Dark Ages in Devizes 2018
African vandal vs Arab Conquest
The pleasant west country town of Devizes is home to the Wadworth 6X brewery, a collection of over-filled bed & breakfast pub type establishments and the DDWG annual "Attack!" competition and show - and with a set of propositions as enticing as that, how can anyone resist going along?
That was certainly true for me and a few other brave and beer-hungry, scone-eating wargamers including Dave Dave, who shared my collection of Dark Age 28mm figures in much the same army-list-problem-creating manner as I had done with someone else at Roll Call and before that, Derby.
With a Dark Age theme I was keen to try and a/ not use the Welsh again and b/ have a hairy mad attacking army, and out of that equation plopped nicely the Vandals in Africa, with a ridiculous (as in "more than 6") number of Elite Impetuous Cavalry allied to a solid slab of equally Impetuous Swordsman heavy foot.
The aim of the army was defined by its troop types - overwhelm one flank of the enemy with a cavalry charge while leaving the 6-wide HF block to soak up the rest of the enemy in a grinding slog. Rounding out the plan was a fortified camp, which I hastily constructed with oversized kebab skewers at the same time as painting up a dozen of the newish GB plastic Heavy Cavalry (which you can see here).
Rounding out the force was a large number of cheap army-bulking light foot and Light Horse, both of whom could be deployed as Moors, allowing some of my Saga figures to join the decidedly Gothic mixed-media cavalry and all-metal infantry.
The first game was a classic West Country matchup, Carpet King of the Devizes Reaches, Don Don McHugh and his enormous Arab Conquest army.
Don Don Don
The list for the African Vandal army from this game can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
There is also a listen-along Podcast in which I talk through how the game actually played available on Podbean and iTunes. Download this episode (right click and save) here
The terrain was pretty flat, with me keen to have a bald field over which to charge my box-fresh cavalry at anything in their path and that's what I set out to do, with all of the horsemen on my right flank where they tee'd up against a much smaller Arabian mounted command and the left end of the Arab foot centre. The opposite flank was a complex horde of mixed troops, facing not much of my army at all.
The Vandals were keen to get into combat and test how well the plastic spears and shields of the new on table GB figures would do when hurled at high speed against the front edge of some 1970's vintage opposing cavalry which the ever-youthful Don had presumably borrowed from his legendary car salesman grandfather in order to use at the event.
Galloping Gelimers! With not really enough space to fit all of my cavalry into on the right, and with a vague plan to try and run down Medium Foot I had also detached some spare Impetuous Cavalry over to the left flank. They were not really a force to do much more than irritate the opposition, but if they could peg them back while my right flank hopefully did the business that would be mission accomplished anyway.
Gaeseric of the Vandals
The Arabs were shocked by the speed and aggression of the Gothic advance, with their 'in other circumstances we are really clever' Mediocre Impact Medium Cavalry already glancing left and right to see if there was any information attached to vertical structural surfaces and presented in a textual manner which they could absorb to learn of their imminent fate.
Instant Arab Conquests
The handful of Vandals on the left were so clearly there as a token delaying force that the Arabs were almost too embarrassed to even prepare carefully for their arrival.
Javelinmen scooted forward and fell back to harass the maniacally advancing Vandals.
On their left (my right) the Arab infantry had been desperately inching forward and to the edge of the table, but even so the Vandals still looked well set to pour a bucketful of cavalry past the end of the line of pedestrians. This did leave even more of the Vandals facing off against the Arabian foot, but with Impetuous Cavalry not having to charge enemy steady Heavy Foot this wasn't quite such a bad outcome.
With a low pip score, the Vandals were into contact at high speed with the Arabian lancers.
Having seen some of their number shaved off by the advancing infantry this was not a clean hit - going in with one overlap was tricky, however the presence of an embedded General in the main body of the Gothic line, and being better armoured in most places meant that the balance of probability was probably with the Euro-North-Africans rather than the Middle easterners here - and a breakthrough would see Gothic cavalry rushing into the open void behind the enemy battle line.
Despite my initial plan to pile in on the right and hold back on the left, the inexorable logic of impetuous cavalry + command and control problems + a desparate wish to get into combat with new troops had by now resulted in the small detachment of horsemen sent off to the left flank slamming haphazardly and piecemeal into the other end of the Arabian heavy foot block to where my main attack was going in.
This wasn't ideal, but at least it meant that the Arabs were being pinned back through combat on the flank I was looking to semi-refuse on.
The proper attack was going, well, properly, as my higher quality and better armoured lancers shrugged off the advantage of numbers enjoyed by the Arabs and inflicted a positive measles outbreak of spotty markers on their desert-dwelling foes.
The Vandal Commander with his Finding Nemo inspired windsock standard was leading the charge both literally and metaphorically with a sterling performance in the middle of the line.
And, boom, he was through - well, eventually, as this victory clearly took place in the Arabian turn meaning that he didn't follow up.
Either way though this was a great result as it to all intents and purposes it had put paid to any hope the Arabs had of holding onto this flank in very short order.
Things were more mixed on the opposite flank, as the Vandal cavalry unsurprisingly struggled against the dense and resilient line of Heavy Foot
The other combat was however now going well, and the HI-overlapping Vandal horseman was sent away from a losing battle and asked to go forward to support his colleagues engaged with the Mediums in the distance. This however brought them both into range of a Camel in the Arabs over-clever deployment structure.
The Javelinmen and Medium Swordsmen of the Arab army were now struggling, even with the mitigating effect of the Camelry against their enemy's flanks
If the Vandals could break through here there was barely a single unit between them and a sacking of the Arabian camp.
The civilian merchants loitering in the baggage train could now see their end galloping towards them on plastic horseback at some speed.
The right flank was by now moving into an end game state, with the Valdals almost totally overrunning the enemy horse and well tee'd up to turn their flanks and wheel in towards the end of the line of Heavy Foot
Seeing the imminent demise of their cavalry force, the Arabian general had sent the screening Light Horse over to the other flank, driving them at speed behind his line of infantry.
As they neared a part of the battlefield where they might be able to do something they however started to think they may have swapped the frying pan (not used for bacon based products of course) for the fire, as against the odds the Vandals seemed to be making good progress at ploughing the Arab infantry over as well.
Things were unravelling fast for the Arabs on their left, which of course meant that the thing to do was to launch an attack on the right.
The clever defensive anti-cavalry formation intermingling Camels and Infantry suddenly became a problem, as the Arabs had to disentangle these disparate troop types and put them back together in some sort of new configuration to allow them to advance at speed - as they did so they met the advance guard of the Vandal infantry advancing too
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Generally speaking Foot & Mounted can't move together under the same pip/order in ADLG - unlike DBx games where it's possible with additional pip expenditure.
The Vandals were still hacking away at the enemy infantry, with one of the cavalry units now engaged with a Camel in the flank and shrugging it off through repeated heroic rolling of outrageous dice.
The redeployed Arab LH arriving from the opposite flank soon had work to do trying to slow the Vandal onslaught.
The Vandal Chieftain with his Finding Nemo banner was now in full hue and cry, wheeling into the centre of the board having totally destroyed the Arabian cavalry wing. Infantry from the desert oases of the peninsular were cowering in fear as a stampede of jubilant horsemen swarmed over them seemingly from all directions.
Rude Scottish Nemo
The Vandal foot, under their own commander and out on my left had been able to outwit the Arabs facing them.
The Arabs complex command structure and need to respond to the guided missile attack of the Vandal cavalry on their Mediums had stripped the Arabs of any hope of dealing with an additional threat - the Vandal foot joined in the fray, sweeping enemy Camels away from the flank of the seemingly unkillable Vandal horseman
What was left of the Arabs heavy Infantry anchor was now surrounded by a sea of swirling Vandal cavalry. With enemies to the front, rear and on both flanks their position looked rather untenable.
Adding insult to a considerable number of injuries the leading edge Vandal cavalryman from the left wing delaying attack was still very much in the game and fighting, carrying a single wound with him for most of the game but still chewing up whatever was put in front, or in the flank of him. With Vandal heavy foot alongside his confidence soared.
With a single bound, and another great roll he was through! Now nothing lay between these heroic cavalry and the enemy camp - unless of course they choose instead to roll up some more cowering Arabian foot somewhere along the line?
With the game as good as lost, the Arab commander was desperate to at least salvage some moral high ground by taking down the itinerant Vandal cavalry unit - the Arabs threw everything they had at it in a last attempt to invoke retribution.
Unfortunately "all that they had" by this point wasn't anything particularly inspiring in the combat stakes, but, hey ho.. time to roll the dice and see if they could finally get a result and take the cavalryman down
The Vandals slammed into the line of Arabian heavy foot from all directions, causing multiple cohesion drops all along the line.
This combat was textbook Vandalism, and it's resolution would surely be quick and decisive.
The Arab infantry centre was evaporating faster than a spilt latte on top of a sand dune in the Great Bled Desert as the Vandals overran them from all sides.
2 Vandal Generals converged to try and claim credit for the crushing of the opposition.
The Heroic Vandal meanwhile was still alive - just - as the Arabians added one of their Generals to the mix to try and unseat him. How much longer could one man survive?
As if by magic, the whole right hand side of the table was swept totally clean of Arab troops allowing the Vandals a rare moment to pause for breath and scan the horizon for additional targets for their renewed vigour and assaults.
The battle was now deep into the end game as the last few units of Arabians needed to drop their army to defeat found themselves swarmed by Vandals from all sides.
As the game closed out, the Arabians were forced to concede that their campaign to conquer North Africa's littoral regions had ended in ignominious failure in the face of Vandal aggression - however they were at least left with one last crumb of comfort as the seemingly unkillable Vandal Cavalry unit finally succumbed to defeat in an otherwise solid victory for the Vandal nation..
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 African Vandal Commander
Well, that all worked surprisingly well, didn't it? It's unusual to actually have a plan, stick to it and then see it all come together - even though I think my dice in the game were also better than average, that is possibly a reward to attempting to appear like I knew what I was doing. Thats why I have also chosen to share my genius on Youtube with a review of the battle frame by frame
Embedding the General with the Finding Nemo banner in the middle of a small command of hard hitting horsemen seemed to work very well, as it gave that block of cavalry a bit of extra punch which, combined with their Elite status allowed them to drive past the downsides of an overlap on their inside flank.
The edge of the table is of course good for keeping at least one flank safe in most games, and the combination with the General's +1 worked very well indeed.
Finally, a special mention for the Heroic cavalry unit on the left. They did exceptionally well, with huge resilience, but even so it must be remembered they did manage to get into some quite squishy stuff so perhaps not as much heroism as a bit of good fortune and good planning too.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
This was a shameful episode of don-esque donfoolery. Your surreal army construction and the good fortune of having both decent dice rolling skills and an opponent who had failed to realise that Medoicre troops are not front line forces could have been swift and terrible, but you laboured relentlessly to throw this away, yet somehow still prevailed.
The idiocy of splitting a single, poorly commanded hooligan gang of Impetuous Horsemen into two sections and spreading them far and wide across the battlefield seems insane in retrospect, and I can only suspect insanity at the point of application as well to explain why you thought this might be sensible.
It was only the obdurate resistance of a lone cavalry unit which preserved your right flank attack against what should by rights have been insurmountable odds. By sticking at their task for an unfeasibly long time they prevented the enemy from sweeping forwards with a large part of their forces, thus protecting your exposed centre and potentially static target of the block of foot
So, it was more luck than skill in this game that saw you take the points from the Don... will you be so lucky in the next game I wonder?
Commentary on the game - understand the tactics
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition