A few more battles

21 December, 2010

  • Game 1: Romans v.  Later Carthaginians

I’ve not written up the last few battles, and I certainly haven’t taken pictures of them. The first was last month, when Joel came around for a game. He took the Polybian Romans while went with the Carthaginians. I decided to go with two elephants and two warbands. I got a towelling. I was the defender, I think. I got an edge amongst terrain and got low PIPs while the Romans advanced towards me. However I deployed with those big elephants it was going to be crowded. I didn’t get good match-ups and got worse dice. It was a 4-0 defeat. I had hoped my Gauls might get to take out a cavalry that they flanked at only 2-2 odds), but I failed. The elephants faced blade, and didn’t initiate combat; not getting to choose the match-ups they had no special advantage. The game showed I still have a lot to learn about Carthaginians; I felt I was better off without the elephants.

  • Game 2: Romans v.  Later Carthaginians

The next game was quite a while later when I visited John for a game. It was the same armies again, except this time the Romans had the cavalry general that the list requires. I ended up in a similar fix; this time as the attacker. I was squashed by terrain, but at least had no elephants. Again I had low PIPs at the start, while the Romans had more than they could use. As the battle lines drew closer I got some high PIPs and tried to race my Numidians around one flank in front of the battle lines to the other. They got half way, and with a bit of measuring, I’d have seen they’d be ZOCed! I chose to let the Romans attack them, which they did with blades; this resulted in the Numidians being recoiled and unable to flee. Over a number of turns where I got 1 PIP they were slowly forced back, pushing back my spear at the same time.

Things were going badly, particularly when my psiloi-backed auxilia on one flank were doubled (another 1 by me!) in BGo by the daring Roman general (he had even odds). However, at this point I was saved by luck. My general and the other cavalry advanced through this wood to attack the Roman general; the plan was to get 2-1 odds on their general with ours in BGo. This depended on my cavalry recoiling theirs at even odds. They did better, doubling them! My general only recoiled the Roman one, but now the advantage on that flank tilted in my favour.

The Romans had now forced back my spear so far that they could flank a warband on a steep hill while they assaulted it with psiloi-supported blade. The first combat was 4-3 to them, but guess who won! And after that the other blade was toast. Luck turned things around for me in two bounds!

John was unlucky not to win against the warband, but the odds were not greatly in his favour there. I wonder if he might not have been better to have attacked the Numidians with his velites: 2-0 with overlaps. For a 1/36 chance of being 6-1ed he’d have had a 15/36 chance of doubling the light horse and winning the game (even if he’d not got the auxilia, he’d then have been able to get at the spear behind with blade).

My mishandling of the light horse created something of a Cannae situation, except it wasn’t my wings that folded in on the Roman centre, but my wings destroyed those opposite through the situation this manoeuvre created. Not a tactic I’ll try to repeat, though!

  • Game 3: Romans v. Later Macedonians

The last game was played last week. I got my Later Macedonians finished just in time for Joel to visit for the last time this year. I was keen to try them out against Polybian Romans. As they seem a tricky army to use I had a couple of experimental solo games before Joel arrived.

The problem with the Later Macedonians is that of all pike armies, protecting their flanks. They have plenty of BGo troops to protect one flank, if they can anchor it in BGo (and they have low aggression to make this likely), but they don’t have anything really strong to guard the other flank; the cavalry general and the light horse are really just a reserve, outclassed as they are by even the Roman cavalry contingent. I hit on the idea of positioning three big pieces of BGo so that there was a three base width gap between them, at least at the centre of the board. The Macedonians could then try to use the BGo to protect their flanks and then keep the cavalry in reserve. The problem with this is that neither flank is very strong, assuming they can get to both in time (as one may possibly be closer to the enemy’s baseline.

Anyway, in both the practice games the Romans advanced in column, using the road for speed; they could expand fairly confidently, as the Macedonians could not protect their flanks effectively beyond the BGo. The first time the Macedonians lost their mounted on one flank; the second they were winning in centre, where the three phalanx elements had taken one blade a piece. They were losing on one flank, though, where they were outnumbered. This was when Joel arrived. As the Macedonian LH run on the camp had been met by some Triarii that were QKed, and I’m sure it was 3-1 when I stopped, this can’t be quite right, but the protected pike were looking pretty good.

I made Joel take the mounted general and have aggression 4, as this would be post 204BC. Predictably he was the aggressor, and I laid my terrain in the way I’d been experimenting with. Joel however, got a base edge that put one piece of BGo close to him, too far for me to hope to use it as an anchor. The battle on that flank would be in the open, and he brought his cavalry around the hill to assist.

I didn’t help myself by advancing the pike too far; however, I had time to bring one of the 4Ax around from the left flank to assist the other and the 2Ps in the open; against the cavalry, they’d struggle for parity! The 4Wb was left to hold the other flank. Eventually they got bored and went looking for some unsupported spear, but with low PIPs and being out of command range, they never got to see action.

Joel’s blade came over the hill and linked up with his general. I got to attack first, and the odds were not brilliant; from right to left my general was on the outside flank facing the Roman 3Cv; my two 4Ax with a 2Ps in support faced his general and a 4Bd; then my light horse faced blades, and I’d brought two of the pike blocks across as well. My general managed to recoil his 3Cv; this left his general overlapped at 3-3, and the gods smiled, as we rolled 5-1 and his general was doubled. My 3Ax avoided being doubled against his blade and the game was mine!

Had I not got the chance to attack first and that lucky roll, I doubt I had much hope; the auxilia were very fragile against the blade in the open, and not so well matched against cavalry! Yet it was them who won the game.

  • IWC Ancient army?

My struggle to win with the Carthaginians had me thinking I needed more practice with them, and to make it more interesting I decided to make it a contest between them and the Ancient Britons. If the Britons could win they’d get to go to IWC instead! First up the Britons were the defenders, and the Carthaginians went for a small littoral landing of two psiloi and the auxilia, but the Britons put their chariots on that flank, so that plan lost all zest! The Carthaginians were forced to deploy this landing behind their battle line (with their predictable opening roll of 1 PIP). Their battle line consisted of the spear, backed by psiloi and flanked on each side by an elephant. With the auxilia and psiloi deployed awkwardly the advantage was with the Britons. As the spear tried to force the chariots back onto a marsh, one of them was exposed to a flank attack by some adventurous warband. These were made to pay in the next turn by an elephant, but that flank was in real peril: a lone psiloi and a light horse faced two each of their opposite number. These managed to get the Carthaginian light horse and then the elephant, but meanwhile they had lost a chariot to the auxilia and spear working together on the other flank. At this point the Carthaginian general was able to destroy one of the British psiloi that was in the open, making it 3-3. However, the Britons got the Carthaginian psiloi, which had been guarding the flank of their general, with their light horse. A victory that owed a good measure to Carthaginian ineptitude and too many elephants.

I had another game, this time the Britons were the defenders and the Carthaginians went for only one elephant. They were able to get their auxilia and two psiloi onto a steep hill before the British warband could get there. The battle at this point see-sawed for quite a while, but the uphill advantage proved decisive for the Carthaginians. I can’t quite remember how they won, but the Carthaginians won this battle. Their elephant got to destroy at least one chariot.

The Carthaginians, with their elephant and particularly their auxilia and psiloi have the edge over the Ancient Britons, so I would expect them to win. However, I still need a bit of practice using them. I’ll try them out solo against a few other armies when I get time.

6 Responses to “A few more battles”

  1. Twr Says:

    Is the lack of width of a Hellenic army realistic or is this something that DBA gets wrong? On occasion the phalanx was drawn up 32 ranks deep, for example at Magnesia. At other times less so. How deep were the Roman formations?

    Andrew and I have been discussing this, on and off, for a while. Along with possible solutions.

    • Mark Davies Says:

      The dynamic that DBA tries to model with just 12 elements is the near impregnability of pikes front-on, but their weakness if their flanks are turned. It’s not perfect, but it does create some interesting challenges.

      The three rank Roman system would have been very deep, but beyond rear-support from the velites, there’s no incentive for double-ranking a Polybian army.

  2. Twr Says:

    Andrew’s suggestion was to count a double ranked pike as one element but with a reduced factor, say 5. We haven’t tried it yet.

    Light horse would need to be adjusted to remove the QK.

    • Mark Davies Says:

      Interesting. I think the trouble with that is that what makes pike interesting in DBA is their vulnerability if they lose their back rank. It may be that the shortening of their battle line is too extreme, but in terms of the game mechanics, some shortening seems reasonable.

      Within the constraints of 12 elements the options are limited. I’ve seen on Fanaticus the suggestion that blade should be double-ranked, something that was not greeted with enthusiasm.

  3. petros karampatakis Says:

    i like the way you planned your victory by carefully setting the terrain pieces so you conpensate for your army weakenes! this is how generals and kings was born! very good game!

    • Mark Davies Says:

      Thanks, I generally shoot myself in the foot with terrain! This one worked in solo games, but Joel was better at exploiting its limitations!

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