Tuesday 27 April 2021


DBA24, a compromise between the standard DBA game and the big battle option, has been our preferred choice for the past two years. Increasing the number of elements to 24 has not only improved the look of the game, but forces can include reserves, simulate historical deployment and use seldom selected options without any substantial increase in game time. The recent number of late medieval historical scenarios posted here do make use of the double-sized command and the latest, Montlhéry (1465), is what prompted me to explore the use of a demoralisation rule.  

Players familiar with DBA are aware that demoralisation of a command is a feature found only in the big battle option. Basically, demoralisation is reached when it suffers a certain level of losses precipitating the flight of elements to an army’s base edge. The rule is particularly useful if unwilling allies or treacherous nobles play a role in an army’s formation. For the scenario of Montlhéry, French and Burgundian forces were organised as the vanguard, main battle and rear guard, facilitating the use of a demoralisation rule for the 24-element game.

To determine the ‘demoralisation’ for each division, calculate this as a third of the division’s original elements, excluding horde and camp followers. Reaching demoralisation, flight would take place on the player’s next turn. Expending pips, a player can hold elements or groups in place with the process repeating each turn. Victory is reached when 8 elements are lost or (new) if two of the three divisions (vanguard, main battle or rear guard) are demoralised. (see page 13, paragraph 7).

Key points to consider

Historically, the composition of individual divisions and their commanders would be made days prior to the actual battle. Based on historical examples from the late 15th century, an army’s vanguard should be strong enough to engage with the enemy, if required, while waiting for the arrival of the main body. Do note, this would differ greatly from the vanguard of an army on the march in friendly territory, whose primary task would involve logistical issues and the location of a camp.

Next, the largest division or ‘main battle’, led by the CinC, would contain the elite of the army and support troops taking its position in the centre if the army were formed into line. This may also contain the army’s reserve positioned behind the centre forming a second line.  

The smallest of the three divisions, the rear guard, protected the baggage train while on the march, but on the day of battle, it could form an army’s reserve or protect the army’s flank. If the army formed a line, the rear guard was positioned on the left.

When assigning troops to a division, anticipate your army will have at least one demoralised group before battle’s end. With experience, a demoralised group held in place can become an effective obstacle or a lure, catching an enemy off guard. The reduced combat efficiency (-2 CF) of a demoralised group can lure overconfident enemy cavalry.

The French, vanguard, main and rear guard from lower left to centre of photo.

The Imperial forces mirror the French deployment.

Tuesday 13 April 2021

Battle of Montlhéry – scenario tests

Contemporary sources describe the terrain as open and covered with fields of wheat, yet the available space allowed only two of the three divisions to be deployed in line with the third deployed behind the main battle. One source has the Burgundian rear division to the right of Saint-Pol, placing the main battle behind in reserve and not in the first line. During the course of the battle, the right flank of both sides successfully routed their opposition which explains why the battlefield is deeper than it is wide. 

The tributary (paltry) emptying into L’ Orge functions as the centreline from which both deployments are placed 3BW distance. The two BUA on the board, Montlhéry and Chapelle-Villiers are rough ground for troops moving through them. The area east of Chapelle-Villiers to the banks of the L’ Orge is described as marsh and this was kept to a small area where the tributary and L’ Orge meet. 

All Burgundian knights are dismounted following their general practice at the time. For this scenario, however, they are allowed to remount (see below). 

The artillery exchange which opened the battle lasted two hours with the Burgundian inflicting more casualties than the French. The French guns were later re-positioned becoming more effective later on in the battle. The French, expecting the arrival of Marshal Rouault with 200 lances, held their position, giving the Burgundians the initiative to attack and prohibit Louis XI from reaching Paris.     

The battle starts at 1400 hours. An artillery barrage of two hours has taken place, but neither side have scored significant casualties to remove an element. Sunset is between 21.00 and 2200 hrs and players using weather rules should account for sun dazzle affecting the Burgundians.

The Royal Army:

Vanguard division: 1 x Seneschal de Brézé (3Kn), 3 x men-at-arms (3Kn), 1 x coutilliers (Cv), 1 x ordonnance archers (Mtd-4Lb), 2 x franc-archers (3Bw) = 8 elements.

Battle division: 1 x Louis XI (3Kn), 5 x men-at-arms (3Kn), 2 x coutilliers (Cv), 1 x ordonnance archers (Mtd-4Lb), 1 x couleuvrines (Art) = 10 elements

Rear division: (Comte du Maine), 2 x men-at-arms (3Kn), 2 x coutilliers (Cv), 2 x franc-archers (3Bw) = 6 elements

The Burgundian Army:

Vanguard division: 1 x Saint-Pol (4Bd), 2 x men-at-arms (4Bd), 3 x Picard archers (4Lb), 1 x English archers (4Lb), 1 x couleuvrines (Art) = 8 elements.

Battle division: 1 x Comte du Charolais (3Kn), 3 x knights (3Kn), 1 x mounted crossbowmen (Cv), 4 x Picard crossbowmen (4Cb), 1 x couleuvrines (Art) = 10 elements.

Rear division (Antoine of Burgundy), 2 x Low Country crossbowmen (4Cb), 4 x Low Country pikemen (4Pk) = 6 elements.


Historically, the Burgundian knights remounted at the start of battle. This was easily done by knights of the main division, but confusion reigned throughout the vanguard. To simulate the confusion and discord among the knights of Saint-Pol’s division, remounting costs two pips and one for knights of the main division. The positioning of the main division further back might explain why remounting was less problematic. 

Determining a winner.

This test uses DBA24, that is one single command of 24 elements. and one side scoring 8 casualties is declared the winner. For this scenario however, both sides reaching an even score of 7 or 8 will mean both sides to break off battle. 

The tests

The first two full scale battles produced two convincing victories for the French; 8-2, 9-5 and in neither engagement, did the rear division of du Maine to stir from its position at Montlhéry. Further adjustments would be needed to make game take a historical course. 

The requirement for the Burgundian knights to remount was the first item to change. Knights of the main division were mounted, leaving the knights of Saint-Pol’s division on foot. The cost, however, was reduced to +1. 

Further reading the description of the battle, the Burgundians forced the French left back which offered the moment for Charles to launch the attack with his knights. To allow for this to develop meant a repositioning of the Burgundian rear and main division. 

Chapelle-Villiers remained a hornet’s nest in both games and would most likely remain so for test number three. Implementing the above changes would mean both sides must be careful as heavy losses by either Saint-Pol or Pierre de Brézé would mean an early demise for their side.   

Test game three proved a much tighter game and ended in a victory for the Burgundian, 8-6. The Burgundian main division launched an early assault on the French left, but their success was cut short by French archers and timely counter charges by French cavalry. Chapelle-Villiers developed differently with Saint-Pol and knights founding their mounts in time to dim French hopes of success on that flank. The battle remained hotly contested up to turn 6 with both sides even at 6-6. The margin of victory was enough for Charles to hold the field. but Louis XI still reached Paris.   

Satisfied that a balance has been found, there remained one final piece of the Montlhéry puzzle to solve – the treachery of Charles IV du Anjou, comte du Maine. His flight took with him the entire rear division and in game terms would account for heavy losses against the French. Yet, his flight was hotly pursued by Charles du Charolais, leaving in game terms, the Burgundians without a leader. 

It was not until the following year that treachery was proven that Charles, comte du Maine fell in disgrace. Linked by blood and friendship to the rebel princes might explain his less than energetic charge to contain Francis II of Brittany at the opening of the campaign, but his flight off the battlefield remains the final item that needs fixing.

More later.

