Saturday, September 26, 2020

Mair Picts Than Ye Kin Shoogle a Stick At

A Headless Body Production

Venue: An Undisclosed Basement
Event: Live
Players: Phil Gardocki running Germans
               Steve Turn running Picts
Game System: L'Art de la Guerre, about 200 points per side.

The Forces:
The Germans, Commanders Larryious (Strategist), Darrylinius (competent) and Darrylinius (Ordinary).
12 Tribesmen, Heavy Swordsmen, impetuous, Elite
4 Small boys, Light Infantry Javelin
6 Horsemen, Medium Cavalry, Elite
Break point 22

The Picts, commanded by Angus (competent), Fergus (competent) and Brode (Ordinary).
4 Light Chariot, Elite
5 Light Cavalry, Javelin
16 Medium Spearman, Missile Support
Break point 25

The Picts win the initiative and elect to attack in the forest.

The Picts deploy pretty much board edge to board edge.  Their chariots ready to race around the wooded hill.

While in the meadows, hordes, supported by heroes on chariots.

Racing ower a protuberance in th' ground, mair picts.

So what is with the Scottish brogue?  The L' Art de la Guerre lists have Picts, Irish, Scots, Caledonian along with Atecotti, Saxon, Anglo-Saxon, Frisian and Jutes allies.  It's a French rule set, and while the Anglophiles know of the great differences between all these cultures, to the French, they are just Ancient Brits. 

So I picted one with a English to Scottish translator.

Just for the fun of it.

In the deep, foreboding woods, a secret is kept.

Odin's lightning reveals a massive German horde.

Stretching from almost woods to woods, they seem vastly outnumbered.

 Just two German commands.  But 3 ambushes.  Is the missing command on a flank march or hidden?

Turn 1:

Pict chariots race through the open areas.  Leaving some of their brethren in the dust.

Subtlety is never in the Scottish nature.  Race across the board it is, while they have the numbers.

Chatting on the nature of the topographical regularities. 

"Lets see whats behind the rocks."

The Germans show their aggressive nature and even though outnumbered, advance.

They know there are more of them than it appears.  More warbands charge from the forest.

Turn 2:
Another ambush is revealed.  A third was uncovered.
Ironically, the 3rd ambush marker was too well hidden.  Steve didn't notice it until I put a 4 UD stick on it.
The Picts are determined to destroy whatever is in the field.  Somd 6 warbands are dedicated to the effort.  But the main German battle is squared off against just a few chariots and light horse.

Fearless, and now outnumbered, and soon to be flanked, the Pictish left is determined to go down fighting.

The small boys in the woods have seen enough of the blue woad horror to last a lifetime.

The more seasoned warriors taunt their foes, and run off the "heros"

Their over confidence is bared for all to see.  They charge, and are repulsed by the Pict invaders.

Turn 3:

The woods are invested with Mair Picts Than Ye Kin Shoogle a Stick At

A massive horde begins their approach on the small German line.

On the Pict left, the Picts turn the German flank

Chariots may look cool, but they don't corner well.  The Germanic youth leave the woods and take a shot with their stick bows.  The picture is a bit deceptive.  The chariot the lights are next to is actually a commander, so they are not in contact with a unit.  And they are bow armed, so they could back up a pace or two.

With the chariots run off, a couple of warbands head for the exposed Pict flank.

Darrylinius (the Ordinary) arrives with his horsemen.  In coordination with Darrylinius (the Competent) they put the Picts in a vice and squeeze.

For all the goings on, you would think the score would be higher than 6 to 2.

Turn 4:
The German archers can be ignored, and so they are!  There is a camp to loot.

And warbands to overwhelm.  In L' Art de la Guerre terms, a game winning14 points if the Commander is captured!

The Pict left flank is down to 2 warbands, preparing for their final, forlorn hope.  Off in the distance, their heroes on chariots hope to slow down the mass of horsemen arriving.

German skirmishers split up.

Three warbands redress their lines to avoid flank charges, while two others chase away Pict light horse and threaten the flanks of the massive Pict horde.

Darrylinius(the ordinary) races his horse towards the Pict camp, leaving the cleanup for Darrylinius(the competent)'s warbands.

Turn 5:

The race is on, which camp will fall first?

With a fierce-some ululation, the Picts charge.  Not to be outdone, the Germans counter charge with greater ferocity.  Down the line pushing just a little bit more then they were pushed.

The great heroes of of yore, outnumbered 3 to 1 decide once again to flee from their foes.

Emboldened by their older brethren, the German archers return for another shot.

Two Pict Warbands are destroyed, the others hold on.

Desperate measures.  A Pict light horse attacks the rear of a German warband.  Oblivious to the German horse surrounding it.

Darrylinius(the competent) has naught to do but loot the bodies.

Two turns of intense action have proven very bad for the Picts.  The score is 16 to 3.

Turn 6:

The German camp is looted.  Pict Horse have wrapped up the German left flank.

Where warbands falter, horsemen can fill the gaps. Several German warbands are at the point of destruction.

An overview of the action so far.  Color coded by command.

At the top of the 6, the score is 17 of 25 for the Picts, 8 of 22 for the Germans.

One German warband cuts through his foes.  Another is taken in the flank

The Pict camp has fallen.  So to a Pict light horse unit.

Darrylinious has a choice.  Get a few of his troops into the battle, try to organize all of them and never back into the battle.  He chooses some.

However his efforts are for naught.  The Picts have had enough.  The score is 25 to 8.

Ending positions    

What went right?  The terrain selection went well for the Germans.  Even though the Picts fight better in the woods than the Germans, it slowed them down and prevented their superior numbers from coming into play.

The Germans played a good "Refused flank" stratagem.  First delaying substantial forces with lights in the woods, then with a small block of 3 warbands near the camp.

Four warbands in ambush in the right hand woods was a match for the Picts descending upon it.  Who only had to hold until the flank march arrived, and then the Picts were swept away.  In the center, the Picts distracted 3 warbands with their chariots, which also delayed the arrived German cavalry somewhat.  But in the end it was not enough.

But also, the Picts did not select their impetuous option, instead going for a bit more resistance when they lose an impact fight with "Missile Support".  An option that cost more points.  As far as this game goes, that would not have made a difference on the Pict left, because even though the Picts won the impact fights, furious charge does not count against other troops with furious charge.

In the center it would have made a difference, as the Germans won all the impacts and claimed furious charge bonus.  The Picts would have lasted longer until their numbers mattered.

The Odds:

Using the Visual Basic for Applications embedded in Excel, I have created combat simulator for L' Art de la Guerre.  It takes any two troop types and runs a thousand battles and displays the results.  It can take some situational modifiers like "Does the unit have support", and "Hits before Contact".

For this fight, the main troop types are Medium Spear vs Heavy Swordsmen, Impetuous (elite)

The Heavy Swordsmen (elite) will destroy the Medium Spear 85% of the time taking an average of 2.4 rounds to do so.  A very bad mismatch.

To be fair to Steve, I was expecting him to run impetuous troops as well.  That would cancel Furious charge (page 58) and then the odds are 75/25 in favor of the Germans and taking 3.5 rounds.  But on the ends of the battlegroups, I would expect the Picts to have an overlap advantage, wining 60% of the fights, taking 4 turns.  

Also, I did not run any of these specific cases until after the battle, and in response to a comment on the forums.


  1. The flavour text made this post ;) Question about AdlG. In your debrief, it sounds like the Picts had an uphill battle regardless. Is this something to watch out for when getting into the game? Are there bad matchups that can be easily anticipated and avoided?

  2. A lot of players focus on the match-ups. Because initially the game seems like it’s just rock-paper-scissors. Heavies tend to beat Mediums regardless of weapons because they can take more hits, 4 vice 3. Swordsmen and Spearmen are even up against each other, but Swordsmen defeats impetuous troops, while Spearmen beat Cavalry. And Cavalry can beat swordsmen, but has to use their speed to outmaneuver them for it. Then there are add-ons to the basic troop types. Armor, Elite, Mediocre, 2 Handed Weapons, missiles. Each upgrade comes at a cost.
    That's where the game comes in. In this game, both armies were rather simple in composition. The Picts were mostly Med Sword at 7 points, and the Germans Heavy Sword, Impetuous, Elite at 10 points. In a 1 on 1 battle, the Picts are sorely out matched. But the Picts should have about a 30% advantage in numbers. The Picts also had the advantage in fighting in terrain, speed, and maneuverability. The German impetuousness gives them a first turn advantage, but also makes the unit type “unmaneuverable”. Which means it takes extra command points to turn the units, and they lose movement when they do turn. This coupled by the German command structure of only 2 command points makes them an unwieldy army to play.
    In this game, the Picts deployed with a strong right punch. Unfortunately, the Germans did not have anything against them but some light infantry which delayed that mass from contact.
    On the Pict left, they walked into an ambush. German warriors in the woods matched them 1 for 1.
    In this battle favorable match ups were not going to happen for the Picts, but generating overlaps could. If on their left, they did not advance, but instead got ready to receive the flank march, with the help of their chariots, they would have been a good match against the German Cavalry. While the German foot in the woods would have needed many turns to cross the board to help.
    The German right flank was just 3 units. Wave attack them with 5 units, damage them, then another 5 should have finished them off. This would have taken time, but doable.

    There are over 250 Armies to base your forces on. Each has a minimum and maximum of certain troop types. So each army has a “flavor”, the above two armies are pretty much hammers. There are hard hitting cavalry armies. There are “shoot and scoot” cavalry armies. Pike armies supported by elephants, other pike armies supported by knights. High endurance armies like the Roman heavy infantry and armor. Taking 4 hits to kill and because of armor, very resistant to being killed. Shooting armies and there is one person experimenting with an army that has over 40 units of light infantry. Almost impossible to catch, and almost impossible to demoralize due to size.
    So pick one that suits your personality. Find someone with Table Top Simulator and play a game. The world has changed, and you don’t have to paint the figures any more.