500BC-500AD at Bournemouth 2021
Saitic Egyptian vs Late Imperial Roman
Remembering that there was a third game on Saturday was both a blessing and a curse. The upside was that it would certainly put the start of evening drinking back a few hours, but the downside was that I ended up being tempted to eat a slice of low-priced pizza to tide me over until after the game was done.
This left it very much in the balance as to whether this would be a great idea or a chance for the Saitic Egyptians to stumble from their surprising perch at the very top of the leaderboard.
Adding both joy and complexity to the third round was a draw against Dave "Is that you from the Podcast?" Saunders - fellow clubmate, and more importantly someone who had played against this self same army a few weeks ago in a list-designing practice game, which the Egyptians had won comprehensively.
This shocking occurrence had led Dave to ditch the idea of using Skythians, meaning that not only would he not be surprised by the tide of wall to wall rubbish in the Egyptian host, but also had chosen a Late Imperial Roman army list which surely had in mind the possibility of playing them again in the actual competition.
The lists for the Saitic Egyptian and Late Imperial Roman 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 Late Imperial Roman army is always locked in a death struggle with the Early Imperial Romans for the title of being the Apogee of Roman-ness. In it's favour is a comprehensive range of troop types, some of the best and most tooled up Legionaries in the game, and the beginnings of the arrival - if you want - of hairy barbarian impetuous Foederate troops.
On the downside it's a bit late for the super-cool Lorica Segmenta armour, and also all of its cool toys do come at a hefty price, meaning that this can be a small, well drilled army that need to pack its punch on a fairly narrow frontage. The cheapening of Medium Swrdsmen has however helped somewhat, as has the introduction of overhead-shooting Integrated artillery in ADLGv4.
Inspired by the spirit of Egypts greatest back specialist The Cairo-practor's sand-infused case of the Cairo Trots, the terrain gods finally coughed me up a waterway to narrow the table
Dave from the Podcast, presumably replete with auxilia protruding from every orifice, scattered a number of fields and plantations liberally across the playing surface in response.
Late Roman Infantryman
The Egyptian deployment was pretty much by now textbook, with the command with 2 Medium spears deployed next to the waterway where the terrain suggested an Auxilia attack, and the allied command again in the middle ready to be triggered in a non-culture-war manner should they be reluctant to fight.
The Romans had stacked up their forces on the waterside with Legions following Auxilia, and then a smaller command of cataphracts and cavalry that just about extended their line to the middle of the table.
This did mean that the Egyptian command with most crappy spearmen in it was facing a load of rough terrain on the non-waterway flank of the table.
As the streets of Alexandria filled with laughter for the festival of Nefertiti's pyramidal-shaped Cleopatran Needle, their plan had been to wait for anything to emerge from the clutter, but it seemed there was nothing there to emerge
As the Romans started their relentless Romanesque advance, it suddenly was time for TACTICS from the Egyptians!
Ahmed Vasouvalaki's Words of Wisdom
See - there are ways of being amazingly clever with this army, which go way beyond the admittedly genius-level approach of just advancing in a long line and waiting for the opposition to capitulate.
This whole "wheeling" thing is strategy of the highest order, and as you can see here it sort of means that I am advancing where the opposition is light and holding back to delay combat where they are better than me.
Which is sort of what warfare is about really.
As many of the men fell under the baleful influence of Egypts greatest back specialist The Cairo-practor's tummy-rot inducing massive golden sarcophagus, the Men of Cairo were seemingly keen to draw at least some of the Romans into battle, advancing in echelon towards the thinning-out end of the line of Legionaries and slipping sideways to try and bring their handful of Armoured Hoplites in the Kyrenean ally into contention for being first to fight.
This simple wheel presented the forces of Rome with a dilemma - they could not ignore the possibility of being outflanked by heavy spearmen on their left, but if they wheeled out to face the advancing Kyreneans the centre of their line would be stretched to a point at which gaps would appear in its very heart - which the spearmen knew all too well.
The Roman Cavalry Ukulele Team already was reeling from being rejected by Coldplay (in favour of the Roman Cavalry Choir) and now found itself with the same challenge as the rest of the army, but in miniature
As they stared out, they realised that the 'never mind the quality, feel the width' approach of the Egyptian and Kyrenean Hoplites would mean they soon woudl need to focus on the possible impact of a +1 for overlap on their combat potential.
Next to the waterside the Auxilia were still advancing, this time in some disappointment that their LBMS shield transfers had been caught out of focus in favour of the striped tea-towel head-dresses of the Egyptian Guard bowmen.
With serried ranks of Saitic forces facing them though, the Auxilia were also acutely conscious of the possibility of being flanked should they charge unsupported at the taunting Egyptian medium spearmen facing them.
Rome Blinked First!
Dave from the Podcast's Legions, clearly as keen as a basket of angry cats to try their quality and superior weaponry against the Kyrenean Hoplites, steamed forward to be the first to initiate combat.
(OK, perhaps keen to start fighting before the cavalry protecting their flank were overwhelmed by hordes of hoplites, but still, they were in)
With everyone's attention focused on the building firestorm in the middle, a cheeky attack from the Egyptian mediocre spearmen suddenly shocked the Romans lone outrider Auxilia unit on the opposite edge of the table
The whole battle line looked on in shock! As if reading the runes at the altar of Cleopatra's almost-a-laxative disasterous campaign against the Hittites, the densely packed spearmen charged into their worst possible terrain against what was on paper about the worst opponent to face in such a location.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - The factors here are amusing
Spearmen start on basic factor of +1, but then suffer a -2 for fighting in terrain. An overlap on either side of the Auxilia brings that up by +2 to end on a net +1.
The Auxilia would normally be at +1 even in terrain, with a further +1 for Impact in the first round.
However the Light Infantry bowman is in frontal contact with their flank, which means the Auxilia cannot claim any first round factors - so their 'Impact' is lost making this a 1:1 combat.
Given the weight of numbers in favour of the Egyptians, and the position this also gives them on the flank of the Roman Cavalry this is a war of attrition they can easily afford to get into.
Back by the waterway the Auxilia have stuttered, realising that they are in a sort of no-mans-land (which is probably doing a great disservice to the farmer and his family of near-identical brothers, cousins and other relatives of all genders, who have no doubt carefully tended the field the Auxilia presently occupy for generations), unable to attack a weak foe before them for fear of being subsequently attacked in the flank.
Both sides archers are shooting furiously to try and tip the odds a little in their favour in this Roman-Egypto Standoff (Like a Mexican standoff but with more flatbread and pizza and less chilli and beans).
The overwhelmed isolated Auxilia on the opposite flank could only dream of being involved in a non-fighting standoff as his morale and cohesion started to flag under either the relentless military prowess of the Egyptian levy spearmen
Alternatively, it might have been out of a fervent wish to avoid the sheer embarrassment of being caught out by such a shambolic bunch of rabble.
How Good Were They?
Finally, next the beach (no doubt by now packed with hung over Love Island wannabe's who have only now woken up from the previous nights revelries in downtown Bournemouth) the Auxilia made their move
They flocked forward*, charging home and scattering the spearmen on the end of the Egyptian line, all the while relying on their second line of archers to move up and protect their flanks from any untoward shenanigans from the Egyptian multitude
*see what I did there? I don't just throw this shit together you know...
Ahmed Vasouvalaki's Words of Wisdom
You may have noticed that the "voice" in this report seems to be all about the Romans - which is fine by me, as my army is here really to be a passive recipient of the Italians attack.
My men are working hard to make it as tricky as possible for the Romans to attack coherently, and once they are committed my guys spring into action to exploit the gaps, overlaps and opportunities that the Romans will almost inevitably have left against my more numerous foe.
It's a bit scary at times, but also kinda a lot more interesting than you might think for driving a wall of crap at the enemy.
With their flanks hanging in the breeze, the Roman cataphracts and cavalry realised they had no real choice but to commit to combat as soon as possible - any delay would only make things worse for them as the Egyptians flooded past them on all sides. The mugging of the lone Auxilia had done little for their self confidence as they attacked stationary spearmen at the trot.
The Legions were the cutting edge of the Roman army, and some of them had already had successfully cut straight through the first line of Saitic spear nonsense following their bold central charge.
The Roman cavalry however had not been so successful, with the Roman embedded Commander being dragged screaming from his horse by mercenary Hoplites to leave a gaping hole next to the legions.
Ginete! This was the sort of tradeoff that the dastardly Egyptians could do all day long, secure in the knowledge that Rome could only trade 1 for 1 until it was time for mid-afternoon Limitless Tea and tiffin.
The Embarrassed Auxilia retired from the field, hoping that the photographs of this shameful sequence of martial failure would be lost in a freak SD-card based accident on a slow trireme back from Rome to Cairo (which Roman agents were even now seeking to engender through a series of well placed bribes amongst the dockworkers union on the Alexandria harbourside).
The Roman Legionary-led attack in the centre had also slowed somewhat, as the thick treacle of Hoplites started to bog down the punchy but small block of Roman soldiery.
With the Romans drawn into attacking the echeloned line of hoplites in a somewhat piecemeal fashion the Kyreanean General had even seen an opportunity to move onto the front foot, taking advantage of one of the many overlap opportunities that now littered the battlefield to an Egyptian eye to take on the end of the Legionary line.
The well-maintained and nicely tended field (In unconnected news I just received a legal letter attached as a pdf to an email from a lawyer representing a Roman tenant farmer, with a long history of succesfully growing food crops in Italy. Who'd thought that Italian libel laws existed in Roman times eh?) was now a scene of insignificant fencing, as the two sides jockeyed for position and engaged in a series of inconclusive small scale skirmishes.
Ahmed Vasouvalaki's Words of Wisdom
OK, it's not a solid line, and my guys don't look like winning over here, but in the greater scheme of things having the Roman Elite and Impact Auxilia bogged down in an area of the battlefield where nothing much now seems likely to happen is a great outcome for me and the rest of the boys from Cairo.
Even if the Romans do achieve a breakthrough here, the pacing of the rest of the game looks to be such that the Romans won't have time to exploit it - whereas my Hoplites are already well into the task of exploiting their advantages elsewhere
Malaka! As the Egyptians started cautiously to contemplate victory, the Roman Cavalry Ukulele team had now been reduced to a barbershop duo, and were frantically scanning through their books of sheet music to see if the Last Post could be played on a small irritating banjo-like instrument.
Well, probably not on horseback for much longer as the Egyptians lapped round all of their flanks and prepared to drag the riders to their spear-point-inspired doom.
Viva La Vida
The "Hold Steady" mess on the Bournemouth (& Poole) beachfront was suddenly tipping into a full on Ybor-City-esque ruck, in which the vast multitude of randomly milling about Egyptians were starting to find positive results.
Kalimera! Mercenary Hoplites, aided by first shooting and then flank support from the Egyptian Guardsmen had managed to knock over a full unit of second string Auxilia on the edge of one of the most well-tended fields ever to see light of day in the beautiful country of Italy, and now were stepping forward into the uneven nonsense of the perfectly aligned ploughing lines to further threaten the Roman archers.
After drinking Egyptian beer that tasted as if it was made from the tears of Nefertiti's sun-tanned foul medames, the more levy-like Egyptians considered if they might now decide to come back into the arena of combat?
The main thrust of Auxilia had not been messing about either though, and had finished off Egypt's Medium Spearmen in short order.
The ghosts of the widely spread out stick carriers looked on mournfully from their wargamers textbook "dead pile in the waterway" location as the Roman Auxilia suddenly realised that their victory had somewhat left them compromised in the face of surging tides of Egyptian spearmen coming at them in all directions.
The Roman Cavalry Ukulele Orchestra was now on the very verge of being reduced to a soloist, as exultant Auxilia-conquering Egyptian Crap spearmen and archers surged out of the plantation and into the centre of the field of battle.
The Roman plan to refuse this flank had come badly unstuck against a massive crowd of about 6 million somewhat disgruntled spear-carrying Egyptians, and even what once had been 2 Roman light horse were now struggling to escape intact from pursuing Elite Egyptian Guard archers to add steadily more points to the Roman's casualty pile.
Rome's own archers were intent on putting up a better fight than the hapless Auxilia on the opposite flank, and held up heroically against the onrushing wall of spears.
Yia Mas! Things were however getting so desperate for Rome that a Full Fat Legionary unit had to be detailed to go and help out - a situation which the men from Cairo could only rejoice at as it inevitably meant less Italiote raw power to contest the centre of the field against the Kyreneans.
Ahmed Vasouvalaki's Words of Wisdom
This is great. It's a right old mess, but that mess involves many of my cheapest units strewn around the terrain like Pyramid-shaped Lego blocks, and the Romans are the ones walking very much barefoot (or at least in thinly soled sandals).
I can afford this sort of tradeoff all day, and I already know the mess will take longer for the Auxilia to clear than the time remaining in the game. The battle will be decided elsewhere while we swap hits over here.
In the middle of the park the Romans had suffered some fatalities, but their greater skill and competence had badly eroded the Kyrenean line in the process.
Inspired by the spirit of Tutankhamun's Mummy's sand-blasted missing eye, the Kyreanean General riding a horse along with his Hoplites continued to hold out manfully against the Red Tide
Everywhere further right of shot then started to get rather medical rather quickly, as the Roman army was broken and snapped into thousands of tiny little Roman pieces.
And, with units scattered across the park in exhausted disarray, the final bell tolled for Rome, as the Egyptians repulsed their advances and claimed a third consecutive victory by eliminating the 22 unit strong Roman force and incurring 24 losses of their own.
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
Yet again my world of exciting genius is triumphant, in a highly effective manner in which I exhibited wild flashes of innovation, huge leaps of intuitive genius, and spectacular moments of unbridled imagination.
And I also managed to pretty much fill the table, advance in a line and fight whatever was in front of my army with a line of spearmen, irrespective of the matchup, the maths or the factors or indeed even the terrain or overall strategic situation on the rest of the table.
Putting all of that aside for a moment, the astonishing wheel my whole army undertook was a thing of unbridled beauty, but was rather too interesting so I very much doubt that I will attempt to do anything so racy again.
Frankly if the game can't be won with just a simple yet brilliant line up edge to edge and advance in a line sort of tactic, I might even give up entirely and go find a different game to play.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Your tedious repetition is starting to make my balls feel swollen, as is your blathering assessment of your own competence in the face of virtually no evidence to that effect.
I would rather shat myself that pretend that I care about your annoyance at having to do something other than advance in a line in order to win the battle set here before you today quite frankly.
Hemar! In all honesty my take is that Dave from the Podcast was still somewhat shellshocked by his prior experience with this army of nonsense, and despite having the right mix of troops and a good initial setup got caught in the headlights and started to make what was an initially excellent plan into one which was far more complex than it needed to be.
The Romans have enough tools in the toolkit to go straight through one of your flanks and refuse the rest of the table, but here for some reason they got drawn into a battle of trying to match your ridiculous width, and allowed their own line of Legionaries to be broken up and suckered into a piecemeal attack which suited you down to the ground. Let's see what happens in the next game. Tah-hathek!
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition