The Battle of Cerignola, April 1503

I fought this battle solo as an initial playtest of the Band of Brothers PK supplement (1200-1600). I had already played a number of games with the Napoleonic supplement. It was not expected that this would be an even scenario! Each army had 18 units, for the most part generated as per the PK army lists, with some modifications due to the actual combatants engaged that day. The Spanish commander, Gonzalo de Cordoba, had been awaiting the arrival of the French army under the Duc de Nemours. Gonzalo had his troops widen and deepen a creek which ran across the field, and the earth excavated was used to create a hasty earthworks in the center of the position. Behind the middle of the creek was a low hill with vineyards upon it. The village of Cerignola lay still further back (off the table). Historically, the French were unaware of these preparations. Still the men were tired after a long march on a very hot day, and Nemours wanted to wait until the following day to attack. However, the French captains repeatedly urged him not to delay, and ultimately Nemours relented and ordered the attack. In PK terms, the creek, earthworks (2 feet long on the 6x8 table), and hill were all rated Type II (mildest obstacle etc. type) Terrain. The French added the following extra cards to their TAD deck - 1 Pillage and Loot, 2 Uncontrolled Charge, and 1 undisciplined advance cards. This would make it hard for the French not to press the attack as was done historically. The Spaniards added 1 crushing missilery, 1 Pillage and Loot, 1 ineffective missilery, and 1 Superstitions and Omens card to their TAD deck. The TAD decks otherwise contain Milling Around (wasted impetus) and Courage! (Morale checks for units engaged in combat or within 1 move of Fearsome units). In addition, as Gonzalo was rolled as a poor commander, a command indecision card was also added to their sequence deck, and a card had to be discarded from the sequence deck after the shuffle - in BoB, the sequence deck always has 26 cards. The base Spanish deck had 21 cards, the French 22, so the Spanish had to add in 5 TAD cards each turn and the French 4. As discards for routing units, etc. occur, they will be replaced by more TAD cards!

The forces engaged were as follows:

France (548 pts total)

  • 6 Units Swiss Pikemen, Regulars, Leather Armor, Helmet, "Unique" (+1 to all die types!), Fearsome!, Phalanx formation preferred (40 pts each)
  • 1 Unit skirmish Arquebusiers, Militia, Helmet only (21 pts)
  • 3 Units skirmish Crossbows, Militia, no armor (18 pts)
  • 1 Unit Light Gunnes (Reg) (18 pts)
  • 1 Unit Medium Gunnes (Reg) (24 pts)
  • 2 units Gendarmes, Guard, EHC, Plate, Bard, Lance, "Unique", Fearsome! (48 pts)
  • 1 Unit Mounted "Archers", Regular, HC, Composite Armor, Lance (no bows) (32 pts)
  • 1 Unit Stradiots, Regular, MC, Leather/Shield, Javelins/Mace (21 pts)
  • 1 Unit Mounted Crossbowmen, Militia, LC, Helmet (21 pts)
  • 1 Unit Mounted Arquebusiers, Militia, LC, Helmet (21 pts)

Spain (584 total pts)

  • 2 Units Spanish Pikemen, Regular, Composite armor, must use Battlemass formation (early Spanish pikes were considered decidedly inferior) (40 pts)
  • 2 Units Landsknecht Pikemen, Elite, Leather Armor/Helmet - as they were newly arrived to the army, they are also restricted to battlemass formation. (40 pts)
  • 1 Unit Sword and Bucklermen, Regular, Helm/Composite armor/Shield (28 pts)
  • 1 Unit Skirmish Musketeers, Militia, Helmet only, "Unique" (24 pts)
  • 2 units skirmish Crossbowmen, Militia, Helmet only (21 pts)
  • 4 units MI Arquebusiers, Regular, Leather armor/Helmet, 2 units are rated "Unique" (32 for regulars, 40 for unique)
  • 1 Unit Light Guns, Militia, no armor (18 pts)
  • 1 Unit LC Mounted Crossbowmen, Militia, Helmet only (21 pts)
  • 1 Unit LC Mounted Arquebusiers, Militia, Helmet only (21 pts)
  • 2 Units MC Genitors, Natives, Leather/Helmet/Shield, Javelins and sword. (21 pts)
  • 1 Unit Spanish Knights, Guard, EHC Plate, Bard, Lance, "Unique", Fearsome! (48 pts)
  • 1 Unit Italian Elmeti, Reg, EHC Plate no bard, Lance (36 pts)

Note that any musket or arquebus armed unit that eliminates one or more enemy stands by firepower then receives Fearsome! status.

