LOW COUNTRIES (1297-1478 AD)
|3Kn or 4Pk (Gen)||Urban nobles or rich burghers and guild leaders, as well as the city leadership. Mounted, these could also be used to represent the Count's personal retinue.|
|3Kn or 4Pk||The Flemish elite, either representing the Count's retinue of knights in a feudal army, or a unit of urban nobles/rich burghers in a city army. Alternatively, this element may be fielded as ordinary pike.|
|4Pk||The Flemish rank and file. Better equipped pikemen would probably have been placed in front to give the line additional hitting power.|
|3/4Bd||This could be used to represent dismounted nobles and burghers, or their retinue armed with swords and shields and halberds. Alternatively, it could also be used to represent those common foot soldiers who wielded the goedendag, a distinctively Flemish weapon resembling an extra long, lead-weighted baseball bat with a spike on the end. See the illustrations below.|
|4Cb||City missile troops. Used to defend the town during sieges and also to provide long-range firepower for the vulnerable infantry when on the move or otherwise exposed.|
|2Ps||At the beginning of this list, this would be useful for representing slingers and skirmishing archers. Later in the list the psiloi element could also be represented with hand gunners in the Swiss style. Alternatively, the psiloi could also be used to represent skirmishing light infantry and bucklermen being used as screeners for the pikes.|
|5Wb||The inclusion of a Wb element in this otherwise very ordinary medieval army is something of a mystery. Perhaps this represents the poorly-armed but enthusiastic urban levy, a sort of city equivalent to feudal peasants. However, considering the fact that cities still had a heavy agricultural population living within their walls and farming outside the city, this could represent peasantry from the surrounding areas. Alternatively, this might be used to represent a "mixed" weapons company of recently raised urban militia with minimal training and no real experience of group tactics. It could also be used in city armies to represent the more fanatical wing of the various peasant uprisings of the mid and late 15th century. The possibilities are endless!|
|Art||Any number of guns could be used to represent this, however it should be remembered that Flemish armies rarely ventured too far from home and were often engaged in sieges. Let this guide your decision.|
With regards to the actual army lists, they are as follows:
(a) 1297-1329: 1x 3Kn or 4Pk (Gen), 1x 3Kn or 4Pk, 1x 4Cb, 6x 4Pk, 1x 3Bd or 4Pk, 1x 3Bd, 1x 2Ps
(b) 1330-1411: 1x 3Kn or 4Pk (Gen), 1x 3Kn or 4Pk, 1x 4Cb, 5x 4Pk, 1x 3Bd, 1x5Wb, 1x 2Ps, 1x 4Pk or Art
(c) 1411-1478: 1x 3Kn or 4Pk (Gen), 1x 3Kn or 4Pk, 1x 4Cb, 6x 4Pk, 1x 4Bd or 4Pk, 1x 2Ps, 1x 4Pk or Art
Kn vs. Bd. French Cavalry pressing home their charge in this early 14th century manuscript. In evidence are the famous goedendag polearm, a billhook, a curved-style falchion sword, and what appear to be defensive works at the feet of the Flemings. Note the relative uniformity of the equipment and the surprisingly well-armored militiamen.
A carving of the Flemish battle line before engagement. Note again the falchion swords and the ubiquitous goedendag. Also note the banners attached to various spearheads, no doubt representing a particular part of the city of guild allegiance.
Unlike the majority of medieval armies, guild armies such as those of the Low Countries would actually display a fair amount of uniformity. Soldiers were provided with the bulk of their equipment out of guild stores and often guilds were associated with a particular color or banner. As such, painting can be relatively quick and easy. Banners were often guild banners and could display various items associated with the profession: shears for the wool weavers, hammers for the carpenters and the like (note the red banner with the saws or combs in the image at right).
While the noble followers or leaders in the armies and their household retainers would probably have displayed their coats of arms proudly, the bulk of the army would have been either in their civilian clothing or in guild-issued equipment in a predominant color. The arms of the count of Flanders were a black lion rampant on a gold background, often shown with a red tongue and claws (see below).
In order to ascertain the tactics of any army, it is first essential to understand the “flavor” of the forces at your disposal. With this in mind, let us examine the armies of the Low Countries in DBA. First and foremost, the Low Countries are a pike army. The various army lists, while customizable, can be made to be very pike heavy, with an absolute minimum of 5 pike elements in the (b) list to a whopping 10 in the (c) list. With nearly half of your army representing pikemen, this should guide your tactical thinking. Their virtual absence of cavalry with the exception of 2 option knight elements (one of which is the general), combined with only 1 psiloi unit per army list means that this is not an army which will excel in bad going or will be able to chase your opponents around the field.
In an ideal situation, you enemy either comes to you and engages you while you are in tight formation, or you manage to reach and pin your enemy while in tight formation and destroy them in short order. In a nightmare scenario, you find yourself chasing your enemy all over the battlefield while he happily stays out of your way and blasts you with artillery. As your army begins to take casualties, you cohesion breaks up, your units get split up, and his cavalry mops up your pike elements one at a time.
