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.

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