Sunday, March 22, 2020

An Epic of Elephants

A Headless Body Production
Venue: On Military Matters Bookstore. Owner Operator: Dennis Shorthouse
Event: Prep for Cold Wars 300 point Team Tournament
Players: Phil Gardocki, running Palmyrans
               Dennis Shorthouse, running Khmer, with Burmese Allies
Game System: L'Art de la Guerre, 15 mm, 300 points per side.
Theme: None

The Forces:
Xenobia and Son, both Brilliant,  Exilous the fifth, ordinary, and some unnamed officer, also ordinary
12 Cataphracts
4 Sagittarii, Light Cavalry, Bow
6 Legionaries, Heavy Swordsmen, Armor, Impact
2 Auxillia, Medium Swordsmen, Impact
3 Bowmen
2 Caravan Guards, Medium Camelry, Bow
Breakpoint around 29

Khmer with Burmese allies.
4 commanders, uncertain quality, some mounted astride elephants.  1 is allied.
13 Elephants, 4 elite, 2 with catapults.
and a bunch of other stuff
Breakpoint of 36

Dennis has a wonderful bookstore in Hopewell New Jersey, that he has been running for many decades. Imagine going through a library that is nothing but military history. If you don't think you knew him, he is a long time supporter of Historical Miniatures Gaming Society, and held the coveted #1 spot in the dealers area for over 20 years. So if you have been to any of HMGS's events at the Lancaster Host, you probably have met Dennis at some time.

It looks like I brought a couple of knives to a gun duel.  I knew I was going to face elephants, but there are a lot of loose order stuff to kill with the Burmese.  I figure I can take my lumps against the elephants, and kill the rest.  My legions could handle 3 elephants, leaving only 6 to run over the cataphracts, but this allows for a lot of options for the rest of the board.  However, 13! elephants?  That is a different story.

The Board:
The Palmyrans win the initiative and pull their first blunder, and elect to attack in the plains.  They should have defended in the desert, to give their Bowmen and Camels a decent chance.

The Khmer right is populated with their allied Burmese contingent. 

There is a bit of a gab between commands 1&2, and 3&4.  It makes sense, 13 elephants is a lot of points

Zenobia takes the left with 6 cataphracts.

Exilous has 8 units of swordsmen.
The third command is small bowmen and camels. 
 See what I mean about stupid.  This command is purpose built for sand dunes.

"And son", takes a position on the far right.
 Turn 1:

Zenobia advances with courage. 
Exilous was a bit late getting his men off the line.
Nameless advances and shoots.
"And Son" compresses and triple marches along the flanks of the Khmer.
Elephants are unmaneuverable, and if you can make the command turn, then it begins to lose cohesion.  Most of the Khmer commanders are ordinary, which will compound the problem.

The Burmese commander accepts Zenobia's challenge.
His Khmer boss supports his decision.
There is concurrence with the 3rd command.
The 4th command decides to tun and face is flankers.
 Turn 2:
Zenobia holds the line.
Exilous lines up with the queen.
My thought here was that the Romans can beat the Mediums, and hold or win in 2 out of 3 elephant fights. 

Exilous cants his line offering opportunities for flank shots.
"And Son" pushes forward.  His Lights are racing to the camp, worth 6 points.
Facing a whole army of cavalry, the lone Burmese horseman, Medium Cavalry, Mediocre, finds the courage to charge.  The Sagittarii are first shocked at the effrontery, before following their training and evade.

The lines close.
Just outside of 1 UD, in order to shoot the catapults.
I didn't catch it here, but later mentioned that the elephants cannot move and shoot their artillery.
They missed anyway, so no harm done.

This is beginning to look like a bad plan.  The setup looks like I'll lose 4 out of 5.  That is a bad plan.
The 4th Khmer decides to retreat.
Turn 3:
Zenobia still holds the line.  Let the Romans take the first blow.
Exilous attacks.  Losing 2 and winning 2 fights out of 6.

Exilous recalls his camelry.  Threatening roll up the flanks when the fight begins.
"And Son" turns his Cataphracts, threatening the elephant column.
The Burmese commander attacks with just his elephants, yielding flank support for 2 of the fights to the Palmyrans.  But they are enough.
 I later calculated the odds.  The elephants will defeat cataphracts 97% (99.5% if elite) of the time.
 A very bad plan.
2 legionaries down.
2 bowmen down.
The only plus is on the Palmyran right flank.  The Khmer command has broken up into 6 groups.  There has to be something we can take advantage of.
The Palmyrans have 17 points towards their breakpoint of 29
The Khmer have 6 points towards their breakpoint of 36
Turn 4:

In a desperate gamble to keep the Burmese busy, Zenobia orders her last charge.
Exilous keeps the pressure up.
Unnamed has stripped the elephants of their runners, and has flanked the Khmer
"And Son" takes the Khmer camp.  But decides to call it a day and retires.
Zenobias command, Queen and all, has been utterly destroyed.
Exilous's legions continue to fight.  I should have brought more of them. 
Exilous's command is almost obliterated as well.
Only "And Son" survives intact.
Both of his Sagittarii have either fled the board, or can disengage, and so are recoverable.
Final score 29-22

What went wrong?  First, the decision to bring the Palmyrans.  I know Cataphracts are bad matches against elephants, but they are good match-ups against all else in the Khmer list.  What I did not expect was the sheer number of elephants available to the Khmer, 13!  I think this list is going to be unstoppable at the team tournament. 

But the battle did not need go this way.  I did not realize that Zenobia's command (left side) were facing elite elephants.  She could have turned around, and got on the highway I put there for that very purpose.  Leaving the elephants to be slowed down by the lights.  Her son succeeded in fragmenting his opponents command, and there was potential for defeating the army in detail, if things had not fallen apart elsewhere.


  1. Great have answered your own wont happen again!!

  2. Allen and I played the Khmer army at the Cold Wars doubles tournament and didn't do so well. We lost to a cav shooting army and, of all things, a Mayan army with a myriad of medium sword with bows. You could have dismounted some of the Cataphracts as Heavy Spear with heavy armour to hold on the left flank while you sweep around the other flank with the rest of the mounted.