Thursday, July 28, 2022

Nick's NKE Nickling Phil's Nike

A Headless Body Production

Venue: Lancaster County Convention Center.
Event: Historicon!
Players: Phil Gardocki running Nikephorian Byzantine (Nike)
              Nicolas Begue running New Kingdom Egyptian (NKE)
Game System: L'Art de la Guerre, 25mm, 200 points per side.

I'm not sure how many ways I can put together alliterations for Nike, NKE or Nick. A Nictation of Nikephorians?

It was Thursday, the day before the L'Art de la Guerre tournaments start at Historicon, and Nick asked for a warm up game.  I was fresh off an All's Quiet on the Martin Front game and another game playing the Orcs at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, and was looking for a closer for the evening.  So I broke out the Nikephorians against his borrowed New Kingdom Egyptians.

The Forces: 

New Kingdom Egyptian
Their commanders names are lost to history.
6 "Light" Chariots, Armor, Bow, some or all Elite
14 Various Medium or Light Medium Infantry. Some with bows, some with 2HW, some Mediocre.
1 Light Horse, Bow, Mediocre
3 Light Infantry
Breakpoint of 24

Nikephorian Byzantine(list 127)
Commanded by the Sneaker brothers! The brilliant Nikephoros, the unequally brilliant Pumaphoros, and their ordinary and unreliable sibling, Adidiasphoros
4 Tagmata, Kataphractoi, Heavy Cavalry Bow, Impact, Elite
4 Prokoursatores, Light Cavalry, Bow
5 Varangians, Heavy Swordsmen, 2HW, one Elite
5 Skutatoi, ½ Heavy Spearmen ½ Bowmen
4 Psiloi, Light Infantry, Bows or Slings
Breakpoint of 22


When you see a word bubble "Ouch!", or "Heus! or "痛い!", this implies a disorder from missiles. "XX" represents a recently routed unit. Letters in parenthesis represent some value change for the specific unit. For commanders it is s for strategist, b for Brilliant, c for Competent and o for Ordinary, u for unreliable. For troops it is e for Elite, and m for Mediocre. Other abbreviations, Hvy Heavy, XB Crossbow, LB, Longbow, Jav Javelin, 2HW 2 Handed Weapons, B Bow, Kn Knight, HKn Heavy Knight, HC Heavy Cavalry, Md Medium, Sgt Sergeants, LC Light Cavalry, Chr Chariot, Cat Cataphract, Pa Pavise, LI, Light Infantry, HG Hand Gun, FKn Foot Knight, Hvy Spear, Heavy Spearmen.

The Board:

The NKE win the initiative and elect to attack in the plains. 


The NKE had the benefit of most of the terrain on the board. Their deployment was foot on the left and right.
Chariots in the center.

The NKE army was borrowed, and did not have all the figures on the list, so some substitutions were called into play.

A note on the naming convention "Light" as applied as a descriptor to the word Chariot. If the chariot is armored, it is in all intents and purposes, "Heavy Cavalry".

The Byzantines deploy with their heavy horse on the left
Their Mercenaries in the center, and hidden behind the hill, 4 elements of Skutatoi

Turn 1:

The NKE start with a general advance.
Their Chariots double march in the center.
Their foot force on the left also double march.
The Byzantines advance their horse, and arrows fly!
In the center, the Psiloi advance, just to keep the mobile units of the NKE to 1 move next turn.
Ditto on the right.

Nikephoros intends to turn the flank of the NKE foot on his side and work over the medium foot with his elite Tagmata. The rest of the Nikephorians intend to delay contact and let that engagement mature.

On a nearby floor, the Trojan war was being readied.
Turn 2:

Divining Nikephoros's intentions, the NKE redeploy 2 chariots behind the lines.
And swerve his remaining mobile elements to form a holding attack.
On their left, the NKE charge off the Psiloi.
The Byzantine horse set up their attacks.
Relying on their Skutatoi to hold off the sweeping chariots.
Approaching the top of the hill, the Skutatoi loose arrows.

The verbal taunts require some explanation. 3 of the "Varangian" elements are figures from the King Arthur and the Holy Grail collection supplied by Hayland, Wargame Terrain. On the right are the Knights that say Neet sharing a base with the French. Next center is Sir Robin ("the Brave") with his minstrels. King Arthur is in the center element as the Elite and Armored Varangian.

The story goes like this. Arthur and his knights are on a quest to the Holy Lands to seek the Holy Grail. The Byzantine emperor knows a good deal when he sees one and offers to "escort" Arthur through the heathen Turks. Even giving him the point of honor in the center of the army.

Turn 3:

The flanking chariots extend and advance.

That is new in V4. In V3, a group had to be stationary to extend.

It looks like the Skutatoi was given a mission beyond it's abilities.

The NKE receive motivational words and rally.
The ground shakes with iron shod hooves. A Tagmata destroys his foe and is on the flank of the stalled Chariots.
The poor Skutatoi continues to trade arrows with 3 chariots.
The battle on the hill is just a wait and see.

Turn 4:

The NKE Counter attack! The flanked Tagmata holds its ground.
In the center, the Skutatoi flank guard is dispersed.
More kind words, more missile hits removed.

The Skuts on the hill might as well be armed with nerf guns.

All are really paying attention to the Byzantine left. A chariot is destroyed! But overall, the foot is holding it's ground.

Along the road has been a fight between two Psiloi and a Light Cavalry (m) and a damaged LI, bow. True to fashion, the Psiloi are losing.

Turn 5:

A Tagmata is destroyed. NKE reinforcements arrive.
The other flank guard is a Varangian (not British). The Chariots charge, but he holds.

It is getting late, and both Nick and I are tired. We also have a considerable audience.

Helpful advice is tendered and against Nick's better judgement, they convince him to charge up the hill.

The Skutatoi, so ineffective in shooting, are Mediocre in hand to hand. The hill offers them some benefit, but not enough. 6 fights, we each win 3.

The Chariot near the gully is routed, along with the Medium Infantry sent to help. But a Tagmata is in a bad position and will be destroyed next bound.
The center is weakening.
Two Byzantine foot flee the board, including, not surprising, one was Sir Robin.

At this time I called a concession. I was exhausted and a fair drive ahead of me. The score was 19 (of 22) to 15 (of 24). The NKE had 1 point for sure in his turn, and a potential for 3 more for the win, depending on the dice. The Nike had 5 points for certain, 4 being the camp, and 6 more possible. Nicholas was also exhausted, and we were willing to call it a winning draw for the NKE.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

An Archon of Anglo Saxons

A Headless Body Production
Venue: On Military Matters Book Store, Hopewell, NJ
Event: Preparation for Historicon Theme*
Players: Phil Gardocki running Anglo Saxon
               Al Kaplan running Nikephorian Byzantine
Game System: L'Art de la Guerre, 15mm, 200 points per side.

The Forces:
Nikephorian Byzantine
The names of the commanders is lost to history
4 Tagmata, Heavy Cavalry, Impact, 1/2 Bow
2 Cataphracts
2 Light Horse, Javelin
4 Light Foot, Javelins, Crossbow
4 Heavy Spearmen, Missile Support
2 Varangian Guards, Heavy Swordsmen, Armor, 2 Handed Sword
3 Medium Swordsmen
An unknown number of these troops are elite.
Breakpoint around 22

Larry, Darryl and Darryl, unaccredited.
18 Select Fyrd, Heavy Sword, Impetuous
4 Lights, Bow
2 Lights, Javelin
3 Great Fyrd, Heavy Spear, Mediocre
1 Levy (who never showed up, again)
Breakpoint of 27, nee 28

Display Conventions: When you see a word bubble like "Ouch!", "Oi!" or "Ahi!", this implies a disorder from missiles. Letters in parenthesis represent some value change for the specific unit. For commanders it is s for strategist, b for Brilliant, c for Competent and o for Ordinary, u for unreliable. For troops it is e for Elite, and m for Mediocre. Other abbreviations, Hvy Heavy, XB Crossbow, LB, Longbow, Jav Javelin, 2HW 2 Handed Weapons, B Bow, Kn Knight, HKn Heavy Knight, HC Heavy Cavalry, Md Medium, Sgt Sergeants, LC Light Cavalry, Chr Chariot, Cat Cataphract, Pa Pavise, LI, Light Infantry, HG Hand Gun, FKn Foot Knight, Hvy Spear, Heavy Spearmen.

"XX" implies a unit killed in that location on that turn.

The Board: The Byzantines win the initiative and elects to attack.

Dennis Shorthouse is the proprietor of On Military Matters book service. A delightful book store in Hopewell New Jersey that specializes in military books.


The Byzantine main strike force takes the position on the right.
Their center is a strong force of heavy foot.

He is running his Skutatoi with the missile support option. +1 if they lose on contact, negates mounted furious charge, and they fight as Ordinary. They are represented by surf board looking pavise's on a stand in the third rank, which is removed, after the first round of combat.

The Anglo-Saxon plan depends strongly on their right flank being secured by Difficult terrain.

That plan is about to be unhinged.

The Anglo Saxons are deployed with a strong left flank
Running and anchored to a herbivorously ferned marsh
Any horse that attempts to go around the marsh will be met by spear armed Great Fyrd

Turn 1:

The Byzantine horse, lead by their brilliant commander, advances across the front.
Singing a medley that was on the top of the charts a thousand years later, the Byzantine heavy foot double marches.
They are slightly outpaced by their supporting medium sword.
The Anglo left flank extends its line by advancing half their Select Fyrd and sliding left. The Great Fyrd is called forth to intercept the Byzantine lights.
The bulk of the remaining Select Fyrd advance.
The ambush takes a peak out of the weeds. They are not happy with what they see.

Turn 2:

The Byzantine horse performs some interesting dressage moves.
With their Cataphracts, they are trying to set up a hammer and anvil attack.

Cataphracts make good anvils.

Psiloi advance to shoot
The Impetuous troops chose to take the initiative and charge where they can.

Impetuous foot are *not* required to charge mounted. But since there was no disadvantage to doing so, and I take the initiative from the horse command.

Besides, even if I lose 2-1, I need to engage the horse to win. If I don't lose 20 points, I can't win, because I will not have engaged in enough combats.

2-1 against the horse. Not bad. Darryl has joined the fight on the right with the overlap.  It kinda worked, as his +1 avoided taking a hit for that Select Fyrd.
This command is outnumbered, and with the Varangian Guards, probably out qualitied as well.
And in a turn or two, the Anglo-Saxon right will not have the benefit of the marsh for flank cover.

Turn 3:

The Byzantines pull off their hammer and anvil attack. Two Select Fyrd units are flanked and destroyed.

That was bad.

But with a large bit of luck, a Cataphract is destroyed.  It lost the first round and had one hit, so was at + zero +armor +Elite against +1.  I think the rolloff was 5 to 2 for two hits.
The Anglo Saxon lights have been chased from the marsh.

And the right flank of the Anglo-Saxon line was turned a turn earlier than expected.

This is also bad.

New plan. Charge everywhere and hope to "win through", before the right flank gets Pac-Manned.
6 charges on the right,
3 wins, 3 loses

Turn 4:

On the far left, the Great Fyrd, after a studdering initial attack, defeats their light horse opponent. Disordering the Tagmata behind it.
The last cataphract breaks off. On the right, the gobbling of the line begins.


The marsh is still being contested. But is it relevant any more?
The Anglo Saxons are 15 points towards their break point of 28
The Byzantines are 12 points towards their break point of 22

Each just one point over half.

A Byzantine Tagmata is flanked. At some point their commander was thrown into the fight, and now that looks like it was a bad idea.
The remaining Tagmata evade a charge.
And why not. It looks like the battle will be won without them.


The Anglo Saxons are 21 points towards their break point of 28
The Byzantines are 15 points towards their break point of 22

Both are 7 away from their break point.

Turn 5:

The supporting light horse to the Tagmata and Commanders unit flees the board. I think to read a magazine.

The CIC and Tagmata are killed, adding 5 points to the demoralization of the Byzantines.

Sheaf's of arrows fly.
The Anglo-Saxon right command is almost totally gobbled up. Darryl seeks shelter with Darryl.
The only formed troop on the Anglo-Saxon right is a force of Great Fyrd(m). They are charged but emboldened, and manage to win for now.
With losing their commander, the Byzantines are at 21, 1 away from breaking.
The Anglo-Saxons are a fairly comfortable 23, 5 away from being demoralized.
One way to defeat cavalry is to just keep advancing on it. The cataphracts are facing spear to the front, and sword on their flanks
Its an "out at any base" for the Anglo Saxons. They turn a Select Fyrd to face the flanking Skuts and lose, but they defeat another for the win.
Darryl joins his last unit, an rallies them. The final score is 22 all for an Anglo-Saxon Win.
There are different flavors of Skutatoi. Over the centuries, their weapon mix changed a lot. But how that is represented in a game is somewhat subjective. But the players get some choices to pick and choose.

Al chose 4 with missile support, because he intended them to be part of a line of 6 heavy foot, centered with elite Varangian Guards. They will keep off cavalry, and fight as ordinary.

I run them as 1/2 spear/bow and in smaller numbers. But my mission for them is different. I want them to be a distraction and support element. Cavalry can't ignore them because of the bow. I accept that they fight as mediocre because of the amount of effort it usually takes for my opponent to even engage them. I'll put one per command. A rally point for cavalry commands, and a filler unit for the foot commands.

What went wrong?

Making an assumption that the Byzantine force mix would be Cavalry/Heavy Infantry. When it was more balanced, and had Medium Foot that could take the marsh I was counting on so much for holding my flank. This forced my impetuous troops to advance and attack early, and subjected them to being totally consumed but a single medium sword chomping down the line.

On the left, I was expecting to be able to expand into the 4 UD wide lane before the cavalry could get around. That was an unrealistic expectation. With only a competent leader commanding unmaneuverable troops. That lead to all kinds of traffic jams that took all game to sort out. Half that command never even saw combat save the pointy bits of arrows.

*Theme, Western Europe and their Enemies**: All armies must be between the years 500-999 AD
list 109, 124-133, 141-165. Legal allies may be outside those list #s, but must fall within year range. Options indicating Europe, North Africa are permitted. No others.
**(No Elephants, No Knights, Maximum 2 Cataphracts in army) 

For more information go to the American ADLG Forum.