Classical and Roman at Lisboa 2022
Achaemenid Persian vs Late Imperial Roman
Game three came after another chance to sit in the afternoon sunshine in the neatly tiled courtyard of the Museo Militar.
Fans of Dutch pottery would have been delighted to see the extensive use of blue and white stylistic motifs and colours in the hundreds of yards of ceramic illustrations of Portugal's military exploits through the ages, although perhaps any passing Moorish Chieftains might well have given some of the more dynamic imagery a bit of a miss
With an on-par record of 1 win, one loss and 2 draws we had managed to hold on tenuously to the 8th table and a place in the main room of the gaming hall rather than being banished to play amongst the cannons in the darker recesses of the museum, but even so my 2/2 win record was already marking me out as an outlier in the Anglo-Irish team.
The question going into the afternoon game was whether that record could be maintained or whether I might align my results more closely with the team median score for purposes of solidarity and comradeship. Anyway, with another Late Roman army to face, at least there should be no surprises to trip me up.
The lists for the Achaemenid Persian and Late Imperial Roman from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Lisboa can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
Late Romans can have bolt shooters on carts that fire overhead - and this army amazingly squeezes two of them into two blocks of well equipped Legions, giving two punchy and hard to shoot armoured mobile terrain blocks to move around the table. That does mean it will be light on Auxiliaries and rough terrain capability, but with the right terrain picks that isn't such an issue. It wants a narrow table to force you to fight the Legions.
This table was the same but different to the previous game, with the Romans electing to defend along the edge of a major water feature, a development which narrowed the table considerably and game less room on the flanks for the Persian horse to negotiate the gaps around the edges of the rest of the terrain dished out by the defensive-minded Romans.
Even so the Persian army went with the same classic Refused Centre approach, with both proper commands on the wings and the LH-rich outfit down the middle again
But, all of that tactical and strategic stuff was utterly unimportant as a Roman Road had fallen directly across the table, linking both long edges in a dead straight textbook Roman way
Vasco de Gama's Bum Bag Stuffed With Travellers Cheques! This was a gift beyond all imagination if you happened to be one of the several hundreds of crewmembers working in various manual and administrative functions in a Cyrus' Mobile Archery Platform Wallpaper Display Unit, and every last one of they danced in absolute joy as the pantechnicon of arrow-based loveliness careened as high speed (OK, the same pace as the Immortals could walk) along the well-laid asphalt surface towards the bemused enemy lines
On the opposite flank things were developing in line with the pattern of previous games, as a wall of Sparabara advanced towards an immediately frightened enemy Light Horse, who's plan to fall back slowly in the face of enemy infantry had just crumbled before their eyes once faced with the harsh reality of a pavise-full of angry pyjama wearing bowsters showering them with archery at far longer range that they were entirely comfortable with.
The Persian battle plan here was so obvious that the more astute members of the Roman baggage train were already frantically looking into how easy it might be to add a whiff of Zoroastorianism to the Imperial Eagle motifs around the Legionary camp
The same general idea was being executed with alacrity on the river's edge, as Immortals, Satrapal Noble cavalry, and even the ridiculous Archery Platform and Interior Decorator's Worst Nightmare Machine all started deluging the Roman cavalry force with missiles
Bola de Berlim! Visibly wilting under the weight or archery aimed at them, even the Embedded Roman General in his Cataphract outfit was soon soaking up arrows and hits from the Persian shooting host
What's Going on Here Then?
Both wings of Persians are driving forward, and putting pressure on the Roman Army's two mounted wings, all as per the plan. The Romans have started the process of pulling their Legions out of the centre to reinforce the flanks, and the two blocks of Legionaries are advancing quickly and are reaching out to harass the Persians already through the expedient of the Integrated Artillery in each block of soldiery
The one thing that was already clear was that this would not be a great game for the Chaldeans - unlike the previous Roman army, this one had wisely split its Legionary core into two separate chunks which were already starting close enough to the edges of the table to start interfering with the Sparabara.
The Chaldeans really didn't want to be fighting full-fat Legions, and their ability to get stuck into enemy Cavalry working this time hand in hand with the red-clad Roman infantry would really depend on the choices made by the Roman horsemen, not the Chaldeans abiilty to rush to the right place under cover of their own cavalry screen
Caldo Verde! With the meso-American desert terrain of Dave in our Book 1 period in close proximity on the next table, at least the Sparabara were driving home their advantage against the thin skin of Roman light horse on the Persian left.
Death by archery, or an evade off table looked like the two options the Roman careers master would be setting out for his young equestrians this afternoon.
Pasteis de Nata! The Wallpaper Display System with Added Twang had executed a neat handbrake turn by now, in a vague effort to stop the somewhat well educated Legions from just walking straight past it.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - War Wagons don't create a Zone of Control from any face, and these ones can't initiate contact with any enemy either- so you can just walk straight past them if you wish
But these Romans had the gift that keeps on giving (bolts), yes, cart-mounted artillery shooting over and through the wall of Legionaries, and this relentless fusilllade was playing merry havoc with the Persian machine.
A casual observer may have imagined the wallpapered vertical walls were being prepared with multiple picture hooks for a display of Iranian art, but instead the Roman torsion scorpion was inflicting a steady stream of hits on the ornate yet fragile battle wagon and its now not so merry crew. Bacalhau a Lagareiro as they say on the streets of Lisboa!
Being a Legionary is clever, but even someone in a Monteferino helmet has to look straight ahead when there is a risk that a Persian horseman will aim an arrow in your direction.
With the Roman Light Horse now well and truly driven off, the Sparabara had plenty of time to wheel round to position themselves in the only possible attack vector from where they rather sheepishly might have any chance of standing up to, or even beating these highly efficient professional Italianate soldiers and their far less ornate (than the Persian's) daywear
What's Going on Here Then?
The Persian right flank is now having to deal with a combined Legion and Roman cavalry force which has already eroded the War Wagon, and is acting in a joined up manner against the Persians
On the left however the Persians have sacrificed a unit of Sparabara to fix the Legion in place, and have as a result managed to turn the flank of the Roman infantry block. They are now poised to attack from the flank, although their own cavalry component is still occupied in the main chasing off Roman light horse so is not really in a position to fully support this infantry attack
The Artillery platform rocked back and forth alarmingly as the Roman legion hammered into it, putting the fear of many gods into the Immortals just beyond its colourful walls.
But, by now the Roman cavalry had almost been fully shredded by bowfire, and was hanging on by its horse hoof fingernails as the Persians poured yet more fire into the combat zone.
Cristiano Ronaldo's Lifelike Statues! Even the Cataphract-embedded General was at risk, and his fall would hamstring the entire Roman left wing.
Late Roman in Flames
Hmmm.. the Paint Your Wagon seemed immune to its planned role as an obstacle and road block, and weakened by the Roman artillery's accurate shooting (come on - it was hardly a difficult target to miss. The phrase Barn Door comes to mind.) it evaporated in a shower of flock and fabric
Peniche, Nazare and Matosinhos! At the very same moment a Hail Mary attack from the Roman embedded General simply trounced the so-called Immortals and blew them away on contact, despite his injury and the well positioned overlapping extra Immortal unit as well.
Suddenly the Romans were smelling the sunlit uplands, having thought themselves nose-deep in the dark pit of near defeat!
Caldeirada and Fado! The carefully engineered assault on the flank of the other Legion was faring equally well - the Sparabara were finding that their whicker pavises were not that effective against the hard metal armour of the Loricaq Segmenta clad Romans, and even the all filler no killer levy had picked up some Roman spirit and managed to shrug off the Sparabara's attack with barely a flesh wound
Bolinhos de Bacalhau! You know things are desparate when the Scythed Chariot of Doom enters the fray!
The Roman general and his team of personal cataphractic assistants were also facing a set of Immortals who were attemting to cheat fate by sliding into action - another sign of true desparation indeed
L'Art de la Guerre hint - The Immortals start their turn in corner to corner contact with the Cataphracts, so have to conform into them (for zero pips) or move away. In this position they really need to do some damage to the near-dead Roman commanders bodyguard (as he will run them down anyway next turn), and so choose to conform.
This has the advantage that the melee then counts as a continuation of the previous round of combat (in which the Immortals provided support to their colleagues) rather than a new phase, thus denying the Cataphracts the benefit of another "Impact" first round bonus.
Azulejos! That sequence of moves managed to simultaneously not work out as well as hoped, but also to pan out pretty much exactly as expected for the Persians, with the Scythed Beastie immolating itself at contact and the Immortals again disproving their moniker with a 2-hit first round loss to the Cataphracts
Late Roman Legions
The Resolute Romans were registering real resistance across the park by now, turning from their flank attack into face the Sparabara and handing out a decent kicking in the process.
Even the Levy were still, somehow hanging on as well, as the Roman levy laughed off the attacks of the enemy
The Persians had started to realise that their success in shooting - even at this late stage in the game - was leading their Gods to punish them badly in hand to hand combat
Piri Piri Chicken! The Cataphract Commander ploughed on, despatching the last vestiges of the Immortals while the most Vanilla of Roman units, the non-special Cavalrymen, continued to hang on for dear life in the face of repeated attempts by the Satrapal Guard to emulate Sassanid successes against them.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Romans have managed to join up their mounted and infantry forces on both wings, and now the game has shifted from archery and movement to close quarters combat their superior quality and armour is starting to tell against the Persian army
The Persians initially promising position is starting to fade into history as the game moves to a phase the Romans are far better prepared to win at
The game was however still delicately poised, with both sides close enough to victory to smell success in their desert-blasted nostrils
The table had totally opened up as the Romans were drawn out to the threats on their flanks, and the Persians found gaps opening up through which their javelin-armed LH could make a dash for the left behind Roman artillery...
Who, of course, managed to beat the Light Horse javelineers in the first round, setting them up for total immolation as more Roman reserves arrived to finish off the Persian army at the very death!
The Result is a defeat for Persia which frankly neither player could see coming barely half an hour from the end!
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 Achaemenid Persian Commander
Well, that's a little tricky isn't it? The idea of outflanking the enemy and rolling them up after pummelling them with archery for several days is I believe the only proven military strategy in history, so quite why it doesn't seem to have worked in this game is a puzzle that I am still puzzled by in some depth
The genius of my strategy was undimmed from the previous battle, and I executed it perfectly, even dragging the Roman generals to within an inch of their lives with the power of the mighty bow.
Sadly the Great Tower Of Power didn't really do too well in the face of these newfangled super-bow-machines on carts hiding in a cowardly fashion behind these Legions, and fell very swiftly
It was close, but in the end something I cannot begin to fathom dropped from the Gods and ended up defeating me in a very unsporting way by the trickery of armour, weapons and aggressive bravery in hand to hand combat. Most unsporting really, I hope it does not happen again
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Thou sodden-witted lord! Thou hast no more brain than I have in mine elbows to fail to remember how this army of yours performas after playing with it for 2 games already!
You know it is an army of shooting, but here you tried to deliver the coup de grace too soon through inopportune combat against a well protected foe. You may claim this is poor luck, but it was manifest destint and to proclaim otherwise is proof if it were needed that thy tongue still outvenoms all the worms of the Nile.
Shoot and run away, rinse and repeat - your brain is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage not to remember this at all times. You even let the enemy light horse escape from your ministrations in exchange for a heroic but doomed attack on the Legions - idiocy incarnate if ever I saw it!
Away, you mouldy rogue, away, and do not darken our doors until the next day of battle when we shall see yu and your team mates at the near-foot of the whole table in the next game
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition