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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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?
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).