Or - we go to Wales and get into some FoG
Godendag had been a traditional early season curtain riser for the DBM season for many years, and had even contributed a couple of not entirely tacky trophies to the Madaxeman cupboard. However a new year saw a new doubles partnership (not mixed) and a new ruleset under trial. After my previous FoG experience in competition, would Adam and a little more practice and a more stable set of rules be able to help me improve?
We had taken a Carthaginian army to the Rise of Rome period, working on the theory that whilst it might not be that good, at least it had a bit of everything in it, so even if we were run through with the odd Roman gladius, we would at least get a decent run-through of most sections of the rules, and more importantly a wide variety of troop type interactions.
Our army list is available to see here:
After a highly grown up plan of driving down quite late on Friday night to avoid the traffic (instead of taking the afternoon off, arriving around 3pm and proceeding to get totally wasted....) we scoffed down a full English breakfast in the pub-cum-Chinese-restaurant where we were staying and headed off for Richard Boldy -Scrotal's Godedingdangdog 2008.
In the following 4 reports, text set against a blue background refers to how the rules sort of work, and the main body follows the narrative of the battles. Text in yellow is a post match summary
Game 1 saw us unsurprisingly drawn against some Romans.
We had gone for "developed" terrain (there are several possible "sets" of terrain available to each player to choose from, linked to your army's home environment. There's a couple of compulsory items in each, but still lots of choice within each "set") , partly because we had quite a few Medium Infantry (auxilia in DBM terms, LMI & LHI in 6th & 7th, loose formation blokes with pointy sticks in plain English) with which we thought we could dominate the Rough terrain, partly to see what effect terrain had on the game, and partly as I had a new Arab-style dwelling with tower and some nice palm trees that I wanted to deploy in competition.
Our army stretched across the table, with a solid line of spears commanding a small hill, and a large force of looser formation troops ready to push into the village and enclosed fields on our left. The Romans were missing their entire last set of troops to go down (FoG deployment is a speeded up type of alternate deployment, as each side deploys 1/4 of it's total number of units in turn) meaning they either had a flank march - probably on our right - or were ambushing somewhere.
As I struggled manfully to get the white balance right on my new camera the Romans pushed forward a screen of light cavalry, using one of their three generals to give the Numidians a 2nd move (this is one way generals play a part - sort of a cut-down version of DBM or 7th's march moves)
The Roman army was absolutely chock full of legionaries - and we'd been pasted by some in our one and only practice game so we were very nervous of facing them leading us to deploy our main force well back. Our basic plan was to push on the left, and flank the legions as they advanced slowly across the open field towards our position.
The Romans were totally outmatched on our left, and immediately started to withdraw their skirmish line in the face of our overwhelming force or rubbishy skirmishers, like the cowardly dogs they were. Let's hope the legions were equally as testicularly challenged...
As we pushed on, the Roman light horse screen started to feel a little isolated, but even with it covering their advance the main body of legionaries still had a lot of ground to cover to reach our line of spearmen. (armies in FoG are made up of Battle Groups - kinda like "units" with a bit of rebranding and a makeover - made up of 2-12 bases. The Battle Groups move independently, but are more effective when combined and moved in a Battle Line under control of a general, which allows them to do a bit more moving and also gives each unit mutual support in combat from its neighbors. There's nothing preventing you whizzing all of your BGs / units off individually like fireworks, other than the fact that its a bit rubbish and doesn't really work to your advantage in the game - especially for the core combat troops who you expect to do the fighting!) We pushed more skirmishers forward on our right as well to threaten the legions other flank, hoping the presumed flank march would not materialize in time.
But then out of the palm grove, another legion hove into view! The good news was this mean there was no flank march, but the bad news was that we were totally outnumbered on our right flank, and by vastly better troops! (yep, you can do ambushes.)
As our light troops swept into the outskirts of the village, the Roman general abandoned his Numidians to their own devices and rushed back to help command the Spanish mercenaries who, bereft of effective leadership were dithering around behind the town wondering whether to contest the field, or simply to act as linebackers protecting the flanks of the advancing legions.
At last - some combat as the Carthaginian slingers and Numidian light horse rained javelins down on the isolated Roman archers, forcing them to retreat in some disarray. (ooh, skirmishers actually shooting! How innovative - again!!)
As both sides started to get comfortable with the mechanics of the game, the overall battle plan was starting to look quite good as we were delaying the legions advance but had swept through on the left and our own Spanish troops were starting to swing round under the direct supervision of Hannibal himself (less well trained troops find it hard to perform some types of maneuvers. To help them you either need to pass a test using 2xd6, or - if they are a long way from the enemy and so aren't unduly worried about their immediate situation, you just have to put a general with them and they do it anyway) to ready themselves to fall rapaciously on the flanks of the advancing legions.
This picture doesn't really contribute much to the narrative, as it also shows our Spanish & Celtic troops swinging round to the center of the field, however they do look quite colourful, don't they? You can also see our "Inspired Commander" (better commanders cost more points but can do more. its almost rocket science isn't it eh?) Hannibal who we fielded as a 28mm personality figure on a base with 2 x 15mm cavalry, to differentiate the "Inspired" commander from the other sub generals.
On the right, one unit of Numidians was doing its best to hold off three legions, who were hampered by their own skirmishers who seemed eager to engage the Numidians in an exchange of javelins. However they soon realised that as in most rulesets, in FoG heavy foot cannot move through skirmishers, the skirmishers have to fall back through the heavy foot instead - and they retreated to leave the field open for the serious soldiers to clear the Numidians out of the way!
The Romans advanced inexorably, and equally inexorably our left hook swung round (every unit can go forwards every turn, no need to dice to make a basic lurch-forward towards the enemy type-move) and our skirmishers continued to chase and harass the less numerous Romans as they pushed on, sniffing the enticing aroma of a highly sackable Roman camp (yes you can use those nice DBx baggage elements you spent hours making into a mini diorama). The Roman generals brought up their cavalry reserve to their right behind the legions in an attempt to keep our loose formation foot pinned inside the enclosed field - but the Carthaginians too were massing their own cavalry - who would be able to best order their troops through what was fast developing as a multi-unit pile-up on both sides and strike the first blow ?
The view from the Roman left flank as their "just like in that bit in Gladiator where they stage the coup at night" black painted cloaks advance towards our cowardly (and less well trained, armed and armoured) spearmen.
The Romans were suffering from a huge troop log jam, as cavalry and infantry intermingled. The main risk was to the ill-drilled Spanish mercenaries who were attempting to undertake a series of complex maneuvers to try and re-organize themselves to face the threat of the Carthaginians threatening their flank (pay attention - I told you about this earlier. See, they were worried about being close to the enemy so it was a lot harder to make them to remember their parade ground drill this time around). A Roman general again was forced to step in personally, and used the butt-end of his sword to beat the undisciplined rabble into some semblance of military order and save them from being swept away by a devastating flank charge.
With so many units to play with, Hannibal's main concern was wondering what to attack...(there is no advantage for being the person who initiates the charge - the chargers targets are assumed to respond by either standing or countercharging, whatever would be best)
(all the red arrowed points are where contact was made and where combat occured. No geometry, no kinks and angles, any base that can end up touching any enemy base pretty much gets to fight)
Suddenly everything started to happen at once! The Carthaginian cavalry charged forwards (on the right) crashing against a Roman countercharge but still getting in amongst the befuddled Roman Spanish mercenaries - never a good thing for loose formation troops to be the subject of a mounted charge in the open! On the far left, the Roman light infantry had finally run out of table, and had been forced to make a stand against the overwhelming Carthaginian numbers - but, with backs against the wall, they had conjured up some semi-mythical Roman reserves of courage and fortitude, and comprehensively outshot the Carthaginians in the very first exchange of javelins, shattering their morale and cohesion and stopping the entire attack in its tracks! (shooting is only really dangerous if there is a lot of it, but if you get battered your morale stands a risk of slipping a little - not enough to make you turn tail and retreat, but enough to make you think seriously about whether you want to go into what would otherwise have been an equal-odds engagement)
A reverse here would turn the game again - if my light troops were swept away, my own flanking attack would unravel as its own left flank was rolled up by the jubilant Romans. I needed my light infantry to show their mettle!
Well, 11 on the cohesion test to pass it, and 6 for the death roll to avoid losing any bases will just about do I suppose ! (rolling 2 dice for morale, 1 to see if you lose any stands)
Even with the personal encouragement of Hannibal, and with weight of numbers on their side the Carthaginian cavalry were struggling to break down the resolute Roman mounted (Generals help troops they are with fight better, and they are also less likely to lose heart if they are being beaten - rocket science again!)- but whilst the mounted combat raged, the Carthaginians had found room to tee up their barbarian warband for a charge into the now-exposed flank of the legion, who were also being threatened by some spearmen to their front. The Romans Spanish allies were also reeling after surviving the initial charge of the cavalry, as they were then hit by another hammer-blow in the form of a Gallic warband - if they were swept away, it would be bad news for their fellow Spaniards who had gotten bunched up behind them.
This down-the-table shot shows the immense pressure on the left hand edge of the Roman line - but also the inexorable advance of the legions !
Even as the drama unfolded in the middle of the park, a smaller drama was taking place on the left. The Carthaginian skirmishers had held up for a while, but with all the Carthaginian top management busy playing with the big boys toys, there was no-one on hand to steady the nerves of the poor skirmishers, who eventually lost the will to continue to take a pummeling and turned tail and fled (come on, keep up! Troops without a general near them are more likely to bottle it - how intuitive do you want this to be??)! They by rights should have been feasting on Roman supplies of wine, bread and buxom camp followers, but instead I was just grateful they had held on long enough to keep our own flank attack safe.
The Spanish had proved to be the weakest link in the Roman chain, and were rapidly fragmenting as the Gauls hacked their way through them, led by one of the Carthaginian commanders. However a Roman general had taken personal control of the other unit of Spaniards and whipped them into shape and commanded them to turn about so they would not be caught in the flank by the Gauls following up the almost inevitable Spanish rout.
Just in the nick of time the Spanish turned, and the Gauls smashed into their front. (First up a test for maneuvering does sound a bit tedious, however needing to pass a "will we turn about" test in the right spot is actually quite exciting - and it's yet another thing for your generals to do as well. Do they wade in and attach themselves to just one individual unit in combat, or do they help a number of troops pass the maneuver tests to get the army in better shape - or do they whizz around giving out encouraging words and bolstering the morale of those troops who are starting to feel worried. As the game gets messy you only have so many Generals to play with, and they can only do one thing at once and be in one place at a time!) The Roman cavalry were still hanging on valiantly, and their brave resistance had also bought enough time for the legions to reform and prepare to receive the charge of the close-formation warband.
With this, the game time drew to an end after 3 1/4 hours of plenty of maneuver, and then plenty of combat (on my side of the table anyway).
Post Game Analysis
Our plan had worked - to a degree - as the legions had not managed to get into our weaker line of spears (down of course to excellent delaying work by Adam on our right) , however our (well, lets face it, "my") left flank attack had failed to really do justice to its superiority of numbers and its apparent strong position.
Looking back, I suspect this failure to actually use many of the troops despite getting them "close" to the right place was largely down to not fully appreciating just how unwieldy large bodies of troops can prove to be under FoG - no DBM-style "march, contract, expand, march" malarkey to teleport lines of spearmen and auxilia across the board, no single element multiple moves, and and no dropping off odd elements here and there to allow large formations to only send the minimum number of men into a gap in the line. In FoG I we were quickly learning that big formations move like, well, big formations, and without pips to create an imbalance each sides ability to maneuver the enemy moves - and responds - just as quickly as you. This last difference was hitting us (me) quite hard, as under DBM one of my key game tactics was to attack or threaten all along the line as this could often lead to an opponent "wasting" movement points pips to respond to minor threats. As my opponents wasted pips, I had the freedom to exercise more command and control (erm, move more stuff further) in the decisive areas of the field.
NEW - see my new FoG unit status markers available for for download