Dark Ages Gaming at Dogs of War 2017
Rus vs Communal Italian
Hot on the heels of The BHGS Challenge came Dogs of War, in the excellent Bristol Independent Gaming Centre. This was a Dark Ages & Early Medieval themed event, and in keeping with my efforts to try and get as many of my long-forgotten armies on table as possible under ADLG I had elected to wheel out the Rus - with a Viking ally.
Useless under FoGAM, the Rus had been a great army in DBM, especially at Doubles where the sheer number of spearmen could almost literally cover the table. Massed Spears were also - I felt - an underrated troop type in the current still-fresh UK ADLG "meta" and so I was keen to test the Rus out in a real in-period event.
The list I had chosen used 2 commands of Rus - maximising the number of Elite spearmen and eschewing even the option of 2 LH (and the initiative bonus they give) in order to fit in more spears - and one of Vikings, just for variety and also to allow me to deploy the Valkyrie which accompanies one of my Generals elements.
The Rus - like any large spear army - really struggle if they are forced to fight around terrain pieces, but can use their sheer width and a rapid advance to make it difficult for an enemy to concentrate on their one open flank. Having learnt from experience of using a Greek Hoplite army in the CLWC club competition my plan was therefore to deploy as little terrain as possible in each game, with the exception of trying for a waterway or river, and adjacent to it a village. With most games probably taking place in the semi-agricultural 'Plains' terrain type, that also meant taking a minimum sized compulsory field if defending, or two of them and a 'no terrain here' road if attacking.
The lists for the Rus and Communal Italian from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Dogs of War can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
In this first game the terrain had been narrowed by the Italians, with a hill on their left and an anchoring couple of fields and plantations on their right. The Italians were clearly not coming out, and so Vikings were in the centre as the Rus line prepared to advance.
With the opposition not even bothering to throw out a skirmish screen (I'm not sure they had one) the Rus & Viking advance was steady and smooth across an empty plain. The Rus had set up in a solid line across the centre of the table, with the Vikings in the centre where they were least-likely to encounter enemy Knights and most likely to meet Early Medieval spearmen, against whom the Hearthguards two-handed axes could wreak terrible damage...They were being drawn to their doom as if entranced by the fires of Sigismund the Hylophobic's filth-encrusted tongue
Keeping things tactically interesting, the Rus' secret weapon was one bowman unit and 2 LF with Javelins. They were the only troops in the Rus army who could credibly approach the brush-covered hill on the right flank, and they did so with some alacrity - blocking off any thoughts the Italian mercenary crossbow-armed LH may have had of sneaking through into the Rus rear.
By the hairs on Frigg's heathen axe, the Vikings had already achieved 50% of their objectives for the weekend - deploying the Valkyrie (from Magister Militium) above their Commander. A magical light fell across the table, as if the game was now illuminated by the spectral glow of Odin's carrion-eating skull-cleaver! If they could get into combat and use their "It's a draw, so we win" 2HCW capability against an enemy spear unit at least once in the next 5 games the entire weekend would be chalked down in the Sagas as a legendary success.
As they approached the enemy, the Rus considered closing up to generate some reserves for the upcoming clash.
Warfare as Barker intended threatened even to drift towards Tactica-style line up and roll dice levels of sophistication, only marginally ruined by the intriguing fencing and shuffling going on in the foreground as the bowmen and javelinmen sought to work an advantage on the rough hill.
As the Elders back in the villages prayed to the gods of Olga Kurylenko's three-forked boxer shorts, the Rus continued to push forward some of the countless spearmen - they had men to spare such that they could even risk throwing one of them onto the hill, where they would suffer badly in any combats ... but if they could out-extend the Italian line and avoid actually fighting other than as an overlap their impact could be decisive.
The Italians continued to hold back their Knights and everything was gearing up for a 20 paces stare-off...
The Italians were first to blink, and their unit of mixed Spearmen/Crossbows supposedly anchoring the end of their line retreated as they calculated the odds of their own Inferior in Combat speary-ness taking on the Rus' own Normal Spears with the help of the beneficial overlap from the spear unit in the rough terrain. The pressure was piling on the Italians left already!
The Italians had gotten themselves in a pickle, trying to defend a brush-covered hill with no troops capable of fighting effectively in it. The Rus had taken some damage from shooting, but now the Italians looked like they flanks were exposed as they tried desperately to contain the ever-growing Rus menace
On the opposite flank the Rus also had spearmen to spare, and were pushing in all directions to try and bottle up Italian bandits who had been hiding in the woods. With the main body of Italians securing their flank on a plantation the options for forcing an overlap were much trickier
Trembling at the thought of Frigg's three-forked massive helmet, the Rus knew this was the place the game would be won! Forcing their way into the heart of the Italian army, flanks started to open up as sheer numbers of Rus spearmen overwhelmed the Italians ability to count whilst still wearing their socks.
Keeping close to their hearts their thoughts of Mad Igor's rune-carved string vest, the Rus charged in! Taking the risk against the enemy Knights and trading off lower combat factors against their ability to absorb more hits in an attritional battle, the Rus charged the Italian Knights and into combat against their foot all along the line. The combat began...
Heavy Spearmen who receive an enemy mounted charge gain +1 for Impact, and also cancel any enemy bonus for Impact. If the Spearmen charge in though, they lose Impact and the enemy mounted's Impact ability still counts.
The Rus had far too many units on the right for the Italians to cope with - this created overlaps by the score and even a deadly flank attack. The Rus were already teetering on the brink of a decisive advantage and a possibility of rolling up the Italian line!
The initial round of combats involved fistfuls of dice - and a smattering of markers which fell on both sides as well. But, in exactly the place where the Rus had their only overlap the Italian knights had pulled out of the bag a 6-1, blasting a hole in the Rus line that they not only did not expect, but which they now had no means of plugging!
The Italian Knights took heart and soon widened the gap to two units - the noblemen were jubilant and started to exploit their advantage against the Rus, who were completely locked in combat and unable to deal with the hordes of horsemen now crashing into their flanks.
The gap widened by the second, every dice roll causing more pain for the linear Rus. By now the Viking dead were turning as rancid as a dead cat trapped for months under Frigg's heathen helmet!
The Italian Knights must have wondered what they had done to be granted the freedom of Kyiv as they rampaged through the rear of the Rus army
As the Elders back in the villages prayed to the gods of Olga Kurylenko's dog-bitten hammer, the Vikings were - as expected - chewing a hole through the centre of the Italian army as their Dane Axes swung relentlessly into the thin shields of the cowering Italian infantry.
Despite their inherent resilience, the Rus were starting to struggle on the left, where the conflicting necessity of protecting the flanks of the main line of combats whilst simultaneously avoiding fighting in the dense terrain of the plantation was turning into a losing battle.
The Rus were being steadily rolled up from the right flank by the unopposed Italian nobility. The need to have reserves was starting to seep into the Rus generals brain as his army crashed to defeat...
The Result is a first-outing defeat for the Rus
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 Rus Commander
Despite my somewhat mixed track record as ruler of the 20th Century iteration of the Rus Empire, I feel that we are marching forward together, probably in a solid line, towards the inevitable victory of the spear carrying proletariat over the bourgoisie and their fancy horse-borne articulations of the ceaseless class struggle to liberate men from toil and the need to do anything more complex that line up and go forward
This defeat is therefore officially reclassified as a victory, and the next 5-year plan will set out exactly how and when further inevitable victories will be achieved, through the sweat of organised labour and a ruthless devotion to the sanctity of the state in planning a linear attack on any capitalist oppressors it comes across.
The Generals concerned have now all been exiled to the Gulag, or, even worse, across the Severn estuary to South Wales in the case of the chap commanding the (and I spit as I say this) "right wing" of the army who oversaw the breaking point in this not entirely as successful as intended partial victory for the forces of the Rus.
I am sure that the march of history is with us as we stride forward as a union of autonomous republics all acting under my sole and exclusive command.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
You hopeless blitherng idiot. By Ragnar's Horns, how can anyone with a massive army, attacking a force dug in between terrain, come up with a plan that involved spreading your troops thinly, covering space where there are no enemies, and then going into combat against better quality foes with literally no reserves at all? Hannibal Reply 1
The frothy beard of Ulric the Unwashed would contain bacteria with more military intelligence than you in this situation. And it's not as if you've never played Mr Hacker before either - were these tactics a surprise ?
The future of your weekend rests on your ability to learn from your mistakes - and I think we will see the outcome in the next game, never mind in 5 years from now.
I cannot imagine that tactical cleverness will jump as if newly born from your brain and imbue the animus of this tediously one-dimensional force with genius any time soon either, but at least that allows me to save my critique of your army list until the next game secure in the knowledge that there will be no new tactics to discuss...
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition