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Subject: Tinchebray: A War Between Brothers rss

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Mike D
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This session covers a 'quick' replay of the first scenario in the quad, The Battle of Tinchebray, 1106.

This particular battle concluded the efforts of the King Henry I of England, the fourth son of William the Conqueror, to assert his sovereignty over the chaotic situation that remained in the Duchy of Normandy. First... a little potted history to set the scene.


BACKGROUND
Following the death of William the Conqueror in 1087, Henry's two elder brothers, Robert Curthose and William Rufus, had divided the inherited domains of Normandy and England between themselves, respectively.

This division presented difficulties for those nobles who held lands on both sides of the English Channel. The only solution, as they saw it, was to unite England and Normandy once more under a single ruler.

The Conqueror's youngest son, Henry, who was left out of the inheritance, had allied himself with his brother, William Rufus, in England. After William was killed in a hunting accident in 1100, Henry quickly took the initiative and seized control of the English throne.

His eldest brother, Robert Curthose, the Duke of Normandy, disputed Henry's succession and invaded England in 1101. The result was an unsuccessful campaign that ended in a settlement, with Robert reluctantly confirming Henry as the rightful king. Yet, with Robert still a powerful force in Normandy, the kingdom remained divided.

Henry's inevitable, subsequent invasion of Normandy in 1105 went well initially, but foundered after Henry was forced to return to England to settle some papal problems. With Normandy still embroiled in dispute, Henry resumed the invasion in 1106... this time to finish the job.

September, 1106. The situation in Normandy...
Tinchebray Castle in southwest Normandy, is held by William Count of Mortain, an important Norman baron still loyal to Duke Robert. With Tinchebray under siege by Henry's English army, Duke Robert of Normandy has brought up his forces and decided that open battle is his best option.

SETUP & GOALS
So, on to the scenario...

It begins with Duke Robert's two Norman wings, under Mortain (Dark Blue) and Ponthieu (Light Blue), deployed on the left side of the field.

On the right is the English King Henry's larger army, in three wings under Bayeux (Pink), Leicester (Dark Green) and Warenne (Light Green). Henry also had a fourth wing of heavy horse kept in reserve, under Maine (Orange), which is not yet on the field but may arrive later on either flank.


The setup seems a little one-sided but a closer analysis of the victory conditions will show this to be a carefully balanced contest.

For Henry to achieve victory, the Norman army must be eliminated almost completely while the English must still preserve a reasonable force to complete their campaign.

For the Normans, the goal is simply to achieve an equal accounting in losses and therefore leave the English without the strength to assert control of the Duchy.

For both sides, the battle may be be ended more quickly should a sufficient number of nobles be captured or killed. Given the numbers of nobles present among the troops, it appears highly likely that this situation could occur.


THE BATTLE DEVELOPS
The game opens with the Normans advancing Ponthieu's wing towards Bayeux. Initial clashes occurs between the Heavy Horse of Bayeux's English and the Norman levies which, surprisingly, account for themselves quite well in a series of exchanges.

Mortain's horse charge the Bayeux cavalry in their flank and the first piece to be eliminated is an English one. Warenne's wing is brought forward to assist Bayeux's right flank.

The English hold Leicester back and have yet to bring on Maine's reserve cavalry. By not committing these troops to the battle they could earn a significant bonus in achieving victory conditions, but continuing this strategy will depend on how well the initial results go for them.

Normans VP: 2; English VP: 6 (for troops withheld)



With Bayeux's English cavalry still under pressure by mid-game, the English decide to throw in everything. Warenne presses forward while Leicester clashes with Mortain in the top half of the field. With the melee joined, Henry commits his reserve...

The arrival of Maine's wing on their right flank proves to be disastrous for the Normans of Ponthieu's wing and his levies and veterans are overwhelmed and isolated. The English goal now is to use their superior numbers and flanking position to eliminate the Normans as quickly as possible.

Normans VP: 4; English VP: 5



The remnants of Ponthieu's wing give a good accounting for themselves by forming up into Shield Wall as Maine's wing of heavy horse attempt to roll up the Normans' right flank. Mortain's wing remains strong and continues to exchange blows with the English all down the line.

So far, there have been no nobles captured or killed, but several are visible now on both sides, providing some clear targets for the possibility of an early victory.

Normans VP: 8; English VP: 10



As the game nears conclusion, Maine's cavalry has finally eliminated Ponthieu's wing completely, but has done so at the cost of their own noble.

Mortain's Normans remain firm, but his line is rather extended and Bayeux's veteran infantry are beginning to turn his flank while Maine's cavalry are forming in his rear to cut off any retreat.

Normans VP: 12 (1 noble); English VP: 16 (1 noble)



END GAME
The final few turns are fast and furious. Mortain's cavalry are suddenly surprised to find several English nobles deep among their ranks. The Earl of Leicester is captured on their left, as is also Ranulf of Bayeux, further down on their right flank. These prisoners should secure a victory!

But Mortain's vanguard must still contend with the heavy horse and Maine leads a powerful charge into their rear ranks. Assailed from two sides, the majority of the Norman force is decisively eliminated before negotiations can begin!


FINAL TALLY & RESULT

Normans VP: 22 (3 nobles); English VP: 28 (3 nobles)

Victory Targets are:
Norman: 25 VP or 3 nobles
English: 30 VP (and at least 5 VP more than Norman), or 3 nobles

Well, well... The Normans were really quite lucky here! They had met the victory condition of capturing 3 nobles and therefore brought about an end to the battle moments before what might have been a resounding defeat.

Unfortunately, for the Normans, the English had also managed to capture a third noble in the final turn and this alone saved the English from a humiliating finish.

The final result is effectively a draw, with the English losing a victory simply due to the stubbornness of their nobles in refusing to withdraw from the front lines. Henry and Robert trade their hostages and the English return home, leaving the Duke of Normandy free to consolidate his domain.


CONCLUSIONS
This is really a neat and fast-playing system, being light on the chrome, but with some solid depth in game-play. The application of Command Markers to dictate actions by 'wing' provides a nice and easy level of command control, and the commands available give a good feel for the period.

The rules also allow one side to trade 'Initiative' in order to extend play with another round of commands. The tactical application of this swinging advantage throughout the course of the battle adds a subtle layer to the competition.

The elimination of enemy nobles is an effective strategy in meeting victory conditions, but their precise locations on the field remain hidden until the units have suffered some battle damage. This provides yet a further layer of tactical decisions that must be considered as the battle develops. The rules state that the counters should not be inspected once play starts, and, in my session I did quickly lose track of the nobles as the game developed... leading to the unfortunate 'Draw' result for the English side.

My session did go on for a rather long time, just over 20 turns in a few hours, but, being a solo learning session I was drawing and applying the command chits a little too randomly, instead of focusing on ways to achieve more decisive results.

The historical battle is supposed to have taken about one hour, and it should be possible to replay the scenario in that time, taking perhaps 12-15 turns.

One simple page of charts suffices for reference, but I did find myself referring several times to the action sequence in the manual to confirm the order in which command markers should be played. The command chit icons are shown on the Reference Card but it would have been nice if they had also been ordered in the proper sequence for quick reference.

The full game of 'House of Normandy' includes a quad of battles but I received Tinchebray as part of the ConsimWorld Donation drive for 2017 so this is the only one I've tried. The same system is used for Hollandspiele's "The Grunwald Swords", and is an update of the system presented in "A Hill Near Hastings", published in Flying Pig's magazine "Yaah!" Issue #1.

I have crafted a Vassal module for Tinchebray and would be happy to give it a whirl with a live or PBEM opponent should anyone be interested.
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Tom Russell
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Thank you for the great, detailed session report! It was a great read.

Just one note -- each player checks for their Victory at the end of their opponent's turn, so the game can't end in a draw; if both players had achieved their victory conditions, then the win goes to whichever player is the one actually checking victory. So if the last turn is a Norman Turn, for example, then the English won, and if the last turn is an English Turn, then the Normans won.
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Mike D
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Hey Tom, thanks for the GeekGold! And thanks for a designing such a neat game.

I appreciate the clarification on the end game. So, in this scenario, should three crowns be taken by either player, then the results of a last turn will be moot as regards victory.

Basing victory condition on the VP count, I can also see how a Norman player could close the VP gap and snatch back a victory in that 'last turn' should the English reach 30 VP.

I'm primarily a solo player but am looking forward to some official Vassal mods for the series. This design really nails a sweet spot in terms of low complexity, reasonable play-time and rewarding depth of tactical play.
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Theaty Hannington
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Thanks for the fantastic session report! This sounds like something I need to look into further.
 
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Tom Russell
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Theaty Hannington wrote:
Thanks for the fantastic session report! This sounds like something I need to look into further.


I hope you do. :-)

The third game in the series (Battles on the Ice) will be out sometime next month. When it releases, both of the earlier titles-- this one, and The Grunwald Swords will be on sale at a discount.
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Theaty Hannington
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tomrussell wrote:
I hope you do. :-)

The third game in the series (Battles on the Ice) will be out sometime next month. When it releases, both of the earlier titles-- this one, and The Grunwald Swords will be on sale at a discount.


I have and I will pick it up when that sale hits. Thanks for the tip! When you get an order to send one to Moscow, Idaho, my thanks come with it!
 
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Barry Kendall
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Thanks for the report and comments, folks. I'm sold, the sale is on, and I'm back in the office tomorrow to strike while the prices are hot!
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