Tuesday, November 21, 2023

A Scythe of Scythians

A Headless Body Production

Venue: On Military Matters Book Store, Hopewell, NJ
Event: Prep for Fall In's "Ancient Classical"* Theme Event
Players: Phil Gardocki running Scythians, list 76
               Dennis Shorthouse running Ancient Bedouin, list 17
Game System: L'Art de la Guerre, 25mm, 200 points per side.

The Forces:
The Scythians, Led by Labazos, the Competent, his brother Badas (no joke, an actual Scythian name!), the Competent, and an allied commander, Ekchakra, also Competent
9 Cavalry, Bow, 4 are Heavy and Elite
7 Horse Bow, Light Cavalry, Bow
2 Bowmen
1 Light Foot, Bow
2 Medium Spearmen
1 Elephant
Breakpoint 22

Ancient Bedouin led by two competent and one ordinary commander
Scads of Warriors on Camels, run as Medium Camel
Scouts on Camels, Light Camel, Bow
1 Warrior on foot with just Javelins
5 Bowmen with tethered Camels, acting as stakes

Display Conventions: When you see a word bubble like "Ouch!" or "آخ!" or "أوه!", 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.

Commanders are rated s for Strategist, b for Brilliant, c for Competent, o for Ordinary and u for Unreliable

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.

The Board:
The Bedouins win the initiative and elect to attack in the Steppes
I arrived early and got to witness the end of the previous game. Ancient Hebrews v. Bedouins. 
The Ancient Hebrew Panzer Division with their supporting Grenadiers, fully engaged with the Bedouin foot.

The Bedouins start their deployment far from the right edge of the board.
The center is a caravan of camels.
And they go on and on.
Looking back at this photo, I recognize a mistake I made with the terrain. I picked the Marsh, but I rolled for it to be on that hextant. And so I just shoved it in the corner and out of the way. But the effect was to give Dennis a natural defense for his camp.
If placed just a couple UD's forward, it would at least cause him to think about a flank march.
Both of us had the same idea. To only play on the one side of the board.
Which means one of us is making a mistake.
The allied commander, Ekchakra is holding the left flank with his elephantry on a hill.
The mass of Scythian horse on the right side of the field.
The original plan was to skirmish against the camelry with the lights, while leading the heavier horse against the mass of expected medium foot. But surprise, there isn't any. The Bedouin foot are all bow with tethered camels. Which count as emplaced stakes. The bow shoot better, and my horse is -2 when attacking across the stakes. So that plan is a bust.
Turn 1:
First turn advance. No surprises here.
Just down the line.
With a slight slide to the left to close the gap to the edge of the board.
Ekchakra orders his lights to withdraw.
Badas advances to bow reach. Arrows loose down the line, but none find their targets
Labazos tries to sneak a few units past the camel line.

Turn 2:

The Bedouin bowmen advance cautiously.

The center caravan of camels charge, but pull up short.
Labazos was too clever by half. His flanking lights can either run of the board, or die.
Hindu archers emerge from the gully. And trade missiles with their Bedouin counterparts.
Their mission is just tie down the Bedouin archers for a while.
Scythian horse archery proves much better this round.
Zero hits last turn, 7 this turn.
Turn 3:
Bedouin archers advance to charge reach.
The center caravan charges. Scythian elite heavies stand, while the mediums evade.
I should have just evaded all of them....
On the left, just a couple of camel units charge, but the entire line of Scythian horse evades. This was a grave error, as it freed up command points for 3 successful rallies.
Not much change on the Scythian left. Which is a good thing.
Ekchakra charges with his elephant. Camels flee in panic. Scythian horse advance and loose more arrows.
Labazos maintains his line, and shoots up a wayward camel.
Turn 4:
The Bedouin bowman hold and rally.

Despite receiving support, and armor, and being elite, the first Scythian Noble horse falls.
The camels on the flanks advance to just out of bow range.
The archery duel continues.
In the center command, one camel is routed, another one is flanked.
On the Scythian right, camels fall to plentiful arrows.

We forgot to adjudicate this battle until the pictures were taken. So this should have been in the pix two up from here.
A disordered light camel stood in the way of the elephant allowing its fellows to escape. I said, "There aren't enough points in the dice to save that unit". Not that it didn't try with a 6, while the over confident elephant rolled a 1.
For those counting, it's Elephant, 1 for the die, +2 vs cavalry, +1 for impact + 1 for support for a total of 5.
The Light Camel is 6 for the die, zero vs elephant, -1 for disorder and -1 for panic for a total of 4.
The Scythians have 10 points towards their demoralization level of 22
The Bedouins have 8 towards their demoralization level of 28
Turn 5:
Bedouin Bowmen approach to ZOC the Indian Bowmen. But their arrows went wide.
I don't know why they didn't just charge. The fights would be +2 to -1 and be over.
Here is the game ending move. Javelinmen charged the Indian Swordsmen (see the red XX), then pursued the routers into the elephant.
Another camel is routed, left XX, traded for a light horse, right XX.
On the Bedouin left, they bring up their lights to trade arrows with the Scythian horse.
They bravely stood their ground for longer than anyone could expect, but finally, one Indian Bowmen is dispersed by clouds of arrows.
Alas, poor Ekchakra has bravely fought to the end.
Another Scythian Noble has been routed. On the right, a Scythian Medium Horse charges a camel in the flank. The horses panic and rear, and do not cause any damage.
Labazos is still following the plan to shoot before contact. And scores another disorder.
The Scythians have 23 points towards their demoralization level of 22

The Bedouins are at just 14

A decisive win for Dennis's Bedouins.

What went wrong?
It would be trite to answer, "everything". This battle report could be used as the primer on how not to fight with a cavalry army.
But, lets go into the details. <heavy sigh>
First was the choice of an army. I knew going into this, that it was a provide practice for the Pre-501BC tournament at HMGS's Fall In tournament. Which I was not going to participate in, as I was running Samurai in the Open Tournament. And I don't have many armies from the early periods. I have tried Ancient British, Celts and Thracians. But Medium Sword are the Orcs of this game, and I have difficulty even placing as high as second to last.
But I knew at least 2 people were bringing Scythians. So I built an army that Dennis, with his Bedouins, and Al with his Hebrews would be facing. 
So how to play them? Here was the overall plan. Get the initiative. Attack in the Steppe. Lock the Camels down with a couple of Light Horse. Send the Mediums and Heavies to defeat the scads of Medium Swordsmen. Then shoot up a couple of camels for the win. The Indian allies are to act as a flank anchor, in some brush that will inevitably show up on my side of the board. 
Problem number 1: The highest initiative the Scythians can have is 3. 1 for the commanders (max 3, divided by 2, round down to 1). The most they can get from additional lights is +2 for six light horse. So 3 it is. So that was a crap shoot at best. The Bedouins also had an initiative of 3, and won the dice off. 
Problem number 2: Everything in the Bedouin starts as a "warrior". They start on foot, but any number can be mounted on camels. There were zero medium swordsmen for the Scythians to run over. 
Problem number 3: What foot the Bedouins did bring were bowmen with tethered camels, which act as stakes. They will get a +1 on shooting against the Scythian horse bow, and act as an excellent flank guard. Not that the Scythian horse couldn't handle them. They could. But not in the time allowed with hordes of camel warriors gunning for them.
Then there were several tactical blunders. Counting on the camelry as being impetuous and they were not. Which meant they could maneuver normally. Which defeated my attempt to get around their flank. 
I miss-measured an evade route, leading to a LC leaving the board.
I was counting on a ZOC to pin part of the camel line, which was fine until they just charged, negating the pin, and then had rear units available for a charge in the flank.
On turn 2, he charged with a couple of caravans, I evaded my whole line of horse. I did that to keep the formation together. But by doing so, it freed up command points which were used in successful rallies of 3 disordered camels.
Then there was luck. Several of my evades ran long. The charging camels stopped at 2 UD's. Putting my horse archers so far back, they couldn't return for another round of shooting. There was one turn where I literally only had 1 shot. If you have 19 units with bows and only 1 shot. You are losing

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