Dark Ages at the BHGS Challenge 2016
Feudal Spanish vs Nikephorian Byzantine
2 wins, 2 losses and going into the final round after yet another round in which all of the 9 games being played ended in decisive wins. The afternoon stretched out in front of the Iberian army, and as the sun blazed down a toolkit Nikephorian Byzantine army rode over the horizon to meet El Cid's forces.
Byzantine armies have struggled in several recent rulesets, but in ADLG they are considered solid choices - the near-unique combination of Shooting and Charging cavalry, decent foot stiffened with Varangians and proper spears and a supporting cast of mounted redeployable troops wrapped in a high command value package is pretty good.
This Byzantine army however was rather unique, stretching in a solid wall of Spear/Bow infantry across almost the entire table. These were the troops who had been my nemesis from the first two games in this competition, and so seeing a full table of them was some way away from being the opposition the Iberians had looked forward to in the last game of the event.
On a mostly bald table I had squeezed the Spanish army into 2/3 of the board , stacking all of the mounted on the left, and sandwiching the potentially decisive Almughavars between the solid command of Spears and the Knights. This was all going to be about getting troops into the line of Bow/Spear Skoutatoi with as little damage as possible.
The lists for the Feudal Spanish and Nikephorian Byzantine from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at the BHGS Challenge can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
The Iberian army lurched forwards in the centre, holding back the knights on the left as they crept forward at 1 MU per turn, sidestepping 1 base width to the left as they sought to avoid some Skoutatoi shooting and place themselves in the path of the handful of Nikephorian Cavalry on the edge of the enemy army.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - if you move at least 1MU forward you can slide 1MU to the side in your first move of each turn. No messing about with "both corners" here, a 1MU outside corner wheel is also counted. This almost gives you a single element move capability as in DBx, but with more flavour of the bases being actual units
The two sides closed and it turns to Nikephorians against Theodolites, as the Iberians stayed just out of shooting range poised for a frantic dash into combat. The Spanish LI were also firmly glued to the front of their Heavy Foot formation, and this time had been instructed not to fall back when the shooting started - losing 2-hit skirmisher units would damage the morale of the army, but with the benefit of hindsight (called "learning" in some quarters) I had decided that losing skirmishers was a price worth paying if it meant that my Spearmen could get into combat intact.
The Nikephorians were colourful, with a neat combination of hand painted details and VVV shield transfers.
Colour coding by command - this was true old-school wargaming
The shooting had started....
This time the shooting had caused relatively little damage to the Spaniards as the two armies got almost to spear-stabbing ranges...
Pictures of Byzantines from the Photo Directory
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On the extreme left there was a gap in the pedestrian line in which some Nikephorian cavalry were standing - with both sides inching sideways the Spanish had a difficult choice, of committing their Average Impetuous Cavalry against the Elite Nikephorians quickly, or waiting for the slower moving but better Hidalgos to creep up...for which they would need to survive the shooting of the Skoutatoi to succeed in doing.
The Almughavars were almost in... and they had taken no hits.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - you can charge infantry through your own LF in ADLG. This seems a bit overpowered compared to FoG or DBM/M because of the way it protects you from shooting, but when balanced against the risk of losing only-2-hit LF to bowfire (who count the same as full-fat HI in army morale), and the obligation to remain stationary in any turn when you try to rally off a hit marker it does make sense in actual gameplay
The Skoutatoi inched sideways in front of their Kavalleroi, giving the Hidalgos and Cavalleros the choice of trying to run down Skoutatoi, or hold back and just get shot. The former was exciting and gave the possibility of winning, the latter would be a dull way to lose... I wonder what might happen
Everything was in! Beautiful wargaming as Barker intended with a linear Nikephorian army matching off against a Spanish army that had deployed all of its mobile troops on the wrong side of the table to do anything clever with them.
The Caballeros were into the Skoutatoi as the Byzantine Kavalleroi waited behind - this was not ideal, but the Caballeros could at least prevent some more Skoutatoi shooting as the Knights closed in.
The theory of throwing the Almughavars in was immediately proved spectacularly right as the Skoutatoi took multiple hits in Green and even Scary Yellow - and then the second round saw even more damage, as some of the Byzantines were blown away.
The Almughavars rushed on and through and straight over the Skoutatoi line, carving a massive near-6-unit-wide hole in the heart of Byzantium's once-intimidating line of nicely painted shieldwall infantry. The initial attack had been brutal, and already Religious Order Spearmen were turning into the flanks of the line of Skoutatoi
The Hidalgos and Caballeros were now all into combat, and as the battle raged both sides had ups and downs - no-one had knocked a hole in the enemy as yet, but with so many markers in place there would be gaps pretty soon
The Byzantines had almost a whole command unengaged, as the Spaniards had left a gap between their knights and infantry as they worked to concentrate 4 commands against 3 - but Skoutatoi were not the fastest moving units on table and so their ability to exploit the lack of opposition by peeling off into their flanks was happening in a near-glacial manner.
On the left the Byzantines were reduced to a small nugget of a command, beset on all sides by advancing Spanish spearmen
The Hidalgos and Caballeros were finally starting to lose impetus, as 2-hit markers started to match the number of bases in both commands - 2 generals tried frantically to bolster the morale of their remaining knights and to keep the Byzantines bottled up on this flank whilst their infantry did the business in the middle
On the right the last of the Skoutatoi were removed and the Kavallaroi found themselves the target of a solid flank attack from the victorious Religious Order Spearmen.
The Almughavars were also wheeling outwards and rolling up the rest of the Byzantine line to the left
Suddenly the Hidalgos on the far left achieved something of a breakthrough as Skoutatoi turned and fled to be run down by jubilant Knights. The Byzantine army was crumbling, as the Inferior infantry slipped down to the bottom of the cohesion ladder all across the line
The Spaniards were chewing through the Byzantines almost all along the line, and the pressure on the Nikephorian Generals was such that they had no spare command points to send mounted troops round the static, largely unprotected Spanish right flank towards the Iberian baggage - but in any case it was solidly protected by a single unit of spare Spearmen.
The Nikephorians were reduced to just one unit on the right
Almost all of the Skoutatoi were now wiped out in a wide swathe of what had once been the centre of the Byzantine army, and Almughavars lookd eagerly for the final few targets to close out the game.
The game ended with the 4 Caballeros being wiped out, but in so doing they had pinned the Kavallaroi into the corner and bought time for the Hidalgos to chew up some of the Skoutatoi with secure flanks. The Result is a decisive win!
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 Feudal Spanish Commander, El Sid
Gor Blimey, what an apple turnover for the books this was! I expected a lot of horseflesh and men mounting young fillies (ooh-er!) to run round the back of my men (oo-er again!), but this was more Carry On Climb Over That Wall of Spearmen than Carry On Brace for Impact!
With this linear monstrosity, my brave Knights were rather stymied, and in some ways they had little choice but just to grab their lengthy poles with both hands and give it a good poke on horseback against the wall of painted shields.
But their distraction on the left flank was still a great help in making sure the enemy were unable to bring extra resources to bear in the places on the table where my matchups were sufficient to deliver a win. And, having worked out that my spearmen needed to be intact when they hit the enemy, I attempted to shield them on their way into combat with an ablative shield of Psiloi - but they managed to survive anyway, so whilst it was a good plan, it was not needed anyway!
Now the battle is over we will be able to at least rest my troops and set up camp. The first rule of camping is tent up first, bunk up later!
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
After a performance such as this my one, I only have one thing to tell you to do from this point on - your tactics of frontal attack with no subtlety appear to have finally found a foe equal to them, and your linear impotence met a wall of even thinner performance in a battle as subtle as the clapping of a pair of hands
But, even so, how could you manage to exercise such a simple plan so poorly? The horse were left far too long before charging home, the weakest units went in first, and a huge gap between your mounted and foot was left open for exploitation for far too long. With better shooting dice the Byzantines could have managed to gut open the soft underbelly of the unarmoured spearmen and then it would have been a far different game if ever there was one.
If you wish to claim to be a general, you must be an active general, even with the basest perspective that such a birth would impel upon you. The enemy had no maneuver, no dynamism, and still you had a plan of matching them one for one, and doing nothing to tax your brain more than attacking in a long line. Even a hopless chorizo-stuffer from rural Castille and Leon would have seen through such a paltry plan faster than you my foolish friend
I am just glad that you have got away with your follishness again, so that there will be a major reckoning in the next event for sure.
That's the end - so why not go back to the Match Reports Index and read some more reports?