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"Could the French have won Agincourt?" Topic

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Captain Gideon14 Apr 2017 6:36 a.m. PST

I've always pondered this question and I don't really have an answer except that the French should've fought at a different location so could the French have won The Battle of Agincourt?

Also has anyone ever done an Alternate version of this battle?


Garand14 Apr 2017 6:47 a.m. PST

IIRC the French didn't really intend to fight. They thought that with the English cornered, & so vastly outnumbered, King Henry V would come to the negotiating table, make concessions, etc. What essentially happened was that the English forced a battle by harassing the French line with bows until discipline broke down & the French cavalry charged over bad ground. So per my understanding the French leadership quickly lost control of the situation & it snowballed from there. Though I'm sure someone will come along to correct me eventually…


Garand14 Apr 2017 6:53 a.m. PST

But to answer the question, yes I think the French could have won if they fought on better terrain & especially if they charged the English archers while they were re- positioning their battle line…


Winston Smith14 Apr 2017 8:18 a.m. PST

If your rules and scenario requires them to be as dumb as they were originally, then they have a 10% chance, with good die rolls.

Allow them to deploy so as to take advantage of their superior numbers, it's a French win.

Thomas Thomas14 Apr 2017 8:37 a.m. PST

Given the French advantage in numbers its certainly possible they could have won at Agincourt. They lost due to a breakdown in Command Control – caused in large measure by the English arrow storms. As most games don't account for Command Control, the French task on the table top should be much easier than in the real world.

The French plan called for twin flanking attacks by picked mounted (probably the knights with the best barding), a much wider rear raiding force (of lighter lancers/men at arms) and a massed infantry attack in the center. Finally a large force of lighter lancers with a few knights formed a rear battle which was to pursue and destroy the English.

The English too had a plan. They set up in such a manner to channel any flanking attacks and intermixed archers and men-at-arms to break up the French battle line. Needless to say the English plan worked better.

On the day of battle the French were initally content to bottle up the desperate English and force an attack. The English with better CC were able to move forward into archery range (and probably replant their stakes) before the French could react. To make matters worse during the long wait, the French mounted forces seems to have wandered off and dismounted nobles had pushed forward displacing town milita crossbows and pavisers. English arrows provoked a premature mounted charge and then repelled both flanks of the French infantry line. This allowed the English, while holding in the center, to launch attacks on both flanks against the now retreating French. Trapped between the advancing archers and the steady (if hard pressed) men-at-arms and archers in the middle, the French center was crushed (with bodies supposedly piling up in man high heaps). The French rear area raid did succeed and over ran the English camp but too late to turn the tide.

The French essentially lost control of their army. Unable to react to the English advance, the mounted attacking before the foot could organize an advance, the crossbows pushed to the side and unable to reply to English archers and finally the mass of advancing foot broken up by archery and then defeated in detail. All CC failures.

I've been running some solo tests games of Agincourt using A Game of Fire and Ice since I'm about to put out a Old World module covering a Fantasy campaign similar to Warhammer's Old World and a parrallel historical campaign covering the 100 Years War. I'm going to use Agincourt as one of the programed learning battles – so want to find a way to give both sides a chance.

Thomas J. Thomas
Fame and Glory Games

foxweasel14 Apr 2017 11:42 a.m. PST

If they had different commanders and used different tactics of course they could have won, but you could say that about any battle.

chrisminiaturefigs Supporting Member of TMP14 Apr 2017 11:53 a.m. PST

Yes, if they had not been French!

Great War Ace14 Apr 2017 4:40 p.m. PST

Take the battle as it was, not some hypothetical "other field". That wouldn't be "Agincourt".

You have to have the mud. And the fragmented French command of rivals: almost still a civil war breaking out, which it later did, of course.

The English are Homogenous. That counts for a lot. That is probably the single most important difference that decides the battle.

But command isn't everything. The French army had their OB arranged and dispersed among the commanders many days before the battle. So everyone who had a command knew the game play. When the battle started, with, as noted above, the English archers attacking first, it was almost as if the French army went into "non player" mode, with every move prearranged, but carried off badly: about as badly as possible!

The flanking cavalry attacks were launched as per "the plan". But they were puny compared to "the plan's" hundreds on each flank: most of the men at arms had dismounted instead to take station with the first battle of dismounted men at arms. So of course, the cavalry attacks, being very undermanned, were overwhelmed by arrow shot.

It was not in the plan to have riderless horses crashing through their own infantry. Go figure.

The mud was not in the plan either. But it exhausted the French. They could hardly fight. But their formation was so dense that its momentum still nearly broke the thin English line. If you do nothing at all but play the arrow shot into the first battle, it can win sometimes; I'd say about a third to maybe half the time, the French first battle will win when it comes time to melee. When the French win the melee the battle is over but for the shouting: the second battle reinforces victory instead of defeat. And that makes all the difference.

Now, variants, with the same field, the same mud, the same command "structure", if we can grace the French with such!

If you allow a modification to "the plan", you can send all the French crossbow into the woods to flank the English line. Then while that duel is ongoing launch the infantry attack. Don't even bother with the cavalry; that is worse than a forlorn hope.

You can send all the cavalry, instead, to attack the English baggage, flank with the crossbow, and then launch the infantry attack. Try these. You'll see the English win a handful of times, if at all. That's my guesswork………

Captain Gideon15 Apr 2017 6:46 a.m. PST

I'm also asking this question as a gamer and if you were gaming Agincourt out how would you(as the French)set up your forces to fight the English?

I've heard about people gaming Agincourt out with the French winning but I don't know how they did it.

GGouveia03 Feb 2019 8:21 p.m. PST

Even though the English were outnumbered by at least 3 to 1, the narrow frontage meant it was a 1 to 1 in head to head numbers with many of the French being exhausted by the mud and crushed by the French behind them trying to move forward. Mud and impetuous masses doomed the French whereas the English had superior command structure vs a divided French army with no real leader.

Lewisgunner06 Feb 2019 1:21 p.m. PST

Nowadays there is some well researched argument that the French did not outnumber the English 3-1, it mght be as low as 1.5 or 2 to one. Whatever the actual ratio the French disadvantaged themselves by fighting on a narrow frontage where their numbers cannot be brought to bear. Its a puzzle to us as to why mediaeval armies do this, when they have the mobility and many commanders capable of independent leadership why not do more outflanking…though in this case the French needed to fight on a less restricted battlefield
One of the problems medieval armies had was very limited command and controlmand major units that were just not used to working together. Kets remember it is almost impossible for them to coordinate attacks except very simply, for example, delegating out two flanking forces and telling them to go fir it whilst the van moves off with the main battle waiting to see how they do before moving forward. One wonders if these bodies had much sub unit structure and could, for example wheel inwardson the field. Even Romans found this difficult.

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