Home Forums Medieval [Argad AAR] Ferry Cross the Loire

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    A game we played last Saturday. There were three players and a GM.

    The events happen in 469 AD in western Gaul, on the river Loire somewhere between Portus Namnetum (Nantes) et Andecavis (Angers).

    The Western Roman Empire is near its end and now only rules a small part of Italy (with its capital Ravenne) and north-western Gaul. Other parts of Gaul are now ruled by Germanic tribes (Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Burgundians, Alamans, Franks). Armorica is almost abandoned, still populated by sub-Roman Gauls and almost isolated Roman garrisons of foreign origins, but also receiving immigration from sub-Roman Britannia, and under Saxons threats.

    The map below shows the overall situation in this period:

    Euric, new Visigothic king of Aquitaine and Hispania, is thinking about expanding north of the river Loire, but is more urgently dealing with some Gallo-roman opposition inside his kingdom. To help these pockets of resistance the Roman emperor Anthemius organises a great army of sub-Roman Gauls, sub-Roman British, and Franks, to attack Euric in Visigoth territory. A sub-Roman British army crosses the Channel with the intention to join the Franks of Childeric at Avaricum (Bourges). However the Visigoths stop and defeat them at Deols. The sub-Roman British survivors retreat hastily…

    Player characters:

    Fritigern, the Visigoth

    Fritigern is in hot pursuit of scattered groups of British or Bretons who escaped after the battle at Deols.

    His king, Euric, told him that these foes must not cross the Loire, if they do so they could join other enemy forces. He ordered Fritigern to stop them if possible, and to bring them south to slavery or to take their heads if they are reluctant to this reconversion. The king would also be very happy if Fritigern could take control of crossing facilities on the river.

    Connogan, the sub-Roman British

    A young nobleman from the south of Britannia, Connogan joined the forces of Riothamus with his cousin Meriadec, with the idea to gain lands in Armorica or elsewhere as other sub-Roman British warriors have already been doing since some generations. Crossing the sea has not been easy and the ship of Meriadec was missing. Then Riothamus’ army walked south of the river Loire but was routed by the Wisigoths. Trying to save their life, small groups of defeated warriors head north-west to Armorica with the intention to stay there or, if things get worse, to go back home on their ships.

    On this nice morning, Connogan and his followers reach the banks of the Loire. The other side of the river still is Gallo-Roman territory where they could reorganise and wait for any news of cousin Meriadec.

    Lady Marcia, the sub-Roman Gaul
    A female character background for a female player.

    A young woman of the aristocracy, she was married three years ago (without asking her advice) to an older man who rules this village. It is an important position on the river because of the ferry on a commercial road (from northern Gaul, to Aquitaine which now is under Visigothic rule).

    Marcia’s husband does not take much care of his domain, he prefers to spend his time hunting, drinking, and chasing maids. In fact Marcia herself has been more and more in charge of affairs, her energy and will are appreciated by the population. She also secretly learns to wield weapons with a handsome young officer.

    A short time ago her husband was ordered to take part in an expedition south of the river. He took half his forces with him, letting the other half and the young officer in the village. There is also a small cavalry unit of Equites Taifali who have Germanic origins, Marcia does not trust them entirely if things get bad.

    The village on the northern bank of the river Loire (view from the west). The large wooden pillar between two houses near the bank holds the ferry rope.

    Same village, view from the north:

    The southern bank and the small fortification protecting the ferry crossing on this side:

    A close view of the ferry:

    The river Loire appears narrow enough on the gaming table (it would have taken too much room at real scale!) but we imagine it is much wider.


    Connogan and his small troop enter table, coming from the south. His infantry runs as fast as possible towards the ferry, with himself and his cavalry on the flank.
    (pic taken when installing troops just before the game began – the two mounted archers on the pic were replaced by mounted spears.

    Fritigern and his Visigoths have entered table from the south-east a short time later. The sub-Roman British infantry reaches the gate of the small fort…

    …While the cavalry takes position on a low hill to face their pursuers. The two enemy chiefs are near enough to have a short talk. Fritigern suggests that the British warriors should lay down their arms and follow him south, to Aquitaine where rich local landowners who pledged allegiance to the Visigothic king need more unpaid workforce on their fields; they would be well treated and well fed. He also says that it is a very ancient and honourable custom, called “Vvvoofynn” in Visigothic language, but that’s not true. Connogan does not agree.

    The sub-Roman British infantry officer shouts and calls to open the gate, but the monks and armed servants inside would not open to any armed troop without orders from the Lady in the village on the northern bank. As soon as they have seen all these soldiers coming they have lit a fire to alert the village and also other garrisons along the river.

    Panic spreads in the village. And two sub-Roman Gaul messengers have just arrived, they want to talk urgently to Lady Marcia. They tell her that her husband has been killed in battle after a glorious fight. They also bring a message from Count Paulus (a superior authority) telling Marcia not to let any armed troop come from the south and that reinforcements will soon arrive.

    Marcia puts on a chainmail and tells her few soldiers to get ready for a fight if necessary.


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    Visigothic warriors on foot begin to make encircling moves, while the infuriated sub-Roman British warriors shout to ask the monks and servants to open the gate… without any effect. They dare not break the gate by force, they know that sub-Roman Gauls on the other bank would probably turn against them if they do that. However the ferry guards slightly open the gates to let some merchants out, they accept to let a British officer enter, he will cross the river to talk to Lady Marcia.

    In despair, the sub-Roman British infantry advances south to gain some space and avoid being squeezed against the fort. Four bold Visigothic slingers and spearmen, who for some reason had separated from their main infantry group, will soon be caught in the open by enemy cavalry. Um, poor unfortunate victims of my usual clever tactical ideas again… I was playing Visigoth.

    And two javelinmen who were behind them retreat in haste, just in time. The merchants coming from the north (two Moors accompanied by two Germanic-looking guards) can also be seen coming out the little fort, they have just crossed the river on the ferry. They are friendly with everyone and are not asked questions.

    In fact these merchants have links with a small party of Franks (still hidden) and tell the Visigothic infantry chief that Frankish warriors are willing to attack the village from the north-east if the Visigoths would let them keep it. The Visigothic officer does not hesitate (although his king is at war with other Franks) that would be a good diversion and he knows that his own side is not able to take the village now. The merchants lit a fire… obviously a signal! The British don’t know what it means but understand that the merchants lied, they are furious and advance their infantry, in shield wall, towards the main Visigothic infantry unit.

    Three British cavalrymen who just eliminated the Visigothic slingers thinks it would be a good idea to charge this unit from behind at the same time…

    …but are very unlucky! All three fall, hit by javelins or impaling themselves on infantry spears.

    Meanwhile, the British officer who crossed the river has met Lady Marcia and explained who they are, asking for help. Marcia decides to cross the river with most of her soldiers (but not many) and leaves the Taifali to protect the village.

    Cavalry movements! Tired of waiting, the Visigothic cavalry decides to bypass the hill, but their opponents on the hill threaten to charge them (down the path) when they pass. To avoid this, only three Visigothic cavalrymen ride west (bottom of the next picture), the others stay in reserve (right of pic) hesitating to attack the hill. Simultaneously, the sub-Roman British group also separates, three of them ride down the hill (left of pic) and three others stay on top.

    Soon afterwards all these groups clash, on the plain and on the hill. Four Wisigothic archers also walk uphill.


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    In the plain the foot soldiers are still busy to kill each other. At first the Visigoths seem to gain the advantage over the British shield wall, but not for long.

    Lady Marcia’s soldiers (with a sun on their shield) have reached the left bank, they are not many of them but they take position on the battlements and exchange arrows with Visigothic archers.

    Connogan and the last of his mounted warriors are now fighting Fritigern and four mounted Visigoths! A desperate situation for Connogan who tries to retreat but he still has hope, he manages to kill one of his foes… Then, uncredibly it lasts for a while (three game turns with very low die rolls for everyone and no casualty on either side!)

    On the other bank of the river, a small Frankish party appears on the hill behind the village. The village is not well defended on this side (Marcia’s husband was really incompetent)… …but they lack missile weapons, their throwing axes do not have enough range, and the Taifali cavalry below are menacing.

    Two ships appear on the river! It’s Connogan’s cousin, Meriadec, who had been delayed by bad weather when crossing the Channel. He arrives when the skirmish is nearly over.

    He disembarks with a small group of soldiers from his first boat. The three survivors of Connogan’s infantry join them (and their player takes control of Meriadec).

    But it’s too late to help Connogan, who now is alone, wounded, and surrounded by four enemies. He surrenders.

    Two remaining Visigothic archers, who were still shooting arrows towards the fort, run away and join Fritigern and his cavalry who will leave the battlefield with their prisoner.

    Another ship in sight, this time coming from the east. It carries a few soldiers sent to Marcia by Count Paulus (a superior authority) and the body of her husband. She understands that he had not been in any skirmish at all, and soldiers tell her that he died of a heart attack in a brothel in Avaricum.

    This means Marcia is now fully in charge of the village. On the hill, the small Frankish group sees that she receives reinforcements, and that the Visigoths have defeated Connogan but will not try to cross the river; they decide to go away.


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