Classical Rome & Greece at Brixham 2023
Spartacus' Slave Revolt vs Kushan
In the third game of the day, Spartacus led his merry band of freedmen to the East, keen to add Indian spices to the menu of their newly conceived "Come Dine with Spartacus" restaurant concept, which was by now an increasing urgent topic of conversation amongst the many former indentured kitchen workers who were now realising that they might have to work and earn money in order to pay their board and lodging in future.
The end result of the slavish ramble was a date with the Kushan Empire, in the very deserty heart of Kusharia
Even better, the game was against Dave Pants Everett, our first matchup in longer than either of us could remember !
The Kushan is all about Cataphracts - fully mail-clad warriors on horseback ideally equipped to teach restless peasants a lesson or two. They also get some Indian Elephants, in an almost-allied contingent plus the option for some second string pikemen and the classic steppe nomad horse archers too.
None of this was particularly appealing to the Spartacus Revolters, and so they approached the game with trepidation, mindful perhaps of the way they had come off much the worse in the previous game whenever they met anything with 4 legs and a rider
The lists for the Spartacus' Slave Revolt and Kushan 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 pitch for this battle was not one which reflected the topography of Brixham, or indeed anywhere that Spartacus would have chosen to fight a mostly mounted army. It was a billiard table almost entirely bereft of features
Amidst the wide open spaces, a sense of surreal absurdity unfolded. The battlefield was now a flat, blank canvas upon which the emancipated slaves would seek to paint their defiance in strokes as bewildering as a fresco designed by a drunken architect kidnapped and forcefully employed at swordpoint to make a small garden gazebo for his corpulent yet tasteless slave-owning master.
What's Going on Here Then?
I know that the Slave Revolt army really has no answer to a wall of Cataphracts, and so I have chosen to essentially refuse the centre (where I expect them to be deployed) by putting my half-hearted command of poor quality slaves there as Cataphract-fodder and hope to overwhelm whatever there happens to be on either flank
This has resulted in some decent matchups, with the Heavy Infantry/Gladiator command on the left facing a line of horse archers, and the other mixed cavalry/Medium Infantry command occupying largely open space on the right opposite the Kushan's Indian contingent of archers and elephants.
The Slave army at least had width on its side, and that was the principal tool which they sought to use as the Kushan cataphract block trundled slowly towards the centre of their line.
Sizing up the opposition, the emancipated infantry sadly worked out that the Elephants might be the relatively weak link in the opposition force - so the rag-tag army, armed with household items, their bravery like the mythical phoenix rising from the ashes of oppression advanced rapidly, in a scene that defied both military reason and historical accuracy.
The trundle of the steel clad warriors on horseback reverberated on the hard desert floor like a thunderstorm, the Cataphracts ability to advance under such a weight of armour seemingly defying the laws of physics, as if their horses were defying gravity itself with each nimble stomp forward towards a date with destiny.
Dave also chose this moment to discomfort the self-Freedmen by deploying the unusually foreshortened yet still sausage-like fingers of his left hand right in front of their advance.
Either that or its a weird perspective in this camera angle - which seems more likely given how effective he is at grasping a pint glass.
My Slave Revolt Army List
Competent Included Sub General
4 Armed Slaves Heavy Swordsmen Impetuous
3 Herdsmen Light Infantry Sling
4 Almost-armed Slaves Levy Impetuous
2 Well Equipped Gladiators, with general, Heavy Swordsmen Armour Impact Elite
2 Women & Children, Levy Mediocre
This command has the good stuff, with 6 very potent Heavy Infantry, two of whom are also luxuriously un-impetuous. It's going to go down the middle hunting enemy foot to chew up and spit out, and the rest of the command is simply a support function to these 6 hard hitting dudes.
The 2 full-fat ex gladiators are pretty much mandatory as there is no armour and no unimpetuosity in the rest of the army, and so spend the points on the best good stuff you can find. This does means the army is still short of using the full complement of 12 armed slaves but I do like the idea of using a levy army with lots of levy, so it makes it more thematic (cinematic?), and we're not playing a board game here after all, this is supposed to be part art, and all entertainment for both players!
3 Light Foot with sling I've already covered in the previous command, and the 2 women and children are there because I painted up some rather nice figures from Donnington and Xyston to use as unarmed slaves and wanted to shoehorn a couple of them in. They will sit at the back and should not even see the enemy before the rest of the army wins, or has lost.
4 Impetuous almost-armed slaves help widen the line of proper infantry, and can either sit as wingmen to defend the main forces flanks, or be reserves to fill in any gaps. They are there as ablative shields really, but are not to be trifled with due to their Impetuous and Furious charge - against the right opponents of course!
The genius of Spartacus had worked out a plan to deal with the Cataphracts - try to avoid putting any troops in front of them at all, and therefore avoid defeat for as long as possible!
The Kushanians were not impressed with this unsporting approach and sent skirmishing cavalry through their lines to seek trouble and bring the errant slaves to justice!
The Life of Spartacus
With the Cataphracts yet to find a target worthy of their investment in armour, the battle started for real with the best part of the Revolting army launching an attack on the Kushan's mounted archers
In the grand amphitheatre of conflict, gladiators, masters of the arena, charged forward to engage with the disciplined precision of the Kushan horse archery corps, creating a tumultuous spectacle of Heavy Foot vs mounted archer that rivalled the gods' own celestial disputes.
It gives a real "Rocky Horror Show" flavour to the whole thing really!
Their shields locked together like the intricate gears of a celestial clock, the better-equipped Gladiators and well armed slaves surged forward, resisting the onslaught of arrows that greeted them with the stoicism of marble statues facing into the tempest.
What's Going on Here Then?
This is about as good as can be expected at this stage in the battle. The command on my right is swinging in towards the Elephants and Indian archers, and while the elephants are fearsome opponents the archers look like a potentially weak link to be exploited by the aggressive charges of the Slave warriors
Here the Gladiators have shrugged off shooting from the Kushan horse archers and wrestled them into close combat. The cavalry will of course break off and retreat, but every round of combat is a potential win for my infantry which may count in the final reckoning
Most importantly the Cataphracts have yet to get into serious combat - they appear transfixed by the roadkill infantry I have strewn in front of them, and have not tried to influence the areas of combat on either of their flanks.
The peasant herdsmen, throwing rocks and makeshift javelins, danced in front of the Indian elephants on the Kushan left as some of the better-equipped infantry rushed into combat against the Indian mixed foot.
This was a dicey set of options, but the soldiers of Spartacus had few options and the chance to roll into the flank of the Cataphracts before they could wreak havoc was worth expending some of their great many expendable men for
That pastry from Fullers is actally Spartacus!
The best part of Spartacus army was now in combat against the mounted archers from Kushania. The ex-Gladiators and gardeners stood like stoic statues animated by the wrath of Mars, moving up in phalanx formation, their shields forming an impregnable wall against the flamboyant Kushan onslaught.
It was a ballet of blood, a tragicomic dance where the line between life and death blurred like a drunken poet's verses as both sides picked up markers galore at first contact.
The gladiators, armed with weapons as ornate as the laurel wreaths of victorious poets, swung swords that glittered like stars in the night sky. Their every move was a stroke from the brush of a divinely inspired painter, a vivid canvas of exaggerated motion and theatrical flourish.
Sadly however, the Cataphracts appeared more interested in playing ADLG than taking part in any sort of poetic nonsense
Charging home they ungently explained to the waves of poorly armed peasants just how far the combat factors were against them in this particular face-off.
Spartacus' Little Known Links to Torbay
Fawlty Towers' Basil Fought in the Slave Revolt: John Cleese, of Fawlty Towers fame, claimed that his fictional character Basil Fawlty was a distant relative of a Torbay innkeeper who was captured during the Roman invasion of Britain, transported back to Italy and then joined the rebellion and fought alongside Spartacus in the slave revolt.
Cleese insisted this was the true inspiration for Basil's eccentric behaviour.
The Kushan horse archers had come off rather the worse in the initial clash against Spartacus' bestest men, and taking full advantage of their superiority in legs decided to break off and fall back.
In response, the formerly employed at zero salary kinda-Roman warriors, with a vaguely military precision, stepped forward to pursue the, their aggression glinting now sharper than the edge of a gladiator's blade, to form a disciplined mosaic of offence.
The battlefield had become a stage, and each combatant a player in a tragicomedy scripted by the whims of capricious gods. More prosaically, the advancing revolting infantry had also started to push past the end of the line of Cataphracts too, opening up some interesting options perhaps for later in the battle.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Mounted troops can break off from combat against slower moving mounted, and also infantry, as a group move in ADLG. A breaking-off block of units moves back in good order 1 MU short of its normal move.
This gets them out of combat, and buys some time, but for game balance it still leaves them within shooting range of infantry archers, within charge range of any mounted opponent, and allows even the slowest, heaviest foot to chase them down by getting to 1MU away in their next turn
The most lightly equipped elements of the gladiator army, with the melodrama of Shakespearean actors, now contorted their faces in expressions of both agony and triumph as the stone-throwing herdsmen inflicted serious red-marker damage on one of the Indian elephants while falling under the feet of the other.
Better-armed rebel soldiers, undisciplined to the point of absurdity, meanwhile somehow were struggling to run down the Indians' archers and swordsmen, who seemed immune to the inexorable determination of fate that usually saw such mediocre in combat troopers explode on contact against Impetuous enemies.
What's Going on Here Then?
The battle feels like it may be slipping away, with the Cataphracts not only running down the cannon-fodder poor quality slaves but also starting to swing out to join in the combats on each flank
Neither of these engagements are going in my favour either. The inability of the Gladiators and Heavy Infantry slaves to get to grips with the Kushan horse archers is perhaps not surprising, but the resilience of the Indian infantry is an unpleasant surprise, and one which now threatens to render any hope of overwhelming the Elephants somewhat moot
The Kushan Cataphracts had now realised that the Spartican levy were essentially useless, and had given up all pretence of maintaining a solid battle line to just rush forward and run down the hapless peasants wherever and whenever they could see them
In this surreal theatre of war, the clash of these two forces became a symphony of chaos, where the boundaries between the reality of fully armoured lance-equipped professional horsemen and the fantastical aspirations unmatched by any form of combat experience of the mob of rioting ex-slaves blurred like a fevered dream in which the slaves always ended up dying and the Cats ended up triumphant.
The clash became more disjointed as the Kushans recognised their superiority and the Slave Revolt's inadequacies. The self-freed slaves bravely swung their broomstick swords and potato-peeler daggers with all the grace of a clumsy chef trying to juggle tomatoes as the noble Cataphracts charged forward and into them at speed
The clash of kitchen workers and elite noble cavalry saw the Kushan's armoured horses thundering across the field like a battalion of runaway refrigerators on a rampage in a spectacle that transcended the mortal realm, a dramatic collision between the flamboyant and the disciplined, leaving the audience in awe of the absurd grandeur unfolding before them.
Spartacus Mills on The Day Today
On the flank, the Kushan horse archers had taken inspiration from their metal-clad brothers and returned also to the fray.
As the mismatched armies collided, the slaves discovered that their frying pan shields were about as effective as an umbrella in a hurricane.
The Kushans, in contrast, pierced through the slave ranks with all the precision of a knife through butter, their lances gleaming like polished silverware at a royal banquet to knock huge holes in what was supposed to be the best part of the Spartacan army.
Who Was Spartacus?
As the Cataphracts rolled onward, the once-revolting slaves found themselves in a pickle of their own making, their resistance crumbling faster than a poorly made soufflé in the shape of the Colosseum.
The Cataphracts, with an increasingly cavalier attitude, continued their onslaught, making the slaves look like hapless janitors attempting to unsuccessfully sweep away a storm of armoured locusts as they steamed almost unopposed through the middle of the Slave army.
Amidst the chaos, a sound rang out which some of the ex-domestic-servant slaves mistook for clanging of pots and pans as it intermingled with the neighing of heavily armoured horses.
Some of the Kushan Indian Elephants had shrugged off the assault of the better-armed slaves and their absurd arsenal of cobbled together weaponry, and were now joining the carnage being wreaked on Spartacus' centre by the disciplined and well-equipped Cataphracts.
Attacked from all sides, the slave army were being mowed down with the efficiency of a lawnmower cutting through a field of dandelions, at speed, downhill, after a period with little rain the absence of which had somewhat dehydrated the dandelions making their stems more brittle than is normally the case in an English summertime. Oh, and the lawnmower blades are made of specially sharpened kryptonite, or something really clever and science-y about single molecules on the edges of blades that was maybe mentioned once in an episode of the Expanse.
What's Going on Here Then?
The game is afoot, and the only outcome will be a Kushan victory from hereon in.
The Cataphracts have of course wiped out my centre, but far from counteracting that alpha-strike by stoving in or driving back both wings of the Kushan army, both of the envelopments have stalled, or even outright failed too
The Kushans are running amok and the Slave Revolt army has no answer at all other than to plan an earlier visit to the pub than initially anticipated
The Kushan horse archers were back to their hit and run tactics, falling back yet again to draw the creme of Spartacus rag-tag assembly further away from anywhere pivotal
The whole battlefield of former cooks ad bottle washers now resembled nothing so much as a chaotic kitchen, with self-taught warriors slipping on banana peels and tripping over mop handles as they tried to follow up what they foolishly thought might have been a rare and slight area of advantage for the wall of poorly equipped infantrymen.
Spartacus' Little Known Links to Torbay
The Torquay Toga Party: The entire cast, including director Stanley Kubrick, once threw a legendary toga party at the Riviera International Centre in Torquay.
The party reportedly influenced the film's costume design, with many actors opting for bed sheets borrowed from their seaside guest-houses instead of the studio's costume department's much more accurace facsimiles of traditional Roman attire in the actual film itself.
The Cataphracts, with sardonic smirks well hidden behind their mail-clad faces, cleaved through the dregs of the rebellion like a hot knife through yet to be invented low fat margarine,
In their wake they left behind a trail of defeated and disoriented slaves, although with the caveat that destroyed units are simply removed from play in ADLG.
(So, technically they left behind nothing at all in game terms)
Things were getting desperate, in a "we are going to lose this game so let's at least try and kill something before we all rout" kinda way for the army of Spartacus.
Eager to grasp at some sort of movie-star fame, Spartacus the Strategist decided now was the ideal time to personally lead .. a unit of peasant goat-herding slingers into combat against the Kushan's Indian Elephant commander! Success ensured, much to the relief of those keen to later stand up on the Appian Way and claim Spartacus' Gladiators for themselves.
Fresh from this limited success, Spartacus, waving a colander as his makeshift shield, tried to encourage more of his men, women and children into a bold charge against the phalanx of Cataphracts, initiating a clash of swords as if an overenthusiastic chef haranguing his kitchen staff over their poor service
the scene was reminiscent of a disastrous kitchen experiment in the former workplaces of many of the Slave army's warriors, with Spartacus desperately trying to whisk up a rebellion while the Cataphracts sliced through the opposition like master chefs fully in control of their kitchen domain as the revolt's hopes soured like spoiled milk as the Cataphracts, armed with lance and shield, charged through the chaotic melee, leaving the slaves in a pile of defeated dough..
In the end, the Slave Revolt army, armed to the teeth with their comically inappropriate array of utensils, was left in a state more disastrous than a kitchen after a food fight.
In the ludicrous spectacle of the battlefield, the ill-fated Slave Revolt army armed with nothing but household trinkets and garden tools had wilted in the face of the Kushan Empire's Cataphract lancers, whose horses were clad in more metal than a medieval knight's junkyard.
The Result is a staggering, crushing defeat in which barely a scratch was left on the Cataphracts of Kusharia!
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
My comrades, my brothers and sisters, today we stand on the shattered remnants of our dreams, humbled by the might of an adversary we could not overcome. The Kushan cataphracts, clad in impenetrable armor, rode down upon us like an unstoppable storm. Our poorly equipped ranks, lacking the means to fend off these armored lancers, were left vulnerable, and our attempts to catch their swift horse archers proved futile.
In the face of adversity, our best chance lay against the towering Indian elephants and infantry. Yet, even they fought with a ferocity that defied our desperate assault. Our blades clashed against their defenses, and our spirits wavered under the weight of their resilience.
I stand before you, chastened but not broken, for I see the truth in the outcome of this battle. The mounted might of our enemies poses a challenge we were ill-prepared to meet. Our former chains have bound us, not only in flesh but in our ability to face adversaries who ride down upon us with the thunderous hooves of armored steeds.
Yet, my brothers and sisters, let not the shadows of defeat extinguish the flame within our hearts. We may have fallen today, but I assure you, it is but a setback. We shall learn from this bitter experience, for we are not a defeated people. Our struggle for freedom has not reached its end.
As we gaze upon the remnants of our once-proud army, let us consider unconventional means to face such formidable foes in the future. Anachronistic though it may seem, we must adapt. I propose the deployment of electrically powered implements – blenders, lawnmowers, weed whackers – tools that defy the expectations of our time. Let these modern marvels become our weapons, symbols of our determination to overcome any obstacle.
Remember, my comrades, we may have faced a formidable foe today, but the wheel of destiny turns. We shall rise again, and our next adversary will be unfortunate to face the might of those who refuse to be shackled. Onward, my brothers and sisters, for our journey to freedom continues, and we shall emerge victorious once more!
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Oh, Spartacus, thou art a commander of men, yet thy strategies crumble like parchment in the rain. Alas, thy former gladiators, those once-proud warriors, now lie scattered like leaves before a storm, trampled by the merciless hooves of the Kushan cataphracts. Methinks thou hast led thy men to slaughter with the grace of a blindfolded dancer.
Didst thou learn naught from the dance with the Gauls, where their cavalry nearly snuffed out the flame of thy rebellion? I, Hannibal, always understood the value of a well-equipped cavalry, a lesson that seems to have eluded thee. Thy lack of foresight, like a ship without a compass, has left thee adrift in a sea of defeat.
Thy feeble attempts to assail the flanks of the cataphracts were as effective as a child's plea to stop the rain. Didst thou not recognize the threat mounted lancers posed after the Gauls danced perilously close to victory in the previous encounter? Verily, thou art the architect of thine own downfall, blinded by the arrogance of overlooking the importance of cavalry.
And lo, the elephants! How many times must I trumpet this wisdom into thine ears? Even a single zoo elephant, plucked from the captivity thou seek to escape, could have turned the tide of this battle. Didst thou not consider recruiting zoo keepers, slaves like thee, to join thy rebellion and bring with them the might of these colossal creatures?
Thy lack of imagination, Spartacus, is a tragedy in itself. The gods themselves must chuckle at the spectacle of a leader who refuses to grasp the lessons of history. Even Shakespeare, in his most whimsical jests, could not conjure words to describe the folly thou hast displayed on this fateful day.
Learn from thy defeats, Spartacus, or thou shalt dance upon the precipice of ruin once more. The echoes of this defeat shall resonate in the halls of military folly for generations to come. Fare thee well, thou misguided puppeteer of men, and mayhaps thou shalt find wisdom in the next game
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition