Thursday, 19 April 2018

Merovingian Campaign - the system engine.

Readers who have followed the many projects I have posted here in the past are aware of a number of historical campaign systems I have designed. Each had a particular facet that I wanted to test and most spanned a number of important events in Roman history. Some simulated a campaign season and others covered several successive campaign seasons, but none would prove as great a challenge as the current Merovingian project. The dynasty, from the death of Clovis to the end of the reign of Dagobert I is nearly 140 years. Electing to have each turn represent ten years would complete this campaign after 14 turns. This can be reduced if any ruler unifies all Francia as one kingdom; which did occur in 558 AD.  

On the map are a number of realms which interact with the Frankish kingdoms; these are the Frisians, Saxons, Thuringian, Bavarian, Avars, the Lombard, the Italian Ostrogoth, Provence, the Byzantines, the Visigoths and Armorica. As a club project, the task of gathering enough willing players for such a campaign becomes quite difficult. Rather than design a system where a lesser number of players would be required, I decided to create a solo campaign system as finding a few willing club members to fight some battles in an evening is not that difficult.

Map: Situation at the start of 540 AD (turn 4)

Reviewing the Quick Play Campaign the next step was to revise this for solo use. The system needed a major change as accumulating ‘activity points’ to pay for movement, supply, reinforcements and such would reduce the game to a bookkeeping exercise for sixteen kingdoms. A simpler solution was needed that offered enough possibilities to represent activity to fill a ten year period. I wanted to retain the use of playing cards, some systems make use of them as event cards but this would require too much time to research. I did find a possible solution as there were websites that defined the symbolic meaning of cards, rather than foretell someone’s future it seemed possible to translate this to a ruling house. From a number of websites I accumulated sufficient detail to formulate possible actions.

I discovered after a few test, the sequence of cards helped generate a story for each kingdom, each turn. Alliances, invasions, rebellions, prosperous period of peace or famine were beginning to fall into place with each card drawn. Extra detail on the reference sheet added the season and month plus the positive and negative value of each card.

Record Sheet displaying each kingdom’s status.

What you are now following at the blog is the result of the modified campaign system. I have listed below a number of links presenting which will help you to experiment with your own campaign design. 


Helpful links:
The value of numbers 

Sunday, 15 April 2018

The Merovingian Campaign, 530 - 539 AD

530 – 534 AD
Chlodomer dies in 530 leaving no heir to succeed him. Both Childebert and Theuderic seize on the opportunity to enlarge their domains, but first the Visigoths must be forced out of Aquitaine. Recalling the Burgundian debacle, a joint venture by Childebert and Theuderic is out of the question and Childebert solicited help form Chlothar. Their planned expedition was cut short by the unexpected incursions by Saxons and Frisians. Each moved to intercept the invading forces.

Accused by his brothers for instigating the invasions by Saxons and Frisians, Theuderic successfully seals an alliance with Burgundy; an agreement would ensure the protection of Burgundy against Visigothic aggression and safeguards Theuderic’s lands bordering Aquitaine. A union of the royal houses was planned for the following year.

The Bavarians march into Thuringian territory in 533 and defeat their army. The loss of their king in that battle forced the vassal kings of Thuringia to seek help across the Rhine to fight the Bavarians. 

535 – 539 AD
During the winter of 534, Childebert and Chlothar meet in Paris and discuss how best to deal with the current situation and postpone the campaign for Aquitaine. The Saxons had spent the winter near Bayeux this would mean more raiders would surely follow in the spring. Chlodomer had some respite as the Frisians favoured their island homeland more, but would certainly return the following year.

Claiming Armorica as a vassal state, Childebert ordered its troops to meet with his forces near Bayeux to deal with the Saxons in the spring. The Bretons eagerly assembled its troops to meet Childebert, not at Bayeux, but at the frontier with sword and spear in hand to discuss this misconception of ‘vassal state’. Seething with anger, Childebert assembled the army to deal first with the ‘revolt’ before marching on the Saxons. Further to the south, the Visigoths expand their hold in Aquitaine.

Theuderic did not live long to enjoy his victory over the Bavarians, but his death in 534 did bring small joy to Childebert and Chlodomer as both were recovering from humiliating setbacks by Saxon and Frisian armies. Theuderic was succeeded by his son, Theudebert, an experienced commander having gained a reputation in the wars across the Rhine and a skilled diplomat as he was the principle architect of the treaty between Metz and Burgundy.

As the winter of 539 approached, both Childebert and Chlodomer rebuild their lost manpower and more importantly the finances needed to sustain it for the planned campaign for Aquitaine. The Visigothic king knew this and was aware the failed Frankish mission to bring the Byzantines into the proposed conflict as the East Romans were too involved in Italy to help. The most important question for the moment was ‘what is Theudebert planning? ‘So many things to consider.

Confronting the Saxons and Frisians and a Blood Feud across the Rhine, 530 - 534 AD

Childebert confronts the Saxons
Childebert finds the Saxon warband sacking a Frankish village flanked on two sides by hills. Deploying the militia to their front the tribal Franks take up a position on the left flank with the cavalry extending the line further. The intention was to have the mounted Franks encircle the Frisian horde and assault them from their rear.

Disturbed by the appearance of the Franks, the Saxons quickly formed deep columns and marched forward at a brisk pace.

A small detachment left behind to defend the village would keep the Frankish cavalry at bay. Childebert’s shield wall collapsed under the Saxon fury leaving his mounted group dangerously exposed. A quick assessment of the mass number of Saxons pouring through the Frankish line, Childebert called for a general retreat handing the Saxons a convincing victory (5 – 0).

Frisian pirates plunder the realm of Chlodomer
The Frisians have deployed their battle line not far from their camp. Chlodomer formed his shield wall to face the bulk of the Frisian force and positioned his tribal warriors on the far left. These would attempt to flank the enemy line as the Frisians moved forward.

Noticing the hesitancy of the Franks to advance, the Frisians chose to clear the wood before making a general assault and so made the necessary adjustments in their approach.

The Franks countered this by advancing their line forward which had the adverse effect, the Frisians changed direction to fall on the Frankish shield wall and breaking it. Within minutes the battle was over as all Chlodomer could view was a oncoming wave of Frisian pagans leaving the corpses of nearly half the army soaking the battlefield (5 – 1).

Thuringia and Bavaria continue their feud.
The Thuringian and Bavarians (top of the photo) deployed their armies in a narrow clearing between woods and a lake forcing both sides to form deep columns.

As their positions were askew of one another, both forces had to wheel their lines as they approached. In that moment, both sides secured the wood on their right flank.

The struggle was long and hard but the Bavarians persevered by killing the Thuringian king. Seeing this, the Thuringian warriors lost heart and fled the field (4g – 1).

Battles with the Bavarians, Breton, Saxons and the Frisians, 535 - 539 AD

Theuderic confronts the Bavarian threat.
Theuderic confronts the Bavarians on a battlefield reminiscent of many previous; plenty of wood, marsh and lakes. The clearing between wood and marsh would allow sufficient deployment for both armies and each side formed their battle lines with reserves positioned as a second or even third line.

Theuderic moved his mounted force far to the right allowing room for troops from the third line to extend the main battle line. Theuderic placed greater reliance on the performance of his Riparian troops and these would form his centre and right flank.

The Bavarians charged first catching the Franks by surprise; both sides inflicted casualties. The decisive moment of the battle came with the loss of the Bavarian king thereby creating a moment of confusion. Theuderic seized his chance to charge home with his cavalry encouraging the Bavarians to flee the field giving the Franks a clear victory (4g – 1).

Childebert engages the Bretons
Childebert viewed the non-compliance by the Breton as a rebellion and the Breton were more than happy to discuss the matter with the sharp edge of sword and spear. Half the Breton force was mounted giving them an advantage with their mobility. Childebert extended his infantry line reinforcing the left flank with extra troops. The Frankish cavalry formed a reserve ready to counter any attack attempted by the Breton cavalry.

Seeing no flank attempt on his left, Childebert quickly advanced his line to overwhelm the Breton infantry.

Both lines were heavily engaged with the Breton gaining a slight advantage of casualties inflicted. Sensing the moment right for committing the Frankish cavalry, the Breton cavalry suddenly appeared as an apparition. This gave the Breton tribal infantry time needed to crush their militia routing the remaining Frankish infantry to gain a clear victory (4 – 1).

The Saxons meet Childebert for the second time
Smarting from the defeat dealt by the Breton, Childebert was forced to meet the Saxons near their encampment at Bayeux. With the shoreline protecting his left, Childebert used the marsh to cover his right flank.

The Saxons adjusted their battle line as they approached to match that of the Franks; as they were in no hurry to attack.

The Saxons destroyed the Frankish shield wall in quick tempo sending a shock wave to the cavalry forming the Frankish reserve. The breakthrough on the left was the last step needed to see the battle could not be turned around. Childebert sounded the general retreat leaving the Saxons the field (4 – 0).

 Chlodomer battles the Frisians
Unaware of Childebert’s defeat from the Saxons, Chlodomer decides to confront the Frisians on similar ground. The Franks used a novel deployment of a small first line supported by a longer second line not far from their camp.

Somewhat surprised by the unusual deployment the Frisians were determined to take the battle to the Franks if need be. As expected, the first line moved to new positions on either flank giving the Frisians no choice but to clear both woods before moving ahead.

After clearing both woods, the Frisians engaged the main battle line of the Franks. The gaps created by Frankish casualties were quickly filled by the cavalry reserve. Repelling the cavalry strengthened the Frisian resolve to continue with the slaughter of the Frankish militia and tribal infantry; the loss of the latter tipped the scales for the Frisians giving them a convincing victory, but not without some losses (4 – 2).

Sunday, 18 March 2018

The Merovingian Campaign

511 – 519 AD
According to the custom of the Frankish kings, upon their death their domains would be divided among his surviving sons. Following the death of Clovis, Childebert, Chlothar and Chlodomer were soon devising plans for a campaign in the south leaving Theuderic alone to face an immediate threat to his borders; the Saxon incursions on the lower Rhine and a possible threat to Metz in the south by the Bavarians.  

Before Bavaria could attack Francia, in 514, they needed to deal first with Thuringia, primarily to settle old scores and secondly, Thuringia had been paid to attack Bavaria. The battle between the armies of Thuringia and Bavaria took place near Hohenwald. Here, the Thuringian demonstrated superior tactical skill inflicting a crushing defeat on the Bavarian army with little loss to themselves.    

Receiving news of the Thuringian victory, Theuderic proceeded forward with his campaign against the Saxons. Crossing the lower Rhine, Theuderic found the Saxons encamped near Noviomagus. Their camp was well protected forcing the Franks to negotiate marsh land and lake before forming a battle line. The Saxons struck first, but the Frankish lines held and overcame the raiders killing their chieftain to secure a decisive victory with little loss to themselves. Seizing the plunder taken by the Saxons, Theuderic returned to his capital at Metz.

520 – 529 AD
For both Chlothar and Chlodomer, the planned invasion of Burgundy no longer carried any interest leaving Childebert fuming in disgust. Seeing an opportunity to expand his own lands, Theuderic expressed his willingness to share in the enterprise. In 522, both Childebert and Theuderic declared war on Godomar with the slimmest of pretext and marched southward to meet Gondomar near the former Roman town of Barbarensis. The battle was hard fought with Childebert facing a greater number of Burgundian tribesmen he finally succumbed to heavy losses prompting the rout of his command leaving Theuderic to cover the retreat. Childebert convinced that the defeat was due to treachery by Theuderic would seek revenge.

Taking advantage of the discord among the Frankish kings, the Visigoths invaded the Aquitaine in 523. Crossing the Garonne River threatening Argentomagus and the surrounding region, they met the army of Chlodomer which comprised mostly of Gallo-Roman and city militia. In the ensuing battle, the Franks were decisively defeated and sent retreating to Orleans.

Later that year, the Saxons landed near Bononia and began a period of destruction and plundering the lands held by Chlothar. The battle near Bononia was hard fought but the Saxons prevailed and won a conclusive victory leaving the lands of Chlothar with their plunder.

Each of the Frankish kings suffered setbacks during this period, the Visigoths occupied Aquitaine, Childebert had suffered a serious defeat in Burgundy and the domain of Chlothar was open to more raids by Saxons. Theuderic, who survived the Burgundian debacle with his army intact was pleased with the situation. News of the Bavarian victory over the army of Thuringia and the death of their king meant Thuringia would certainly seek revenge, thus keeping hostilities to the right bank of the Rhine. Anticipating a vengeful Childebert would seek the help of his brothers; Theuderic made his own plans and sent diplomatic missions to the Burgundian, Visigoth and Saxon kings.   

511 – 519 AD

Battle of Hohenwald 514 AD
In the summer of 514, Bavarian warband invaded the lands of the Thuringi and met their army near the forests of Hohenwald. The battle, devoid of any tactical sense saw the Thuringi with their red dragon standards waving above their ranks crash into the Bavarian ranks. 

Both lines buckled but did not break. It was not long before gaps appeared in the Bavarian line giving the Thuringi an opportunity to close on exposed flanks.  

The battle quickly turned to a slaughter as many Bavarians could not escape the Thuringi fury, score 7 – 0.

Theuderic attacks the Saxons 514 AD
The Saxons plundered the Frisian coast and continued their raid by sailing the inland waterways reaching Noviomagus. Gathering his Riparian Franks and local militia, Theuderic approach the Saxon encampment in the early morning hours. The approach was broken by marsh forcing Theuderic to form three battle groups to approach the Saxon encampment. 

Dividing their force into similar groups, the Saxons advanced to meet the Franks . 

The fighting was heaviest in the centre as Theuderic had foreseen and here the Frankish tribesmen were positioned.  The battle was decided when gaps appeared the Saxon line presenting the Franks an opportunity to roll up their line. 

Frankish cavalry on the left flank left their opposition flat footed and moved toward the struggle in the centre to bring the battle to a close, score 4g – 1.  

520 – 529 AD

Childebert and Theuderic invade Burgundy 520 AD
The armies of the Burgundi and Franks were of equal size, but due to the broken terrain the Burgundi were able to form a massive wall to meet the two brothers. On the Frankish side, Childebert formed on the right and Theuderic on the left. 

The Burgundi approach place the heaviest concentration of troops in the centre leaving the two kings undecided as to which of the two would be struck first. Noticing a widening gap between the two Frankish groups, the Burgundi struck Childebert first throwing a screen to occupy Theuderic.  

Childebert signalled his brother to hurry his attack as he was taking on casualties, but the attack from the left never came. In 30 minutes (2 bounds) the entire right wing collapsed ending the battle with Childebert in full flight, score 4 – 0

Childebert would never forget the treacherous act played his brother.

The Visigoths invade the Aquitaine 521 AD
Sensing the discord among the brother kings, the Visigoth marched north to retake their lands lost two decades earlier. Reaching as far north as Argentomagus, they confronted the army of Chlodomer formed and ready for battle. 

The Visigoths placed all their infantry on their right with all their cavalry stretched across its centre and left wing. The Franks formed a shield wall and slowly advanced toward the Visigoths. The Visigothic cavalry approach was slow so as to give time for their infantry to strike first. In a daring move the Visigothic king moved from his command position to lead the infantry attack cutting the Frankish left to shreds. 

This act set the Visigothic cavalry in motion and charge home. The Franks held their ground well enough, but seeing their left wing collapse they fled leaving the Visigoths the field, score 4 – 0.  

Saxon raid on the Frankish coast 522 AD
The Saxons avoided the lands held by Theuderic and now set their sights on those ruled by Chlothar. Moving inland, they encountered Chlothar and his Franks near Bononia. The Franks formed two wings with the militia on the right and the tribal infantry on the left, Chlothar slowly advanced. The Saxon position looked strong as their flanks were protected by woods and difficult hills, but Chlothar set his sight on the Saxon centre as there is where their chieftain would be. 

The Saxons had formed deep columns at regular intervals and as the two lines met, these deep columns succeeded in pushing the Franks back on their heels. A breakthrough in the Frankish line caused a panic and Chlothar quickly formed a second line to contain the Saxon breakthrough  

Exhaustion plagued the Franks and slowly their line gave way leaving a victorious Saxon host the field, score 4 – 0

The Thuringi invade Bavaria 524 AD
The Bavarians, at the top of the photo, formed their battle line using the river to secure their left flank. 

The distance between the river and woods would restrict manoeuvre thus creating a deadly arena. Both armies moved slowly forward with each periodically adjusting their lines. The battle proved long and hard with both leaders fighting in its front ranks. Slowly, the Thuringian line began to erode and a panic swept through their ranks when their chieftain’s standard fell. Demoralised, the Thuringian fled leaving the Bavarian holding the field, score 5g – 1.