Tuesday, September 26, 2023

A Pyre of Pyrrhics

A Headless Body Production

Venue: Lancaster County Convention Center.
Event: Historicon 2023!
Theme: Classic Age, Round 2
Players: Phil Gardocki running Pyrrhic, list 44
              Lou Cardinale running Late Imperial, list 87
Game System: L'Art de la Guerre, 25mm, 200 points per side.
Font: Times New Roman

The Forces
Pyrrhus, King of Epirus and Ptolemy Soter are leading commands of phalangites. They are both rated Brilliant in this game. The last commander is Helenus, Pyrrhus's son, rated Ordinary and Included with the Cavalry Command.
2 Taxis of Hypaspist, Pike, Elite
6 Taxis of Pike
2 Mercenary Hoplites
7 Rhodians, Illyrians, Cretans. Various Light Infantry with bow, javelin or sling
2 Xystophoroi, Heavy Cavalry, Impact, Elite
2 Greek Heavy Cavalry
2 Thracian Light Cavalry, Javelin

The Romans are led by commanders of excellent character but uncertain quality.
5 Heavy Cavalry, 2 are Impact, Elite
3 Light Cavalry
2 Medium Swordsmen, Impact
4 Legionaries, Heavy Swordsmen, Impact
2 Ballista, Integrated Light Artillery
1 Velites, Light Infantry Javelin

Pyrrhus is most famous because of his after action evaluation after his battle against the Romans near Asculum.

Plutarch quoted him as saying, "Αν νικήσουμε σε μια ακόμη μάχη με τους Ρωμαίους, θα καταστραφούμε εντελώς."

Which is Greek to me, and probably to you as well.

Wikipedia has the quote translated as, "If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined"

Since the tournament organizer has a wicked sense of irony, he is placing me now against another one of the Roman armies in the field today. Not one of the cavalry armies like Sassanid, not one of the 5 Selucids, or the 2 Palmyrans.

I better get used to it, the pattern will continue.

Display Conventions: When you see a word bubble like "Ouch!" or "Ωχ!" or "Heus!", 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. I tend not to point out Light Infantry, as it clutters the pictures for no real value.

Inappropriately capitalized words are used to highlight terms that are specific to the game. For example Brilliant, Competent and Ordinary have specific game values for the commanders.

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

Any vagueness or inaccuracies in the descriptions is to be considered is to be considered Fog of War, and is part of the fun.

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

As the attacker, I took minimal terrain picks of a single field and a road.  The Romans took 4.  I smelled a rat at that point.  After adjustments, I managed to push most of the terrain to the left side of the board.  Lou's dice was less favorable, and he failed to adjust any back.
The first Roman command comes out.  A single LC, and 2 ambush markers.
And Auxilia in position to take the high ground.

The Roman center command consisted of 4 Legionaries supported by 2 Integrated Ballistas, and flanked by 2 Impact Heavy Cavalry
His third command consists of just Heavy Cavalry, and a couple of lights.

My plan is to play on the right side of the road.  So my cavalry will be on the left, to face down whatever emerges from the vineyards.  I'm Heavy Horse, some with Impact.  I fear nothing that can hide in the terrain.
Lets keep that thought...

Pyrrhus isn't expecting shooters facing his phalanx, so his skirmishers are going to serve as a joint between his foot and Helenus's horse.

His goal is to defeat what is frontal, while distracting all else.

Turn 1:

The problem with the plan was Roman Lancers flanking their legions.  They are a match for Helenus's own lancers.

Pyrrhus advances and expands his line.

Ptolomy advances a bit faster, as he did not have to extend his line.

OK, that is a whole lot of nothing coming out of the vineyard.

The Roman break point is now 23
The Roman legion advances a half speed.
Their heavy horse advances to play skirmish games with Ptolomy's phalanx

Two can play that game.  Helenus sends his light horse to challenge the mass of Auxiliaries. 

I have a Light Infantry in the ambush near the military observer.  Should one of the Auxilia enter the vineyard, I will use it to zoc him.

Shots fired.

Helenus pulls back his heavy horse.  I'll try to use them to distract the Auxilia when the lights get run off.

Pyrrhus's phalanx advances.  Normally this would be a three turn affair.  1 stop at 4 UD's, 2 advance to charge range, then 3, charge.  But I can see with the angles the geometry is going to make this at least a 4 turn advance.

But that is not all bad.  The con is Pyrrhus's Phalanx will get a lot of shots placed on them from the integrated ballista.  But that also gives time for Ptolomy to run off the Roman Cavalry, and turn the flank of the legion.

The Roman right flank is pushing ahead agressivly. 

Their hill troops charge off Pyrrhus's lights.

The legions adjust their lines, and Ballista bolts are being sent down range.

The Roman heavy horse makes their intentions abundently clear.

The view from Mount Olympus
Apperently the Roman Gods lived in Greece.

Turn 3:
So both of us are playing skimish games on our left.  And heavily prosicuting on the right.  The problem is that the Romans can do it faster.

Helenus recalls his lights, and advances his heavies.

Pyrrhus's phalanx advances, but is still out of charge reach.

Ptolomy's phalanx sees nought but horse heines and poop.

Showing their true training, the Auxilia advance and solidify the line while doing so.

Both Balista's score.

The Roman heavy horse continues to pull back before the phalanx
Turn 4:

Mars is complaining, "Get on with it man!"

The Romans are closing the flank faster than the Greeks.  Helenus will launch a major charge, then break off.  This should buy us a turn.

The Light Cavalry were in the attack just for support, one of the Auxilia is bowman, and only a +1 on contact, and one that is impact, is also disordered from a previous missile throw.  The Heavy Cavalry was +2 on +2, and rolled poorly, even their armor didn't help.  I was really hoping that the impact cavalry would have done better, but no.  
And looking at the picture, there should have been a second hit for furious charge that did not get counted.
Looking at this picture again, and the arrows are incorrect.  Pyrrhus held the phalanx for a couple of rallies, one successful.  In order to push his Hypaspist forward.  It will be behind the flank of the legion when they approach next turn.

Ptolomy advances to charge reach of the Heavy Cavalry.  Will they stay or will they go?

The Roman Auxilia continue to fight.  But they have been delayed, so mission accomplished.

Helenus, the stand with the white 6 and green 1, routs a cohort.

He didn't get credit for the furious charge hit last bound, the the turn's dice made the point moot. 

An artillery supported cohort pivots, successfully avoiding being flanked.

Turn 5:
A successful disengage.

Pyrrhus's mercenaries charge into Roman lancers.  They lost, but by removing the support from the Auxilia, allowed Helenus's heavy cavalry to succeed. 

Pyrrhus's Phalanx finally advance to charge reach. 

Ptolomy's Phalanx charges.  The Roman horse proves braver than they should.  They are +0 and armor to +2.  Not good odds.  But he was buying time as well.  If they ran off the board, all that pike would be free to turn the roman flank.

Mars leaves for a bucket of banged-grains, with salt and butter.

Well placed javelins finish off the last Greek Lights.

Its a narrow gap between the phalanx and the mercenary Hoplites.  But wide enough for Roman lancers to slip through

Ptolomy pats himself on the back for a job well done.

The main battle has yet to start.  But the score is 10 for Pyrrhus, out of 23

To 13, also out of 23, for the Romans.

Turn 6:

Helenus charges again, and routs another cohort.  His companion lancer also finishes off his opposing cohort.  But the Mercinaries have also been routed.

I had been trying to arrainge it to have overlaps going in on the legion, but the Romans proved better at the inside game than I.

And again, the geometry fails the greeks.  This legionary cohort is about 5mm out of charge reach.  But it's condition is dire anyway.

Mars returns with his bucket, "What I miss?"
"Wait, the Romans are winning?  How did that happen?"
"You snooze, you lose", replied Artimis.

Roman Auxilia put a squeeze play on one Xystrophoroi.

And one pike just faltered and fell.

Turn 7:

Helenus launches his third charge of the game.  His numbers are +4, and armor, to zero.  And rolled a 1 to 6, avoiding damage by that armor.

A pesky ballista is crushed.  The path is open to the rear of the legions.  The roman count is now 20.

With a light horse fleeing the field, theRoman  count is now 21!

Helenus is attacked both front and flanked and rolled another unfortunate number.  He is brilliant, so that adds 4 to the the Pyrrhic demorilazation level, now at 22

And the finishing blow with Roman lancers destroying another Taxis of Pike.

And just in case, a + 1 here.

It was a tight game all the way.  Ending at 23-21.
What went wrong?
First give credit to Lou.  His plan was better executed than mine.  Even though it was the same basic plan, Sweep right and hold the center.  His army was better built for that job.  His right had 8 units of faster MI/LMI, mine were all pike and heavy spear.  Which also meant by the time my right did sweep the right flank, it was not as able to turn to flank the center.
Also, his joint connecting his right from center was a pair of impact cavalry.  Which, in the end was able to run up my center line for the final points.  Mine was just more pike. They were just about to into the legions rear.  But a turn to late.

But in the end, it was the geometry.  When he canted his line, it delayed my pike attack by a turn.  Another turn that allowed his ballista to fire, eventually to good effect.

What I should have done when that happened, was cant my line while the phalanx was still beyond 4.  Then do the approach.  It was still a turn delayed, but a turn out of range of the ballista.  Then the approach would have been one, and charge.