Sunday, June 15, 2014

Fornovo 1495 by David Nicolle

The battle of Fornovo in 1495, has it's own campaign book by Osprey. There's also a good article on Wiki found here. I managed to pick this one up from the Half Price Books in Skokie for a few bones and was quite pleased with the purchase. It dovetails nicely into the reading I've been doing on the Sforza, Borgias and others in Italy at this turbulent time in history. Note the cover here is the one I have, not the current edition of the book.

Written by David Nicolle, the book clocks in at 96 pages but text wise, it's probably much smaller. There are a ton of maps, photographs, drawings, historical and those commissioned specifically for this book. The cover for example, Richard Hook, whose works can be found here.

David Nicolle that I'm aware of, but he does a great job of breaking down who the main factions are and the numerous individuals in each camp. The book has the usual breakdown including aftermath and even some ideas on how to use this material for wargaming.

The illustrations inside are of a nature similar to the cover and include many great inspirational pieces in terms of background. For example, the French artillery crossing the Cisa Pass where soldiers are pulling one of the canons up the mountain after having felled numerous tress and moved rocks out of the way. These are hard working individuals, some resting after cutting the tress down and moving them. Many with rips in their clothes for the work load. Another excellent noncombat illustration, the retreat from Novara, where the 'depleted disease-ridden French' retreated to and we see the soldier wearily resting in small groups.

In terms of 'game' ideas, there are numerous ones that pop up due to the nature of the conflict.

1. The Grand Crusade: Charles VIII wants to seize Naples not because, or not only because he's some greedy noble. Rather, he wants to use it as a staging ground for a glorious war against the Ottoman Turks. In this time, the fall of Constantinople in 1453 is very fresh in the Christian World and a leader who would dare to take up this awesome, country spanning task, needs to have grand vision. Are there faiths in your setting that do not get along and are at an uneasy peace? Are there great leaders who would shatter that piece in order to bring glory to their religion?

2. The Clash of Cultures: Here's one that's somewhat terrible in its irony. On one hand, the French have a 'knightly' virtue about them for some things. They see the rise of the footsoldier and firearms as some horrific thing that is eventually going to diminish the glory of personal hand to hand combat and personal honor. The Italians are used to being ransomed when defeated. When the two clash and say, an Italian armored knight is knocked form his horse, the polearms and axes and swords come out and go for the vulnerable points as opposed to keeping the soldier alive for ransom, unlike the Italians who were capturing those they thought were valuable.

3. Side Missions: On their way down from the mountains, the French lost some of their heavy artillery. It's easy to see a pass they couldn't get through, a rockslide, or some other natural disaster. In a fantasy game, such a cannon, and most of them have names historically, might be a powerful artifact that was lost when the group came under attack while transporting the items through the hills. The cannon is assumed lost but a huge reward or the powers of the cannon itself could be available to those bold enough to search the mountains for it.

4. Plunder: One of the biggest loses the French suffered here, wasn't in terms of men slain, but in the lose of their baggage wagons which contained some odd 180,000 gold ducats worth of funds, including royal items like a sword and crown.

5. Little Things: On their return home, the French King Charles VIII decided, honoring the principals of chivalry and knightly duties, to leave some of his forces in Pisa. This weakened his own forces and was supposedly engineered by the most 'beautiful women of Pisa' who appealed to Charles nature. Having known virtues means that people can use those virtues against you.

6. The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men: One of the things that the Italians tried to do, was a hasty crossing against the river but the night before, it had rained and mountain water was swelling the river. This caused the whole concept of rapid crossing to evaporate but there apparently wasn't time to change tactics or strategy.

7. Landscape: Another problem the horses faced, was 'fields of peebles'.  This made riding difficult to say the least.

8. Individual Actions: One of the things reported here, is that King Charles VIII himself is almost captured as he is apart from his soldiers and only has one aide with him when he comes under attack, but his black horse and lone guard give him enough time to escape. In a role playing game, it might be the specific mission of a group of characters to capture or assassinate a noble, or even someone more important. The entire battle itself might be a mere diversion to give the players that one opportunity that they'd never have otherwise.

This time period and this area have a lot of gaming potential. This ranges from having multiple countries invade a 'country' that consist not only of individual city states, but of 'states' within states such as the Romania and the Papal States themselves. It's a time when Spain and France and others will plunder again and again and has a lot of ideas of how wars went and they didn't go according to plan.

Anyone have a favorite history era that they find themselves returning to? I don't know how much longer I'll be delving into the whole Italy bit based on my viewing of the two different Borgia series, but I've got a few more books on the shelf already so I know it'll be a little while before I'm done with the mercenaries and various religious figures that I've grown to read of so much.