A backlog of battles

3 October, 2010

  • Ancient Spanish v. Carthaginians.

I’m a good way behind in writing battle reports and the last few don’t have any photos either. The week before last Joel got around for a game in the week after work, the first time in a while. The Spanish had just been finished, so he chose the Carthaginians to face them. He ended up being the defender and had opted for no elephants (strange that!) and three warband.

The Spanish have no choice and over a very empty battlefield they chose to attack at speed. This was because they had a wood on their right and the Carthaginians had a steep hill on their right. After deploying, the Carthaginians opted to swap their two 3Cv elements to the right of this hill in place of the two 2LH. This ended up causing severe command and control issues, as they got repeatedly low PIPs.

The Spanish deployed in two blocks of three psiloi supported auxilia with two psiloi in the woods and the cavalry in reserve. The psiloi were able to face the Numidian LH at even odds and came out to face them with the Spanish cavalry. The left flank block of auxilia was more cautious, trying to block the Carthaginian cavalry, while the central one charged up the middle.

What really gave the Spanish the game were three 6-1s in their favour. The first took out a pair of double-ranked 3Wb that were overlapped. The second removed (from memory) a 2LH. The Carthaginians managed to get a 3Ax with their spear, but it was too little too late, and the central block of auxilia got another 3Wb. Against such dice, the Carthaginians had no answer. The general behind the hill just made it harder. Clearly the Spanish liked having their camp to themselves!

The Spanish camp obviously brought them good luck in their first outing against its erstwhile possessor!

  • Review:

Rolling sixes is always a great way to win! The Spanish did use their speed to deny the Carthaginians time to overcome their bad initial PIP rolls. Psiloi-supported Auxilia are good against Warband, but if the game had degenerated into a shoving match, as might have been more expected, the Carthaginians would have had the edge.

  • Ancient British v. Patrician Romans.

Sunday last week I got around to John’s for a game. He used his Patrician Romans, who now have two completed elements of 4Bd (which look fantastic). The rest are still bare metal. I decided to try out the Ancient Britons, who I’m thinking of taking to Conquest. It seems only proper as I won them at that competition last year. John took 1x3Cv (gen), 2x3Kn, 2x2LH, 2x4Bd, 2x 4Wb, 2x4Ax and 1x2Ps. I took 6x3Wb (1=gen), 3xLCh, 2x2LH and 1x2Ps.

As the defender John laid down a wood on one edge of the board and a couple of gentle hills. I chose to put this wood on one flank. I deployed my warband on a hill with one chariot on the right flank where the wood was (realizing too late that John’s Auxilia would own this!), and the rest of the mounted along with the psiloi on the other flank facing John’s mounted. John had his Auxilia and Psiloi in column on his left to rush into the woods, and his blades and warband in line facing my warband with his mounted on his right flank.

This game lasted quite a while. I advanced off the hill hoping to take the Roman blade and warband while screening the auxilia with my chariot. Unfortunately at the critical moment my PIPs evaporated for what seemed ages. The chariot was caught by the auxilia who then ZOCed my warband. Furthermore, the blades faced my warband with a kink at the point where their general was. No matchup was very attractive, and I was sitting at over 200 paces, so to contact needed PIPs for a double move.

The whole thing could have gone far worse, but on the left flank I sent in my chariots, light horse and psiloi against John’s light horse and knights. I succeeded in killing both his light horse; in the first round with a lucky result (doubling one LH) and in the second round by sending in my psiloi against the other with a LH flanking it. In these fights my chariots were lucky not to die to the knights, as at least one of them was overlapped. I managed to get one knight flanked and attacked to the rear. It stuck one turn but died the next. However, with the game 3-2 to me I had to survive two attacks on my warband to get another crack at winning on the left flank. It was not to be; the knight took out a rear rank warband and the psiloi-supported auxilia with an overlap got the rear-rank warband on the other flank.

  • Review:

My big mistake was not to put the wood in John’s set-up zone. Where it was gave a flank to John and something for his auxilia to do. For all that the Britons nearly did it despite PIP starvation in the mid game. They’re a fun army I think I will take to Conquest.

  • Gauls v. Later Swiss. 02.10.10.

Today I went to the Auckland Wargames Club for a DBA day. As it turned out this was not well attended, to put it mildly. Still John and I had two good games.  The first was my Gauls against his Swiss. He took the option of a 6Kn instead of a 6Bd. This game was soon over when my general was 6-1ed by his 2LH when I attacked them with an overlap against me. This was only the second combat of the game. We decided to keep playing and treat this as a recoil.

I was the defender and went for a large central wood and two steep hills in opposite corners. One of these was on my right flank and that was where the action was. John kept his two psiloi on his hill to stop a cavalry of mine from scooting down a road to his rear. For my part I shielded this flank with my psiloi and that cavalry. Meanwhile the commander and the other cavalry went over to the right flank in an attempt to get around it. This is where they met John’s 2LH. I had sent the bulk of my warband (5 of them) into the woods where they had a stand-off with John’s pike and knight. The other three warband were on the hill.

As the battle progressed (in the alternate reality where my general didn’t die), John advanced four pike to support his LH against my cavalry and three warband. Even worse than in the game the weekend before I had atrocious PIPs. My general chased the 2LH to the edge of the board before doubling it. My warband then started to get stuck into his pike. One came out of the wood and peeled off the rear rank, only to get double (was that another 6-1? I think so!). Then my general got adventurous and tried the same trick on the side. He was recoiled and quickly surrounded by the pike he’d attacked and one of the pike that had stayed back.

He got a stick the first round, and this is when things got interesting. In my turn I got enough PIPs to attack his pike in detail (single-ranked pike against warband, yummy!). I managed to make it 3-2 that turn, unfortunately my casualty was my general. For around four turns I could not get that next pike, even though it was single-ranked and overlapped! Things were getting grim at 3-3 with the 6Kn approaching when I finally got him at even odds. The honours were evenly spread: 1G-0 to John and 4-3G to me; though my general might have wondered at my putting him into harm’s way so many times!

* Review:

I could do with not risking the general so much. The first time it seemed reasonable, as the risk was small and I stood to open up that flank; the second was not sensible. The problem was frustration at poor PIPs.

  • Ancient Spanish v. Gauls. 02.10.10.

After a quick lunch we had another game. I used the Spanish and John took the Gauls. It was a chance for a historical match-up. I was the defender and went for two woods and a steep hill. One of these ended up on John’s right flank and the others on my left flank (the hill) and right flank (the wood). I opted for two blocks of three psiloi-supported auxilia again. One was in column on the hill and had a pair of psiloi and the light horse next to it on the left flank. The other was between the wood and the hill with the general behind it.

I needed to advance my central block fast to avoid having the left flank out of command range. I did this, despite not really wanting to face most of the Gallic cavalry (his general went close to the wood to support the action that developed there.

As it turned out the battle on my left flank sucked up all our attention so that the Gallic left never got into action. Things started well with a rear-supported warband going down in a confused action with the psiloi and light horse. The auxilia had to deploy out of column and struggled to get psiloi support. Some bad luck led to an auxilia and its psiloi support going down. I then made it 3-3 when an auxilia and a psiloi flanked another warband. At this point I committed my general to the battle, to avoid the auxilia being overlapped. It was a risk, but he had good odds. Unfortunately he was a total coward, rolling three successive 1s in combat, eventually falling when flanked. My risk undid me and I lost a general for the third time that day!

  • Review:

This was a fun battle. It developed fast and could easily have gone the way of the Spanish. The committing of the general was a risk as he could be overlapped; it was to avoid the auxilia facing a warband at 2-2, odds where it could easily be doubled. Still, it was probably a risk best avoided.

Last Saturday I got round to John’s for a game of DBA. We took a while to settle on armies. I was feeling fed-up with preparatation for IWC, so when John decided to use his Later Swiss, I looked for a historical opponent that my Goblins could mimic. As they have only four mounted (here having to be 3Kn), a lot of the options were out. However, Free Company or Armagnac (IV/74) proved doable, and I went with them. They had the option of dismounting knights, which I played as already dismounted, giving me: 4x3Kn (1=cmd), 1x3Bd, 2x4Sp, 4x3Bw, 1x2Ps. The spear were taken, as I didn’t have any more that could pass muster as blades. John took the 6Kn instead of the 6Bd.

Despite having aggression 4 I was still the defender. I went for two gentle hills and a medium-sized wood. Sorry no pictures. John got the wood in the middle of my set-up area, so I put most of my army on one side of the woods, and three 3Kn on the other. John had the two hills nearer to him. He responded by placing all his pikes and the knights facing the three 3Kn; on the other hill he had the 2LH and the two 2Ps to defend the camp. However, I swapped out two 3Bw for two of the 3Kn, and suddenly the camp looked a whole lot less secure.

An approximation of the initial deployment (red = Swiss). Some of the proportions are right, but perhaps the terrain is too big, as I couldn't bring myself to place the deployment the correct distance in, as it looked too odd.

Indeed, when the Swiss kept rolling almost nothing for PIPs, things got even worse. However, 3Kn aren’t that fast, and by the time they were getting close to the Swiss crossbowmen the 6Kn was already ZOCing them and pikes were moving across too. In fact it could have got very sticky, but at this point the dice were exceptionally kind and I 6-1 a 2Ps (didn’t really need so much, but clearly they weren’t sticking around) and then when the 6Kn attacked I 6-1’ed them too! Not bad for the first two rounds of combat!

At this point, however, the Swiss pike started to chase my knights, and I was falling back from them as fast as PIPs would let me. I lost a knight to his light horse, but by that time I had two elements of archers in range of the light horse and the remaining crossbowmen. I killed the light horse and kept recoiling the 2Ps, but couldn’t quite kill it.

Meanwhile, in the centre I was reforming a line at an angle. The two knights had retired to the side of the advancing pikes (they were advancing to my left) and the spear and blades were now facing the pikes. On the other flank, the other four pikes were advancing and were met by the two bow and the knight. Having lost most of his mobile forces, John was pretty well rooted, and the end came when my archers destroyed a pike with shooting.