Tuesday 6 April 2021

The Battle of Montlhéry – 1465

 Montlhéry was the only pitched battle fought during the civil war of 1465, known in English as the League of Public Weal. The rebellion, led by Charles, Duke of Berry, quickly gathered support from like-minded feudal nobles, who felt threatened by the centralisation of authority by Louis XI. Finding themselves separated geographically, a date of 4 March was set for the call to arms with an agreed rendezvous point. Francis II, Duke of Brittany, would lead the forces from the west and John II, Duke of Bourbon, would bring those forces assembled in the south. Across the northern frontier of France, Charles, Count of Charolais, would bring the Burgundian army and march to the agreed meeting point at St. Denis, north of Paris. 

Aware of rebel intentions, Louis XI would plan to eliminate the weakest of the three armies, John II of Bourbon. To delay the other threats, a large force under the command of the Comte du Maine would hold the Bretons at bay and at the northern frontier, Marshal Joachim Rouault was given the task of strengthening the defenses in Picardy, in anticipation of the Burgundians. 

Crossing the frontier on May 29, Charles and the Burgundians encountered little resistance and therefore continued their march to reach St. Denis on the 5th of July. Learning that the Breton advance through the Loire would delay their arrival as agreed, Charles decided to move the Burgundian army to the outskirts of Paris. This proved a critical turn of events as the Burgundians threatened Paris and the Count du Maine had let the Bretons slip his grasp. With haste, Louis retraced his steps northward and issued new orders for the Comte du Maine to reach Chartres by the 13th. 

However, the winds of war can turn and Louis XI reached Beaugency on the 14th, placing at least four armies within easy march of one another. Determined to rendezvous with the Bretons, Charles chose Étampes to bring their forces together and on the morning of the 15th, the Burgundian vanguard, under the command of Comte de Saint-Pol was ordered to reach Étampes. Nearing Montlhéry, Saint-Pol encountered the Royal Army, Charles realising the threat recalled Saint-Pol to return to Longjumeau. He was to be disappointed, as St-Pol would deem it a point of honour that he remain in Montlhéry. 

During the night of the 14th to 15th, Louis XI reached Étampes to be joined with the Count of Maine. At his war council, Louis XI informed them of the decision to attack the Burgundians at Longjumeau and orders were despatched to Marshal Joachim to take the garrison at Paris and attack the Burgundian rear. Learning that the Burgundians were at Montlhéry, the Royal Army marched north to do battle.   

The battlefield.

Actual maps of the battlefield are rare, but what can be pieced together, the town of Montlhéry played a part as did the chateau of Montlhéry in the battle. The undulating ground still offers a wide open plain covered which is covered with fields of wheat. The road from Étampes to Longjumeau passes through Montlhéry and from primary sources is un-walled as the town was passed through a number of times by English and French armies during the Hundred Years War. Heavy woods lay to the west of the town making encirclement difficult. The Burgundian vanguard encampment north of the village, was ideally protected by enclosures and irrigation ditches. North of the village of Montlhéry is a ridge and here, Louis XI deployed his main battle. Across from the French position is a spur that would serve Charles as a vantage point. Despite it being a relative open field, it was broad enough to allow only two of the three divisions to deploy, leaving the third division of each army to take its position behind the first. The battle took place on a hot summer day with the Burgundians facing south. 

The Opposing Forces

At the opening of the campaign, Louis XI gathered 25,000 of which half (Count of Maine) were sent west to delay the army of Breton. At Montlhéry, Louis XI had 12,000 mounted, these included coutilliers, archers and mounted infantry, and were supplemented with an extra 3,000 infantry, franc-archers from Orleans. 

Confronting the Royal Army, Charles had fewer mounted troops, sources quote 5,000, but fielded 14,000 infantry and a little more than 60 guns, assorted serpentines and culverines.

Outgunned, Louis XI had the misfortune to place such that they played little part at the start of the battle.

Next post, Army composition, deployment, game conditions and the re-fight.


La Bataille de Montlhéry – 1465, par Michel Rimboud, University of Paris – Sarbonne.

La Bataille de Montlhéry, Wiki (French)

Blog, The Freelance History Writer, the Battle of Montlhéry.

Illustration: the Battle of Montlhéry, Par Auteur inconnu — [1], Domaine public, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87099766

Montlhéry on the Internet, Montlhéry.com – Historie.