Biblical, Classical & Roman in Estella 2016
Patrician Roman vs Nikephorian Byzantine
Buono Estente! Having already taken in 4 countries so far this year (England, France, Belgium and - for some of Team Central London - Scotland as well) the L'Art de la Guerre juggernaught was now rolling on in our Pre-Brexit World Tour of Incompetence into Sunny, Sunny Spain!
We had started the weekend as we meant to continue - early, and with tapas, beer and red wine courtesy of a Friday night spent in Pamplona with Inaki. Pamplona is far more than a load of old bulls, with a huge set of near-intact Vauban-style fortifications cunningly woven into the fabric of the modern city - apparently as a result of their abject surrender to Napoleon without a shot being fired in the Peninsular War.
After a late night and a short drive (after a long wait for the car park attendant to apparently learn, as if for the very first time, how to validate our overnight tickets and take payment) we arrived in the historic town of Estella, capital of the Carlist wars, to take our places in a 24-person competition in the local sports centre.
This, exactly like all UK sports centre venues, was nestled at the foot of a steep escarpment above which a clear blue sky played host to a blazing hot sun.
My army selection for this Roman & Classically themed tournament was Patrician - a classic DBX army with a host of different ways of being pulled together.
The event was a 2-list competition, with 2 variations of the same army possible to use. The choices II had chosen were intended to see if I could use the sort of "wall of aggression" tactic that had caused me so much trouble in several other games overseas, such as the Franks in Saumur and the Scots in Charleroi. This manifested itself in the list in the shape of an all-warband "foot" option with a Frankish ally, and a "mounted" variant with a wall of charging lancers with some Huns to add shooting and more lancers. This meant both armies shared very few common elements - only a couple of Auxilia and a mounted Equites held up the "Roman" part of the list with the rest all being hairy barbarians.
The lists for the Patrician Roman and Nikephorian Byzantine from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Estella can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
The first round draw had matched me against a Nikephorian Byzantine army, presumably with a core of Skoutatoi shooting spearmen and an many mounted Elite Bow/Lancers as could be fitted in 200 points. With this sort of opponents I elected to take my "mounted" list.
L'Art de la Guerre In Spanish - Iniciativa: Initiative
On a Melkart snowy plain cloth the two armies faced each other. Terrain had been minimal with neither side looking for much cover or rough surface for their massed horsemen. I had stacked my army to the right, with the smaller, more MCv heavy command on the far right, the big block of mostly heavies in the middle and the potentially skirmishy Hunnic ally in the centre. The Byzantines had deployed a little more conventionally, spreading across the table and giving my wall of charging lancers a straightforward mission. Jaxi!
The Roman Commander Speaks
The Skoutatoi and Varangians found they had some spare time to smoke some chorizo and watch their goats cheese slowly mature as they were rather out of the game over on the right of the Nikephorian line
Novello proboscis! The Byzantines, moving first, started with a classic screen of LH moving up to slow the advance of the hairy horde facing them - but this put them in range of the Hunnic horse archers who quickly added some green markers to the snowy tablescape.
L'Art de la Guerre In Spanish - Arqueros: bowmen
As the Patrician lurched forwards and drifted to the right to try and even more strongly outflank the Byzantine line, the lonesome Byzantine skirmish screen felt even more ganged up on as the Huns closed in. (All of my Foederati and Hunnic cavalry are from an early range of Avars and Goths from Khurasan - quite different to their current styles, but they look suitably nasty)
Hola! The other half-hearted Byzantine skirmish screen was being intimidated at nose-hair-measuring ranges by the advancing barbarians as the third command swept round on a wide flanking manoeuvre
Byzantium, by Posh People
The Byzantines were keen to get in a shot or two before they reached the back of the table and slid off onto the floor, but with Roman mercenary horsemen sweeping round their flank their opportunities would be limited. A solid line of battle might need to be formed rather sooner than the invidious and tricky Byzantines would ideally prefer.
The first round of shooting was as ineffective as the half-hearted protests of anyone attempting to turn down another fine glass of Rioja after 10:30pm whilst sitting in a historic and collonaded city square and soon the Byzantines were evading back dangerously close to the rear edge of the table.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Cavalry with bows, or without "Impact" capability can always evade. They can then turn about as a group and return to battle in their next turn.... but with an 80cm deep table and enemy cavalry potentially crossing the half way line in turn 1, and then charging an average of 16cm per turn the opportunity to dick about forever is rather limited. Sooner or later you need to stand and fight.
The Byzantines also had a couple of Cataphracts who were in theory operating to support their infantry - but as the rest of the line of Kavallorii retreated in the face of the tide of barbarians the Cataphracts suddenly looked as isolated as the last croquetta on the table after the first round of Tapas has been rapidly demolished as the Romans ganged up on them from all sides.
The table had run out for Nikephoros, and now the Foederati warriors would get a chance to test their mettle. Sminki pinki tenuros tomano. A couple of them had been winded by the Byzantine shooting but with reserves coming up fast behind the only strategy was to press on and try and overwhelm the regular troops with speed and impetus.
L'Art de la Guerre In Spanish - Mas uno: plus one
The Hunnic lancers had not really had enough space to join in the attack in the middle, and with the Byzantine Skoutatoi keen to join their shooting to the flanks of the advancing Romans the two Impact Cavalry had been sent on a distraction mission. They marched across the table to draw the attention - quite successfully - of the infantry from Istanbul.
Combat was joined! It was as messy as an attempt at an omlette made by a chef specialising in huevos revueltos, but the weight of numbers had given the Roman forces a couple of overlaps to offset the damage from the Byzantine shooting - and Foederati horse were also now appearing in the rear of the Byzantine battle line as they chased LH off table
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Troops can evade off table on all edges - this counts as one lost VP.
The initial rounds of combat were not entirely unexpected, with a handful of wins for the Barbarians and some for the Byzantines against the already shooting-weakened Roman horsemen, causing damage to the units following in a little too close behind as some of the first rankers broke and fled.
The second round of combat saw markers sprout on the Foederati like empty plates sprout on a tabletop soon after an order of calamari appears as the two lines of horsemen crossed swords.
L'Art de la Guerre In Spanish - Tiro los dados: Throw the dice
By now the Hunnic lancers had gotten themselves drawn into a fight against the Varangians, catching one of the two units of Norsemen unsupported.
The floodwaters of barbarians continued to beat against the sea defences of the Byzantine Empire as wave after wave of reinforcements stormed forward. By now the Cataphracts had been surrounded and almost totally overwhelmed by a series of flank charges, and more Varangians had been sucked into the seemingly unending task of shoring up the flanks of the main Klibanophoriii line. In the distance the Roman horsemen can be seen charging into the rear of the Byzantines!
Winning in their own turn, the Foederati horse step forward into the large gaps they have created in the Byzantine formation leaving only islands of Constantinopalian Cavalry standing as they too beat their opponents at the same time. This is a pretty equal exchange, but the Byzantine army is far smaller at well under 20 units vs the 25 of the Romans so mutual attrition is a good thing for the Italians here.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Impetuous units always follow up if they win in their own turn. Other units have the option to do so. It puts you in a good place to do devastating flank charges, but sometimes - like here - it can step you forward into trouble.
The Huns were making big dents in the Varangians, but they had to knock off the final hit point soon or their flanks would be smashed by the Skoutatoi who had inched their way forward to a position from which to mount an attack. Cinqi-cinqi-cinqenta-cinqenta-canto-canta-canta-cinqente-pentos!
L'Art de la Guerre In Spanish - Infanteria pessado: Heavy Infantry
The Romans were in full hue and cry now, appearing behind the remains of the Byzantine line in great numbers. The Byzantine army was approaching the edge of defeat, with the Roman's larger army still a long way short of disaster.
Units traded off against each other in a swirling melee as the greater quality of the Elite Byzantine cavalry allowed them to hang on against the onrushing tide.
Pictures of Byzantines from my Ancients Photo Directory
(Click any image to see details of the manufacturer, and a larger version of the photo)
Seemingly out of nowhere the countless hordes of Romans had been steadily losing casualties - whilst they had strength in depth to keep their front line fully manned the dead bases were totting up, and with 9 units of cavalry now lost suddenly the urgency to knock over those final couple of Byzantine bases was keenly felt.
But, it was not to be! Ethethethethetheth! With the Roman flanking force poised to smash into the rear of the last few Klibanophorii and win the game, a heroic effort on the part of the Byzantines saw them unhorse yet more Roman cavalry and tip the much larger Roman army into a defeat seemingly snatched from the jaws of victory!
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 Patrician Roman Commander
As an advert for the Glory and Supremacy of Rome here in our Iberian Protectorate that must go down as a partial success. Given the army has never been deployed on table, this was very close to a win indeed - in fact I am still rather struggling to see where all of those losses mounted up from and why we failed to overwhelm such a smaller force anyway.
Losing initiative was a major problem here, as it did buy the Byzantines a little extra time to redeploy some of their horsemen to form a much more coherent line. It also gave the Skoutatoi a vital extra move to threaten my flank as we advanced and that in turn caused me to detach some troops who might actually have been better employed elsewhere.
In this tournament of 5 games to a Spanish schedule we now have the unusual occurrence of a second game before lunch - what a good job I had a massive lump of steak last night, and a copious breakfast involving eggs and sausages which are a little like chorizo but not quite. I wonder if this breakfast will be repeated, and I wonder whether this all-mounted army will find a suitable opponent in another round as well?
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
In Rome I have eaten Swan stuffed with Goose stuffed with Chicken stuffed with Pigeon stuffed with Mistle Thrush stuffed with Goldfinch, but I have never seen someone so thoroughly stuffed here as you today. To blame the very first dice roll of the game is to ignore the shambolic nature of all that passed after those fateful bones had hit the deck of Rafa's glorious "Campione de Mundo" special edition signed battle cloth.
Here your failings were manifest and even for someone who claims credit for not even deploying their army before battle it was obvious where you were going wrong even to the most blind lottery ticket seller. When undertaking a sweeping outflanking move, it is rather important not to commit your main battle line before your flanking force is in position to affect the outcome - but here, if I analyse the photos, it seem as if this huge outlay of pips and points contributed to just 2 units being hit in the rear. Can that really be a sensible return for your entire strategy? I think not.
Elsewhere - despite a conceptually sound plan on the right, even if it was poorly executed - on too many occasions you allowed odd units to be drawn into battles you didn't need to fight. If you aim to win on one wing, and have deployed to do so, do not gift points to the opposition elsewhere across the park!
And finally, with such huge command and control and a plan that to all intents involved advancing forwards in a line, how on earth did your second line manage to get so tangled with the first? Losing hit points in the rout of your own units is inexcusable, and rightly cost you the game. I fear that the pickling effect of vino tinto has stultified the stewed chorizo that passes for brain cells in your undersized skull and that only further Roman debacles will occur as this weekend unfurls. Lets see if I am right - again - in the next game
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition