Thursday, February 9, 2023

Inspiring Italian Noble Knights give Byzantines the Biz

A Headless Body Production
Venue: Freedom Hall, aka the Crestwood Community Center, NJ
Event: LeeCon
Players: Phil Gardocki running Nikephorian Byzantine
              Kevin Hatch Running Communal Italian
Game System: L'Art de la Guerre, 15mm, 200 points per side.

The Forces: 
Communal Italian
3 commanders of uncertain character.
10 Medium Knights, Impact
4 Heavy Spearmen, Pavise, Mediocre
2 Heavy Swordsmen, Polearm, Armor
2 Crossbowman, but maybe not...
2 Light Infantry, Crossbow
2 Warwagons with blades
Break point of 22

Nikephorian Byzantine(list 127)
Commanded by the Sneaker brothers! The brilliant Nikephoros, the unequally brilliant Adidiasphoros, and their ordinary sibling, Pumaphoros
6 Tagmata, Kataphractoi, Heavy Cavalry Bow, Impact, Elite
5 Petchnegs and Prokoursatores, Light Cavalry, Bow
2 Varangian Mercenaries, Heavy Swordsmen, 2HW
2 Varangian Guardsmen, Heavy Swordsmen, Armor, 2HW, Elite
2 Skutatoi, ½ Heavy Spearmen, Bowmen
5 Psiloi, Light Infantry, Bows, Javelins, Incendiaries.
Breakpoint of 22

Display Conventions: When you see a jagged word bubble with "Ωχ!", or "Ahia!", or "Ouch!", 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 elect to attack in the plains.

The weather is good.

The red splots are back! My black with red spot dead markers have been suffering from attrition over the years, so I broke out the very distracting red outline dead markers.
The dead men are "LITKO Obviously Dead Tokens". The horses and dead elephant I had commissioned.
I have been using Litko for my bases now for decades.

The Italian right has their anti-cavalry, anti-shooter command. Every unit has a polearm, spear, armor or pavise.

Their heaviest weight is in the center, with a strong left flank command as well.

Nikephoros takes the left, with all his Tagmata
In the Byzantine world, the Tagmata represented the professional army. They would be reinforced by the Themes, which is like the national guard, in which regional governors would supply as needed. Of course this system changed a lot in over 800 years.

Adidiasphoros is commanding the center with a strong force of foot. Mainly foreign (Varangian) mercenaries, and a few Skutatoi.
The third Byzantine command cannot be seen.
Turn 1:
At the whistle, Nikephoros orders a general advance. Sliding to the left a bit to engage the Italian foot.

Adidasphoros also advances. His swordsmen are not the best choice to engage the knights from Milan, but it is the best he has.
Pumasphoros's command rolls a 3, and continues to not be seen.
The Italians advance as well

6 knights arrayed in perfect order.

With a flanking force of 4 more troops, all splendidly arrayed.

Let me introduce you to The Pink Lady.  The Lady is a rescue die rehabilitated by the Mulligan Center*.  “Because every die deserves a second chance.”
The Pink Lady, her edges may be worn, but her numbers are still clear.

The Lady contributed to the cause of many a D&D character in her day.  She got an assist on the 18 Intelligence score for the wizard Ali-Kazam, the 17 constitution for the ranger Farinear, and a glorious 17 Dex, 15 wisdom and 16 strength for the future Grand Master of Dragons, Gea-Tea.

When not rolling high scores for attributes, The Lady was pounding out damage scores for clerical non-edged weapons, which were always D6.  

Then, when her owner’s interest in D&D waned, she was relegated to the dice box, with other low impact dice that TSR was producing. Her fine edges slowly rounding, only to be brought out in memories when searching for other, sharper dice.

There ARE no BAD DICE!

The Mulligan Center’s mission has been to find these dice, rehabilitate them, and find them good homes with Gamers willing to give them a new lease on life and a Second Chance!  A Do Over if you will!

*Mulligan Center**, and the concept of Rescue Dice*** is entirely the creation of Jolly Blackburn, the creator and publisher of the Knights of the Dinner Table (KODT). And is used with permission.
If you ever played any role playing games, then KODT is an absolute riot to read.  Jolly has published 300 issues, plus numerous extra books, and has compiled all his early works into 4 issue bundles.
These can be found at Kenzer and Company’s website.  

** The Mulligan Center is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance between it and a real company, is totally coincidental.  
***No dice were harmed in the making of this article.
Turn 2:

Even though the infantry command is strongly resistant to bows, my thought is to shoot for a few rounds and gain the edge on a week spot.
Initially, we scored a cohesion loss on the pole arm unit on the end of the Italian line. But later in the turn I recalled we did not count it's armor, and picked up the hit.
The Psiloi lights are shooting exceptionally well today. With the blessing of the Pink Lady, they scored hits on two knight just opposite the Varangian Guards.
                            A single Psiloi continues to distract the Italian left.
Wait, Pumaphoros isn't on a flank march? From Ambush he advances.
No plan survives contact with the enemy. The Italians are not going to let me rake them with missile fire for a couple of bounds, and then charge them in the rear with my lights and frontal with impact/furious charge elites.  And instead take the initiative by charging right in.
 Time for The Lady to go to work...
And what a fine job she did...

This was her first time on the table in over 40 years. She faltered once in the beginning, then started slinging 5's and 6's like toast at a Rocky Horror revival.  5 in a row to the to the dismay of the Italians.  Then, a fumble as she was catching her breath allowed a troop of knights to nearly run over a band of Varangian mercenaries.  

"NO MORE!", she cried.   Two Cavalieri of knights fall, another one recoiled before cruel axes. And lastly, the Skutatoi, though mediocre in spirit, held steady, stopping two Cavalieri their path.


The Italian left flank is not being distracted by Two! (2) Psiloi.

Turn 3:
The Light Horse charges the rear of the Italian line.  Nikephoros joins the battle against the Italian end most unit.  But these men with their deadly halberds are determined.  And despite the dice advantage +3 for the Byzantines to their +1, manage to hold the line.
The Lady continued her work hard and fast.  But it was obvious she was slowing down due to age, but still performing way out of her class.  What victories the Italians had were due to superior quality and numbers, and not to the vagaries of randomness.

The Varangian Guards penetrate the knights ranks.  But one knight has routed it's Varangian Mercenary opponent.

Pumaphoros is racing around the war wagons.

The battle for the Byzantine left is almost over.

At this point I was so embarrassed by the performance of my little pink wunderwaffe, I gave her a well done, and put her back in the box to rest for the next game. 

The Venetian knights are now in position to attack the Byzantine right.  Psiloi Javelins manage to damage a war wagon.  They must have slipped a couple of guys in and unhitched the horses.
A position paid for in Italian blood.  The Italians have 18 points towards their breakpoint of 22
While the Byzantines are at 5.
Turn 4:
The last two polearmsmen fall.  One by honest fighting, the other taken in by a cowardly flank charge.

A Milanese knight is also taken in the flank by Varangian Guardsmen.

Pumaphoros continues to follow a plan long dead.

And when a recount is done, the Italians are at their breakpoint of 22.  To the Byzantines 6.

So what went wrong?
Napoleon is reputed to have said, "I would rather have a lucky general than a good one."
Line up 12 units and engage all at once is not what you would call subtle strategy.  Winning 10 out of 12 dice offs is going to win you the game.  Especially when the luck did not stop there.  It was just embarrassing.  I switched out the Pink Lady with a new die, and the 5 ups kept coming.  I used Kevin' dice tower and the 5 ups kept coming.  It didn't help that I don't think Kevin averaged 2 with his rolls. To his credit, he was a great sport about it. Nobody deserves to take that kind of drubbing because of luck.

There is another saying.  "There is a thousand lessons in defeat, and not one in victory."  
The delayed ambush of a small command of Light Cavalry seemed  effective.  And at a total cost of 12 points, not a big investment, win-lose-or draw.  But on reflection, their job was to get around the end units, and race for the camp, or into the enemy rear.  And on that, they failed.  Against war wagons! Who were not going anywhere to begin with.  The single Psiloi arrayed against the war wagons was enough to tie them up.  12 points of light horse was over-committing.

"No one is going to take you seriously if you go on quoting cartoon characters."
                                                                                        --Judy Neutron
On other boards, far more interesting games are being played:
A skirmish battle from the French and Indian war.

Starfires escorting B-29's

Being intercepted by Mig-15's


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