"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother;..."
Speech by Henry V on St. Crispin's day at Agincourt
(from Henry V by William Shakespeare)
THE BATTLE OF AGINCOURT
(October 25, 1415 AD)
A BBDBA scenario
by George Goncalves Gouveia
Prior to the action, which took place in a narrow valley near Agincourt, Henry, a claimant to the French throne, had invaded France and seized the port of Harfleur. At the time of the action, Henry's army, weakened by disease and hunger, was marching towards Calais, from where Henry planned to embark for England. The English force of about 6,000 men, for the most part lightly equipped archers, was intercepted by d'Albret, whose army of about 25,000 men consisted chiefly of armoured cavalry and infantry contingents. The French, confident in victory, declared their intentions to fight the English King. King Henry dismissed the news and sent word that he did not seek battle but that the French would impede his progress to Calais at their own risk. For most of the English on that night they felt that night would be their last on Earth.
Order of Battle
The English army is organized into three main commands:
- The Van on the right side of the line commanded by the Duke of York consisting of: 1 4Bd +1 as Sub-General, 2 4Lb from left to right.
- The Main in the centre led by King Henry V of England consisting of: 2 4Lb, 1Bd as King Henry with a +2 to all dice, 2 4Lb. With 1 3Sp in the rear to fill gaps.
- The Rearward on the left led by Thomas, Lord Camoy consisting of: 2 4Lb, 1 4Bd +1 as Sub-General
King Harry is of course the C-in-C of the army and is considered superior, so +2 to pip dice and combat dice for his command rating to reflect his most glorious victory at Agincourt where the "Warrior King" truly shone on that fateful day.
The French army is organized into three main commands as well and is listed from Left to right:
- The Van in the front commanded by Charles, Duke of Orleans, (however the C-in-C is DíAlbret), consisting of a front rank (1Kn, 6Cb, 1Kn) and a second rank (6 4Bd, 1 4Bd (CinC)). Total of 15 elements, demoralized on 5 lost elements.
- The Main in the second battle led by Duke Alencon and the Duke of Bar together consisting of a front rank (3 4Bd, 1 Bd(Gen), 2 Bd ) and a second rank (1 3Sp, 3 4Bd, 2 3Sp). Total of 12 elements, demoralized on 4 lost elements.
- The Rearward battle in the rear led by Count Dammartin and Count Marle consisting of a front rank (1 3Cv, 1 3Kn, 1 3Kn(Gen), 1 3Kn, 2 3Cv) and a second rank (3 7Hd). Total of 9 Elements, demoralized on 3 lost elements
The French C-in-C is the poor Charles D'Albret, Constable of France, who had the difficult job of trying to control the unruly war council whose nobles were on the battlefield in search of personal glory and personal gain. This factor as well as the shear size of the French army made it extremely difficult to control thus the Abysmal rating (-1 on all pip command rolls with a 1 counting as a 1) given to all French command dice.
Map and Scale
This battle can be played on a 6'x4' table at a scale of 1"=50 yards. At this zoom scale each stand is about 300-600 men depending on the element. The two armies were about a half mile mile apart so English deployment is about 24 inches from the French first battle with the distance between the woods about 20 inches. I choose to have the French deploy diagonally to allow the massive French army to deploy in wave formation with 3 battles in column facing the thin English army in the opposite diagonal corner.
This game is considered a game of BBDBA where the French army is a triple size DBA army but the English army is an understrength BBDBA army. There are several options here to use.
For the French:
Command limitations: For pip dice, the French roll one separate dice for each battle and these are used within the battle only or use BBDBA rules where the Van gets high dice, Main gets medium dice and Rear gets low dice. Max pip score is 5 as -1 to all pip dice, 1 min pip.
The Rain and the Mud: There are many ways to simulate this. I recommend counting all the ground as bad-going to simulate the muddy field due to torrential rains. You may or may not want to allow for column moves through the wet ground. All French troops except for the X-bows are at -2 in the bad ground. You may penalize the English Bd or you may not, supposedly the French men-at-arms were knee deep in mud and were tired from moving through the mud where the English due to small numbers and their defensive position were not.
Noble Arrogance: This special rule reflects the competitive pride of the French nobility. The French x-bows were according to plan to be in the front. The French nobles would never allow lower class bows to be in the place of honor in the front so they forced them to the rear causing much confusion. The first pips rolled of any kind for the French are used as follows: The 6 French men-at-arms blades in the first battle force the 6 crossbow elements to pass through to the rear ranks of the first battle at a cost of 1 pip per unit moved, this continues until 6 pips have been spent to move the French dismounted knights through the crossbows pushing them to the rear of the first battle. After this has taken place French pips can be used normally, remembering however to allocate pip dice as mentioned in BBDBA.
Also all French Bds and Sp are subject to mandatory pursuit after destroying or recoiling an enemy element to simulate their warrior nature that got the best of them allowing themselves to be flanked and destroyed.
For the English:
Command Control: Use either three dice of the same colour (one for each battle) to simulate the ease of commanding such a small compact army, or one dice is used but add +2 so the English pips range from 3-8.
English Longbowmen and Arrowhead or Archer Wedge: One major factor that played a role at Agincourt as well as other battles of this war were the effectiveness of the English Longbowmen, considered to be the best soldier of the middle ages. They employed massive firepower and unrestricted by armour, fought effectively at close-quarters with side-arms when the French hit the English lines. These rules simulate the effectiveness of these troops:
- They are rated at +3 shooting at foot and +3 in combat vs foot. Still +4 vs Knights.
- May shoot at a range of 300p instead of 200p but are -1 beyond 200p for a +2/+3 respectively vs ft/mtd.
- They are deployed with one element of Lb to the rear to simulate the wedge formation. Note this is allowed in DBM and the scale in DBA is 1 element of Lb is 1000 men. The scale I am using for this battle is 1 stand= 400-600 men so I feel justified in doing this more like DBM. According to the sources the Bowmen were deployed 6 deep and the men-at-arms 3 deep for the English.
- Fire support from the rear is allowed but must be at the same target as the front element shooting.
- When in combat vs enemy foot the second rank counts as a +1 for rear support ala DBM3.0 for Bw(S).
St. Crispin's Day Speech: After the English player has recited "The St. Crispin's Day Speech", before the battle has begun the English player is allowed to re-roll 3 combat dice during the game as a wild card inspiration. Note this is an optional rule. Don't worry, the text is also included in its entirety below.
Follow King Harry: King Henry's Bd unit is the centre receives not a +1 for Gen, but a +2 for inspiration in combat. This battle is considered a Big Battle DBA so don't forget the C-in-C +1 allowed once in a battle under normal BBDBA rules.
The French win by destroying 6 elements of English or once Henry is killed, plus 1 other element.
The English win by destroying or demoralizing 18 elements under BBDBA rules, note if the French C-in-C is killed the game is not lost.
In the battle the next day, which was preceded by heavy rains, the French troops were at a disadvantage because of irrational pride of the nobility, their weighty armour, the narrowness of the battleground, the muddy terrain, and the faulty tactics of their superiors, notably in using massed formations against a mobile enemy. The French cavalry, which occupied frontal positions, quickly became mired in the mud, making easy targets for the English archers. After routing the enemy cavalry, the English troops, wielding hatchets, mallets, daggers and swords, launched successive assaults on the disorganized French infantry as they crashed into the English line. Demoralized and disorganized by the fate of their cavalry and severely hampered by the mud, the French foot soldiers were completely overwhelmed. D'Albret, several dukes and counts, and about 500 other members of the French nobility were killed; about 5,000 French soldiers died. English losses numbered fewer than 200 men but included the fat Duke of York and the Earl of Suffolk. French feudal military strategy, traditionally based on the employment of heavily armoured troops and cavalry, was completely discredited by Henry's victory. Although Henry returned to England after Agincourt, his triumph paved the way for English domination of most of France until the middle of the 15th century.
Before studying the battle one will conclude that the English army had no chance of success against the massive French army. However, upon further analysis, one can conclude that the battle was won because of several factors: first, the effectiveness of the English Longbowmen as soldiers; second, the personal leadership of Henry V, he had the love and confidence of his men, and was able to control the army well due to it's small size; third, the ratio of longbowmen to men-at-arms ensured a perfect defence; fourth, poor leadership on the part of the French, their 3-1 numerical superiority meant nothing as the woods forced the French to attack on a narrow frontage making their numerical superiority meaningless as well as making them better targets for the longbow; and lastly, the plan did not account for the irrational, competitive pride of the French nobility, making the army impossible to control.
This moment ranks as one of the greatest upsets in military history and as such is considered King Harry's greatest moment. However, Henry V died at a young age, leaving his son the crowns of England and France, however his brutality and cruelness towards the French as evidenced by events at Rouen and Caen, fueled hatred towards the English. Henry V was a man of great contrasts, noble yet cruel, pious yet brutal, very successful as a warrior-king, yet he laid the groundworks for what would become known as 'The Wars of the Roses'.
Speech of Henry V's on St. Crispin's Day
What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are marked to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is called the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
>From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
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Last Updated: Feb. 21, 2001
George Gouveia invites your feedback by e-mail to: GGouveia@excite.com.
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