The deployment rules were followed. The Spanish rolled low and had to adopt an Unbalanced deployment. They stationed all their LC/MC on the right flank along with 1 unit of crossbowmen, and deployed the central element with the gun and 3 of the 4 arquebusier units in the center (mostly behind the earthworks), and the Musketeers and remaining crossbow units in skirmish on their far left flank. Gonzalo took personal command of the 2 lancer units, which were stationed behind the Spanish left center. Because of the lack of a left flank command, the Spanish lost a D8 (rolled a 3) morale chips.

The French adopted a Balanced Deployment, with the Stradiots, HC "Archers", and Mounted Crossbowmen on their left, the Artillery, Swiss Phalanx, and skirmish missile troops in 2 lines in the center, and the Gendarmes, screened by the Mounted arquebusiers on the right. Both sides chose to use a baggage train behind their centers. This adds 1 Morale chip per turn it remains on the field, but there is a loss of D12 MC's if it retreats off the field, and half of your remaining MC's if it's eliminated. Both sides got about the same number of morale chips (23 and 21 -3 = 18 respectively), and no special cards were drawn from the characterization deck.

As a comment, throughout the battle, the French had a decided advantage in impetus rolls, but they didn't roll well in combat - a lot of 1's!!!

As an introduction, this battle report is done in a narrative semi-fictionalized style (shamelessly copied from Ken Baggaley!) that I hope you will find entertaining. When the report mentions that 2 captains, nobles, file leaders, or what have you were killed, in game terms it means that that many stands were lost. I'll interject rules notes into the historian's account when appropriate. And now, for the battle........

The Battle

Although both armies were tired from the hot day, the French captains incessantly complained to their commander, the Duc de Nemours, about their eagerness to come to grips with the impudent Spaniards. Although he preferred to rest his troops and reconnoiter the position overnight, he ultimately gave in to their demands and ordered an all out attack. Gonzalo de Cordoba was pleased to see the French advancing as planned, and he smiled to think of the excellent targets that his crack arquebusiers (the core of his army, really) would have that day. However, he and his troops were somewhat apprehensive about the weakness of his left flank, whence he could see the ferocious French Gendarmes approaching. He began to maneuver both his Lancers towards the left flank to protect his main position on the ridge (ed. note: Due to his deployment roll, Gonzalo was not allowed a left flank command, and the central command is not allowed to contain any cavalry. PK does, however, allow the C-in-C to command a "personal guard" of up to 2 units. The Elmeti and Knights were therefore placed under his command to provide some left flank cavalry.) As the French rumbled forwards, clouds of Ravens flew from the copses of trees that they passed. The Spaniards took this as a favorable omen, and their resolve was considerably stiffened! (ed. : the Omens! card came up, and the Spaniards lucked out with a net gain of 4 morale chips.) The Spanish left flank skirmishers, however, were still nervous about the ever nearer Gendarmes, and fired ineffectively at the covering French light horse who did not deem it worthwhile to reply.

Instead, they became enraged (ed.: an uncontrolled charge card was turned!), and began to ford the stream, eager to disperse the annoying Spaniards. Suffering the loss of 2 of their captains to crossbow bolts, the Mounted Arquebusiers continued across the creek to combat the Spaniards. Their crossbows useless, the Spaniards none the less fought ferociously, while the cavalry horses slipped on the slick banks of the creek. 2 more French captains were killed in the fray (ed. : thereby eliminating the unit from play), and the remnants were finished as an effective force that day. Meanwhile, the French continued to advance, even the French Guns trying to close to effective range (ed: the undisciplined advance card!). The light Spanish artillery pieces continued their ineffective long range fire at the advancing skirmishers.

Next, the Gendarmes advanced and began to ford the stream. The crossbowmen were able to reform and inflict light losses on the advancing French Gentry. The infuriated Gendarmes continued to advance on the Spanish skirmishers, but this time the missile troops made the sensible decision not to try to repeat their feats of valor, and the musketeers and crossbowmen both coolly but rapidly withdrew. (ed. : as the musketeers and xbows were in skirmish, all the EHC can do is push them back UNLESS the skirmishers are disordered or taken in flank.) As Bayard called to his elite cavalry to begin wheeling into the flank of the main Spanish position, the Gendarmes as one surged forward to the attack once again (ed: another uncontrolled charge card!), pursuing their social inferiors with all the intensity of a lord heading to a tryst with a milk maid. The nimble skirmishers again withdrew, but were beginning to think of calling it a day (ed: they were almost to the back edge of the table by now!), when the Spanish knights appeared from behind the ridge. In short order, the two armored juggernaughts were heading for one another, with the Spaniards holding their heavily encumbered horses back from full speed until the last 10 yards. The sound of the impact was heard clear back to the village of Cerignola! The combat swayed to and for indecisively, but ultimately the Spanish burst of speed disordered their French counterparts. (ed: the 2 units had identical stats, and identical modifiers, and rolled a tie. In this situation, there is a list of comparisons to make to determine who gets the edge and disorders their opponents. In this case, the only factor was that the Spanish had initiated the charge!) As the melee continued, the advantage fell increasingly to Gonzalo's troopers, and the French were forced to retreat across the creek, suffering the loss of 2 great nobles.

The French however, still had their second unit of unmarred Gendarmes to discomfit the Spanish left. Meantime, the French Infantry was closing on the creek, and long range crossbow fire laid low the Spanish battery commander. Grandee Diego Garcia de Paredes, commanding the Spanish center, deemed it time to show the French what some really well aimed arquebus fire could do, and released all of his subordinates to fire with deliberate effect. The results were crippling, and the French missile troops all but ceased to exist (ed: fairly short range and very hot dice by the Spanish vs. cold for the French.) A similar fate met the advancing French Stradiots as they reached the creek on the Spanish right.

The French were badly shaken by these events. After all, they had now lost almost 20% of their troops (ed: and all their morale chips! They had to take a nasty army morale check called a Major Morale Check, and failed with their C-in-C), whereas the Spanish losses had been trivial. Several French Units, including the precious Gendarmes, started to head towards their encampment. (ed. : i.e. they failed their individual unit morale checks big time!) Seeing that the day was going against him, Nemours ordered the Compte de Allegre, commanding the center, to call off the attack on the Spanish earthworks. (ed: i.e., in playing the French, I would have called it a day at this point!) By now, the center consisted mostly of the medium guns, and the untouched Swiss Phalanx. The Swiss, receiving the order to withdraw, flatly refused. (ed. : Uncontrolled charge card again!) "Mein Gott, diese schpanisher feuermachers bei uns alle gebraten werden!", bellowed Heinrich Uberfall, bannerbearer of Freiwald. (ed. : translation of pidgin German: By God, we'll make those Spanish fire-makers into a barbecue!) As they had so many times in the past, the indomitable Swiss pikemen surged across the creek and up to the breastworks, their pikes leveled in proper "shishkabob" form. Nothing less than their reputation as the unsurpassed footsoldiers of the world was at stake! "Por Dios!", muttered Don Diego, watching the imposing phalanx sweep forward toward his post with the Spanish second line.

Using clubbed arquebuses, rocks, knives, and a few remaining weak shots, one of the veteran Arquebusier units actually defeated it's portion of the phalanx, 4 Swiss banner bearers perishing as they literally fell like dominos down the slippery embankment. Capitan Brazofuerte fell in the melee on the Spanish side. (ed. : The arquebusiers were at a serious but not overwhelming disadvantage, and their roll tripled or more that of the Swiss. This indicates a Rout, but units in a Phalanx don't rout from melee, but instead the entire unit is eliminated. The defenders also automatically lose a stand "due to the intensity of the combat" in this special circumstance) However, as their frustrated Swiss brethren came up to avenge their neighbors, the arquebusiers had no more miracles to call upon, and were themselves put to rout with the loss of 2 more capitans. The light guns managed to get off a weak blast of nails, pebbles, and other debris, momentarily staggering their opposition (ed. : their melee roll actually exceeded the Swiss, but just by one or 2 pips, and not double or more that of the Swiss, thereby disordering the Swiss, but causing no losses.) But thereafter, there was no denying the inevitable, and the brave cannoniers were skewered to a man! Finally, the remaining Swiss easily put the unloaded arquebusiers to their front to rout. Perhaps the Swiss encyclopedia of victories, dating back a century and a half, would have yet another chapter added to it!

Battle crazed, the Swiss continued on to attack the Spanish second line! The routing arquebusiers were completely dispersed, but the phalanx began to break up into 3 separate units, each pursuing its own battle, instead of fighting as a unified whole (ed.: that uncontrolled charge again!). Without its vital cohesion, the phalanx suddenly started to look more vulnerable. "Madre de Dios, FUEGO!" screamed Don Diego Garcia de Paredes to the sole unit of arquebusiers in the second line as the Swiss charged them. The grim Swiss tried to shake off their losses, but the unnerving effect of the point blank volley and the climb though the vineyards disordered their ranks (ed. : this time the Spanish scored only a few casualties, not enough to remove a stand. However, the Spanish commander played a morale chip to force the Swiss to check morale, and they barely failed, becoming disordered.) In a moment, the proud Swiss were in full retreat back down the slope! The central portion of the phalanx was counter charged by the Spanish sword and bucklermen. As Machiavelli himself was to observe, disordered pikemen are at a serious disadvantage to the nimble swordsmen, who slipped under the pikes and decimated them! The right hand portion of the phalanx fought it's Spanish counterpart to a standstill, but finally decided to retreat with the rest of it's formation as it became clear that the Swiss attack had failed to break the Spaniards. At this point, the remnants of the French skirmishers, who had been sorely harassing Spanish leftmost pikes were finally repulsed by fire from the reaproaching Spanish musketeers, and the French also began to withdraw from the largely inactive Spanish right flank.

All in all, it was a great victory for the Spaniards and their general, henceforth known as "El Gran Capitan".

Because of the scenario, the chances of the French winning were poor, but hey, this was a solo game and a refight of a famous Spanish victory, so that didn't really matter. It was a good thing the Spanish were on the defensive, because they didn't get the impetus very often. The optional uncontrolled charge and undisciplined advance cards gave the French little choice but to attack quickly anyway!

In summary, it was a very fun battle (seldom are PK battles boring unless the impetus rolls go ridiculously one sided) and seemed to give reasonable feel of Renaissance combat. I strongly recommend these rules if this kind of game appeals to you. Competitive gamers probably will NOT like these rules, however! The impetus and sequence deck concepts make them great for solo play also. General designer's notes are posted on the PK website and the PK mailer is a fascinating one to subscribe to for it's discussion of various PK ideas, house rules, battle reports, etc. It can also give you more of an idea of what PK is all about before you shell out any cash (PK is $19.95 for the basic rules plus $19.95 for each supplement covering a particular era). Another good source for Piquet information is the "Official Piquet Gamers" site ( I would also note that the "army lists" also include the sequence deck make up for each historical army. No two of them are the same! The master rules includes morale chips, the "army characterization deck", the PK "impetus clock", and a few other assorted tools. The Supplements each include 2 sequence decks as well as player aid cards and the rules.

Page Last Updated On: 18 Aug 2007