Saturday 6 January 2024

Battle of Fornovo: Italy 6th July 1495.

 This article is my personal interpretation of this battle. Any mistakes are my own.

In 1494 a French King led his army into Italy. In every way the force he led was his Army. The days of individual Nobles leading their own Retinues of men tied to them by obligatory service were over. This Army consisted of men paid for by the State.

Amongst the troops of this army were also paid mercenaries. The feared Swiss Pikemen owed no loyalty to any state. “ no pay, no Swiss” was their motto. Prior to this invasion, Italy was a cloistered military environment. Each City-State fought their wars against each other using payed troops from their own neighbourhood, along with any mercenaries looking for work.

Each City Council would raise a “Condotta” or contract with an experienced General to raise troops with structured wages. A period or length of employment was set, usually until a campaign was concluded. Battles between States were not fought until the annihilation of one side. Not only would this lead to unemployment for the soldiers ( the Condottierii ), the generals themselves would be out of a job!!.

Therefore each Italian City-State practised limited warfare. Louis the 8th,s invasion changed all that. This invasion ushered in the era of total war, the destroying of an enemy. Louis also bought with him a new weapon. Mobile artillery firing metal projectiles.

As the French army moved down the west coast of the Italian peninsula, walled towns previously thought impregnable, were stormed and taken with the aid of this new weapon. Louis,s target was Naples. The previous incumbent on the throne had died and Louis decided to invoke a vague family connection to justify his actions. After six months of enjoying the environs of the City, common sense started to kick in.

Sage heads amongst Louis’advisors had been trying to warn the King for months about the tenuous position he was in. A long supply line through enemy territory, no capable support from the sea along with rumours of previously unheard of cooperation between the Italian City States.

The Spanish Monarchy were also angered by Louis’ presumption. The Aragonese Royal Family had held sway over Southern Italy and regarded the Province as one of their own!

Finally, in early June Louis and his army started moving north.As the army passed over mountainous terrain dragging the guns and wagons of loot Louis was expecting an attack which didn’t  materialise. After twenty-five days, the French army encamps in and around the village of Fornovo.

While there, Louis hears about an approaching Italian army. The  City-States of Milan and Venice have finally sunk their differences. After days of negotiation, enough agreement has been reached to put together a force large enough to face the invaders. As the French army leaves Fornovo and crosses the Taro heading north, the troops of the Italian army leave their camp and form up on the eastern bank of the river facing west. There are also squadrons of enemy cavalry ahead on the road across the line of march.

Having prepared for any enemy intervention, Louis gives the order and the French army halts and faces east…….

THE FRENCH ARMY: 10,000 = 10pms x 4 = 40 pts.

Advance Guard : 4,200 = 4.2 pts x 4 = 16.8 pts or 17pts r/u.

1 General ( Giangiacomo Trivulzio )    @ 1 point.

500 Men-At-Arms = 1 stand   @ 2pts.

200 Mounted Royal Guard Crossbows = 1 stand  @ 1pt.

300 Infantry Crossbows = 1 stand   @ 1pt.

3,000 Swiss Pikemen = 4 stands @ 3 pts = 12 pts.

( 200 men represented by Trivulzio ).

MAIN BATTLE: 3,250 = 3.250 pts x 4 = 13 pts.

1 General; King Charles 8th of France  @ 1pt.

1 General; Englebert of Cleves  @ 1 pt.

300 Royal Foot Archers = 1 stand  @ 1 pt.

2,000 Infantry Crossbows = 8 stands @ 1pt = 8pts.

500 Men-At-Arms = 1 stand  @ 2pts.

( 450 men represented by Charles and Englebert ).

REARGUARD: 2,500 = 2,500pts x 4 = 10pms.

1 General: Jean De Foix  @ 1pt.

1,800 Crossbow Infantry = 7 stands @ 1pt = 7pts.

500 Men-At-Arms = 1 stand  @ 2pts.

( 200 men represented by Jean De Foix ).


30 Guns each with 50 men = 1,500 gunners = 1.500 pts x 4 = 6pts.

2 stands of Heavy Artillery @ 2pts = 4pts.

2 stands of Light Artillery @ 1pt = 2pts.

THE ITALIAN ARMY ( The Holy League ).14,000 = 14pts x 4 = 56 points.

THE EXTREME RIGHT FLANK ( in front of the French Column ).

1,000 = 1pt x 4 = 4pts.

1 General: Piero Duodo  @ 1pt.

600 Light Stradiot Cavalry = 2 stands @ 1pt = 2pts.

500 Mounted Crossbows = 1 stand @ 1pt

( one point is for the General).

THE CAMP: 3,500 = 3.5pts x 4 = 14pts.

1 General; Carlo of Pian Melleto  @ 1pt.

2,500 Spearmen = 5 stands @ 2pts = 10pts.

300 Light Cavalry Crossbowmen = 1 stand @ 1pt.

500 Infantry Crossbowmen = 2 stands @ 1pt = 2pts.

RIGHT WING : 4,000 = 4pts x 4 = 16pts.

1 General: Gianfrancesco Sanseverino Count of Caiazzo  @ 1pt.

500 Mounted Men-At-Arms = 1 stand @ 2pts.

300 Stradiot Light Cavalry = 1 stand @ 1pt.

500 Crossbow Infantry = 2 stands @ 1pt = 2pts.

2,500 Milanese Infantry Spearmen = 5 stands @ 2pts = 10 points.

CENTRE: 4000 = 4pts x 4 = 16pts.

