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Fornovo 1495» Forums » General

Subject: Introduction: Why Fornovo? rss

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M. Kirschenbaum
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This is the first in a series of posts that will introduce Fornovo as a battle, its participants, and the Order of Arms game system. One of the very first things I always want to know when contemplating a game about a particular battle or campaign is, why? What makes this situation interesting or different or unique? Why did the designer bother? That's what I'll try to lay out here.



Fornovo was not the battle either side wanted. The year is 1495. The French had arrived on the Italian peninsula the year before, their mobile artillery train redefining the laws of war, reducing castle walls previously thought impregnable. The climax of the campaign was the occupation of Naples, but the prize, once grasped, could not be held; Charles VIII headed home, eventually reaching the Duchy of Milan in the north. There, outside of a small village named Fornovo di Taro, beside the river, the French and Italian army (the so-called League of Venice) parleyed early on the morning of July 6th. The meeting ended in a courtly exchange of insults, followed by a less than courtly exchange of artillery shot as the French delegation scurried back to its encampment.

Later that morning, determined to leave Italian soil, Charles's army crossed the Taro and resumed its trek to the northeast. From this position they could perhaps threaten Parma. The League, for its part, had expected to fight the French on the near bank of the Taro; Charles's crossing took them by surprise. (The game includes an alternate history scenario allowing the battle to unfold under the circumstances the League expected.) As the skies darkened (it had rained in the mountains the night before) the condottieri held council and rapidly adjusted plans. The League's army would wheel 90 degrees, ford the river, and take the departing French by surprise and in the flank.

Such is the setting for the game's historical scenario, which opens at noon on the afternoon of July 6th, 1495. The French, in march order, proceed apace down the road to Medesano, and perhaps to Parma beyond. The League, meanwhile, has chosen a daring course of action. They must make haste, though, for the clouds continue to gather and the river, should it swell with rain, will cease to be fordable. Did I mention that the all-important reserve, which will wait for the signal to cross the Taro and deal a death blow, is under the command of the bold Ridolfo Gonzaga who is in fact so bold he has insisted on fording the river with the first wave under his nephew, the army commander Franceso?

There is a variant set-up allowing the League's stradotieri (mounted light cavalry) to start across the Taro from Fornovo, a position from which historically they harried the French rear.

The next post, tomorrow, will cover the League as a fighting force, followed by a similar post for the French army, and then a post detailing the game's treatment of weather and the river's flood stages--the all-important third participant in this battle.

Though there are a range of sources on Fornovo, the most immediately accessible to an English language audience is David Nicole's Osprey Campaign volume.
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Chris Hansen
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Tomorrow seems to be a long time coming...

Actually, for those who would like the rest of the story, Mr. Kirschenbaum continued these posts on ConsimWorld here:

http://talk.consimworld.com/WebX?7@@.1dd6dbdb/72

Look for post 62 onward.
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