Friday, December 18, 2020

Simple Mercenary Mix Experiments: The Battle of Crecy

Last post, I concluded that compressing mercenaries down to just one type was infeasible, but was thinking about going down to 2-4 units by culture, and then making those the only units available in markets of that culture.  If you preserve the total wages of mercenaries available per month, this will mean that more of each of those types will be available every month, so you can build up useful whole units much more quickly than under ACKS' defaults where every market has tiny numbers of every type of mercenary.  The tradeoff is that you lose that variety, so you may not be able to build certain unit compositions depending on where you're recruiting.
The English and French seemed like a fine place to start.  My aim here is less to build a super-high fidelity model of French and English army compositions and more to experiment with techniques for building these sort of cut-down unit mixes and figuring out their availability.

I don't know if the army compositions at the Battle of Crecy were representative but they seemed like a fine starting point.  I like that there's some vagueness to them.

The English had a ratio of somewhere around 2 men-at-arms (heavy cavalry, fighting dismounted in this case - although notably chain barding was not used, which would lower the unit AC to 5) to 4 longbowmen (longbowmen A) to 3 hobelar light cavalrymen (light cavalry C) to 3 spearmen.  Not clear from wikipedia how the spearmen were armed or armored; I'm inclined to go with light infantry B or E, though I did see some things while googling that suggested the Anglo-Gascon armies had Irish kerns with javelins.  I think Light Infantry E has the encumbrance to carry 3 javelins but that would increase their BR and wages up to 9gp/mo, so let's not do that.  I like that Light Infantry E is Formed even though it's lightly-armored; it makes sense in an army where so much of the infantry is longbowmen that you'd want the rest to be Formed, for some backbone.

The total wages of one of these "to ratio" blocks of 2 heavy cav, 4 longbowmen, 3 light cav, and 3 spearmen is a nice round 300gp/mo.  120gp/mo in heavy cav, 72 gp/mo in longbowmen, 90 gp/mo in light cav, and 18gp/mo in spearmen.  That's cavalry-heavier than ACKS' baseline assumptions, where about half of expected wages are cavalry (here it's more like 2/3).  It probably makes sense to make spearmen more available than these ratios would indicate, and they're so cheap that it barely changes anything to do so.  It also makes sense that the poor melee infantry would have suffered the greatest attrition and desertion during the campaign leading up to Crecy.  Finally, if the men-at-arms are AC5 instead of 6 due to lack of barding, that drops their wages down closer to 50gp, and we can get back to 300 by adding about three spearmen.  It's probably even more reasonable to go up to something like 8-12 spearmen, which would then give each of the four classes closer-to-equal shares of the wages pie (100gp for men-at-arms, 90 for the hobilars, 72 for the longbowmen, 72 for 12 spearmen)

So let's take 2 mounted men-at-arms, 3 hobilars, 4 longbowmen, and 12 spearmen as our ratio.  Total wages for one of these "blocks" is 334gp/mo.
We should expect to be able to hire about a third of one "block" of 2 knights, 3 hobilars, 4 longbowmen, and 12 spearmen per month in class VI, just shy of a whole block per month in class V, just shy of two whole blocks per month in class IV, six blocks per month in III, 12 per month in class II, and like 40 per month in class I.

If you work this all out, you end up with these raw counts of mercenaries available per month:


I should really figure out how to translate these into dice, but picking rolls that have the right expected value is sort of annoying, and these go higher than any of the mercs in stock ACKS, so I can't just crib those.
If you turn those raw numbers into squads, platoons, and companies like in Simplified Mercenaries, you get these:

Men-at-arms25 per month7 per month3 per month1 per month2 months6 months
Hobilars38 per month10 per month5 per month1 per month2 months4 months
Longbowmen25 per month7 per month3 per month1 per month2 months6 months
Spearmen77 per month21 per month11 per month3 per month1 per month2 months

Men-at-arms5 per month1 per month2 months5 months10 months26 months
Hobilars7 per month2 per month1 per month3 months7 months18 months
Longbowmen5 per month1 per month2 months5 months10 months26 months
Spearmen15 per month4 per month2 per month2 months4 months9 months

Men-at-arms1 per month3 months6 months18 months37 months103 months
Hobilars1 per month2 months4 months12 months25 months69 months
Longbowmen1 per month3 months6 months18 months37 months103 months
Spearmen3 per month1 per month2 months6 months13 months35 months

I think these results are OK.  Whole units are available about two to three times as quickly as they were under Simplified Mercenaries, and you also have fewer unit types to manage.  It also adds an additional reason to travel for mercenaries; rather than it just being about hitting big markets to get large volumes of troops, you might want to travel to get access to a different mix of troops.

Speaking of which, the French.

Again, estimates are sketchy, but let's work with 8000 men-at-arms, 6000 crossbowmen, and 14000 spearmen as our estimate of the army at Crecy.  This works out to 4 men-at-arms, 3 crossbowmen, and 7 spearmen as our "block", with total wages of 296 gp/mo, the vast bulk of which is the cavalry.  Let's bump spearmen up again to 12 per block.

There's only one type of crossbowman in Domains at War, and unfortunately he doesn't have a pavise.  Oh well.  Let's stick with the AC5, 50gp/mo men-at-arms and light infantry E for the spears (same as the English).

Raw counts:

Every french village has a knight!  I like it!  It's a little silly that you can find crossbowmen out in the sticks (they were actually Genoese) but I'm not going to worry about rural vs urban units yet.  Or maybe ever.

Men-at-arms52 per month14 per month7 per month2 per month1 per month3 months
Crossbowmen19 per month5 per month2 per month2 months3 months7 months
Spearmen79 per month21 per month11 per month3 per month1 per month2 months

Men-at-arms10 per month2 per month1 per month3 months5 months13 months
Crossbowmen3 per month1 per month2 months6 months12 months34 months
Spearmen15 per month4 per month2 per month2 months3 months9 months

Men-at-arms2 per month2 months3 months9 months18 months50 months
Crossbowmen2 months4 months8 months23 months48 months134 months
Spearmen3 per month1 per month2 months6 months12 months34 months

So the French can raise knights about twice as quickly as the English, but have no light cavalry and much weaker archery.

So now that I have tech in place to make generating market availability for subsets like this easy, the question seems mostly like "how do you pick reasonable ratios"?  Both of these army compositions definitely deviate from the guidelines in Domains at War: Campaigns that you should really only have 10 heavy cavalry per 120 recruits, but I think I'm OK with that.  This isn't "we raised all the fighting-age men and trained them"; this is "among professional fighting men of a given culture, what fraction have what fighting styles and equipment?"  So if you weren't going to qualify as heavy cavalry in Late Medieval France, you were probably just not going to be a professional soldier.


  1. Seems reasonable, and I don't think the imbalance towards heavy cavalry in a field army is a killer. You want as many of your most effective fighters out there as possible. You hire the excess spearmen to need up the garrisons of your towns and castles.