Biblical &Classical in Godendag 2017
Early Imperial Roman & Judean vs Greco-Indians and Kushans
After an unfeasibly civilized and relatively early night spent traipsing the sub-zero streets of central Cardiff, dodging marauding gangs of barely-clad girls down from the Valleys, a-gaggin' and a-drippin' as they hunted fresh meat in feral packs, the second day of Godendingdangdag 2017 dawned cold and a bit damp. Shocker.
This game would see the legions of Rome and Judea face off against a Greek-inspired army from the very edges of Alexanders conquests, the Graeco-Indians and Kushans. The lists for the Early Imperial Roman & Judean and Greco-Indians and Kushans from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Godendag can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
Combining the best of the Classical era Makedonian Successor states with powerful cataphract cavalry and local elephants, the Kushan and Graeco-Indian armies have always been a flexible and potent force in all types of wargaming. Apart of course from WW2, when they tend to not fare all that well against the all-round armour and firepower of the Russian T34. But I digress. Able to field either infantry or mounted-led lists they possess great flexibility, and of course the threat of elephants is ever-present.
The table our enemies desired was bald, but the Romans, knowing they might be outnumbered in mounted, had dropped two large wooded areas and a patch of brush onto the playing surface to provide an anchor for the wall of infantry. The Indians and Greeks had deployed very heavily weighting one side of the table, almost diametrically opposite to the Romano-Judean infantry core making this a game where both armies were unlikely to get to grips at short notice.
What's Going on Here Then?
With a mostly open table the expensive and deep Indo-Greek army has not elected to sit centrally, instead refusing one flank with LH. The Romano-Judean forces only have infantry against the LH screen, making it potentially difficult to push it back swiftly. A dangerous core of Pikes and Cataphract Lancers is poised to contest the centre for the Indo-Greeks, and the two allied Roman commands of Parthians and Armenians have found themselves potentially facing their nemesis, Elephants.
Facing pretty much the full force of the opposition, the first command to redeploy were the Armenians scuttling back to try and form up closer to their own allied infantry. Unlike when visiting Wales, they did not need to pay a toll to get into position.
As the Indians marched forward to the sound of elephant hooves on stucco-ed MDF, the Armenian horse archers measured the distance between themselves and the advancing line of bowmen very carefully indeed, anxious to avoid getting shot at long range.
The mirror image was taking place on the opposite flank as a solid line of Roman and Judean legionaries inched forward driving back the Indians covering force of LH. On the extreme end of the line the Roman Auxilia were working out if they would see any action at all this chilly and damp Welsh morning?
By now it was raining pitchforks outside as the locals basked in the unseasonably pleasant weather and on the tabletop the Indian elephants werenow receding into the distance as the Armenians wheeled round to form up on the shoulders of the Parthians, looking to initiate a Cataphract on Cataphract cash before the elephants could join in.
The Legions were pressing forward but making slow progress against the carefully retreating mounted bowmen of the Kushan army.
Key Moments in Kushan History
Adding a couple of faster-moving Heavy Cavalry into the line however suddenly changed the Kushan's views on whether they might get caught in an evade move, and they fell back rapidly to a much safer distance. The Heavy Cavalry had not been so dissappointed since someone told them that 'popty ping' isn't actually Welsh for microwave overn.
The Armenians had gambled that they would have enough time to go past the Parthians - partly to try and tease the Kushan Cataphracts into rushing forward in response to the car-crash-like redeployment shambles arrayed in front of them. But, like Welshmen gambling on making a short trip to the shops without taking the umbrella their understanding of the odds was sadly misplaced. But, they clearly still needed some more Classic Welsh Village-style encouragement to prompt them to wade in....
On the left the Kushan LH were drifting back into and out of obscenity-yelling range as the Romans continued to inch (or 40mm MU) forward towards the opposite table edge.
The Armenian commander may have been struggling to execute drill-ground displays in lining up with the Partians, but on a strategic level he was fairly satisfied with quite how well his redeployment had effectively taken large slugs of the Indian army totally out of the game.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Armenians have succesfully run away, sorry, successfully redeployed against a better opponent than the Indians, and the two armies combat troops are inching to positions where they can launch forward to initiate a battle they both appear to welcome. The Indo-Greeks have also taken the opportunity afforded by the slow advance of the redeploying and pedestrian Romans to shuffle their pack as well to optimise matchups. On the left vast swathes of the Roman army are pushing back the thin screen of Indo-Greek Light Horse, and are struggling to see how they will join the battle.
The Graeco-Indians blinked first, and launched themselves forward at the Parthians and Armenians - the Judean Peltasts rushed out of the terrain and geared themselves up to oppose the onrushing elephants!
