Biblical &Classical in Godendag 2017
Early Imperial Roman & Judean vs Ostrogoths and Gepids
Following a brisk lunch in what many of the locals insisted was one of the finest dining experiences in the area of Cardiff immediately adjacent to the railway station, but which us old lags knew was actually a Weatherspoons in an old office building, the afternoon game hove into view with our duo one of relatively few teams to record an absolute victory in the morning session.
A short documentary about the barmaid who served us lunch in Cardiff
The Ostrogoth and Gepid force facing us was unlikely to offer too many surprises on the list composition front we felt.... The lists for the Early Imperial Roman & Judean and Ostrogoths and Gepids from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Godendag can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
The terrain gods laughed outrageously at both armies - allowing an almost bald field on both flanks but thwarting the best efforts of a Gepid Genius-level CinC to remove the patch of vineyard which ended up placed firmly in the very middle of the table. There was not much we could do other than stack one side and refuse the other, hoping our Cataphracts would grind their way through the charging mass of barbarian horsemen before they were overrun .
What's Going on Here Then?
One piece of rough terrain sits in the middle of the table, otherwise this is perfect cavalry country. The Romans and Armenians, in the lack of a better plan, have again opted to stack their army on one side of the board and try and bring the battle to a quick conclusion before the unwieldy enemy Impetuous Lancers have a chance to concentrate their forces. The Judean Legions are hung out to dry on the end of the line, and have little choice but to hang back.
In an eventuality which is only surprising in that it managed to surprise us, the Gepids and Goths raced forward and swiftly moved past the only obstacle in the field of play. Our entire plan in ruins, the only saving grace now being the bare couple of moves that our skirmish screen might be able to buy us before the real action took place.
The Ostrogoths and Gepids stretched from one side of the board to the other, assuming that you sort of ignored the gap in the middle for the terrain and a bit on their left where they ran out of bases as well but where we didn't have anything at all anyway. So, essentially, they covered the table much as nervous looking sheep covered the local hillsides, right?
The right hand end of the Romano-Judean line was pretty hopeless - a couple of Medium Foot spearmen, the Judean Lancers and some LF were clearly there as a delaying force who's only mission was to survive long enough for the Auxilia to make it to the safety of the vineyard before being chomped, in much the same was as Blake Lively seeks to do in that film with the shark that every bloke on travelling his own on a flight in the last 2 months has been watching on the sly. For the acting. And to admire the CGI shark. Obviously.
Glimpsing the intriguing and complex strategic situation into which the Judean Legionaries and Peltast Spearmen had navigated themselves on the right flank, one of our two commanders implemented an innovative technological solution in order to allow him to fully concentrate on the part of the battle where we might have a decent chance without being distracted by the manifest challenges of the right flank.
The left looked much more coherent, although had it been translated into Welsh there surely would have been an unreasonable mix of vowels and consonants in the map symbols, with almost enough of the best troops in the army in a pretty solid line - the Gepids and Goths meanwhile cared little for that complexity, and piled forward in a screaming aggressive mass of a type not seen in Cardiff since a late night burger van accidentally marked down chips and gravy to under a quid on wet Thursday evening back in the late 90's, and were raring to make the first charge.
The Judeans position is fully articulated by this shot, their only saving grace being that there were far too many Gothic cavalry on this flank to actually get into contact with the rather limited number of units that the Judeao-Roman alliance had in place to match them.
Realising they had time and space to retreat further, the Judean legions did exactly that...
What's Going on Here Then?
The Roman plan to bring the enemy to battle in line with the one piece of rough terrain has just about been achieved, with the Roman Auxilia having gotten into the terrain before enemy lancers can flood round it and into them. As expected, the enemy Impetuous Lancers are stuggling to wheel round on the Roman right, but this is only buying time for the Judeans who will have to stand and fight at some point. At least their position gives the Gepids on the Roman right several targets to aim for rather than just making an easy decision to roll up the Roman line .
With the Gepids struggling to wheel such a wide formation with any more elan than Tom Jones can manage to throw back a pair of used ladies knickers now that he has succumbed to arthritis, the Roman Auxilia found that to everyone's surprise they did indeed have a chance of getting into the safety of the vineyard, sweeping enemy LF away as they advanced. This would create a veritable aircraft carrier battlegroup loaded with Rome's answer to the manoeuvrable and well-armed F18 - Auxiliaries capable of launching potentially devastating strikes from their platform into the flanks and rear of the ungainly super-tanker-like advance of the Goths down either side of the terrain
USS Carl Vinson
The left flank was much more straightforward, as much as if a chap called Davies was running down it with an oval ball and a trail of All Blacks in his wake, and only the rather tardy Armenians were failing to have read the one-line basic manual entry for the day - "form up and hold firm".
The Auxilia had almost made it unscathed to the vineyard, but one Gothic cavalryman managed to charge in and make contact while they were still in the open. Not ideal, but it could still leave the Roman Legions with an overlap if the Goths got bogged down fighting the Auxilia for any length of time.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - don't have to conform into terrain that would disorder or disadvantage them,
Despite being late to the party, the Armenians were amongst the first mounted elements in the Romano-Judean army to bear the brunt of the Gothic charge. The Goths hammered in, desperate to win on their initial round of combat where their Impact capability gave them an additional +1.
The Auxilia were by now firmly and almost entirely into the vineyard, but the Gepids were still stuck into the leftmost unit, drawing them out into the open. The Judean Peltasts were however left in the open as the Goths on the left flank of their attack tee'ed themselves up for a major charge.
The number of Goths on this flank were beyond the Judeans ability to count, stretching across a huge swathe of open terrain to the right of the vineyard. The Goths were to be fair rather light on reserves but that didn't seem to be a major issue.
The Goths left flank was not in combat, but their right certainly was - a huge line of combat stretched across several feet of tabletop, with all of the Cataphracts of the Romans two allies engaged. The sooner the slog started the better for the high quality and well armoured allied contingents who's plan was to grind out a win over several toe-to-toe turns.
What's Going on Here Then?
The battle is joined, as the Gepids and Goths dash themselves against the solid line of Romans and their Cataphract allies while the Roman Auxilia are starting to filter back out of the terrain to harass the flanks of the engaged enemy horsemen, tipping the balance in the Roman's favour in this key area of the table. The isolated Judeans have drawn in a whole command of Gepids and are preparing to stand and fight - having delayed this as long as possible to give their colleagues time to erode the smaller Gothic army elsewhere on the battlefield.
The Armenians were doing well, only taking one marker from the initial charge - this was great, giving them an advantage in all bar one of the combats in subsequent rounds. Quite what their plan was about the left flank, which had Gothic cavalry flooding past it and only LH to cover the gaps was another unanswered question...
The Parthians and Legions were not faring so good - multiple markers, including a 2-hit yellow on the Legion made the odds pretty even along the line for the coming turns.
The Judean Legion had totally run out of table - their skirmish screen had too. Would this be a time for the Judeans to suddenly prove that they were heroes? Or would their entirely passive approach which had left the Goths entirely coherent even as they achieved the first Touchdown of the weekend, come back to haunt them?
The Goths were now into contact as they flooded past the vineyard, with the spear-armed Peltasts taking the brunt. It was hard for even the Peltasts themselves to convince themselves they were anything other than a speedhump, but they were prepared to take it on the chin to buy time for the Legions and Parthians to grind down the Goths they were facing off against.
As one of our four players nipped for a quick cup of tea served by someone called Evans, Williams, Jones, or Davies, the Parthians were slowly taking hits, and spotting a potential for a catastrophic gap to open up the Roman Legion lent them a unit of Heavy Cavalry to act as a backstop to mop up any breakthroughs.
The Parthian armour and the Legion's overlaps were suddenly swinging the battle in their favour, as the Goths and Gepids experienced a flurry of confetti-like hit markers. Evening up the hits on each side of the combats meant the odds swung dramatically in favour of Rome and Parthia, and even more significantly the F18 missions launched from the vineyard were starting to have an impact too, as a unit of Auxilia had begun swiftly munching up the left hand end of the Gepid lines.
Flanks were not the sole preserve of the Romans though - on the extreme left of the Roman line the Armenian ally was being turned by the additional numbers of Gepids stretching to the end of the table. The Armenians had achieved a small breakthrough, and so the periphery of the battle line was now a swirling mess of engaged troops.
The Spear-armed Peltasts had proved to be a fairly ineffectual speed bump, and now the Goths had run past the edge of the terrain and had themselves arrived in the rear of the Auxilia who had thought they were safely rolling up the line of Gothic cavalry facing off the Roman legions.
The rest of the Auxilia boiled out of the leek-farm behind the rampant Goths, and returned the flank attack favour with some interest - that dash for the middle had proved worthwhile! As they swept the first wave of Gothic cavalry aside they set up an intriguing engagement with the rest of the outflanking force. Would the tide of Gepids manage to sweep away the rather Kampfgruppen-lite mix of HC, Auxilia in the open, and Greek-style cavalry before the reversing Auxilia arrived in their flank and rear?
The Armenians had no-one of significance to help them, and their LH needed to stay close in order to provide an escape route for their General if and when the last 3 injured Cataphracts were engulfed by Gothic cavalry on all sides.
The Gepids were spending time and command pips to set up the perfect attack on the Judean Legionaries, who were just grateful for the extra time they had been granted before the apocalyptic clash of arms they had been avoiding for the previous duration of the game.
As the Auxilia continued their advancing retreat from the vineyard into the rear and flanks of the engaged Gothic cavalry, the rest of the Gepid mounted force started to dissolve under the ministrations of Romans attacking them on all faces.
The extreme left of the Romano-Judean line was seeing units traded one for one, but crucially the Gepids were struggling to actually break through the Roman line in any meaningful numbers. Instead the combats were breaking down into a number of isolated knots of swirling troops fighting for local supremacy.
The Judean Legions were taking some shooting, but still the Gepids were keen only to charge home where they enjoyed almost excessive levels of advantage. It was one of those moments when a series of great pip dice for the Barbarians encouraged them to actually spend the pips on holding back the attack and teeing up an even better opportunity, when perhaps the better option might have been just to charge home at baseline factors?
The Gepids were bogged down in their breakthrough past the back of the vineyard - each time they knocked a hole in the Roman lines seemed to open up an opportunity for the innumerable Auxilia to hit them in the rear yet again.
Finally the Parthians slogging match resolved - with only one Cataphract left and all of the lancers they had been facing blown away. This opened up a huge gap in the Gepid line into which a powerful force of, erm one Cataphract and one Roman HC joyfully bounded, followed by their LH as well. Quite what they would do no-one was sure....
The well-planned attack on the Judeans was executing well as well - the end of the line had already been turned, and with better factors and overlaps to boot the end of the Judean line disappeared. This opened up the rest of the formation in a quite frightening fashion...
A prompt collapse resulted, as Gothic cavalry flooded round all faces of the Judean infantry overwhelming them in very short order. All of their well-drilled marching had achieved next to naught...
The action turned to the centre, where Legions had beaten off all of their frontal opponents and had turned about to present a pretty coherent line of LBMS shield transfers to face the disorganised Gepid cavalry and try and take them on as individual units before they had time or pips to reform.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Parthians and Armenians have fought the Gepids and Goths to a winning standstill on the left, and the Roman Legions, aided by the Auxilia coming back out of the terrain have chewed up their opponents causing terminal levels of casulaties to the filler-free Gothic alliance. The Judeans have been all but overwhelmed but the time they bought in their strategic retreat, the Goths have run out of men long before the Roman Empire has !
This lack of pips and manoeuvrability greatly hampered the Gepids, and allowed the Romans with the pips of 2 commands in action to surround isolated units of Goths and overwhelm them.
The end result was carnage - both armies were shattered and scattered across the table with barely a proper groups of units left on either side
The Result is another victory, with heavy losses, for Roman and her Allies.
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 Early Imperial Roman & Judean Commander
This was hard - the table setup left us very few options agains an army with such mobility, and with no "filler" troops this time we simply had to brace for impact and prepare ourselves for a head to head struggle. Winning ugly is not quite as good as winning with style, but there are times when this needs to happen. This was one of those times.
Leaving the Judeans out to dry broke my heart, but perhaps not as much as if I had left the Romans in the same situation. At least as Heavy Infantry, with 4 hit points, they had some chance to resist for longer than if the other command of Auxilia had been left as bait for the Gepids, but still it was a thankless task which they undertook with good grace, admittedly under orders delivered at swordpoint and under pain of death.
The interactions between Cataphracts and Lancers, and Lancers and Roman Legions all worked well in this game, giving another robust test of the viability of these rules as well - the game was banalced on a knife-edge for much of the time, and a slightly more aggressive assault on the Judeans, or a spot more luck on the part of the Goths would have surely seen them triumphant
With two hard-fought battles under our belts my men feel rather under-confident going forward, as we are beginning to wonder if the overall level of experience in list-building in this ruleset has passed us by and evolved beyond our capabilities and plans.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
You may be sat on 2 wins, but hark, no one thinks you're worth their attention, their time, their vote, any place in polite society, or even the light of day. This was not a game won, but one snatched from the very gullet of near-defeat by what means I still cannot fathom
There are claims of tactics in this narrative but everything you say is so unbearably boring, by Hercules, that it's murder by monotony sometimes to try and listen to you conjure a narrative of victory through skill out of what is clearly a narrative of luck, fortune and the rub of the green.
You're an informer and a mudraker, a con-man wheeler-dealer, a gigolo and an educator in evil. All that, Scipio, and amazingly, you're still broke when it comes to investments in the bank of military talent. Standing to receive a charge by vast numbers of enemies at a disadvantage is a tricky skill to claim as being a positive approach, and your continuing reluctance to adopt Elephants, which would have been great in both of these games, is a continuing mystery which perhaps we will see unveiled in the next game
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition