therefore help them; it was therefore better to have one devastating volley at close range than several ineffective ones. a century later, frederick the great would still exhort his men to wait until they see the whites of the eyes of the enemy.

3) skirmishers do not fight in the open attacking large formations like german fighter planes around allied bombers formations in ww2. In all cases, including the famous use of them at Pavia where the french cavalry were caught in a wooded area, they were behind some sort of obstacles that allow them to shoot at point blank range while out of reach of their enemies. in short, they were only effective when in a static defensive position against a stuck enemy.

4) large swiss pike formations are not a monolithic mass. they have halberdiers that can be detached to go after enemy skirmishers in the open, hence point 3. The swiss can also deploy in shallow formations if that suited battle conditions, as at Seminara. 3, 4 explain why there was no such things as skirmishers dancing around the swiss pikes in the historical record.

this is a good game, but the firearms and light troops models really need to be overhauled if it is to become a reflection of history. and it doesn't have to be complicated.

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Re: Battle of Marignano

Post by KateMicucci » Fri Apr 03, 2015 7:49 pm

What I find odd about the battle is that the best way to use the gendarmes is to park them behind the pikes so that the pikes are forced to charge them, rather than have the gendarmes charge the pikes.

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