Saturday, May 16, 2020

The Battle of Emesa

A Headless Body Production   
Venue: An Undisclosed Basement
Event: Bored
Players: Phil Gardocki running Emperor Aurelian of Rome
               Phil Gardocki running General Azbdas of Palmyra
Game System: L'Art de la Guerre, 15 mm, 200 points per side. 
Theme: Rome and her enemies

The Forces:The Romans are commanded by Aurelian, the Strategist, Marcus Aurelius Probus, the Brilliant, and Darrylious, the Competent.
4 Heavy Cavalry 2 Elite
2 Equites Sagittarii, Light Cavalry, Bow
6 Legionaries, Heavy Swordsmen, Impact, Elite
6 Auxiliaries, Medium Swordsmen, Impact
4 Light Infantry, Javelin
Breakpoint of 23

The Palmyrans are commanded by Azbdas, the Brilliant, Vaballathus the Competent and Antiochus, the Competent.
6 Cataphracts, 4 elite
6 Bowmen
4 Light Infantry Bow
8 Light Cavalry, Bow
2 Illyricani, Light Cavalry, Javelin
Breakpoint of 27

A kickstarter I signed up for from a Place to Play, kicked in and delivered 5 boxes of geomorphic hills. This is the latest in a great set of tile sets, which won them an award for "Best Game Accessory" from Origins a couple of years ago. The hills themselves are not yet on their web site, but but I have been told that will happen this weekend.  They have a lot of other tile sets for Land, Sea and Space. Including Hedges, Crops, Marshes. Great for 15mm figures from WWII to RPG's.So I opened a couple of boxes, and decided to put them in a game with the terrain being Steppes. They create a touch of panache for the field. I dusted off my Palmyrans, who fight in the steppes, and are allowed 3 hills, to have another go around with the Romans.

An example of the hill when created.  Figures are 18mm.  The measuring stick is in 40mm increments.
Another thing different I am trying is a change of the view. All my battle reports are from the perspective of Me and my Opponent. But these are solitaire games, and there is no "him". So why not take center-line shots from above?
I know there are 6 hills on the board.  My house, my rules.  There are also more than 200 points.  The hills shown here are built from just two boxes of the Hills set from Place to Play, and there is more pieces that didn't make the board.

The answer came to me as soon as I set up the 3 command.  I have to stand and reach across a meter of space to move them.  Live and learn.

Turn 1:
The Romans roll maximum command points down the line.  The Legions and Auxiliaries race across the field.  The Equites hangs back as their role is to cover the Legion's flanks, and not get shot up too bad.
Marcus Aurelius Probus stops just out of bow shot. 
The Palmyran Horsemen all advance quickly.  Only the bowmen are hesitant, They have the hill advantage, and step forward a few paces and loose arrows.

Palmyran fletchers must have had a bad day.  Only one Roman unit suffered as a consequence of all this missile fire.

Turn 2:

Aurelian is employing the very dangerous strategy of offering his legions for a sacrifice.  Relying on their elite and 4 cohesion points to hold out long enough for the Auxiliaries to clear the hill, and the Equites to run off the Palmyran light horse.
In L' Art de la Guerre, each command is moved separately.  The order of which is up to the player.  Which can lead to inter-command problems.  Here, the center command moved first, and sent their Light Infantry to harass the flanks of the Palmyran Cavalry.  Then the Roman Cavalry command moved last, charging, causing the Palmyrans to evade.  So the Roman Lights have nought to throw their sticks at save their own troops.

Palmyran Cataphracts are professionals.  They see a weak point in the line and crush it, daring the Legions to advance to do something about it.

Between the lost Auxiliary and bowfire, the score is 6-0 in the Palmyran's favor.
Turn 3:
Aurelian accepts the challenge.  By engaging the Cataphracts, they will not be able to cause mischief elsewhere.
Roman Cavalry charge anew!  Again they roll long to the Palmyran's short.  The Legions are not doing well though.  One is destroyed, and 4 have 2 hits each on them.  The battle of the hill is a tough call.  Both sides have 3 disordered units and one destroyed.
A mid turn visit to the Tree of Woe, the Palmyrans have a 5 point lead.
The bottom of the turn sees little change on the hill.  The Roman pursuit on the edge however has the bowmen flank being threatened.
The Legionaries however have reverted to type and are holding their ground against superior forces.
In reflection afterwards I realized that the Cataphracts should have broke off from the line to recharge next turn.  That would have finished the Romans off.

The battle for the hill has turned against the Palmyrans.  The score is 11-10.
Turn 4:
The top of the turn sees another charge by Roman Equites, and this time the Palmyran stood and fought, vice run off the edge of the board.  Roman Legionaries continued to hold off the Cataphracts. The fight for the hill is almost complete.

The Palmyrans suffered greatly this turn.  Their number of points destroyed more than doubled.  But the Romans are a smaller army and are 8 away from demoralization as well.
Coulda, Shoulda,  Vaballathus should have just run off the board.

The Legionaries have been really rolling the spots off of the dice, and that is why they are still standing.  But their flank is now truly turned, and the end is near.
Only one Palmyran bowmen remains.
The Palmyrans are only 2 from breaking, the Romans still have 7 to go.

Turn 5:
It's is winding down now.  Even if the Cataphracts totally destroy the Legions, they would also have to capture Aurelian to win.

The Cavalry fight devolves down to what every good cavalry fight does, into 7 separate battles.  
Not quite a venn diagram
Two more Legionaries fall  But surprisingly, so does a Cataphract.
The Auxiliaries on the hill triumph! But will take some time to become combat effective again.
The last shot of the Tree of Woe.  The Romans win, 27-18

So what went right for the Romans?  First their plan worked.  The Legions were able to engage and hold the Cataphracts while the wing commands destroyed their opponents.

And while this was true, there was a very strong luck component with this as well.

The bottom of turn 3, and all of turn 4, when any bit of luck in favor of the Palmyrans would have blown a hole in the Roman line, there was none.  On many rolls, only armor saved the Cataphracts from disorder.  

But even if the Legions had fallen earlier, the maneuvering problems inherent with Cataphracts would have prevented them from interfering with the battles on the flanks in a timely fashion. So, perhaps the plan was solid.

The Palmyran Cataphracts had two opportunities to break off and charge again, gaining furious charge and impact, while the Romans only could rally.  They did not do this, because it seemed the Legionaries were about to collapse anyway.   Lesson learned, always break off for a new charge.

The Palmyran bowmen did what they could.  Half of the Auxiliaries went up the hill disordered from missile fire, but still prevailed. 

The Palmyran Light Horse command was just an embarrassment.  They failed to maneuver for the flanks.  This was probably due to them being across the board and quite a reach, and from my perspective, I was just not seeing it from the side lines.  Their missile fire was ineffective as well against elite, armored cavalry.


  1. I have some of their tiles, but passed on the hills due to finances at the time. I wish it could have been otherwise.

    Looks like an interesting battle and outcome.

  2. They come in a set. I am waiting for them to be on their website for a bit more detail.
    Some Pieces are complete levels unto themselves, others are hexagons that lock in like a jigsaw puzzle. Multiple layers are held in place by clear plastic pins that insert into predrilled holes.

  3. very cool tiles, hadn't seen them before, thanks for the report

    1. They are brand spanking new. But not up on their web site yet.

    2. Hi Phil, would you be up for a remote game of ADLG at some point via WhatsApp?
      Kind regards,

    3. Sure. Email me at PHGamer AT verizon DOT net