Wednesday, April 19, 2006

More Than Agincourt: Part 1

More than Agincourt: Part 1

I watched Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V last night. Every time I watch the Crispin’s Day address I’m always urged to paint more figures—you know the one:

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”


“Men abed this day shall think themselves accursed upon St. Crispin’s Day!!”

Together with John Keegan’s account of Agincourt in his seminal The Face of Battle, I’ve felt myself propelled toward gaming the Hundred Years War. Agincourt is the battle we usually think of as the critical moment of the HYW, much as we do Waterloo in the Napoleonic era and Gettysburg in the American Civil War. Just as wrongly, of course.

We often remember Agincourt like the Alamo. The good guys (the English) are sick, outnumbered and about to be overwhelmed by hordes of armored Frenchmen. Agincourt, however, has a happier ending with the bad guys (the French) floundering through a morass while arrows rain down in torrents.

The Hundred Years War, fought from 1339-1453 is, of course, much more than Agincourt. It’s even more than the three great English victories-Crecy, Poitiers, and Agincourt, and the intervention of Joan, the Maid of Orleans. Yet, we are often fixed with the image of armored French knights turned into pincushions, followed by lightly armed archers whacking them upside the head with a mallet. We usually also forget that the French are kind of the good guys, fighting to drive off the English invaders, and eventually they won that war—the three great victories notwithstanding. In fact almost everything we’ve come to accept about Hundred Years War is wrong according to the continuing thorough and inquisitive research that continues to publish very interesting writing about this conflict—including the best known battles. I'll follow this writing with several entries regarding the Hundred Years War: 1) The history, focused more on resources than the play by play, 2) the miniatures and rules available, 3) some of the scenarios I’ve hosted over the past couple of years.

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