Thursday, 3 May 2018

The Merovingian Campaign, 550 – 559 AD

550 AD
The Breton conclude a treaty with the Saxon community of Bayeux to stave off any further aggression by Neustria. Taking advantage of the period of peace with Reims, the Frisians also expand their community surrounding Boulogne. 

551 AD
Bavaria is still in a state of flux as no acceptable leader is chosen by the various tribes. This comes as welcome news for Theudebert as he moves forward plans to annex Burgundy as its inclusion would ensure the safety of its southern border and join that isolated part of Lower Austrasia bordering Aquitaine. Many of the Burgundian elite resistant to the idea are more than satisfied to resolve the issue on the battlefield and so plans are made for the following year.

552 AD
In late spring of the new year, Theudebert led his army into Burgundian territory and both armies deployed for battle near Lyon close to the river Dubis. The battle was a decisive victory for Theudebert and before terms could be finalised news arrived of a Visigothic invasion of Lower Austrasia, included in their force are disaffected Neustrian nobles. Gathering additional forces, Theudebert marches his army from Vienne toward Toulouse.  
The battle near Albi as it was later to be known was desperate, but Theudebert prevailed and won a victory against the Visigoths. The Visigoths retired to Aquitaine leaving Theudebert to ample time to recover his lost territory. Returning to Vienne (Burgundy) he sets into motion the necessary changes to bring Burgundy on par with the Austrasian kingdom and these included reforms for the military {1}.

After strengthening the garrisons in Lower Austrasia, Theudebert stopped in Orleans and Paris to have their civic and military leaders make preparations for a spring campaign. Theudebert then departs to Soissons to see his uncle, Chlothar as he was in ill health.

553 AD
The Austrasian army gathers near Orleans to begin their campaign against the Visigoths. Marching south, Theudebert encounters the Visigothic host encamped near Poitiers. The battle that followed turned disastrous for the Franks losing nearly half the army and their king, Theudebert. This brought an abrupt end to the campaign in Aquitaine.

The question of succession was left to the inner council, Frankish nobles and church leaders and most agreed that the son of Theudebert, Theudebald would logically ascend the throne; however, there was one better qualified, the sole surviving son of Clovis, Chlothar of Soissons {2}. 

In the summer of 553, the four fiefdoms became united under the rule of Chlothar I. The kingdom of Frankia would experience a number of external conflicts during his reign, conflicts with the Bretons, the continued feuding between Bavaria and Thuringia but these were minor compared to events happening in Aquitaine. Recalcitrant nobles in Hispania invited the Byzantine to aide them with their struggle against the Visigoths. With increased activity by Eastern Rome and a civil war spreading throughout Hispania, the Visigoths reduced their presence north of the Pyrennees. This presented Frankia with a golden opportunity; unfortunately, Chlothar would die in 561 leaving the kingdom to his four sons {3}. And so the game begins again.      

{1}. DBA players will note the end and start dates of Burgundi (II/70) to Burgundy (III/5a) are changed to coincide with campaign events. 
{2}. According to Gregory of Tours, Theudebert I has employed the office of ‘maior palatii’ or mayor of the palace to administer the kingdom while he was on campaign.  
{3}. Chlothar actually died of pneumonia nine years later, but this seems an ideal moment to mention he was not loved by the church. He taxed the churches and exiled one bishop for his inflexibility with canon law and no doubt there were many among the clergy praying for his soul to be spirited away to heaven. 

Significant Battles, 550 – 559 AD (turn 5):

Battle near Lyon, 552. Austrasian victory over Burgundy.
Austrasia fight the Visigoths, 552 giving Frankia her first victory over the Visigoths.
Battle of Poitiers, 553.

Battle near Lyon in Burgundy, 552 AD
Pursuing his ambition to annex Burgundy Theudebert and the king of Burgundy agreed the question should be resolved by a force of arms. The deployed armies revealed that both Austrasian and Burgundian forces to have equal number of foot and mounted. Both infantry compliment formed the first line which was supported by cavalry. The blaring of horns marked the signal for both lines to move forward.

The Austrasian line marked a slower pace to allow the militia to extend the right flank. During this phase, Frankish skirmishers moved out to harass their Bavarian counterpart.

Within 40 paces both sides charged crashing shield against shield with the Austrasian proving more resilient in the combat that followed. This forced the Bavarian line back 40 paces. On the Austrasian left, Frankish infantry opened their ranks to allow the reserve cavalry to engage their opposite number.

The casualties inflicted by the Bavarian infantry created a gap in the Frankish shieldwall. Without hesitation Theudebert and his guard charged the enemy pouring through and with the help of his militia these sealed the fate of the warband column. More casualties fell on the Bavarian side sending their army into full flight handing Theudebert a decisive victory and a kingdom (5 – 1).

 Theudebert engages the Visigoths, 552 AD.
Continuing his campaign in the south, Theudebert received news of a Visigothic invasion of Lower Austrasia. Gathering his forces he reached Albi, just north of Toulouse and there met the Visigoths. Frankish cavalry were augmented by Gothic allies and the battlefield provided good ground for mounted troops. A single hill and small village offered the only possible defensive locations and here Theudebert used the hill to anchor his right flank.  

Wheeling to meet the Visigothic line provided Theudebert an opportunity to clear the village of any enemy. From there, Frankish infantry could attack the Visigothic flank. The Visigoths were of like mind as they sent their skirmishers to seize the hill and from there support the general attack of their cavalry.

Switching tempo, the Visigoths pushed forward their infantry against the Frankish militia. This move offered the Franks time to reposition their troops. Nonetheless, in the ensuing fight the Visigothic infantry crushed the Frankish militia break leaving Theudebert’s right flank seriously exposed. The sudden loss of the entire militia forced Theudebert to commit all his cavalry (3 – 0).

The situation was very desperate, but seeing their leader fighting in the front line raised the spirits of the Frankish troops to retake the initiative and slowly turn a nearly lost battle to gain a narrow victory  over the Visigoths (4 – 3).   

Battle of Poitiers, 553 AD.
The battle actually was near Poitiers took place on an open plain. The field was sparse and notable for a small village, a lake and a few gentle hills. The Visigothic position formed in front of the village and here the infantry deployed in deep columns with the majority of the Visigothic mounted positioned on their right. Across the field, Theudebert placed his own infantry facing the enemy foot and all his cavalry to face their mounted with his Gothic allies forming the left flank.

The Visigothic cavalry walked slowly forward giving the infantry time to close the distance to the Frankish position on the hill.  

Formations quickly degenerated into a disjointed series of small combats with the Franks inflicting more casualties (2 – 1).

The Visigoths however, redoubled their effort killing more Frankish infantry to add to a quickly increasing death toll. Then disaster struck when the Visigothic king and bucellarii wheeled and struck down Theudebert sending the Franks into a panic, fleeing the battlefield (5g – 1).

Saturday, 28 April 2018

The Merovingian Campaign, 540 – 549 AD

540 AD
Following their victory over Childebert at Bayeux, the Breton army returned to Armorica where they remained for the rest of this period. More families migrated to the Saxon and Frisian settlements giving both Childebert and Chlothar pause to negotiate treaties with their respective intruders.

542 AD
Content that the migration issue would remain quiet, both Childebert and Chlothar make plans to retake the lands of Aquitaine lost to the Visigoths in recent campaigns. Later that year, heading the appeals from the Thuringian nobles Theudebert leads an army to confront the Bavarian invasion.

543 AD
Encountering an Ostrogothic revival in Italy, the Byzantines request the support of their ‘allies’, the Franks to deal with them. In reply, Theudebert would send troops as quickly as the current internal and external conflicts could be resolved and so Belisarius made plans to campaign in the following year.

During the summer, the combined forces of Childebert and Chlothar meet the Visigoths south of Orleans. Fought near the Loire River, the Neustrian army is defeated by the Visigoths forcing both Frankish kings to retreat to their respective domains.

Across the Rhine, Theudebert with Thuringian allies engage the Bavarians near Giessen and soundly defeat them killing their king. The realm of Thuringia now becomes part of the kingdom of Austrasia which should deter any further threats by the Bavarians.

544 AD
The defeat in Aquitaine coupled with the Breton, Saxon and Frisian incursions has spurred a wave of discontent among the nobles of Neustria tantamount to open rebellion. Not only has the commercial trade been disrupted by piracy but the rising cost to support the ineffectual wars is proving a tipping point for the disaffected nobles; the situation is quite similar in the fiefdom of Chlothar. The situation leads both sides to raise armies and these met to do battle a day’s march from Paris. The defeat of the royal army sent Childebert to seek the safety behind the walls of Paris with the rebels in pursuit. Heartened by the news of Childebert’s defeat, the nobles of Reims rise in revolt against Chlothar.

Those armies met in August and rebel forces defeated Chlothar near the River Aisne. Leaving his troops to their fate, Chlothar fled to his capital at Reims and sent messengers to his nephew, Theudebert, for help. 

545 AD   
Rebel forces besieging both Paris and Reims disperse before the winter snows and vow to return next spring to resume their fight. Theudebert used the winter period as to how best to aide his treacherous uncles news arrived of Childebert’s death (assassination?). Aware that Childebert had no heir to succeed him, Theudebert moved quickly to Paris to set himself as regent until the question of a successor could be resolved. Chlothar was in no position to contest this decision as he would not stir far from Reims with hostile nobles moving about the land.

548 AD
Three summers have passed and the diplomatic skills of Theudebert have gain fruition arranging the union of his son and heir to Chrodoberge, the eldest daughter of Childebert; a union that would expand the Austrasian realm already increased by the recent acquisition of Thuringian lands. Burgundy was now a staunch ally, however, regaining Aquitaine would require some thought as the Visigoths were led by capable generals and have not been defeated in open battle.

As the calendar approaches the next decade (turn 5) good news appeared on the horizon as the majority of Saxon and Frisian activity now moved across the channel finding Britannia a richer prize.  

Important Battles:

Important Battles, 540 – 549 AD (turn 4):

Battle along the Loire River, 534.
Theudebert meets the Bavarians near Giessen, 534.
Childebert confronts a rebel army outside Paris, 544.
Chlothar leads the royal army to suppress a revolt, 544.

Battle along the Loire River, 543 AD
During the summer of 534, Childebert and Chlothar marched south to do battle with the Visigoths near Orleans. The Neustrian army deployed on open ground between the Loire River and a nearby hamlet; the latter was defended by the majority of tribal infantry with all the militia infantry covering the space between hamlet and the Loire River. The Visigoths formed their troops into two divisions; the infantry on the left would clear the village at which time the cavalry of the right division would begin their attack. To the right of the Visigothic cavalry skirmishers would use the marshy area to harass the Neustrian left.

The attack on the village proved successful and quick as neither Frankish king could make an adequate response (low pip scores). In desperation, Childebert counter attacked the Visigothic infantry holding the village by taking troops from the battle line. Both sides were now experiencing heavy casualties leaving undecided the question of who held the village (3 – 3).

Realising that he could lose this battle, the Visigothic king launched the full weight of his mounted force on the Neustrian line breaking through its centre. The casualties inflicted left Childebert no choice but to call a retreat (3 – 4).

Theudebert meets the Bavarians near Giessen,543 AD
Theudebert rallies the Thuringian nobles and confronts the Bavarians encamped near the village of Giessen. The Bavarians were deployed in deep columns with the intervals filled by smaller groups of tribal infantry. Using the woods to protect his right flank, Theudebert positioned the Ripuarian infantry to face the enemy centre and the Gallo-Roman militia and cavalry extended the left flank.

The Franks were eager to avenge their Thuringian cousins and the death of their king and attacked the Bavarians with such fury driving their entire battle line back 120 paces. In that time, Theudebert gained sufficient time to regroup his reserve cavalry to prepare for the expected breakthrough.

On the left, the loss of a Frankish militia unit was quickly filled by cavalry from the reserve line. These destroyed a Bavarian warband giving the cavalry an opportunity to fall on the exposed flank of a deep column. Its destruction and came quickly and with it the death of the Bavarian king. This final action brought the battle to a close and a victory for Theudebert (4g – 2).

Childebert confronts a rebel army outside Paris, 544 AD
Following the defeats by the Saxons, Breton and the Visigoths a great number of disaffected nobles rebelled against Childebert. Each mustering 3,000 troops the armies met on suitable ground a day’s march outside of Paris.

The action was brisk with the militia on both sides holding well against each other. Only the tribal infantry on each side exhibited more vigour for the fight and the Neustrian with greater numbers pushed back the rebel infantry, unfortunately they found themselves beyond their own support. From this exposed position the mounted rebel nobles struck the open flank of the Neustrian warband. The resulting casualties were enough to send Childebert in full retreat back to Paris (2 – 1).

Chlothar leads the royal army to suppress a revolt, 544 AD
News of Childebert’s defeat emboldened the rebellious nobles of Reims to face Chlothar in open battle. This took place near the River Aisne with the royal army, led by Chlothar in person, deployed for battle along the crest of hill. The position was too strong to assault and so the rebels crossed the Aisne to seize the hill flanking the position of the royal army.

This forced Chlothar to try and head them off lest the rebels redeploy on favourable ground. The next few minutes were spent trying to reach the hill as quickly as possible. The troops of the royal army were hindered by having to change from line to column and attempt the crossing of the Aisne in rapid tempo. Having sent the bulk of its infantry ahead to secure the hill, the rebels were able to reach the hill first.

Showing contempt for the rebel troops, Chlothar pushed his troops across leaving half his force on the opposite bank. This presented the rebels with a golden opportunity and quickly launched their battle line to catch the royal troops as they collected on the near bank of the Aisne. Chlothar’s troops were cut down leaving him no further option but to call a retreat and taking flight back to Reims (2 – 0).

The card system worked well to cover the events as they unfolded during a full turn of ten years. Only one card is drawn for each realm as the same card can be used for changing situations, such as moving from a positive to a negative event. Case in point, Childebert (Neustria) had experienced a number of setbacks lowering his standing to a negative level placing Childebert in the unenviable position of confronting dissident nobles within his realm. Naturally when writing about these events they do need time to reach a boiling point; this may require a season or a full year depending on the circumstances. History does provide enough examples to serve as a guideline.

Internal conflicts or civil wars were handled in a simple manner; the armies involved for such conflicts used the standard DBA army list and evenly divided the troop types between the two combatants. Six elements is the smallest any command may be if using the big battle option and this worked well to help speed the flow of the campaign. These small actions often provide greater challenges as the victory conditions are lowered.To date, this now makes nineteen battles fought since the start of the campaign. 

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 Chlothar 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 Chlothar 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. 

Theuderic strikes the Bavarians, Childebert contests a Breton rebellion, Saxons raid deeper into Frankia and the Frisians maul Chlothar.

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).