Tag Archives: Agincourt

Naked Writer #2

Today was a funny day. I thought I’d written a lot more during the day than I had – around 600 to 700 words was my guess, but it ended up being just 402 more words for the Time’s Arrow story about an alternate Agincourt. But at least the words flowed pretty well and I was generally happy with them.

Also I feel that I’m nearing the end of the story, which is a good feeling.

I also did a bit of thinking about the next story – it might be called Broken Lance and will have some basis on the grail legends and a fantasy Morte Arthure feel about it – I think!

Other activity included located primary sources for the next section of Stonehearted, the sequel to By the Sword’s Edge. I’m getting copies of Medieval chronicles that relate the events of the Pontvaillan campaign of 1370, which is the setting for the story. Praise be to archive.org!

Reading:

Not quite finished Sweet Justice and read second chapter of Feast of Crows – loved the third new setting and set of characters – Sand Snakes awesome and very evocative!

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French Cavalry Charge at Agincourt – Video From Medieval 2 Total War

I have been experimenting with some video capture software recently and recorded this brief video of the Battle of Agincourt from Medieval 2 Total War. The game version of the battle is actually pretty accurate.

This is the moment when the French cavalry wings charge the English and are defeated quite easily by the English longbowmen fire! By the way there is not supposed to be any sound!

I am thinking about paying for the full version of the software so I can record longer clips!

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PC Strategy Wargames and Realism

Medieval Total War2
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This is something that has been bothering me for a while now. I’m a fan of PC computer games such as Medieval II: Total War and the other titles in that series, and I have also occasionally played a few other PC strategy wargames. Most of these vary in the amount of realism that they include, but usually they aim to get things like the effects of weapons, terrain, morale etc fairly accurate. You can argue about the finer details of how effective crossbows or longbows should be, but at the end of the day the differences aren’t too great, and if you’re into modding can be corrected by access to the game’s source files.

Where I feel that all such PC games always fall down is on the realistic portrayal of command and control. All PC games tend to allow the player pretty much omnipotent control of his forces. You click on a unit and command it where to go, and usually pretty soon it gets going. There might be a slight delay sometimes, but the order is obeyed and carried out.

Back in the 1980s when I was a schoolboy I was interested in actual wargames with lead figures etc, and although I didn’t get much further than playing a bit of Warhammer, I did buy War Games Rules: 3000 BC to 1485 AD by the Wargames Research Group, published in August 1980. These guys did wargaming properly, and for them it was all about accurately portraying what might happen on a battlefield, as well as the thrill of commanding troops and all the excitement associated with a game.

Now as any military historian will tell you, the ability of a commander to actually change the course of a battle in pre-modern times was fairly limited – things got better in the times of Napoleon I think, mostly because battles just took a lot longer – whole days, so things could be changed, but once troops were off and marching you would have to send them a message to change their orders. You would have to hope the messenger got through alive and then that the subordinate commander actually understood and correctly implemented the new order – by which time of course the situation of the battle may have changed radically.

War Games Rules: 3000 BC to 1485 AD  actually recreates such situations. Commanders are required to write orders for their units prior to the start of the battle. You can write standing orders which can be applied if certain circumstances occur, which is quite handy, but if you want to change orders during a battle you actually have to send an order to your units and tell them to do something different – this can be by some sort of pre-arranged signal, or by sending a messenger. And each type of order despatch is subject to realistic chances of success. If your General figure is engaged in combat then quite rightly you can’t send any commands – something that’s quite important during battles before the Early Modern period. For instance Henry V was engaged in hand to hand combat during Agincourt, and probably had the opportunity to change very few of his orders once the battle was under way – in fact the only decision he made during the battle was probably to kill the French prisoners because of the threat to English rear.

Should PC games reflect reality in this way? I think so. I think it would make games actually more challenging for players, more exciting and more realistic. You wouldn’t have the arcade style click and shoot style action, but I think the there would be a lot more involvement in actually planning and trying to react to events in time to make a difference, that would actually add to the excitement.

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Left Hand of God and Agincourt – not sure about this one?

SPOILER ALERT:

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You’ll need to have read Paul Hoffman’s Left Hand of God to appreciate this, so that’s why I’ve flagged this up as potentially a spoiler.

If you’ve read the book you’ll know that nest the end of the book there is a big battle between the Materazzi and the Redeemers. What I found unusual about this is that the battle pretty much exactly mirrors the historical battle of Agincourt of 1415. So the redeemers are the English, lots of archers, smaller numbers, and the Materazzi are the heavily armoured and over confident French. The battlefield is a narrow muddy field flanked by woods, the Redeemers use stakes to protect themselves from the Materazzi, etc etc. The only detail I think that is different is that there’s no equivalent of the French attack on the English camp that prompted the English execution of prisoners.

20110909-132439.jpgAs a description of Agincourt it’s all very good. But for me it doesn’t feel quite right in a fantasy novel. I enjoy the way that Hoffman plays with historical events in this book, so we have a pseudo Christian religion, we have a sort of WW2 eastern front allusions, we have place names such as York, Memphis, and Norway used, but not in their historical and geographical contexts. All well and good and nicely thought provoking, but somehow the dumping of Agincourt into the book didn’t work for me.

What do you think?

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The Longbow – A Classic Medieval Myth

Battle of Crécy between the English and French...
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If you have read any of my previous posts about Agincourt you’ll know that I’m slightly cynical about the overwhelming effect of the longbow commonly attributed by historians and novelists.

The famous longbow, at 6 foot in length required great strength and skill to draw and use properly and is usually seen as the weapon of choice for English archers throughout the hundred years war from 1337 to 1453. According to historical myth it was responsible for the destruction of French armies at Crecy, Poitiers, Agincourt and a host of smaller battles.

Because of the bow’s fast rate of fire and stopping power it could prove hazardous to even armoured knights and in certain battles no doubt it did some damage. But it really was the case that the reason for the English victories was down to:

a) Bad French leadership and disorganization on each occasion.

b) Well drilled combined arms strategy from the English – although outnumbered there is evidence that the English wanted the French to fight them as they knew they could defeat them.

c) The professional and battle-hardened troops of the English army – troops in the early years had gained experience from wars in Scotland, and retinues were raised on the basis of pay rather than as a feudal array.

The archers were an important factor and together with well armed infantry men-at-arms they could defeat the French.

But wasn’t the longbow an amazingly powerful weapon. Yes, but…

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Mary Rose