The Indians were by now well fed up with being marginalised, and with a flurry of pips hey split their elephants from the supporting bowmen and started to shift the mighty pachyderms across the table into a more interesting part of the battlefield.
Having swept the Kushan LH away, finally, the Roman Legions were able to wheel round and zero in on their ideal target - the Graeco-Indian pikemen - in one of the most eagerly anticipated clashes of the Classical world.
How well do these troops fight then?
Greek Pikemen vs Legions - how does that all stack up then?
On contact they are even: Pike +2; Legio +1 (Sword) +1 Impact = +2
But after impact the pike keep figthing at 2+ while the Legio are at +1 only.
So, that sort of means that the Pikemen are better, doesn't it... well, it's all a lot more balanced than that when you get into the real world... you also need to consider
...all of which make it easier to be wider, and also to flank the pikemen. If the pikes win or draw the impact, then they should expect to grind the legions down, being at a +1 the rest of the way. If the legions win impact, then they will probably destroy the pikes eventually because the factors are even and the legions will have more cohesion levels left.
Also, the legions are probably armored and are more likely to be elite as well. You should also consider the greater tactical flexibility of the legions.
Finally, after much faffing about, battle was actually joined as the Parthians moved up to engage the enemy - as the Armenians continued to faff about in the margins. The odds were stacked against the Parthians in the long term, but their main role was to hold firm long enough to allow the Roman legions time to engage and hopefully defeat the Graeco-Indian pikemen further along the line, where the Romans enjoyed the advantages of quality and width.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Parthians, a little sooner than they would have liked, initiate the combat phase of the game as the Greek Cataphracts close on them before the redeploying Armenians have gotten into position. The Indians are starting to swing round the Romano-Judean right flank, and some Elephants are dangerously close to the Parthians. The proper Roman Legions are ready to face Pikemen, and the Greek Light Horse are soon going to start running out of table against the advancing Judeans and Auxilia - but whether this willl have bought the rest of the army the time they need is still in the balance.
The Judean Legions had now been relegated to junior combat duty in sweeping away the remnants of the Kushan LH after the Roman Legions had peeled off to do proper man's work against the Pikemen.
The Romans were in! In a flurry of pila they impacted onto the front of the Pike phalanx, showing how extra width could help create potentially decisive overlaps and swing the battle in their favour.
The plan to have the Parthians hold on was however not going to, erm plan - they were being crushed in short order by the Kushan Cataphracts, leaving a rather intimidated second line of Armenian and Greek cavalry to await the Kushan's continued onslaught
At least some of the Armenians had found a rather squishier target - some of the Indian bowmen who they had started the game facing off against. After much pip-expenditure and countermarching, they now charged them down in the open, exactly as if they had just rode forward right from the off.
The full linear attack of the Legions was now in effect, with the Romans chewing up the Pikemen whilst fending off yet more Cataphracts. The Judean legions were continuing to push forward against minimal opposition, driving past the flanks of the Kushan mail-clad horsemen whilst also getting dangerously close to yet more reserve-quality Indian bow formations as well. If they could survive the Kushan Cataphract charge intact this looked to be shaping up to be a good part of the battle for the Roman-Judean alliance.
What's Going on Here Then?
The whole of the two armies combat troops are pretty much engaged, with the Indo-Greeks having engineered the best of the matchups and already gaining the upper hand as the Parthians and Armenians struggle at the right hand end of the Roman-Judean battle line against the Greeks Elephant-supported Cataphract formation. The Roman legins are struggling as well against the Phalanx, but the Judeans are starting to finally get into a position from which they can inflict some real damage, rather than just chasing off skirmishing Light Horse. Even after much redeplyment and maneuver on both sides, the battle is well and truly raging
The Armenians success against the Indian bowmen proved rather less successful than they hoped, as it exposed them to the reserve ranks of elephants behind!
The second wave of Roman-Judean horsemen were making almost as little dent on the Kushan cataphracts as the first - it was a good day for the recycling of markers, but little else for the forces of the Mediterranean was looking good here.
The Judean legions push on into the soft underbelly of the Indian army.
With a thunder of hooves the Roman cavalry charge into danger, just falling short of catching the fleeing Kushan horse archers but still doing a good job of preventing them from marching away. In a big army a single lost unit was not that traumatic.
Roman Cavalry Training
The proper Romans had failed to read the script in which they shocked the Pikemen at impact and then ground them down - the opposite had happened and now the Roman had a huge hole in their line where they had initially hoped to achieve a breakthrough of their own! The Parthians continued to go down as well, with only one unit surviving as it seemingly hogged all of the good dice for the rest of its command for turn after turn.
The right flank of the Roman-Judean army was by now thinly defended, if indeed that word could be legitimately used to describe the activities of a handful of LH facing elephants and bowmen
The Pikemen were growing in confidence and stepped smartly forward towards the reserve elements of the Roman-Judean infantry - but he reserves were Thracians, with their fearsome antic-spear (and pike) falxes, and so they too were quietly confident they might outshine their Legionary colleagues in combat.
Judean legions into bowmen… nice!
What's Going on Here Then?
The Graeco-Indian centre has come out decisively on top against the Romans and their Parthian and Armenian allies, forcing the rather less competent Judean Peltasts to step up and try and prevent the Indian command from sweeping round and rolling up their whole line. But, free from the need to actually engage in meaningful combat for much of the game the Judean Legions and Roman Auxilia have finally discovered some enemy troops, and like in the first game they are cutting a swathe through the rear-echelon reserves of the enemy army, somewhat equalising the body count in the process. The Indo-Greeks are the only army who can win this, but the Romano-Judeans are either hanging on, or planning to go down fighting.
The Romano-Judean army was starting to slowly put the squeeze on the entire Kushan-Indian right flank as the solid line of infantry swung round into combat against the squishier elements of the sub-continental forces.
The Armenians must have wished they too were on the opposite flank, as now only one Cataphract remained from the once-proud force that had just a few hours earlier seemed set to dance its way into the pages of history.
The usually-pants Roman Cavalry were leading the left hook, driving deep into the enemy formation in an attempt to loot the baggage of the Indians - horse archers were being pressed into unaccustomed close combat to try and stop them carrying away the treasures of the Orient !
Both the Parthian and Armenian commanders were reduced to the ignominy of having to flee their last credible Cataphracts and join some of their own LH - much better for retreating with though!
The entire right hand side of the table was now almost entirely bereft of Romano-Judean combat troops.
The heroic Thracians charged home, swinging their falx-like axes with abandon as they hit the overlapped Pikemen
The impact was tremendous, as the Thracians tie-breaker technology came to the fore and they battered the shocked pikemen
But then, with the clock running down the battle ended - a near-crushing defeat for the Romano-Judeans as their best combat troops either failed to get to grips with, or lost to the forces of the Hindu Kush.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Roman centre continues to be overrun by Graeco-Indian forces, and only the ability of the Parthian and Armenian skirmishers to help their Generals flee away has saved the army from a crushing defeat. The late arrival into combat by the Judean Legions and Roman Auxilia has delivered some respectability to the scroesheet, and the extreme difficulty the Indian command has experienced in redeploying has also helped save Rome's bacon from a total fry-up.
The Result is a defeat, but not quite an army break
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 Early Imperial Roman & Judean Commander
Well, this was a rght old ding-dong wasn't it? We succesfully avoided the Indians, got the Legions into the Pikemen, and the Judeans into the squishy underbelly of the enemy - and even the Auxila seemed to use their greater speed across the ground to perform an admirable left hook. Quite how we ended up coming so close to defeat after such works of genius is frankly beyond me, but I suppose I could do the usual and blame the dice?
The opportunity to run a Legion vs Pike matchup using my best Legionaries and their rather spiffing square shields was really good though, and I am sure that the next time this classic battle takes place we will end up deserved winners. After investing all of those points in Elite status and Armour I was a little annoyed not to cut throug hthem like a knife through butter - maybe the provsion of Rear Support for that extra point might also seem more worthwhile now in retrospect, as losing the first round is a real killer ?
I am also a little irritated by the failure of our allies, the Parthians and the Armenians, to stand up to the enemy Cataphracts for any length of time. This should have been a time when greater numbes counted in our favour, but those pesky elephants clearly tipped the balance. Maybe I should find some myself and take at least one of them next time I go on an expedition to Britannia? That will impress the natives eh!
With one game to go, we are still in the hunt for silverware as well - so a repeat of either of the first two games and we will be off back to Londinium with a trophy!
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Everything you say is so unbearably boring, by Hercules, that it's murder by monotony. This was not a close run thing at all, you were utterly undone by your increasingly obvious poor army choice, and a repeated tendency to deploy your troops in places where they have to undertake a veritable Appenine Way of marching in order to get to grips with any sort of enemy soldiery at all - by the Gods this is shameful!
Rather than a General of note, you're merely an informer and a mudraker, a con-man wheeler-dealer, a gigolo and an educator in evil. All that you Roman, and amazingly, you're still broke when it comes to planning on the battlefield! Yet again we see a battle plan in which the enemy has out-thought you in choices and deplyment and where your best strategy seems to be to seek out and initiate evens combats? How can this be sensible?
On a table as large as this you need mobility, and the opportunity to dictate the pace of the game by choosing where, and who you fight. This army of yours lacks the tools to do so, and you lack the wit to do so also.
Let's face it, you haven't got the brains of a sleeping two-year-old rocked in the rook of his father's arm. I fear for you in the next game
Click here for the report of the final game in this competition