Conquest 2010 (Part 2): Cornishmen (and women) on chariots

29 October, 2010

I was one of the umpires for this event, in training along with Dave for the IWC competition next year. There were sixteen of us competing, so organizing the draw was quite tight for time between games. Conquest is sponsored by Comics Compulsion, and this year Tim from there was one of the DBA competitors. He also provided us with some very nice game boards for the event.

As I won my CB Ancient Britons at Conquest last year, I felt it was only proper to field them this year. Actually, they’re not one of my favourite armies. This is not because they’re not quite a powerful mix of troop types; they can have half their army mounted or can go for skirmishers to complement the light horse. It’s more that the image of them for me has been shaped by the Victorians, who adopted Boudica as a prototype of Queen Victoria of all people! As the Wikipedia author points out, it’s highly ironic that someone who fought Roman imperialism became associated with British imperialism! Because of this, the Ancient Britons don’t come across to me as the ancestors of the Celts of Britain, but the English. Still, why should that be strange when a similar fate awaited King Arthur?

Anyway, trying hard to put these associations to one side, I took the Britons. I described them as early Cornish (a link to the DBR game of the night before), but I didn’t think of a name for my leaders, particularly the warrior queen on a chariot, so was lumbered with Boudica by well-meaning opponents. There are no historical Cornish rulers from this time. My best source for a name would be someone from that eminent historian, refreshingly untroubled by the need to verify his sources, Geoffrey of Monmouth. He provides us with a Duke of Cornwall, Tenvantius, the son of Lud. He’s less prolific with female names, but I’ll go with Tonuuenna, the mother of Belinus and Brennius, who persuaded her sons to do the right thing and not fight each other, but rather go sack Rome!

Damn, with names like that, I’m sure they would have fought better, which tells you what you could discover if you looked here. I won two games, drew one and lost the other three. Still, I learnt a lot about the army as the day unfolded, which is to say, I made a lot of mistakes that I could learn from!

  • Game 1: Thessalians (II/5d), Colin Foster (Christchurch)

My first game was against a Hoplite Greek army, the Thessalians, who have a mix of troops not so different from my Picts last Conquest. Colin went for four 3Cv, two 2Ps and six 4Sp. I went for all the mounted I could, so Tonnuuena led four LCh, two 2LH and six 3Wb. As would remain a common pattern, I was the defender. I was looking forward to getting my double-ranked warband into Colin’s spear, so I went for a gentle hill and two woods. I put the two woods on one flank, but Colin did the sensible thing and opted to have the woods in my deployment zone, which the dice allowed him.

Setting up, I put the warbands in one wood, and the mounted between the woods. Colin was able to put his spear as far as possible from the warband and I elected not to swap any elements.

Initial Deployments against the Thessalians.

I rapidly found that the depth of chariots is significant when moving across the front of battlefield, and the chariots were not able to get to the right wing before they were engaged by the Thessalian horse. I also had a moment of madness and imagined I could slip my light horse between the hoplite lines. In that initial encounter one chariot was destroyed.

An overlapped chariot is destroyed and the light horse get ready to get themselves into trouble.

Things did not improve. Predictably one of the light horse was destroyed and the warbands had to rush into combat at bad odds against the cavalry. Before long another chariot and a warband were destroyed and the Britons routed.

Terrible match-ups on the right flank.

Going into this battle I thought I had a good chance. I shot myself in the foot with the terrain placement, and I then made it easy for the warbands to be avoided; had they been central they would have had better options. Finally, I discovered that chariots are surprisingly more awkward to manoeuvre than 3Cv. Good lessons!

  • Game 2: Early Neo-Assyrians (I/25b), Barrie Cameron (Timaru)

My next opponent, Barrie, had chariots and I decided to stick to the same army. The Assyrians were insanely aggressive, and I’d have to 6-1 them to be the aggressor! They have an interesting mix of mounted and foot: two HCh, two LCh, two 3Bd, four 3Ax and two 2Ps. I didn’t see any massively favourable match-ups for me, but I hoped I could bring my superior mounted numbers to bear against his foot, to which they were quite vulnerable. I think I did learn a bit from my mistakes in the previous battle, and went for different terrain and deployment.

Initial Deployments against the Neo-Assyrians.

I didn’t take any photos of this battle beyond this first picture, and my recollection is a bit hazy. It was a draw and I know that our chariots met on the right flank. Barrie tried to bring his across his front, and I pinned them much as Colin had done to me. Despite this, I don’t think it was going too well for me there. The only consolation was that it blocked the HCh, which sat out the battle. I managed to get one of the 3Ax on the left flank with my light horse, but when time was called, I’m not sure who had the advantage.

  • Game 3: Numidians (II/40), Bryan Fowler (Wellington)

Numidians with an elephant, light horse and auxilia were not an army I especially wanted to face. In the light of this I went for all the chariots again, figuring they’d have the edge over auxilia and light horse. I could have taken a psiloi as an elephant killer, but figured it’d get eaten by the auxilia.

I was the defender again and discovered that owing to a limitation of what figures he could get, Bryan had no auxilia! He had five 2LH, five 2Ps a 4Bd and an El. Even better—a stack of psiloi able to be gobbled up by my chariots. I went for a very open battlefield to give the psiloi nowhere to hide.

Initial Deployments against the Numidians. The lone warband on the right flank is the result of a swap!

I deployed with the warbands hoping to gain the crest of the hill and the mounted on either side. Things moved at a rush. But as the Numidians advanced their left flank expanded, outflanking my right flank significantly. However, I figured that Tonuuenna would QK the psiloi in front of her and lead a breakthrough in the centre. Do you think she could? For at least three turns that psiloi held her off! In that time my chariot held up the Numidian elephant, but it was a combat that could only have one outcome.

Early combat. Tonuuenna proves ineffective, and Nennius and his head faces off against three light horse!

By the time Tonuuenna finally killed that psiloi it was too late. A chariot had been flanked and destroyed, another had fallen to the elephant and Nennius had been surrounded and destroyed. Meanwhile I think my light horse had been destroyed on my left flank by psiloi and light horse. I think I was downslope of all this.

It was all over very quickly!

In hindsight I could have extended my line by not double-ranking the warband. They didn’t get any benefit against five sixths of the opposition. However, I blamed Tonuuenna for a lacklustre performance, and going into the break for lunch she was retired in disgrace!

  • Game 4: Early Imperial Romans (II/56), Simon Phillips (Timaru)

After lunch, owing to the nature of the Swiss Chess system, I was facing less experienced, or less lucky opponents. Simon, from Timaru (and recently from Scotland) had a loaner army; these Romans were also won at Conquest last year, so it was a very fitting match-up, even historical!

Going for one less chariot I took a warband general (Tenvantius) and a psiloi. I was of course the defender and stuck to my terrain choices, though putting the woods slightly more central. I fancied my chances, as these Romans, unlike Marians and Polybians, lacked psiloi for support. The auxilia and blade would be very dangerous to the warbands with psiloi support. Without it they were vulnerable to my warbands and my chariots. And for the Romans the one psiloi they could get came at the cost of a cavalry. Simon went for three cavalry, an artillery, four blades and four auxillia.

Initial Deployments against the Romans.

Simon sent a cavalry to try and get around the wood on my right flank. I stopped it with a psiloi and a light horse. I was able to drive it off the edge of the board, making it 1-0. Simon decided that these two represented a target worth chasing (or as he said later, a threat). He would prove able to get them, but at the cost of leaving his centre hanging. I lost a light horse to his artillery (I didn’t know that was a match-up to avoid!), but was able to use my chariots to effect, taking out his artillery, a blade, who were unable to expand out of column in time, and an auxilia. For all that, it was a narrow victory.

It's all over; while the Roman commander and cavalry are over to their left flank, the chariots do the damage.

  • Game 5: Alexandrian Imperial (II/15), Lewis Osborne (Timaru)

My next opponent was the youngest competitor, Lewis, who had used Ancient Britons himself. Like the Assyrians, the chance of him being the defender were remote. I went for terrain similar to what I had against the Romans (in fact I managed to stay at the same table for the whole day!). This time Tenvantius was on a chariot and I went for two psiloi. Alexander went for a defensive deployment and artillery instead of an elephant.

Initial Deployments against Alexander.

Six PIPs on the first turn got my psiloi into the woods on the left flank. The light horse also headed over to that flank too. While Alexander’s pikes and artillery sat on the hill, I thought I’d have a good chance to bring superior numbers to bear on the mounted on the left flank. This was going fairly well, and I got one of the elements of companion cavalry, but my decision to try to get Alexander himself by having Tenvantius flank him proved my undoing. Alexander recoiled me and the depth of the chariot proved fatal. He was then able to turn and attack Tenvantius and recoil him again. His deep base contacted my light horse by a few mm and it was all over, as I’d lost a psiloi earlier to his companions.

More learning with chariots: avoid going sideways!

  • Game 6: Spartacus (II/45c), Dave Batchelor (Timaru)

My final game of the day was against a fellow umpire, Dave, who brought Spartacus’ army. It was the first time I was the aggressor. Had Spartacus broken out to Britain, only to get attacked by the locals? I went with Tenvantius on foot again, but with two psiloi, as against an army of warband I figured they’d be useful. Dave went for a foot general, so had five 4Bd, five 5Wb and two 2Ps.

Initial Deployments against Spartacus.

In a crowded battlefield I believe one of my light horse got into trouble and was destroyed. At that point I retired the offending die that had rolled a 1 and my luck saw me home. In a day that had seen my warbands do very little (anything, pretty much), the chance to face other warbands must have inspired them. Perhaps they felt they had something to prove against raggedy-arsed 5Wb, as they consistently beat them (overlaps, a Wb general and double-rank advantages helped, of course).

Two mobs of slaves put to flight, one, I think by psiloi.

As the escaped slaves fought, the gladiators looked on, and before they could get into action another mob of slaves was defeated and Spartacus’ army broke and ran. What punishments worse than crucifixion could the Britons dream up for those they captured?

Another mob of unwashed slaves break and the Spartican adventure in Britain falls to ruin.

It was nice to end on a victory, and interesting that it was one that saw my warbands in action finally. I think I had struggled to make the Britons act as a combined-arms army and ended up winning (or more frequently losing) with the mobile part of the army, which made contact before the warbands could move up. Another lesson there!

It was a very enjoyable day with all the games being played in good spirits. Yet it wasn’t over. I’d played mostly Timaruvians in the competition, and I’d see more of them that evening, when four of them came over to Keith’s for dinner and a game of Big Battle DBA (BBDBA).

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13 Responses to “Conquest 2010 (Part 2): Cornishmen (and women) on chariots”

  1. TWR Says:

    Great series of reports Mark, as always.

  2. Brian Says:

    the Ancient Britons don’t come across to me as the ancestors of the Celts of Britain, but the English.

    That’s because there were Mark.
    Ancient Britons were Britons according to the latest DNA studies.
    The Celtic culture abounded but not the DNA.

    Study some history, the Irish walked up from Spain, the Scots are Irish, The Anglo Saxons are German but the Ancient Britons are British.

    • Mark Davies Says:

      I’ll put the tone of your comment aside; clearly I’ve touched a raw nerve! I have, in fact, read some history, quite a lot, in fact. Identity is more complicated than DNA. It is largely a matter of stories that groups ascribe to. These can often reasonably be described as myths. A myth that draws on science is much more persuasive to many people today. However, science in these matters is in flux; scientific ideas of identity from the 19th century and early 20th century were discredited after the Nazis adopted them.

      The question of identity in Britain has been much discussed recently. Simon James’ book The Atlantic Celts: Ancient People of Modern Invention? is not one I agree with, but he does present the terms for a reasoned discussion on these questions very well.

