Sunday, January 29, 2017

Parthia Invades Rome

A Headless Body Production

Venue:   Walt's house
Event:    Weekend at Walts
Armies: Parthians played by Phil Gardocki
                  Republican Roman played by Kevin Swanson

Game System: L'Art de la Guerre, about 200 points per side.
Theme:   15mm Roman Theme
This is the second round of L'Art de la Guerre at Walts house.

The Forces:
Parthian: Commanders  th' worst rank of manhood, Xerxes (Ordinary),  His brother, th' frothy dread-bolted popinjay, Darryl (Brilliant), and the Idol of idiot-worshippers, his other brother Darryl (Brilliant).
       8 Cataphracts (two elite)
       16 Light Cavalry, Bow
       Break point, 23

Republican Roman: Commanders Marcus Livius Drusus (the Brilliant), Quintus Servilius Caepio(also the Brilliant) and Publius    Rutilius    Rufus (the merely Ordinary).

       8 Hastati & Principes, sword, armor, impact
       2 Triarii, spear, armor (elite)
       4 Italian Allies, sword
       4 Velites, javelin
       2 Roman Horsemen, MC
       2 Numidian Horsemen, javelin           
       1 Fortified Camp
       Break point, 23
The Board:
The Parthians win the initiative roll and elect to attack in the plains.
The Republican Romans select the hill, a coastal area, a plantation, a village and get a field for free.  The Parthians selected a road and a gully.

The Roman left is a weak command of all their horse.  Otherwise, the other 2 commands were identical mixes of Hastati (4), Triarii (1), Allies(2) and Velites(2) .

Darryl, with his command is covering the Parthian right flank.
While his other brother Darryl covers the left.
The view from the camel-back.
Numidians on the far right.  A couple of Roman Medium Cavalry in the rear.
Their flanks of two Roman Legions is secured by a village and a plantation on the hill.  It looks like a perfect fit for them.
On the right flank, half of Darryl's Light Horse Bow goes to play games with the Roman Cavalry Command.

The remaining 4 will be sent to annoy the Roman center command.
On the left, 8 Light Horse Bow go to shoot up the Legions.
In turn, the Romans withdrawal their Velites.

And close ranks in the center.
Turn 2:
Parthian Light Horse approach the formed up Roman Command and shoot!  Disordering a Numidian.

On the main battlefield, Parthian Light Horse start the long process of wearing down Heavy Infantry with Armor.
The Numidians slide, advance, then angle behind the Parthians.  Preventing their fleeing.  The Medium Cavalry then charges.  I know about this maneuver, I just am lousy at eyeballing it. Though, the math made it obvious. 

Turn 3:

They may have been outmaneuvered, but the Parthians will not die without a fight.  The two surviving Light Horse battle on.
The other Parthian archers are having a good time shooting.  Racking up many hits.  The Romans reveal an ambush of two units of Italian Allies.
In a bit of bad luck, 1's and 2's.  The Romans whiff three rally rolls.
But when you have superior strategy AND tactics, luck is not as important.  At the end of turn 3, the Roman Cavalry Corps totally wraps up the Parthian right flank.  The score is in the Roman's favor, 8-2.

With the collapsed flank, the clock is ticking in the center.  The strategy for the Parthians WAS to shoot the bejesus out of the Legions for about 5 turns, then charge in.  Now it looks like they will have to charge in early.
The Legions advance in a carefully managed manner.  Preventing the charging of the disordered Hastati, and forcing charges on to Elite Triarii. 
Turn 4:
Xerxes, that mangled beetle-headed flap-dragon, decides to spend one more turn shooting the Romans.  The right flank is gone, but everything on it is mediums or lights.  One Cataphract is angled to cover the flanks, and let the arrows fly.

The Romans are done being targeted, and charge the Parthian Light Horse.  It is now down 7 Cataphracts against 10 Legionaries, with all the support advantages on the side of the Romans.
Turn 5:

Sorry for the blurry shot.  Xerxes decides he does not like the way the lines form up.  They protect the disordered Legions from being charged, while offering charges into the Elite Triarii.  But there is one unit that can be charged, and he goes for it.  It is a Hastati with Sword.  The Cataphracts have Impact, two supports, Xerxes, Armor and Furious charge.  For a +4 ont the dice, butt muff the die roll, only winning by 1, causing 2 casualties. 
Darryl's Light Horse on the right has found new targets.  Learning from the events of turn 2, they spread out to prevent encirclement.
On the Parthian left, Darryl patiently awaits to see what the Roman Legions will do.
The Romans charge.  The Light Horse stands, so as to deny the the support to the Romans on one side.  I want it to die, so the remaining Cataphracts can charge in, but no dice. The Light Horse only loses by 1, and lives!  Meanwhile The Hastati are just hanging on, each with 3 hits on them.

In a mistake I keep making over and over, I commit the Light Horse to Hand to Hand.  At best it is a 50-50 shot.  It is just not worth it to give your opponents two more points towards demoralization.  Current score 10-7 in Romes favor. 
Turn 6:

Another Parthian Light Horse falls.
With a thunderous roar, all the Cataphracts charge.  In the center, two damaged legions fall, one more take two hits.  Two exchanges end in a tie.
On the Parthian left, also two ties.
On the Roman turn misfortune happens.  The Triarii have a decisive win, and Darryl is killed!
But the rest of the front is pretty much unchanged.
The same with the right flank.
Turn 7:
On the Parthian right, another Light Cavalry falls, but so does a Roman Cavalry unit.
In the center, another Legion falls as well.
On the left, the situation is stable.
Roman Cavalry retreat forward!
Near the hill, a Cataphract runs down an Italian Ally, the rout damages another, which in turn is engaged by the Cataphract.
The Italians run off the Parthian Light Horse, and Cataphract falls.

The Parthians reach their demoralization point in a dramatic way.  They destroy a Legion, damaging another to bring the Roman demoralization level to 20 of 23.  But in a very bad die roll, lose a fight with Elite Cataphracts, supported by a General, against a damaged Principes.  The Romans roll a 1, and Larry is killed!  Taking the Parthians to 23.  It is a Roman win!

So what went wrong here.  First to give credit where credit is due, Kevin played a much better tactical game.  His early bushwacking of 4 Light Horse was 8 points early on.  Then he proceeded to expertly cover damaged legions from being immediately charged.  Only his crappy rally rolls, I think he missed 6 in a row of 3 and 4 up saves, kept the Legions disordered.  It was only later in the game when he needed 5+ rally attempts, that he made a couple.

I actually played this scenario twice the week before.  I knew the lights can shoot up the Roman line, despite their armor, but you have to be patient.  If the Romans let you.  Kevin was able to force evades to bad angles, and at the same time present angled lines, that prevented charges with overlaps that I was trying for.  

Once push came to shove, the Cataphracts did well, nearly overcoming the early 8 point lead the Romans earned.  So in the end the score was 23-20, a narrow victory for Rome. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Parthia Invades Dacia

A Headless Body Production

Venue:   Walt's house
Event:    Weekend at Walts
Armies: Parthians played by Phil Gardocki
                  Dacians played by Bill Hawkes

Game System: L'Art de la Guerre, about 200 points per side.
Theme:   15mm Roman Theme

This is the first round of L'Art de la Guerre at Walt's house.

The Forces:
Parthian: Commanders  th' saucy fat-kidneyed strumpet, Xerxes (Ordinary),  His brother, th' clouted dismal-dreaming joithead, Darryl (Brilliant), and his other brother, the villainous scurvy-valiant fustilarianband, Darryl (Brilliant).
       8 Cataphracts (two elite)
       16 Light Cavalry, Bow

Dacia: Commanders ??
     Lots of Impetuous Medium Infantry, Impetuous Sarmation Cavalry, and some bow.

The Board:
The Parthians win the initiative roll and elect to attack in the wood.
The Dacians select two woods, a impassible, two brushes.  The Parthians select a gully and a hill.

The view from the Parthian left.  The players tables are packed in 3 wide, so ignore the orchard in the distance.  The border is obvious.  There is a Gully on the Parthian side of the board.  The Dacians have an impassible swamp, a brush and a hill.
The view from the Parthian center right.  Two woods and a brush.
Two the left of the woods, are two Parthian Corps, Darryl with 8 Light Cavalry and 3 Cataphracts, and Xerxes on a camel (the view is better up here), with two Elite Cataphracts.
Facing a horde of Dacian foot, two ambushes, and their Sarmation allies.  An entire Dacian Corps cannot be seen.
The view from the center.
On the right, is Darryl, also with 3 Cataphracts and 8 Light Cavalry, Bow.  3 of which are in ambush.  He breaths a sigh of relief.  There is no one contesting him on this flank.
 Turn 1:
Wheeling left, Darryl double times his revealed forces towards the Sarmation command.  There are 3 LC in the ambush, but there is really no need to reveal them yet, as they are on the inside of the wheel.  That and lets just keep the Sarmations guessing. 
Meanwhile, Darryl advances to 4 UD's from the first ambush.  No hurry to engage the foot here either.  The Cataphracts are not going to fight in the brush, but the LC still move 4 there, and so can comfortably evade.  Larry, with his two Cataphracts is moving up to what will be the support position.
Interesting.  Instead of just moving forward, Bill is setting up a phase line on where he wants to form up.  This implies a level of forethought and a plan.  
The Dacian Medium Foot enters the brush.  Their flank secured by an impassible swamp.  Outside the brush, foot archers double time to a curious position.  There is every indication that there are troops in the brush.  The Sarmations form up to cover two Cataphract commands approaching them.
Bill is looking way too confident here. 
Turn 2:
Parthian lights enter the brush, and reveal the ambush to be 4 small boys waving sticks.  But in so doing, expose themselves to long range archery fire.
On the far right, Parthian Light Horse engage a wing of Sarmations.

The Parthian plan is revealed.  Screen off the Dacian foot, crush the Sarmations, loot the camp. 
The last Parthian ambush is revealed and Light Horse double time to support Darryl's left.
The Dacian flank march fails to arrive.
Undaunted, and undamaged by Parthian arrows, the Sarmations charge.  The Light Cavalry evades through Darryl's Cataphracts. 
Turn 3:
I have heard it said that in this game, in general, Impact Cavalry beats Cataphracts. While everything is subject to the vagaries of the die rolls, I don't see the major advantage.  Impact Cavalry has a definite +1 on turn of contact, but better armor mitigates that..  After the turn of impact, it depends on the die rolls, with possibly the same odds, with the Cavalry at +1 to the Cataphracts +0  plus Armor.  

On the turn of Cataphracts lose a cohesion level 44% of the time, and inflict a cohesion loss 25% of the time. 

Each turn after that, the odds are the same.  Basically, the Cavalry is hoping that the Cataphracts avoid a favorable die roll for 3 turns.  OK, truth be told, the Cavalry is hoping for a total 6-1 blow out on the turn of contact, but in this game we always hope for that, knowing that half the time, your opponent is going to get the same blow out.  The odds of the Cataphracts not winning any of the of the 3 rounds is 42%.  But the odds of the Cavalry inflicting damage 3 rounds in a row is only 8%.  

To my mind, the overall tactical situation is more important than the initial charge advantage.
The Parthians counter charge.  The Sarmation LC flees, leaving 2 units of Sarmations to counter-counter charge.  Parthian LC comes up to support.  One the fight is even.  Cataphracts are + 1 to all, plus support vs Sarmations +1 to all plus Impact. Darryl adds his weight to the other fight, giving the Parthians a +3 to +2.  The result is a tie and a total blowout, with a Sarmation Heavy Cavalry being trampled to the ground, and Cataphracts following up.

The Dacian flank march fails to arrive.
The Dacian foot push forward, revealing a number of Light Foot skirmishers.  Bow fire damages shooters on both sides.

The fight on the right continues, the Sarmation  Heavy Cavalry picks up two hits.
One Parthian Light Horse is shot to oblivion.  One Sarmation heavy horse charges a Parthian Light Horse, which flees.  The Sarmations roll long, and so crash into a Parthian Cataphract.  The numbers did not go well for the Sarmation, and they pick up a hit.
The Dacian Medium Foot also charges the Parthian Light Horse, which flee.  The Light Horse rolls short, but the foot rolls long.  Their front edge now exiting the brush.

Turn 4:
Parthian Light Horse reform their lines and shoot. 
Dacian foot turn and threaten the Cataphract flanks.
While the half of the foot horde continue to chase off the light horse.

The Sarmation left has been destroyed.
Along with the overly enthusiastic heavy horse.
Turn 5:

The Parthian Light Horse have just avoided being run off the board.  To stay on the board another turn, they won't approach to bow range.
All of Darryl's command points are being spent turning the Cataphracts around. Larry's Cataphracts should cover them from the last of the Sarmation Heavy Horse hitting them in the flank.
Thinks are looking grim for the allied command.
The Sarmations charge, and roll short.  Chasing off the the Light Horse.  Had they rolled normal, their flanks would have been exposed.
Dacian Foot approach with the idea of running the Light Horse off the board.
The Dacian flank march arrives.  After wandering in the wilderness, they pretty much show up where they departed.  It is now a race for the Dacian Camp.
The battle is now turned 90 degrees.
The Dacian Foot win the dice off, killing Darryl!  But wait there is "better armor", Darryl rises from the ground holding a dimpled hoka case, "I'm not dead yet" he cries.  "Your not fooling anyone!" retorts the Dacians, "You'll be stone cold dead shortly!"
Turn 6:
A Dacian foot falls as the Cataphracts reform their lines. 
Sorry for the blurriness.  This was the best of two pictures.  Another Sarmation Heavy Horse falls, but the other beats an Elite Cataphract on charge.
Some Parthian Light Horse squirt off to the sides, but most are have been run off the board. 

Fighting without support, the Sarmations continue to trade blows.  They just won't give up!
After a flurry of shuffling though the rule book, it is decided that Impetuous, Impact Cavalry CAN break off.  And so they do.  Leaving the Parthian commanders with a choice of reforming their fragmented and damaged forces, or pursue an obviously inferior enemy.  The camp is worth 4 points towards demoralization.  And there is a whole Dacian Foot Corps racing them for it. 
At this point the game is still fairly low scoring.  The Parthians are only 7 down.  1 LC killed, 1 Cataphract damaged, and 4 LC run off the board.  The Dacians have 15.  4 Cavalry, 1 foot killed, 5 damaged.
Turn 7:

It was never really in doubt what the Parthians would do.  Charge with their generals thrown in.  Take the hill, get the camp!
On the left, Darryl's Cataphracts take out another Dacian foot unit, while Light Cavalry run off the Dacian Light Foot.
The Parthian Camp has fallen.  The Parthian Demoralization score is now 11

Turn 8.
The Dacian Camp falls, along with that, the Sarmation Heavy Horse is disordered, and a Dacian foot that got in the way on the hill was overrun, the Dacian Demoralization score is now 24!  This reaches their break point for a Parthian win.
The final situation.

So what went wrong?  Counting on blitzkrieg like tactics to blow through the enemy and score a victory.  While that can happen, it is more likely situations will devolved down to the scrum where many turns and die rolls later a result occurs.  In those cases, the over all odds generated by the tactical situations matter more than temporary advantages.  I would have thought the Sarmation command, outnumbered 5-4 in heavies and 8-1 in Light Horse, would have folded much sooner.  But 8 turns later, they still have one unit on the board.  

And while the flank march may have been a mistake, it also meant the Cataphracts had far fewer targets to engage.  Probably it lengthened the game.