Classical & Roman Warfare at the 2017 BHGS Challenge
Sassanid Persian vs African Vandal
El Gordo, The Big One - the BHGS Challenge, this year for the first time taking place alongside UK Games Expo, bringing historical wargaming kicking and screaming into the internet age and also into the NEC Birmingham alongside 16,000 other people, some of whom were even more geeky than the competition field for The Challenge!
Originally planning to play in the 25mm period with some of the English Longbowmen I had picked up almost 2 years previously but which have yet to make it into play in any serious numbers, the vagaries of player numbers saw the 25mm and 15mm events looking like they would end up both on odd numbers, and so the need to jump into the much shallower 15mm pool arose. With almost every army in the book to choose from, of course the perfect decision was to opt for the only army I didn't have and was mid-way through painting - the Sausages - sorry, Sassanid Persians
A Dog says 'Sausages'
Trust me, this honestly was the most important news story in the entire UK for months back in the 1970's. Simpler times, huh? .
With a burst of motivation propelling me onwards, the brushes flew day and night as the last elements of the mostly Legio Heroica Sassanids were finished in double-quick time. The army list selection came easily, opting to cloose a 300 point list which contained pretty much every single base that I had just painted. As it was later to transpire, I could and should have included even more of those recently finished figures, but that's another story.....
The lists for the Sassanid Persian and African Vandal from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Challenge can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
The first round dawned nice and civilizedly, with a 10am start (as opposed to a 9am start at 10am after a coffee, Italian time) and a very straightforward opposing army - the African Vandals
African Vandals are Charging Heavy & Medium Cavalry, some of it Elite, all of it coming to your side of the table double quick sharp. This combination had given me no end of problems earlier that year in Usk, and using the Sassanids for literally the first time it clearly would not give me time and space to make any mistakes...
The battlefield was bereft of almost all terrain, with two mounted armies seeking out an ideal place for them to exercise their horses against one another. Only a couple of small fields dotted the plains of whichever part of the Ancient world was fortunate enough to exist in an alternative universe in which the Roman Empire presumably did not survive the ministrations of the men from the east, and the Sassanids encroached into Egypt and beyond.
The Sassanid deployment was unlikely to vary wildly from game to game, with a Cataphract command, a Death Star of Elephants and Dailami and two near-identical commands, one on either flank, both made up of Elite Clibanarii and a light horse or two. The African Vandals had a line of charging cavalry from one table edge to the other, or so it seemed...
L'Art de la Guerre hint - basing generals on 40mm round bases is the thing all of the cool kids are now doing. Along with those spinners, and probably Pokemon or something.
The African Vandals had read the rules, and with Elephants featuring in the Sassanid army had elected to dismount some of their mounted warriors at the start of the game - they became Impetuous Medium Infantry, armed with Swords and aerosol spray cans with which to leave their mark on walls and railway sidings across the entire MENA region. Whether these would be better against the Dailiami/Elephant combo than the mounted versions was yet to be seen...
The Clibanarii command on the left ran on beyond the end of the African Vandal line, and immediately started to threaten an envelopment - hopefully this would draw some of the African Vandal Cavalry out wide to respond, taking them out of the game in the middle and effectively protecting the flank of the advancing Death Star.
The African Vandals were a colourful mix of mostly Donnington figures, with tidy shields which appeared to actually be painted - clearly this was a rare, remote outpost of the Roman world into which the marketing tentacles of Little Big Man Studios were yet to penetrate....
The Sassanid army had been drifting to the right - not due to the influence of a small band of commanders who believed the Sassanid Empire would be better if it was trading with the Romans, Arabs and Indians who bordered Sassanian lands under CWTO* rules rather than as part of a pan-Asian co-prosperity Customs Union, but instead seeking to avoid the rough terrain and get the Elephant Corps into action against some Gothic-looking cavalry. The African Vandals also had a similar plan and they too were seeking to interpose the dismountees in the path of the pachyderms, tagging the elephants with their hastily sprayed logos and breaking any windows they saw on the way no doubt too.
* 'CWTO' : The Classical World Trade Organisation
Getting off literally their first shots ever, the excited Clibanarii aimed and fired at the rapidly advancing northerners - one hit would cancel out the benefit of the African Vandals' Impact capability, so the need to aim carefully was compelling.
Fresh to the table the tactical acumen of the Sassanid horsemen (and the commander) was somewhat lacking and a "we rolled long" charge against evading LH by the African Vandal right wing suddenly meant they found themselves less than 1MU away from the Sassanid horsemen. This would make evading very dicey indeed....
Pictures of Gothic-type Troops from my Ancients Photo Directory
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(Click any image to see details of the manufacturer, and a larger version of the photo)
The Elephants had no such qualms and no such aspirations to tactical cleverness. They just ploughed forward at full speed into anything they could find, as interested as I was myself to see what factors they might accrue against a range of possible opponents.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Sassanid army is strung out across the table, and their smallest command (on the left) is now isolated and has become a target for a charging horde of Vandal horse. In drifting to the right to avoid the dismounted Vandals the Death Star formation has also become entirely detached from this same command, who were supposed to be supporting its flanks and so the Death Star now faces a battle on it's own. The Sassanid right flank has closed with the enemy, but with more powerful shooting than their opponents they are happy to sit and exchange shots until a decisive advantage builds up through attrition.
On the Sassanid right the Vandals were supported by some bow-armed Alanic & rather salty Moorish Medium Cavalry - not ideal troops to take on the Elite Heavy Cavalry Clibanarii by any stretch of the imagination. The two sides exchanged long range archery fire and considered their options.
The Death Star was doing its Death Star thing, and despite a bit of damage to one of the Elephants on the left end of the formation it was solidly chewing its way through the enemy swordsmen as if it was using a high powered space lazer of some sort. Perhaps the Galaxy "far, far away" was somewhat out of sync time-wise with ours and they had indeed managed to form an alliance to support the Persian empire with space-borne planetary bombardment energy weapons?
The African horse charged in against the Persian cataphracts in a blur of motion, violence and hastily sprayed paint! The Vandals tribal leader, Vandal Helsing, was hoping for some serious bloodletting this morning.
OK, the figures moved up and into contact. Not quite so exciting, but at least the shield patterns are now on show.
The same scenario was playing out on the Sassanid left flank, as the Clibanarii bottled a dicey evade and opted to stand against the greater numbers of African Vandals charging home... shooting had been pathetic, so now the odds were with the Vandals in this fight ...
The Persian Cataphracts had detached a unit to drive round behind the Death Star and scout the planet Anderaan IV, sorry, charge into the Medium Foot dismounted cavalry - finally it was now arriving. The Elephants suffered a casualty, making in the process a nice gap for the Cataphract to slot into.
Death Star Canteen
The Sassanid left wing was doing not particularly well, as the Impact of the charging African Vandals scattered hits along the line - although at the far end the only Vandal to take shooting hits had collapsed in a heap too. This might have been good for Persia, apart from the fact there were even more Vandal horsemen over there waiting for an chance to join in the fun.
The Death Star was pushing onwards, but swarms of X-Wings, sorry, dismounted African Vandal Cavalry were starting to sweep round their right flank. The Dailami would need to be on their mettle to hold back the tide of hairy-arsed warriors.
More and more of the African Vandalian pedestrians were now seeing an opportunity to get into the game, encouraged by their general, King Vandal Der Graff-Generator, and the Persians only had a half-hearted skirmish screen to hold them back. Quite where that Cataphract has gone I have no idea, but it would have been really useful for it to still be here now...
The Persian left wing was starting to have more holes in it than a personality-led election strategy for a candidate with no discernible personality as the African Vandals burst through the gaping holes that were appearing in previously safe hole-free places, such as Blackburn, Lancashire.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Sassanids are being overrun on their left, but this battle is now taking place too far away from the rest of the two armies to be more than a sideshow. The open flank this has created for the Death Star has proved fatal, and the dismounted Goths and Vandals have turned it's flank and butchered the elephants, although taking serious damage in the process. On the Sassanid right the Cataphracts have been slowly grinding down the Vandal cavalry in a protracted combat, and now have the upper hand - the same is true for the Sassanid right flank who are systematically outshooting their frontal opponents.
Overall, Persia has the upper hand on the right hand half of the battlefield, and an honourable draw in the center - the left looks however to be lost
The Sassanid resistance crumpled, and although they had also done great damage to the African Vandals the odds were now with the hairy Ex-Europeans and their slightly grumpy but underniably tuneful warrior-king Vandal Morrisson rather than the trouser-wearing Easterners.
The Vandals In Africa
The centre of the table was now witnessing a fierce rearguard action from the Dailami as they sought to hold off the rebels, sorry, African Vandals from completely destroying the few remaining components of the once-powerful Sassanid Death Star.
The Empire's greatest weapon had admittedly destroyed everything in its path, but along the way a couple of elephants has carelessly been jettisoned and now the survivors had nothing to fight and no real prospect of finding new opponents either, as in the distance it seems as if the Sassanid Cataphracts have had much the better of the African Vandal Heavy Cavalry too, leaving Persia in uncontested control of the centre ground.
The Cataphracts were in a much better position to do something useful once their victory became assured - their position on the flank of the shooting match on the extreme right of the Sassanid line would put intolerable pressure on the Alan & Moorish cavalry once the last African Vandal horseman was despatched. The bodies of the deal horsemen were carted away by the barbarians Master of Baggage Train, Hertz Vandal Rental.
The Moors were taking hits, which against the better quality, better armoured Sassanids did have a degree of inevitability. With the Alans & Moors now, in their own view, fatally weakened their commander ordered a general charge - hoping to knock some holes in the Sassanid break point before his own command, and the army that was supposed to be paying him, crumbled to defeat.
But, it was not to be for the Alans & Moors - a victory for the Sassanids in their first recorded outing!
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition, or 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 Sassanid Persian Commander
I find your lack of faith in my new army disturbing. Here we were as hot as the Penne Arribiata that I hoped to have at the canteen, and with no sign of peas to spoil it unless you count the few times the Death Star nearly fell apart under the onslaught of the enemy.
Your powers are weak, old man, and mine are just beginning with this incredible army that I now have at my disposal. The lessons from this first ever game are many and deep, and I think we should run from right to left. Firstly the isolated Clibanarii command did OK in the end - one more round of succesful evading and we would have gotten away with more shots, and left the Vandals with more than enough wounds to secure a big win, but even standing up to them is not impossible with bravery and a noggin of luck.
As for the Death Star, it caused havoc wherever it focused it's laser-like attention and also looked very pretty so two objectives achieved, even though there were not too many shots of the front to see the injured enemy wrapped in the elephants trunk. I am Vader, Darth Vader, Lord Vader and I can kill you with a single thought, but stomping on you with an elephant and some Dailami is sometimes even easier.
On the right the combination of Cataphracts, with their extra armour and the shooting of Clibanarii at a point where the Vandals had simply run out of points to deploy high quality Elite men was in the end the most decisive part of the game. Doing a mobile cavalry army thing and skirmishing pat of the enemy out of the game while concentrating on another, weaker bit is what we are here forand what we will do again. The force is strong in me today, and I need no tray to kill you this weekend. I can kill you without a tray, with the power of the Force, which is strong within me. Even though I could kill you with a tray if I so wished.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
I wonder who you think you are to claim primacy in the Dark and Disturbing Quasi-Imperial Ruler stakes, for I am Hannibal, Lord of Rome, Emperor of Ibieria, Master of all I survey in Some Parts of North Africa... and I am confident that I am more powerful than you will ever be - however, this is L'Art de la Guerre, it is not a game of who the f*%k are you. /p>
In many ways you nearly came unstuck here, which would have seen your Imperial Cruiser of the Massive Heed crash down onto the surface of a probably-desert-covered planet to appear in the next battle in defeat. But this was against an army who's tactic duplicated your normal approach of a headlong charge into anything that sat in front of it - so quite how this managed to take you by surprise is a total mystery to me.
The whole dismounting thing as well - lets face it, you must know that the French absolutely love it, so it must be good - here you had no idea and no thought for how this would unseat your plan. With 2 out of 3 elephants dead in this battle it is clear that you can no more hope to fight mounted troops with them than you can hope for more than a passing aquaintance with the victory podium, so perhaps that section of the rules should be read between now and the next game?
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition