Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Encounter Near Damascus

A Headless Body Production
Venue Barrage, 2019 Round 1
Event:  L' Art de la Guerre, open(ish) 200 points
Rules Set: L'Art de la Guerre
Theme: Later Periods (that is the "ish" part)
Players: Phil Gardocki playing Nikephorian Byzantine
               Kevin Hatch, playing Later Crusader

Now in it's 25th year, Barrage began as a one-day mini-convention run by the Harford Area Weekly Kriegspielers (HAWKs). For the past few years Barrage has been held at the community center in Havre de Grace, Maryland, about 30 minutes north of Baltimore. This venue is convenient from I-95, has plenty of parking, is well lit, and is comfortable.  Food in the form of excellently cooked hot dogs and other comfort foods are available, and pizza is brought in around 4pm

Barrage is a low-stress event, focusing on having fun with miniatures games of many different genres, scales, and sets of rules.  In the past they've had a half dozen dealers, a few flea market tables, as many as 200 attendees, and thirty or more miniatures games.   In 2014 they added an ancient tournament, significantly raising the stress level of the building.  Beginning in 2016, the HAWKs took the bold step to grow Barrage into a two-day event.  But none of this growth has detracted from the congenial atmosphere of Barrage.

The Forces:
Nikephorian Byzantine
Commanded by the Sneaker brothers, 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

Later Crusader
10 Medium Knights, some crazy, at least one elite.
6  Foot spearmen, just like Skutatoi, except they have crossbow
2  Yet to be seen Heavy Spearmen, Armor, Mediocre
2  Light Cavalry Crossbow, who haven't gotten their wake up call this morning.

Breakpoint of 18

The Crusaders win the initiative and elect to defend in the desert.

The Board:
The Kingdom of Syria, Crusader Knights decide to expand their area of influence into Byzantine controlled lands
I didn't realize at the time the sum total of unknowns after deployment.
On the other monitor, where I do my image editing, the white text looked better on the back ground then black, but on this monitor, it is a bit of a strain.  Sorry.
The Crusader right has 4 Knight Impact, one is elite.

And a line of foot spear that are almost exactly like the Byzantine Skutatoi.

6 units of knights looking for glory, loot honor, and finding none.  For the foe they are looking for is mysteriously absent.

Pumaphoros, the unreliable and ordinary pushing forward his contingent of Skutatoi

His brother, Nikephoros, takes his customary position behind 8 ranks of armored Varangians.
Nikephoros thinks it unlikely that the knights will cross the soft sand to get to him.
Of Adidasphoros, there is no word.  Off camera to the far right is a field of brush with an ambush marker.

Turn 1:

Pumaphoros starts the advance, his psiloi revealing something more substantial then expected behind the hill.

Nikephoros does a left slide, advance 1, and wheel 1. 
Adidasphoros's command rolls a 1, and is not visible at this time.
The Crusader command orders his knights to the far right flank.
Imitating Nikephoros, the Crusader foot also does a slide, advance 1, and wheel 1. 
The crazies have decided, despite all the evidence to the contrary, there is enemy to be found, and advance.
Turn 2:
Adidasphoros's missing command rolls a 5.  Dust can be seen on the Crusader right flank.

There is that ut oh moment as the Crusaders realize their knights are totally screwed.
I have played about 200 games, (I know, because I written up about 130 of them) and I have never before seen a flank march actually cause a unit to "Flee in Panic"

Still, they do their best, so that only one knight is actually in the panic zone.  Their infantry on the hill is called upon the assist, and retreating out of bow range can be considered a bonus.
In an attempt to avoid losing control of the hill, the Crusader infantry advances and slides.
One thing about crazies, when they are focused, they are extremely focused.  Their commander rolls maximum command points and they pull a triple march.
Turn 3:
Horns of the Byzantines, Adidasphoros has arrived!
Now this is just ridiculous.  Who sends a brilliant commander, and 9 units on a flank march? 
This panic rule is something we all know about, but very rarely applied.  The panicked units, the rules say, they make an evade move, does this mean variable distance?  Does it panic through intervening units, or slide around them.  In the end, one unit panicked, and slid around intervening friendlies.
Adidasphoros's put a ZOC lock on the fleeing knights, and begin to wrap around them with light horse.  Pumaphoros ascends the hill, but doesn't have a shot over the crest lines.
Nikephoros is content to let his brothers gain the glory, for he knows the heaviest blow is his.
And off camera, to the far right, a single unit of psiloi (bow) leaves their hidden positions in ambush, and double moves after the fleeing crusader knights!

These knights know a bad deal when they see.  They accept another disorder marker and continue to flee.  Now their rear is covered by the ZOC of the Heavy Infantry on the hill, and they are safe from a charge.
And every now and then a LI, with a minus 1 on the dice, will still score a hit on armored infantry with plus 2.

The Crusader line of foot holds their ground in the face of superior quantity and quality.

Their crossbowmen do their work, inflicting four hits in Nikephoros's line.
The crazy knights, spit their forces in two.  Four to redeploy and save the right flank, two left behind to assist the line of foot.

Turn 4:

Nikephoros calls a halt, and dusts off a copy of his "We happy few" speech, even translated from the original Greek, it inspires his men, and all are revitalized and ready to push on.
"And gentlemen in Constantinople now a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day."

Adidasphoros charges the infantry on the hill, and routs them.  The pursuit allows them to catch the fleeing knights.

The Crusader foot hoped to prevent the Byzantine dominance of the hill, but now realize they just made the position worse for it.
More shooting.
The Crusader commander pulls his copy of "We Happy Few" speech out, but finds someone had replaced it with "Art of the Deal".  Byzantine intrigue at it's finest!
Machiavelli would have been proud.

Two knights are in combat, knowing their friends are just two turns away.
Adidasphoros is beginning to consider his exit strategy.

With their fellow knights disordered and outnumbered, The sane knights are also looking for a way out.  To retreat is to be in the path of their impetuous knights, the other towards Skutatoi on the hill.
Their foot are shooting as fast as they can. 

The other knights are looking for someone to charge.

Turn 5:
A Thematic Kataphract is defeated.

And on the hill, a crusader foot and knight are lost.
The moment of decision is upon us.
 The score is 15 (Crusader) to 9 Byzantine. 

The camp has been sacked by the Petchneg Light Horse, but the Crusaders pick up a consolation prize.
 The score is 16 (Crusader) to 11 (Byzantine). 

Contrary to how it looks, the crazy knights are not engaged.  They are just one, red, horse hair away though.
We had received word that time is up, and the great clash is not going to occur.
The last two futile charges are made.

The final score, 17 (out of 18) for the Crusaders, and 11 (out of 24) for the Byzantines.

What went right?  Obviously, the flank march.  The command was directly responsible for taking out two knights, two heavy spear, sacked the camp, disordered two more units, and causing the total change of my opponents plans, including the redeployment of his main striking force, which in the end only succeeded in routing the camp looters.  Contributing 14 points to the demoralization of the Crusaders, while costing 5.

The ambush.  There was one, in the plantation off the right edge.  You didn't see it as it was never photographed, nor did the single psiloi gleefully chasing 6 knights get one instance of screen time. This somehow set in the Crusader mind that the flank march was going to be on the right flank.

What went wrong?  A total failure of the main infantry line to engage.  One turn halted was necessary, and successful, rallying off 4 hits.  But after that it never got into combat.  And if it did, on turn 6, it would have had 3 hits on it anyway, so the delay made the difference between a win and a winning draw.  If you intend to engage a line of missile troops, then do it.  Don't stop!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Last Crusade

A Headless Body Production

Venue:   Ferrell Fire Company Hall, Monroeville, NJ  Event:     Kozcon 2019
Players: Phil Gardocki running Nikephorian
               Allen Kaplen running Achaemenid Persian
Game System: L'Art de la Guerre, 200 points per side.
Scale: 25mm

I am going to break my pattern and publish this game early.  While KozCon is still fresh in everyone's memory.  It's not every day you, the reader, get to read a battle report of a championship game.  In fact, not ever!  This is the contest of wills pitting the No 1 and No 2 players of the day.  Trust me, you are not going to want to miss this one. 

KozCon is held in memory of our good friend and avid gamer Dave Kozlow who passed away in 2012.  If you've ever had the opportunity to play in one of his many games at HMGS events you know that he was not only a great person but also a notable credit to our hobby.  In light of Dave's five year battle with cancer ALL proceeds from KozCon are donated to the American Cancer Society.

Al and I played last week, and he played this exact same list.  I was disgusted enough to change lists for KozCon.  That game is written up but hasn't been published yet. 

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

Achaemenid Persians, 3 Competent commanders
    1 Persian Guard Cavalry, Heavy Cavalry, Impact
    4 Median Cavalry, Heavy Cavalry
    2 Paphlagonian, Light Cavalry, Javelin
    2 Scythed Chariots
    6 Ionian Hoplites, Heavy Spearmen
    5 Babylonian Archers, Bowmen, Mediocre
    1 Elephant
    1 Hill Tribesmen, Light Infantry Javelin
    2 Persian Peltasts, Medium Swordsmen, 2HW
    3 Egyptian Medium Spearmen
Breakpoint of 25

The Board:
The Persians win the initiative and elect to attack in the plains.  Terrain was sparse, with only a coastal area and a field remaining.  

The Deployment:
The Persians expected the Byzantines to deploy anchored to the coastal and set up their main strike cavalry in that spot.  
Cavalry to fight Byzantine Cavalry, Scythed Chariots for the Byzantine Infantry.

From the north, Wild Hill-men.  From the east, Indians with their large swords escorting elephants.

From the coastal areas of the Ionian Sea, mercenary Hoplites.  Holding the far left, and on the road, levy archers from subject Babylon.
The Persian empire was the largest in history at it's time, and when the King of Kings called together an army from all his subjects, they arrived from everywhere.  But think of him more like a corporate CEO.  With each subject company providing the skills it has.  

The Byzantine left, facing Cavalry, Chariots, Hill-men and Elephants, are "Fleetfoot Darrylinous, and his only-slightly-slower brother Darrylinous"

The early sun rises to reveal a mostly empty field, with the men from Eastern Empire anchored to the tables edge to the field on the right. 

Pumaphoros occupies the field with 4 Skutatoi.
Of the Byzantine Cavalry, there is nought a sign. Could they be on boats?  Lurking in the field?  Hiding in the Trojan Rabbit?

Turn 1:

Fleetfoot is about to earn his moniker.

The great King of Kings has decreed all invaders removed from this land.

The Byzantine Psiloi have slowed down the approach as was their job.
Horns!  Horns of the Themes!  Adidasphoros has arrived!
This is how I envision the charge... 
Al probably had the same vision.

The flank march has arrived too soon!  The Persians are not in the pocket yet.  Nikephoros throws out his plan and orders an advance.

Pumaphoros does his best, but is ill prepared or equipped to deal with an early arrival.  Adidasphoros will be on his own for a while.
Turn 2:
The Persian right continues their running of the board.

The Persian Generals are more than pleased to see Nikephoros leaving his pocket.
The Byzantine commands are now disjointed from each other.
Only on the Persian left is there discomfiture.  They do not know what is to come, and they were not ready for it.
His plan in ruins, Nikephoros needs time.  He sends out a Skutatoi to buy some.
The Persians have to contract to fit now, which probably buys more time than the Skutatoi
The Great King of Kings has to choose who will attack first?  The Hoplites? Or the Indians?  In the end, he decides both
Adidasphoros arrives.  5 units of Petchnegs and Turks, followed up by 4 units of lancers.
The Achaemenid Persians have 5 points towards their breakpoint of 25
The Byzantines have 2 points towards their breakpoint of 24

Turn 3:
Fleetfoot's luck seems to have run out, and he makes a heroic stand.  And amazingly, he lives.
The Indians and their elephants line up their approaches.
In a perfect line with the Ionian Hoplites.
FYI, that dead man marker was a Babylonian Archer that had to flee the flank march, and was subsequently shot to death.
The Petchnegs and Archers from Babylon trade arrows
Bravery only goes so far.
The lines are set.  The Byzantines will not take another step forward.
Bodies already begin to litter the No Mans Land.
The Thematic lancers make their charge.  Adidasphoros leading from the front.
The charge went well, but there was a great disappointment, as the Generals charge only tied  against disordered bowmen.  If he only rolled a 3 or better, they would have routed through the Ionian Hoplites and setting up the who Persian line up for flank attack and destruction.

The Achaemenid Persians have 10 points towards their breakpoint of 25
The Byzantines have 3 points towards their breakpoint of 24

Turn 4:

The Persians are just about to complete their sweep of the Byzantine left flank.
The main battle-lines clash
This is in the Persians favor, as the Skutatoi fight as mediocre.

The last Babylonian archer, unsupported and disordered is still desperately holding the flank.
Which mean Adidasphoros will not have the command points he needs to follow up his charges.
Likewise, the left flank Skutatoi is still holding.
It is a race here.  Who can collapse their opponent's left first?

Arthur, King of the Britians, with Excalibur in hand, defeats the monster from the east, and the threat was no more.
The last Babylon bowmen falls, but the Persians have their reserves in place.  Spearmen, some of them heavy. 
Charge the spear?  Or go for the camp?  Exhausted from his recent combat, Adidasphoros only has 1 command to send this turn.  He sends a Petchneg Light Horse troop to the camp.
The Achaemenid Persians have 14 points towards their breakpoint of 25
The Byzantines have 7 points towards their breakpoint of 24

Turn 5:
The Persian cavalry now has a wide open field.

King Arthur's knights are taken in the rear. Other Skutatoi  are close to collapse, but the Hoplites are paying a price.
Geometry works against the Byzantines. as the defending Hoplite prevents the Skutatoi from turning the Hoplite flank.  They hope to shoot for a disorder and then a launch a mounted charge.
Arthur's knights live up to their reputation.
Pumaphoros assigns two Skutatoi to receive the flanking cavalry.  Adidasphoros charges the medium spear.  The Wild men of the hills successfully resist the charge.
The Persian camp in Ninavah has been sacked!
The Achaemenid Persians have 20 points towards their breakpoint of 25
The Byzantines have 12 points towards their breakpoint of 24

Turn 6:

Arthur's knights have fallen.  (Hence the title)

Two Thematic Lancers are destroyed as well.

The Persians are closer to demoralization, but have more opportunities for points.
The Byzantine middle is bolstered by fresh arrivals
The Petchnegs charge the rear of a Hoplite.  +3 (elite) to zero.  If they destroy it, the Persian demoralization level will be at 25 and the game.  But again, victory eludes them.
The Achaemenid Persians have 22 points towards their breakpoint of 25
The Byzantines have 19 points towards their breakpoint of 24

Turn 7:

In an effort to get points anywhere, Persian Heavy Cavalry frontally charge Heavy Spearmen.  Fortune favored the cavalry for a pair of ties.  The Byzantine camp is now under siege.

Sir Robin's Minstrels have been flanked.

The Petchnegs break off
"Bring out your dead!"

The battle with the Skutatoi on the flank turns against the Byzantines.

In the upper left, a Petchneg Troop of Light Cavalry attacks a disordered Light Foot, and fails run them down.

For both sides it is pretty much an "Out at any base."  Medium spearmen charge Medium Impact Cavalry and score a tie.

Fresh from sacking the camp, a Petchneg troop of Light Cavalry attacks a disordered Light Foot.  Overladen with loot, they failed to run down the Lights.
The Achaemenid Persians have 22 points towards their breakpoint of 25
The Byzantines have 22 points towards their breakpoint of 24

Turn 8:

The Light Infantry routs the Petchnegs.
The Achaemenid Persians have 23 points towards their breakpoint of 25
The Byzantines have 23 points towards their breakpoint of 24

The Proto-Large-Wooden-Badger is toppled.
The Achaemenid Persians have 23 points towards their breakpoint of 25
The Byzantines have 31 points towards their breakpoint of 24

Finally, a Hoplite falls.  Two Hoplites are now available for flank charges!
The Achaemenid Persians have 24 points towards their breakpoint of 25
The Byzantines have 31 points towards their breakpoint of 24

If only the Byzantines had another turn.

So what went wrong?  The obvious thing was the flank march coming on a turn early.  But in reality was the lack of planning it arriving early.  I was ready for an arrival turn 3 and beyond, and was well prepared to have the Skutatoi shoot it out with the Babylonian archers.  My archers have a protection of 1 against their zero, and my archers are ordinary, and theirs was mediocre.  I would have been happy for the exchange, and having the Persians more of an organized line where my nine cavalry can pick and chose the rear ends of their choice.

The second was the left flank guard.  My guard was a Psiloi, and a Skutatoi.  Somewhat layered to slow down their eventual demise.  Al's was 3 units of spearmen, 2 mediums and a heavy.  Much more robust.

The third, and most egregious mistake was having the flank march general lead the charge from the front.  I may be forgiven, as that gave my cavalry a + 3 to the disordered bowmens +0 and mediocre.  I only needed 1 better to blow through the archers, causing a rout through the Hoplite on flank guard duty.  But the Babylonian archers rolled 4 higher, causing a tie.  And continued to tie for 2 full rounds, so on turn 4, the Byzantine general was still in combat, and despite being "Brilliant", could only command 1 unit to do something.   In the end, when he could have exploited several advantages, he chose to send a unit to the camp.  

But you have to give credit to Al's generalship.  He got caught in a vice and didn't lose heart, and played well, snatching victory from defeat.