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.

Monday, 4 May 2020

DBA Bicocca 1522

Battle of Bicocca 1522:

Miniature Wargames Issue 4 had a second Great Italian Wars scenario to accompany that of Novarra, this time it is the Battle of Bicocca, in which a Franco-Swiss-Venetian army takes on an Imperialist-Spanish-Milanese force.  The battle came about in the way it did because the Swiss contingent demanded immediate battle or immediate payment!

Early issues of MW had some very striking toy soldiers on its covers!

Whereas DBA specifically covers Novarra, for some of the armies involved 1522 is outside of its range.  Thinking about it, I suppose I could have used DBR , since this one would probably work with my basing (unlike C17 conflicts, which wouldn't) but I didn't think if it so I didn't use them!  Some people on The Wargames Website have suggested using Maximilian for these type of battles and these rules do look interesting, so I may get around to looking at them, particularly if I am ever tempted to do a refight of the Great Italian Wars in their entirety...However, this battle was played before I got those suggestions. 

The one rules element to deal with was to consider the classification of the Imperialist arqubusiers.  In DBA most handgunners are classed at Psiloi but this seemed inappropriate here, so I effectively treated them as crossbowmen (4Cb).  That seemed more right than not.  The French army's arqubusiers were still treated as Psiloi however. 

The Forces:

The French:

6 x Pikemen (4Pk)
1 x Artillery (Art)
3 x Knights (3Kn)
2 x Light Horse (LH)
2 x Crossbowmen (4Cb)
3 x Psiloi (Ps)

The Imperialists:

3 x Pikemen (4Pk)
1 x Artillery (Art)
2 x Arquebusiers (4Cb)
2 x Light Horse (LH)
2 x Knights (3Kn)
1 x Blades (4Bd)
2 x Crossbowmen (4Cb)

Terrain Notes:
The brown fields are ploughed fields.  The marshes are difficult going.  The streams represent ditches, the road in front of the earthworks is a sunken road which takes a full move to cross.

Scenario Rules:
The scenario suggests forcing the Swiss to simply plough on forwards.  I am not sure that has to happen - I suggest setting up the Swiss just inside Imperial artillery range and leave it up to the player.  Not really an issue for DBA, but the French Army needs to positively win the game, anything else is an Imperialist win by default.

The Set-Up:
The French Army approaches from the left, the Imperialists defending a line on the centre

The Swiss pikemen supported by handgunners and artillery, with the French infantry in reserve

The main Imperialist position: Spanish and Landsknecht pikemen and gunners behind the earthworks, with men-at-arms in support (right); Jinetes patrol the flank (left) and a Milanese contingent is in reserve (top)

The Spanish men-at-arms, with Milanese allied infantry and knights in the rear (top)
The Battle:

The battle begins predictably enough with the advance of the Swiss pike blocks

A wider shot; skirmishers advance on the French right flank (bottom-left)

Spanish artillery takes a heavy toll of the Swiss pikemen during the advance

The Swiss charge home though, as do the supporting French pikemen and arquebusiers (bottom-left)

Arquebus fire from the buildings drives the French infantry back

In defiance of the defences and the defenders, the Swiss pikemen manage to push across the earthworks

Another view

The Landsknecht gunners restore the situation (top), whilst the Spanish gendarmes attack the Swiss pikemen in the centre

The Spanish charge works! The Swiss pikemen are killed or chased off (centre); the remaining Swiss pike cannot make further forward progress (left)

The French infantry tries once again to get over the sunken road into the Imperialist position

A large-scale mounted clash develops on the Imperialist right flank as Gendarmes and Stradiots attack Jinetes and Elmeti

The view across the battle line

The French come off the worse, with half their gendarmes down and the Spanish and Italian mounted men pushing forward

The infantry battle reaches a stalemate...

But the French commander is now in severe difficulties against the Spanish ginetes!

Not discouraged, the French commander and his gendarmes push on

A last desperate attack by the remnants of the Swiss pike manage to get over the defences a second time!

The Milanese infantry move forward to support the Spanish ginetes, who have now surrounded the French commander and his gendarmes

And he eventually goes down (top)!

Meanwhile, the Swiss pikemen have been forced out of the defences again (centre)

The French Army has been largely repulsed in its attacks and, leaderless, it must concede the field

Another view of the centre at the end of the battle
Game Notes: Another fun game with a result which at least resembled that of the original battle.  I think that treating the massed Arqubusiers as Crossbowmen worked reasonably well, but other choices are available - I don't think treating them as Psiloi will work though.  There is an argument for making one or two of the French arqubusiers as proxy-crossbowmen rather than skirmishers.  Unfortunately I couldn't leave this battle set-up, I would have liked to see what the Neil Thomas rules made of it - perhaps in the future I will give this another go.  I am hoping to do Flodden soon, so maybe I will do a comparison post for that one (or use DBR too, for evaluation purposes).

Figures by Baccus 6mm, the bridges are a mixture but include Leven, the building is from Total Battle Miniatures.


  1. As I'm thinking about the Italian Wars for a future project, this AAR certainly piqued my interest. I love the look of the game and the units involved. The great bonus of DBA is that you need relatively few bases and figures for a game.

    1. Thanks very much Steve. I am not sure DBA does full justice to the Italian Wars but it definitely produced an interesting game.