500BC-500AD at Bournemouth 2021
Saitic Egyptian vs Graeco-Indian
The weekend had started with a lengthy detour around the scenic and well-monied parts of Hampshire, due either to some sort of congestion on the M3 and M27, or possibly a desire on the part of BMW's sat-nav engineering team to support the local economies of multiple off-the-beaten-track service stations in the Romney area.
This of course did mean we sadly ran out of time to visit one of the UK's most surreally dangerous sounding road signs.
What could possibly go wrong...?
But, with that negotiated successfully the dynamic duo of me and Simon LRM stepped out into the warm Bournemouth evening sunshine only to discover we appeared to be the only two people in the whole town not to take our fashion cues from the cast of the latest series of Love Island.
After briefly considering a quick trip back to the hotel to change, we decided that jeans and a t-shirt would just have to do as we munched our way through a vegetarian Greek meal supporting the better end (Elite?) of the Cretan olive oil industry along the way.
That then inevitably led to a brew-pub where things got rather hazy. Unfortunately this was more a case of the bottom-of-the-cask beer than the evening descending into unbridled revelry involving 2 hen parties and an inflatable 30' gorilla, with only a drive-by photo opportunity at the Steve Roper shrine of Taco Bell to enliven the trip home to the hotel
The end result was that breakfast arrived with something of an unwelcome minor hangover. A Full English in the 1812 Restaurant, inevitably.
The event was running at Entoyment, a shop more full of stock that the Stockton on Tees Stockmaster Mr Stock's stockroom. Oh, and in a nod to Englishness, they also sold "unlimited tea" - so that was first up on the order sheet, shortly before a first game for the Saitic Egyptians under their Great Leader Ahmed Vasouvalaki, against Jesse Schoor and his Graeco-Indians.
Saitic Egyptian was perhaps not the most obvious choice, but a combination of having discussed "hoplite" lists in a Madaxeman Podcast, and also having rebased and re-shielded all of my 15mm Greek style hoplites during lockdown meant that I wanted to give a try in a real, 5 game competition to a wall of spearmen, and to see if there was a half-decent army lurking in this much-derided vanilla troop type.
The lists for the Saitic Egyptian and Graeco-Indian from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Bournemouth can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
The Saitic Egyptian is an army which always looks tempting - mainly I suspect because many players have New Kingdom armies which have turned out not to be as effective as they hoped and this list allows some utility for the NKW towel-hatted troops to turn out for another army list. It also has a good if not stellar mix of Armoured Hoplites and cheap Mediocre hoplites too, and best of all 4 Assyrian Heavy Chariots.
Unfortunately in the timeframe of this competition the chariots are not allowed, so I ended up picking it as a Heavy Spear army mostly as a response to a bit of banter on the Podcast and Podcast Whatsapp group in which I received a fair bit of stick for my claim that Mediocre Spear in numbers were a viable troop type.
This, combined with a major rebasing project for all of my hoplites during lockdown meant that this list rose to the top of the pile of choices.
I'd ended up defending, and having failed to take a waterway to narrow the table had dropped a couple of tiny fields and a road down, which Jesse matched with more plantations and a large hill with field which fell in my deployment zone.
Driven forward by fevered dreams of Cleopatra's sun-tanned Sphinxlike Kebab-shop, an almost inevitable deployment choice by the Saitic army saw the Kyrenean Greek ally in the centre, flanked by both spear commands which the Graeco-Indian matched with a heavily lopsided deployment on my right.
A Bit Of Saite History
Taking the opportunity to sneak in a quick photo from the front, here is the full panoply of rebased and re-shielded Greek-style Hoplites together with the outrider units of Egyptian Tea-Towel-Wearing Archers ready to scare the life out of any light horse daft enough to try and sneak round the extended edges of the army.
Just sit back, toss another gyro on the fire, smother yourself in dolmades and marvel at what extreme skill, what excitement, what military genius is on display here from Ahmed and his men as the whole army walks forward steadily in a coherent line filling the table pretty much from edge to edge!
The Egyptian army spread to both flanks, allowing them to hoover up a lone actual genuine Greek ambushing light javelineer who had somehow hoped to be missed as he hid between the palm tree trunks avoiding the risk of death from fallen coconuts.
As the streets of Alexandria filled with laughter for the festival of Emperor Thutmose III's semi-Coptic by now badly bent sarcophagus, even the Mediocre horsemen who were compulsory in the Egyptian army thought they may now have an opponent worthy of their low status here!
Ahmed Vasouvalaki's Words of Wisdom
Ah, my good friend. I see you are already wondering why I am leading what appears to be such a dull and one dimensional army into battle, in what is surely a game where a flow chart could lead these men forward in a solid line from edge to edge of the playing surface just as well as I?
I think you are indeed missing the point here, and have failed to realise my incredible genius in selecting such a fascinating and eclectric force made up of men with spears, spearmen, spear-carrying close formation warriors, hoplites, and sarissa-armed proto peltasts.
There is much more to this army than meets the eye, and much more to flummox an unwary opponent. Let me explain my genius to you over the coming pages ...
On the opposite side of the table the Indian component of the Graeco-Indian army, presumably narked that we'd not gone for a curry the previous night, had stepped sharply forward and were even now beginning to rain showers of arrows onto the oncoming Hoplites and Nile-dwelling bowmen approaching them.
Grab an egg and shave it! In moments there were more hit markers on the table than wargamers already rethinking their list design in the Entoyment gaming space.
This would make closing in on the newly-cheapened Indian mixed bow/sword units rather more tricky than originally intended!
The Saitic army had one wing that was rather poorer quality than the other.
This block of 4 Egyptian Marine spearmen are all Mediocre quality, but are facing only a couple of Indian cavalry who are there to extend the Graeco-Indian line and prevent the laughably inept possibility of a sweeping outflanking move by the hefty pedestrians in the Egyptian army
The lone unit of Greek javelineers was proving much harder to dislodge than it had any real right to
Using all of their skills in fieldcraft, topiary and general garden labouring for the Pharohs over the ages, they were succesfully able to conceal themselves in the most meagre of vegetational cover in this desert-infused kingdom.
This set of very unique skills allowed them to stand up with utter impunity to all of Egypt's bowmen (even the red-hatted Guardsmen!) by making excellent use of the protection afforded by the closely -packed palm tree trunks.
The extreme ends of the Egyptian army were where the squishier bits were to be found.
Irritatingly it appeared than an Indian Elephant had equipped itself with a squishy-bit equivalent of a metal detector, and was making its own way out to the far edge of the field to try and make a run at the Medium Spearmen and (by now) rather badly injured bowmen who extended the Egyptian right wing.
What in most circumstances would count as a Mahoosive Phalanx of 4 Phalanx blocks was steaming down the middle of the table as the cutting edge of the Greek contribution to the Indo-Greek alliance..
Heads covered by tea-towels bearing the imprint of Nefertiti's pyramidal-shaped goat-scrotum, the Egyptian army however appeared (somewhat unfortunately if you were a Successor Pikeman) easily able to match this with a line of Heavy Spearmen some 16 units across, with many of the armoured Kyreneans in prime Phalanx-blocking positions in the heart of the line
With the Graceco-Indians still taking off their sandals to count up the full number of hoplites making up the width of the Saitic Egyptian line, the desert-dwellers stepped sharply forward to engage the Phalanx as the opportunity to generate an overlap was now in their grasp.
At the same time the somewhat isolated enemy elephants had wandered into range of the Egyptian line, and a couple of Nubian skirmishers raced forward hurling javelins and forcing the Greeks to ask their Indian light bowmen to stand in line.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - A real dilemma for the Elephants here. They have been using a textbook screen of 2 Light Infantry bowmen to cover the front of the elephants and protect them from shooting, but the 2 Nubian LI javelineers have called their bluff and charged, encouraged by the presence of many supporting spearmen on either flank and behind them.
If the light bowmen stand, they will be fighting some 2 factors down (+1 for javelin, +1 for an overlap) - but if they evade the Nubians will simply attack the elephants at a net +1 instead (+1 javelin, +1 overlap vs +1 Impact and a basic factor of zero against LI for the elephant).
On the end of the line Egypt's finest tea-towel-wearing regiments of bowmen (Royal Guard in Red & White, Mediocre Bowmen in Yellow and Blue) had by now given up the rather frustrating task of pouring arrows into a palm tree plantation and missing a javelin-armed skirmisher, and instead joined the end of the rather haphazard spear line to put some long range pressure on the odds and sods of the Indian contingent in the Graeco-Bactrian army.
The Indian's hope to be playing the role of a diversionary force who daringly escape unscathed at the end of the battle was starting to recede rapidly, as a wall of poor quality but stodgy nonsense ambled carefully towards them
Inspired by the spirit of the Great Pyramid of Cheops' Pharoh-cursed pharonic head dress, the Nubian skirmishers had done pretty much all they could to sort out a decent attack on the thin film of light bowmen covering the enemy elephants
Sadly however, even they could not guarantee victory against what was apparently still some remnant 6th Edition Indian foot armed with 2HCW. The bowmen stood firm, flummoxing both sides as to what to do next!
Ahmed Vasouvalaki's Words of Wisdom
As you can now see, the width of my line and the sheer numbers of troops has engineered me some handy overlaps against these rather isolated and unsupported pachyderms, and I can happily hurl the Nubian infantry into battle secure in the knowledge that if they win I have neutralized a powerful part of the enemy army, and if they lose I've still delayed the elephants hitting the spear line (and possibly skittling it over) for an extra turn or so.
In that time my very wide army will carry on pushing past the exposed flanks of the enemy by dint of a simple advance.
See, my Genius knows no bounds!
After drinking Egyptian beer that tasted as if it was made from the tears of the Egyptian Mummy's pyramidal-shaped massive golden sarcophagus, the real shwarma-meat and two palm hearts of the battle was however now in full swing, as the pike-tastic Phalangites tried to demonstrate their historical superiority over the rather shorter-speared Kyrenean mercenary hoplites.
Unfortunately for the Phalanx, there were only 4 of them and rather more hoplites, meaning that the Indian mixed bow/sword formations were also pressed into service as actual combat troops in a battle in which not every matchup was Mediocre vs Mediocre
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Mixed Bow/Sword units shoot as normal bowmen, but fight as Mediocre Swordsmen. In v4 they have become a point cheaper, along with all Medium Sword units, making them considerably better value.
It does not however make them better fighters, and in this matchup almost all of them are facing better quality non-Mediocre spearmen, who also have greater overall resilience and cohesion, being 4-hit units compared to the mixed formations 3 hits.
Pierce my nose! Out on the extreme right of the line of hoplitic madness, the resilience of the Saiatic army had finally petered out with bowmen and medium Egyptian spearmen left holding the responsibility of extending the line.
The Indian component's use of swordsmen, elephants and mixed formations of bow/swordsmen was far more clever here, and the Cairo-ese forces soon found themselves under a pretty serious assault as the Indians stacked one end of the line and powered forward.
Ahmed Vasouvalaki's Words of Wisdom
This is a rather unfortunate development, as my opponent has unsportingly worked out that my army is a big long line of nonsense and concentrated his forces at one end of my line in an attempt to make sure his better quality outmatches my reliance on quantity.
Quite how any opponent could work out such a stunningly innovative military tactic is beyond me, but perhaps that is more down to the amount of shisha I have imbibed, and in reality he's just read pretty much any book on strategy ever written?
As the push and shove of pike and spear continued in the middle, the Greek Phalanx was slowly gaining the upper hand against the Kyreneans.
The Indians however were faring far less well, as the press of bodies in the dense Egyptian and Mercenary spearmen formations rolled inexorably forward to overwhelm the somewhat half-hearted martial efforts of the mixed bow formations.
Markers sprouted everywhere behind the Indians, and gaps appeared in their line, signalling an imminent collapse in their resistance much to the annoyance of the Phalanx.
Ginete! The supposedly clever tactic of transfixing the elephant's skirmish screen with Nubian infantry was still sort of paying off, as the Indian 6th Edition Remnant bowmen continued to put up a superhuman resistance against all odds.
The elephants had gotten bored with waiting for something to happen in front of them, and started to launch themselves at the line of spearmen seeking to create a decisive breakthrough.
As many of the men fell under the baleful influence of Egypts greatest back specialist The Cairo-practor's sun-tanned missing eye, the Kyreneans had been holding up manfully against the dangerous Phalanx, but maths was always a strong point of the Greeks, and they still knew that a base factor of +2 for Pikemen was better than a base factor of +1 for Hoplites - even with the saving grace of the +1 if you lose benefit of the Hoplites armour.
The pike ground onward relentlessly, and eventually the Kyrenean general succumbed to a well-placed 20-foot-pole to fall in battle leaving his troops rudderless but already locked on course in combat.
Malaka! With a Greek light infantryman still left no doubt in the nearby plantation the tide of Egyptian poor quality spearmen on the Egyptian left was still advancing relentlessly on the diversionary Indian wing.
As many of the men fell under the baleful influence of Cleopatra's Priest-cursed hidden trapdoor, Elite Egyptian Archers poured shot after shot into the huddled masses of Indian pedestrians as their cavalry fenced to keep the Egyptians at bay.
Kalimera! The Graeco-Indian left was where their punch was concentrated, and where the Egyptian line was thinnest. In a development that would surprise only the mathematically phobic the Indians were fast overrunning the half-hearted line of bowmen and medium spears.
Things had gotten so desperate for the Pyramid-owning army that their near-legendary and universally acknowledged symbol of military panic in the face of imminent disaster had been seen
Yes, the Mediocre Cavalry of the Saitic Army were appearing in a photo in the line of battle. Yia Mas!
But with the main line of mixed bow/sword Indian infantry crumbling under the relentless pressure of a wall of Hoplites, suddenly the outflanking Indians were themselves outflanked as Hoplites joined the fray fresh from their victories in the centre.
Crazed swordsmen and clubmen had broken through the Egyptian line, but the edges of the Indian schwerpunkt were themselves imploding under weight of numbers of Egyptian men and horses (I wrote it on my old shoes)
The opposite flank was also turning out to be a story of quantity and quality. As if possessed by the long-dead soul of the great Egyptian Chef, Gordon Ramesses's Priest-cursed missing eye, the Egyptians having both in their favour as the isolated backstop of Indian infantry ran out of time and management capability to get away from the approaching wall of spears.
How Hoplites Worked
With the Kyrenean mercenary force in the centre now totally wiped out, but with the Indian's line of Mixed Bow/Sword units also utterly overrun both sides had been teetering on the edge of defeat for some time - but with the Indian elephant on their left succumbing to the extra width afforded by Egypts Crap Cavalry force, the game was won for Cairo at the death!
The Result is a victory for Egypt, although with a huge pile of 25 points of losses (more than the size of the entire Graeco-Indian army) along the way!
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 Saitic Egyptian Commander
Well, why are you looking so surprised? I am a genius, and I have a 100% record of winning games in competitions and socially (apart from the games I have lost - although to be fair I tend not to blog about those so you may not of heard of them, rare as they are)
The clever design of my army with it's entire force made up of one troop type, combined with the fascinating and mesmerising excitement of lining up all of my men Greek shoulder to Egyptian shoulder and asking them to walk forward in a vaguely coherent line is something which it impossible to counter, unless you attempt to do what my opponent did here and concentrate on one end of the line and refuse the opposite flank.
But sometimes even that doesn't work, which is down to my genius and in no way attributable to a perhaps over-enthusiastic commitment of the Indian mixed bowmen to combat at all. No, really, not that.
I will now retire to write up the battle for my eager public and post it on many forms of social media
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Kol Khara! You fool, you idiot, you dolmades-stuffed imbecile. I cannot believe that I have been forced to sit though such a lacklustre display of non-genius that passes for a battle
Ibn al Kalb! You wish to claim to be a military genius? I would not write that on my balls you pile of camel-dung infused incompetence in a teatowel headdress!
The only clever thing I can see in your army design is the sheer unusual nonsense of it, which certainly catches the unwary out as their minds boggle at what sort of toxic tactic can be behind such a line of utter tosh. This however is a one-time trick, and in any subsequent game I am sure that the simple response of concentrating on one end of your line of nonsense with good quality troops will pay off hansomely
Your heart is disturbed and your senses scattered, so let us if news of your monodimensional army, monodimensional tactics, and - I have no doubt - monobrow intellect has permeated the rest of the field in time for the next game
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition