Open Theme at The BHGS Challenge 2019
Samurai vs Sicilian Norman
So, with 2 wins, a decent draw and a defeat the places were still all in theory up for grabs for the Samurai as the competition drew to an early afternoon close.
Ideally a mid period or early classical army would be arrayed against the Japanese bowmen to give them a fighting chance of mixing it and wash away the bitter taste of the knightly trampling they had just experienced.
But, this dream was not to be as instead an army absolutely festooned with yet more knights - admittedly some of them Medium rather than Heavy - hove into view in the shape of the Sicilian Normans.
The Normans in Sicily
The lists for the Samurai and Sicilian Norman 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.
Having played this beast in a recent tournament practice game I knew that at 200 points it could dish out a serious number of Knights, so the extra 25 points would probably see at least another couple take to the field.
The terrain had fallen perhaps more kindly than the last game, with a well positioned paddy field dominating the centre of the board into which Samurai bowmen would gleefully scamper right from the starting gun.
The enemy however had more than enough mounted lancers to test the mettle of the Samurai force - a solid wall of Normans on horseback stretched from side to side of the open space on the Samurai right.
The game was inevitably going to need the Close Fighters to again stand up to a knightly charge.
The 2HW armed Heavy Infantry would be tasked with absorbing the initial attacks of the Norman Caballeros with the help of the Wagyu Herd whilst the rest of the Samurai army attempted to repeat the failed tactics of the previous game, but this time with some success and a paddy field for help.
The Sicilians has countless knights - or more than 15 to be precise - a staggering total that gave them a truly frightening block of potency with which to sweep across the other even more open flank practically unopposed.
The suspicious mind conjures its own demons
Samurai scuttled at speed towards the protection of the paddy field, keen to avoid any sort of contact with this second-string but first rate anti-Samurai force.
The Normans had a clear plan - attack like banshees at speed and charge anything in their path.
The fleeing, nay, redeploying Samurai were in serious danger of being caught in the open as the seemingly countless and unstoppable wall of Norman steel and horseflesh bore down on them like a somewhat olive infused tsunami
A samurai should always be prepared for death,
whether his own or someone else's.
The opposite flank was also rapidly approaching a decisive phase, with both sides stepping sideways towards the central paddy field in a frantic effort to secure the best matchups and overlaps for their side.
As the two lines of troops, both seemingly desperate to face each other, got to nostril hair comparing distances the Samurai were reasonably content with their lot.
Yakitori! The Heavy Foot were all facing knights, with the first of the spare Samurai Bowman positioned to overlap (and potentially turn onto the flank) of the enemy when they charged. The Cattle and the Creeping Things had also crept stealthily (for a herd of cows) into position to join in next turn also.
The Cattle and The Creeping Things
On the opposite side the highly mobile and motivated Samurai were shaking out into a position in the paddy field to enfilade the headlong rush of the Norman knights with what they hoped would be telling archery fire.
But, as they sorted themselves out the Normans pounced - detaching a sole unit of nobles to toe-poke the smidge of a Samurai bowmen's base which was hanging out of the terrain piece.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - You can charge enemy poking out of terrain and will fight the whole unit as if it was in the open. You are also never forced to conform a unit into terrain that penalises your unit in combat.
Combat was now joined - the Samurai were unhappy to be caught in the open, but somewhat mollified by the breaking apart of the hitherto solid line of Norman knights.
The Normans in Sicily
The highly drilled Normans suddenly developed reserves of dexterity that had hitherto eluded them, and split into multiple separate units all converging on the Samurai in the terrain piece.
This would be a horrible mess of partial ZOCs and weird flank attack possibilities - but at least most of the Samurai force was still safe in the muddy field, and their Ashigaru and cavalry had bought even more time to also get to relative safety too.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - a unit cannot exert a ZOC in, into or out of terrain that penalises it in melee. Here this means the Samurai bowmen in terrain ZOC the Norman knights outside it, without being ZOCC'ed back in return.
The Normans charged home against the Samurai Close Fighters.
These specialist heavy foot, who's allocated role on the battlefield was to absorb the initial shock of an enemy mounted charge promptly experienced their worst first-round outcomes of the entire weekend, losing every single combat and picking up 9 cohesion losses out of 4 combats at first contact.
The game suddenly had become even harder than it was before.
The Samurai bowmen who had been nibbled in the open were doing far better - they had clearly claimed first dibs on all of the good dice this round and had used that to promptly despatch the enemy knights against seemingly all the odds.
As the Samurai rampaged forward to celebrate their unexpected victory both the rest of the Normans, and the rest of the Samurai command scratched their heads in confusion as both armies tried to work out what to do next to take advantage of this unexpected outcome.
The anvil-like attributes of the Samurai Close Fighters were clearly in abeyance this round, as fully half their number simply evaporated at the earliest possible opportunity leaving a gaping wound in the Samurai line, and a more fatal injury to their only plan to win.
The Normans were also pouring liberal numbers of spare, unengaged Knights into the breach from their ample reserves, causing problems for the Samurai that they even now clearly had insufficient competent units to answer.
Honour may not win power,
but it wins respect.
And respect earns power.
The Normans were both ganging up and thinning out on the other flank as they continued to swirl around the bemused Samurai bowmen and cavalry like a swarm of well drilled horse-mounted mechanical bees.
Everywhere the Samurai looked more knights seemed to be appearing, all of them happy to take on anything and anyone in their path.
The Normans in Sicily
This was turning out to be a day in which nothing was going right for the Samurai whenever they has the misfortune to even get close to an enemy unit with a K in its title.
Even on the far right flank, where the line of Knights had been thinned out by reallocation of horsemen to exploit the gaping centre of the Japanese army, Samurai were fluffing their lines and stoofing up opportunities to display their fighting skills to try and salvage something from this rapidly ending game.
The melee next to the paddy field continued to confuse everyone involved.
Even the Ashigaru were being dragged into thinking that they could contribute constructively to the mess of combats, and some some unfeasible outcomes having already happened, why ever not eh?
Neither side really understood what was happening or how they might find a way out of the confusion. As more and more units were dragged into the fray it seemed that the only way forward would just be to roll a couple of really, really big sponge dice and whoever lost would take off all of their troops from the table.
Slice me some Sushi! Finally on the far right of the Samurai line natural order started to be restored, as open space vacated by the Normans filled up with Japanese sword-waving warriors and horsemen.
But the Normans were even here steadfastly refusing to crumble with anywhere near the rapidity needed by the Samurai to exploit this seemingly advantageous position and develop a concerted counter-attack by rolling up the Normans centre from their left.
If only the Samurai Close Fighters had survived a little longer the Normans may yet have still been pinned in place when this Japanese hammer blow finally arrived.
Suddenly, a moment of quiet reflection as the paddy field somehow took on the countenance of a Japanese zen sand garden.
Both sides looked around, and started to realise that the Samurai may well actually have gained the upper hand on this most unappealing of flanks, recovering their initial position with heroics and confusion in equal measure.
The Samurai always has to rise and move on,
because new challenges will come.
It would have been good if the same were true on the opposite flank.
Here the Samurai were just at the point of launching their roll-up counterpunch when the Normans instead struck first, and struck hard.
With the Samurai centre evaporated in mere moments the Norman knights had had the luxury of time to reorganise themselves as well, and now were restarting their campaign of terror by bringing their lance-led blitzkreig into the Samurai's faces.
Well Hello Kitty! The left flank had pretty much finished up - the Samurai bowmen who clearly knew their task and reputation were in the process of trying to close out their side of the game by mopping up and taking down some of the last couple (couple!!) of Normans with judicious use of multiple overlaps to offset their shortfalls in frontal combat prowess.
The centre of the table was however a fiefdom of Sicily for sure. Knights roamed as free as the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, scaring the Godzilla-obsessed Samurai infantry and Ashigaru witless as they roamed and roared their way unopposed across the open plain.
The Samurai were now fighting a desperate rearguard action to turn their offensive play towards defence
The last turn was hoving into view as the Samurai army collapsed under the weight of casualties the Norman knights had inflicted upon it. Now was the time for do or die heroics, extreme dice rolls and a few chances that needed to be seized with both hands as if a well made katana and then plunged into the enemy heart.
All along the line fanatical charges were launched by the already-dying Samurai... and all along the line these attacks fell sadly short of success.
These Samurai were painted by Lurkio painting service.
The game ended. The enemy right wing had been stemmed in its advance, and the Samurai had made a decent fist of their plan to build a flanking position on their right and exploit it - but the utter and immediate collapse of the Heavy Foot centre and the resulting carnage unleashed by the quickly-successful enemy knights had proved an unfixable hole which even Japanese ingenuity could not patch.
The game ends in defeat
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
This many knights is almost an Arabian Odessey, and the end result of the story is a genie which even the ancient art of origami cannot expect to put back in it's bottle when it comes to the shortfalls of the Samurai army list.
Add to that a plan which worled succesfully in previous games against the best the Serbians could throw at us, but which here collapsed like a Hello Kitty notebook deployed as armour against a mounted warriors longbow and you have a recipe for defeat which even a skilled blowfish chef would struggle to make palettable.
Yet again our painting and overall kwaii manga-style coolness has come up short in the end phase of a competition against an opponent who had our measure and against whom the vagaries of dice punished our extremely small force of highly skilled craftsmen of the military arts
Death is the hardest taskmaster of all, but in learning not to fear it we have instead apparently grown to expect it. The engravers of trophies will need to keep their tools safe for another year before this army spins itself a web of success.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
I can rest easy now, as after a couple of abnormally succesful tournaments which were admittedly starting to tax my not inconsiderable powers of abuse to critique the tactics of a serial victor we have at last resumed normal service with poor play and poor list design combining traditionally to deliver the more usual result.
With this game you also avoided the trap of the NKE games, and managed to make a defeat to a second army in a row to rely mostly on Knights appear quite different in tone. Here your flanking forces of infantry had almost no positive role to play other than continuing a seemingly continuous line across the table which was apparently scrambling to avoid defeat from the first mistake to the last casualty removed from the board.
Looking back at this utterly hopeless game I am in fact inclined to think you did well to just finish second, never mind to have knocked of quite so many of your opponents hits in the process of boosting him up the table and into the medal places
The only thing to come out of this weekend other than the painting (which of course was not yours) is a realisation that your list design is flawed, that your second list was presumably even worse than this one, and the participation of your army in throwing points at two of the three podium placing players.
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