Big Abona - The Roman World at Bristol 2019
Vikings vs Tribal Mongolian
This somewhat artificially cobbled together event title did however subtly lend itself to a theme which tied in with every British wargamer of a certain age's favourite highly accurate Roman themed film rated at a hefty +74% on Rotten Tomatoes, Carry on Cleo, which (after a bit of shenanigans and discussion to accommodate the 25mm oeuvre) ended up as any army, any region as long as it would be valid during the Roman presence in Britain - 55BC-945AD (aka the end of the Romano-British list).
Picking an army for such a period gave me lots of choices, either Late Roman themed (as I have a very Late period Roman army) or some hairy barbarians to recycle my collection of Viking/Scottish/Generic Hairy infantry and Gothic cavalry, all of whom have appeared before in various guises.
But, the one army this eclectic collection of the great unwashed has not yet appeared as so far is as what they (mostly) actually are - The Vikings. As they squeeze in just prior to 945AD, it therefore was decided that the great journey to the South West should be undertaken by the great raiders themselves - and so a Viking Army took to the field.
The Vikings in this guise were set up as a solid foot army with some high quality, "all the toys" infantry guardsmen as the cutting edge (quite literally, with 2HW) to a line of normal close order swordsmen, with a couple of wings of faster moving, harder hitting loose formation warriors. The addition of a Scots ally meant I could field 4 units of Elite Impetuous Swordsmen in the shape of the Viking Beserkers and also the Scottish Attecotti, making the army a bit more dangerous in rough terrain - and a bit more fun to use hopefully too!
With that plan in mind, the first round matchup saw the Vikings face off against the Tribal Mongolians, who had clearly made a keen start to their generational project of world domination to end up in Scandinavia quite so early in history. Either that or they had seen that somewhat disappointing film The 13th Warrior and rationalised that the baddies might well have been metaphorical Tatars.
The lists for the Vikings and Tribal Mongolian from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Bristol can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
In a vague attempt to remain in keeping with the somewhat ham-fisted mashup of Carry On Films and Viking Oral histories, some parts of the following match reports are presented as cobbled together limericks and doggerel verse.
The table was bald, with some helpful terrain
So the Norsemen lined up, intent to cause pain
But the Mongolian's on their steeds
Planned many evil and bad deeds
The winner? They'll need brawn with some brain
There was a great hill on the flank
As the Vikings rushed up it - boy they stank!
These bowmen up a hill
Made the Tatars feel ill
Their Light Horse stopped dead, with a terrible clank!
The solid line of Viking warriors were relentlessly advancing down the centre of the table, Elite Huscarls leading the line with the paper-thin screen of Viking skirmishers busily dodging from side to side in a frantic attempt to catch as many Mongol arrows as possible to save their proper warriors from coming to harm
L'Art de la Guerre hint - LF are reasonably hard to hit with archery with a protection of 1 (especially from skirmisher shooting which starts on a -1) but with only 2 hit points can easily end up being destroyed by a couple of consecutive hits - often before you even have a chance to withdraw them from danger to rally them. Sometimes however its worth taking the risk of leaving an injured LF in place, or even being prepared to let them take that 2nd hit and die, as keeping your main battle troops injury-free for as long as possible (so when they get into combat they fight at full effect) can often be more important.
The Mongols were a right unruly bunch
When off to war they'd even skip lunch!
They'd do poo's from the saddle
And then the heat of the battle,
dried them out, giving them extra crunch!
The Mongols were nowhere near ready to try and take on a fully intact line of Viking heavy foot at this early stage of the battle, and so as the Norsemen advanced steadily forwards the steppe-dwellers in turn fell back in successive waves, rearming with fresh supplies of arrows with which to pepper the advancing shieldwall.
The Vikings were however far wider than the small but high quality Mongol force, allowing the Scots command on the Viking right to speedily advance creating a sort of accidental hogs-head formation with their wing rushing forwards towards the safety of the terrain on this flank.
With the Vikings coherent line forcing the entire Mongol army backwards, even the much-admired command and control capabilities of thte horse warriors was not sufficient to allow them to marshall everyone who needed to retreat.
The Atecotti managed to pin a lone Light Horse against the terrain and charged it maniacally, dragging the shocked mounted archer from his saddle!
Attecotti Figures - Review
The Light Horse were too slow off the blocks
And like a hen coop assailed by a fox
They were panicked and alarmed
When they realised they'd be harmed
By mad Scotti's with bare naked but-tocks!
Up on the opposite flank the line of Viking archers was holding firm against a cloud of skirmishing Mongol horsemen who milled around ineffectually at the foot of the hill on which the Norsemen were perched.
The combination of the greater volume of fire dished out by the Viking foot bowmen, the advantage of height and the presence of the Elite Beserkers supporting their flank meant that the Mongols were being kept firmly at bay and dare not consider charging uphill, even as slower moving Viking infantry started to wheel round and threaten the horsemen's flank.
The inexorable advance of the Vikings had by now left the Mongol tribes with their backs firmly against the wall - or more accurately, against the transverse road that was itself rather too close to the edge of the table for the Mongols liking.
Whilst it was of course somewhat satisfying for the Mongols to be playing their part in a practical demonstration of how Heavy Foot, if given first move and some vaguely well-placed terrain can successfully bring an all mounted army to battle under ADLG rules it was still not quite the waltz round their flank and shred them with shooting outcome they would have ideally preferred to be part of demonstrating
The Khans Guard, they lined up to attack
Well they 'ad to, with nowhere left to fall back
They were their Army's Elite
Not ever knowing defeat
(If this f--kd up they would cop so much flack!)
But the Vikings were in no hurry at all to initiate combat against the Khan's best mounted lancers. With the Huscarls intent on a close quarters staring match against the top echelon of the Mongol Horde, the rest of the decidedly average and pedestrian (but tough) Scandinavian line simply inched forward and started quietly to get into position to threaten the flanks of the Khans bodyguard, driving off more lightly armed horse archers as they advanced.
The buttock-baring Attecotti, fresh from their success against a lone LH were playing a game all of their own as they stormed ahead of the line looking to make mayhem wherever they could find an opportunity.
A wild Scotsman, he'd got to the line
Nude mates alongside, all's just fine
Both warbands had fun
(One showing his bum!)
Those Mongols must have though "It's a Sign!"
Bilious: I'm sorry Caesar but for the good of Rome,you must die!
Julius Caesar : But you're my personal bodyguard
and champion gladiator,
I don't want to die! I may not be a very good
live emperor but I'd be a worse one dead!
The Vikings were now starting to close the door on the Mongol army, with the faster moving Scots troops on the right flank having raced ahead through the terrain faster than the close formation Huscarls and Bondi in the centre.
The Isles and Highlanders now formed up as an aggressive enveloping wing, driving off some of the Mongols' second-string troops whilst the crème of the Mongolian army were transfixed by Huscarls in the centre of the line.
The Viking army was really starting to leverage the advantage it's width gave it, with its supposedly weaker troops on both flanks mostly facing off against Mongol LH as the enemy army lacked sufficient numbers of Heavy cavalry to impose threats all along the front.
Under cover of endless shooting and tight up against yet more Viking Bondi the Vikings had even managed to advance down from the hill, forcing the Light and Medium Cavalry opposition to drop back or risk being shredded by archery.
Armies tee'd themselves up, for a fight
No room on the table, things getting tight
Horsemen soon out of space
Vikings right in their face
For one side, very soon, it's "Goodnight!"
The Viking army had the advantage of shoving a mix of close formation, heavy foot and faster moving hard hitting medium infantry in a solid line, giving it the choice of where to initiate attacks against a smaller Mongol army.
The big difference was the Mongol's lack of resilience, so the Vikings could afford to throw their heavy units into prolonged combats buying time to work the flanks of the rest of the enemy army - and that plan started to be implemented as the axe-swinging men waded into combat against shooting horsemen.
On the left flank the difficult combination of intense bowfire and solid heavy infantry had started to drive back what was a mostly light horse flank screen for the Mongol army, which had no answer for either Viking troop type.
As the Heavy Infantry drove on towards the enemy baggage. Into the gap the linebacker-style Bondi had created suddenly appeared the faster-moving Beserkers, astonishing and frightening the opposition horsemen who had thought that facing off a wall of Huscarls was their main problem today.
There were too many Scots to be counted
The Mongols they were few, but were mounted
But with Jocks round the back
And nudists in attack
The Vikings advantage they sure flaunted
...beware the nuts in May.
(Carry on Cleo)
With both of their wings starting to be overrun it was decision time for the Khan's Guard.
The elite horsemen had been pouring close range archery into the dense ranks of Viking Bondi in front of them for quite some time, and now many of the Norsemen were starting to show signs of wear and tear.
The great horn of Mongolian battle sounded and the padded armoured horsemen steamed into contact against the very centre of the Viking line
How is the Viking Army put together then?
Command 1 - Ordinary Included General
2 Huscarles; Heavy swordsmen 2HW Elite
1 Light infantry; Light infantry javelin Ordinary
3 Viking Bondi Warriors; Heavy swordsmen Ordinary
1 Huscarls (General Included); Heavy swordsmen 2HW Elite
This is the most simple, and single-minded command out of the three in this army. The Vikings game plan is inevitably going to be to form a long line and advance, and this command's job is to sit in the middle and walk forwards acting as an aggressive anvil against which the enemy's best troops should end up beating themselves (hopefully!) to death
The lone Light Foot is one of very few allowed in this army, and it's function is simply to absorb as much enemy shooting as possible in order to help the Heavy Infantry get into combat with as few hits as possible. As such, the Light Foot javelinmen may well even be allowed to die - they will also look to position themselves to maximise the amount of shooting they are absorbing ias every shot they take is one which the Heavy Infantry are not being shot at!
The General is Ordinary and Embedded on the basis that this saves points, and the command is only ever going to advance as a single block one move at a time. Once the command is in combat there is little else for the General to do, so he may as well add his +1 to the combat to make his own unit even more resilient.
The impact was immediate - heavy lancers at speed into exhausted infantry worn down by archers was proving to be a Mongolian Bake-off style Showstopper of a quality not seen since a contestant conjured up a three-tier vol-au-vont mock-Tudor castle with a filling of 3-month horse-trek goats milk churned cheese flavoured with yak sweat.
The line of Vikings picked up multi-hit markers at galloping speed, with some of their units evaporating under the phenomenal slam-dunking impact of the best troopers in the Mongolian army.
Well the Scots had swept Mongols clean away
The last few went down with a great Scots "Wa-Hey!"
With their buttocks tight clenched
The Attecotti weren't benched
But were leading the charge, all in play
The Khans Guard were by now starting to think that they should have waded in sooner - the Vikings were dropping like ninepins as the Guardsmen hacked them down at close range.
Grown men were trembling as if at the mere thought of Styrbjorn the Unsteady's goat-rogering serpent-tongue
Soon the Mongolian elite were starting to burst through into the back end of the Viking army - but even as they emerged blinking into the light the rest of their army was enmeshed in an ongoing battle to be the only crouton in the packet to escape the soup-like clutches of the vast and all-enveloping Scandinavian army.
The Vikings were continuing their drive towards the enemy baggage, putting in place a left wing advance of a type which would not be seen until the early stages of the Russian revolution.
In this particular crypto-Marxist Great Leap Forward however the impedimenta of Mongolian Capitalism which formed their baggage was not the fruit of the toil of an oppressed proletariat but instead had been stolen from a multitude of now-destroyed towns and cities across the great crescent of the Indo-Persian plain.
Even so, the Vikings wanted to pillage it and no-one the Mongols had on this flank was going to stand in their way.
The Khans Guard it had tried to break through
Vikings fell, soon they're knee deep in poo!
But where the Bondi were speared
Yet more Vikings appeared
Reserves giving the Mongols far too much to do.
The Vikings were swarming all over the embattled Mongol army across the full width of the table, and by now the small but high quality Steppe Cavalry army had racked up serious amounts of damage, with each hit dragging them ever closer to defeat. The Scandinavian's rapid initial advance had worn down the enemy and dragged them into a full-on, full-table-width war of attrittion which ultimately the massive hit-point advantage of the Vikings were perfectly geared to take full advantage of.
Adding into the mix the fall of the Mongol baggage tipped the balance even further, and inevitably the Result is a win for the Vikings.
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 Viking Commander
Well, what a super little battle. I'm like, hey, shoo yourselves away you funny little horesey people, and stop pooping on my well manicured viking lawn to be sure, for real like!
It was a tough game at times, but hey, life goes on and I did manage to get it all finished in time to get my nails done, which is lovely
Everyone on table was nicely painted, and that always makes things look pretty as well, and that allowed my men to get close to the enemy and squeeze them off the table
Really they had no answer to the heavyweight blokes that pushed out from Norway, from Sweden and from Denmark to do the Viking business properly.
I'm now looking forward to a like super super fun time for lunch.
I hope we will go to somewhere exotic and chi-chi?
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Honestly I think you were a fortunate bunny here, as your efforts to claim this great victory for your men and their simple minded tactics is overcooking your influence. Really the terrain won this for you, and that is something which you have barely any more control over than through sheer luck itself.
The terrain blocked the Mongols into a corner and neutralized their fantastic advantage in mobility from the off, and then the gentle hill on the other side of the table gave your only loose-formation troops a safe space from which to impose themselves on the all-mounted opponents. Take either of these away and the game may well have been totally different
Even with that advantage you had no real way to win the game unless you could both steal the enemy baggage and also bore the opposition to such a state of stupor through your unimaginative tactics that they giave up and scrificed themselves in some futile charges.
If hills and trees are better than your warriors, and tedium is your main weapon I think this could end up being a long weekend. Lets see if you can get to grips with the next game
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition