Freezing! Armies before 0AD at Avignon 2019
Sargonid Assyrian vs Alexander The Great
With lunch safely tucked away and my body/cheese ratio back up to near-French numerical levels suddenly it was a make or break last round matchup against the army of Alexander (or more like Alexandre) the Great which stood between me, the trophy cabinet and managing to make the 50 minute drive back to Marseilles in time to catch my flight back to London.
Del Boy and airports
The lists for the Sargonid Assyrian and Alexander The Great from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Avignon can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
Alexander The Great's army is an effective mix of pikemen, Companions and a fairly usual Indian ally. This combination of high-priced troops can sometimes make the overall army rather tiny at 200 points if enough of the right (or wrong) toys are chosen, allowing more nimble opponents to overwhelm it on one or more flanks. The end result is waterways and rivers often feature in Alexanders battles.
Any hope of trying to outmanoeuvre what turned out to be a solid pike centre in the Alexandrian army was quickly dashed when an impenetrable swamp (Impassable terrain) landed on the Assyrian base edge, which in combination with a waterway down the right hand side of the table severely limited the Assyrians deployment options.
Considerations of dropping a command between the waters edge and the impassable marsh was quickly discounted as well, on that basis that the high Aggression Alexandrians were moving first and could potentially pin down the Assyrians before they reconstituted their force.
The end result was a deployment and a strategy of weighting the Assyrian left and aiming to shift even further in that direction once the army started wheeling itself forward.
This would mean taking on and defeating Alexander's max-strength Companion contingent and then, hopefully, wheeling inwards with infantry and chariots to chew through the flanks of the elephantry and get into the pike block in its vulnerable flanks.
Assyrian stuff someone nicked and kept in the British Museum
Deciding that being fully committed to this plan was much better than faffing around half-heartedly the Assyrians hurled command pips at their chariotry.
The sound of creaking axels rang out across the tabletop, but this was not yet another Guns n'Roses world tour but instead the noise that accompanied the wheeling of a block of battle carts from the centre of the army round behind blocks of shooting and anti-elephant infantry out to face the Companions.
This ended up quickly stacking all 4 of the Chariots into an extreme left position the like of which even Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell may have considered perhaps being a little bit too socialist.
Over there! The route to victory lies in the centre ground
Didn't you learn anything from Tony Blair?
The Right Wing Companions of Alexander Pfeffell The Self-declared Great were having none of this nonsense.
Turning sharply to the left they feinted behind their protective phalangites and galloped across the battlefield to find a new position.
Elephants looked behind them as the high powered horsemen steamed at speed away from the massing Chariotry, who now started to consider what they might do against almost no opposition.
What's Going on Here Then?
Pinned into a narrow frontage by impassable terrain in their deplyment area the Assyrians are struggling to use their mobility to wrongfoot the slow-moving enemy Pikemen and instead are being pinned back in their own deplyment area by an enemy advance
Keen to take on the Companions, Assyria's Chariots have swung out to the left to match them and draw them into a decisive combat of both forces Elite mounted troops. Alexander however doesn't fancy this option, and as soon as the Chariots are committed the Companions have gallpped across the back of their Phalanx to pile the pressue point into the much-thinned centre of the Assyrian army.
The very tempting and almost obligatory Indian allied command had also raced forward, and as expected had pinned the Assyrians back behind the Impassable Marsh.
More surprisingly however the Indian command was utterly lacking in elephantry, with a line of mixed bow/sword shooters and it's general riding astride a sub-par war wagon.
This would look like easy pickings for most of the Assyrian army, but sadly most of the Assyrian army was otherwise occupied on the opposite flank against the evaporating Companions, leaving only a couple of HF Swordsmen and a mixed shooter unit to oppose the wider Indian command.
The Companions had now almost completely disappeared from view, leaving an open field for the fast-moving Assyrian infantry to swing around and pressurize the right flank of Alexanders Phalanx.
The most potent components of the Assyrian army, the Chariotry, were suddenly marooned in open space far from the presumably decisive places in the battlefield.
It appeared that their greedy acquisition of all of the command and control capacities of two full commands of the Assyrian army had been not only for naught, instead it had just taken them away from where they might do most good.
Faking speaking French (or..what I was actually doing...)
The end of the Alexandrian line was now the focus of everyone's attention. Hoping yet again to use their Superiority the Elite Assyrian infantry raced forward, their line extended by mixed shooting formations who furiously targeted the Alexandrian elephantry and their protective skirmish screen as they closed..
The Chariots had realised that their army had enough troops here already, and that instead they needed to return to the centre - they turned about and prepared to copy the Companions and themselves race back behind their own wall of advancing foot fighters
No, I said "foot" fighters... sigh...
Like an ancient version of the 7th Cavalry (but aligned to the natives this time) the Companions suddenly galloped into view straight down the centre of Alexander's army to plug the gap between the Phalanx and the Indians.
The handful of Assyrian infantry who had been left behind in their army's mad rush to the left flank suddenly realised that far from being an irrelevance in this game, they now formed the focal point of the entire Alexandrian attack - and that they also were the only thing between their opponents and their own baggage.
That Man Alexander
" Bonjour Trieste! " The Companions were wasting no time - they piled forward in a deep column, confident that the Assyrians had nothing to strike back against them as they advanced.
Suddenly the Lions of Mesopotamia were totally on the back foot, with a command who's only task was to avoid defeat long enough for the rest of their army to (with luck) overrun and overwhelm the Phalanx on the left hand edge of the board.
Much bravery would be required of the densely packed Assyrian Heavy Infantry if they were to withstand the combined assault of Indian archery and Makedonian lance-points charging towards them at speed.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Alexandrians have now completed their redeployment and have entirely changed the focus of the battle to drive at speed into the Assyrian right wing. Deadly Indian massed archery is already causing the Assyrian foot major problems, but with the arrival of the Companions they look likely to be overwhelmed by a multitude of threats anyway.
On the opposite side Assyria's Chariots and their best infantry are struggling to get to grips with the right hand end of the Alexandrian line as the Phalanx starts to slowly wheel towards them.
The Assyrians barked orders at their makeshift force, pushing cavalry and infantry together to try and form up an ad-hoc defensive formation to try and hold back the tide of enemy lancers bearing down on them.
The enemy charge would be devastatingly potent, but as long as the Assyrians could luck out and survive the initial assault then the odds would even out dramatically, possibly even buying enough time for their Heavy Foot to get stuck into the opposing Indian bowmen as well to rack up some cheap points on this side.
Time was limited on the Assyrian right, and with that thought in mind the rest of the army knew it needed to get stuck right in immediately.
Or maybe I always do that anyway?
Never mind... the Assyrian infantry raced towards the end of the Makedonian Phalanx shooting ineffectually as they advanced while all of the Chariots milled around in a manner designed to confuse both the enemy and themselves, some sneaking back to the centre and others considering whether it was sensible to throw themselves into the flanks of enemy elephants.
" Cushti! "
The Indian bowmen had brought their shooting arrows today for sure, and were inflicting a deadly toll on Assyria's Heavy Foot.
Their upraised shields were providing scant protection as fletched arrows fell from the sky and struck unerringly home, shredding the resistance of the close fighters.
Suddenly, in the blink of an eye (unless you were King Harold I guess) the two 4-hit units found themselves at 1 and 2 hits left respectively, with only shooting to blame.
Time was running out faster than expected, and so the decisive moment needed to be brought forward.
With bloodcurdling cries and mighty battle horns parping as loudly as a post-curry room full of overweight wargamers the Assyrians launched themselves at the elephants guarding the end of the Makedonian phalanx whilst the rest of the Chariot force hurled insults at the enemy pikemen at short range, daring them to attack and trigger the Chariots Impact.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Mounted troops with the "Impact" capability get a +1 against most opponents in the first round, but not against Pike or Spear-armed troops who are standing to recieve the mounted charge.
If the Pikemen charge however, the Chariots can count their "Impact" +1 in the first round, making this a rather risky 2 vs 2 combat for the Pikemen, especially considering that the Chariots also count "Armour" and would inflict an extra point of damage through "Furious Charge" if they win.
The Indians were getting rightfully cocky as the Assyrian resistance crumbled in the light of their accurate archery.
Picking up their not good since 6th edition broadswords the be-turbaned Asiatic infantrymen piled forward in an unruly mass, coordinating with their hapless horsemen to hit the 3-hits-down double-overlapped Assyrian infantry block in a ferocious charge.
Nobody ever defended anything successfully.
There is only attack and attack,
and attack some more.
(George S. Patton)
The Assyrian assault on the elephant-shaped end of the Makedonian line had little time left to make an impact - but even with this urgency they seemed unconvinced of their own competence, failing to make any sort of real impact at all other than the obligatory and freely-caused single drop on one of the two elephants caused by the Chariots flank attack.
This plan was failing at the vital point at which the enemy needed to be fought and beaten - things were not going well.
Alexander's army in battle
The Assyrian Heavy Infantry were no more, and now only a handful of noble cavalrymen stood between the Indians on the left flank of the Alexandrian army and Assyria's baggage train.
The ignominy of having their camp looted by the relentlessly sub-par Indian horsemen was now a very real and immediate danger for the Assyrians, never mind the increasing inability of the rest of their army to slow the advance of the Companions as well.
Alexander's skirmishers were swarming around the Assyrian chariotry as they finally managed to drag one of the Elephants to its doom.
Even as the first Pachyderm fell its partner (and possibly its lover?) itself succeeded in crushing the Assyrian Guardsmen it had been fighting as well, leaving a messy and indecisive combat scenario with still much to be decided in a position where the Assyrians had planned to engineer a swift as eagles and decisive as decision personified on a speeds and long legged horse of decisiveness-type outcome.
As the Indians flooded forward the Companions broke the limited resistance of the rest of this half of the Assyrian army.
The whole field opened up before them as a goodly portion of the Alexandrian force now contemplated whether there might be more sport to be had in setting up a straight race amongst themselves to capture the Assyrian baggage rather than the tedious and inevitable work of mopping up the rest of the remnants of the Assyrian army on this flank.
What's Going on Here Then?
Alexanders Companions have smashed through the fragile resistance of the Assyrian centre and right wing, although their attack has been greatly aided by the massed archery of the Indian infantry formations which shredded the resistance of Assyria's heavy infantry.
On the Assyrian left their best troops are bogged down, getting almost nowhere against the resolute Phalanx and Elephants. Defeat looms.
The Phalanx was slowly wheeling round towards a faceoff against the Assyrian left wing - or more accurately against what was left of the entire Assyrian army.
These once-proud Winged Lion Empire warriors were looking at how many points they could go home with as a defeated force rather than gazing to the horizon for distant hopes of victory.
Even so, a few well placed shots down the surviving elephants trunk and some luck against the Phalanx with Chariotry Furious Charge would go a long way to making them feel a little better about the impending defeat.
The army teetered precariously on the brink of collapse, mere moments away from having their baggage captured and their womenfolk taken into slavery in the mines of northern Greece.
Summoning their last vestiges of bravery, and emboldened by a round of decent pip dice the Assyrians launched a doomed yet valiant series of attacks seeking wherever they could to rely on luck to maximise the damage they could do to a near-victorious opponent.
With the autumnal light slanting through the leaded windows of the olive pressing factory door the Xystonesque Companions hammered forward and claimed the victory crown.
Taking the Assyrian baggage they tipped the army from the Middle East into defeat, leaving the Winged Lion with 3 wins and 2 losses for the weekend.
Read on for the post match summaries from the Generals involved, as well as another episode of legendary expert analysis from Hannibal
Post Match Summary from the Sargonid Assyrian Commander
I am a black belt in origami, but that didn'r really seem to help me much here did it? What a horrible loss to end the weekend on.
As Macbeth said to Hamlet in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, We’ve been done up like a couple of kippers by an army that on paper looked like it was a random selection of favourite troop types driven by a general who hadn't yet painted up the elephants to go with his Indian ally.
I did my best to repeat the tactics that served me so well in previous games and wheel round the enemy right flank, but meeting a solid wall of mercenary elephant flash proved to be a bit too difficult for the Assyrian infantry and chariots to bludgeon their way through.
Looking back, I think the concept of using this army in the configuration I did has not proved to be an ideal one. My infantry were not quite good enough, and the mix of resilience of the heavies and quality of the Mediums simply hasn't worked - never mind the way the cavalry is spread around as well. Maybe more work is needed.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Looking carefully, I think one of your chariots is a GTI. If you rearrange the letters, you will have gotten yourself a personalised number plate you plonker!
Imagine falling for a trick in which Alexander switches his Companions across the battlefield to wrongfoot an enemy? Have you never watched any of the various films about this reasonably famous bloke - or are there no cinemas in the kingdom of Assyria?
Honestly, I am sure your brain went years ago, and now your legs have gone. There is now only the middle bit of you left
I am sure we will see this army again, and I am sure it will be just as badly led next time as well.
These reports have the following accompanying Podcast recorded live onsite in Avignon throughout the event for you to listen to and soak up the atmopsphere, as well as a Video version of the podcast on Youtube
That's the end - so why not go back to the Match Reports Index and read some more reports?