The Goblin impersonators continue their unbeaten record!

  • Review

The Goblins acquitted themselves well to being knights. That extra 100 paces makes a real difference to the mobility of 3Cv, and if I’d had 3Cv in this set-up I reckon I’d have got across the battlefield in no time. As it was, it was really the bad dice at the start of the game that lost John the game, particularly the 6-1 on the 6Kn. Had that gone the other way, and had I had a drought of PIPs at that juncture, my commander may have encountered John’s, and the odds would have been pretty grim! All in all, though, it was an enjoyable game. John’s starting to want something a bit more mobile!

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.

Friday two weeks ago was the first outing for a couple of new armies. One of these were my New Model Goblins, rebased to impersonate DBA armies, in particular those with elephants. As I’m now working on preparing for the second half of the CWC DBA competition and the second half of the IWC one, I decided to field them as Gobnovids, pseudo-Ghaznavids (III/63), one of the most popular armies of the second two books and therefore one worth getting familiar with. These were facing an army that John had just finished, his Later Swiss (IV/79). This is a pike army, which is strong against mounted—if it can protect its flanks.

I’ve been fairly slow writing this up; part of the reason is a lack of interest as the photos came out badly; I used the wrong setting on the camera. Anyway, it was a fun game with some surprising reverses of fortune. It started well for the Gobnovids, as they were the defenders (the Swiss have the same aggression as them). Seeing no reason to be nice, they laid out the minimum of terrain, some small patches of rough and a small steep hill. I suspect also that John may not have got the edge he wanted, as half of this terrain ended up on my baseline.

Initial Deployments: Swiss on the left and Gobnovids on the right. The Giant and Trolls look on from the camp.

After the Swiss had deployed I moved the two spear from right flank in exchange for a cavalry and a light horse (spider). Otherwise they would have done nothing, and the mounted seemed better suited to exploiting that flank. However the spear were facing pikes and possibly knights, so they weren’t in an ideal position.

From memory I had good PIPs at the start and advanced the right flank while wheeling the centre and not advancing the left much past the patch of rough. John seemed to decide that there was no point in letting me get things the way I wanted on the open flank, and advanced aggressively.

The armies close. On the right flank the spider and wolfriders face light crossbowmen, mounted and on foot.

John made my spiders (2LH) pay the price for their advance ahead of the rest of the line. He attacked them with his light horse supported by the light foot and they were destroyed when I rolled a 1.

Ouch! The spiders scuttle off.

Things just got worse for me when I rolled another 1 for the wolfriders against his psiloi. He rolled a 6 and they were gone. So much for a QK on psiloi! I’m sure I must have initiated this combat: 2-1 odds to me with a QK seemed pretty good.

The right flank starts to look tatty.

However, then the dice started to go my way and when John attacked in the centre and on the right; my psiloi and bow recoiled his light horse and crossbowmen and in the centre against pikes the commander was driven back while his left flank got a stick.

Blessed relief from dice hell!

I must have been scuppered for PIPs, as besides having the Ogres that were stuck recoiled, I did nothing. John swung into attack on the psiloi and they were destroyed (another 1-6), but my bow against his other psiloi returned the favour, and in the only other combat my overlapped bow got a stick against his pike.

The Goblins get on the scoreboard, but are now 3 down.

I then got PIPs to burn and the Ogres got out of first gear and rumbled into the pike creating bloody confusion. One peeled off the support of the only rear-ranked block, the other two charged into single-ranked pike, and a spear came across to support the bow. Things got off to a good start when my bow 6-1’ed his psiloi in shooting. Then the Ogres chomped up two pikes and it was all over.

The Ogre king of the Gobnovids revels in the slaughter of the Swiss pike.

  • Review:

You can read John’s account of this here.  He had a tough job trying to win with no terrain to support a flank. I don’t know if it would have helped if he’d tried to echelon leading on the right. I expected to win on my right wing, and very nearly lost there. In the end the dice evened up on that wing, as I got two kills to John’s two. When both of you have low combat factors things get very bloody and this, I think worked in my favour as I was able to win in the centre before the Swiss pike and knights could contact the spear on the left. That said, another low PIP roll on the turn I won would have seen the Ogres standing idle.

I’m becoming less obsessed by the dice, though it’s unnerving to open combat with a pair of 1’s. They evened out as the game went on: my rolls totalled 51, while John’s totalled 50 (such calculations are possible when you put the dice results in the photo!). There were more extreme results than is statistical, as of the 14 recorded combats (there might have been a couple I missed), there were three 6-1s (this should occur 1/18 times). And of the 28 rolls there were six 1s and eight 6s, when statistically each number should occur 4.67 times in 28 rolls.

What such statistics don’t tell is the effect of the dice in individual combats, as in combats with low factors the chances of doubling are much higher. Anyway, besides being entertaining to investigate, this analysis confirms that I got average dice, and average dice with the terrain advantages in this match-up were all that was needed.