Field of Glory Wargaming at Burton Doubles, (Badcon) 2009
Sunday lunchtime saw us drawn magnetically to yet another camp real ale establishment for a Sunday Lunch which defied both logic and economics in its cost and quantity.
As we waddled back to the hall we found ourselves still in hunt for places, but drawn against an Evil Dominate Roman Swarm Army ... a legendary list you can see here
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The Romans hadn't read the script properly, and elected to try and clutter up the table with lots of woods - presumably thinking we would have a few Thracians who could contest less dense terrain against their massed auxilia.
The Romans refused their middle, with a screen of light horse only covering their modesty. A large patch of rough going sat invitingly on the right, with all the other woods either on our baseline or gathered together in a bundle on our left.
The Romans had clearly done their maths and realised that our slow moving 2"per turn in the rough hoplites would be unable to clear rough terrain on our right before their zippy auxilia got into it, and ignoring the paltry threat of our Thracians set up to swing through bad terrain on both our flanks and crush us.
We obligingly refused to play ball, and gathering 3 units of Spartans into three deep columns (getting an extra 1" per turn in the rough going in the process) instigating a race that neither of us could quite see the outcome of.
The luxurious flowing locks of my opponent flowed mesmerizingly across the table, creating a hypnotic effect as for one small moment the sound of distant piano music rose to a crescendo and the Burton Town Hall was transformed into the set of an advert for hair care products.
Jon Thatcher - because you're worth it...
In the center it was looking like Christmas. Well, either that or Dave Handley's 200 year old Santa-Claus dressed Roman light horse (who have also appeared as Chinese, Asiatics, Byzantines.....) were on their way to a fancy dress party.
The Spartiates in their groovy column formation were moving like greased lighting ("Wella Wella Wella HuH!") through the brush much to the consternation of the Roman Auxilia, who were unsettled by the reference to non-Pantene hair products inherent in the Spartan battle cry.
Meanwhile the rest of the Romans waited patiently in the woods for an opportunity to join in either the Christmas- or Tonsorial- themed military activities of the rest of their comrades in arms.
The Spartiates were racing away, and had nearly cleared the rough going - only a lucky shot by some sneaky Huns had managed to disrupt one of the flying columns as they scissored their way through the bush (ooops... don't go there...). The disruption however would have no effect as they were already disordered for the brush (and the effect is not cumulative) and furthermore being still in column they were rolling 2 dice per unit anyway - so no "3rd dice" to lose!!.
In the middle Santa and his merry elves were shooed back up the chimney by a solid line of Greeks as the rest of the army advanced cautiously toward the wood-bound Romans, unsure how they might extract them.
The first clash between Spartans and Auxilia took place just of the edge of the rough going - but the Romans proved to be "Hair Today - Gone Today as Well" as they imploded at impact and were instantly beaten and broken by the flying columns.
One unit of Spartiates ploughed on as their comrades spun to the right to confront yet more pesky auxilia. But the impact was just as traumatic, and like Samson shorn of his locks the Spartans - when finally in the open - staggered and fell like strands of hair drifting to the barbers floor and collapsed to Fragmented against the equally surprised Auxilia !
With Santa and his legions doing little, the action was all on our right as the Roman Cataphracts unwisely swept the hair from their eyes and joined in the melee, charging forward and then stepping into a 2nd unit of Greeks.
But the auxilia were refusing to play ball and stick to the script! They continued to fight back insanely against the Spartans, and in a decisive moment a stray pair of curling tongs impaled the Spartan general in the eye, and he was killed! The Spartiates were now leaderless, and even more astonishingly fragmented and disrupted !
Elsewhere the Christmas lights were being hung across the lower branches of trees at the edge of the Enchanted Forest, and drawn in by the flickering lights (and LF skirmishers in charge range) our hoplites slowly advanced.
The bemused and leaderless Spartans were finally caught as a curtain of rich lustrous dark hair fell across the table and blotted out their life more surely than the myriad arrows of the Persians Empire had ever managed to do !
Taking a lead from their brothers facing and beating the Spartans, Santa's Little Helpers finally achieved the consistency of shooting they had been hoping for and managed to fragment a lone unit of spearmen, allowing the mounted festive Elf cavalry to charge in. The hoplites were still optimistic until they realised that light horse count 2 dice per base against Fragmented enemy - and that their light spear armament even gave them a POA in impact! The Hoplites were quickly pushed down the chimney of cohesion and bundled up and away into the yuletide sack of defeat!
Despite a brave fight, it was not to be and the hoplites eventually cracked and fled, allowing the pursuing light horse an uninterrupted run at our baggage to boot. With the opportunity on our right seemingly in tatters and no real prospect of catching any of the myriad Romans skulking in their Grottos in the forest our will to live was being sapped away..
Also fighting resolutely was the last unit of Spartans, who remorselessly ground down their opponents - whilst hoping that no-one noticed their insecure rear and flanks...
Even the cataphracts were managing to hang on and not lose bases. The Curse of the Dominates was coming home to roost...
