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General view of the Fall of the King box set

The Fall of the King is a wargame that recreates four episodes from the Battle of Fossalta of 1249, which was a key event in the crusade against the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. It is a collaboration between the H&GL and the Italian companies Top Hat Games and Cobblebot Games. The Fall of the King is the first instalment of the new set of wargaming rules entitled Ventura Battle System.The mechanics of the game were designed by Aldo Ghetti, who is a game designer and historian, as well as the curator of the Museum of the Risorgimento in the town of Faenza. Before the Ventura Battle System, Aldo designed a set of wargaming rules called Su le Teste, which is set in Napoleonic and Italian Risorgimento periods. The Ventura Battle System, instead, is designed for skirmish warfare actions set in the Italian High and Late Middle Ages and in the Renaissance.

Close view of some of the counters

Rather than just providing a set of wargaming rules, Top Hat Games and Cobblebot Games decided to immerse straight away in specific historical scenarios, and this is what brought about The Fall of the King and the collaboration with the History and Games Lab. After hearing of the Lion Rampant: the Crusader States project (more on this soon), the two Italian companies approached the H&GL not only to check the historical accuracy of the game mechanics, but also to suggest interesting historical episodes to gamify. The choice of the crusade against Emperor Frederick II and of the Battle of Fossalta were inspired by a recent academic article published by Gianluca Raccagni in The Journal of Ecclesiastical History. It highlighted the significance of that neglected crusade in the evolution of the Italian city republics, especially regarding the rise of factional strife, which eventually undermined many republican regimes.

In the high and late Middle Ages, Northern Italy was a world of divided allegiances: proud and quarrelsome city republics and country lords, and above them both the powerful, overreaching, and often feuding Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy.

The supporters of the Empire came to be known as Ghibellines, and those of the Papacy as Guelphs. The Ghibellines claimed that they wished to restore unity, law, and order in the divided world of medieval Italy. The latter claimed to defend the liberty of the city republics and of the Church against imperial encroachment. In reality, those ideals came together, and often came second, to petty power struggles. In the end northern Italian politics remained fragmented and chaotic, and many republican regimes were taken over by urban lords.

In the 1240s the struggle between Guelphs and Ghibellines became particularly intense when Pope Gregory IX launched a crusade against Emperor Fredrick II and his supporters. It was the first crusade against a Holy Roman Emperor, and, together with the Albigensian Crusade of 1208, it played a key role in the rise of crusades against fellow Christians.

The Battle of Fossalta took place in the countryside between the rival cities of Modena and Bologna, next to the river Panaro and the ancient Roman road known as Via Aemilia. Modena was a Ghibelline city and Bologna a Guelph one. Between them there was a centuries-old feud.

At the end of May 1249 news reached King Enzius, son of Emperor Frederick II and imperial plenipotentiary in northern Italy, that Bolognese and papal troops were advancing on Modenese territory. He rushed to the scene to lead and defend his allies, but his capture resulted in an ignominious defeat by the Ghibellines, which the city of Bologna still celebrates to this day. It was the last main defeat of the Ghibellines in northern Italy before the death of Frederick II in 1250.

Ottorino Respighi when he wrote Re Enzo
Ottorino Respighi when he wrote Re Enzo

Enzius spent the rest of his life in relatively comfortable imprisonment in Bologna until his death in 1272. During that time he wrote several surviving poems, and had two daughters with local unidentified women. The Bentivoglio family, which later ruled Bologna in the 15th century, claimed to descend from Enzius. Bologna still features a palazzo named after Enzius in the main square of the city (Palazzo Re Enzo). The famous Bolognese composer Ottorino Respighi dedicated his first main opera, entitled Re Enzo to this historical episode in 1905. These are excerpts from a recent production of this opera.

Palazzo Re Enzo, in Bologna
Palazzo Re Enzo, in Bologna

With The Fall of the King you will be able to re-fight four episodes from the momentous battle of Fossalta, from opening skirmish actions, to the final capture of the King Enzius.

The box set contains all you need to play the game. It makes use of gorgeous illustrations that are based on a close study of the heraldry used by the protagonists of the battle.

Coat of arms of Enzius from the contemporary work of Matthew Paris
Coat of arms of Enzius from the contemporary work of Matthew Paris

It is possible to try the game for free on Tabletop Simulator by following this link: https://tophat.games/blog/tabletop-simulator-guide?fbclid=IwAR0WRAcfestvYTHkq_ExxopxI3-RVuBS5Qoqvppc3nlZ4xJ0v0LKJIve8xI

Don’t forget to follow the Kickstarter Campaign, where you can find further information on the game and its mechanics!

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