Open Theme at The BHGS Challenge 2019
Samurai vs French Ordonnance
And that's a wrap... or more accurately a saving on breakfast due to still digesting the rather substantial curry from Saturday night. Yes even with a lie-in because of the 10am start for ADLG at The Challenge on Sunday morning the mooted excesses of a dull Champions League final had left team Central London refreshed and raring to go in the final two rounds of this epic event.
Arriving fresh and not especially early at the NEC saw the Samurai matched up against a proper test of honour - the French Ordonnance, an army festooned by Knights which represent one of the most tricky troop types for the mostly medium, crossbow and longbow free archer of Japan to engage and defeat.
The lists for the Samurai and French Ordonnance from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at the BHGS Challenge can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
The battle got off to a not especially good start, with all of the uneven, knight-unfriendly terrain the Samurai General had picked ending up either on the opponent's side of the table or even worse, removed entirely.
Only a gentle hill nestled on the side occupied by the Japanese army, and even that was well positioned for the French to rush and take it early doors
The French were expected to bring lots of Knights, and they had not disappointed in that respect with a very punchy set of three commands all running 3-4 of the fully armoured variety of chivalrous horsemen.
This was enough to pretty much fill the open part of the table, and forced the Samurai into contemplating a ridiculously heroic plan to try and use a combination of solid infantry and fast shooting to halt the Knights, combined with a quick run into the French rear areas to try and mug their support troops.
Admittedly the "quick run" wasn't envisaged to be quite as quick as this picture might suggest, but with the French having separated their knights into two disparate blocks there seemed to be a possibility to mug at least one of the two formations by a rapid advance and envelopment.
Honestly, what could possibly go wrong...?
If you are unaware that the world is teeming
with ineptitude from the beginning,
you will develop a bitter countenance,
and in turn others will eschew you
And here, next to the Castle Wall, was that opportunity. With the French extending out from the centre with a line of infantry archers the Samurai quickly saw that they had a chance.
The use of a field-free hill had even tempted the French light cavalry wing to invest pips in moving forward to occupy a hilltop position which frankly was rendered somewhat precarious by the fast attack of the Samurai infantry and horse.
These Samurai were painted by Lurkio painting service.
Archery, close fighters and an as-yet unwarranted reliance on the effectiveness of the herd of stampeding Wagyu cattle formed what laughingly passed as a plan on the opposite flank.
Here the main body of Samurai cavalry had also been pressed into service to provide additional shooting (and skirmishing) support as the Japanese Emperor commanded his men to try and knock a point or so off as many French Noblemen as they could before the inevitable close quarters combat ended up happening in the ground of the garlic-eaters choosing.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Knights vs Samurai archer foot is not pretty. At Impact the Knights are on +2 (+1 base factor vs MF, +1 for Impact) with the Samurai on zero (MF swordsmen vs Knights). The mitigating "archery support" factor also doesn't apply if the Samurai lose because the Knights here have Heavy Armour.
The hope of the Samurai - to shoot a hit point off the Knights before combat, and to then to engage as many of them with HI (who would fight an injured Knight at evens at first contact) and try and eke out some overlaps too is pretty flakey, but with a billiard table for their own table side it's almost as good as it can get.
At the last minute, having read the tactical tips immediately above this photo, the Samurai blinked and quickly cooked up a different plan. This saw the Close Fighters sent forward to hopefully be resilient hard-to-kill, slow-to-break blockers against the pointy bit of the Knightly charge, aided by the herd of cows.
The supporting cast of bowmen scuttled furiously behind their more solid colleagues, racing to provide overlaps or a hopefully unneeded second line of reserves as the extremity of the Samurai line continued to try to make pace towards the French bowmen in the unfamiliar territory of the paddy field on the edge of the table.
Yakitori! On the opposite wing a similar plan was being executed - but with a somewhat less significant number of Close Fighters (erm...one) being tasked with occupying the force of Knights as the rest of the Samurai raced at the line of French shooters, katanas waving in the air and funny little back banner sashimono's fluttering wildly as they went.
The French Knights did what they do best - the charged forward heroically and beautifully, battle flags unfurled and lances couched.
The Samurai cavalry wisely chose to run away, but the Frenchmen charging at them rolled long, extending their charge and slamming into the surprised, and supposedly reserve blocks of Samurai bowmen behind - a catastrophic development!
This now left the decisive act of resistance to the well drilled and well prepared Close Fighters. These men had stood shoulder to shoulder in the previous game and successfully resisted the worst the Serbian Knights of the Ottomans could throw at them whilst the rest of their army ground out a victory - they knew their role, and they were ready to fulfil it to the letter.
Well Hello Kitty! The initial assault of the Knights was strong, but so was the resistance of the Samurai. The unprepared bowmen mounted a hasty and fierce defence, but even this was not enough to save them from a 2-hit first round loss - a similar fate being suffered by one of the three units of Close Fighters as well.
This could have gone better, but it also could have gone much worse - the samurai were still in the game even though their plan was starting to need some serious on-the-fly reshaping.
Seeing that their infantry had done a fairly decent job of blunting the initial French assault, the Samurai horsemen stepped forward smartly and unleashed a volley of close range archery into the exposed end of the line of Knights.
With the French supporting troops now engaged by Samurai and Ashigaru in the paddy field the prospect of holding the French knights in place long enough to execute a flanking envelopment suddenly seemed possible!
Slice me some Sushi! The opposite flank was not exactly going to plan.
In a shooting match the Samurai expected to win they had instead come off much the worst, leaving themselves badly damaged to a degree which cast into question their ability to overrun the combination of Longbowmen, Crossbow armed mercenaries and mercenary Halberdiers in the French right flank command with their skilled swordplay and disciplined aggression.
Now, to add sharp edged insult to archery inflicted injury those same Halberdiers had stolen the Samurai playbook in its entirety and raced forward to engage the already-bloodied Japanese archer/swordsmen at close quarters.
The soft underbelly of the French army was proving far more resilient than it should to Samurai shoot-and-sword tactics.
The sword has to be more than a simple weapon,
it has to be an answer to life's questions
(Miyamoto Musashi, A Book of Five Rings)
The Close Fighters, having withstood the initial assault of the French Nobility were also expecting the fight to turn in their 2HW-armed direction as their supporting Ashigaru moved up and the battle turned to the sort of brutal and ugly close range back alley fisticuffs that they specialized and revelled in.
But these French Knights were streetfighters as well as aristocrats - as the battle prolonged towards lunchtime the French, not the Samurai were the ones slowly gaining the upper hand.
In response barely a blow had landed on the red wine connoisseurs despite the sake-drinkers best efforts.
Suddenly a whole new world of problems arrived at high speed to further dampen the Samurai hopes and spirits in this vital 4th round match.
Having swept away the Samurai who were supposed to hold them up, the Knights of the French right flank were now rampantly joining in the combats of their colleagues on the Gauche flank - not a development the Samurai bowmen relished, and certainly not one the Ashigaru had expected to have to deal with either.
The three blocks of French Knights confidence was growing moment by moment as they drove forwards relentlessly, winning combats and charging home against fresh enemies.
With table fast running out and the rest of their army sliding seemingly inexorably towards its break point the mounted Samurai Nobles decided that the best thing they could do was to take on the seemingly uneven fight against yet more Knights in the hope that they could at least inflict some more casualties on the enemy forces before they were forced to abandon the field.
This plan, put simply, failed to work at all as the still-fresh Frenchmen slammed into, over and through the line of Samurai horsemen in very short order, leaving a trail of wreckage and body hair in their wake.
There is even rhythm in being empty.
(Miyamoto Musashi, A Book of Five Rings)
Nothing was working for the Samurai here - even their assault on the French reserve infantry had yet to resolve in their favour.
With the French mercenary halberdiers cutting a deadly swathe through any Samurai infantry they could find, the opposite flank was also slipping away fast from the men from Japan.
With casualties mounting the Samurai horsemen piled into the fray, attempting Commander-led heroics against the resilient and effective French infantry in a vain attempt to ratchet up a few more hit points in their favour
As the battle slipped towards its conclusion, empty space vacated by dying Samurai became a theatre of opportunity for isolated acts of pride-salvaging heroism as penny packets of surviving Samurai warriors sought to eke out what advantages they could from a rapidly deteriorating situation.
But everywhere the Samurai saw opportunity the French in return saw a chance to demonstrate their martial prowess, shrugging off the increasingly fanatical Samurai attacks with aplomb and ease.
Every now and then a small moment of glory would float to the top of the highly complex, electrically powered, seat-heated, water-jetted toilet bowl of the current Samurai military predicament.
Here a mad dash led by a Samurai commander has finally skittled over some French archers - troops who by rights the pedestrian Samurai should have put to bed a long time ago.
Finally, fittingly perhaps, the line of most resistance - the Samurai close-fighting Heavy Infantry - simply gave up the ghost and evaporated in a puff of sushi-flavoured vaping smoke.
The 9 French Knights, almost without support or suffering any damage, had triumphed against Japan's Chrysanthemum Warriors, perhaps highlighting in the process a somewhat fatal flaw in the strategy for using the Samurai in a competition into which such troops are allowed?
In the world of old memories,
there's room for visitors
(Nobuhiro Watsuki, Rurouni Kenshin)
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 Samurai Commander
One night can make a date, but 9 of them is a relationship from which it may prove difficult to extract oneself with your honour intact, and what happened here was very much a development of that theory to the point of requiring grounds for divorce.
I had in all honestly hoped for a few more of those araby Mongol type armies amongst my opponents this weekend, and at least the Serbians were close to being of that ilk through their Ottoman overords. These Frenchmen were however a different beast, and unfastening such meaty warriors from their tins is a task which even a Samurai may struggle at without the right set of implements.
Whether on a different day we would have experienced a different outcome is another discussion entirely, but for now our isolated isles have shown a lack of development fuelled by competition with the Occidental powers of Europe that is somewhat troubling given our possible future as a colonial trading outpost. Dance with the devils and you may find youselves soon on the horns of a dilemma.
At least we have this one out of the way now, so the chance of further knightly emissions is reduced through statistics. If the gods favour us we will be returning to victory not revisiting life in the closed drawer of unused armies in no time at all.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Aaah, you noodle slurping ignoramus - in planning a list to take on your last opponent I falsely assumed you may have a second choice list hidden away which would be a better match for a more knightly-led enemy. But if such a list exists you clearly have it tucked away somewhere safe, and if it doesn't one must wonder what on earth you were thinking of when you conjured up a second version that was not better equipped to deal with a wall of knights than this small set of Heavy Infantry?
Anticipating your opponents actions usually proves difficult enough for you, but anticipating facing at least one knight heavy army in a 5 round medieval themed event is as rich a feat of bad planning as failing to anticipate that the fish you have ordered might just come uncooked in a Japanese restaurant.
Admittedly it did also seem as if your shoot and charge tactics against the outer extremities of the opposition army were falling some way short of the mark in the luck stakes in this game, but the only luck I really saw here was your opponent being fortunate enough to come up against an opponent who had failed to build his army to very, very quickly win on the flanks by application of overwhelming force rather than anything which would be attributable to dice alone.
Your list has beaten one army which appears to have relied on too few knights, and had been smashed by an army with just enough. If you are intent on recreating the story of Goldilocks and the 3 Bears, let's hope that you have the story out of sequence and you do not find the number of knights in your final opponents army this weekend is too hot to handle in the final game
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition