Thursday, January 7, 2021

A Kerfuffle With the Khazars

A Headless Body Production

Venue: An Totally Different Undisclosed Basement
Event: Round 2 of the Dark Age, no Knights theme
Players: Phil Gardocki playing Nikephorian Byzantine
              Al Kaplan playing Khazar
Game System: L'Art de la Guerre, 200 points per side, 25mm
Theme: Dark Age, no Knights

The Forces:

Nikephorian Byzantine(list 128)
Led by the Sneaker brothers, Nikephoros the younger and Brilliant, Pumaphoros, the Brilliant and Adidasphoros, the ordinary, and somewhat unreliable.
4 Tagmata, Kataphractoi, Heavy Cavalry Bow, Impact, Elite
4 Prokoursatores, Light Cavalry, Bow
5 Varangians or Menavlatoi, Heavy Swordsmen 2HW
5 Skutatoi, ½ Heavy Spearmen ½ Bowmen
4 Psiloi, Light Infantry, Bows and Javelins
Breakpoint of 22
Khazar (list 156)
3 Commanders, a Brilliant, and two Ordinaries
10 Nobles, Heavy Cavalry, Bow
4 Horse Archers, Light Cavalry, Bow
4 Guard Spearmen, Heavy Spearmen
2 Levy
2 Slavs, Medium Spearmen
2 Slav Skirmishers, LI Javelin
Breakpoint of 24

The Board:

The Byzantines win the initiative and elect to attack in the plains. The terrain is sparse with just a couple of fields and a hill.

The Khazar's deploy in the center with a large infantry force

Yes, we wore masks the entire day. In a large room, open door to the outside for ventilation, on tables keeping us about 6 feet apart.

And a large, 7 heavy and 3 light, cavalry command on their left.

Of the remaining command, nothing is seen.

The Byzantines deploy just left of center with their Skutatoi command, most of which are hidden behind the hill
To the right of center is a strong force of Varangians and their bright axes.
In the position of honor are the elite Tagmata, supported by lights and their own private Skutatoi

I have a feeling Al is going to show me how a flank march is done. This looks like the setup we had last year at Fall In, only I was the flanker. You can read about it here.

Turn 1:

Adidasphoros summons 3 Skutatoi from behind the hill to march forward. Leaving one behind to deal with a flank march if necessary
Pumaphoros advances his foot at an ordinary pace, Nikephoros likewise.

With some dread I advance cautiously. Lets see how this develops.

The Khazar hold back their main line of foot, advancing just enough to control their terrain.
While their cavalry expands and advances.

And the unseen command rolls a 6, and so will be arriving on the Byzantine right side next turn.

Turn 2:

Without the threat of the flank march arriving on the left, the Byzantine foot advances on the double
There is a perceived quality over quantity advantage here, and the Skutatoi can cover the rest when they get there. Till then, they can still shoot the Khazar right flank elements.
Nikephoros orders a full retreat. He was already outnumbered almost 2-1 by the the command arrayed against him and more are coming. 

He will have the advantage of being Brilliant, internal lines, and his opponent will have traffic jam problems trying to press their advantage of superior numbers.

But the Khazar will also have two commanders to one, which should make them more agile as well.

Emboldened by the eminent arrival of their friends, the Khazar press forward with their foot
The Khazar large horse command clears the fields
The flank command arrives on the road. 3 heavy and 3 light horse. That's a 15-8 advantage over the Byzantines in horse.

Turn 3:

I have never been more grateful for following the advice of Maurice in the Strategikon. Using a single Skutatoi to support the cavalry, as rally points and odds and ends. A single Skutatoi is not a big thing, but it is a problem that the Khazar will have to dedicated significant resources in both troops and command points to deal with.

At this point, Adidasphoros 's Skutatoi's will overlap the Khazar line by more than necessary, he sends one to the road with the idea of sending to to the right to help deal with the Khazar flank march.

This was not well thought through. As close order foot is the slowest of the combat troops, and even with the road, they were never going to get there in time. Also, Adidasphoros is Ordinary, and he was not going to have the spare command points to execute this maneuver, and they were going to be out of command range soon if he did.

Perceiving a quality advantage, Pumaphoros advances 4 of his Varangians to meet the Khazar main infantry line. He assigns one unit as flank guard to protect his line from the cavalry, and to threaten the Khazar cavalry line if they advance too far.
Nikephoros turns his Tagmata, inviting the Khazar into a trap.
The Skutatoi offer a 5.5cm gap to the edge of the table.
Arrows fly. Both Skutatoi and Psiloi disorder their foes
The Khazar Nobles advance
The Khazar's also have bows, and more of them.
Turn 4:
Varangians charge. Their quality is somewhat offset by quantity

The Tagmata charge as well, and with some luck, disperse a Khazar cavalry troop
I know I am offering flank opportunities here but I am counting on winning in the center, and get a few points here as well to take the Khazar to their demoralization level.
A massive, swirling, cavalry fight.
With one heavy foot holding the end. An entire Khazer command is occupied with it's defeat.
Looking at the picture, when did the Skut move? Previously it was blocking the edge of the table, but here the gap is wider. I think some adjustment to the table cover may have lead to the adjustment. Oh well, there is no instant replay review in Ancients.
In the center, the Khazar foot may have lost a unit, but mostly they are holding their ground
Turn 5:

Outnumbered, out flanked, the Tagmata fight on.
The Skutatoi are flank charged, but hold at 3 hits.
That comment earlier about the Skuts shifting position? Kind of moot now.

Turn 6:
Adidasphoros's Skutatoi finally get to the front lines
Sir Robin's Varangians, blue and green hats, defeat a Khazar cavalry troop, and pursue. So too a Tagamata defeats one, and pursues into another Khazar Noble.
The traffic jam is really hurting the Khazar here. So far, no Tagmata has been destroyed, despite being outnumbered more than 2-1 by Khazar Heavy Cavalry.
Light horse swarm a Khazar troop that is pressing the Skutatoi.  Their support matters, and the Skutatoi still lives.

The Score is 17 out of 24 for the Khazars to 11 out of 22 for the Byzantines.

The Khazar guard foot penetrate behind the Byzantine Skutatoi lines, Threatening a flank charge next turn.

Meanwhile, off camera, and completely unseen, a Kunning Khazar Horse Archer captures the large wooden badger, but is dismayed that it only contained Lancelot, Galahad, and Bedevere, who were waiting until nightfall, and to leap out, taking the Khzar, uh, by surprise. Not only by surprise, but totally unarmed!

But the Khazar foot lines are also crossed
The Byzantine Tagmata is winded, but not done yet. Two more Nobles are dispersed
The Skuts fall, the Huns now have the dedicated attention of 3 troops of Nobles

The Score is 23 out of 24 for the Khazars to 19 out of 22 for the Byzantines.
A very tight game.
They Byzantines need only one point to win, and not lose 3 in the process, so caution is advised.
Adidasphoros has the command one point, a flank charge on the Khazar right flank.
The Varangians, led by King Arthur and Sir Lancelot, right side in front of the commanders base, also have a flank charge, sealing the deal with a hit.
To engage or not? A Tagmata just reforms it's lines on Sir Robin and his minstrels. 
The line showing the LI skedaddling is in error, that happened a while ago.
Nikephoros is running on adrenaline. He orders a charge, leading from the front, with support, for a +4 to +1 advantage.  And scoring 2 levels of disorder.  But this was a bad plan.  He could have been killed on a 1-6-1 die roll sequence, which would have tied the game with a mutual destruction.
The brave Huns, however, do have the measure of the battle and, do a classic Road Runner "Me Meep!" and exit, stage left.

With that, the final score is 24 to 19, a win for the Byzantines.
There was a lot of King Arthur references here.  For Varangians, I am running with Medieval Mayhem's Monty Python and the the Holy Grail series of figures. 

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