Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Second Battle of Pozsony

A Headless Body Production

Venue:   Walts Man Cave
Event:    Prep for Barrage 2019
Players: Phil Gardocki running Nikephorian
               Walt Leach playing Medieval Hungarian
Game System: L'Art de la Guerre, 200 points per side.
Theme: Prep for Barrage 2019

History is littered with millions of battles over thousands of years.  A few of them are worthy enough to have been described by a historian.

This is not one of them.


The Forces:
Nikephorian Byzantine
Nikephoros, the Brilliant, Adidasphoros, the Brilliant and Pumaphoros, the ordinary, and somewhat unreliable.
      4 Thematic Kataphractoi, Medium Cavalry Impact
      4 Petchnegs, Light Cavalry, Bow
      1 Turkomons, Light Cavalry, Bow, Elite
      2 Varangians, Heavy Swordsmen 2HW, Armor, Elite
      8 Skutatoi, ½ Heavy Spearmen ½ Bowmen
      4 Light Infantry, Bows and Javelins
Breakpoint of 24

Medieval Hungarian
A core of 6 Heavy Knights, supported by Heavy and Light Cavalry, and quite a lot of light infantry.
Breakpoint of 20

The Hungarians win the initiative and elect to attack in the plains.

The Board:
Hand provided by Monty Python's Flying Circus without permission.
Pozsony County, Little Carpathia.  Off in the distance the scenic Red Cup of the Virgin, said to hold Mary's still frozen ice is visible.
Oh and in front are a mix of heavy knights and cavalry.

But on the landward horizon appeared the silhouette of a dice cup. Another came, and another, striding over hills and trees, plunging into the field and blocking the exit of the Hungarian bow armed horse.
Adidasphoros's Skutatoi deploy to cover the flank.
Nikephoros's main line of battle is anchored to the hill

Matching the Hungarian shooters 1 for 1 are mercenary Petchnegs and Turks.
 Turn 1:
 
Slowly the knights moved towards the Byzantine line; then, with a deafening roar and whoosh of spray, they tilted their lances and drove at full gallop towards the waiting Psiloi.

On their far right, Tatars advance and ready their bows.
The Psiloi isn't even going to think about getting in the way of the knights, and heads for the dubious cover of a nearby field.  There he is met by some friendly hidden archers.
Nikephoros parses off one Skutatoi to assist his right flank, the remaining battleline cant's to his left.

The Petchneg's advance to not quite effective range.  Pouring out of the plantation to their rear are 4 units of Theme Cavalry.
 Turn 2:
The Hungarians begin the field clearing operation.
The Psiloi are clearly over-matched by Croatian bowmen
A bit of a highlight is a more successful exchange of arrows on the far right.
The Hungarians have 2 points towards their demoralization level of 20
The Byzantines 3 points towards their demoralization level of 24
But now it is the Skutatoi's turn to bend a bow, and some find their targets

Nikephoros recalls his Psiloi, and parses off another Skutatoi to assist his right flank.

The Theme lancers advance to charge range, in time to see mass disorder down the Tatar line.
The Hungarians have 7 points towards their demoralization level of 20
The Byzantines 3 points towards their demoralization level of 24

Turn 3:
The knights push forward, but only their left most knights are in charge reach for next turn. 
By the luck of geometry, range and dice, a shower of arrows falls upon the left most knight in the line.
 The Tatar commander runs down the line imploring his men to reform the lines, and a series of 1's and 2's result, 4 for 4 rally fails, a 1 in 16 odds. Coupled then with more successful shooting by the Petchnegs.
The Hungarians have 10 points towards their demoralization level of 20
The Byzantines 3 points towards their demoralization level of 24
 
Turn 4:
Walt was being a good sport of it, but we both can see this slow moving train wreck that is about to happen.
The Hungarians hope for a bit of luck, but find none.
Into the valley of death...
But on a side note, the Varangian Guards, the best units in the army, are pretty much out of the battle, defending the Byzantines from two light infantry units.
The Tatars withdrawal, buying a turn of not being shot at.  The Petchnegs immediately pursue, followed by the Thematic lancers.
The contest for the field is still raging. 
Will the knights charge? Or won't they?  Off course they'll charge.  The Hungarians have already paid the sunk cost.  One knight is shot away before reaching the lines, another rolls badly.  But, the remaining Hungarians have turned the line.
The Hungarians commit their final reserves. 
While the Tatars draw another line in the sand.
A Skutatoi falls, but so does a knight.  Adidasphoros anticipated the loss and has pulled another unit out of the line to cover the flank.
The Varangians unsheathe their axes and approach the Hungarian reserve.
 In retrospect, and 20/20 hindsight, I should have anticipated what was going to happen next.

But that is next turn.  The Petchnegs have more shooting to do.
The Hungarians have 15 points towards their demoralization level of 20
The Byzantines 6 points towards their demoralization level of 24

 Turn 5:
The last Psiloi in the field is disordered.  5 turns of distraction, mission accomplished!
Another Skutatoi is run down.
A moment of glory for the Hungarians.  3 hits on each of the Varangians. 
Another Tatar is shot away.
 My lights have never shot this well.

But, another knight falls, the routers disorder their compatriots.
The destruction of the Varangians offers no solace.  Two units of Thematic Lancers have arrived, charging the flank of one knight, and pursuing into the next.

From hells gate, I spit at thee, shouts the last Tatar, and his arrow flies true, causing the last hit of the game.
The Final shot of this epic encounter.

What went right?  First, the much maligned ambush containing 4 lancers worked very well this game.  The Hungarian left saw an advantage in the shoot out in front of him and went for it, only to find out the Petchnegs had a lot of backup.

The center command had more units in it's battleline then it needed, and parsing off two missile units sealed the deal on the Hungarian left.

On the Byzantine left, the focus of the lights is simply survival worked out, as the Hungarians spent a bit more points in troops and command control to finally take the field.  

In the center, I think the Byzantines were just devious enough to let the knights do what they wanted, and shot at them all the way in.  No cunning plan there, sometimes your opponent just makes a mistake and you have to let him make it.










Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Nikephoros (the early years) vs. Alfred the Great

A Headless Body Production

Hey, it worked in Braveheart, or was that Swiss Family Robinson?
Venue:   Walts Man Cave
Event:   Prep for Barrage 2019
Players: Phil Gardocki playing Nikephorian
               Mike Kennedy playing Anglo-Saxon
Game System: L'Art de la Guerre, 200 points per side.
Theme: Prep for Barrage 2019


The Forces:
Nikephorian Byzantine
Nikephoros, the Brilliant, Adidasphoros, the Brilliant and Pumaphoros, the ordinary, and somewhat unreliable.
      4 Thematic Kataphractoi, Medium Cavalry Impact
      4 Petchnegs, Light Cavalry, Bow
      1 Turkomons, Light Cavalry, Bow, Elite
      2 Varangians, Heavy Swordsmen 2HW, Armor, Elite
      8 Skutatoi, ½ Heavy Spearmen ½ Bowmen
      4 Light Infantry, Bows and Javelins
Breakpoint of 24

Anglo-Saxon
Alfred the Great a Strategist, two other commanders whose names are lost in the mists of time.
Alfred brings a mix of troops, mostly Great Fyrd, Heavy Spearmen, Mediocre, but with a mix of ordinaries, and a couple of armored elites. 
Break point 28 (oh my!)

The Byzantines win the initiative and elect to attack in the plains.

The Board:
I know most of the Anglo-Saxons are "Mediocre", but so are my Skutatoi in hand to hand!
The right battle group.  All heavy spearmen.  The units with the colorful shields are better than mediocre, one is armored elite.
For Anglo-Saxons, your choices are mostly "Hirdsmen", Select Fyrd, or Great Fyrd.  I think the term "Great" does not mean "We are Great", but like "The Greater Tri-State Area".  As "Select's" are Ordinary, and "Great's" are Mediocre. 

The over use of superlatives in advertising is not a recent invention.

Alfred goes to the field with a double wide battle.  These are mostly ordinary, some elites wit armor.
The Anglo-Saxons already outnumber the Byzantines, but wait, there's more!
Adidasphoros commands the end of the line.  Outnumbered 2.5 to 1, his job is to die slowly, a task he is less than happy with.
Nikephoros directly commands his Varangian Guards.
Pumaphoros has revealed only is lights.  Hidden the gully are Thematic (National Guard) lancers.

Adidasphoros decides he is not playing this game, and immediately goes unresponsive to his orders.

Heedless of his lack of flank support, Nikephoros advances, sliding right.  Only swift, decisive action can win the day.
Pumaphoros agrees, calling out his lancers from their place of hiding.

Turkomons and Petchnegs advance quickly.
Their arrows disordering the pathetic Saxon archers deployed against them.
Lets take a moment to view a much less exciting, but far more colorful game from across the Euphrates river.

Marching in perfect unison, the nameless Saxon commander calls a halt at 1 mm beyond the 4UD distance from the nearest Byzantine skirmisher.
Which is more amazing since the metric system won't even exist for about 600 years, the UD only exists in fantasy warfare, And the Anglo-Saxons won't acknowledge it anyway when it does exist!

Thus, Alfred earns his moniker, and a legend is born.
In a rare display of superior archery, the Anglo-Saxon flank support is dispersed to the four winds.
 Turn 2:

Nikephoros sends two messengers to the intransigent Adidasphoros, "Loquere ad manum" was the only response.
It is easier to turn an iceberg than a horde, Nikephoros continues to vector in on the Saxon left flank.
The lights race into the Saxon rear, while the lancers line up their targets.
The Saxon line continues to advance, Adidasphoros will now have to respond.
For the main body has already encountered the enemy.

The Saxon's cant their line to avoid it being flanked by other than lights.
And now, for something completely different, the view from the other side!

This image has been stolen, without permission, from Bob's LADG Facebook page.
Stolen, but not unattributed! If only in mouse print.

Turn 3:
Byzantine shooting proves excellent.
Nikephoros's Skutatoi's hold the line, but his Varangians put in a lackluster performance.

Pumaphoros is having a difficult decision on how to attack the Select Fyrd. 
Most of the Select Fyrd are Mediocre, but get a native +1 plus impact, and the Byzantine Thematics are only ordinary, and mediums.  Rather than go down the whole line with that disadvantage, Pumaphoros decides to just go for the end unit, which is already disordered by Turkomen arrows, and he has both flank and rear support, and leads the charge personally.  In the end, all this effort results in a tie.

Despite going unresponsive, Adidasphoros is accomplishing his mission.  For 4 turns, the entire Anglo right, and half their center hasn't engaged Nikephoros's command.
But it would be nice if he was a bit closer to the battlelines :(
The race is on, who will cave first, the Byzantine center, or the Saxon left.
 Turn 4:

Arrows are cheap, and so are Anglo-Saxon's

Both sides have an exposed flank, but the Varangians are just a bit faster.
Pumaphoros's Thematic's are fully committed. Several opportunities were missed here because he lead the charge initially and his command points are suffering.  But over all, things are going well.
The Anglo-Saxons have 11 points towards their demoralization level of 28
The Byzantines 9 points towards their demoralization level of 24
OK, things are not going as well as thought.


Well, he's not wrong.

The target has shifted, but there are plenty of arrows for all!
Nikephoros personally leads his Varangians into combat.  Just missing destroying a Saxon Fyrd.
Pumaphoros also destroys a Fyrd.  But just in time, units from the center command arrive.

The Anglo-Saxons have 13 points towards their demoralization level of 28
The Byzantines 11 points towards their demoralization level of 24

Turn 5:


Adidasphoros cannot save the fall of his flank, and is a turn too late to save the center.

The Saxon left is cracking, but doesn't break
The Anglo-Saxons have 19 points towards their demoralization level of 28
The Byzantines 19 points towards their demoralization level of 24

Turn 6:

Nikephoros's Varangians are having a banner day, as in they keep following the banner.  They have destroyed two Fyrd, and the flank of a third is in reach.

Now if only there was anyone around to see it.
Other than the Saxons of course.

If you are keeping count, this one unit has destroyed 3 units, and disordered two more.
Historically, the Varangian Guards were paid very well, a gold piece a year.  A princely sum.  One of their captains, Harrold Hadrada, bought a kingdom with his wages.

The Skutatoi were paid in copper, and are destroying their weight in Saxons.  Now if only there weren't so many of them.

Adidasphoros has arrived!
The Byzantine cavalry is spent, their lights have been run off, but the infantry are fighting the remnants of the Saxon left, which refuses to die!
The Anglo-Saxons have 23 points towards their demoralization level of 28
The Byzantines 20 points towards their demoralization level of 24

The Saxons need 4 points to pull a win here.  It is the bottom of the sixth.

The Byzantine camp is now exposed and can be captured next turn.
The Anglo-Saxons have 24 points towards their demoralization level of 28
The Byzantines 21 points towards their demoralization level of 24

In a classic case of over reach, Nikephoros's Varangians have been caught and slaughtered.  Nikephoros slips through the cracks and escapes to the waiting line of Skutatoi.
The Anglo-Saxons have 24 points towards their demoralization level of 28
The Byzantines 22 points towards their demoralization level of 24
A Skutatoi takes on two Fyrd for 3 hits, and a Psiloi is pelted with Javelins for two more disordered and the win for the Alfred the Great's Anglo-Saxons!

There was a lot that went right here for the Byzantines but what went wrong was subtle but decisive. 

Clearly there were favorable exchange rates on both sides, but the Byzantines had several exceptional units.  

The main mistake was placing the Thematic cavalry in ambush. The extra distance they needed to cover, and moving through the gully and the field afterwards was the distance they needed to to gain the exposed left flank of the Anglo-Saxon Fyrd.  This lead to the cavalry charge on the flank, supported only by lights in the rear element and committing the general to the fight to make a good go of it.  The fight was eventually won, but too late as reinforcements arrived to bolster the position.  This lead to further engagement at unfavorable odds and the defeat of 3 of 4 cavalry.  

This also caused a lack of command points, giving the Saxons opportunities to run off the Petchnegs, and they ran ran three off the board. Looking at the final map, The left flank was still looking as an eventual win for the Byzantines.