Ideally, the army should be used in a turtle-like manner, relying on mutually-supporting blocks of pike with blade-protected flanks and using the knights as a mobile reserve. Advance against your opponent and get to grips with them quickly, or hold your position and let them come to you. In either case, you must not allow your pike formation(s) to be broken up. Getting flanked or outmaneuvered by your enemy’s light cavalry is a continual risk. However, if your flanks are properly protected and with a little luck, you should be in good shape. Pikes in double ranks are hand-to-hand monsters with +6 against foot and +7 against mounted, and a pike element supported in the rear with another element overlapping its enemy on the flank is nigh unbeatable. Don’t get too cocky though, knights are still beasts against foot and in a one-on-one encounter between single elements, Knights and Pikes will go even against each other, with the exception that Knights will only recoil from being beaten by pikes, while pikes will be destroyed.
The good news in all of this is that as a 0 aggression army with arable terrain, you should be able to use the board to your advantage. Doing this is essential to your victory, especially against knight and horse-heavy armies which will otherwise ride circles around you. As a BUA is one of your choices for required terrain, you are well advised to use this to your advantage and elect not to place a camp on the map. This will deprive your enemy of a quick-kill victory against your camp and will force him to assault your BUA, a prospect rightly feared by wise commanders.
As a relatively local army, you may want to work in a town or road into your camp, but this need not be the case. Due to the nature of their relatively slow-moving and static army, the Flemings tended to favor defensive works and used them extensively, building fortresses out of wagons, digging artificial ditches, seeking out and using high ground, and planting stakes. In fact the majority of battles fought between the Flemings and the French in the 14th century revolved around the Flemings holding onto a defensible position and waiting for the enemy to attack them. At Courtrai, it worked and the French cavalry became tangled during its uphill charge and was butchered by the Flemish infantry. At Mons-en-Pevele, it did not, with the Flemings leaving their prepared positions and being caught in the open by heavy French cavalry. As such, a camp featuring wagons, stakes, fascines, pits and the like is entirely appropriate. Feel free to add in well-armed figures and dead bodies impaled on stakes as necessary.
The Arms of the Count of Flanders
Medieval miniatures are relatively easy to find and most generic western European types will do. While militias did tend to be well-equipped by medieval standards, it should be remembered that the guild paid for their equipment and as such it was expected to last a while. As such, the evolution or amour being worn by the bulk of Flemish forces would probably lag 25 to 50 years behind what would be considered the cutting edge at the time. Maille hauberks and padded aketons would be worn alone well into the 14th century, and helmets would be almost invariably of the domed variety without a nasal although the occasional nasal in early armies would not be out of place for archers and the like. In addition, kettle hats would be worn as well.
The only real challenge to this army in terms of modeling is in piecing together an accurate early pike block. While there are many ranges with 15th century pikemen, very few companies exist with early 14th and 13th century pikemen. Perhaps the best thing to do under these circumstances is acquire regular spearmen and modify their pikes. However, if you can find Lowland Scots armies for Scottish War of Independence/Robert the Bruce type infantry, these are idea for earlier Low Countries pikemen.
In my mind, of all the figures I have seen in 15mm, the best ranges for Low Countries armies is Black Hat/ Gladiator miniatures. Not only do they have a number of useful pike ranges, they actually have a pack of men armed with the goedendag (Med 40- Low Country Guildsmen)! Great stuff. Essex has some solid Low Countries army packs in 15mm, however I would strongly recommend ditching their Bd character and replacing it with something more appropriate (the flailman with the pavise, while fine for Eastern Europe, it totally out for 14th century Flanders). For 15th century armies, Peter Pig’s “Bloody Barons” range is good, as is Corvus Belli’s 100 Years’ War range, although their lack of pike figures means conversion work. Feudal Castings has a nice Lowland Scots range which are entirely appropriate for Flemish pike.
In the Perry Brother’s 100 Years’ War range is good, as is Wargames Foundry’s Swiss range for generic pikemen in the mid 15th century.
Some recommended titles include:
"Infantry Warfare in the Early 14th Century" Kelly Devries. 1996. Reprint edition 1998. Univ. of Rochester Pr. ISBN: 0851155715
“Urban Life in the Middle Ages: 1000-1450” Keith D. Lilley. 2002. Palgrave MacMillan. ISBN: 0333712498
The Lion of Flanders. Hendrick Conscience. 1885. Reprint edition 2003. Fredonia Books. ISBN: 1410103927
Mark Baker's Low Countries DBA army is on display as a Fanaticus gallery.
Thanks to Marc Lauterbach for preparing this essay.
Comments, questions or suggested additions
Send to Chris Brantley, IamFanaticus@gmail.com.
Last Updated: 18 Dec. 2006