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).

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).

 Chlothar battles the Frisians
Unaware of Childebert’s defeat from the Saxons, Chlothar 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).