SPECIAL THANKS. I would like to thank Paul Watson for his sponsorship of several lead figure collections on this blog. Having decided to clear his spare/surplus figures, he generously forwarded them on with no other requirement than they deserved to be restored.

Thursday, 10 February 2022

Ghibellines versus Guelphs (Medieval Wargame)

Its been some time since I've fielded my Medieval collection, and its the first time they have been used in a solo-game. To be honest, I quite prefer solo wargaming, no entertaining, the freedom to decide when to start, take a break, leave for another day, or conclude a game. It all works well with my primary concern: seeing my collection well used, and photographed. And with simple rules, its easier to prohibit gamesmanship disregarding historical conditions and methods. Both sides number approximately 140 figures, and their weaponry is also evenly matched. It was never planned that way, the collection just appeared, it was always the heraldry that caught my attention, the one exception being two opposing units of twelve mounted knights.

BACKGROUND For those unfamiliar with the conflict, Medieval Italy was a patchwork of small states. When a disagreement arose between the Papacy, and the Holy Roman (German) Emperor, the numerous governments declared their support for one or the other. For the record, neither was more inclined towards Italian independence, personal liberty, Christianity, or Italian nationalism. Both sides included warlords, aristocrats, clergy, communes, republics, money lenders, and mercenaries. The concept of nationality, as had already become evident in the British home nations, and later in France (with Joan d'Arc) existed only at a city level, if at all. And lets not forget, many of the city states had 'parties' or factions that would happily embrace the Pope or Emperor if they thought it would help them gain power! Concerning foreign participation, usually France backed the Pope, often using Swiss pikemen. While the Emperor used German mercenaries, later styled Landsknechts. The Spanish later sought control of the Two Sicilies, and were slightly Ghibelline. Strangely, both the English and Scots nations had sympathies with the Guelphs.

THE GAME Both sides advanced with resolution. Historically, they should have formed up into three 'battles' or divisions. But as the armies clashed while on the move, we can let this pass. On MOVE THREE many of the shooting formations deployed as skirmishers. On MOVE FOUR the shooting commenced, and the dice favoured the Pope, inflicting nine casualties for the loss of four.


MOVE FOUR, casualties due to bow and shot. 


MOVE FIVE, the heavy cavalry charged their opposite number. In the following melee the Ghibellines suffered two casualties to only one on the Guelphs. Shock, having lost the melee, they were obliged to test their morale (D1) and routed! This obliged morale checks on neighbouring units within eight inches, that were of equal or lower rating. Three more units broke and ran. The dismounted knights, of equal rating, held fast, with the Emperor in attendance.
In the centre, the Ghibelline pike block broke their counterparts on the Bridge, but the panic never spread to neighbouring units
On the far right, the Papal lighter horse took on and scattered their counterparts. Casualties so far were Ghibellines 25, with a further 36 routing. Guelph losses were only eight, mainly pikemen. For the record, I probably have slightly more sympathy for the Ghibellines (I like their heraldry), but the dice determined the outcome, let no one claim I cheat on the dice!
On MOVE SIX I really had lost all confidence that the Ghibellines could recover their position. I had already decided it was correct for the Emperor to move at all speed to the centre, and try to depart with part of his army. However, the Guelph cavalry now charged the dismounted knights guarding the Emperor. (Under my medieval rules, units wishing to declare a charge must test their morale first, the Guelph knights scored an eight, and charged. The dismounted had to now test their resolve to stand, they scored a D1, and also routed, with the Emperor. In the following melee the Guelph cavalry slaughtered three more. Concerning the Ghibelline centre and right wing, while they still had a fair force, their shooters had been reduced to eight, while the Guelphs could still muster near thirty. This game was over! I did calculate the Emperor would have been able to vacate the table before death or capture.
This was a quick and fun game, I really was expecting a twelve-move bash!
MGB

19 comments:

  1. Fabulous pics MGB - reminds me of playing with my Britains and Timpo knights as a child!

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    1. Thank you MJT, I had examples of many Deetail, Herald, Timpo, and even Marx medievals in my childhood, but even then I never felt they could be mixed, so their 'make' served as team identification. But all together, they couldn't have mustered more than forty figures in total, so hardly a battle, lol. But one thing hasn't changed, I still think the Herald figures are the best designed!
      Michael

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    2. I agree about the Herald figures, they were very nice. I used to like the Timpo figures, probably because they were so colourful. I probably had about 50 knights of different makes but they all mixed together and used to fight along with those of the boy up the road who had considerably more. Great fun!

