Classical & Roman Era at Brixham 2021
Sertorian Spanish vs Early Arab
These battle reports are penned from the heart of Brixham - a small town in Devon, packed full of pasties, pirates and, erm.. pubs ? But, more importantly home to an eminently rentable community hall, plenty of cheap off-peak off-season accommodation (and of course the new venue for the fabulous Steve Price Towers), more fish and chip shops than you can shake a stick at - all making it an ideal location for hosting an ADLG competition of the small but perfectly formed variety.
Little were we to know however that Brixham was also the childhood "seaside" town for much of the wargaming population of the West Midlands, making it somewhat of a Peaky Blinders On Sea near-legendary and utterly compelling destination for far more players than anyone could ever have imagined.
The end result was that this "end of the line" destination, almost an hour south of the nearest motorway, would end up hosting a double-barrelled West Country meets West Midlands infested 25mm & 15mm competition with a table-busting 36 entrants!
After a night of Jail Ale, fish and chips, and History of The World, Saturday dawned clear and fresh as the Scala Hall opened it's doors to an eager crowd of coastally inspired gamers.
For this event my run of taking different armies continued, with a lockdown-special Ancient Spanish army with most of the troops sporting a freshly-completed paint job taking to the table.
This would I hoped achieve the twin objectives of getting new toys on table and also being the sort of army that would secure fairly quick and decisive results - either way - allowing me to manage the draw and scoring for the other 17 games each round!
The Spanish army I had cooked up was, as well as being colourful and freshly minted in the main, composed of a tiny 4-unit mounted command, and two large infantry blocks
One of these blocks had 3 Sertorian Legionaries to give it a bit of ability to stand up in the open - I tried to get all 4, but didn't have the points to spend on a HI force who were quite out of sync with the rough terrain ethos of the rest of the army. The other large command was a horde of impetuous warriors who's sole aim was to burst out of ambush and surprise the enemy.
The army was led by the Strategist Sertorius himself, giving more control over terrain and a surprisingly high initiative of 4.
With the view from one of the best places to eat a cream tea at the end of the breakwater (from which part of the US invasion force embarked in June 1944 coincidentally) now just a memory, everyone settled in and starting to either play or drink tea and eat biscuits. Against this ambience, the first round saw Sertorius drawn against an opponent from the opposite end of the Roman world - the early Arabs.
The lists for the Sertorian Spanish and Early Arab from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Brixham can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
The Early Arab list covers a surprisingly large range of surprisingly succesful mini-empires from the outskirts of the Roman world. Generally fielded as one of those large but puzzling armies in which everything is sort-of dangerous, but (unless there are camels) there's nothing obvious that stands out as being the cutting edge of the army.
The end result is usually a large army that can take a lot of punishment against which you need to be wary or making mistakes, otherwise it will draw you into a slogging match in which it's sheer numbers will often help it come out on top.
Of course, with terrain being a key part of the plan, the terrain the Spanish had dished out either fell mostly on the opposite side of the table or was removed by the dastardly Arabians, leaving almost nothing ambush-able to use - a problem the Strategist was unable to fix with his terrain shifts either.
This left the Spanish army with a classic "rush and refuse" approach, with all of the infantry steaming down a gap between a mountain and some brush while they hoped their 4-strong mounted wing could hold off the Arab mounted contingent long enough for the Spanish charge to sweep away the enemy foot.
Unfortunately the Arabs hadn't adapted their army list to conform to this plan, and the Spanish cavalry wing instantly discovered that the pair of Sassanian cavalry helping out their Arabian cousins this morning were deadly mounted shooters, seemingly born in the saddle ready to let fly with a volley of well aimed arrows at a moments notice.
The Spanish were immediately forced to withdraw some light horse who were instantly more battered than a Brixham Pout in the first volleys of Arabian shooting.
The only viable ambush on the Spanish side realised it needed to be sprung, and a pair of units of Lusitanian drilled warriors emerged over the hilltop to shock the rather unimpressed Arabs, presumably after having a full English breakfast at the Guardhouse Cafe, but with more chorizo and less streaky bacon. This might draw some of the Arab horse away from overrunning the Spanish left wing - if Sertorius was lucky.
The rest of the battle was progressing in a more predictable fashion than a Brixham fish wholesaler gradually discovering that Boris had lied to him and exporting fish to Europe would actually be more difficult than it was pre-Brexit
Just like Mr Perkes had discovered, the obvious was indeed happening as the punchy balance of the Spanish army sailed forward to test the resolve of the often-supported Arabian infantry.
What's Going on Here Then?
The way the terrain has fallen has turned this into a battle of two halves, with a huge infantry clash about to happen on the Spanish left in which mostly-Impetuous Iberian warriors will crash into a line of Arabs who have been designed to soak up exactly the sort of punishment that an Impetuous charge dishes out.
The right hand side of the central mountain is an open plain, and here the large Arab mounted wing is pressing against a fairly paltry Spanish mounted wing who's task is to delay the Arabian horse until the Iberian infantry have (hopefully) won the game with a serious charge
Advance to the Rear! was the cry that rang out as the numerically challenged Spanish mounted force retreated at some pace towards their home base edge
Baboso! This was not a cowardly retreat, they were just keen for stews of beans and lamb (and even less keen to be outnumbered 3:1 by superior quality forces and almost instantly dismembered at contact).
The Iberian infantry were keen as Spanish Mustard (not a food type, but a horse running in the 330 at nearby Newton Abbott that same afternoon, finishing only 6 lengths behind Chips Ahoy).
This did draw them however into the Tortosan Gulley on the left flank, a terrain feature which had made its way to the table under the same well thought out and rehearsed "I haven't used it before" strategy that had inspired the entire Spanish army and which consequently I had little idea how it would work or how to use it.
The unfortunate outcome of this was that now appeared to be the ideal moment to flick through the rules and discover that in this position it kinda provided a brilliant and almost unassailable defensive bank behind which a chunk of the Arabian infantry were now gratefully hiding as the Spanish warband closed rapidly on them.
The Lusitanian Regulars had taken full and uncontested control of the mountain in the middle of the tab le, and were now wondering what on earth to do with that phenomenal strategic and tactical advantage.
At least their appearance had given the Sassanid Clibanarii pause for thought, and bought time for the first ever appearance of THE BURNING CART OF DOOM !!! which flamed into view around the back end of the mountain to send everyone scurrying for their rulebooks in fear and puzzlement.
With a mighty war cry based almost entirely upon items I can remember as being some of the names of dishes consumed in my last pre-lockdown visit to a tapas bar, the wall of Spanish warriors crashed in a rather piecemeal and incoherent fashion into the waiting Arabs.
This would be a true test of skill and military genius - that being a poorly disguised code for "all on the dice", which itself is yet another layer of barely disguised code for "the Spanish are down on factors and relying on luck to even that out".
What's Going on Here Then?
The Iberian attack on the left has ended up hitting the Arabian line of infantry in a rather piecemeal fashion, partly down to incoming Arab bowfire and partly as the Arabs are defending some serious terrain in the shape of the gulley which disadvantages the Spanish far more than they originally expected. The Romanized legions have also gotten caught up in a traffic jam getting past the central mountain and are some way behind the rest of their more-native infantry, with Impetuosity also contributing along the way too.
Arabian mounted troops have a huge advantage on the other side of the mountain, forcing the Spanish cavalry to fall back so rapidly they are already at risk of giving up their baggage unless they throw some of their units under the bus and task them with delaying the Arabian cavalry. The two ex-Sassanid Heavy Cavalry Bow are a particular problem for the medium and light cavalry in the Spanish army, driving them back at speed.
But, enough of all of that nonsense involving the vast majority of troops on table locked in mortal hand to hand combat to decide the fates of nations.
THE BURNING CART OF DOOM !!! was now in combat!
As flames burned more red and bright than the lighthouse at the end of Brixham Breakwater on a dark and stormy night, the hastily converted (by the addition of red and black cotton wool) Gallic chariot hurled itself at an Arabian skirmishing horseman to mark the combat initiation of this mighty engine of war.
Spanish Cart Burning Ceremony
Cabrón !................................Never mind eh?
The main body of Spanish infantry were also not exactly ripping up trees in their efforts to burst through the defensive wall of Arabian pedestrians, as their furious charge had been blunted almost entirely along the line by the stoicism (and rear support) of the desert dwelling warriors.
Fighting a protracted war of attrition was not really on the Spanish menu, and doing so after losing the first round and taking hits was even less appealing than making repeated efforts to look grateful when served a tapas item comprised of liver and kidneys.
The Sertorian Legions now joined the fray, adding their heft, quality, armour and impact to the mix as they slammed into the end of the Arab's line of spearmen.
But even this staggering application of sheer combat power proved impotent against the array of tidily painted shields hosting incantations in Arabic, and the combat ground on.
Finally, the Spanish exertions paid off as they punched a hole in the wall of Arabic resistance - but this was already feeling like too little too late, with the Arabs chewing up Spaniards along a wide front as the attritional slog of Iberians struggling to get out of a gulley they had themselves placed continued apace.
With THE BURNING CART OF DOOOM !!! now no longer extant, the men from the desert were sweeping forward on the Spanish left, catching the Iberian mounted force with ferocity and numbers and at the same time driving hard towards the Spanish baggage camp.
The Iberians had almost nothing to defend it with other than a vague hope that it might be at least 2 moves away from the rapacious Arabian light lancers.
What's Going on Here Then?
The main line of combat has seen the Arabs and Spanish trade units, in a protracted slog that favours the more numerous Arabs after the Impetuous Spanish charge failed achieve an initial breakthrough.
Spains cavalry force has suffered some serious attrition in it's vain efforts to delay the Arab and ex-Sassanid mounted wing, and is fast running out of men, time and space
The men of the desert swept onward, running towards the baggage camp with all of their left wing as the Spanish hastily threw all of the odds and sods they could muster into their path to try and trip them up and delay the inevitable as long as possible.
But, the inevitable always has a certain air of inevitability about it, and as cafe con leche always follows churros, and as seagulls always follow a Brixham trawler, the Iberian attempt to overwhelm a solid line of well supported Arab infantry (some of whom were defending the edge of a gulley), the Spanish army slid somewhat past its own break point and slumped to defeat.
The game was done. Despite taking down 26 of the 29-strong Early Arab army, the Result is a first defeat in the first competitive outing for the Spanish.
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 Sertorian Spanish Commander
Ow, well, what a palarver, my auntie nells can hardly believe what they are hearing as my men bring news of a defeat in this game that I was sure we had sewn up for the win!
Surely bright painting, colourful uniforms and a load of underpant-free warriors hurtling forward is enough to win any battle? And in this one I even did something clever and concentrated my army on part of the table, yet still I lost!
Maybe I should blame the terrain, as my army had no closet in which to hide and from that point onwards had nowhere to sping out and suprise anyone - and without surprise, where are we gentlefolk? Where are we indeed!
I'm sure this was just bad luck and next time we will see the true nature of my bold beauties come shining through as they stretch their strides and hurl themselves on the enemy in abandon. Bona Nochy!
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
What a shambles, surely even a villainous half-faced fustilarian such as you should have seen this comong and done perhaps even a modicum of strategizing to try and avoid it!
But no, you created this trap and then sailed wilfully and willingly into it, enveloping your defeated men in a miasma of puking dread-bolted odiferous stench the like of which the world has never seen since your last defeat mere moments ago!
To claim this as anything other than a lack of planning, lack of research of your opponents army, and lack of checking the effects of terrain you yourself were placing on table is to do incompetence and bad luck a severe disservice, which a dissembling flap-mouthed skainsmate like you is always wont to attempt
However, fear not I am here to point out the faillings of you, you villainous half-faced fustilarian! Let us advance with trepidation to the next game
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition