Classical & Roman Warfare at the 2017 BHGS Challenge
Sassanid Persian vs Camillan Roman
Game 2, in that tricky post-lunch period when sugar levels dip and the temptation to tuck into a pint sits in contrast with the not yet taken decision to just leave the car here and get an Uber back to the hotel tonight. And, an almost-historical opponent - Camillan Roman
The lists for the Sassanid Persian and Camillan Roman 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.
Now the Sassanids, as we already know, were lucky enough to face their traditional Nemesis - the Legions of Rome. These were admittedly a tad early for the Sassanids in real terms, sort of Jar Jar Binks era Romans against the Sassanid Empire and its Death Star from Episode IV, and this did also place the Romans in the rather unusual position of playing the role of the Rebel Alliance - but hey, what's a bit of timeline manipulation between friends huh?
The Roman Army of the Camillan Era has more spearmen than the later pilum-equipped legionary eras, making it a tricky opponent for a mostly-mounted force such as the Sassanids. The Principes and Triarii are both spear-armed, and with the option for the whole lot to add Armour it can be a numerous, and tough nut to crack.
The Romans had chosen the battleground well, anchoring their left flank on a town and their right on a patch of terrain who's nature is not immediately apparent from this photo but which might well be a field. Between these two points stretch a line of spearmen and swordsmen. The Persians have a plan to, well, frankly no-one is entirely sure but it probably involved lining up the Cataphracts and Death Star and having a right good old go at whatever happens to be in front of them by the time they reach the enemy lines. The Cavalry wings are there to harass and shoot, but neither hold out much expectation of achieving much this game.
Very much as expected the Cataphracts pile forward, and as expected the Romans come up with an innovative form of government, shuffle their pack to try and put Spearmen opposite the Persians most dangerous mounted threat, and then think about sloping off to eat some swans stuffed with geese stuffed with blackbirds stuffed with sparrows. So far, so usual.
Roman Come Dine With Me
The Death Star is also preparing itself for a bit of a hurl at the wall of Romans - who have inched forward themselves as they redress their lines. In the distance the Clibanarii are preparing their bows for some sustained shooting against the Hastatii filling the gap between the village and the line of red-shielded spearmen.
Not quite fully grasping the concept of overlaps in ADLG, the Cataphracts move up and realise they have been outthought and out-manoeuvred by an unbroken and entirely static line of Italian pedestrians in full armour. Now the Cataphracts are committed to a gameplan which involved bravery and bare faced luck - none of which they have an amazing track record in, unfortunately.
Working this out just in the nick of time the Cataphracts turn about and fall back, prompting the Romans to launch a sandal-clad charge at the Clibanarii. Unable to evade in case this opens up the rear of the Cataphracts, the Clibanarii have to stand and take it - not an outcome either side particularly wants but one the Romans are much happier with due to their lack of distance shooting capability and reluctance to walk too far without first building a well constructed and entirely straight road on which to do so.
Geek Yourself Sober about the Roman Army Reforms
The Clibanarii do surprisingly well in the first round of combat, and emboldened by their less well-equipped colleagues apparent success the Cataphracts return to the fray with elan and enthusiasm. A solid line of horseflesh takes on a solid line of Roman sandal-wearing infantry. What more could a poor Barker wish for in these multi-ruleset days eh?
L'Art de la Guerre hint - A Charge in ADLG can include a turn, a wheel, a turn and a wheel, or a slide - but not a slide and a wheel or turn. P36.
The Death Star has taken advantage of this distraction to shuffle dramatically to the right - aligning themselves against the Hastatii by the village they charge home with the rare luxury of an overlap at one end of the line as well. This is the hinge on which the high quality soft close doors of the German-made fitted kitchen which is the Roman Empire pivots - a break through here and the Persians will be right in amongst the out of date condiments and long-forgotten sachets of hotel sugar 'just in case we run out and have guests round' at the back of Rome's inline cupboards!
What's Going on Here Then?
With the Romans holed up between two pieces of protective terrain, the Sassanids have been forced to pick a couple of spots and tee themselves up to launch frontal attacks. The Death Star has been built for this sort of thing, and has found a part of the line next to the village without too many Spearmen but the Cataphracts and Asarvan probably need to soften up their opponents before charging home. Unfortunately for the Sassanids this plan didn't work out as the Romans stepped up smartly and engaged them in combat almost before a single arrow had landed. There are now two areas of hand to hand combat where the game will be won and lost
The Clibanarii were having a right laugh today as they quickly overran the surprised 4-hit Roman foot and burst into the unprotected rear of the Roman army. The already-engaged General with the Hastatii on the left suddenly looked rather concerned and was extremely glad that the Roman army of the Camillan era had not yet moved away from loose fitting skirts and adopted the trouser-led fashions of the Later Empire.
Pictures of Camillan Roman Troops from my Ancients Photo Directory
(Click any image to see details of the manufacturer, and a larger version of the photo)
The Death Star also got off to a good start, raining down planet-busting dice from orbit to inflict serious damage on the Roman line next to the village. The Romans frantically tried to work out if they had invented the Testudo in this era, and then whether it would really do much good against a nuclear space-borne planet-busting laser anyway. However, they did know that the 4-hits-worth of Attrition that each Legionary unit could absorb meant there was still a long way to go in this one, but the first steps were in the right direction for sure.
And right on cue, as if determined to prove the point, the Hastatii Strikes Back, dropping their photon torpedo-allegory good dice down the trunk of the elephant heading up the Death Star formation and breaking through themselves, putting both units of Dailami greatly at risk of imminent demise should the Romans have chance to turn their flanks in a subsequent turn.
The panic-stricken Roman Commander, at risk of being overwhelmed by Clibanarii, had come up with a wizard wheeze to get himself out of no-trousers-staining trouble - he urged his men onto superhuman feats of martial prowess and then destroyed their opponents in a trice and stepped smartly forward too. They were not out of the woods yet by a long way, but at least with his unit no longer engaged he himself had the opportunity to escape any mishaps that may yet befall them
Mishaps have a habit of occurring when you most expect them. The Massive Heed'ed Sassanid baked-in commander and his Clibanarii turned on the Roman foot and charged them up the rear as the other breakthrough unit wheeled onto the flank of the rest of the Roman line.
Having a Massive Heed Shaped Like A Lightbulb was not clearly enough in itself, and the Clibanarii General only dished out one level of damage as the Romans turned about and fought back - but the rest of the line of Romans was becoming shorter by the moment as the Sassanids drove home their advantage and pushed on into the centre of the table through a tide of dying Legionaries.
The centre of the table was now as sparsely occupied as Eunuch's codpiece. The Romans, assailed from all directions, had ended in somewhat of a disorganised shape with their formations decimated by the assaults of the Death Star, the Cataphracts and now the breaking through Clibanarii as well. Isolated expresso-drinking Roman units were seeing first hand the power and movement of well drilled desert horsepower.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Romans must have been expecting their right flank to hold up against the Sassanid Asarvan, but somehow the Persians have broken through and are now trying to marshall their forces to further exploit the breakthrough on their left. The Death Star is locked into a protracted struggle on the other flank, where the Romans multiple lines allow them to plug any gaps far more effectively than against the fast-moving Asarvan.
The Death Star was looking less and less deadly and more and more like 2 units of Dailami with exposed flanks as yet another Elephant fell to the ground under a rain of pilums and flurry of swords. The fourth Sassanid command was still struggling to find a useful role to play on the narrow battlefield, but harassing the Legions as they broke through and in so doing protecting the flanks of the Dailami might well be good enough...
Moving from defensive to offensive the Clibanarii steamed in, working in tandem with the Dailami and turning the tide in favour of Iran and Hummous against Rome and Spaghetti Carbonara. The Death Star was now entirely elephant-free, but the Empire had clearly been anticipating Episode VII and had fashioned a new Death Star composed of Clibanarii and the surviving Dailami! The Force Was Awakening!
The Death Star Starts Up
The scattered remnants of the once coherent Roman lines were seeing Sassanids wherever they looked - two entirely free and unoccupied Clibanarii planned their move to assist the Cataphracts, who were doing pretty well on their own anyway to be fair.
The Massive Heed'ed Commander had done his duty too, and now had to decide whether to rejoin his men in the middle of try and rack up a few points of his own with the last MF unit over on this side of the board before it scuttled into the protection of what now is clearly identifiable as a field. Photographed from space. Possibly from the Death Star maybe?
The Romans were doing their best to knock units off the Sassanid advance into their heartlands, pausing only for a 2 hour 4-course lunch with wine on the way. Even so the respite looked temporary as the Iranian horsemen picked their targets for a final charge.
Acting quickly the Romans formed an ad-hoc line, pulling in troops from different legions to try and better resist the Sassanids relentless advance. Charging home the Persians exhaustions in earlier rounds cost them dear, and they picked up markers in the face of newly re-energised Roman stoicism
Roman Soldier vs Italian Soldier (why...?)
With the Roman line in more tatters that Rome had hills, the fourth Sassanid command had now started to find something constructive to do - Clibanarii had broken through the gaps in the Roman line and were threatening the rear of many of the surviving Legions as the Dailami continued their rampage forward, supported by Cataphracts and more Clibanarii. Even the Levy Spearmen were looking to get into the action if they could, as Rome's final reckoning surely approached?
What's Going on Here Then?
The Sassanids have totally broken the Roman line in multiple places on the left and are picking off isolated units at will as the Romans seek to throw together what ad-hoc formations they can manage to cobble together to hold back the tide. The Death Star command has been badly mauled however, and is barely in the game - the battle has broken down as the Roman line fragments and the Sassanids are taking full advantage.
The left flank rollup came to a juddering halt as both Clibanarii were removed from play by the Roman reserves. This was a setback on an epic scale for the Iranians, as suddenly it transformed this side of the table into one where only 2 units of Sassanid troops now remained alive!
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
Who am I? I am not Shapur, not Khurasau, I am Lord Vader! These Romans can do their worst, but my light saber will cut them off at the knees and force them to act as a footstool for me to get into my Tie-Fighter, sorry, onto my horse and ride away. I am Lord Vader? Darth Vader, Sir Lord Vader? Sheikh Vader? Sheikh Al-Darth, King of Kings, Lord Al-Vader of Tikrit? Emir Sheikh Baron Al-Vader? The Death Star. Whoever I am, I run the Death Star and I run it into anything in it's path and I expect it to win, Mr Bond...
I'm not however wildly happy about an army of Elite and Normal spearmen sitting in a gap in terrain waiting for me to bash my helmeted head against it. I am not the King of Rome! I am Vader, I can kill Rome with a thought. But that thought needs to involve better terrain choices than these, and possibly a 2-list format to bring in more Cataphracts
Did we pick to fight in a fricking corridor? Why did we fight in a 1970's office building! Why, with the power of the Death Star do we not have a button to press or something to get rid of a piece of terrain? Can't we nuke it from space or something?
I'm Al-Vader! I'm Al-Vader! And next time this victory will be mine all mine.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
As disappointing as Episode I, and as predictable as Jar Jar Binks not appearing in the recent Episode VII reboot. Complaining about terrain when really your problem was that you failed to pick the right army. Not having a plan to deal with Spearmen in a Classical and Roman themed event is like turning up at the Death Star Canteen without your own tray, you fool.
But if you insist on using all of these horsemen, how did you fail to take the option for a Strategist as your leader? Was it hubris that Lord El-Vader is not listed alongside Shapur and his ilk as a Great Leader? Spending an extra few points on getting a Strategist, and through that ensuring that you have one extra go at moving a terrain piece, and a better chance of winning initiative is surely never a mistake - especially at 300 points! Your ability to make mistakes only multiplies with the more figures you have on table, so why on earth not take the option to have less of them, and more space in which to run away?
Here your plan should have been simple - shoot and skirmish away until the Romans tired and suffered some dings and dents, and then charge home. But you got too close with the Cataphracts, which meant that the Clibanarii were unable to retreat properly and regroup after their first evade and so you became committed to battle far too soon.
Patience Al-Vader is a virtue. I cannot however wait until the next game
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition