Dark Ages in Devizes 2018
African vandal vs Nikephorian Byzantine
After another round of the worlds cheapest sandwiches it was time for the final game. The Vandal army is riding ridiculously high for such a simple and one-dimensional blunt instrument bathing in a West Country sea of sophisticated military machines of refinement and complexity.
With a theme such as this one it seemed inevitable that the wargamers favourite, the Nikephorian Byzantine would feature heavily and so it transpired here again as a second Byzantine opponent followed the two Arabian armies to try and slow down the Vandal juggernaut.
This Byzantine army however had clearly been gotten at by a progressive local council before leaving Istanbul and as a result was much more heavily pedestrianised than the last one, with maxed-out Skoutatoi and a slew of Varangians supported by penny packets of the mixed ability Klipanaphoroi
The list for the African Vandal army from this game can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
Maxing out the Skoutatoi is one of the ways to construct a Nikephorian list - ther other being to go big on the double-armed Elite cavalry. Skoutatoi are realtively weak against infantry, but very powerful against cavalry where their combination of ranged shooting and HF spearman abilities make them a tough nut to approach, never mind crack. The choice of which option to go with - mounted or foot-heavy - is as much down to the players ability to second-guess their opponents in-theme as it is personal choice.
The terrain was badly Vandalized in the pre-game sequence, with almost nothing of note falling anywhere in the field of play, save for a waterway on which - unsurprisingly - the Byzantines chose to anchor their flank.
The Byzantines - the TED talk
This left a textbook deployment for the Vandals, with their Heavy Infantry tee'd up against the water's edge screened by the Moorish light foot, and then a horde of maniacal cavalry screaming across the board on the open flank looking to sweep round and overwhelm the left hand edge of the enemy line before they could react.
With a tiny, narrow enemy army before them who's anchor on the waterside was somewhat insecure the Vandal army despatched a block of crazy cavalry types along the fortuitously deployed roadway to punch a hole next to the beach too.
The Byzantines could clearly see the Vandals tactics coming, and set to work constructing a carefully assembled defensive perimeter which curved and stretched out from their camp in mathematically precise concentric circles.
By now the first elements of Vandal horse were nearly at the far edge of the table already, so Nikephoros' rearranging of the deckchairs was not happening a moment too soon.
As the Byzantines fanned out the Vandal cavalry wheeled in, caught between the rampant opportunism of hitting an enemy quickly, before they are fully deployed and the challenge presented by the anti-cavalry-perfection of even partly separated blocks of shooty-speary Skoutatoi shored up by the tough Norse resilience of the Varangians.
With such a mix of targets the Vandal infantry realised they may actually be required to repeat and enhance their performance from the previous game and stepped forward bravely to tee themselves up for an assault on the Skoutatoi as well. This was bad news for the mercenary Moors, who found themselves recalled from flouncy skirmishing activities to their less enjoyable function as an ablative shield.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - LF are worth as many VPs as real battle troops if they are lost, so normally you'd pull them out if they took a hit from enemy shooting. In some situations however the loss of one or two LF is a decent price to pay if it means your premium combat infantry can get into combat carrying no hits - especially if they are a type with Furious Charge, who therefore depend heavily on recording a first-round win
The Byzantines extracted their Light Horse through the line and to safety near their camp as the Vandals arrived in a hurry to threaten their extremities with fearsome charges.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Impetuous troops have a fairly longish list of excuses not to charge everyone and anything, with "Steady enemy heavy foot" being one of the things which de-impetuousness-izes mounted lunatics.
As the Byzantines were still carefully forming their curved line it was becoming apparent that the mass of lancers in the Vandal army would find attractive targets rather harder to come by than in previous battles.
This needed a change of approach, and a degree of subtlety not previously envisaged in the Gothic Military manuals - so, with no hope of finding such a thing in a month of Sundays, never mind this one the Vandals hurled some packets of lancers at any weak spot in the line they could see.
Their infantry were also now closing in on the very old school Byzantine Skoutatoi and Varangians, setting up a decisive clash in which skill would be squeezed out of the game in its entirety leaving things all to the gods of dice to decide (other than of course the bit about choosing to leave the Moors in place, and the decision to attack with the Gothic foot in the first place rather than just hang back)
The Vandal infantry were ready to rumble and the Varangians and Skoutatoi were seemingly equally keen as battle as Barker intended prepared to break out across a serious amount of frontage.
At a vital hinge-point in the middle of the line, Vandal cavalry were committing themselves furiously to try and achieve a blitzkrieg-like breakthrough to then careen into the rear areas of the enemy force.
The Byzantines were lesser in quality, but were hanging on grimly as the plastic-era Vandals piled into the Lamming & Minifigs-era post-Romans at a rate of knots. The Byzantines had taken hits, and now were resorting to throwing light troops into the line to keep their plan alive!
The Vandal infantry went in with a terrible battle cry and a hammering of swords and axes (probably) on wooden shields, causing the Byzantine line to waver and rock back on its heels at the sheer human-wave force of so much Old Glory metal hitting them off an admittedly short run-up.
Vandals at the Gates of Rome
Waves of Vandal horsemen crashed into the still-not-fully-assembled Byzantine line, finding overlaps where they could and scattering markers with furious abandon on both sets of warriors as the battle, and indeed the entire Byzantine centre, teetered on the brink
End Date: Thursday Jan-3-2019 13:41:54 GMT
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Dark Age CAVALRY - 28mm (Gripping Beast) Goths / Franks / Germanic - 3 MODELS
End Date: Monday Dec-24-2018 19:09:39 GMT
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DARK AGE CAVALRY - GRIPPING BEAST PLASTICS GBP - 28MM SAGA - SWORDPOINT
End Date: Saturday Dec-22-2018 9:42:48 GMT
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The Vandal foot however had not fared quite so well against the Varangian axemen and many pounds of metal (weight and cash) had been carefully lifted from the table and consigned to the traditional 'in the waterway' dead pile
This left the stoic and "we looked OK 30 years ago, so why change?" unanimated and clearly unimpressed Varangians standing tall and victorious. Even the Skoutatoi were refusing to evaporate in the path of the Vandal horde.
Galloping Gelimer! Things were really starting to ratchet up on the not-working front as the waterside assault of Finding Nemo's command was consigned to Davey Jones locker also - their clever redeployment proving simply to be a way of having a run-out for their horses before coming to a sticky end.
The Posh Vandals - The Sack of Rome
Captain Nemo is going down...
Nooo! The pinpoint blitzkrieg assault on the enemy centre came to grief at almost the exact same time
Despite some initial success the Byzantines' application of supporting infantry and horse together with the successful rallying efforts of their General had overcome the combination of bravery, speed, and LBMS shield transfers which the Vandals had been relying on to punch a hole through the enemy line at this strategic juncture.
Along the line from this disaster the rest of the main Vandal mounted command had been making some decent headway in places against the thinned-out line of enemy infantry, taking advantage of overlaps and flanks to drop some serious markerage on the opposing foot. But with Byzantine cavalry now roaming freely behind them this crowd of hooligans now needed not just to win eventually, but to win quickly instead.
The Vandal foot were having a torrid time, breaking through the supposedly paper-thin line of Skoutatoi in a few places but coming off worst in others. Their dreams of a simple linear victory were being washed away in a tide of Viking Varangians who were seemingly intent on chewing up the whole line from the left hand end - a task the Skoutatoi were only too keen to help out with.
Starsky & Hutch, Lieutenant Columbo, Burt Reynolds, The Allman Brothers Band, your boys are handing out one helluva beating! The spirit of the 1970's flowed strongly through the Byzantine army as, seemingly inspired by their commanders 1970's-style cheesecloth shirt the 1970's-era figures fought back against the Vandals, removing whole units from play even when on the brink of destruction themselves. As the Vandal attack petered out all along the line, the game was lost...
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 African vandal Commander
Not exactly the outcome I had been hoping for to round of an otherwise very succesful weekend I must admit. Quite how we managed to fail to wrongfoot an entirely pedestrian army with our speed, imagination and dynamism is a mystery even now as I look back on the battle in retrospect.
There were also I suppose a number of places where things could so easily have gone well - especially that bit right in the middle of the enemy line where we had a chance to blast a hole right through the heart of their plan. If that had come off it would have left the whole enemy army with marauding Goths in it's rear areas - never a nice place to be in.
It is on such fine margins that games, competitions and indeed whole Empires ae won and lost I guess, and at least we managed to participate and come close here to a series of uninterrupted victories.
The first outing of the plastic Gripping Beast cavalry was also a success, so for that I am also grateful. Maybe next time?
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
You blundering halfwitted desert-dwelling sand louse! How can you look at that game and see anything other than a series of easily rectified mistakes, lazy thinking and the veritable throwing away of a chance to claim some more Devizes-themed drinking implements?
You were playing exactly the same army as the previous game, with a different but basically similar composition and yet you appear to have been surprised by what was placed in front of you. The thing that jumps out here is you took a simple army, with two troop types and thus two tricks. One of those tricks worked in all three previous games, and so your brain, never a fast-thinking organ, switched off entirely in this 4th game and you essentially tried the same, Cavalry-led approach in a game when the Infantry were instead the key to success.
The end result was that you wasted units, command capability and break points in a half hearted dithering display of trying to find ways for your horsemen to attack an enemy perfectly designed to thwart and defeat them... and your infantry just jogged forward and then attacked in an unsupported and ad-hoc manner. Honestly - in this game your infantry were the key to success, and your entire cavalry force should have been devoting its energies to supporting them - ensuring they went in with secure flanks, and being ready to launch charges through any gaps they created.
Your brain switched off here, and you paid the ultimate price. A defeat which will weigh heavy on the pages of this website until your far-future-planned next tournament
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