Friday, 26 December 2014

Trial by Battle - The Hundred Years War - volume I

Over the years I have read many, many history and military history books. Some stick in the mind as superb examples of their craft for their time, for example:
  • 'Blitzkreig' by Len Deighton. The first book that took a measured and impartial view of the war. Apparently he was not popular for suggesting that the British arms and equipment, as well as performance, was not what it had been perported to be...
  • 'A Bridge Too Far' by Cornelius Ryan. It could be argued that this book created the 'Arnhem' myth. It certainly set off my love of the Paras that exists to this day.
  • 'Armageddon' by Max Hastings. To my mind a superb writer who not only covers the broad breadth of a conflict with consummate ease, but illustrates it with superb and telling detail. Harrowing at times, especially with regards the Eastern Front, it is a book I return to time and time again.
  • 'It Never Snows In September' by Robert Kershaw. A stunning book that covers the Operation Market-Garden campaign from the German point of view. It explodes some of the myths from 'A Bridge Too Far', but is extremely well written and even handed in its approach. If anything I now prefer this to 'A Bridge Too Far'.
To the above I can now confidently add 'Trial by Battle' by Jonathan Sumption. It is certainly one of the very best history books that I have ever read. What makes it even more remarkable is the fact that he wrote it in his spare time, despite him being a practising QC. The level of detail is superb, combined with the broad brush required for this seminal conflict in English history. For anyone interested in this period, I think it is one of the 'must have' books for the library shelf.

In wargaming terms, there is so much to choose from already, and I haven't even reached Crecy yet! The campaign in Flanders, the tit-for-tat raids in Gascony or the conflict in Brittany? Which to choose from?

Well I've plenty of time to choose, or even game all of them. But so far my plans are to use the following rules for the conflict:
  • 'Songs of Shadows and Dust'. Although set in ancient Rome, it is easily transferable to the HYW. A lot of the scenarios are ready made for the intrigues at Avignon, in Brittany etc.
  • 'Songs of Arthur and Merlin'. Scaling up slightly from the above, these will work well for settings such as the banditry in Brittany during the truce of Malestroit. With at times only a dozen or so men involved, they seem a perfect fir for this.
  • 'Lion Rampant'. So when the big boys get involved with their retinues in Flanders, Gascony etc, these will be my 'go-to' rules. Again the scenarios and lists are all there waiting to go.
  • 'Hail Caesar'. For any battles larger than a personal retinue, whether a relatively small scale action, or all the way up to Crecy or Agincourt.
So, this will be one of my projects for 2015. How well I achieve my aims remains to be seen. I plan to use the same 'set up' for my Baltic Crusades project. Let's hope I can maintain focus and get some painting done soon to get this up and running.

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