The Battle of Agincourt 1415 A.D.
Game Designers’ Workshop
Review by David Lent
Agincourt is a beginner wargame that’s part of GDW’s Series 120 Games. The 120 means it has 120 counters and can be played in less than 120 minutes. If you are not familiar with Agincourt, it is a battle in the Hundreds Year War that occurred in 1415 A.D. The English were outnumbered by at least three to one and had very few men-at-arms, but a large number of longbows. The longbows were able to pierce the armored French troops’ armor and the English were victorious. According to Historia Civilis the Battle of Agincourt signaled the rise of projectile weapons and showed that heavy armor wasn’t what it used to be and also signaled the death of the cavalry charge. Be sure to watch Historia Civilis’s excellent video on this battle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDnKciXrmnc
The components for Agincourt are very simple as would be expected for a wargame from 1978. The counters just have a simple picture such as a bow, sword, horse, etc and have the attack factor, defense factor and morale factor printed on them. The map has the forests located on both army’s flanks and the starting location for both sides printed on the map. The French player can choose where to place their units in the starting locations, but the cavalry have to be North of the first rank. This prevents them from being in the front on the wings like in the real battle. The locations designated for the English longbowmen have them on the wings and interspersed in the center. If they stay in their starting positions they have wooden stakes protecting them. What I’ve read puts the longbowmen on the flanks. Perhaps, historians have more evidence available on this battle today than in 1978.
Agincourt is won based on the number of victory points each side has received. If at any time 35 French units have been eliminated it is an automatic English victory. The French automatically win if 25 English units have been eliminated. If by the end of the 16th turn an automatic victory has not occurred, then points are calculated to determine victory. The French get one point for each English unit destroyed and one point for each French unit that is past row xx19. If the total is 25 or greater, the French win. Otherwise, it’s an English victory.
Sequence of Play (English go first):
2) Missile Combat
3) Melee Combat
Movement has some special rules that must be covered. There is no stacking and units may NOT move through any other unit. Regicide units are an exception and can pass through other units though. There is facing in this game and a unit may either move or change facing during the movement phase, but not both. No unit can enter a fully forested hex, but archers can move into partial forest hexes and get cover there.
Missile combat is loads of fun in this game for the English player as would be expected from an Agincourt game. English archers can shoot six hexes, but French archers can only shoot three. In addition, the English archers have a very high attack strength as would be expected. Archers may only shoot through their front hexes and no more than one archer can fire at a specific target
A unit that has not fired in the missile phase can initiate melee combat. Melee is done essentially the same way as ranged combat, but with a few differences. Obviously, your target must be adjacent and in your unit’s front arc. Unlike missile attacks, multiple units can attack a single target in melee. If the target is not destroyed or routed, it may immediately counter-attack. Archers defending with stakes get to double their defense in melee.
The routing rules in Agincourt are a little unusual, so I’ll explain them here. If you are attacking a unit and the combat results table result says the defender must check morale, it must roll its morale or higher to succeed (rolling for morale can get tiresome). If it doesn’t it routes. A routing unit is turned upside-down and moved its full move away from the attacker and will defend at half strength in future attacks. The attacker may advance into the vacated space if he wishes. Here’s where things get weird. If the routing unit has a friendly unit in the way, it doesn’t move away at all and just stays there and flips upside-down. In most other games I’ve played, this would cause the defender to immediately lose a step or in some games displace the other unit. What’s also unusual is that English units ignore a morale result if another English unit is behind them. This is certainly helpful for the English player, but unfair to the French player since they don’t have this ability.
During the rally phase, a morale roll is made for each routed unit. If it succeeds, it turns face up. If it fails, it moves its full movement away from the enemy.
Leaders are used in this game to assist adjacent units in combat and morale. However, it is imperative to protect your leaders. Each leader of yours that is eliminated adds a -1 modifier to your morale checks. If Henry V dies, then no routed English units can rally in the rally phase.
There are two variant rules for this game, which can be used to balance it if you find that one sides keeps winning. The first is the poorly thought out archery variant rule. It states that for each hex of range beyond the adjacent hex, you must subtract one from the die roll. With this combat results table that means that you shoot far more accurately at long range than short range since low rolls are what you want. The other variant rule is French morale. For every 15 French units destroyed, the French player subtracts one from each morale die roll.
Even though I disagree with the setup for this game and questioned a few weird rules, it does feel like you are simulating Agincourt while playing the game. The English archers are genocidal during this game. The French need to move forward fast and engage the English in melee as quickly as they can. Even though the English are weaker in melee, they will stand and fight longer than expected, since they can ignore morale if they have a friendly unit behind them. In addition, the movement rules seem realistic, since it takes three turns for a unit to move forward, turn and charge a flank. In both of the games I played, the English won an automatic victory by destroying 35 French units. They were very close battles though. In one of them, the English completely lost their right flank before winning.
I had a ton of fun playing this game and definitely recommend it, but there is one other area of the game I wish was done differently. The French mounted knights have a one for their defense factor. I guess this is to simulate how they got pummeled by arrows during the real battle and had to deal with charging through mud. However, if they engage an English men-at-arms unit they have practically no defense whatsoever. I feel that it would have been better if there were a mud rule that the French had to deal with when charging and a separate defense factor for when they were attacked in melee than ranged combat. As it is, the mounted knights are the easiest units to destroy on the battlefield.
Buy your own copy here.
View the components in the unboxing video below.