Classical & Roman at Godendag 2018
Patrician Roman vs Warring States Chinese
With the UK gaming calendar grinding into action once again after the festive break, Godendag in the soggy and chip-festooned beating heart of downtown Cardiff opened the batting in the annual scramble to climb up the 180-person greasy pole of the ADLG circuit.
Making a reasonably late decsion to attend I had partnered Kevin, to test the theory that the Britcon organising team could also succesfully push lead around the tabletop in a 500BC-500AD themed competition
Our decision-making process - if you could really call it that - was the usual combination of digging out old figures, picking something ludicrous to try and catch the opposition out, second guessing the rest of the field and insufficient thought being given to any of the above. The end result was a Patrician Roman army, chosen mainly for the opportunity to deploy an Action-man scale model of Kenneth Williams in carry On Cleo, as well as a large horde of Gothic cavalry. The appeal of the former was self explanatory, the latter was an attempt to recreate the horror of facing an Impetuous Cavalry army at Derby Worlds at the end of last year.
Having met up in what passed for a hipster brew pub in deepest Wales and recovered from the shock of getting change out of 25 of your finest English Pounds when buying a round of 6 pints with ridiculous names the first game turned out to be against Dave & Nik, our drinking partners from the night before, using a Warring States army.
The lists for the Patrician Roman and Warring States Chinese 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 had fallen well for the Chinese as their numismatic mastery of cubic random number generation systems left them with a waterway, village and two large pieces of forested terrain closing down the table considerably. Even with this cluttery the Warring States army was still not wide enough to fill the open part of the table though, leaving a somewhat hanging flank on our right.
The Patrician army had the blunt instrument of the 7-strong Foederate Cavalry command and the Elite Alans in the middle, with the mixed foot/mounted Strategist on the right and the smaller "regular" mounted command on the left opposite the gap. Blunt force would be applied shortly..
How well do these troops fight then?
The Foederate cavalry which form the attacking edge of the Patrician Roman army are Impetuous Heavy Cavalry. The Impetuous bit makes them difficult to control - once they get close enough to the enemy to be able to charge them, any move other than charging into contact takes 3 Pips (so a Brilliant Commander, with his own pip and a +2 to every pip dice roll will always be able to keep them under control, but any lesser General may struggle.
They benefit from "Impact" against almost all opponents other than Infantry Spearmen, and have "Furious Charge" to cause an extra hit if they beat enemy infantry in the first round. Unfortunately the Foederate Cavalry are only Ordinary quality, and some of them in this army are also Medium cavalry - much cheaper than Heavy Cavalry, but lacking in armour so nowhere near as resilient and also vulnerable to shooting. Basically they need to win big in the first turn and use weight of numbers to overwhelm the enemy flanks, otherwise they can easily end up going home pretty soon.
As has been extensively trailed, these Khurasan early-period castings do not get out of the box all that often, and this lack of exposure to daylight (even the weak and decidedly watery version prevalent in South Welsh industrial estates in mid January) had somewhat transfixed the Alans - they threw a 1 to become an unreliable command, paralyzed from participation unless the Chinese approached them too closely.
The Chinese had festooned the rather pragmatically designed hill on their left with Ambush markers, and early Roman probing by a somewhat retro-looking LI Javelin-armed skirmisher (note to self - get some Late Roman LI figures with javelin, or convert some of the numerous LI bowmen in your possession to javelins with a hand swap) uncovered 2 lurking skirmishing bowmen. It seemed entirely feasible that more MF Impact Swordsmen than the Romans possessed were also lurking there.
The Strategist, not keen to move his forces forward without support on the right, donated spare pips to try and kick-start the Alans under the surrly leadership of their commander Lord Partridge of Thetford, but they remained unkeen
L'Art de la Guerre hint - a CinC can use 2 pips to give an unreliable ally a +1 on their pip roll, making it twice as likely that they will become reliable (they need a 6 to start playing).
The Alans under King Partridge clearly had no intention of starting at all, with or without the extra +1.
Aetius - The Roman Commander
The blunt instrument of 7 Medium Impetuous Cavalry was finding it hard to just hang back, especially under provocation from sniping Chinese shooting (and boredom.. already). So, they pushed forward towards the enemy to try and make something happen - even if only to tempt the Chinese forward and closer to the Alans.
But, the insanity was not as total as it looked - with the Chinese declining to launch an attack, the Foederate troops were not pinned. The Roman General rolled enough pips and turned the whole formation about and pulled back to a safe distance, the close order taunting having not inspired the well-drilled Chinese to a rash and unwary advance.
A more co-ordinated approach was instead being planned in the Italian dressing room, with the Strategists command and its supporting Auxilia moving up to put pressure on a gap which had opened in the enemy lines as the Chinese Inferior bowmen realised that being hit by cavalry in the open might not be the best of ideas.
The mixed-arms command lurched forward, triggering the entirely expected Elite MF Swordsmen Ambush to emerge from cover and pass through the overly-tempting bowmen and face off against the Roman Auxilia. The Roman Strategist had hoped to be able to counter the Chinese foot by lending his Auxilia some spare Foederate Lancers, but an unusual shortfall of pips that turn made it rather more tricky than possible to tie together the various troop types in what was an extremely complicated set of coordinated moves.
The Romans, despite their relative lack of numbers and quality, got off to a pretty good start - and were well positioned, or so it seemed, to roll round the enemy flanks in subsequent turns as well.
The gap in the Chinese line had also been well-filled by Foederate cavalry, positioning some 4-legged troublemakers (who in this context were even more tricksy than raccoons) in the very heart of the Chinese formation. Flank attacks, overlaps and Furious Charge bonuses were surely in the near future of these Foederate horsemen fairly soon?
The advance of the Strategist Aetius' troops had included somewhat of a drift to the right, which left his command a little disconnected from the blunt force trauma Medium Cavalry formation. Chinese LI took immediate advantage of this by flipping onto the flank of the Foederate cavalry as their own chariots took the initiative, greatly helping their prospects in the process
Rules hint - Having an enemy in front edge contact with your flank will deny your troops their "first round" factors, such as Impact or Javelins. This applies even if the enemy are LF - so, whilst LF do not cause a cohesion loss or reduce your factor to zero in this situation, going in with their front edge does help more than going in side-to-side as a normal overlap. On the converse, anyone in front-edge contact with enemy cannot evade - so the LI are a little more at risk in subsequent turns.
The King Partridge and his Alans were still steadfastly refusing to join the party, and the Chinese were studiously avoiding getting anywhere near them.
Hungarian Death Metal Roman Warfare
On the right, the Strategists command was enjoying a better day than they expected - having run through one unit of Elite Chinese dagger-axe men some Roman Auxilia were now into the squishy part of the Chinese army on the wooded hill. The gap between the two Chinese formations had also proved to be a happy hunting ground for the Foederate Cavalry, who were hammering into the flanks of the Chinese Chariotry and pushing deeper into the enemy rear lines as well.
In the centre, the Chinese foot had pushed up and become disconnected from their Chariot supports - this promoted a general charge from the Foederate Mediums, who used their "Furious Charge" to the full to hammer some big red 3-hit markers onto the table behind the Warring States troopers.
The CinC's one-clever-seeming attack on the right had suddenly come badly unstuck however, as the Squishy Bowmen were proving extremely resilient and had found new depths of bravery once ensconced on the slopes of the hill, resisting the Auxilia assault with no problem at all.
Whilst the hill-bound Auxiia laboured, those left on the open terrain had been overrun by Chinese swordsmen and with the Chinese Embedded Generals chariot proving overly-resilient as well the CinC's command was suddenly looking rather threadbare, and mostly in the wrong places
With the Alans still uncommitted, the Chinese were blatantly ignoring the vague threat of them ever returning to the fray and instead were feeding more and more troops into the fight against the Medium cavalry Foederate command.
Faced by wave after wave of Elite troops, the Mediums were starting to run out of steam.
The smaller command on our far left had been steadily pushing back the Chinese forces arrayed against them, but remained ever-conscious of the challenge of operating too far from the unsupportive Alans. As a result, the balance of forces on the left was proving far more equitable on table than it perhaps looked on paper.
The Alans ride again
The Foederate cavalry launched yet another assault against the next tide of Chinese warriors.
Warring States China
Aetius could see the writing on the wall on his flank - the well-drilled Chinese infantry would overrun and outwit the ever-shrinking number of Roman and Foederate troops on this wing in the foreseeable future, and faced with a prospect of being left with nowhere to escape to, he requisitioned the lone LF unit and instructed them to carry him aloft to the rear echelons.
Rules hint - Generals can usually only be killed in combat if they commit to join the unit and add +1 to their factors. However, if a General is with a unit which is killed but not "fighting", he needs to leap to the nearest friendly unit in range. If there is no unit in range he counts as lost.
Even Caesar himself was horrified by how quickly Aetius had managed to turn a seemingly promising situation into a catastrophe!
In the centre the already-tired Foederate cavalry were proving little challenge for the Chinese chariots - their greater width being outmatched by the Chariots greater factors and quality.
Aetius skulked away in shame and turned his face away from the carnage as the proper troops in his command were cut down in the distance.
Finally, the Alans joined the battle - with the clock running down they were far too late to do anything even vaguely decisive - perhaps however they could rescue a few more points for their Roman paymasters, who's army was by now dangerously close to utter defeat?
Digging up Chariots
Aetius last hope for glory - a Gothic baggage looting exercise - also was snuffed out by the seemingly ever-present Chinese hordes.
And with one last flourish, and one last - very rare - piece of heroism from a high-rolling Foederate cavalryman - the game ended. The Result is a narrow non-defeat - calling it a technical draw really would not do justive to our opponents.
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
Well, that was a touch unfortunate I think - although in the end it was probably fortunate that we didn't lose completely, so on balance not a bad day out at all for an untried and untested army and partnership.
Once the terrain closed the table down I felt we were always on the back foot - or back hoof to be more precise. That gave the Chinese two solid anchors for both of their flanks, and left me little option but a brave charge up the middle to glory, or as it turned out, not glory.
With a smidge more luck we would have rolled over some generals and ridden down even more infantry and with only a breakthrough or two the game could have been much different. And that's not even counting how much better it could have been if the Alans were involved from the very start
In fact, thinking about it like this, we almost won really - and it was probably close enough that with a bit of leaning on the official historian we could easily have this written up as a victory. After all, no-one else from Rome is going to come over here to the borders of China and check up on me, are they. That settles it - a win it is!
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
You muppet, you charlatan, you hopeless and vain fool. The only rewrite of history you deserve is one in which your insignificant contribution to Rome's proud military tradition is so small that you are written out entirely.
To suggest this table was too narrow is a massive fallacy - the right wing of the Chinese army could not have flapped more in the breeze if it had been attached to an epileptic seagull, yet still you failed to push forward and put pressure on it with your reliable command. Doing so would have kept more Chinese soldiers out of the rest of the battlefield, instead of allowing them to mass practically 3 commands against your 2 on the other flank
And the unreliable Alans. This is not bad luck, it was terrible battle management. If - as seems the case - your plan was just to charge at the Chinese army and hope to get lucky, why did you not choose to turn your whole army about, and march back to fight close to your own baseline such that the Alans would have been committed to battle by the Chinese advance. Instead you adopted the always-fatal approach of a half-baked, half-hearted attempt to draw the enemy forward until your own rash and incompetent instincts got the better of you - leaving the Alans always out of reach of the enemy.
And, whilst we are on the subject of rash stupidity, why did your Auxilia get anywhere near that wooded hill? The ambush of 4 Elite halberdiers could not have been more clearly signposted had it been allocated its own exit number on a stretch of the M4 between Swindon and Bath! I am sure your idiocy can stretch to the next game, but I am not sure I can bear to read about it..
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition