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!


  1. Richard Cœur de Lion led an army of some 7,000 English and Norman troops, 2,000 troops from Outremer, and 2,000 more soldiers from other source (Danes, Frisians, Genoese, Pisans, Turcopoles) as well as the the Knights Templar under Robert de Sablé and the Knights Hospitaller led by Garnier de Nablus. The Crusaders were hoping to reconquer the Holy Land following the capture of Jerusalem by the Ayyubid sultan Saladin in 1187. The Byzantine Emperor, Nikephoros , denied the Crusaders a land route to Outremer(The Crusader states created by Western European crusaders in the Holy Land) Richard decided to foolishly force his way across Byzantine lands instead of taking a sea route around them. Nikephoros and his army stood in the Crusader’s way.
    Nikephoros marched his army out of Nicaea and attacked the crusader army near Dorylaeum where the crusaders of the First Crusade won a victory over the Seljuk Turks. The battle didn’t go well for the Crusaders. That was due to their commander’s mistake. The Genoese crossbowmen supporting the Angevin, Breton and Norman heavy spear held off the main enemy force saving the army from certain defeat. But where were the Turcopole light horse? They never made it to the battlefield because Richard left them in the box and never deployed them. (OOPS!) They would have been on the right flank keeping the light psiloi far enough away that the English knights and the Knights Hospitaller could have made a double move to escape the arriving flank march. The sacrifice of the knights of Outremer on the hill would not have been necessary. The battle may have been very different indeed.
    Richard the Lionheart and his crusaders may have been on the loosing end of the draw, but you must admit they were a pretty army.

  2. Thanks Richard for the alternate history! Much better than my own pithy missives. I have 4 more of these in the queue, do you want to write some dialog for the preambles?