You have got to have some knights. Only two hours to kill your opponent, so you have got to do it quick, and nothing does it quicker than knights.
But wait, only 200 points! Those fancy regulars are starting to look overly expensive. Irregular KnF kill just as well and leave some army points for a bit of foot. Maybe they are hard to control, but at 200 points, one only gets five or six, and that’s much easier to keep together than a dozen at 400, especially when one is getting just as many PiPs.
So iKnF are in. What do they fear? Spears. (Fast knights don’t like being shot at by bows either.) So something that will do for both spears and bows makes an ideal compliment. Step forward the blades. Now, can I find an army list with both iKnF and Bd?
There are a few, but not many. Romans have them, but not really enough of the knights and those legionnaries are a tad expensive, plus one has to fit in all the compulsory auxilia and stuff as well. Paying for knights and starting some dismounted is another option, but then it would be better to save on army points and go Roman. What else?
When one’s choice is essentially restricted to Books 2 and 3, that means not really much else at all. In Book 3 in particular, it’s either lots of blades or a spear-knight mix. At least that’s what I thought until I started working through some sub-lists and Duke William put his head above the parapet at the end of the Norman list.
A core of milites (iKnF) but with more than half starting dismounted as iBdO, and more importantly, costing only the iBdO price rather than full knight price. Plus the Duke thoughtfully brought along a Breton sub-general with some cavalry (to which some bow were added) rounding out the army with a flank guard. What joy.
First up, Wayne with his Navarrese Company. Regular knights, spear, bows and auxiliary S all mixed up along the line. What a pain. But then Wayne’s central command decided not to participate, so at least I didn’t have to worry about them charging forward. His other ally ran away behind a wood leaving me to either charge his C-in-C and activate the central command, or come up with a plan B. Bah humbug. I went for plan B and sent the Bretons around the BUA anchoring the Navarrese line. This forced Wayne to use PiPs to put troops out so as to stop the Bretons marching into his rear, but he still got plenty to burn on the unreliable ally. When the other ally completed their tour des bois, the KnF engaged them with mixed results. The Bretons, though, dispatched the flank guards and got two ready to attack the enemy’s rear, but not before the unreliable ally had decided to join the fray. Bah humbug. Then time was called. 13-12 to the Duke. Bah humbug.
Second, Chris and his Islamic Berber. Lots of spear, so a day out for the blades, and they really enjoyed themselves. Most irritating part of the battle was a wood in my deployment zone that prevented the Bretons getting swiftly around the Berbers’ flank. The covering Berber light horse may not have actually engaged but their sheer presence meant the Breton general had to take care and surely saved the Berbers’ bacon (or perhaps that should be lamb chops). Most entertaining part of the engagement: Chris getting confused over what kind of ‘i' the spear in his second command were – irregular or inferior – when it really didn’t matter against the blades. Result: 15-10, Chris saved by the bell. Bah humbug.
Third game was against Brian and his Khazars with a matching iKnF command, but the rest were all cavalry and light horse. Thus, the Duke knew he wanted some rough terrain for his foot to combat the enemy’s maneuverability, but as invader, the only such terrain available was boggy flats and one came out on the centre line a short distance from one flank. Brian, needless to say, just took a BUA to stick his baggage in and nothing else. Time of day had a major impact, the Duke rolling 6 to Brian’s 2, so the Normans deployed first. In the mud. And the mud made the boggy flats difficult going. What a pain. The Normans hunkered down with the blade one side of the flat, the Bretons on the other and the knights well to the rear. The Khazars sent one lot of cavalry around the flat with their knights a bit back in support while the rest of their cavalry and light horse zigzagged just out of reach of the blade line. The Khazars charged the Bretons; the Bretons counter-charged to greater effect. The Khazars charged with with two rCvS generals. The Bretons survived then wiped out the Khazar generals. The Khazar knights were dumb struck then fled after losing one of their number to the marauding Bretons. (Lots of bah humbug from the Khazar side of the table.) 25-0 to the Duke.
Finally, Nash and his Southern Dynasties Chinese, and for the first time on the day, the Duke did not invade. Bah humbug. The Norman deployment centred on a BUA, blade mostly along the edge, Bretons to the side, knights to the rear and baggage in the middle. The Chinese had six warband, and deploying second, were able to get them lined up to attack the blade. As they advanced, they held the blade like deer caught in headlamps then just chopped their way through. (In retrospect, the blade would have done better deploying further back inside the BUA, able to charge out. They did everything wrong. Bah humbug.) But it was not all bad news. The trusty Bretons got overlaps on advancing Chinese knights and dispatched two to the ‘F’ factor, demoralising that command. And before fleeing, the blade did enough to demoralise the warband command, leaving both sides perilously close to defeat when the bell rang. 11-14 down on this battle, but 64 overall and enough to win the competition. Ya hay! Duke William is indeed William the Conqueror!
Conclusion: knights are not necessary for a 200-point army, except perhaps as a threat. What one really needs are Bretons. Or at least, some cav to cover the flanks of one’s blade. Now where have I seen that combination?