Tuesday, October 3, 2023

A Pyrite of Persnickety Pyrrhics*

A Headless Body Production

*Title stolen from Dn Jackson, TMP, without permission

Venue: Lancaster County Convention Center.
Event: Historicon 2023!
Theme: Classic Age, Round 3
Players: Phil Gardocki running Pyrrhic, list 44
              Derek Hannon running Late Imperial Roman, list 87
Game System: L'Art de la Guerre, 25mm, 200 points per side.
Font: Times New Roman

Half a league, half a league, half a battle report onward.  
Into the parser of word smithing, typed the single blogger...
(with apologies to Lord Alfred, Tennyson)
(and to all the readers...)

This is the 6th Battle Report from Historicon 2023.  I was determined to do all nine.  Normally it takes 2 days to do one.  Not 8 hour days, but "efforts".  First day I annotate the images, second day stack them on in the blog with comments.  


By that estimate, it's 18 days.  This is day 12, so I am half a day behind schedule

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 Constantine, a strategist, and two other commanders of excellent character but uncertain quality.
4 Heavy Cavalry, 2 are Impact, Elite (probably)
1 Light Cavalry, Javelin
3 Light Cavalry, Bow
4 Legionaries, Heavy Swordsmen, Impact
5 Auxilia, Medium Swordsmen, Impact
1 Bowmen
1 Light Infantry Bow
1 Velites, Light Infantry Javelin
1 Ballista, Integrated Light Arillery

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 against one of the Republican Roman armies in the field today. Not one of the cavalry armies like Sassanid, not one of the 5 Seleucids, 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.
The Roman right corps is 4 heavy and 1 light horse.  It is set up tightly to the right of the legionaries.

Just 4 cohorts of heavy swordsmen, supported by a single integrated ballista.  The remaining forces are Auxillia crowding a field.

Ptolomy's phalanx takes the left.

Pyrrhus, the center.

Helenus's cavalry on the right.

Here is the plan.  The Phalanx will make an oblique march across the board.  Trapping the Roman Cavalry twixt the Legions and the field.  Then finish off the legions and call it a day.  Helenus's cavalry will be dedicated to facing off against the Auxilia, should it exit the field.
Also, the Ambush on the hill is live, and may play a roll later.
Turn 1:
Perfectly lined up, the combined phalanx rumbles forward.

Helenus's lights advance to the field's edge and are peppered with arrows for their trouble.

Constantine sees the trap and orders his horse to head for the gap.  The race is on!

His Auxillia advance through the field.  Their left flank covered by 3 cohorts of Equites.
Turn 2:
The race is tight.  Ptolomy assigns his hoplites to face down the Equites Illyracani.  A job they are not well suited to do.

The combined phalanx shifts right and advances 3.

To close the trap, Helenus races is lancers for the gap.  His Greeks pull back as well to lure the  Roman lights out.

The official military observer from Howandaland is seeing if Pyrrhus has learned anything from his last two fights against the Romans,  Pyrrhus was one and one.  Both were very close battles.

See here and here...

The Roman Illrycani slip right passed the Hoplites.
Constantine's legions back up against their camp.  It looks like the Roman Equites have won the race and will not be pinned against the terrain.
Their lights doggedly follow the Greek horsemen.
Turn 3:
Ptolomy only needs one command point to advance his phalanx.  And spends 3 trying to pin down the Roman lights loose in his rear.  Its a futile effort.

The combined phalanx grinds on. 

Just missing pinning the Roman Equites against the field.

The ambush is revealed!  Thracian light horse race across the hills crest, trapping 2 of the 3 Illyrcani.  The Greek horse turns and runs one down, just missing destroying the other.

Out through the gap charge the Roman heavy horse.  Helenus's horse meets the charge, but rolls poorly.

Luck runs both ways however.  The last Roman light charges the Thracians in the rear, but trip over themselves in the excitement.  I think the roll was a 2, +1 for rear to 6

So the battle on the right flank is not running anyway you would expect.  The Roman Heavies are now on the right, and pressing the Greek commander heavily.  But the Roman lights are no longer in play either.  Freeing up the Greek Cavalry to respond.
Turn 4:
Ptolomy's lights race after the loose Illyricani.  Just missing zocing it and protecting the camp from looting.

The combined phalanx grinds on.

One taxis of pike is parsed off to attack a cohort of Auxilia.

Helenus, son of Pyrrhus, is killed in action.

Something you do not see every day.  The Auxilia "Disengages" from the pike.

Roman Equites trap and destroy another Greek heavy horse.
 Turn 5:
One thing I noticed with running a large pike formation.  All the action takes place before the pike ever get into contact.
Pyrrhus's camp is looted, but the looters do not get away with it.
The phalanx continues to grind on.  It will be turn seven before contact...

Pyrrhus assigns his hoplites and a taxis to protect his flank.

Roman lancers wheel to face their enemy

The Romans catch another Greek horsmen and destroy them.

Turn 6:
Againe, the phalanx grinds on. 

Once, it was 10 elements wide.  Now with the constant need to cover it's flank, it is only 6 wide.

The pike have not yet engaged, and Pyrrhus has 16 points towards it break point of 23

To the Romans 12 of 22

What is this?  The Romans take the initiative and attack.  They need 7 more points to push Pyrrhus to break. 

Roman Auxilia in the field position to coordinate with the cavalry in the open.

The Equites position themselves to attack

Pyrrhus has 20 points towards it's break point of 23

The Romans are at 14 of 21

The battle rages before the roman camp.  A cohort is routed.

Pyrrhus's flank guards are holding.

A Taxis of pike falls.  And nought but artillery is between pike and the camp.

A massive cavalry charge on the mercenary hoplites.

Taking the score to 22 of 23

The Romans are at 17 of 21

Roman Artillery is taken, putting the Roman score at 20.  But a Taxis also takes a hit, securing the Pyrrhus defeat.

The Roman Auxillia hold, but are weakening.    A decisive dice off here would have caused a mutual break.

On the far right, A taxis enters the fray.  A win here would also cause a mutual break.  The Hoplites win a respite, disordering the Equites, taking the Romans to 21 of 22.

What went wrong.  The pike took too long to engage.  Which would be fine, if the supporting units of the army didn't go and fight their own battle.  

It's Historicon, so here are some pictures from other tables.  A Flames of War American Tank Company.

Their opposing German Mechanized Infantry Company.


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