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    3. MJT, having a local opponent would have strengthened cooperation within your collection lol. Must say, have seen several collections of Timpo crusaders, and they do look good when fielding a fair number. I think I had about four.
      Michael

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  2. Beautiful collection in action , what could be better . I must admit I prefer solo gaming then I can go at my own pace .

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    1. Yes, thats my position Tony, a few friends do occasionally visit and participate in games, but not enough to justify the collection. To be honest, the Dominion Campaign is proving very successful in providing all the table competition I really need!
      Michael

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  3. Great to see this collection on the table again, and thanks for the OoB at the end, its very helpful. The more I read about this period the more confused I get!

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    1. Most kind Brian. I have always collected toy soldiers, but as I developed a love of history it was important to bring these two interests together. If I may, you will do no better than seeking out THE ART OF WAR IN THE MEDIEVAL AGE by Sir Charles Oman. His writing style could have been designed for the wargamer, and it really allowed me to understand how weaponry developed and how it was countered.
      Michael

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  4. A glorious battle Michael and your collection looks amazing! The bridge and buildings are excellent! I especially like your bombard and crew, very nicely done indeed!

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    1. Thank you Brad, it was the inconvenience of reaching them on the shelf that delayed their use. When the neighbours cat (who de facto lives and sleeps here) knocked the collection, it was time to stage my own game. Frightening to think the Church and bridge are so old, made out of cardboard over 25 years ago. Yes, the bombard is something I'm very happy with, made from odd bits and pieces, plastic and metal. Brad, I know you are of Italian heritage, feel free to comment as to your region of ancestry, or if your family were known to be Guelph or Ghibelline.
      Michael

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    2. I must confess that this is the first time I've heard of the Guelphs vs. the Ghibellines. My family hails from the Bari area in the south of Italy. They were poor farmers who came to the U.S. looking for a better life, and they found it! My guess is that they would have been Guelphs, as they always supported the Pope! A very interesting period to now consider for my knights Michael!

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    3. Brad, had a quick look at my notes, to be honest, Bari is a difficult one to work out. The further south you go the towns and regions are all controlled by warlord-despots, each seeking more land and titles greater than their neighbours. In the end, the early German Lombard rulers are replaced by French-speaking Normans, who are in turn eventually dominated by the King of the Two Sicilies (based in Naples), which is secured by Spanish-Aragonese princes. Would be fully understandable if the local population tried to stay out of any feuding by the ruling families, and looked to the Church!
      Michael

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  5. Looking at the two yellow casualties by the bridge,; there's something rather Monty Python about wargaming at this scale - you sort of imagine a big cut-out log (courtesy of Terry Gilliam) appearing out of nowhere and knocking them both for six! Oof!

    H

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    1. Hugh, I hardly look at my 28mm historical miniatures, these days. My enthusiasm has gone totally over to 54mm toy soldiers. And I know why, the nostalgia of using toy soldiers that I played with in the 1970s, and on Thursday evenings, on BBC2, I would watch Monty Python. Must confess, took me a while to adjust to leaving some casualties on the gaming table, you just don't do that with 28mm historical miniatures.
      Michael

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  6. There really is something quite magical about that many brightly colour figures on the table.

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    1. Thanks George, I consider it to be a 1970s 'Toyshop Window Wargame'. Something rather different to Historical Miniature wargaming. The former seeks to see toys being used in a war-game, the latter seeks to capture history in miniature. Thats my view, anyhow.
      Michael

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    2. Works very well indeed - reminds me of similar games played with my late-father.

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    3. Then, George, the game secured one of its features, nostalgia. The photos made me also reminisce, a bright summer day, playing a game inspired by films such as Ivanhoe, shown on a midday Saturday c.1970.
      Michael

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    4. It certainly did, I remember setting up a large engagement in the sitting room at the house in Harrow - using some of my first world war aircraft and large numbers of toy soldiers I recreated scenes from the 1966 film 'Blue Max'- quite magical to think about.

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