The Medieval French are my first and so far only DBM army. At the April 1999 Spring Spears tournament in Monterey, California, I ran them for the first time using all of my own figures. I had played the army several times previously against Dave Lauerman with a variety of lists and amounts of borrowed lead but all produced the same result: 0-10. Hoping to do better against some easier opponents, I faced Mark Garcias Medieval Germans in the first round.
Men fiche! cursed François, struggling to control the war-horse that bucked underneath him.
Hes a fine animal, commented Bertrand du Guesclin, watching nearby.
Yes, but with a mind of his own. He stands a full hand taller than old Eclat, but that still doesnt... men fiche! François fought to control him again.
Pepin, sitting in a camp chair off to the side of the field where François was breaking in the charger. He was again working studiously on his histories when he looked up and asked Whats your horses name, François?
I believe its... men fiche! This time, François barely stayed in the saddle as the horse bolted again.
Do you spell that m-o-n-f-i-c-h-e? the scholar asked.
Bertrand spoke up The horses name is...
Thats correct, François interrupted sharply. Its as good a name as any.
Bertrand shrugged his shoulders, then watched François struggle a bit more with the horse. It was a beautiful white stallion given to him by the dauphin from the royal stables. After awhile the Breton spoke up. You have to let the horse know whos in charge, boy!
François started to reply about how he was actually a couple of years older than the Breton and would he please stop calling him boy, but could only manage another men fiche! as the stallion bucked again. Bertrand shook his head, then took off his right gauntlet with a deliberate manner. He walked over to the horse and rider, reared back and using an open palm struck the side of the horses head with all his force. The horse nearly buckled under the Bretons blow, then settled down. There, you see? said Bertrand, nothing to it.
Thank God you took your gauntlet off, muttered François.
Well, I didnt want to hurt the poor horse, explained Bertrand.
The sound of approaching riders made François look up. A pair of scouts quickly rode to the army commander and engaged him in a furtive discussion. François turned his head abruptly and glared at Pepin. I thought you knew the route to Monterey!
The scholar looked up from his work. I do! Like the back of my hand, François!
Then why is a German army blocking our way?
Um, theyre going to the tournament too?
They say this is German land, Pepin.
Thats funny, I didnt think there was any German territory between France and Spain...
The Breton chimed in. There isnt any. But we havent crossed any frontier that Im familiar with. Maybe they have a historian guiding their army as well, he grinned.
François ran his glove through his hair, then turned back to the scouts. Go send an envoy to treat with the Germans. With any luck he can convince them that our intentions are peaceful.
The French herald approached the crest of the hill when he spotted a figure in a winged helmet with a spike on top striding forward. Halten ze! the figure commanded in an imperious tone. Achtung!! You are trespassing on German land und must leave immediately!! Schnell! Schnell!
The French herald peered at the face beneath the helmet. Johann, is that you?
The figure took off the helmet. Oh, hello Jean. Sorry, I didnt recognize you. Hows little Pierre doing these days?
Oh, a real holy terror. My wife can hardly keep up with him. And your family?
All doing fine. Little Helmut has his tinctures down, and has started on his bordures and field divisions, the German said proudly.
Thats great, Johann, just great! Say, whats with the getup and the accent and all?
The German herald rolled his eyes. Orders from the high commondant. Says were supposed to comport ourselves with proper Teutonic bearing at all times. Bunch of rubbish I say. So, what are you chaps doing here?
The armys being guided by some university dweeb whos absolutely clueless about where hes going. Thinks hes taking us to Spain. Would they condescend to ask the heralds who are better travelled than anyone else in the army? Noooooooo, not a chance. How about yourself?
The commondant himself is piloting us. Unfortunately, he couldnt tell which way North was if you stuck a wad of moss up his arse. He has it in his noggin that this is German territory and is patrolling it against incursions.
But you know that this is French territory.
Yea, but try telling that to Herr Commondant! Johann looked around. They were standing at the crest of a barren ridge running north to south. To the west they could view the French who were encamped on a featureless plain, the Germans camped on a similar desolate plain to the east. As far as the eye could see there was nary a tree in sight. You know, most of France is real pretty, but this place is just the pits. You guys dont want to just pretend that you never met us, do you? Theres nothing valuable here. Besides, after Herr Commondant goes back home, hell completely forget about where he was and all and you guys can take it right back.
Sorry, Gallic pride and all that. We have to defend the homeland against the Godless Germanic hordes after all.
The German herald broke into a smile. Great! You bringing the wine and smelly cheese?
Jean looked offended. What do you take me for? A godless barbarian? Of course! Say... you bringing the beer and those sausages I like so much?
Of course! Got any of that mustard you brought by last battle?
Bien sur! Oh, what time do you guys want to start fighting?
Morning, as usual.
So, say about eleven?
Johann rolled his eyes. The commondant would piss and moan about Germanic efficiency if I suggested that time. Hed want to go at first light, so lets settle for an hour after dawn.
Oh, my guys wont like that at all. In this season dawns at 4am!
Tell them its healthy to get an early start on the days activities! So, meet you back here? The view is excellent, we should see everything.
All right. Take care till then.
The heralds parted ways to return to their respective armies bringing the news that negotiations had broken down and that battle was impending.
François held a war council later that evening. Excuse me, he said in a vain attempt to quiet down the flock of nobles crowded into his pavilion. May I have your attention please? Er, quiet down everyone. Hello? Anyone listening? The noise level in the pavilion only seemed to increase. Frustrated, he turned to a herald next to him. You guys dont seem to have any problem getting peoples attention. What do you say to get them to quiet down?
Oyez my lord, the herald replied.
Thanks. François cleared his throat. Oyez! Oyez everyone! Oyez I say! He looked at the herald. Zut alors! What am I doing wrong?
Well, youre inflections all off, my lord.
It is? Which syllable do I stress? The first or the second?
All of them, my lord. Like this: OOOOOYYYYYYYYYYYYYEEEEZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!!
The pavilion immediately fell into silence. François turned to the herald. Thanks, Ill remember that. He cleared his throat again and addressed the crowd. Thank you all for coming here this evening. As you know, our path is blocked by a German army who, despite our best diplomatic efforts, insist on battle. A small cheer went up through the crowd. Ahem, yes. Well, from combat experience gained at great expense over the last year, it has been well shown that crowding too many companies onto the field simply leads to disaster. Therefore, I am detaching five companies of men-at-arms as rear guard in order... The pavilion erupted in a chorus of shouts and protests. Nay! Preposterous! Never! came the crys from the nobles. François knew when to enlist the aid of a professional, so allowed the herald to bellow the crowd back into submission. When the shouting had been subdued to a mere grumbling in the background, François addressed them again. I appreciate your enthusiasm, but we must approach this reasonably! Too many companies will hinder our cause, not aid it!
My lord, may I speak? The lord of Bearn approached François, who inclined his head in permission. For two years we have chafed under the ignominy of the defeat at Poitiers, and now we have the opportunity to redeem ourselves. Who would you leave behind? Who would you condemn to the shame and frustration of not contributing to the renewal of French glory? The crowd roared with approval at this speech.
Boy, can I have a word with you? Bertrand du Guesclin had come up to François side.
Fargniers sighed. Yes Bertrand?
Well, as you can see, the term French commander is something of a contradictory phrase. With this group, you have to pick your battles, so to speak.
And this time?
Better let them have their way.
François turned back to the crowd. He raised his hands to quiet them, which surprisingly work. Let it be known, he said in the most official tone of voice that he could manage, that in the future, matters of battle organization will be set forth by the senior war council. François motioned to indicate Bertrand, Childeric and Aoibeann all seated behind him. And you will be expected to follow them, or quit the army!
But for tomorrow? asked Bearn.
Tomorrow... you can all fight.
The pavilion erupted into an even loader roar than before, knights slapping each other on the back and weeping unashamedly with joy. François turned back to Bertrand. Good God, how am I going to control them all tomorrow?
Well, said Bertrand, theres the traditional way.
Bash their heads in until they follow orders?
No, boy, the other traditional way. François, Childeric and Aoibeann proceeded to huddle around Bertrand while the Breton explained. The conversation lasted into the night before they retired for a few hours of rest. That morning they awoke and prepared to lead the newly reformed French army into their first battle.
François looked from atop Monfiche at the ridge before him. It lay completely across the battle field, with two small gaps to the right and left of the French gap. The large central command stretched out to either side of him in a long line of mounted knights. Childerics command was placed on the extreme left flank, Aoibeanns on the extreme right. The entire army was deployed a fair distance forward of the French camp such that several commands of men-at-arms were positioned on the lower slopes of dominating ridge. François was trying to decide his course of action when he noticed a man running towards him. He came up to François, his hair disheveled and a wild look in his eyes. The hills! The hills! Theyre foiling our plan!
I beg your pardon, said François. Are you all right? Looking closer, François saw the man stood about five and a half feet tall, with brown hair and beard, and features that werent altogether unpleasant, François decided. But he was acting very odd. Whats this about the hills? he asked.
The hills block the enemys view of our army, but if they could only see them, they would be swept from the field by the radiant glory of the Most Christian French army! The man took out a cloth from a pocket and started shining François leg armor.
Thats quite all right, François assured him. Its really not necessary.
You must blind the enemy with your glory! raved the man. Just then François noticed two men in white surcoats hurrying towards them. They swept up on both sides of the man and grabbed him by his arms. Hah! Got you! said one.
Excuse me, said François, addressing one of the white surcoats, but who is this man?
Hes the royal burnisher my lord, said the surcoat. The other surcoat looked around as if to make sure that no one else was listening, then sidled up to François and said in a stage whisper, We suspect hes gone quite mad!
Time to go back to your padded tent, said the first surcoat to the royal burnisher, and they hauled him away while his gibbering of The wondrous glory of France! The wondrous glory of France! ... faded into the distance.
François looked after the trio in disbelief when a familiar voice said at his side, What are you looking at, boy?
François turned in his saddle and greeted du Guesclin. Good morning, Bertrand. My... you dont look well at all!
The Bretons face had a slightly greenish complexion. Must have been the fish I ate last night. Ive been getting rid of it all morning, otherwise I would have come to help you with the deploy... Bertrand looked around, comprehending the actual French deployment for the first time. Good God, boy, what have you done?
Well, as you can see, Ive deployed the central battle in an advanced position in preparation to seize the far crest of the hill. From that position... François voice trailed off as he witnessed Bertrands face grow increasingly contorted.
Move the knights while mounted to the far crest of the hill? he asked incredulously. And how were you going to do that?
Err, you know, give the command to advance...
Look at those hills, boy! Look at them! The only thing that can move in that terrain in good order are foot skirmishers! What were you thinking?
Oh. Sorry. Now what?
Nothing left to do but to start pulling them back and hope the Germans sleep in.
I deployed the full 12 inches up, the C-Cs command in the center and the two smaller commands covering the flank. I was thinking that the C-in-Cs command could eventually move over the hill crest and at least have an uphill position. Oh, knights cant move as a group in DGo? Duh! You can read the rules, read the rules, read the rules... but I guess you just have to go out there and get your hand whacked to really remember them sometimes. I was now completely hosed, since I had deployed many of the C-in-Cs elements actually in the DGo. I started to pull them back, but with 17 units... well, you do the math.
Pass the cheese, Jean.
Ill take some more beer, Johann.
Hand me another baguette, would you?
Move the sausages over closer.
What wine did you suggest with this cheese?
This sauerkraut is really quite good, you know!
I just love these cornichons! Who would have thought a pickle could be cute?
So, anything happening on the field?
Johann looked up from the spread he and Jean had put together of French and German delicacies. As official representatives of the opposing armies their task was to observe the battle together, agree upon the victor and decide upon a name. But, as Jean had observed many years before when they first met, they neednt starve while doing so. This is one of the strangest battles Ive seen in a long time, remarked the German. The French knights deploy up, then decide to move back. The German spear deploy their left flank, march up to the bottom of their side of the ridge and just park there, facing absolutely no one. Herr Commondant could have just as well left them home.
Well, your other forces are certainly giving us fits. The cantonese spearmen and archers [Ax(O), Ps(O)] have captured the crest of the central ridge and are pushing the French light troops before. Your knights are able to push through the gaps closely supported by them and are threatening the flanks of the central French battle.
And what are those two small French flank battles doing, anyway? Theyve dismounted and appear to be chasing rabbits in the hills instead supporting the main army!
Oh! Look over there Johann, on the left flank of the French! Its just as you said. The small battle that was supposed to protect that flank left only their skirmishers to do so while the knights dismounted and are trying to move through the hills and flank the Germans. The Germans are easily countering the knights in the hills with their lights and have driven off the skirmishers to flank the main battle. Hmm, looks like the knights trying that flanking maneuver are quarreling know that theyve seen all their skirmishers driven off. Yes, theyve decided to pack it in and go home. The central commander wont be pleased with that!
Johann looked back at the central battle of the French. The French have a bunch of skirmishers protecting the front of the man at arms, but the German spearmen are coming downhill towards them. He turned to Jean. Sorry, my friend, but its not going to be pretty.
François looked with Bertrand at the remains of the fight before them. In the two gaps in the ridge hard fighting among the knights and resulted in some losses to the enemy, including one of the clumsy German knight wedges being smashed, but many of the French knights had been flanked and destroyed. And the scene before him was another matter altogether. The crossbow armed French skirmishers that had been covering the front of the knights were discarding extraneous equipment - crossbows and quarrels principally included - on their way to reforming to the rear. Several miles to the rear, François assumed. The French had poor terrain, to be sure. But it had been complemented by a poor plan, poorly deployed and poorly executed. François turned to look at Bertrand. The Germans say this God-forsaken place is theirs? Well, they can have it. He glumly turned Monfiche around and rode away. After awhile Bertrand turned and followed him with the rest of the army.
10-0 to the Germans in 22 bounds. My streak with the French continues.