Classical & Roman at Godendag 2018
Patrician Roman vs Frankish
After a damp and nearly fruitless trip to the local railway station to forage for provisions (nearly as in I bought an apple in a fit of cultured epicureanism, a purchase which if discovered may have seen me thrown out of Wales for cultural insubordination) the Roman army girded it's loins for the afternoon session.
With - as appears to be fairly usual in ADLG events - every game bar one (ours) being decisive, the not-quite-total loss in round 1 had left us dangling enticingly in mid table, with a matchup in the afternoon period against the "best of the losers", the near-legend that is Mr Mark Fry and his erstwhile partner Steve "call me Steve" Steve with a very nicely indeed painted Frankish army.
An army composed entirely of Franks is presumably a difficult one to issue orders to, but this one was even more uniform than usual with almost everything in it being an Impetuous Elite Heavy Foot Swordsman.
The lists for the Patrician Roman and Frankish 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.
The smell of garlic and the clank of onions was indeed strong in the Frankish horde as they pushed their bicycles slowly to the start line on a table far more successfully narrowed than even the Chinese had achieved - the open ground was in truth so small that we had decided to throw our own Medium Cavalry command onto a flank march on our right.
The Franks had deployed two massive blocks of 8 foot warriors between the terrain, supported by a small but insignificant force of cavalry on their left.
The fourth command was nowhere to be seen, much to the consternation of the Roman Emperor, who did not know whether to fear an Ambush, a flank march to match off against our own, or both.
Rules hint - An entire command can be sent on a flank march. It comes on table in the turn immediately after it rolls a 5 or a 6 for its command dice (only a 6 will do in it's first turn)
"What could possibly go wrong?"
The classic tactic with a flank march is to race forwards and pin the enemy back into their starting positions, so the arriving flank march can hopefully catch them in the flank whilst they are fixated on the opponents to their front - so this is exactly what we did. The Light Horse screen moved up to pepper the Franks with shooting, hoping to pick off a few casualties before the line of horsemen came into contact both front and ideally rear.
The Franks then boiled out of hiding on a steeply wooded hill to our right - astonishing Kenneth Williams in the process.
Dense terrain on a flank is a surprising place to put Heavy Infantry perhaps, but then again that's sort of what an ambush is supposed to do I guess - and with nothing there to screen them from our flank, this was now no laughing matter.
The Roman and Alan light horse fell back through their own cavalry as the Franks lurched forward a step or two. In the next turn they would all return to continue their shooting mission.
With a front line of 13 Heavy (Armoured) and 2 Medium Cavalry almost all of whom would benefit from Furious Charge against the Franks , the prospect of doing some additional damage through yet more shooting, and enough Light Horse and Auxilia to overlap the Frankish line on both ends the Roman Generals were however starting to wonder if they needed to wait for the flank march to even arrive before steaming in.
How well do these troops fight then?
Textbook "Superior Warband" in old money, the Frankish infantry are solid and durable with a potentially devastating charge. They move relatively slowly as HI, and lack any form of Armour so will need to beat Armoured troops by 2 clear points to inflict a hit. Being Elite mitigates this a lot, adding +1 to any low scores in shooting or melee of below 4, and the durability that comes from being able to absorb 3 hits before the 4th one finishes them off will help them tough it out too.
They are however rather defined by being Impetuous, making them hard to manoeuvre, and even harder to control if any (pedestrian) enemies wander into their charge range. Against most foot (other than non-charging swordsmen) they can claim an additional +1 at first contact for "Impact", and with that comes the extra first-round hit of "Furious Charge".
Good if they are winning, stoic in absorbing hits this wall of Breton-jumper-wearing warriors is hard to wear down and potent going (straight) forward too.
With the Romans having already nibbled off a lone infantry unit at the end of the line that had somewhat unwisely gotten ahead of the rest of the wall of Franks, the tow lines got to nasal-hair-comparing distances as they prepared for combat. The Franks only reserves were still waiting for the flank march that was yet to arrive - but the sight of 7 Impetuous Cavalry would surely send them fleeing in fear anyway once they arrived?
This was it - Warfare as Barker Intended with two long lines of troops facing off on a narrow yet open playing surface, winner takes all. The Frankish line was far more disjointed than it really needed to be, with a stagger half way along, and odd units lagging behind where the cumbersome formation hadn't been given time to fully deploy out by the pace of the Romans rapid advance
What Might Happen Here?
This shows the range of outcomes of a combat in which Average troops fight Elite opponents on even factors - the starting point for this matchup. Darker squares show more hits being inflicted, with the opponents rolls and "wins" shown on the right side of the chart.
In a head-on fair fight the odds are with the Franks, who should win 18 times out of 36, and draw 6 times. However, each win for the Cavalry will inflict an extra cohesion loss dur to Furious Charge. Adding this in, over the course of 36 combats the Impetuous Cavalry should inflict 24 hits and the Franks 26 hits.
Staring at a line of opponents who had managed to cough up 5 separate overlaps and one damaged unit across a frontage of just 15 units - every one of which would give the Romans a +1 combat advantage in a first round melee where any win would also benefit from "Furious Charge" Aetius gave the order.
From where he stood, Aetius was now confident that the Franks had done a whoopsie on the carpet in the form of their incoherent advance and so the time to wait for the Roman flank march was over, the battle was there for brave men and even braver horses to win in an instant. In a thunder of hoves and a cacophony of battle cries of the various Foederate nationalities the Romans (and their allies) went in!!
But these were no ordinary Franks.
They were the coolest of all of the Franks in history, and they shrugged off the hair-brained and over-eager Roman attack wiith style and insouchiance.
15 combats, 5 at an advantage and the Romans walked away from the first round with zero victories and 11 defeats, losing 15 cohesion points to nil in a spectacular string of terrible dice rolling.
Seriously - You rolled Five "1's" and a "less than 3" in 6 dice just then! That's ridiculous...!
Maybe.. but actually, how ridiculous actually is that? Lets do some back of a fag packet maths...
But, how many dice do you roll in an average game? Lets make an assumption.
That all adds up to 148 combat rolls in a typical game. As we are looking for any string of 6 consecutive combat dice here, it means it will only takes 17 games for you to have rolled those 2592 consecutive combat dice that, statistically speaking, are enough to conjure up the rather extreme sequence we started with.
Or, being even more pragmatic, there is a better than 50/50 chance that every single player will experience a sequence of six dice that includes "5 x 1 & a 3 or less" every 9 games.
9 games is "every other tournament".
OK, maybe that sequence doesn't come in at such a vital time, but it will happen far more frequently (to both you and your opponent) than you might initially think!
In the Franks turn the Foederate cavalry were being lifted from the table in honking great fistfuls, as the infantry created and exploited overlaps with glad abandon, giving up barely a scratch to the disheartened and disjointed horsemen who now dejectedly oposed them. The prospect of even surviving another turn seemed distant, especially with the still-AWOL flank march deducting from the effective army size and break point of the Roman army.
One more round, no sign of the flank march, and 28 hits taken - the Romans collapse against the wall of Frankish stoicism in what is an utterly spectacular and one-sided defeat. The Roman troops are all back in the box within an hour of the starting whistle being blown, with barely 4 points of damage inflicted on the Franks, and only 2 of their commands seeing any action at all. The only upside from the whole sorry debacle is getting back to the hotel in time to hear the full commentary on a 6-0 win for the Cottagers over Burton Albion!
Fulham 6, Burton Albion 0 - all the goals
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 Patrician Roman Commander
Well, that escalated quite quickly didn't it? Personally I blame the dice, although the terrain was also so awful for us that I think we had no chance at all even had the gods been kinder to us on the cube-rolling front.
Sometimes though these things happen and being home in time to listen to the Mighty Cottagers do their thing against an admittedly bottom of the table club is a rare treat to be savoured, so not all is lost.
Technically I admit the flank march was in fact lost though, but as Medium Cavalry I doubt they would have had much impact on the game so best off we sweep this on under the carpet of history and move on into the next day where no doubt our luck will even out and we will see some more victories, possibly even greater than the ones we had reported ourselves as achieving in the very first game.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
What depths of incompetence have you plumbed today? They are as deep as the oceans, and wider than the, erm, oceans as well. To suggest this was a game of luck or of terrain is simply to abdicate your own responsibility as a faster moving mounted army to choose where and when to fight - something which should be entirely in your gift, not the decision of these garlic-munching onion sellers from the land of Asterix.
Looking at the setup, your flank march was certainly more than capable of overrunning 4 non-Impact enemy cavalry with ease - after which it would have been charging into the flank of a line of the least manoeuvrable troop types in the entire game, with Impact and with overlaps to boot.
Far from needing to commit to a frontal attack before the flank march arrived it would have been far better - yet again - to sit back and draw the enemy forward into a ground of your choosing, and in all probability there was every chance that their arrival could have won the battle singlehanded without engaging any of your other forces at all. Basically your whole plan depended on the flank march arriving - but instead of actually waiting for that to happen you lost your head, attacked when you didn't need to, and ended up losing the game even before your flank march arrived.
Even allowing for that, your expectation of winning spectacularly because of a handful of overlaps was also fundamentally flawed, by the simple expedient of failing to remember that your opponents were all Elite - negating the overlaps in half of all possible outcomes, and gifting the Franks the upper hand in every one of the other 10 supposedly "evens" combats. This also meant that everywhere you failed to win in the first round you would be down by essentially 1.5 in the second round... a terrible set of odds in any circumstances, and a disastrous one if you expected to be winning.
And I haven't yet mentioned the 4 hits of resilience that each Frankish infantry unit has compared to your cavalry's 3 - making their army almost 20% "bigger" than yours in a toe-to-toe slugging match of the kind you initiated? Probably the best thing you can do now is read what the actual Frankish General made of the whole thing on another blog! We will then read about your next disaster no doubt in the next game
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition