Tuesday, November 17, 2020

A Pyre of Pyrrhics

A Headless Body Production

Venue: Online using Table Top Simulator
Event: Tuesday afternoon
Players: Tim "Madaxeman" Porter playing Camillan Roman
               Phil "The Other Bloke" Gardocki playing Pyrrhic
Game System: L'Art de la Guerre, 200 points per side, over a virtual table, separated by 3000 miles of fiber optic cable.
Theme: Classical

The Event of the Year!

This game is against Tim Porter, the Madaxeman, himself! So there are two different reports of this game from both sides of the virtual table, for his YouTube video, click here.

I first heard about The Mad Axe Man in mid July, 2016. I was invited for a weekend at Walt Leech's, whose man cave is a war gamers heaven. I was greeted as the "American Mad Axe Man". I had no idea who he was, but realized that I had a fan base. Which was both frightening and humbling. At that time, I had about 40 Ancients related battle reports to my credit, about a dozen for L'Art de la Guerre. I had been doing writing battle reports since at least 2011, and have 80 for other AAR's in other, themed blogs*. 3 games went by, followed by a long drive home, some new pictures to post and I forgot all about him.

Over the next year or so, at tournaments, I would give my opponents a spiel about what I was doing, and would they mind if I took pictures during the game, and littering the board with dead markers, and giving them the choice to opt out, because it is their game too, and I didn't want to take the fun out of it for them.

To date, none have, but a few wish to be anonymous for reasons of their own.

And every once in a while, one would say, "Oh, like Madaxeman".

Well you only have to kick me 4 or 5 times before I get a clue and I looked up his web site.

The man is nuts. Without exaggeration, he has been doing this for decades. It takes me 3-4 hours to do a single battle report, adding flavor text, sometimes telling a story, so I limit my postings to one a week, to give everyone a chance to read it before posting another one. Tim will put up 5 at once. With word bubble conversations between the figures, interleaved with relevant videos, post action commentary by Hannibal and Scipio, on a web site with all kinds of support for the game.

In short, he was better at this than I, by a lot, he puts the time in and it shows.

We started a small correspondence, comparing "how to's". Mostly for my benefit. And it was in great anticipation when I heard he was coming to Cold Wars, 2020, and I thought we can play a game, and the viewers will get to see both perspectives. This has only happened to me once before, in a Flames of War Tournament. It's cool. But it was not to be. I bowed to pressure about the plague spreading across the land and opted out.

Both Tim and I have a number of games under our belts using Table Top Simulator so the we have over come the wonkiness of the interface and played a game last week.


The Forces:

Pyrrhic, list 44
Led by the Pyrrhus the brilliant, Darrylious, the Brilliant and Darrylious, the Competent
2 Xystophoroi, Heavy Cavalry, Impact, Elite
4 Greek Horsemen, Medium Cavalry
2 Tarentine, Light Cavalry,Javelin
2 Hoplites, Heavy Spearmen
2 Macedonians, Pikemen, Mediocre
2 Hypaspist, Pikemen, Elite
1 Elephant
2 Rhodians, Sling
2 Samnite Mercenaries, Medium Swordsmen, Impact, Elite
2 Bruttain Mercenaries, Medium Swordsmen
2 Bowmen, Light Infantry, Bows
Breakpoint of 23
Camillan Roman, list 52
3 Commanders, two Competent, one Ordinary and Allied,
4 Hastati, Heavy Swordsmen, Impact, Armor
1 Triarii, Heavy Spearmen, Armor, Elite
4 Ascensci, Heavy Spearmen, Mediocre
2 Principes, Heavy Spearmen
4 Velites, Light Infantry Javelin
5 Equites, Medium Cavalry, 2 Elite
5 Samnites, Medium Swordsmen, Impact
Breakpoint of 26

A note on annotation. Letters in parenthesis represent some value change for the specific unit. For commanders it is b for Brilliant, c for Competent and o for Ordinary. For troops it is e for Elite, and m for Mediocre. Other abbreviations, Hvy Heavy, HSp Heavy Spearmen, MSp Medium Spearmen, HSw Heavy Swordsmen, MSw Medium Swordsmen, XB Crossbow, LB, Longbow, Jav Javelin, 2HW 2 Handed Weapons, B Bow, Kn Knight, HC Heavy Cavalry, Md Medium, Sgt Sergeants, LC Light Cavalry, Pk Pikemen.

XX refers to newly dead. Random "Ouch!" is a missile hit.

The Board:
Pyrrhic wins the initiative and elects to attack in the plains.

With a perceived advantage in cavalry, Pyrrhus goes for a minimum of terrain, a field and a road. The Romans place two plantations and another field. Their placement rolls are perfect, as the Romans fit perfectly between the plantations.

There are a lot more Romans then expected. Also, their cavalry command is supported by two spear armed Principes, which is a problem

The original plan was to dismiss the Roman Cavalry, then attack their foot with my cavalry nibbling on the edge. That plan is out the window.

New plan. Distract the Roman cavalry and left flank infantry and hammer through the center. From my opening moves, it does not look much different

I have never run Pyrrhic before. It is interesting in that it has a lot of choices.

One organizational mistake, my main battle line is 7 elements wide. So in addition to taking an additional command point for the elephant moving short, it also takes another additional point for being too wide.

I do expect the main line to do well. I have elite Hypaspists next to the elephant, then ordinary pike, which should do well against Roman Legionnaires. The Hoplites on the ends are more for providing flank protection then attacking, as they can actually turn and move on one command point.

The Romans are not impressed. They have more Samnites, which are all Impact, where as mine are only half Impact. It looks like the Romans are going to attack right, and hold left.

Turn 2:

It's a slow crawl across the battle field, except for the cavalry, which is facing nought but heavy spearmen at the moment
For only having 2 Competent commanders, the Romans have a lot of actions. The Samnites clash, the Roman Allied commander avoids the Pyrrhus's elite impacts, relegating them to "support" status. But muffs the die roll for combat, taking two levels of disorder.

Meanwhile the Roman Legionnaires, who have noticed how sloppy Pyrrhus's center command is advancing, decide to show them how it is done, with hob nailed sandals, they advance at a quick march.

On the Roman right, the Ascensci handle cavalry as they have been trained. They advance and don't stop. Flanking Pyrrhus's elite Xystrophoroi, daring them to charge.

Turn 3:

Changing the view to overhead. Which is how I normally play, but forgot to adjust it earlier. From this angle, the elements are much easier to adjust with the user interface.

A Roman Samnite is down, the remaining Pyrrhic Samnites advance for a charge next turn. In the center the main battle line charges. One Velite evades before the elite Hypaspist, but the other stands before the elephant. +3 to zero, the Velites are trampled into the mud, pursued by Hypaspist and pachyderm.
That is a bit too much description to describe what amounts to the destruction of a light infantry, but it set up the counter punch by the Roman Hastati on the left side of the Pyrrhic main battle line, which now has a gap and leads the right wing by about a blond hair.

The Xystophoroi charge. Better now, then later as the Romans will charge with flank advantage. 

Normally, Heavy Cavalry charging Heavy Spearmen is not a good idea, but when the Cavalry is elite and the spearmen mediocre, its not so bad. The Cavalry will eventually win 57% of the combats.

In a normal Heavy Cavalry to Heavy Spearmen, the odds of the cavalry winning is just 19%.

Pyrrhus made one error, instead of rallying the Tarentines, he should have disengaged the Greek Cavalry.

The Romans keep up the pressure There are gaps in the Pyrrhic army to exploit, so attacks are available with the benefit of support. The Pyrrhic main battle line suffers a couple of disorders, while two of Pyrrhic cavalry are dispersed.

Turn 4:

Pyrrhus is down a few points. It is time for the main attack. Elite Hypaspists and Elephants charge, and are both rebuffed by Roman Hastati and Triarii. The only saving grace is the destruction of Samnite Cavalry by Samnite swordsmen.

I remembered to disengage the Greek Cavalry, and the Xystophoroi this time. But committed a rules violation, where another of the Greek Cavalry disengaged against their Roman Medium Cavalry counterparts. Which is not allowed.

The score is Rome 11 of 26 to Pyrrhic 14 of 23

The main battlelines continue to hack at each other. Another Roman Samnite unit is destroyed, countered by the loss of a Greek Cavalry.

More importantly, the Romans have turned the Pyrrhic main battle line.

The score is Rome 13 of 26 to Pyrrhic 15 of 23

Turn 5:

Desperate measures require the brothers Darrylious to lead from the front. The Samnite on Samnite fight has him facing a flank charged unit, but a 1-6 die roll is to the Roman advantage, with Darrylious barely avoiding losing a limb for his efforts. The other brother Darrylious is more successful, leading his Hypaspist to victory over the Triarii.

But his bravery cost him, as he didn't have enough command points to turn his pike to face the oncoming Roman charge, which, in the end, cost him the battle.

The score is Rome 17 of 26 to Pyrrhic 16 of 23

The Romans play cautiously, trying to avoid defeat from the jaws of victory. One Hypaspist is destroyed, disordering the lights behind them. Their Ascenci flank charge Greek Pike, barely scoring a hit. Greek Hoplites are taken in the rear, and routed through by the fleeing Xystophoroi.

With that, the final score is Rome 18, Pyrrhus 23. 

So what went wrong?

Throwing out the original plan was a good idea, however, the cavalry command still committed to combat. They should have postured and parsed off a sizable chunk of the Roman army and let the main battle line go to work.

On the left, my Samnites were out tacticed, as Tim was good at selectively avoiding the two elite impact units, only to be defeated by drastically unfavorable dice on his part. He also secured a tactical advantage and had favorable dice on the main battle line. But he would not have turned it's flank had my cavalry played the game they should have. 

So without the defeat of the Pyrrhic cavalry, the game would have run longer, with the Pyrrhic Samnites turning the Roman Hastati flank, the game would have been much closer.

For a post game discussion there is another YouTube video


* My other blog sites:

 Various WWII information and Flames of War Battle Reports (v3) at Phil on WWII

And visit Marvin the Martian at 

All Quiet on the Martian Front

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