      I see the Ancient Britons as a culture; they spoke a language that is Celtic, one that evolved into Welsh and one related to Irish. Culturally, then, the Welsh can claim them as their ancestors. However, inasmuch as the Celts, or the Anglo-Saxons for that matter, do not seem to have changed the genetic make-up of the regions they conquered, there’s no reason modern English can’t claim them as their ancestors too. The thing I don’t like is that the Victorians, on the one hand adopted Boudica as one of their own and on the other were subscribing to racist crap about racial purity that argued that the English were purely Germanic and had driven the previous occupants into Wales and Cornwall and that the Welsh and Irish were some sort of subhuman race! If the English want to adopt Boudica, they should get a new myth of their origins, something I’m sure some of them have already done.

      • Brian Says:

        “I’ll put the tone of your comment aside; clearly I’ve touched a raw nerve!”

        Not sure how you read ‘raw nerves’ into my comment Mark.

        I am Anglo Saxon, in fact probably more Angle than Saxon as my for-fathers lived in EastAngleland
        ( Sufolk ), so took no offence as I do not class myself as a Celt or Ancient Brit.
        I attended lectures at Illam Uni last year which covered the very early history of the British Isles from the Last Ice Age until the Scots became Protestants and broke their treaties with the Catholic French. The lecturer was well up on the latest theories and mentioned several books on the subject of DNA tracking.

      • Mark Davies Says:

        The ‘raw nerve’ would be from the suggestion that I ‘read some history’, which was fairly intemperate.

        My point is that identity is not a product of DNA, but of the stories that groups tell about themselves. The fact that DNA studies now prove what rubbish was considered scientific by Europeans in the 19th and early 20th century actually allows for different stories of identity to be told about groups in the British Isles. However, as language and place of birth plays a big part in these stories, such stories might not prove popular; many who see themselves as ‘Celts’ or ‘Anglo-Saxons’ would prefer to believe there is some ‘racial’ basis for these cultural differences.

        Concepts like an ‘Anglo-Saxon’ race are modern ones and based on discredited theories, theories that the Nazis, along with many other Europeans of the time, subscribed to. Historians today do not believe that the Anglo-Saxon conquest of England changed the DNA of the inhabitants there. Likewise the Scotti moving into the South-West of Scotland resulted over time in cultural and linguistic changes in that area, but not ‘racial’ ones.

        What I find curious is that whereas when Germanic peoples moved into other parts of the Roman empire they adopted the culture and language of Rome, in England, where they met resistance from so-called ‘Sub-Roman Britons’, the culture that won out was not the Roman one, nor the British one (which did however survive in parts, notably Wales, Cornwall and parts of the North), but that of the Germanic invaders. Given the small numbers of invaders involved, the adoption of Germanic culture appears to have been a choice made by many of the people living in what is now England. Unlike in Gaul, which became France, the invaders imposed their language and culture on the inhabitants of Britain, rather than being absorbed by them.

        As a footnote, until the Tudors, the term British was only applied to the Welsh.

  3. Brian Says:

    You are much more versed in the history of the Brit Isles than I & I see that you are a Denizen of Auckland Uni where, no doubt, you dine on history. We did agree that the culture of the Ancient Brits was Celtic, I was just trying to point out that, as I understand, they were not what I would call ‘ethnic Gauls or Celts’, but the descendants of the original inhabitants after the last Ice Age. ‘Ancient Britons’ in other words.
    Cheers
    no nerves violated

    • Mark Davies Says:

      No worries, Brian. You managed to get me on one of my hobby horses!

      The current debate in Britain seems led in part by an unadmitted desire to strip the modern Welsh and Irish of any connection to the broader Celtic culture of Iron Age Europe, which is a huge source of cultural pride to them. Given the clear linguistic links between the two, this is all rather shabby!


  4. Thanks for sharing Mark, what nice boards they had.

  5. stephen malone Says:

    Hi Mark,

    I enjoyed your revues of the games. You were right that the day was played with a light hearted sence that if you loose this game you have another game in an hour that you hope to improve, and if not,cie la vie or better cie la guerre.

    Jopefully look forward to seeing you in CHCH at December.

    Stephen.


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