Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Friday, 7 April 2017

The Battle of Bouvines 1214 - A Wars of the Roses-themed refight

Miniature Wargames 18 featured an article on refighting the Battle of Bouvines, fought between the armies of King Philip Augustus III of France and Emperor Otto IV on 27 July 1214, the latter being allied to King John of England in his wars against the French crown.  Not having a medieval French or German army, I plumped for using my Wars of the Roses armies as substitutes.

The Forces:
 The article gives the following strengths:
Otto - 6000 Knights, 18000 Pikemen
Philip - 7000 Knights, 3000 Crossbowmen, 12000 Foot soldiers

These figures seem a bit on the high side to me! Amusingly, the article writer recommends using a 1:20 figure:man scale for this engagment...Anyway, I ignored all this and just used the relevant DBA army list to generate two reasonable forces, viz:

Otto - 5 x Knights (3Kn), 1 x Crossbowmen (4Cb), 2 x City Militia spearmen (Sp), 2 x Brabanter Pikemen (4Pk), 2 x Archers (Ps)

Philip -  4 x Knights (3Kn), 2 x Feudal Militia (4Sp), 2 x Mixed Weapon Foot (4Bd), 1 x Mercenary Crossbowmen (4Cb), 2 x Archers (3Bw), 1 x Bidower (Ps)

The Set-Up:
The article gives quite a 'standard' set-up of both sides having infantry in the first line, mounted troops in the second.  However, other interpretations seem to indicate that both sides had foot troops in the centre of the first line with mounted men on each flank in the front line, and then the second line containing the reverse.

For no very good reason, I plumped for this way of setting-up:

The armies face each other.  The village of Bouvines is extreme centre-left.  The French at the bottom, the Imperials approach from the top-right.

The French Army: Knights, Crossbowmen and Spearmen in the front rank; Knights and archers in the second rank.

From behind the Imperial Army: Knights and Spearmen and Crossbowmen in the front rank, Pikemen, Knights and archers in the second.

View from above.
The Battle:

I have always thought that the DBA "defender moves first rule" was a bit quirky - nevertheless, the French move up into position...

Another view

The Imperials were a bit surprised and discomfited by this - their battle line is by no means fully-formed as the French charge home

First blood to the French - French spears get amongst the German crossbowmen and create a gap on the Imperial right...However, the French crossbowmen then met the same fate at the hands of the German knights!, Next, the German knights and archers have encircled the leading French knights (left);

The French second line moves up in support

The French put more pressure on the German line - the German knights seem to be losing ground...

The French knights have capitulated on the left - both side regroup

More and more pressure on the German front line, but it bows, not breaks...

Fighting is indecisive on the French left - the French are struggling to make their numbers pay here

The Flemish pikemen and more knights attempt to bring succour to the left of the Imperial line...

German knights again triumphant on the French left...

French bowmen devastate a group of German cavalry but their own knights are pushed back..

The French Bowmen boldly (recklessly!!) advance to put the German nobility under fire, as the French knights continue to be pushed back

The indecisive fighting continues on the French left

Otto leads his Knights to massacre the French bowmen just as the Pikemen do the same - the French collapse!

At least the majority of the French nobility will probably escape...
 Game Notes:
An interesting game, with the historical result thoroughly reversed!  I think it is fair to say that the luck was with the Imperials: the elimination of the French crossbowmen was a very flukey outcome for the Germans, and without it they would most likely have been just under that little bit more pressure in the centre, which would probably have collapsed under it - they were lucky to maintain their line as it was.  The advance of the French bowmen at the end was suicidally stupid - although bowmen are stronger than knights in DBA (generally), everything else about the situation favoured the Imperials.  More caution would have prolonged the battle and perhaps allow the French to put together a decisive attack on their left, which they threatened but never quite pulled off, because the situation there was too dynamic (in game terms, the German simplicity in the centre allowed spare PIPs to be used to be creative on the flanks).
All-in-all it was a very good experience.  The DBA rules continue to give an exciting game and the PIP mechanism is an excellent aid to solo play, giving command-and-control problems and unpredictability in a very simple way.  Figures used were from Baccus 6mm Wars of the Roses range.  Buildings from Timecast and Leven (I think).

DBA really lends itself to re-theming battles, because all of its armies are expressed in terms of troop types which act consistently through the ages.  So as long as one can find troop types equivalent in the era that one actually has armies for, re-theming is a doddle.  I am sure, for instance, that there are several armies that could stand-in for their French and German counterparts, especially if one picks options that don't include crossbowmen. 


  1. Good looking scrap! You are quite right in suggesting that DBA's PIP system or other such mechanisms go a long way towards making games very enjoyable for solo play.

    1. Thanks very much Jonathan. The simple but constraining effect of the PIP roll really does work well.

  2. A very nice report for a famous battle!