Monday, August 31, 2020

John Doukas Byz His Time

A Headless Body Production
Venue:   An Undisclosed Basement
Event:   Playing a game for the camera 
Players: Phil Gardocki running Thematic Byzantine
              Tom Worden running Samurai
Game System: L'Art de la Guerre, 15mm, 200 points per side.

With a tie against the Burgundians, the Samurai army finds itself in a sudden death bonus round against the Thematic Byzantines. This round being held in the Karaburma field along the Danube river.

John Doukas (Greek: Ἰωάννης Δούκας, romanized: Iōannēs Doúkas; fl. 1155–1181) was a senior Byzantine military commander and diplomat under Manuel I Komnenos, serving in Italy, Hungary, Asia Minor, and the Holy Land. He rose to the rank of sebastos and the office of megas hetaireiarches.

The Forces:
Samurai (list 210)
The Samurai are commanded by Larry-San, the Strategist, his brother Darryl-San the Ordinary and his other brother Darryl-San, also Ordinary.
9 Samurai Swordsmen and Archers, Medium Swordsmen, Bow, Elite  
4 Yari, Medium Spearmen, Mediocre
4 Mounted Samurai, Heavy Cavalry, Bow, Elite  
2 Followers with Bow, Bowmen, Mediocre
Breakpoint of 19

Thematic Byzantine (list 127)  
Commanded by Nikephoros (the younger), Brilliant, Pumaphoros, also Brilliant, and Adidasphoros, the Ordinary, and somewhat Unreliable
12 Thematic Kataphractoi, Medium Cavalry, Impact and Bot
4 Cursors and Alans, Light Cavalry, Bow
3 Skutatoi, Heavy Spearmen, Missile Support, Mediocre
2 Light Infantry, Bow
2 Light Infantry, Sling
1 Light Infantry, Javelin
Breakpoint of 25

The Board:
The picturesque River Danube anchors the Samurai left.  The board started with 2 fields, but a lucky roll removed the huge one in the center of the board.  Leaving the Japanese with only one on their side of the board.  Leaving the only notable pieces of terrain on the Byzantine side.
With not enough room between the river and the field, Larry-San deploys his more mobile, and better command controlled command on the far right.
While the Darryl's deploy with their flanks well secured.
Nikephoros has half the cavalry on the left.
Increasing the font size to 16 points, the descriptions on the field are a bit more legible. 
A sudden cloud covers the sun, as the light fades away.
OK, the auto flash thinks there is enough light on the right side of the table.  But its brown light.  (advertised as "Soft White" on the packaging.  2,700 K is not soft white, at best it's yellow.)

Turn 1:
On the left side of the table is dominated by a couple of 5,000K LED's.  Nice and white.
Byzantine lights take position on the Samurai flank.
While the Kataphractoi take up position just out of bow range.
Ditto on the right side
Samurai advance to missile range.
A broader view of the same part of the field.
The foot Samurai line up to bow range of the Byzantine skirmish line, but are out of charge reach.
Turn 2:
Nikephoros rolls the first of a set of one's leaving him with minimal command points.  The Avars split into two groups.  One to distract, the other to get around the Samurai rear.
Add caption

No subtlety here.  The Byzantines advance behind their lights and are going straight in with lance.
Samurai heavies make a choice which one to chase.
Their archery proves unmatched. 
Having greater numbers and skills, they turn the flank of the Byzantine line.

At the tree of Woe, The score is 12 (out of 25) to 1 (out of 19)
Turn 3:
I really have to get better about screening with Light Cavalry, this is two games in a row where my lancers are disordered by routing lights.

Nikephoros rolls the second of a set of one's leaving him with minimal command points.  So the Avars are left without orders.

Giving him just enough for charges on the Samurai foot, with some support. 
I made a mistake though, I should have brought  in one more undamaged Kataphract to challenge the Samurai horse.  Whether he stands or evades, that is one less support for the foot unit.

But it didn't matter, as Nikephoros (the younger) rolls a six, and plows the Samurai foot unit under!
His example is taken to heart by his men, as two more sixes are rolled against the other Samurai foot.

Pumaphoros isn't so lucky, but not bad either.  All his Kataphracts charge.  One is destroyed on contact.  Another bursts through the lines.
The score is 11 to 8!
The Avars are charged off the board.
A blurry shot.  Sorry. 
 Fighting continues.  All of Larry-San's foot forces are destroyed.

Darryl-San destroys 2 more Kataphracts and advance for flank positions.
At 13 of 25 to 10 of 19, the score now is a virtual tie!
 Turn 4:
Awake from his nap, Nikephoros pulls off a virtuoso performance.  Surrounding the left end of the Samurai cavalry line, getting his badly shot up Kataphracts out of harms way, and gets his rested lancers ready for another attack.

The remaining Kataphracts fight with renewed vigor.  A Samurai foot command is flanked, another is disordered.  A Yari unit is dispersed on contact!
I didn't think it would be necessary for Adidasphoros to get into the combat, but Pumaphoros needs all the help he can get.
This list has a micro command consisting of a mediocre spear unit and a light, led by an unreliable, ordinary general.  The command costs a total of 8 points.
Its primary function is to give me two larger than normal commands for the Brilliant commanders to fight with.
A secondary function is to place it first, so my opponent doesn't have much information to go on about the other commands.
The third function is to just guard the camp.
The fourth, is to support one of the other commands when they are in trouble.  Such as now.
When you are on Plan 'D', you know you are in trouble. 

And now the score is 12-15!
Outnumbered, Larry-San tries to gain some position.
Fresh targets for Samurai arrows.
The score is now 16-all
 Turn 5:
Nikephoros leads from the front trying to collapse the end cap of the Samurai line, but only manages another level of disorder.

Adidasphoros also leads from the front.  It's disordered Heavy Spear vs LMI, supported, both are mediocre.  And roll a tie!  On the far end, another Samurai foot unit falls, another is confronted.  Off in the rear, the third line Yari (mediocre) defeat the charging Byzantine Kataphracts, causing 2 levels of disorder.
Samurai horse pull an about face, dispersing the Avar lights in their rear.  More on that at the bottom of the battlereport.  Their aid is too late as the end unit collapses under the weight of Byzantine swords.
A over view shot.  Nikephoros and Larry-San are on the left.  The Darryl-San's, Puma/Adidas phoros's on the right.
Adidasphoros is killed!  Samurai archers are still finding targets!
The score is now 18 out of 19 for the Samurai, 20 out of 25 for the Byzantines.
 Turn 6:
The Byzantines only need one point to demoralize the Samurai. The Samurai horse can still evade if charged.  So it's time to open the bow cases and fire.  Samurai Armor is riddled with arrows, but none are harmed.

The final point is here.  On the river, horsemen break contact with the Yari. and the remnants of Adidasphoros's command still holds.  But there is one Samurai foot unit that faces Impact to the front, with flank support and Pumaphoros leading from the front for the win.
So what went right?  On the Byzantine left, proper screening of the Kataphracts with Psiloi (real psiloi, not just the generic name for light infantry) led to a clean charge on Medium Infantry with lancers.  3 six's helped a lot with the impact.  But after that, Nikephoros's command couldn't exploit its advantage much, only gaining 1 more unit before games end.  This command caused 8 points and took 5.  

On the Byzantine right.  Proper screening helped along the rivers edge, but improper screening caused disorder on the center Kataphracts.  On this flank only tenaciousness pulled through.  Half the command was destroyed doing it though.  This command caused 10 points but took 11.

The center command, which normally should not be in combat.  Lost 3 points, but gained 1, the final point of the game!  Posthumously awarding Adidasphoros the MVP of the game!

Rules question.  This happened during the game, And I am not sure how to rule it. 
Situation.  Two Samurai horse are facing the Byzantine Kataphract.  Byzantine lights are engaged in the rear of one of the Samurai horse units.
It is the Samurai's turn.  He turns his supporting unit and charges the Byzantine Lights.
So what happens?  The Lights cannot evade, as they are in frontal contact with the enemy.
It is not a flank charge, as the Samurai are not behind the flank.
It's not a front charge, because there is no front to charge.

In the end, we ruled it as a flank charge.
 Any thoughts?

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

A Pummeling of Sixes

A Headless Body Production

VenueVirtual Table via Table Top Simulator
Players: Phil Gardocki running 100 Years War French
                  David Ray running 100 Years War English
Game System: L'Art de la Guerre, 15mm, 200 points per side.
 The Battle to take place somewhere between Harfleur and Agincourt.

The Forces:
100 Years War French, 1415 AD
The Dauphin, played by Larry d' Arc (Brilliant), The Dukes of Berri and  Bretagne, played by his brother Darrel (competent) and his other brother Darryl (ordinary).
      4 Nobles, Heavy Knight, Impetuous
      2 Mercenaries, Heavy Knight, Impact
      2 Pavisiers, Heavy Spearmen, Pavise
      2 Foot Knights, Heavy Swordsmen 2HW, Heavy Armor, Elite
      6 French Crossbowmen, Light Infantry, Crossbow 
      3 Genoese Crossbowmen, Elite, Pavise
      2 Brigands, Medium Swordsmen, 2HW, Mediocre
Breakpoint of 22

100 Years War England, 1415 AD
Poor Harry of England, Brilliant and included,   Brian Blessed plays Exeter, is Harry's uncle and also included, and Salisbury, ordinary.
      8 Longbowmen, Elite 
      2 Gascons, Foot Knights,  2HW, Heavy Armor, Elite
      4 Men at Arms, Heavy Spearmen 
      2 Gascons, Crossbowmen
      2 Bidets, Light Infantry, Bows
      1 Hobilars, Medium Cavalry, Impact
      1 Irish Cavalry, Light Cavalry, Javelins
      1 Welsh Spearmen, Medium Spearmen
Breakpoint of 21 

So, what led to this titanic struggle between neighbors?  We have it the highest authority it was about tennis balls:

He therefore sends you, meeter for your spirit,
This tun of treasure; and, in lieu of this,
Desires you let the dukedoms that you claim
Hear no more of you. This the Dauphin speaks.

    What treasure, uncle?

    Tennis-balls, my liege.


We are glad the Dauphin is so pleasant with us;
His present and your pains we thank you for:
When we have march'd our rackets to these balls,
We will, in France, by God's grace, play a set
Shall strike his father's crown into the hazard.
Tell him he hath made a match with such a wrangler
That all the courts of France will be disturb'd

For the Reader:
The fog of war is a confusing place.  Each soldier in the field is the center of his world.  And his opinion is absolute, regardless of what the historians may glean later. So refering to this troop as a Men-At-Arms when he may only be a Sergeant, that his commander is named Henry, King, or Harry, Prince, or the pair of Darrels playing French nobility, is only certain of that instance, for those involved.

Any confusion should be regarded as part of the fun.

The English are at the top.  They deploy 15 units in two commands.
The French are at the bottom, they deploy 17 units in two commands. 

Who is in ambush, and who is running on the flank?
Both sides are missing a command.  Who is in ambush, and who is running on the flank?
Turn 1:

As the attacker, It is up to me to vanquish my foes before extra strength doth summon fortwith! 

The Duke of Bretagne, played by brother Darryl, emerges with his forces from where they did hid.  "O, prenez misericorde! ayez pitie de moi!"  and with vigorous thews, out pace the knights on horse, Five hundred were but yesterday dubb'd knights.

Harry's troops charge down hill towards the French footmen.  Exeter's archers take up position in the rough field, while he takes his men at arms for interception.
Off in the distance, to the north, dust clouds are seen.  The English have arrived, far sooner then the Dauphin would have liked.

Turn 2:
The Dauphin remembers his fathers words, "When Cressy battle fatally was struck" and decides that this is not the field to die upon, and recalls his brave knights. 
Duke Berri, Played by the other brother Darryl, pulls back to the Rue d' Ruin, sending his crossbowmen jogging down the road to slow the English arrivals.
Too eager the French were, as the arriving English loose arrows, slaughter'd the French.
Turn 3:
Duke Berri ignores the plight of his advanced screen, and continues to receive them in good order.  (he only had two command points anyway)
The Dauphin redeploys his knights.  This looks like an excellent combined arms operation.  The spearmen to absorb the arrows, the knights to slaughter the archers.

The Duke Bretagne, seeing only two horsemen afield elects to run them down with his elite Genoese Crossbowmen.
But the Exeter's men are made of high fiber.  Their horsemen swearing and stern looks, diffused attire, turn on their heels, and charge.  Exeter's knights approach rapidly, as well as his archers.
And on the left side of the board. Harry and Salisbury close in on Berri's forces.  This is not favorable geometry for the French.  They have not finished reforming their lines, and their knights are too far back.

Turn 4:
Once again, Duke Berri reinforces the opinion of his fat brained focus.  Offering the right flank of his mighty men to immediate rebuke.
The Dauphin moves as fast as he is able, but not fast enough.
Duke Bretagne decides that winning is not an option on his side of the board, but living may be, and orders a retreat.  He is heartened by the Dauphin dispatching the two bands of mercenary knights (impact, not impetuous) back to the field.

The English horsemen continue their pursuit, striking the Brigand (Medium sword, 2HW, Mediocre) in the rear. 
Harry's forces attack the French flank, but the French prove worthy opponents, and repulse the initial charge.  (1-5 roll, first of many battles that the French should not have won)
Salisbury's archers, bottom of the screen, stop at maximum range and loose arrows.

The score is 8-1 in favor of the English

Turn  5:
Duke Bretagne forces disappear into the plantation.
Duke Berri advances some of his forces to charge reach of Salisbury's archers.
His flanked spearmen, not only resist their foes, but start digging into their formations. 1-4 roll. 
The Dauphin orders his knights to spitting range.  But the English archers find them not.
His mercenaries, looking at 3 longbowmen, and approaching Exeter's Foot Knights, elect to retreat.

Authors note.  It had not yet occurred to me that these longbow did not have stakes.  Yes, they were not declared as having them, but my preconceived notions did not allow me to consider the truth of the matter.

The situation is bad for the French.
The French right hand command has lost two units to nought, and was trapped by inferior forces.
The pair of knights sent to contain Exeter's command had lost their screen, was disordered, and was in retreat.
The main battle line was half disordered and flanked.

My tactics were poor, my knights dispersed, and my main battle troops have yet to be committed.
No wonder the score was 1 (of 21) to 13 (of 22)!

Turn 6: 
Time to go down fighting. 

Horse knights charge, disordering a spearmen, but held up by the longbow.
4 foot units charge.  Including a foot knights engaging King Henry's body guard.  A 6-1 roll disperses a Longbow unit.
On the flank, another 6-1 leads to near destruction of the English spearmen.
Duke Bretagne's forces exit the plantation, and rakes the English Cavalry.

A good turn, the score is now just 6-13

An error in the double arrows on the left.  Those forces have already been engaged.
The Scrum continues.  Another 6-1 in favor of the French destroys a longbow.  Another 6-1 causes Henry's body guard, with a +2 advantage to take a hit.  The French then roll a 1, slaying him. So Henry V, King of England, with his Foot Knights as guards, becomes just a Footnote into history.

Suddenly the score is 12-13

Turn 7:
The scrum continues, both sides losing a unit. 
Superior English tactics takes the French Foot Knights in the flank!  But French Elan resists their efforts, scattering Henry's bodyguard knights!  (another 1-6 roll)
The score is now 18-16 in favor of the French.

Turn 8:
The French need 3 points.  But they must be careful  There is force enough in the English to turn this arround. 
They contiue to retreat some units before Exeters advance.  Two knights advance, accepting his challange.
In the end, it was Salisbury that costs the battle, with his last unit destroyed, he was last seen defending his standard before being pummled to the ground.  

Exeter's path looks like Billy's from Family Circus.

So, what went right?  Leaving luck out of it, and there was a lot in favor of the French.  Recognizing the trap in upper field with the longbow, and getting the horse knights out of there.

Redeploying the knights was fraught with problems.  Not just dealing with unmaneuverable impetuous troops, but also just making a decision.  Going for the flank march was a good idea, but the execution was poor.

In the end, the most expensive troops I had wound up fighting two battles, and supporting a third.

Also, the long path of Exeter's troops helped a lot.  If they had just moved straight forward, it would have been a different fight.

What went wrong?  Over committing the right hand command, and getting a bloody nose from a single Medium Cavalry.