Open Theme Doubles at Cold Wars 2020
200 Point format
Cold Wars - a first trip to Amish Country for sure, and one of the major East Coast US conventions taking place under the looming long shadow of Coronavirus. Right now, what I've just written sounds like utter nonsense - but at the time, hard as it seems to believe, it kinda made sense. On March 12th the UK only had 596 cases and the entire USA had just 291 reported cases so it did genuinely feel like the US was a safer place to be than anywhere else in the western world at that specific moment in time (weird huh?), so there was no reason to cancel a long-planned work trip and every reason to try and take in Cold Wars as well - so wagons roll, and here we go!
There was still a weird vibe in getting on a plane and also trying to do a bit of wargaming, but once I got to the US it became apparent that almost no-one there really appreciated what a sh-tstorm might well be coming yet (or perhaps some of them did, and they were already staying at home?) but as long as I didn't mention the "cough" word hopefully no-one else who was out and about would notice and I could pretend it was like being at home way back when in, erm, late February or something.
British Airways had done wonders on my trip over to San Antonio with a combination of a 5 hour delay into Austin and an aircraft which still seemingly had Wilbur Wrights initials carved into the fuselage as we all boarded for 10 hours of non on-demand video and audio programming on a screen considerably smaller and of much lower quality than most of the passengers phones. Fortunately no-one seemed keen to indulge in a lengthy coughing fit and by nightfall I was outside, having a Texan beer in a riverside hostelry on the first leg of a rather circuitous journey to the near-legendary Lancaster Host in PA
Two days later I was checking out of a hotel at the same time as this central casting bandido businessman dude, on the morning after a night before when the sh-t had started to hit the fan good and proper as The Donald panicked and straight out banned travel to Europe outright whilst I was standing in the Alamo with a beer staring at Twitter on my phone in partial disbelief. Time for Tequila!
Instantly it seemed like half the population (OK, perhaps not in Texas...) was now far more paranoid and half were still carrying on regardless - but the real impact was that flights were already being cancelled left right and centre. This made my Texas-Pennsylvania route rather impossible to achieve, so with a clever bit of Whatsapp synchronisation with Mr Hazlewood and a hasty exit from Dulles dropping a connection to Harrisburg that no longer existed I was soon squeezing out of the passenger seat of a rental car and into a much chillier Pennsylvanian evening outside a textbook bland roadside box-budget Hilton in the middle of nowhere - or more accurately, opposite Dutch Wonderland (sadly closed for the winter).
This was the real start of the weekend - the weird and totally un-English-like Open play evening (with beer).
After a night of wanton revelry, watery beer and far too many calories the Convention experience started in earnest down in a room so far into the very bowels of the Host that I half-expected to be drawn against Gollum in the first round game of the 3-round Doubles Open tournament which filled the Friday of the truncated weekend.
My prospective partner had bailed on sage medical advice (and under pain of actual, immediate death from his better half if he had tried to come to the convention..) so I found myself co-piloting a scratch Sassanid army with the Mexican food eating legend Steve Roper in the darkness (and sadly not conducive to taking great photos) Theatre of the Host. The stage was set for, erm, Flames of War I think, but they had like totally bailed so it was just us and a handful of Warrior players in the main auditorium as the competition started in earnest.
In an all star celebrity field featuring the brightest and best that American ancients gaming could muster the first round tossed forth an opponent in the shape of Classical Indian. The lists for the Sassanid Persian and Classical Indian from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Cold Wars can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
Our army was - laughingly one might say - "designed" with one huge Death Star command, a near-obligatory block of 5 Cataphracts to take on heavier infantry, and two near identical smaller commands with 4 Clibanarii and a pair of light horse types in each. This in theory gave a solid punch and two sets of outriders who could both contest, or refuse either flank.
After hastily cobbling together the figures from the half-army I had brought and borrowing some to make up the ones my safe-at-home partner had not brought we ended up facing off on a fairly cluttered field against a Classical Indian army of unusual size and even more unusual design. This would be one of those games when left-field composition could unhorse even the wisest of heads - which excluded us for starters..
What's Going on Here Then?
With plenty of terrain on our left the Death Star (and it's Medium Foot Dailami) had an obvious starting position from which to begin their game.
The hastily-borrowed and consequently not especially Persian-looking Cataphracts were placed next to the Death Star ready to either advance against squishy foot for sure, or turn and wander away at a gentle pace from any elephants who might be spreding themselves like grey peanut butter and jelly across the table. This in turn left both Clibanarii commands under my personal command on the right.
Eschewing the standard way of assembling an Indian force our opponents caught us off balance by deploying a more dynamic and also far larger army, with two of the most enormous blocks of bowmen ever seen, all backed up with swordsmen located on either flank.
Down the middle they had a potent but unsubtle strike force of, erm, the maximum number of chariots allowed, flanked by a small formation of elephants. Awesome!
The Sassanids had of course expected far more elephants, and also expected to see them interleaved with the bowmen. Not only was the actual deplyment very different, but even more significantly the appearance of massed Imetuous Chariots certainly caught the Cataphracts by surprise.
Cadillac-tastic! This was absolutely not the normal configuration for an Indian army in ADLG!
Possession of the camera is 9/10th's of the law when it comes to writing history in a way which casts yourself in the most favourable light, but in the near stygian darkness of the theatre where we were playing there was also a real practical issue that this was the side of the table with most actual light
Luckily I had been given the most boring looking troops to command by Steve, leaving him with the Cataphracts and the Mahoosive Death Star and me with just two small wingman commands of Cavalry and Light Horse with which to try and unpick a wall of bowmen on the edge of the table.
The Asarvan Clibanarii raced forwards, well at least on the flank. In the middle they were much more cautious, as they dithered in fear of ending up like pin cushions under a hail of Indian arrows
A quick glance across the other side of the table showed that the boy Roper had managed already to largely dissassemble the Mega Death Star he had been blessed with, in much the same was as one imagines he dissassembles Taco Bell Burritos to extract the small and occasional pieces of actual meat hidden in the mass produced additive-laden sauces that make up most of their physical mass.
Seeing the shambolic and utter mess that he had managed to create in only a single turn I resolved not to cast my gaze that way again if I could possibly help it.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Sassanids have held back their Cataphracts in the centre as the Indian chariots rush towards them, instead concentrating their efforts in pushing several units of Asarvan bow-armed noble cavalry out past the Indian left flank on the outside of the small woodland.
The huge lumbering blocks of Indian foot on that side are yet to react to this development as they plod forwards to try and get into shooting range of the rest of the Asarvan.
On the opposite flank the Sassanid Death Star is, like, for sure, reluctant to try and close in on such a huge mass of bowmen, especially with better-quality Indian-branded gas-guzzling full-fat monster elephants heading for them as well at some speed
Three Dailami were keen to engage with the Indian bowmen, although to be fair a small overweight child with a broken spoon would probably have given the Mediocre bowmen a decent fight in hand to hand combat so this was not really an act of great bravery.
Even so, the Dailami were no fans of acupuncture, and so in an attempt to avoid being pincushioned by some massed archery the Persians had sought out and press-ganged some hapless light infantry and pressed them into service as an ablative shield to ensure the Dailami were still intact by the time they closed the distance to the enemy under a hail of incoming archery.
Flip yourself a burger! Threatened by the stampede of Asarvan clattering down the table edge in almost-acceptable levels of lighting, the Indian ice-pack of bowmen had started to calve into smaller blocks and bergs, wheeling gently out to the flank to try and cut off the enemy cavalry in their quest for a safe position from which to launch an attack.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Sassanids are now poised to attack the flank of the Indian bowmen on the right, having easily sailed past them in an initial sweeping advance - this is causing the solid block of bowmen to break apart, losing shooting potency in the process.
The Indian chariots are now committed to attacking the Sassanid Cataphracts who are not really interested in hastening that outcome as they can see how their flanking Asarvan have a potentially important advantage and they would much prefer to leave that to develop before committing themselves to the fray.
The Sassanid Death Star is attempting something too clever by half which will surely end in tears
With the Indian bow line now shortened considerably the Sassanid cavalry weighed up their options.
A million bowmen were hard to charge down, but a block just two or three wide was a much better bet - especially if their fast moving Light Horsemen could also sneak in and gift them with an additional overlap or two in the final charge. If only they had guns and had formed a well regulated militia things may have been different, but this was not to be a feature of this era of history.
The Sassanids inched forward, theodolites at the ready to stay just out of bow range of the enemy archers as they prepared an attack.
A cursory glance across the table showed a scene of some tex-mex special edition of Lovecraftian horror, as Steve was again looking to see if he could over-complicate what should surely have been a straightforward assault on the bowmen by the best infantry available in most of the pre-medieval world, the Dailami
The ingredients list for a Mega Bad Boy Birthday Burrito Special would have made easier reading than whatever labrynthine battle manual these so-called tactics had been dredged out of as the Dailami spun and danced in front of a fast-encroaching wall of massed shooters
With the Indian chariots neatly avoided as a result of the boy Roper deciding to run away from them in a deeply cowardly fashion with his Cataphracts, the task of taking on the massed archery and swordsman formation on the Indian left was left to the other of the supposedly micro flank-ey sort of lightweight commands under my control.
Rushing forwards bravely the Sassanid Asarvan decided that now the bowmen were shaved into two icebergs this was the time to apply some hairdryer-style heat to melt them from the front, like, totally for sure.
The cavalry charged forward to close bow range and opened up on the surprised subcontinental pedestrians
The Not Especially Sassanid Borrowed Cataphracts were shamefully using a hastily assembled set of white flags to denote the elements which were Elite, a cheap solution made necessary following the non-arrival of half of the figures that were supposed to have been deployed. Awesome!
Even so and even if Elite they still wanted to steer well clear of the enemy elephant corps, but achieving this feat of cowardice was being made it rather more tricky by a herd of stampeding cattle who eagerly chased them down in some weird cowboy revenge porn scenario
With no light horse or skirmishing foot in the Cataphract command the metal clad men were soon resigned to taking the enemy assault on their well armoured chins and hoping not for bad dice luck.
With Steve's half of the army in self-inflicted utter dissarray, or about to be clattered by the enemy's best units the time seemed to be here for the two insignificant commands that I had been saddled with to take matters into their own hands and chance their arm in a series of bold charges.
Or, more accurately, the Indian bowmen on my flank had made a tape-measure-based mistake in seeking to try and get away from the Clibanarii, and had accidentally left themselves in range for a horrifically effective mounted flank charge into exposed poor quality medium foot in the open.
Roll me a burrito hombre! In the poorly lit centre of the table, the other flyweight Asarvan command had also decided that this was their moment.
Charging forward bravely after being crept up on frontally by thousands of loincloth-wearing Indian bowmen they had been left with nowhere else to go but straight forward and into combat with their pedestrian enemies.
Meanwhile the boy Roper's assemblage of intriguing tactical initiatives continued to stack itself higher than a triple-decker mesquite flame grilled quesidilla stack with added rocket and eggplant. By now the Dailami were taking a serious pummelling from the serried ranks of Indian bowmen, and were collecting markers faster than Steve himself could collect loyalty points at a Taco Bell drive through even were it located at the end of his own driveway.
With the hits piling up the supposedly excellent quality swordsmen were now at serious danger of exploding long before they got anywhere near actual combat - so the plan to mash up a load of elephants right behind them was becoming more compelling viewing by the moment. Like, Total Bummer man!
There! Over there!
It's an accident, just waiting to happen...!
The Asarvan on the extreme right were by now ripping the scattered Indian foot a right proper new one as they tore through the half-hearted enemy infantry from all angles.
As gaps opened up in the enemy lines Sassanid cavalry poured through them like a tide of hungry guinea pigs, suddenly appearing in the rear of the main body of the Indian wing
The Indian swordsmen quickly started to wake up to the fact that their screen of bowmen was in serious danger of total collapse, like, for sure.
The enormous and uniformly high quality offensive potency of the Sassanid Death Star had now been thoroughly dismembered, not through enemy action but by innovative and left-field generalship as the Indians own pachyderm strike force continued unabated towards the heart of the Sassanian army.
Arrows were raining in on the Dailami from all angles (but mostly the front where the nont-inconspicuous wall of Indian bowmen were standing right in front of them) as the offensive capability of the mercenary Afghan hillmen ebbed away.
In a development which was as painful to watch as it was predictable the Indian elephant corps wheeled and charged, conforming like a snap-on tool to the front of the Sassanid elephants rusty front fenders.
At the same moment, in yet another entirely predictable occurrence the Indian archers neatly stepped aside to let their swordsmen sweept through their ranks in a mad charge to contact against the already badly attrited Dailami.
Everything was engaged in combat now on this flank, severely limiting Steve's opportunities to do anything else bizzarre with the troops he had been gifted in this battle!
On the opposite flank almost everything Indian was in combat, but that was only because the Sassanid charge had wiped out so many of them at first contact that barely enough Indian units were now left on table to match up the Sassanids one-for-one.
A rag-tag band of sword and bowmen were all that now stood between the aggression of the Clibanarii and the gaping open flank of the rest of the Indian centre.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Sassanids have by now utterly over-run the Indian left flank, enveloping the vulnerable infantry hitting them frontally and from the flank.
The Persian cavalry are driving through the tattered remnants of the Indian command as fast as they can, seeking to make a bee-line to support their Cataphracts who's planned reluctance to advance is now reaching the end of the road as the enemy Chariots close in on them.
The Indian elephants have charged home against the lesser-quality Sassanid beasts and their mahouts and are causing some rapid devastation while the Dailami, now separated from the Death Star, are making no headway against a barrage of Indian shooting, like, for sure.
The Indians were skittled over like pins in a bowling alley as the Clibanarii rampaged forward, with barely a whimper of resistance save for the heroic actions of a longe bow unit who seemed to have cornered the market in martial competence on the sub continent this weekend.
Even the close watchful eye of their General in his chariot, holding back any potential escapees with a baleful glare was not enough to stop many of the Indians from dancing away into the darkness of the upstairs ballroom as the Persians cruised forward
Whist the Sassanid cavalry were collecting heads and plaudits for their success, on the opposite wing the Death Star was doing little other than collecting hit markers in it's dissassembled state
Outflanked, outnumbered and out-fought the Persian forces struggled to stay in the game as the Indians rampaged forward in a trunk-right tide of total war.
Even the massive hats of some of the anachronistic Persian infantry would not be enough to save them now
The other half of the Indian left flank was also in dire straights - surrounded and hunted down by Asarvan cavalry on the vast open and dimly lit steppes of the darkened ballroom they now realised that they were surely not long for this world.
The Persian cavalry had taken more of a pummeling than their compatroits in the centre, but with nothing much now between them and the baggage they could look forward to feasting on whatever half-hearted non-spicy soup that might pass for proper Indian food in an America in the near future.
In a puff of cumin-flavoured smoke the entire Indian left wing evaporated allowing the Asarvan to start to steam forwards, supported now by yet more noble Persian horsemen arriving from the far left flank having themselves mopped up bits and pieced of the earlier-separated line of bowmen.
The Sassanid left was suffering a far different fate to its brothers in arms on the right. With Indians swarming everywhere the outnumbered and embattled Death Star was flailing around looking to strike at anything it could reach.
Realising the game was up for them, but also mindful of the horrendous damage to the Indian army break point that the imminent total elimination of the opposite flank would soon do the Persians contented themselves with doing whatever damage they could, dragging the punch-happy Punjabis ever closer to their doom with each telling strike.
The two commands on the Persian right were now back together and acting in concert as they conducted a symphony of destruction against the centre of the enemy force.
The Indians now had little left but bravery to throw in the path of the Persian nobility as near-steppe horsemen clattered towards the edge of their force of chariotry
Windows are for cheaters,
Chimneys for the poor
Closets are for hangers,
Winners use the door
From "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)"
The Indian army was , like, for sure, celebrating wildly as with much of the command now shredded the one-proud and mighty Sassanid Death Star was no more.
Desparate to keep the enemy elephants from slamming into the flank of their Cataphracts, the Sassanid commander on this wing committed the utter dregs of the army, the Levy spearmen, into the front line to try and halt, at least temporarily, the opposing pachyderms seemingly unstoppable charge
Flushed with this success, the other potent strike wing of the Indian forces lurched into action as their incredibly large Chariot corps finally hit home against the stunned and immobile line of Persian cataphracts
The metal-clad men were rocked back on their heels as the wheeled war wagons rumbled forward and hit them with the force of a Punjabi punch right between the eyes - markers appeared everywhere in large amounts as the Chariots gained the upper hand.
But the Cataphracts had done their bit as well, inflicting a small but significant number of hits back, dragging the Indian army ever closer to defeat.
What's Going on Here Then?
Cool! There are no Indians left on the Sassanid right, and the Asarvan horsemen can move swiftly to support their embattled Cataphracts and smal into the flank of India's chariot force. The Indian elephants are smashing the hapless Sassanid beasts and as the Dailami wilt under a storm of arrows the this whole flank is teetering - but the Indian infantry they face are also starting to realise that their whole army is inching close to defeat.
The Sassanid Cavalry were by now, like, for sure, rampaging at will, running down the scattered remnants of the once-numerous Indian infantry on the right flank
As lunchtime hove into view, and with it the welcome sight of the bar opening for a first daily serving of bottle-brewed Amish Country IPA the Indians slumped finally to a defeat, their countless hordes of bowmen and swordsmen proving no match in the end for the high quality and more leg-owning Sassanian horsemen
The Result is a significant victory for the Sassanid Army
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
Howdy Partdner... I am the King of Kings, Sun in the Heavens, I am going to Make Persia Great Again in this post Aechemenid dynasty which I myself have returned to lead as frankly no-one could ever spell the first one anyway.
The Indians we faced here were prepared for a different type of opponent, and were constituted in an ununsual but sadly not entirely effective fashion as well, but in the end this was a battle won by a fast outflanking move, and then a restraint in holding back the rest of my amy while the outflanking force went to work to degrade the opposition so that they were already close to defeat by the time the rest of their army got into contact.
Even when given a part to play that involved not losing for while and standing still, my local minion sub-general seemed to struggle anyway, disassembling the Death Star to apparently no effect at all while my own force of well trained cavalry systematically took apart a vast horde of pedestrian bowmen to push the opposition to despair and defeat
Quite whether I can manage to dump him and win the next game on my own through the sheer brilliance of my leadership, ignoring of course the unfortunate and uninterrupted sequence of utter defeats I suffered at the end of my first reign on the Persian throne is yet of course to be seen
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Aaah, you pair of stumbling fools, frittering away your best strike force in a hopeless display of dancing and then attempting to dig yourselves out of the hole you had excaaaavated by taking on massed bowmen with your most vulnerable troops to bowfire!
What parody of tactics is this that I see before me? I know not what this was trying to be but it was neither fish nor foul in the same way that Tex-Mex is neither Texan nor Mexican. It was a Asian Fusion Burrito of a battle-plan that only worked because your cataphracts were too cowardly to choose to advance, and your Cavalry wing managed to find an opponent who had kindly neglected to pay attention to their flanks until too late in the darkness of this darkest of all mornings.
At least I suppose I can see some evidence of tactics - with such a vast army as was arrayed before you there was a need to work reasonably hard to find some flanks here and there, and your probing horsemen did do - but only in the nick of time did they manage to overrun the enemy bowmen and join the combat in the centre to tip that balance as angry chariots piled into reluctant cataphract riders
It is probably best that we gloss over what idiocy your elephant corps was trying to do - I doubt they knew themselves to be honest. Perhaps they will find easier target in the next game?
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition