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Warning: this post is very long and might be boring if you’re not interested in medieval history. I write "Bretonia" with one n because it's my country's Warhammer term for those guys.
As we all know, the Warhammer world is a colourful mixture of empires and cultures with a real historical background, like e.g. the Empire, Tilea and Estalia, Cathay and Nippon; of races generally depicted in fantasy literature, like Elves, Dwarves and Orcs; and a genuinely new creation of GW (at least as far as I know), the great Realm of Chaos.
I love knights, did a little reading about the middle ages, and, as you might have guessed, found many parallels between Bretonia and the medieval feudal system. I’d like to compare the historical archetype to the Warhammer Bretonians. Sadly, I do not have the Bretonian army book, so most info about the Brets I have comes from this forum, the White Dwarf and the Chronicles.
I. The feudal system
In the feudal system, a lord and owner of land would give away a piece of land (fief) to a vassal. This vassal could exploit the land as he wished, but had to swear an oath of fealty to his lord. This oath would bind the two to one another. The vassal owed personal faithfulness to the lord, had the duty to send a military force in times of war (auxilium) and to attend the lord's council (consilium). The vassal himself, if his fief was big enough, could then split it up and give away parts of it as fiefs to others who would then become his vassals.
Actually, many vassals found excuses not to send a military detachment when asked... They knew how to avoid war. The general trick was to send an emissary (then they had at least sent someone) who would tell the lord how much the vassal was in need of his force at home right now... That, however, was against the oath of fealty, and therefore dangerous, if the lord was a powerful one and easy to anger. Friedrich Barbarossa was both and took revenge on some vassals who had not sent aid to him for his war in Lombardy. I guess Louen Leonceur would act likewise... but then, Bretonian nobles would never abandon a chance for waging war, right?
Other smart kings, such as Karl the Great, gave their vassals as much political power in the royal council as their military detachment was big. This ensured the vassals would try and send as many men as possible. However, the political power of the royalty somewhat declined after Karl’s reign (at least in Germany, in France I’d guess not), because their court was costly and they gave away many privileges to nobles and, later, cities.
II. Economics, knighthood and peasantry
A knight was a professional warrior. That meant he did nothing else but bashing others' heads in, in addition to drinking, singing and hunting. He therefore had to be owner of a considerable piece of land, and the people to work on it (the “familia”), to provide food, a house/court worth of a noble, maybe even a castle. His equipment was enormously expensive: Metal was rare, and the steed had to be bred and trained especially for war purposes.
These are the costs for a knight’s equipment (from the old franconian “Lex ribuaria”) :
Helmet: 5 cows
Breastplate: 12 cows
Sword + scabbard: 7 cows
Greaves: 6 cows
Lance + shield: 2 cows
Steed: 12 cows
Moo... that equals the cattle of an entire village. These costs are for an early medieval knight, the Bretonian knights look more like 13th/14th century knights, therefore there is more metal around them, and they would be even more expensive.
That means only a very small percentage of the whole population could be trained and equipped as knights. Each knight usually was lord to a large number of peasants, who were bound to him in different degrees of personal bondage. In times of war, they also could be called upon, but usually were not: They were not allowed to bear arms, and the nobility was envious of their privileges (like, also, long hair and colourful clothing). Instead, there existed a growing class of sub-knighthood (=not noble, not as rich) warriors, I believe the English term for them is sergeants. Only the fewest of the knight trainees ever attained knighthood, the others joined the sergeants. I am not sure about those famous English longbowmen who are obviously plasticly embodied by the Bretonian archers, but since effective archery requires considerable training, I’d guess they were not just drafted peasants.
The peasants produced everything a knight needed to live, and often, to live quite well. There are calculations for a 14th ct. German lord whose peasants produced an amount of beer that would have been sufficient to keep all the court members in a constant state of dead-drunkenness. Obviously, there was beer trade even back then.
The early/high medieval (agrarian) economic system yet mainly aims for self-sufficiency, and is therefore inferior to the later market/trade economy. A society with specialised (even mass-) production can reach much higher rates of productivity. Therefore, the Empire can produce cannons and steam tanks, which Bretonia cannot. Also, the Empire should be able to field a larger percent of their populace as soldiers, because they have professional specialisation. They have lots of larger cities, and not approx. 90% of the populace are peasants, but instead craftsmen, traders etc... But then, they don’t have real knights, and damsels...
III. Knighthood in war + the Bretonian lance formation
The concept of the knight is that of a single heroic warrior who travels, meets dragons etc. and kills them, meets ladies and saves them. Generally, historians consider knighthood as a branch of arms unparalleled before and after, they are not just cavalry: Cavalry means training and fighting as a unit. The whole idea of knighthood is the opposite: That of a single, outstanding fighter. In combat, they would ride next to men they probably never met (+ trained with) before, and each of them was bent on showing his exceptional prowess. There exist many sources in which knights were ordered to hold formation during battle, which indicates that they usually did not.
The Bretonian lance formation, however, suggests Bretonian knights are different in this respect. But actually, comparable formations were used, there actually is a historical parallel to the lance formation: The battle of Pillenreuth (1450).
In this battle, the town of Nuremberg met an opposing count. The town had hired (!) a knight to lead their mounted units (500 men). They packed 300 riders in one unit.
The riders formed a kind of wedge: 5 knights in the front, then 7, then 11, then a number of mounted sergeants in ranks of 11-14, and then 14 nobles of Nuremberg, to keep the whole thing together (and, presumably, to stay away from the dirty work). That makes a unit of 22-25 ranks (what a sight on a Warhammer table...).
Now this would seem very strange to a cavalryman, as opposed to a knight, since it was known that the depth of a unit only contributes to its pushing power among the infantry. That effect does not happen in a mounted unit, which had been acknowledged in antiquity already (perhaps, in the 7th Ed., they drop the cavalry rank bonus?). Therefore, there wouldn’t be much use in a deep unit as this, because, just as in Warhammer, you lose the attacks on the front ranks, and expose a huge flank. Modern (at least 19th ct. German) cavalry always rode to battle in line formation.
But knights are not cavalry. They ride much slower (more weight, less unit cohesion). And they are not supposed to meet the enemy line in this formation: Rather, the ones from the back ranks pass to the front during the assault, so that, in the moment of the actual clash, they form a (rough) line (just like the Bretonian lance formation allows all models to attack). Then, one might think, they could’ve started in line formation already. But keeping a line formation over a longer distance requires a lot of training (the later German cavalry’s “Rittmeister” were originally responsible for maintaining unit cohesion).
The purpose of this medieval wedge formation is therefore getting close, not actually hitting, the enemy. The knights in the front and back kept the less reliable sergeants together until the actual fighting sets in. But there were other formations: Often, knights were supported by a team of lighter mounted warriors and footmen, somewhat like a modern day tank is (and must be) supported by infantry. The heavier the knight’s armour is, the fewer functions he can fulfil in a battle, e.g. chasing routers, stealing their equipment, clearing barriers, searching/pillaging the area for food, or even getting on his horse again... He needs others to relieve him of these tasks.
There were no really sophisticated tactics. Most feuds meant riding over to your neighbour and burning some of his fields. Real battles were rare. If they occured, all relied on the knights' charge, which was devastating (+2 strength bonus...). Many battles were won before the actual contact, because the enemy fled, afraid of the charging knights.
The knights were unequalled by any other warrior of the period. Therefore, the ideal medieval army was made purely of knights. In reality, they needed footmen and other units to swell the ranks and fulfil the aforementioned purposes that knights were not good at. There were no real specialised branches of arms besides the knights, until well-trained infantry, both close-combat and distance fighters, showed up (much cheaper to equip and to train). The knights from then on had lost their “monopoly”, but were still valuable, if re-arranged as heavy cavalry and integrated into the army as a tactical body.
This got quite long. Sorry if it’s somewhat off-topic in this forum. Bretonia, rule the plains!
Last edited by Schabbes; June 8th, 2006 at 22:55.
Well done!!!I believe if memory serves me correctly, archery from that time was actually performed very similar to that seen in Braveheart. Where large groups of men stood and sent large volleys through the air. The skill required was anything amazing. Rudimentary archery skills were sufficient and could be performed by anybody familiar with a bow from hunting.Originally Posted by Schabbes
From what I've read, the longbow did require quite a lot skill to use effectively,
it was the crossbow that was more suitable for semi-trained troops.
The English (originally Welsh) longbow was used by paid troops in the 100-years
war, not hastily raised militia. There was even an English medieval law (never repealed)
that required men to train once-a-week with the longbow in the town square.
The effect of the longbow did come from the mass effect of many arrows falling
in a small area, but there was a fair degree of skill and training (not to mention
strength) required to use the longbow effectively. The longbow was quite difficult
to make, too, whereas a crossbow could be more easily "mass" produced. Not
that anything was Mass-prduced in the middle ages.
Interesting thread ...
I think Spon is correct on the crossbow being the weapon to require less training. I too seem to remember the church banned crossbow use against christians (a rule which, generally, was only adhered to during peacetime...), and the knights deemed it unjust/against the law of nature that a lowly peasant would be able to kill a mighty mounted knight. The mass-use of paid infantry in the 100 years war was new to me, I would've thought that first occured a while later.The problem is that no peasant actually had any hunting skills, because they were not allowed to. Hunting was the novelty's prerogative, and a peasant who had killed a deer would face harsh punishment, because by killing the deer, he had not only broken a law, but also commited social rebellion by usurping a nobleman's right. There were, of course, paid hunters, but their numbers were few.Originally Posted by The Green Knight
Also, I think what makes an archer/pikemen unit effective in a situation like CrÃ©cy is not only archery skills, but, probably even more important, their will to stand and shoot until the very last moment. I'd guess you need more than archery skills (e.g. the general and the battle standard bearer nearby...) for that. A mere bunch of archers would have run at the sight of frenzied french noblemen assaulting. Therefore, I would rather stick to Spon's concept of the trained professionals.
Actually, the CrÃ©cy situation can be simulated in Warhammer, since the peasants benefit from a nearby knight's morale. All you need is one Bretonian army made up of mainly knights (Les Francais) and another of mainly peasants (Them English). But actually, the longbow in Warhammer is not as effective against knights. Do you think it is "undermodeled" and should be adapted in the 7th ed.?
Good info guys, ya learn something new everyday I guess.
As far as updating the longbow in game terms, definately not. The only way to make it better against knights is by hurting their save from it. Which would either involve raising the strength or make it armour piercing. Nether of which in game terms would make sence to do.
Not necessarily. If I were re-writing the archery rules, I would probably give
longbows multiple-shot * 2 - if the archers didn't move that turn. Otherwise, it
would be 1 shot. Other bows would stay the same.
Of course, you'd need to increase the price of longbows considerably! But High elven archers would become useful. And you could allow Wood elves to choose between their current special rules or this new one.
I'm not suggesting this would be a good change, but it might reflect how good the longbow
was vs the crossbow. I suspect it would lead to more one-sided (i.e. worse) games though.
You'd probably have to limit the number of longbow-armed units ... still might be worth
playing around with.
Originally Posted by The Green Knight
the english longbow was a weapon that took considerable training to use properly- in the middle ages football was banned as its growing popularity was stopping people from practicing archery! As has been mentioned the majority of peasantry wouldnt have done a great deal of hunting for any large game like Deer as that was all owned by the nobility, and a longbow would have been little use in hunting ducks etc. When the english and welsh archers were not fighting in France during the hundred years war they would have been mostly imployed as mercenaries in places like Italy- very much proffessional soldiery rather than peasant rabble.
Schabbs account of the battle of Pillenreuth (1450) is interesting from a historical point of view because at the same time in England during the wars of the roses, the knightly cavalry charge was rapidly being replaced by mass 'battles' of heavily armoured men-at-arms on foot- due mainly to the increased use of firearms and the arrant failiure of cavalry charges against the english in the wars with france of the proceeding century. Its hardly suprising that the germans continued in this use though given that most good quality armour at this time was made in Germany!
PLAN CLAN MAN!!
He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man- S. Johnson
What an incredible post (first post)! Nicely done!
To be honest, I think that the Bretonnians we see in warhammer are REALLY more based upon Autherian legend than actual historical fact. In truth, I would have liked to have seen a bit of the feudal system thrown into the Bretonnian rules where each character would bring his own warriors (sergents), and each knight would bring his own squires and peasants. (kind of like the old retinue rule for chaos). It would certainly give the army more "flavor."
Here's the thing on the longbow (and bows in general): First of all, their RoF is what makes them powerful. To be honest, they should all be RoF x3. What made the longbow so powerful during the hundred years war is the fact that in nearly every case, the English were in a defensive position and the French knights were mounted. Their horses were vulnerable to the longbow. For some reason, warhammer has it backwards. Being on a horse should max out your armor save at 5+ (no matter what you're wearing). Light barding should take it down to a 4+, and heavy barding (which would significantly slow down the horse) would make it a 3+.
The most heavily armored person on the medieval battlefield was the foot knight. Too bad there's no possible way for the human armies in warhammer from actually fielding them (the Empire greatswords come close, but since they can't have shields, nuts to them).
Another reason longbows were so effective is the massive numbers of archers used. They were fielded in units, 10X10, of 100 men and there were usually thousandsof them. Some large battle had as many as 10,000 longbows. They also were very rapid fire, up to six arrows a minute. As the French and others chose to use firearms the English chose longbows. A longbowman could fire six arrows in the time it took a firearm to be fired and reloaded.
If you had 10,000 archers they would be capable of firing a million projectiles in less than twenty minutes.
As for hunting, hunting on federal or the Kings lands was forbidden. I don't think many nobles forbade hunting. Yeoman were peasant farmers and were the bulk of the longbow corps. They wouldn't have had a need to be bowmen were they not alloed to hunt.
Originally Posted by Rameusb5
i agree, they should definatly bring back the reiksguard foot knights and brettonian foot knights to the game- a 'good' army equivalent to Chaos Warriors!
Ive just been reading Juliet Barkers 'Agincourt', a very readable and knowledgable account of the agincourt campaign (what a shock hey!?) with some interesting observations on combat at this time (1415 fact fans) its out in paperback and heartliy recommended
PLAN CLAN MAN!!
He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man- S. Johnson