Ancients in Saumur 2016
Early Achaemenid Persian vs Assyrian & Sargonid
Over a year into the world of L'Art de la Guerre, and with a host of UK competitions under my belt it was finally time to take the big, bold step up to the main table and take on the European Challenge of playing in the home of the ruleset, France.
This first (non-Worlds) European expedition since, incredibly, the 2010 Italian FoGAM Championships in Faenza when a rather newly painted Principate Roman army cried Infamy! Infamy! (they've all got it) Infamy! Much pasta was eaten that weekend, but this time instead of bowls it would be tanks, with the event taking place in the French Bovingdon, Saumur's Musee des Blindes. (Blindes is apparently the word for mantlet, as in Medieval Siege Mantlet, and can be used as a word for Tank in French),
Saumur is in the bosom of the glorious Loire valley, some 300 miles or rather more of the funny foreign kilo-wotsits away from Le Chunnel, but an early start on Friday morning and 2/3 of Team Central London were soon flying down the superb and no-doubt EU-funded French motorway network in a German-built car fuelled by Scottish diesel down into the heart of Islington's favourite holiday retreat (unless you are Jeremy Corby, when it would be a cycling holiday in Eastern Europe with Diane Abbott) - far away from the descent into medieval madness that was UK politics and economics that same fine, and deeply ironic morning
By the late afternoon we were there, and being in Europe was great - the weather was warm, the beer (and red wine) was chilled and gamers from across Europe were congregating in the bars and bistros of the historic town on the banks of the Loire, ready for a day or two of 200 point AD:LG action surrounded by tanks. What could be better?
With an intriguing theme of Biblical & Classical armies with an obligatory allied contingent I had chosen, after much faffing about, the Early Aechemenid Persians.
The lists for the Early Achaemenid Persian and Assyrian & Sargonid from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Saumur can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
The Persians are an army that can be put together in many different ways, leading with infantry or cavalry. Not owning much cavalry, but having painted up loads of Sparabara-type bowmen at the tail end of the FoGAM era which had rarely if ever been used I had chosen a foot-based option. Aside from the "get them out of the box" aspect of this plan it also allowed me to test out the efficiency of massed shooting (which had caused me some not inconsiderable trouble in the previous competition) and to at the same time dabble with just enough Elite mounted bowmen to get myself into trouble. The ally was a simple Greek ally, with a solid line of Armoured Spearmen to do the simple stuff hopefully effectively.
Game 1 and, unsurprisingly, I was facing an army that I had never seen on an ADLG table before, but one which was familiar to DBM viewers - the Assyrian/Sargonid Combination. This had Chariots (which are basically Knights) and Camels (who, erm, disorder Cavalry) and some shooty-pokey foot types, making it a bit of a match for mine but seemingly with better stuff everywhere along the line. With a bit of plantation on the table in the centre of the board I had gone with the Sparabara command on the left facing the terrain, the Greek Spears in the centre in case they proved unreliable, and the Mounted Wing on the right facing the Camels.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Allied commands can be unreliable on an initial roll of 1. They become reliable again if the enemy get within 4 MUs, on a roll of 5 or 6. The CinC can "donate" pips to help this... as long as you remember to activate him first in a turn!
The Assyrians had a Bedouin type ally, who seemed very confident - especially the 2 Light Camelry who had (being half-French) remembered the rule that allows LH-types to shoot in 2 ranks. My own LH, despite some being Superior and some armed with Javelins, had failed to remember this rule and were already in a bit of bother, caught out by this rapid advance.
Pictures of Persians from my Ancients Photo Directory
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The Bedouin swing round to concentrate on the end of the Persian line, as the Persian LH fell back to try and take advantage of the upslope of the hill on the rear edge of the table - a +1 for being uphill would neatly counteract the -1 for being disordered by camels if it came to combat, but with 2-hit-strength Light Horse type shooting each other there was every chance of base-loss casualties from shooting alone.
On the left the Sparabara had a big test coming up - enemy Cavalry, who if they were brave enough might have considered clarging down the Medium Foot Sparabara mixed Swordsman/bowman formation. But, either they were cheese eating surrender monkey Cavalry, or their CinC had spotted that he had considerable advantages across most of the rest of the table and so didn't want to risk messing up on this flank with a dicey charge when they could just turn and fall back as a group and delay the Sparabara whilst they won elsewhere.
Pot Pourri! The Greeks were reliable, and were quickly pushing up the field in an attempt to prevent the Chariots diverting over to support the Bedouin Camelry - and, realising that hey were a little outclassed by the Bedouins, the Persian Cavalry had gone for a high-risk gamble and had split some of their Elite Medium Cavalry (the yellow-headed War & Empire figures) off, ready to threaten a flank if and when the main line of Camels went into action with at least one overlap against the Persian Heavy Cavalry Nobles. Both sides were shooting furiously to little effect so far.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Assyrians are confident about the Camelry on their left flank and are advanding strongly there - the rest of the two armies are jockying for position. In the centre the Hoplites are being pushed forward into the face of the enemy Chariots on the assumption that their 4-hits resilience will allow them to be an anvil on which the Chariots spend time battering themselves whilst the rest of the Persian army imposes itself with massed shooting against the Assyrian cavalry on the left, and overwhelms the Assyrian foot in the wood with greater numbers.
Chateauneuf du Pape! With the Assyrian Cavalry in reverse gear the Sparabara were able advance to support the 2 Thracian "oh dear, they are just Swordsmen not 2HCW men in this time period" Medium Infantry in what was in theory an oversized but fast moving command converging on the tint force of Assyrian foot in the Plantation.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - moving a block of foot more than 6 units wide costs an additional pip in ADLG. It seems scary, but having a good general should mean you can control 2 decent sized blocks of units reasonably effectively.
Voila! The LH/Light Camelry battle had seen shooting take its' toll on the Persian Javelin LH, leaving a pretty equal matchup in place. Who would blink first?
The Sparabara were pouring bowfire into the Plantation, with the Elite Guardsmen (all dressed in blue) leading the way. With the occasional shot also pinging the rear of the retreating Cavalry the Assyrian General had his hands full to keep both of the formations under his control at full health by spending pips on rallying, making it hard for them to make too many constructive moves. Bonnet de douche!
Mange tout! The Bedouin were in! This looked like a difficult time for the Persian cavalry, as spare pips allowed the Bedouin commander to push one of his Camels past the Persian flank, so they could make a devastating flank attack in their next turn!
Having softened up the Assyrian foot with archery, the Sparabara and Thracians went into the Plantation. Fromage frais!
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Mixed formations shoot as bow, but fight as either Spears or Swordsmen. In combat they count as one quality grade lower than they actually are - so here, the Elite Sparabara count as Ordinary Swordsmen in combat, but as Elite when shooting. Like a lot of these rules, it's simple and obvious.
The Camels had made a right mess of the Persian Cavalry, but in their haste to help out an Assyrian Chariot had unwisely wandered into charge range of the Greek Spearmen, and had been caught out by a flank charge (supported by Greek Psiloi). Creme de la menthe! With 2 Greek Spearmen in frame, there are only 2 left to face off the remaining Chariots, who seem unkeen to engage the Persian heavy Foot now that the Thracians and Sparabara are contesting the plantation on their potential flank.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Assyrians have been drawn into a battle in the plantation where the Persians have greater numbers - and the Greeks are holding off the Chariots who seem to be waiting on the Bedouin to win before they charge home. The Sparabara have intimidated the enemy cavalry and driven them away on the left, starting to inflict some difficult-to-remove cohesion hits with long range fire (You can't rally troops and move them on the same turn, so you always have difficult choices to make when you start to pick up shooting hits - stand still and rally or keep running away).
The Thracians and Sparabara are doing great work in amongst the apple trees of the plantation, and have cut down an Assyrian infantryman on the left and stepped forward (as group of 2 units) after combat to be in a flanking position in their next turn. This looks grim for the Assyrian Infantry, who are also picking up yellow markers. Bain Marie!
Also challenging them in the marker stakes are the Persian Cavalry, using up a number of the newly-recycled 25mm round mdf markers to denote their nearly-screwed status. The Greeks now can see the will soon be holding off a flank rollup attempt by Bedouin Camelry, making the Sparabara's frenzied efforts to chew up the Assyrian foot and get into position to threaten the remaining Chariots all the more urgent.
The Chariots see the writing on the side of the tank next to the table that essentially stands in for a wall when you play in a tank museum, and return to the fray to support their nearly-soon victorious Bedouin allies. Its Greek Spear and Persian Bowfire against charging Assyrian near-obsolete (yet still scary) technology as two sides close
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Assyrians are protecting their chariots from shooting with LF, which they can charge through into combat. The Persians however can shoot LF pretty effectively, and if they take 2 hits the LF are killed, losing just as many attrition points per base as the Chariots themselves!
The Chariots go in, and go straight through some of the Sparabara (greatly helped bv a flanking attack from the last surviving Assyrian infantryman it must be said), but now the Persians will have a chance to strike back, hitting the Assyrian foot in the rear and rolling up the victorious Chariot in the process! On the left the Assyrian Cavalry have decided that they are actually needed, and are taking on the Sparabara left out in the open. Both sides have far too many groups to exercise effective command and control, so difficult decisions need to be made by both Generals on all pip expenditure
Pictures of Assyrians from my Ancients Photo Directory
The Bedouin are also in multiple groups, but they have but one plan - inspired by the many reports of Pirate-based games they send a unit to head for the Persian camp and loot some booty!
The Sparabara are busily mopping up enemy LF whilst the Thracians look to cause grievous bodily harm to the Assyrian infantry.. and the Greek General (included in a unit) is sneaking a sandal past the front edge of the outlying Chariot to threaten their flank, pretty much forcing it to charge home against the other Spearman this turn.
Medium Cavalry may be a bit pants, but Elite Medium Cavalry can still shoot effectively - intercepting the pirate-Bedouins they knock some ccohesion points off them wioth well aimed bowfire.
It's a right mess in the middle, with everyone shouting for assistance from overlaps and flanks louder than everyone else - the Chariots are tough customers, and are standing firm against the onslaught of the Greeks.
How to be louder than everyone else...
The Assyrian cavalry are also finding it hard going against the Sparabara, with overlaps and some shooting damage hampering their attempts to run down the Medium Foot in the open.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Assyrians are are starting to pour forwards across the front as their Camelry on their left flank have now won, and they can see an opportunity to exchange bases and end up ahead, but the centre of the table is now overrun by Persians, creating huge problems for the Assyrian chariotry who are now totally flanked. The Camelry have been blocked from capturing the baggage
The central woodland has become a killing ground, and the battered remnants of the forces who entered are circling each other like punch-drunk heavyweights in the 12th round of an illegal title bout. Both sides are working to push outside of the terrain and start to affect the other parts of the battlefield
The Persians are also spreading their men as thin as a very thin thinig stretched out thinly in a frantic attempt to prevent the Bedouins from capturing their camp or joining in the Assyrian chariotry in the middle.
With almost every unit on the table locked in combat the two sides rack up hits and markers at a staggering rate - a rate so fast that both armies fall to utter defeat in the same turn, for a mutual destruction in the first game of the event!
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 Achaemenid Persian Commander
Well, blow me down with a feather! I assumed that the mere historical fact that my own rather impressive empire had succeeded that of the Assyrians would mean that my army would just be, erm, better than this uncouth opponent - but seemingly this was not the case!
Quite how we lost the army is still a mystery - I thought it was going so well initially, with the Sparabara and Immortals doing great work in the woods, and driving off the cowardly enemy cavalry too. But somehow, the retrograde and rather uncivilized camel riders seem to have a great edge over my brothers and cousins and we were unable to resist their charms for long, opening one edge of my force to ridicule and a case of the definite hump.
The Greeks in their silly effeminate skirts did OK, but one can only imagine how much more effective they could have been if they had accepted my fashion advice and invested in some silk trousers instead? Even so, it was good to get out on table overseas again - lets see what happens next!
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Oh dear, oh dear. New rules, new army, same mistakes. How can a plan work that seems to involve standing still and waiting for your opponents best troops to hit you frontally and with overlaps? For that's what seems to have happened with the chariotry here, isn't it?
And the Camels! Camels beat horse in every set of rules going, due to that pesky -1 for disorder - you have lost in enough rulesets over enough years to know that for sure, but here it went out of your mind. The only safe tactic there was to shoot and run, not stand and die.
The only upside was the good fortune your "I can't believe they aren't 2HCW" Thracians achieved briefly in the woods. This could have easily been a disaster, as if they had not survived as long as they did your Greeks would have been surrounded and crushed far more quickly, leaving your army in tatters apart from some marooned Sparabara and Immortals, staring at the laughing buttocks of enemy horsemen how had no intention of fighting you anyway.
I fear for my own sanity if I have to watch much more of this - at least I can now go and look at some tanks though.... at least that means I will see something good before the next game
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition