Big Abona - The Roman World at Bristol 2019
Vikings vs Early Imperial Roman
A textbook summer Bristolian night followed the events of the day before. Beers in the West Country (ish) sunshine, more beers, some craft beers, and a top drawer curry all were consumed before staggering into the slumber of the virtuous Vikings ready for a very civilized mid morning start to the second day's festivities of Big Abona 2019.
The lists for the Vikings and Early Imperial Roman 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.
And much as the night ticked all the right boxes, so did my opponent's army for Day 2 with a proper EIR army, replete with the near-mandatory Inferior elephant, a solid core of square-shielded legionaries and (just to ring the changes) an ally of maniacally charging warband who surprised everyone including probably themselves by appearing on the left flank of an opponent who was squished between and in the terrain scattered across the field of battle.
The Viking deployment had fallen into the lazy and obvious trap of being matched up against the terrain rather than second guessing the enemy, but with one command of Medium foot and a huge blob of uneven and rough fields and vineyards on one flank of a gaping open space perhaps the choices were not so easy to innovate a way through?
Making things even more challenging, the Scots ally promptly started the battle with a porridge-defying "1" to render his entire command immobile and impotent.
The Viking army was now somewhat bereft of options to launch an attack with its entire rough terrain force unwilling to participate or advance.
But these men were Vikings - so they had no compulsions or lack of self belief to hold themselves back, even with the entire centre of their army standing stationary and uncommitted.
The solid block of Heavy Foot deployed on the extreme left had no opposition, so they promptly marched at full speed towards the end of the Roman line.
Romans cavalry stopped their Coldplay-inspired choristry and galloped across to confront the wall of hairy and somewhat smelly Scandinavians.
Morale was now at the bottom of Frigg's tattooed smorgasbord!
Elsewhere the other viable and committed Viking command was inching it's way forward, torn between the wish to get into axe-waving territory and a vaguely tactical hope that the Romans would simply rush forward and move close enough to the Scots to compel them to commit to battle.
This was a standoff between some of the most powerful units on the table, but with solid foot potentially facing off against bog-standard Roman cavalry on the other flank this was an area of the board that the Scandinavians could well afford to wait to develop.
The Romans however were wise to such obvious trickery. Turning their well-drilled (but not musket-armed) auxilia militia around they started to reinforce the hill on their left - presumably in the hope the Scots would remain uncommitted for a little while longer.
Kilt-wearing skirmishers yelled impotently to taunt the Auxilia into an unwise attack to no avail.
How is the Viking Army put together then?
Command 3 - Scots Ally, Competent
4 Scots Warriors; Medium swordsmen
2 Attecotti; Medium swordsmen impetuous Elite
1 Light infantryman; Light infantry javelin
This command is really there to boost the number of Elite Impetuous Swordsmen in the army up to 4, giving a dangerous force that can have a proper go at enemy infantry in the open as well as dominating the rough. It is tricky to drop into the centre (where it wants to be in order to be triggered by an enemy advance) but in conjunction with the second command and it's Beserkers and Bowmen the ary then has a 10-base-wide rough terrain force to reckon with.
More HI Vikings would have given more resilience, but trading width for solidity the addition of the Scots makes the whole army more entertaining to use and leaves more tactical options on the table after deplyment.
Mwahahah! Seeing their opponents treating them with such disrespect had riled the Irn-bru-filled Highland warriors to a point of high excitement, and in response they concentrated hard and in unison to cause their next Command dice to roll a command-revitalizing "6", triggering them back to life.
That exposed flank of the Auxilia was now a risk rather than a consequence-free-consequence of their attempted redeployment, and suddenly the whole game was again up in the air for both Rome and Scandinavia.
The Vikings had by now achieved a cresting of the hillock, and with a line that extended far to the unoccupied Roman-free extremes of the table were moving forward in a stately fashion more befitting an Italiote Victory Parade than the attack of a bunch of helmet-drinking pagan axe-swingers.
With the hill already almost taken, and the much smaller Roman army committed to contesting it as well, the rapid advance of the Scots suddenly converted itself into a wheel towards a now-exposed flank of the main part of the Roman line.
Legions, their flanks hanging in the air like a formation of togas on a Lazio washing line, flapping in a stiff breeze suddenly started to quaver, their knees knocking together loud enough to hear all the way across the room
The Romans needed to shore up their Legionaries flanks at all costs from the ravaging Viking horde now descending upon them - and the only troops to hand were the textbook somewhat sub-standard Cavalry regiments.
Grabbing fistfuls of horseflesh and riders the Roman commander frantically jammed them into the gap as if he were a small Dutch boy shoring up a dribbling dyke with a well-placed finger.
The Romans had advantage of ground, but the Vikings had width, and they were committed to using it to the max.
The faster-moving components of their lengthy formation swung round with their extended strides, and got in an ideal position to begin to pour arrow after arrow onto the unprotected (sorry, this isn't 6th edition anymore..) flanks of the enemy cavalry. The trap was clising fast on Rome's cavalry.
With a whole army to face the Auxilia and their pet elephant had undergone a sudden change of heart.
Instead of helping their horsemen they turned about again and began to march to the sound of the drums, closing fast on the Scots who were even now picking their way through vinyards whilst wondering what sort of sorcery could be used to grow Grapes in such a northern clime as they knew from home.
They attacked as if possessed with the spirit of Arshram the Turophobic's filth-encrusted helmet!
The Scots had elected to set their best nudist infantry against the almost-might-maybe of the Inferior Roman elephant.
Allegedly used in the invasion of Britain, this mighty beast may well have been fictional but for the Attecotti it was now all too real as it loomed before them, inching closer each turn to the Legions as well as it sought to remove its only open flank from consideration as a point of advantage. The Romans knew that the Vikings had it in for them for sure.
Suddenly, without warning, the Scots charged home! The Auxilia were better quality and better armoured, but the Scots were, erm... metal figures vs plastic so surely that should count for something? Perhaps?
TED Talks on Roman soldiers
The over-eager Roman horsemen also had a sudden realisation that they too were in deep trouble, as a band of hairy archers appeared as if by some strange Norse frost-riddled magic on their flanks.
The Viking Heavy Infantry already looked an unlikely proposition, but with this new arrival the strategic mobility of the Italian cavalry now looked like it may be needed to effect a dramatic retreat rather than a glorious assault.
Standing firm, here's the Auxilia of Rome
As the nudists and nutters all charge home
With an elephant as a friend
Their straight line did not bend
And the Vikings they started to groan
Everywhere along the line the two armies were locked into combat, with swords and axes clashing against shields both square and round.
The Norsemen had their best troops teed up to slam into the line of legionaries, the Hearthguard leading the line and putting their bodies (and armour) in the way of harm to try and grind down the legions of Rome.
In theory the battle should have been close - the Romans with Impact as they hurled their pila offset by the armour-cancelling Viking axes and their block of Elite Huscarles shoring up any poor dice with an Elite +1.
That was the theory.. but the reality was dramatically different as the Vikings conceded hit points all along the entire line !
This was a great start for Rome, but the resilience of the Viking shieldwall still surely had some rounds of combat to recover?
What would it be like to be in a Shieldwall?
Atop a wind-blasted hill (insert curry joke here) the width of the Viking force had however managed to frighten off the Roman cavalry after appearing on their flank in countless numbers. The horsemen wheeled about and sought to evaporate themselves out of danger leaving the Scandic infantry in sole possession of the dominating terrain piece on the Roman right flank.
Scandic men, see a flank, go Beserk
And the Romans they think this might hurt
Two bad rhymes aren't enough
The last line will be tough
Were they Mongols, they'd hide in a Yurt!
They were being drawn to their doom as if entranced by the fires of Odin's Norwegian bacon slicer! .
The Vikings had come up short in the first couple of rounds of dice-tastic combat, but as the battle raged on their herrng and dried elk-meat diet instilled them with exceptional stamina, and slowly but surely they started to claw their way back into the game.
The Romans in turn prayed to their various gods and fervently wished that time travel could be invented to allow them to have already invented pasta as they realised that stamina was what might well be needed to finish off the stoic Norsemen.
If you're fighting an elephant,
There's no need to wear clothes,
Just poke it with sticks,
And try to avoid its' nose.
It may not be easy
It may in fact be tough
And the Romans they think this might hurt
And you'll find having only 3 hits
May well prove to not quite be enough.
The surplus troops in the Viking army continued to try to get themselves into the battle.
Clambering atop the curvature of the only hill on the battlefield a line of bowmen stared into the distance seeking targets - but those targets had already take a decision to try and take the initiative.
A wall of mounted Roman horsemen stormed up the shallow slope at pace and hammered into the line of axe-swinging Scandics helped by Numidians (who had finally found something worth doing in this battle against a wall of tough foot).
They attacked as if possessed with the spirit of Baldr's carrion-eating potlicker
The two walls of heavy foot continued to trade blows manfully as the time clock ticked over on this bloodthirsty Sunday morning, and still the Romans hung on grimly to the upper hand even as the Viking general led his men from the front, rallying his Hearthguard time and time again to keep them from collapsing in the face of Roman discipline.
By now many men had fallen under the baleful influence of Eric the Priapic's heathen grandmother!
The twin insanity of Beserkers and Attecotti had singularly failed to impress the Roman Auxilia Palatina and their comradely elephant, and in an instant their drug-fuelled excitement deflated like it was the morning after the night before and they had suddenly realised that they were on the wrong side of town and had spent their bus fare on rizlas and mars bars at a late night garage the previous evening.
The Vikings were absolutely taking full advantage of the sheer size of their army by this stage in the game.
Roman horsemen were carving a swathe through the Viking infantry who had been sent out to slow them down, but in so doing had carelessly exposed their flanks to a potential assault from the other countless hordes unloading from their longships.
Numbers vs Quality was a scary game to play, but the Vikings were now making serious inroads into the teeny tiny break point of the Roman army. Despite their own heavy losses the Norsemen now had little choice but to carry on their attritional strategy, roll the rune-carved bones and pray to Odin on this one.
They swing, they shout, they smite a mighty blow,
And all of a sudden, Rome's best are laid so low.
The Legions they flee and the Vikings take heart,
A great Scandic axe to carve enemy lines apart
It's a Norwegian version of "Hey Ho, Let's Go!"
As the Viking left wing flooded forward to overwhelm the unwisely adventurous Roman Cavalry wing the Auxilia Palatina quickly realised that they were somewhat marooned in no-man's land in mid-table.
As they looked about for new enemies, the last thrashings of the Viking centre committed themselves into a brave charge against the closest thing to a soft underbelly of the increasingly small formation. In trying to mop up the Beserkers the Auxilia had unwisely exposed a flank! Losses were now starting to mount up alarmingly for the teeny-tiny Roman army.
Blood, sweat, dice - all human warfare was on display as these two armies of swordsmen had hacked And, in the end, despite the hundreds of years of history, thousands of miles of distance and chasm of cultural sophistication between them, in the final reckoning there was nothing to stand between them - the game ended in a spectacular mutual destruction!
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 Vikings Commander
Well, that was super-duper-jolly wasn't it? What a wonderful, like, surprise it was to finally see that this tiny enemy army couldn't take any more punishment and that my loyal and brave subjects efforts to throw their lives on the line in defence of my honour were all pretty much worth it in the end
One did fear for a while that this attritional strategy might not have worked as planned, especially like that bit where the Romans were just refusing to collapse as I launched waves of attacks at them which they shrugged off like ill-suited suitors at a May Ball.
It was also very unsporting I thought of the enemy to run away when for a brief moment I thought I had their cavalry surrounded. That could have saved us all a lot of unnecessary messing around, and, like, won me the game if they had been polite enough to simply play ball.
But, one win and two sorts of draws is not a bad place to be in, especially as my army has yet to lose. Although it has been broken once, but lets gloss over that like I gloss over my lips.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Yet again your idiotic attempts at strategy fall at the unsurprising first hurdle of requiring your opponent to play along with your utterly obvious and predictable plan.
This so called plan of yours is so simplistic it barely extends beyond deplying all your troops in a single line. As such, it does not even require your opponent to anticipate it, but instead to have a plan of their own based upon their own strtengths, which here in the battle was a small but incredibly powerful bunch of high quaity troops. Because of this they did not so much out think your plan, they simply executed their own plan and you were powerless - or chose to be powerless - to react.
You were frankly lucky to get out of this without a right proper hiding - and it was a hiding entirely of your own making to boot.
A final chance for salvation awaits you in the fourth and final game. My money is on you squandering it.
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition