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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Berserking Longbowmen at Agincourt

Consider the case of the 5,000 English berserking archers at Agincourt. These guys reputedly dropped their longbows and, picking up swords and axes, took on 6,000 armored French knights, which were also on foot, and slaughtered or captured the lot.

Yes, the English had 1000 armored knights pinning the French men-at-arms in place from the front as the English archers swarmed in from the flanks.

But does something seem wrong about this picture?

How about the fact that, under normal circumstances, a heavily-armored French knight could take on several sword-wielding archers wearing only leather jerkins as protection. So how did the French get overwhelmed? When the archers came rushing in from the flanks, why didn't the French knights turn and cut them to pieces?

Two explanations.

First, they were fatigued from fighting and slogging in the mud of the plowed field on which the battle was fought while weighted down by armor. In effect, they were less agile IN THE MUD than the unincumbered archers. On clear terrain, armor versus agility would result in a clear advantage for armor against light infantry (the archers), which is why they were armored in the first place. But, instead, they were in mud.

Second, the French men-at-arms were forced in on each other by the funneling effect of the battlefield and the arrow fire from the flanks. This crowding caused the French confusion, disorder and difficulty using their weapons.

To model these two aspects of the battle in the game, AGINCOURT, two consideratuions were made in the game design. Firstly, melee attacks by longbowmen converted to light infantry against French infantry (men-at-arms) in a PLOWED FIELD (mud) terrain hex will result in a + 1 modification to the d6 mellee die roll in favor of the attacking converted archers (light infantry). In addition, whenever an infantry (men-at-arms) unit type is in melee and is not the only unit in its hex, the meleeing infantry unit suffers a - 1 modifier as an attacker or a + 1 modifier is given to an attacker meleeing against that unit.

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