The Battle of Zara, 1106 AD

This is the first battle in an as yet unnamed solo campaign I’ve set up covering Italy in the early 12th century. I probably won’t get around to a game very often. The map’s a little basic, and I’ve realised that my ‘who fights who’ spreadsheet needs a little work, but rather than procrastinate further I thought I’d play the opening game of spring 1106. A Communal Italian army invades Croatia, which is in Hungarian hands. I didn’t use the rule about terrain being based on the home country of the defender as that would have made Croatia into the Hungarian Plains.
King Coloman of Hungary leads his troops against an invading Communal Italian force under Matilda of Tuscany. Matilda chooses to field one 4Cb and one 2Ps, giving her 2x3Kn, 5x4Sp, 1x2Ps, 1x4Cb, 1xWWg, and 2x7Hd. Coloman decides to field 3Ax as his optional infantry, giving him 2x3Kn, 1x3Cv, 3x2LH, 3x4Sp, 2x3Ax, and 1x2Ps. Coloman is the attacker in this battle and Matilda has placed a good deal of difficult terrain along the edges of the battlefield. Coloman chooses an edge that puts the Italians into comparatively open terrain, although it makes his setup rather constricted. Matilda places her missile troops on her left and knights on the right. The centre is a dense block of supported and double ranked 4Sp, and the 7Hd are in edge contact with the WWg to allow them to be part of the group. Coloman has a group of 2x3Ax, 1x3Cv, and 1x2LH on his right, 2LH in a column on a steep hill as his reserve, and his 3Kn, 4Sp, and 2Ps in columns in a narrow defile on the left.

Battle of Zara initial positions. Hungarians on the left.

In the first three turns Matilda starts charging across the battlefield to try to restrict Coloman’s movement. That works pretty well, and Coloman has rather average PIPs, but he still manages to get his troops out of their defile and well on the way to being deployed while the Ax/Cv/LH group is closing on Matilda’s Carroccio and crossbowmen. Looking back on the battle, this is where Matilda should have stopped.

Turn 3. The Italians should probably have stopped about here.

Instead, on turns 4 and 5, Matilda extends her 4Sp formation into a single ranked line, and separates a pair of them to face the threat from Coloman’s right flank group. Coloman puts the finishing touches on his deployment from column, giving him a group of 2x3Kn, 3x4Sp, and a 2Ps.

Turn 5. The Italians disperse their heavy infantry.

Coloman rolls 6 PIPs. He moves his 4Sp/Kn group into contact with 3 of Matilda’s 4Sp, his 3Ax attack the other group of Matilda’s 4Sp, and he deploys his reserve 2LH into supporting positions. Matilda’s carroccio recoils a 3Ax that Coloman had in an overlapping position (I realise that that should not happen as units in overlap cannot be shot at). I’ve found lately that the Sp vs Sp combats I’ve been having are more bloodbath than slogging match, and this was no exception. In the fight between the spear blocks, Coloman recoils one 4Sp, but then goes on to double the other two. Matilda’s other Sp group can’t cut a break either, suffering  a recoil against Coloman’s overlapped 3Ax.

Matilda is understandably taken aback by having her centre routed. She rolls 2 PIPs and decides to withdraw the Ps that was supporting her spear line (it would only have fled in the next combat), and reengages Coloman’s auxilia, hoping to bring the score to 2-1. She fails as both sides roll a 1 in that combat.

Turn 6. Oh dear. The Hungarians blow a hole in the Italian line.

In turn 7 Coloman rolls 4 PIPs, the remaining Italian militia spearmen from their main body makes an obvious target. Remaining cautious he keeps his knights in a group with his spearmen rather than sending them off to engage the Italian knights. He engages the other two Italian spearmen with his auxillia and a 2LH. The Hungarian spearmen once again manage to double the Italians, rolling 4+2 vs 2+1, but, fighting desperately the remaining two Italian spearmen force the attacking Hungarian light horse to flee, and the auxillia to recoil. Matilda rolls 4 PIPs and uses them to try to reform a battle line.

Turn 7. Yet another double for the Hungarian spearmen, while the remnants of the Italian militia spearmen finally put up a fight.

In turn 8, Coloman rolls 5 PIPs, and begins to exploit the breach, brushing aside the Italian skirmishers. Matilda rolls 4 PIPs and continues trying to reform her lines.

In turn 9, Coloman rolls 5 PIPs. His knights finally catch up with the Italian knights, with a Light Horse ‘closing the door’. He rolls 2 against the Italian’s 1 – not stellar but enough to win the game. Four prestige points to the Hungarians and Matilda will have to keep her head down for the rest of the turn.

Turn 9. The contadini knights succumb to Coloman's attack.

This isn’t how I thought the Hungarians might win against the Communal Italians. The Italians should have kept in fairly narrow terrain rather than advancing out into the open an extending their line. Their 7Hd don’t make a very good reserve due to their lack of mobility. Next time I’d be tempted to brigade them with the carroccio – because it has such a deep base they can be in rear corner contact which might be interesting.

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2 responses to “The Battle of Zara, 1106 AD

  1. Eek, not a good day to be an Italian in Croatia! Yes, you either consign the hordes to sit on a hill somewhere, or put them in the rear and forget about them.

    Putting them with the carroccio seems a good idea, as the Wwg needs an extra PIP to move, so the 7Hd could move with it without extra cost.

    I wonder if you can put the hordes somewhere that makes them like bait.

    • Yes the horde as bait idea nearly worked for a guy who was using my Assyrians once but I polished them off before the Assyrian HCh could catch me. With the Communal Italians the difficulty would be in springing the trap, due to the preponderance of slow troops. An alternative might be to put them somewhere where the enemy might be tempted to divide his forces by attacking them.

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