Classical Rome & Greece at Brixham 2023
Spartacus' Slave Revolt vs Classical Greek
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far ... no, sorry, not quite, that's actually a different film - although to be fair, Kubrick's vision of space as set out in 2001 clearly massively influenced how space was depicted in Lucas' Star Wars trilogy, and frankly you could easily substitute "defined for all future cinema directors" for "influenced Lucas'" and it'd be hard to argue against... but, as we said, this isn't about either of those films, even though there is a significant Kubrick element, so...
ahem, anyways, having won an unpainted army at the 2019 Worlds in Rome (which to be fair does feel like a universe away) from Italian company Strategia Nova, and chosen Spartacus Slave Revolt (see, I got there in the end..).
I had ducked painting them in Lockdown, but finally managed to get around to paint the dammed things earlier this year, so all I now needed to do was look for the ideal opportunity to get them on table
That needed an event which would be fun, where lots of drinking could happen in the sidelines, and where people would be entertained (rather than distressed) by the idea of facing such a monstrosity of peasantry such as the Army of Spartacus
So, Brixham and the 3rd edition of the Devonian Classic was an ideal place - all that needed to happen was for the organiser to pick a period where Spartacus' army could be a legitimate, legal, and not entirely road-kill choice.
This of course could have meant Spartacus staying in the box for years while the cycle of themes churned slowly round to Classical Greece and Rome... however, rather fortunately I happen to set the themes for this events, so stone the crows, here we go, it's Spartacus Time!
After a very chilly week of gaming in Brixham, and a lot of fish and chips and beer (and that's just on Friday night!) the competition finally hove into view, and Spartacus took to the table at last
The first opposition was from the crucible of civilization and grilled lamb, Greece with a Classical Hoplite army
Hoplite Greek can of course have lots of hoplites, but with many different variations based on timeframe and which of the Greek City States the army is representing. The big decision is whether to go quality vs quantity, with the legendary Spartans being armoured ands Elite, but few in number. To maximise toys on table however a solid line of average spearmen is hard to beat, with the odd Thracian and Galatian thrown in for good measure
The lists for the Spartacus' Slave Revolt and Classical Greek 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.
This Greek army had gone for width, with a wall of hoplites and Galatians stretching almost across the whole width of the table.. which no doubt the hastily-armed rabble of Spartacus, with their array of improvised weapons, kitchen utensils and gardening equipment would just charge straight at and see how that worked out for everyone involved
The Greeks had set up to defend their temple, a centre of religious worship which meant almost as much to these Hellenistics as the Fullers Pasty shop did to the good burgers of Brixham
As the wan morning sun struggled to pierce through the tattered clouds from last nights storm, it casting an ominous glow upon the wall of Greeks, and equally upon the unwashed and rather fragrant demeanour of the Revolting Slaves stretching across the mostly blank table across from them.
What's Going on Here Then?
I've set up here with the ex-Gladiators and better-armed slaves (Heavy Infantry) in the centre, as I am hoping they will be good enough to go toe-to-toe against a wall of Hoplites and even come out on top.
The right wing has more well-equipped slaves (these being Medium Infantry), again ready to attack the hoplites front-on, a load of lesser slaves to join up the gaps and act as reserves, and the couple of units of Galatian cavalry whose job will be to test the Greek's ability to hold their flanks
The left flank is the weakest command in the army, made up entirely of poorly armed yet still Impetuous slaves. They are there to face off the hoplites as long as possible, and perhaps drift to the left to stretch the enemy line and encourage it to break apart - which my central command would be very keen to see happen!
Amidst the dry and arid desert cloth (from Rafa, of course..) landscape, a sea of emancipation surged forth as Spartacus' army, a motley crew of formerly enslaved souls, charged valiantly towards their oppressors.
Their appearance was a chaotic symphony of mismatched attire, a kaleidoscope of patched garments in every hue of Contrast paint known to man, all of which clung desperately to their liberated frames as they surged toward the waiting Hoplite phalanx ready to do unknowable violence to them in a fashion which recently escaped kitchen workers armed mainly with domestic appliances can.
Spartacus' Little Known Links to Torbay
Laurence Olivier's Devonian Doppelgänger: Rumour has it that Laurence Olivier, who played the cunning Crassus, had a secret twin living in Torbay.
The resemblance was so uncanny that locals often mistook Olivier's doppelgänger for the famous actor, creating a series of mistaken identity hijinks worthy of Fawlty Towers. But with less Germans, and absolutely no hamsters.
The tide of tattered humanity advanced in eagerness and excitement, keen to get to close quarters and start rolling dice.
They pressed together for warmth in the chilly December morning, risking in the process crowding out some of their number through sheer volume of recently freed bodies
With improvised weapons held aloft, a cacophony of pitchforks, broomsticks, and ladles, they advanced with a resolute spirit that loudly echoed their thirst for freedom.
OK Spartacus - Let's Rock!
(OK, in a sort of soft, MOR kind of way...)
Teased into an over-eager charge, and also mindful of the appearance of a couple of units of Galatian former-slave cavalry driving away the skirmishing archers supposedly holding their flank, suddenly the Galatians at the left hand end of the Greek line surged forward and charged into a line of sub-par quality slave infantry.
Keen to ensure their almost-Gallic mercenaries did not hog all of the glory, the rest of the Greek line immediately rushed into combat as well.
What's Going on Here Then?
I've gotten the army rather in a traffic jam at this point, and the large number of Impetuous troops combines with poor overall command and control has been exacerbated by a command structure which I have only just realised is poorly thought out due to having blocks of troops who are more than 6 units wide
Trying too hard to shuffle the various clumsy blocks of Impetuous slaves has resulted in my line becoming disconnected, and some of the weakest slave units moving up into the vanguard on the right flank. However the 2 Galatian cavalry have chased away the Greeks' own light horsemen and are now well behind the Greek's flank
The Greeks don't want to wait to be attacked in the rear, and so have taken advantage of the disconnected infantry line by launching an attack against the over-extended vanguard of poorly equipped slaves. The sooner you fight, the sooner you might win!
This was all kicking off really early doors all of a sudden, and in the midst of the excitement battle cried echoed like seagull-shrieks, as the aroma of rebellion intertwined with that of fish and chips, Cornish pasties, and Devon cream teas around Brixham's Harbour Bowl as the two forces came to grips - an unexpected homage to the local environment and an indication of the global fame of such traditional English delights all in one small and well wrapped 15mm package.
This clash of geographically unfeasible culinary desires amidst an otherwise very Mediterranean clash of arms added a touch of absurdity to the scene only matched by the idea of badly armed slave warriors giving as good as they got in the first round against the Hoplites.
My Slave Revolt Army List
4 Armed Slaves Medium Swordsmen Impetuous
3 Herdsmen Light Infantry Sling
6 Almost-armed Slaves Levy Impetuous
2 Gallic Cavalry, Medium Cavalry, one of which is Elite
So, Spartacus is kinda mandatory, partly because he boosts the army command value to +3, partly as he adds his own extra +1 through being a named strategist, and mainly because, well, he's Spartacus! He ended up running this mishmash command because no-one else would be able to keep it even vaguely under control
The 4 Medium Swordsmen soak up some of the 12-strong allowance of decent quality ex-gladiators and armed slaves and while there's an argument to use the full allowance on Heavy Infantry, there's very little else in this army that likes terrain so I think a few Mediums should be useful. And there is a limit to how many ex-gladiator and Roman Mob figures I can be arsed to paint for this novelty army, and MF have only 6 per base
3 Light Foot with sling rather bizarrely bulks out an already large army with some troops who will be hard to catch and kill, and gives the rest of the guys protection from enemy shooting, which is vital for troops who's only chance of doing well is usually to aim to get lucky in the first round of combat. With that as the only strategy, the slave infantry really don't want to be taking any shooting hits before charging home if they can help it!
2 Gallic Cavalry because they are the 100% of the cavalry you can take, with only one being Elite because the points didn't quite balance elsewhere.
As the two lines moved into the grinding, churning phase of push and shove combat, huge gaps opened up in both forces arrays of men, as the initial furious impact of the freed slaves started to be overmatched by the stoicism of the Hoplites in sustained combat.
With both sides fighting for their lives, the bravery of Spartacus' chaps easily outshone the haphazard assembly of their armaments.
A Quick Overview of Spartacus
The sheer multitude of Spartacus' army stretched out to the edge of the table, almost as far as from the Senate steps to the Tiber River, a veritable tide of rebellion that rivalled the countless grains of sand on a Colosseum-sized beach - but in this battle that translated as the Slave Revolt being able to pull the Hoplite army's right flank totally out of alignment, opening up gaps for the countless slave warriors to steam in and claim overlaps and advantages that gave them the right thumbs up when it came to combat factors.
Faces smeared with mud and sweat, the slave warriors eyes bright burned with a fierce determination to break the chains that had bound them for far too long.
Wave after wave of attacks, fuelled by this desperation, landed like waves on the Greek shoreline of defence
What's Going on Here Then?
The other flank has played out largely as hoped, with the underpowered slave command soaking up a lot of Greek resources, who have become disconnected from the centre of their army in the process
The poorly armed slaves are losing, unsurprisingly, but this is a price worth paying in order to generate overlaps and overwhelming numbers in the key battleground in the centre
But this side of the battle witnessed the Greeks secret weapons - the Impact-busting Thracians who, fighting in tight alignment with yet more hairy Galatians, were more than capable of checking a surge of slavery in its tracks.
With their initial panic at their sheer numbers of opponents now ebbing away, the Thracians took heart having realised that some of the slaves didn't even have proper weapons, and only brandished kitchen utensils as if their former culinary prowess as kitchen workers could also be wielded as effectively as a sword.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - The Thracians are "Swordsmen", a category of troops which, in the paper-scissors-stone nature of DBx-inspired combat in the world of ADLG means that Impetuous troops who charge into them don't enjoy their usual first round +1 bonus for "Impetuous Impact".
This isn't entirely intuitive in the case of a matchup between Thracian peltasts and desperation-crazed recently-escaped former gladiators, but is a carry-over from the way the rules handle the truly seminal matchup of Barbarian infantry facing Roman Legions.
The way this works is that if the Barbarians (in this case, "the slaves") charge into Legionaries who are ready and prepared for them, the Barbarians don't get to enjoy a first round +1 - but if the Romans initiate the charge into the Barbarians they lose the benefit of their organised, prepared formation, represented by the Barbarians being given an extra +1.
Cutting down the slave warriors like corn, the scythe-like weapons of the Thracians carved a vast open path through Spartacus left wing, leaving the stunned Romanians and equally astonished Greeks very much in the clear
The Slaves so-called liberation force, once a defiant spectacle of emancipated rebellion, now had a very badly exposed left flank and now danced upon the edge of chaos with an odd charm and an even stranger unwashed aroma.
But this battle was not to be decided by well-trained Thracian mercenaries cutting down barely-equipped kitchen staff. In the face of adversity, the army of Spartacus had been throwing its best, most potent fighters like hammer blows into the Greek left wing, supported by the deadly thrusts of Galatian cavalrymen harassing the Greeks flanks.
What's Going on Here Then?
The best-equipped slaves and gladiators have by now crashed through the centre of the Greek line, and each time the hoplites formation is punctured the pace of their collapse accelerates
The Galatian cavalry have returned from the right wing too, and are joining in the attacks on the flanks and rear of the rapidly dissolving Greek formation
The reverse on the left flank has been almost total, but it has bought time and space for a right hook to unhinge the linear approach of the Greeks
The Slave Army had fought not only for freedom but also for the right to savour the taste of pasty-based liberation in every bite of their beloved English seaside catering suppliers who made up Spartacus' baggage camp, and with a crushing display of pasty-powered aggression the Slave Revoltees had overrun and dished up the Greek left, to record a decisive victory in their long march to freedom.
Spartacus' Little Known Links to Torbay
Kirk Douglas' Hidden Talent: Little known fact – Kirk Douglas, the star of Spartacus, was an avid collector of South Devon seashells.
His vast collection served as a soundtrack to some of the iconic Roman battle scenes, with the sound of the shells being poured into a bucket being used to simulate the sound of clashing swords.
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 Spartacus
Comrades and free souls!
Today, under the relentless sun and amidst the dust of the arena of our struggle, we stand victorious against the oppressors who sought to shackle us in chains. Our valor and determination have shattered the iron grip of the Greek hoplites, those who believed themselves invincible. They came with their polished shields, their gleaming spears, and the arrogance of masters. But we, we came with something far mightier – the fire of freedom burning within our hearts!
As the battle raged, our mighty force charged through their ranks like a storm unleashed upon the sea. The clash of metal and the cries of defiance echoed through the battlefield, drowning out the commands of those who sought to enslave us. We faced the Thracian mercenaries on one wing, and though they tested our mettle, we stood firm, resolute in our pursuit of liberty.
In the words of the film that has inspired us, I say to you, my brothers and sisters, "I am Spartacus!" But understand this, my identity is not singular – it is the collective spirit of every man and woman who has endured the lash, who has felt the weight of chains, and who has yearned for the sweet taste of freedom.
They may have underestimated us, thinking us a mere rabble of slaves, but today we have proven that we are a force to be reckoned with. We are not just slaves; we are an army of the oppressed, united in our cause to break the chains that bind us. And as long as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, we shall press forward, for there are more battles to be fought, more victories to be won!
Let the words of the film guide us: "I am Spartacus! I am Spartacus!" Let this cry resound through the ages, a rallying call that strikes fear into the hearts of those who would deny us our birthright – the right to live free, unburdened by the yoke of servitude.
Today, my comrades, we have tasted victory, and the sweet nectar of freedom lingers on our tongues. But our journey is not over. There are more chains to be shattered, more oppressors to be cast down. We march forward, undeterred and unbroken, for our destiny is written in the annals of history!
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Ah, Spartacus, the architect of brute force and the harbinger of a victory achieved through sheer aggression. Allow me, the great Hannibal, to extend my begrudging congratulations on your recent triumph against the Greek hoplites. A commendable feat, I suppose, though not one that will be sung in the halls of strategy and cunning.
But, my dear Spartacus, I cannot help but lament the lack of imagination in your approach. A frontal assault? A charge straight through the spear line? How utterly pedestrian! I, Hannibal, would have danced around the Greeks, twirling them in confusion like puppets on strings. Your lack of guile is as glaring as the midday sun on the battlefield.
Oh, thou art a leader of men, but a tactician thou art not. Shakespeare himself would quiver in his quill to find words fitting for such a straightforward and unimaginative commander. Methinks, thou art the embodiment of "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Aye, that doth capture thy essence quite fittingly.
And lo, the absence of elephants, those majestic creatures that have graced my own triumphs. A grievous oversight, Spartacus! Next time, before thou embark on a revolution, I suggest a raid upon the Zoo. Imagine the terror in the eyes of thine enemies as they face the might of pachyderms on the battlefield. Alas, the missed opportunity!
So, my victorious but woefully unimaginative Spartacus, take heed of these words from one who has danced with the gods of war. Learn the art of subtlety, embrace the dance of strategy, and perhaps, just perhaps, thou shalt elevate thy victories from the mundane to the extraordinary.
Fare thee well, thou brute force personified. Mayhaps thou shalt bring a touch of finesse to the battlefield in the next game?
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition