Charlemagne rides south by Andrew Bennetts

The list doesn't seem to get too many battle reports from NZ so I thought I'd
remedy this with my experiences at last weekend's Call To Arms event in
Wellington. CTA is one of the longest running events on the local wargaming
calendar and, after having to miss it last year due to a family commitment, I
was very keen to travel down from Auckland this year.

The army I've been having the most fun with recently has been my Bretons,
converted from Conquest Miniatures's excellent plastic Normans, with infantry
from Wargames Factory's Saxon and Viking ranges. Being plastic they are also an
ideal `airmobile' 28mm option. However, as my old mate Wayne in Bangkok will
testify, Bretons are a difficult army to get a (positive) result with under
tournament conditions and, with CTA rounds restricted to 3.5 hours, a more
'direct' option seemed to be called for.

Browsing through the Book 3 for something the Bretons could double for at a
pinch, I came across Carolingians and thought there must be a usable army in
there somewhere. A quick trip to Lorenzo's excellent Tagmata site produced a few
ideas and in the end I came up with:

The Emperor Charlemagne: RKn(F) CinC; 9xIKn(F); 9xIPs(O)
Naimon, Duke of Bavaria: RKn(F) SubG; 4xRKn(F)
Guilhem, Count of Toulouse: RKn(F) SubG; 3xICv(O); 4xILH(O); 12xIBd(I)
Morvan of Brittany: ICv(O) AllyG; 5xICv(O); 7xILH(O)
Army Baggage: 4xIBg(I) – from Charlemagne's and Guilhem's commands

The basic plan was for Morvan and the Bretons (provided they were loyal!) to
ride hard to turn an open flank, hopefully creating a weak point that
Charlemagne with the high die could exploit. Guilhem with the middle die would
provide a defensive flank that the army could pivot around while Naimon had the
low die and acted as a `fire brigade' to address the inevitable problems.

The main advantage of the army is that it is fast. The main worry is that it is
(F)ast. And has no terrain capability to speak of. Nor any answer to massed Bow.
Or elephants. Or pikes. But hey, what are the chances of meeting any of those in
an open event?

Anyway, Game One was against Peter Noble using Classical Indians, Porus to be
exact, with Kn(X) chariots, El(S) and Bw. Consulting the `worry' list above
suggested this could be a tough one! "Oh well, at least I'm invading so will get
to deploy second". Oh dear. It's not often that you're disappointed when the
first opposed die roll of the game is a 6-1 in your favour, but this proved to
be one of them!

Anyway, the terrain was fairly open, with a piece of boggy ground in my central
area and a couple of pieces of boggy and marshy ground giving Peter some flank
protection on the right (from my perspective). This discouraged me from trying
too much on that flank so Guilhem was deployed there, Charlemagne's Ps forming a
screen based on the central bog, and all the Kn massed to the left rear. Morvan
was on the far left and well forward, ready for a quick advance.

Discerning my less than subtle scheme of rushing forward on the left (deceptive
deployments are not something I've ever been accused of!) Peter deployed his
right almost at right angles to the base line, with Hd, Cv(I), Kn(X) Chariots
facing outwards to counter my outflanking and massed El(S) well forward. On the
other flank, more El and chariots with bows in support menaced Guilhem, who I
belatedly realised was rather exposed.

Taking the first bound, Morvan rushed forward on the left with his Cv, with
Charlemagne and the IKn(F) hard on their heels. The Breton LH was held back to
help Charlemagne's Ps entertain the El while Naimon loitered at the back trying
to stay out of trouble. Reaching the enemy baseline, Morvan and Charlemagne both
swung right, the Bretons quickly overwhelming the opposing Cv(I) but, despite
superior numbers and flank support from the Bretons, the Kn made heavy weather
of the enemy chariots, with three going down before the last chariot was

Meanwhile a vicious and messy dogfight had developed in the centre, with
Carolingian Ps and Breton LH playing cat and mouse with about 6 El(S), 2 of
which were generals. A couple of El went down early but my losses were mounting
when the eventual defeat of the chariots finally broke the Indian flank.

On the other flank, the poorly deployed Guilhem was desperately trying to hold
out as the clock wound down but, in last bound of the game, could take no more
and finally broke. The ME transmission from this disheartened all three
remaining Carolingian commands, even Naimon's reserve who had carelessly lost a
Kn to an El that had broken out of the dogfight. Finally, and providing a neat
symmetry to the start of the game, the last combat of a hectic game saw one of
Charlemagne's surviving Ps manage a 6-1 to knock Porus off his mount!

So a cracking game and, tallying the result, both armies found themselves with
well over 40% losses. However the fact that all the surviving Carolingians were
disheartened made the score a 14-11 to Peter, some revenge for him after his
Romans had been trampled by my herd of 8 Carthaginians elephants earlier in the

After a rushed lunch (the result of being the final game to finish), Game Two
was against Al Duncan and a species of temporal civil war as Charlemagne invaded
Gaul. The terrain came down with my right heavily constricted by a series of
large woods (hmmm, isn't the lack of a viable terrain capability on the
`worries' list?) and while the left more open, it was dominated by a large
BUA(f), that was just on Alistair's side of the centre line.

A huge mass of Wb filled the gap between the BUA and the woods, through which a
Ligurian ally threatened to work their way around my right flank. A large
cavalry command filled the gap between the BUA and the left table edge. The BUA
itself was suspiciously under-populated but I was confident that the concealed
garrison would prove to be both substantial and indomitable!

Given the constrained area in which to deploy (and remembering the debacle of
the morning) I was taking no chances with Guilhem and he was dispatched on a
flank march on the left to minimise the risk of his Bd meeting too many Wb.
Morvan and the Bretons were also on the left, marking the Gallic cavalry with
Naimon in close support, while Charlemagne's Kn prepared to meet the main Gallic
horde, with a few of his Ps looking to try and buy some time in the woods.

Sensing the likely flank march (another not so subtle plan rumbled immediately!)
Alistair withdrew his Cv on the left, hotly pursued by the Breton LH. Morvan's
Cv however were badly needed over on the other flank as the Ligurians made quick
progress through and around the woods, swatting aside with contempt the few Ps
that opposed them. Then, with their heavier compatriots now busy elsewhere, the
Breton LH suddenly found themselves in trouble as the Gallic Cv turned around
and a horde of Wb(F) started to pour out of the gates of the BUA. With Guilhem
still not having made an appearance it was all starting to look rather grim!

Having delayed as long as possible waiting for Guilhem, Charlemagne was finally
forced to launch his Kn into the dark mass of Wb in the centre, with some
initial success as inroads were made all along the line. Unfortunately things
then started to bog down and eventually a Kn was lost, then another and finally
a third, leaving a gaping hole in the line and with the end Kn facing a real
risk of being flank locked.

Meanwhile, Guilhelm had finally made an appearance (bound 8 so just as well he
was a SubG!) but quickly made up for lost time, his Cv helping the Breton LH to
dishearten the Wb from the BUA while his Bd pressured the Gallic Cv and even
started to get some kills.

However it was in the centre that things would be decided, as the Gallic Wb were
now disheartened (as indeed was Charlemagne's command although that only
affected the remaining Ps) and that crucially reduced the risk to the surviving
Kn. Two of the reserve Kn had already been drawn into the fight but Naimon then
led the remaining two in a devastating charge with that swept all before it,
finally punching through the Wb line and breaking that command. ME transmission
then took out first the Wb in the BUA and then the Cv command also, both already
thinned somewhat by Guilhem's troops who had been making up for their late
arrival with some ferocious dice rolls.

So, a 22-3 to a somewhat surprised and mentally exhausted Charlemagne, a rather
flattering scoreline that did not do justice to the ferocity of the fighting nor
give sufficient reward to a most generous and engaging opponent for his
contribution to a very exciting game.

The end of a very entertaining day, which saw me in 4= place from a perfectly
respectable 33/50 return. A chance of a podium finish on the morrow and, just as
importantly, plenty of time for dinner before the Super 15 Rugby final!

Sunday morning saw Charlemagne again invading India, although this time a few
hundred years later and up against John van den Hoeven's Kushans.

My list is as before:
The Emperor Charlemagne: RKn(F) CinC; 9xIKn(F); 9xIPs(O)
Naimon, Duke of Bavaria: RKn(F) SubG; 4xRKn(F)
Guilhem, Count of Toulouse: RKn(F) SubG; 3xICv(O); 4xILH(O); 12xIBd(I)
Morvan of Brittany: ICv(O) AllyG; 5xICv(O); 7xILH(O)
Army Baggage: 4xIBg(I) – from Charlemagne's and Guilhem's commands

There was also an element of déjà vu about the terrain, with a cluster of marsh
and bog again giving the Kushans some flank cover on my right. The rest of the
field was largely open, except for a few gentle hills around the edges that were
to play no part in proceedings.

Deploying first, the Kushan centre consisted of a line of Bd(I) interspersed
with three El, bookended on each flank by strong forces of cataphracts. The
outer flank of the right hand group of cataphracts rested on the marshes,
themselves well defended by Ax and Ps. Behind the cataphracts lurked Bw,
cautiously deployed due to the strong wind blowing diagonally into their faces.
On my left flank, LH(F) extended from the cataphracts out towards the side edge,
with a small command of Chionite LH(S) in support behind.

Charlemagne deployed in much the same way as against Porus the morning before.
Guilhelm guarding the right while Charlemagne's Ps formed a screen in front of
the Kushan centre, his Kn and those of Naimon were concentrated towards the
left. Morvan and the Bretons were on their now usual station on the extreme

With poor initial pips, John's first move was cautious, little more than
expanding the LH on my left out to the table edge. Not so Charlemagne, with
Morvan rushing forward towards the LH while Charlemagne's Kn shook themselves
out opposite the left wing cataphracts, with the Ps keeping pace in the centre.
Meanwhile, learning from the previous morning's error, Naimon and the reserve
made good use of a convenient lateral road to rush across and reinforce Guilhem.

Morvan was quickly into his work, the Breton LH and Cv carving a swathe not only
through the Kushan LH(F) but also into the Chionites as they came up to ease the
pressure. Meanwhile Charlemagne confidently loosed his first rank of four Kn
against the stationary Kushan cataphracts. And they died. Instantly. All of
them. To a man. In a wash of 1's and 2's against 5's and 6's Charlemagne's
command went from untouched to demoralized and near broken in four combats!!!

I was left reeling like a stunned mullet by this turn of events while John,
sensing his moment, drove his centre of Bd and El forward into the now
demoralised Ps screen in front, knowing full well that only a few Ps kills would
break Charlemagne's command and split the Carolingian army in two. The first
combat saw a Bd easily spend the opposing Ps, providing an overlap for the El
alongside. This Ps however was made of sterner stuff than his supposed betters
and with a 6-1 bravely took out the elephant. Frustrated, John moved to the next
Bd who obliged by again spending the opposing Ps, leaving a demoralised and
overlapped Ps to face the next El. About this time, John asked what the odds of
this Ps also rolling a 6-1, the only score that could kill the El and, well, you
can guess the rest! Two elephants down and, with the third also failing to kill
the Ps it faced, John was now feeling pretty much the same as I had the bound

Despite this lucky reprieve, Charlemagne's position was still desperate and,
with little to be gained and much to be lost by delay, the second wave of Kn was
sent in over the bodies of the first and into the cataphracts on the left, this
time with better flank support. Morvan also redoubled his efforts against the LH
in the hope that further casualties there might tip the balance. This time there
was no mistake, with a cataphract and sufficient LH destroyed to break the
Kushan left, the ME transmission also taking out the already badly damaged
Chionites. Meanwhile, on the other flank, Naimon had piled into the cataphracts
opposing him and, with Guilhlem's Cv and Bd providing support on either flank,
also scored a couple of successes which meant, together with the elephant losses
suddenly the Kushans had tipped over 50% losses.

What carnage! It had taken barely half a dozen bounds and Charlemagne now found
himself with 22-3 victory before even morning tea. John and I were both shocked
by the wild swings of fortune and spent some time afterwards simply shaking our
heads and mumbling about the odds of anything similar happening again!

After we had both regained our composure (really, we needed something stronger
than coffee!) there was plenty of time to watch what was happening on the other
tables. The four leaders were all matched against one another, and, with none
able to force a result, with some surprise I found I was now in front going into
the final round. However as there were five of us all within 8 points, it was
going to be do or die for whoever got to carry off the silverware.

My opponent for the final game was Gary Lewis, with a French Ordonnance army
from 1494 that is the sort of spectacle that only a beautifully presented late
medieval army can be. So, another inter-temporal civil war, with Charlemagne
invading once more. As was the case against the Gauls the previous afternoon,
the terrain proved rather denser than Charlemagne would have liked. Marshland
closed off the left side of the table while a large wood dominated the centre,
with a gap to the right of that extending to another marsh near Gary's base
line. Hmmm, this was going to be tricky.

Gary deployed with a massive Swiss ally dominating the gap between the wood and
the marsh, flanked on the left (as I saw it) by Kn(S) and the right by Kn(O)
supported by a large formation of Pk(I). Ps(S) handgunners held the marsh on the
right and also the central forest while piquets of Cv and LH were on the
extremes of both flanks. I deployed with Guilhem on the left, his mounted
covering the small mounted formation on that flank, while the Bd(I) covered the
forest to prevent the handgunners making a nuisance of themselves. Morvan was on
the extreme right, charged with over powering the mounted on that flank and
pressing on around the marsh into the French rear. Given that a draw was of no
use to either of us, Charlemagne and Naimon would try to draw Gary forward and
hopefully open a flank.

The Bretons were off quickly and soon engaged with the small opposing force of 2
Cv(O) and a LH. These however put up tremendous resistance and Morvan ended up
wasting valuable time and pips finishing them off when really he should have
pushed his unengaged troops past them and around the marsh at the earliest
opportunity. Meanwhile, Charlemagne had pushed his Ps forward to screen the
Swiss while Naimon's Kn rode around to a position in the rear of the Bretons,
hoping to attack the right of the French should they advance.

Unfortunately, Charlemagne got his timing all wrong and had let his Kn move too
far forward, meaning Gary was able to advance his line of Pike and Kn without
seriously exposing his flank. Unable to now withdraw, Charlemagne was forced to
give his Kn their head and they bravely threw themselves against the line of Pk
and heavier Kn with sadly inevitable results. Some damage was inflicted, taking
out a couple of Kn(O) and several Pk(I,) but the Swiss simply mowed the Kn(F)
down and after 3 or 4 rounds of combat a shattered Charlemagne was fleeing the
table with virtually all his Kn dead behind him. Naimon had also charged in to
try and relieve the pressure but it was too little too late and, although the
French right was eventually disheartened, Naimon too broke before the Bretons
could intervene effectively in the French rear, the game ending in a resounding
22-3 to the French.

Very much a game of might-have-beens for Charlemagne, with the skill and
patience necessary to draw an enemy out of such a secure position being badly
overtaken by an impetuous desire to force a result. A little more focus on
getting the Bretons quickly around the flank, a little more prudence in keeping
Charlemagne's Kn a march move further back might have made all the difference.
However that is not to take anything away from Gary who planned and played the
game he wanted and well deserved a victory that pushed him up to a share of
first place alongside Vince's Romans, with Charlemagne just off the podium in

Nevertheless, four cracking games against excellent opponents and a big thank
you to the Wellington Warlords for yet another superb Call To Arms and also to
Mark Pickup for organizing and umpiring the DBMM event.

Despite a somewhat disappointing final game, looking back I think the
Carolingian experiment has definitely been worth it. Including the one training
game I managed beforehand, they are 3-1-1 from games, for an 80% completion rate
which makes them a genuine `result' army. While they have more than a few
shortcomings, the overall combination worked surprisingly well and they are
certainly fun to play. So I suspect Charlemagne shall have more than a few more
outings at the club over the next few months……