Dark Ages & Early Feudal at Lisbon 2023
Anglo-Irish vs Konstantinan Byzantine
With a suitably military-themed lunch devoured successfully (even including some bread which was either a local delicacy or was chinks of masonry rubble left over from Exercito target practice at a historic building in downtown Lisboa) the rather amusingly effective Anglo Irish found themselves facing what may well be one of their sternest tests to date - a Konstantinian Byzantine army
Given it's the army that lost at Manzikert, the Konstantinians are pretty decent although often overlooked - at least until now!
You get decent numbers of mixed shooty/chargey cavalry, some Elite, a good bakers half dozen of Norman Medium Knights, Skoutatoi who can be either half and half or solid spearmen, Varangians, and a fair bit of padding and filler in the shape of light foot, medium infantry and some unarmoured horse archers too to bulk things out.
Think of it as a Nikephorian army with Impetuous Elite Medium Knights instead of 2 cataphracts and you sort of wonder why it's not a lot more popular really?
Anyways, as this was a themed pool event the Byzantines were in the same section of the lists as the Anglo Normans, so they would be generally comparable at the least
The lists for the Anglo-Irish and Konstantinan Byzantine from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Lisbon can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
My attempts to secure a narrow battlefield and a decent bit of cover in which to yet again hide the Irish had come to a bit of a juddering halt in this game however, with both plantations falling sort of off centre but crucially in the opposition half.
The other flank was wide open and at the mercy of speedy and well drilled Byzantine horsemen, and the Irish were left sitting pretty hoping against hope that they could dash across the open ground and into the plantation before the Byzantines managed to get into horse charging range of them
The Byzantines had been tempted to drop a small, textbook Included General command on the outside edge of the table, sneaking it past the plantation infestation to try and cause havoc on my right flank.
This put the pressure on the Irish even more - their couple of skirmishing javelinmen were acting as a screen to slow the enemy cavalry sweep, but these first Pip rolls would be vital in making sure they could get out of dodge and avoid being run down in the open by Constantinopalese lancers early doors
But, with the luck o'the Irish the, ahem, Irish allied contingent did the business, sprinting across the open ground like rocket powered mini vikings to hurl themselves into the loving embrace of a massive plantation of vineyards or other flora of a cultivated variety that might be found in the suburban allotments of Byzantium
There was a great wailing and gnashing of teeth on the part of the Byzantines that nearly rent the very air of the military dungeon in which we were playing asunder, as they realised that the only thing they now had to do was sweep unopposed past the foliage-cowering Irishmen and threaten the center of my army from the rear
Hmmm... not sure that has worked out entirely as planned then..?
My Feudal Anglo-Irish Army List
Competent Unreliable General
2 English Knights, Medium Knight Impetuous
2 English & Welsh Archers, Vanilla Longbowmen
2 Colonists, Heavy Spearmen Mediocre
2 Kerns, Javelinmen
2 Ostmen, HI Sword
1 Kern, LI Javelin
1 Archer, Light Infantry Bow
In this command the combination of Longbows, Ostmen and Spears provides a solid anvil which looks tempting enough for most enemy mounted units to fancy their chances against it. The Ostmen in particular also serve a function as blockers for any Impetuous enemy infantry I might have encountered
Two Javelinmen, especially when leaping out from behind the wall of solid-ish foot is a good counter and threat for enemy elephants, or they can operate with the Longbows and some LF in terrain as a fairly competent force. hey can also skirmish away from danger if needed - which I find opponents often forget.
The two knights can be a reserve, can operate with the other 3 Knights in Command 1, or can be a flanking force in their own right too. Dismounted they become HI 2HW Armour, which is pretty decent anyway too, with the 2HW sometimes working well against elephants.
An unreliable general is a bit of a hoot really, but in the real world this army will look to defend fairly often so the risk of Unreliability is not too bad.
The rest of the battlefield was looking a lot more predictable, with a long, long line of Anglo-Irish troops extending in front of a rather confused set of Byzantines who were no doubt wondering how to approach such a mish-mash of nonsense, especially when on board a Medium cavalry horse.
Ginja Galore! Rather unfortunately the Anglo-Irish plan of holding off the right flank of the enemy (which of course would be half-hearted skirmishing cavalry) with a line of mixed spearmen and archers had crumbled to dust as the sneaky and perfidious Byzantines countered this deployment with their own somewhat more dangerous Skoutatoi and what looks in this picture to be Armenian spearmen
Back on the so-called "Irish" flank, most of the allied Irish warriors were nowhere to be seen, leaving only some unimpressed kern javelinmen (part of the main army) to run away giggling as the handful of Byzantine cavalry tried to decide between chasing them across the table and instead turning to respond to the badly-articulated taunts from the only Irish unit still left in the plantation area
But where had the rest of the Irish gone? Had they invented a new rule allowing them to go into ambush midway through a game perhaps?
Nope! Somewhat unexpectedly the Guinness-drinking allied contingent found itself with an unlikely, pedestrian-friendly path toward the Byzantine baggage opening up before them, and that was an opportunity they simply could not resist.
With the rest of the Byzantine army having been drawn ever further to their right to try and overlap and pile into the Anglo-Irish left flank, and with their smallest command still rather lost on it's jaunt on the other side of the plantation a bit of a gap had now opened up in the middle of the table - right in front of the Irish!
The Anglo-Irish left was now under severe pressure as the Contrast-painted Armenians and micro-sized Caballero Miniatures 3D printed Skoutatoi steamed into the Longbowmen and Clonist spearmen that made up the Anglo-Irish flank
These were a lot of troops who really didn't want to be in combat, but in this battle the Armenians were kings of all they surveyed.
Their vibrant cloaks flowing in the lack of breeze in our subterranean gaming area, they took the fight to the English Colonists with grim abandon
The clash of maces and shields reverberated through the air, warriors locked in a deadly embrace, each strike a desperate bid for survival in the midst of the chaos.
Arroz Doce Delight! In the centre the Knights of both sides were doing what Knights do best - charging home and attacking anything in their path.
Horse hooves thundered across the field, knights and cavalry charging like a tidal wave, their banners streaming behind them, a defiant dance in the face of death.
Rather unfortunately though in this essentially "total lottery" combat matchup the English were coming off much the worse against their Norman foes, and hit markers sprouted dangerously all along the back edge of what should have been the best elements of the Anglo-Irish army
The Irish command was by now racing off into the distance, stealing apples and feasting on blackberries as they rampaged through the vacant plantation, but even so the Byzantine cavalry on-table flank march could not simply be left to play
Farinheira Fandango! The rest of their Byzantine machinations had however drifted so far to their left in their effort to outflank the Anglo-Irish left that the English knights in the centre were rather lacking in opponents - allowing some units of the knights to be detached and sent to interfere with the on-table flankers, even as some of them chased fruitlessly at evading Kern javelinmen
That "drifted to the right" Byzantine attack suddenly started to generate the localised overload of troops and opportunities that it's fiendishly clever commanders had no doubt hoped for.
The English Colonists and longbowmen were falling apart, with the fact that the Medium Cavalry lancers were now hoving into view as a committed reserve attested to in unmistakable horse-shaped reality.
But the Byzantine army was nothing if not small, and with a bunch of horsemen off and away over on their far left flank, and an overstacking of forces on their right inevitably something had to give.
To all intents and purposes therefore, their centre was missing - and the grateful Irish were racing through that gaping gap towards the enemy baggage as the rest of the Anglo-Irish army suddenly stepped up and started to block any thoughts the Byzantines had of rectifying this centreless deployment.
The Anglo-Norman conquest of Ireland
The Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland came in a period when the Norman lords were keen to seize the opportunity to expand their territories and seek new opportunities for wealth and power. The invitation from Diarmait Mac Murchada provided them with a reason to venture into Ireland, and step into the complex web of allegiances in the Isle of Ireland as major players.
The almost-literal seal of approval for these actions came when Pope Adrian IV, the only English pope in history, issued the papal bull Laudabiliter in 1155, granting Henry II of England authority over Ireland. This papal approval was used to legitimize the English involvement in Ireland, providing a religious justification for the invasion.
