Horsies and Pikes: Komnenan Byzantines v. Later Swiss

26 August, 2010

Last Saturday I got to try my Byzantines out against John’s Swiss. I went with 4x3Cv (1 = cmd), 1x3Kn, 3x2LH, 3x4Bw, 1x4Bd. On reflection the knights were pretty useless against the pike, and an extra 2LH would have been better. John took 8x4Pk (1 = cmd), 1x2LH, 2x2Ps, 1x6Bd. His aggression meant I was defender, and I set down one small wood of BGo and two small gentle hills. Hardly sporting, but hey!

Initial Deployment: Byzantines on the right and Swiss on the left.

After deploying I repositioned my light horse to try and stop the Swiss crossbowmen getting into the woods. This also put two elements of Kavallarioi to face his light horse. This plan hit a snag when John started with 6 PIPs, enough to get the crossbowmen comfortably into the woods. Undaunted I rushed my light horse in column in an attempt to sack his camp. However, his pike scooted sideways faster than I’d anticipated and I was quickly ZOCed. Things quickly turned sticky on the left flank, as my light horse couldn’t easily go forwards or backwards owing to the skirmishers in the woods. The ensuing combats involved risk to the pike, who could be QKed, but also to the light horse, who could be recoiled into each other, or as it developed, into the skirmishers to their rear.

The light horse are repulsed. While one pike blocks the lead Pechenegs element, another recoils an attack by the other Pechenegs that had overlap support from Turkopouloi.

The lead Pechenegs fail to move the pike in a hard-fought battle (6-5).

The fighting continues fiercely, as the pike remain steady and the light horse do not flee.

The Swiss swing onto the offensive, and destroy one element of Pechenegs by blocking their retreat with the skirmishers and flee the Turkopouloi with a carefully supported general (no risk of a 1-6 killing him), but on the right flank, buoyed on by the sight of camp, the Pechenegs break the unsupported pikes!

Notoriously greedy, the Pechenegs find courage in the hope of loot!

This was a very luck let-off for the Byzantines, as the lead Pechenegs were close to being surrounded (in fact I think they might have been destroyed by a recoil here) and the flight of the Turkopouloi freed them for use elsewhere. With the camp in sight the Pechenegs wasted no time in trying to sack it, but on their first attempt they were repulsed.

While the camp (occupied by the disorganized remnants of the routed pike) holds fast, the Turkopouloi race over to the other flank to threaten the Swiss light horse.

At this point the main battle lines came into bow range, and the Swiss blade tried to attack some of the bow at 3-2 odds. It got a stick, while shooting on the pike was ineffective.

Byzantine archers, benefiting from overlap support, hold back the Swiss halberdiers.

At this point the Varangians did what they were in reserve to do, and as the archers retired from the fight against the halberdiers, they slid in to contact and routed the dismayed Swiss. Shooting remained ineffective.

The Varangians display their elite status.

In response the Swiss have only two PIPs, not enough in the circumstances, and can only regroup. The Byzantines also only have two PIPs, but when one of those is used to attack the camp again, it proves enough!

The Pechenegs celebrate their first camp-sacking!

A risky deployment of the light horse pays dividends! A truly Byzantine victory, in which all the critical fighting is done by mercenaries, Pechenegs and Varangians!

  • Review:

I really can’t remember sacking a camp before; I’ve tried a few times, but can’t recall actually taking one. With up to four 2LH that might happen more often! Winning on one’s first outing is a good way to endear an army to oneself, and I can see myself liking the Komnenans. More battles this weekend may confirm this.

The Swiss came close to winning again, even with unfavourable terrain and a difficult opponent; in hindsight John didn’t need to double-rank his pike, as only my blade and knights were affected by this rank. a formation of six pike with two rear-ranked would have worked better. Of course, John could argue that the deployment was part of an elaborate plan to sucker me into my risky and very nearly disastrous flank attack!

After seeing in previous games against John how nasty a single element of light horse could be, I was very careful not to let my cavalry on the right flank be attacked unsupported; for that reason they never got into combat before the camp was sacked, but I felt the caution was not misplaced.

9 Responses to “Horsies and Pikes: Komnenan Byzantines v. Later Swiss”

  1. TWR Says:

    It seems the dice gods are supporting you again Mark! Great report with interesting photos.

  2. Craig C Says:

    You have more luck sacking camps than I do- I’ve finally given up trying with my LH- they have become road kill in front of a camp far to often for their own good.

    For me 2LH is a bare minimum, 3-4 is much better! They seem to annoy the hell out of opponents and are always fun to use!

    I like the look of the Komnenan list.


    • Mark Davies Says:

      Not sure about that! Like I say, it’s the first time I remember doing it! I’d agree about not succeeding; the Numidians have tried for the Carthaginians a few times without success–when it’s 2 PIPs to try again, it often gets overlooked for more urgent actions!

      The Komnenans are interesting; less foot than I’m used to, but all good, and I like the mix of 3Cv and 2LH. I also like the mix of decaying regular units and mercenaries.

      • TWR Says:

        You don’t want to try and do too much all at once. From this perspective the PIP cost is prohibitive if you are trying to run around with elephants somewhere else.

  3. PTR Says:

    Excellent battle report! I agree that Cv and LH together are a nice combination. Especially against Kn!

  4. Stephen Says:

    Well done. I need a bit more practice in not sending my LH to their deaths – the temptation to do risky flank attacks is too much for me. The Swiss did a great job in catching some of your elements, by the way.

    • Mark Davies Says:

      Same, I got lucky this time. Yes, I’ve beaten the Swiss twice now, but both on terrain of my choosing and both much more narrowly than I’d ever have expected.

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