General Roldolfo Gonzaga @ 1pt.

2,500 Infantry Spearmen = 5 stands @ 2pts = 10pts.

500 Crossbow Infantry = 2 stands @ 1point = 2pts.

300 Light Stradiot Cavalry = 1 stand @ 1pt.

500 mounted Man-At-Arms = 1stand @ 2pts.

LEFT WING: 1,500 = 1.5pts x 4 = 6pts.

1 General: Bernardino Fortebraccio  @ 1pt.

500 Men-At-Arms = 1 stand  @ 2pts.

800 Mounted Crossbows = 3 stands @ 1pt = 3pts.


10 guns each with 50 gunners = 500 gunners = 0.500 x 4 = 2pts.= 2 stands of Light Artillery @ 1pt = 2pts.


I have read two or three articles covering this battle. In each case there is a variance in numbers and composition of each army. Therefore, the above numbers are my personal interpretation, as is the formation of each group. The history is also a bit blurred as the composition of each force.

I’m assuming that the Italian artillery pieces were older guns that fired stone shot. The actual battle lasted about half an hour. It also began raining about halfway through the action which put the guns of both sides out of action.

The Italian Men-At-Arms were  at a disadvantage. The Taro was, normally a shallow creek but recently the rains made the river deeper and faster moving. When the Italian knights charged across the river the horses slipped on the shale.

The French bank of the river was also higher with vegetation which caused further problems. As if that wasn’t enough, the Italian lances were made lighter and shattered on impact. Despite all this the Italians kept attacking..

The Stradiots were light cavalry employed by Venice. The men came from the Balkans and were expert horsemen trained in close-quarter hit and run tactics.

Finally, the mounted crossbows. I must admit that I couldn’t find any information on tactics. My personal thoughts are that;

* They were mounted Infantry.

* The crossbows could only be fired while the horse is stationary or while the rider is dismounted..

* These men were not true cavalry. Therefore they could only attack infantry that were not organized in any formation.

* Usually the Infantry crossbowmen carried a large squarish shield called a Pavise. These could be carried on the back with two shoulder straps. This was to allow the crossbow man to be covered when he turned his back on the enemy to reload the bow.

The loading procedure was to place a foot in the stirrup at the front of the bow. A hook fixed to a waist belt was placed on the bowstring to pull the string back as the man stood upright. More powerful bows needed a cranking mechanism which was also suspended by a waist belt.

I have found no mention of the pavise or wether they were carried. With both sides expecting battle I’m assuming they were. Therefore, all crossbow infantry deduct 1pt from their Firing die when firing at enemy Infantry crossbowmen.

Roldolfo Gonzaga was the norminal Commander of the Italian army. The idea was that he would bring forward reinforcements during the battle. However he was fatally wounded which caused some confusion within the Italian ranks and the Reserve never left the camp.


* This is one mechanism that I use for setting historical precedence. The points total for each army is halved. That number is the morale total of each army. However the numbers are SWOPPED OVER.


The French army has 28 points,  The Italian army 20 points.

As stands are removed from play, the points of the individual stands are removed from the Morale total. The first side to reach zero looses the battle.

* The French army retains the Initiative Point for the entire battle. The French army also wins any ties.

* Any stands entering the River Taro must stop on that Game-Turn.

* Troops fighting while in a river deduct 2pts from their combat die. A further 1pt is deducted from any stand fighting Up the bank toward the French side.

* Cavalry do not get the 3pts extra when attacking infantry in a river.

* The Mounted Crossbows are not true Cavalry. These stands do not get the three points for attacking Infantry in the open.

* The Spearmen and Pike must move through the face of a square. Not a diagonal. The same rule applies to the Mounted Knights

* The Spearmen are treated as normal infantry. They are not Pikemen.

* The Infantry Crossbows, Mounted Crossbows and Light Cavalry can move in any direction.

* The Cannon can only fire for the first four Game-Turns, ( due to the rain). The cannon do not move. Apparently, the French left their Cannon behind after the battle.

* The brown hills are mountainous areas. Stands cannot move into this terrain.

* The Italian army moves first on the first Game-Turn. The battle will be played for either 8 Game-Turns or, until one side reaches zero Morale Points within the 8 Game-Turn timeframe.


In the historical battle Mellita’s men never left the camp. The Italian General. Gonzaga held them in reserve ready to call them forward. Gonzaga was fatally wounded so the order never came.

If the players wish to include the stands in the camp, the Italian Player rolls a 12 sided die at the beginning of each Game-Turn, from Game-Turn 2 onwards. A score of 12 is required for the stands to be moved.

* The winner of the battle will be the side that still has morale points left and/or lost the least number of stands.


The battle was played out on a 3 foot ( 90cm x 2 foot ( 60cm) cloth with 2 inch ( 50mm squares) drawn on).

The hills were made from foamboard with a cardboard covering in green and brown cardboard. The roads and river are made from thin cardboard..

The figures are from The Wars of the Roses, a book by Peter Dennis. I had the illustrations printed in A5. I then cut them out and used a Pritt stick to glue the illustrations to foamboard.

The foamboard was glued to picture-framing cardboard using PVA glue. I also went on Peter Dennis’s “Paperboys” website and purchased the Renaissance French along with the Imperial Spanish Army.

The cannon were scratchbuilt using plastic tubing, cardboard, cocktail sticks and shirt buttons. 

The wagons were also scratchbuilt in the same manner. The waggons move at the infantry pace of two squares.

No comments:

Post a Comment