Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Armies of Agincourt by Christopher Rothero



So after reading the fiction book Agincourt by Cornwell, I wanted some morei nformation. While I won't say I shouldn't have bothered, this is really more of a reflection of Cornwell's strength as a writer in relaying information than any failure of Christopher Rothero.

There are things that Christopher brings to the table that Cornwell did not. For example, a longer history of the rise of the longbow and its place in England's army. A comparission between some of the rulers and nobles between England and France, with France not coming out well.

And of course, illustrations. Christopher Rothero acts not only as scribe, but also as artist and does a fantastic job. If you're playing a Bretonian army in Warhammer, you could do with a worse reference. This guy is good. I thought for a moment it might have been a certain McBride, but nope, it's Rothero. He does a solid job of capturing the various soldiers and the different types of armor and weapons used at the time.

Some of the things I found ironic though, were the heavy handed way in which things worked then, which allowed the English to win, which if told in story form in a role playing game, might sound forced.

First off, the two kings. Henry V is at the top of his game here in terms of leadership of men. He's with them in the field, he's an able commander, he's vigourous and well respected. The enemy's leader? Well, he's not there. Indeed, he is Charles 'The Mad'. Those nobels that are there? They're so hungry for profit in capturing rich soldiers, that they put themselves at the head of the army.

They're so foolish, that they allow the much smaller and desperate force of English to set the battle. In a muddle field. A field of deep mud. While they are riding heavy horses.

Their advantage in numbers? Their strength of crossbowmen? Ah, push them to the side. There's glory to be gotten here.

What about the history of the longbow? A weapon that the English have used to devistating effect in the past and have won other major battles with it? Ah, that's history, don't worry about that.

But how do these fools get into these ranks? Same way they do today. It's not what you know, it's who you know. So you're a bit of an incompetent right? That's okay because you know people. Hey, those guys who work their way through the ranks and think they know what they're talking about? I tell you what, we're just going to ignore them, override their orders and overall diminish their contributions because hey, they don't know anyone.

Reading the battle of Agincourt with the extra details, with the various names of nobility attached to it, with the many mistakes that happened, looks like any huge 'bubble' that burst and everyone points to it afterwards and goes, "Hey, here is exactly what happened." It's just in this case the burster of the bubble was King Henry.

While to the modern eye, the second hand accounts present an easy to see series of events that could have been avoided in any number of areas, look around at things people are talking about, but not really doing anything about now. Think about gas at the station costing $5-$7 a gallon. Think about a housing bubble burst in China. Think about food inflation that easily outsrips commodity inflation. Think about the housing bubble that already burst, think about the various entitlement programs that can't be paid for with current revenues. There are 'dragons' all over the place that people don't want to face and they will come back and bite you in the face.

Now in a role playing game, it's important to note that the players are going to be 'meta' gaming in many cases. Sure, some of them may be going into the whole knightly orders or the various role playign aspects that go with it, but they would never be caught in the situation the French were. On times, you should allow them to face others though, who do fall into those patterns and to suffer under those same issues.

After all, why would the other nobles in the army listen to a bunch of adventuring peasants? Filthy tomb robbers!