Seeking some sort of resolution, our left wing pushed onwards ever closer to the Norwegian Spruce infested woodlands, daring the Romans to come out seeking the ultimate victory that they probably needed to get a placing.... oh, and continuing to charge against orders after the 4 LF slingers with monotonous regularity as well.
As our lines pushed forward, the gaps in them opened up and Santas boys attempted to sneak through, only to be halted in their tracks by some alert Spartiates.
Finally, tiring of the wasteful charges his men were being suckered into the Spartan allied general ordered them to turn around and wait for the enemy to come to them. As drilled troops they could guarantee to turn 180 degrees in any move phase, and as the Romans main battle troops were out of charge range they knew they would have the opportunity to turn about before anyone could contact them. It was also totally safe to present their backs to the Roman slingers, as LF can't charge anyone at all, and our men were no less vulnerable to shooting in the rear than frontally.
Back on the right, and the last embattled unit of Spartiates was finally close to succumbing to the swarm of auxilia, having been hit in the rear at the moment of breaking their frontal opponents.
Doing the maths, the Romans realised they would need to carry a few more units with them to achieve a victory, and - probably also insulted by having the Greeks turn their backs on them in contempt - finally came out of the woods to engage the spear line.
As this happened, the last of the Spartans on our right exploded.... well, almost the last, as some of the units who had routed earlier in the game had by now recovered and were marching back to battle!
Aaah! Things were swinging our way. Like small children waiting for Christmas, the hoplites facing the cataphracts finally got to unwrap their presents and the Cataphracts exploded and broke!
A desperate struggle ensued as the Roman legions charged out of the woods...
The battle rolled back and forth as the Romans in the middle imploded, but the legions fought resolutely.
Even our Thracians were drawn into combat to help protect the flanks of the spear line.... things were swinging back our way - but was it fast enough...?
The middle was almost of academic interest, but the long and the short of it was that the terrain, and the need to fight elsewhere had allowed the Santa Legion of Light Horse to escape ..
The Romans threw their IC into combat to try and shore up the line - but one general down and with the three allied units in play our army had little answer to prevent our spearmen falling to Fragmented.
And with that, the last bound was called, and the game ended. We had pretty much held our own in terms of numbers of units killed, but the far larger number of battle groups in the Roman army meant they ended up running out clear winners on the day.
But it had been far harder than they expected....
Post Match Summary
As Leonidas, King of the Spartans I must take personal responsibility for our defeat here.
It was my loss, early in the game and against the odds that ultimately cost us a victory we richly deserved.
Our forced march in 3 columns through the rough going almost succeeded spectacularly, catching the Romans by surprise and boldly dominating terrain they felt should have been theirs.
Things were dicey, but had I remained alive I could have made all the difference by bolstering the faltering units. However once I was removed the need to keep generals in the middle to protect our men from shooting, and to help beat the Cataphracts as well meant we were - very literally - a big man down.
Even so I feel proud of my boys and what they nearly achieved. At the end of the day we came damn close to the full victory, and one dice roll (of 2 dice) was what cost us in the end.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Well, I suppose in that Spartan way you get the honour of being carried home on your shield, but its always far better to be carried home on the shoulders of your jubilant and victorious warriors as they prepare to feast on the booty of a crushing triumph.
Of course, once - like me - you've done that a few times it starts to get a bit tedious, but its still preferable to an ignominious death.
To say you were close to victory is frankly utterly naive however.
If the Romans on your right hadn't created an opportunity on that flank, you'd have never had even a sniff at the blokes hiding in the woods. They would have just stayed there, and worked their way round your flank as you stood their like a set of skittles.
The light horse this time managed to avoid any chance of being even pushed off table - concentrating superior shooting all game did mean they were always likely to gain a couple of consecutive good shooting results, and to let that lead to a list unit and the loss of your baggage camp shows how thinly stretched your army was against this Abominate Roman monster force.
So, two victories and 2 defeats. Not a disaster, but for the best infantry the world has ever seen - rather weak...
Post Competition Summary
Another good entertaining weekend of games that swung both way (much like a Burton real ale pub).
The big factor seems to be that after a 900 point fest 2 weeks before, this 2nd tilt at a 900 point game was again much more "joined-up" than the 800 AP games in singles comps. Once stuff happened, it had an immediate knock-on effect elsewhere on the table, and we also had a half-decent chance to compile an army list that was capable of - sometimes - pushing light horse off the table.
At 800 ap we would have been forced to either drop the spearmen to protected, drop some generals or lose some units - all of which would have made the army much more vulnerable to both LH-heavy forces and also to the Romans highly maneuverable army.
Having a core of superior troops made a real difference to the competition at Usk, as it gave us a solid backbone that could be shored up by generals before it shattered.
Basing an army on armoured troops however was the most significant improvement, as in this period their armour gave them a +POA (or cancelled one of their enemies ones out) in almost every single shooting and combat interaction in every single game.
Even so, at 900 AP most of our opponents were only playing on 2/3 of the table at best, and we needed some plan to deal with LH - which in other games between our opponents would have been trying to neutralize or beat each other whilst the main action happened elsewhere.
Roll on the next one - although if its 800 AP it will need some thinking about....
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