In 1169, the first Anglo-Norman mercenaries arrived in Ireland along with a contingent of Irish allies, arrived in Wexford, Ireland, at the request of Diarmait Mac Murchada seeking to regain his throne, marking the beginning of a series of events that led to the eventual Norman conquest of parts of Ireland
This was the battle in microcosm - the Anglo-Irish left had collapsed utterly, leaving Byzantines roaming free and catching their breath at the success of their exertions, but at the same time the non-existent Byzantine centre and left were being increasingly overlapped by the more pedestrian Colonist and Northmen infantry of the Irish forces
The Anglo-Irish were slipping closer to defeat, but having wiped out the Anglo-Irish left the Byzantines would surely find it increasingly difficult to find any more opponents to take down?
Bifana Bliss! The Byzantines were taking a drip-feed of casualties steadily as they looked around for the final few hits to take down the Anglo-Irish army, but the game was really opening up as losses mounted for both armies.
The two depleted forces started to find it increasingly difficult to fully occupy the huge open spaces of the table, and with such opportunities came dramatic scenes.
The last dregs of the Anglo-Irish infantry force held on bravely as they were assaulted by General-led mercenary Norman Knights, keen on recreating their Hastings triumph in miniature on a tabletop in a museum on the very edge of the mighty Atlantic Ocean while a tidal wave of custard pastry tartes were being consumed all around them
Emperor Konstantine's Last Speech
The Byzantine on-table flank march had finally found the space it needed, and was now despatching units towards the Anglo-Irish camp even as the rest of the Anglo-Irish force started to burst through the thinly held centre of the enemy army.
But too late - the looting taking place in the far distance is proving decisive, as with more losses elsewhere the Paddys attached lovingly to the Byzantine baggage have tipped the balance!
Yes! It's true! An Irish unit, starting the game quivering in fear for his life in a vast open plain over which Byzantine horsemen rode like mounted demons, by making their step-by-step way the full width of the playing surface, evading enemies along the way, and finding themselves at the very gates of an undefended enemy camp have won it for Anglo-Ireland.
Cataplana Celebration! Bereft of their camp, and too small in numbers to take that on the chin, Byzantine morale crumbles as other losses rack up, and incredibly, and as if out of nowhere at all, a game that long looked lost is now suddenly, spectacularly won!
The Result is a narrow win for the Anglo Irish, plucked from the very oesophagus of defeat!
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 Anglo-Irish Commander
FECK OFF ROMANS! ARSE! CAVALRY! GIRLS! DRINK!
Let us not forget the sacrifices made by our valiant soldiers, whose bravery knew no bounds. They faced the storm of battle with the courage that has echoed through the annals of English history. We owe them a debt of gratitude that can never truly be repaid.
WHERE ARE THE OTHER TWO? ARSE! SKOUTATOI! FECK!
And so, in the finest tradition of English fortitude, we shall march forward, heads held high, with grace and humility. Our brave boys exhibited an unswerving loyalty that would make any valet proud and carried out your duties with a level of excellence that even the most impeccable gentleman would envy.
FECK! FIGHTIN' IRISH! BAGGAGE! ARSE!
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Ah, Father Jack, thou hast managed to secure a victory against the Byzantines, descendants of Constantine the Great himself. A feat indeed, albeit one that would have been more artfully executed had I been in command
With all due respect to thy peculiar character and catchphrases, Father, I must assert that my own genius upon the battlefield, in a previous life, would have spared us this unnecessary closeness in securing triumph
Indeed, my dear Father,thy 'drink' and 'feck' may rouse thy troops, but I must insist that my 'strategy' and 'tactics' would have ensured a more decisive victory, with considerably less ale consumption
So, Father Jack, I, who once humbled Rome and marched elephants across the Alps, do grudgingly extend my congratulations. 'Twas a close-run thing, but history will remember that thou didst emerge victorious on this most peculiar of battlefields - perhaps the next game will give a different outcome?
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition