The Battle of Legnano
29 May 1176 AD

Early Imperialist (Medieval German) vs. Communal Italian

By Stefanos Skarmintzos

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Legnano was fought between the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa and the so-called Lombard League of communes headed by Milan. Frederick had called for German aid in his struggle in Northern Italy, and the army that had responded had reached Como. The Emperor was based at Pavia, with Milan lying on a direct line between the two places. Barbarossa quickly made to Como, and determined to march back to Pavia with his new army, skirting around Milan. The Milanese heard news of Barbarossašs movements, and moved the communal army into a position where they could intercept Barbarossašs line of march. Despite his German reenforcements, Barbarossa was still outnumbered.

On 29 May, the two advance guards met in the fields near Legnano. Barbarossa had a mostly cavalry force, while the Lombard League had four corps of cavalry, and an infantry reserve which guarded the carroccio, the sacred car of Milan, a wagon containing the city's banners. Barbarossa took the offensive, and his Knights defeated each of the communal cavalry corps, before falling on the infantry reserves,. The communal footmen fought well, but would have been defeated if their Knights had not regrouped and returned to the fray. The already tired German troops were further disheartened by the fall of the Imperial banner, and when Barbarossa himself appeared to have been killed, they broke and fled, taking serious casualties. Barbarossa escaped, and reappeared three days later, but his cause in Italy was greatly weakened.

The Armies

  • Early Imperialist (IV/13a, modified): 1x Kn(Gen), 4xKn, 3xCv, 2xLH (Cuman Mercenaries), 1xCb, 1xPs.

  • Communal Italian (III/72a, modified): 1xWW, 3xKn, 2xCb or Ps, 4xSp, 2xAux - General can be a Knight Element or the War Wagon


The Milanese deploy first and defend.

Terrain Notes

The road to Pavia crosses the middle of the battlefield, bisecting the German and Italian baselines. Most of the battlemap should be flat good going, representing grain fields and pastures. Gentle rolling hillocks are centered in opposite quarters of the map. As additional (optional) terrain, the Italians may place one vineyard and/or one woods (orchard) feature, which must be deployed touching a board edge.

Special Rules

Dismounting: All German and Italian mounted are eligible to dismount. Knights dismount as Blades. Cavalry dismount as Spears. Light Horse dismounts as Psiloi. The German horsemen cannot dismount before the third bound. If the Italian player deploys optional terrain (see above), then the German may ignore the third bound dismounting restriction.

Victory Conditions

Normal DBA.

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Last Update:  12 June 2005

Thanks to SS for contributing this scenario.
Comments and feedback welcome and can be sent to Chris Brantley.