Dark Ages in Patras 2018
Ghaznavid vs Ghaznavid
Trembling Taramasalata! Suddenly its game 2, and the undefeated Ghaznavid army is matched against...another undefeated Ghaznavid army. Something had to give - unless of course it ended in a draw, in which case nothing would actually "give" as such, but several existing things would be rather stretched out of shape and become almost but not quite unrecognisable.
Funnily enough, pretty much the same "somewhat stretched and a little unrecognisable" thing had mysteriously happened to both me and my opponent the veritable legend that is Panos since we had last played at Patras some 15 years ago when we were both handsome and dark-haired strapping young men full of life and energy. Sadly, as a pair of sagging grey haird older men faced each other yet again after all these years across the tabletop we both realised that not all of those things were still going to be true, but hey, as the event entry fee included unlimited free expressos at least the "full of energy" bit might still be achievable, albeit with a significant amount of caffine-based chemical assistance.
The armies were near-identical, an unsurprising outcome given the limited options in a Ghaznavid list and also the fact that Panos had listened to my interview podcast with Ethan Zorick on compiling an optimized Ghaznavid list.
The lists for the Ghaznavid and Ghaznavid from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Patras can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
The prospect of another meal of grilled lamb weighing heavily on their minds, and a rather lovely in real life but irritating in photography terms shaft of bright sunlight bisecting the table the colour balance and clarity of the game photos will be a tad erratic throughout this report, but here both armies lined up in a mirror image, with Cavalry, Indian Death Star and Mixed Death Star & Cavalry commands facing each other. The terrain was inconsequential apart from a hill which I had no intention of assaulting anyway.
As harshly squeezed olives winced all across the land, in the shadows the Loyalist Ghaznavid cavalry command added up its advantages against the slightly lower net quality Greeknavid Rebel Ghaznavid horsemen opposite them.
Drive forward was the theme of the day for both armies, as a luck-fest seemed inevitable so why not get it over with sooner rather than later - especially with the scents of lunch starting to waft up from the basement kitchen already.
Hold the Halloumi! In a slightly more close-up shot the Khurasan Arab horsemen who make up the Ghaznavid commander's 40mm round base take pause for thought to wonder why no-one had painted the edges of their flag to match the blue of the flags two faces.
Things were looking almost as bad as a cheap Retsina tastes once you take it home, as Panos' Rebel Greeknavids began either testing their parade ground moves, or telegraphing their plan to turn the table to fight across the width.
My guess was with the latter, as the confidently crossed hands of Panos looked on in the background like a particularly creepy pink sandstone rock formation carved out of the desert by the Eastern winds as his men evaded backwards to safety from my shooting.
What's Going on Here Then?
Both Ghaznavid armies are closing rapidly and turning the table into a battle across the depth rather than the width. My strong Cavalry wing on the right is making great strides to outflank and put pressure on the more defensively arrayed left wing of the enemy army, and their right wing is simillarly closing on the much smaller screening force on my left.
The artillery are plinking away gently, and have probably caused the enemy Death Stars to become jumbled as they seek to avoid losing an Elephant to artillery fire at this early stage of the game. My Death Stars however are still in a solid line.
On the left of my line Panos' Rebel Greeknavids had a pretty serious advantage - and a different set of Essex infantry playing the part of Dailami as well.
The two Loyalist Ghaznavi cavalry were packing their bags and were ready to fall back towards the baggage at a moment's notice, but even so they manfully stuck to their task of preventing march moves by the enemy for the time being
L'Art de la Guerre hint - as in most other rules since WRG 7th Edition, troops outside a certain distance of the enemy (4MU) can move multiple times in a single turn in ADLG provided they have the command points to do so. This allows sweeping outflanking moves, and requires a skirmish screen to stop.
The smaller table size and higher troop density (even with such small armies as these 2) however means that attempting to fend off an aggressive opponent usually runs out of time and table in ADLG long before the end of the game, so you are only buying time to set up an attack elsewhere, not to refuse a flank forever.
Sizzling Spanoptika! Panos' Rebel Greeknavids Indian Impetuous Death Star was homing in on the Loyalist's Dailami Death Star as the Loyalist Indians headed for the tempting but sure to evade flank of the Cavalry. The Loyalist Ghaznavid Strategist was starting to wonder if Panos had been playing long enough to realise that his men would not gain Impact if they charged the Dailami..?
Rules Hint - Impetuous Swordsmen have a +1 for the "impact" ability against enemy foot at first contact...unless they are charging enemy non-Impetuous Swordsmen. This gives Romans (who also have Impact) a "+1" edge if they stand to receive a Barbarian charge, but makes it evens if the Romans go in first.
The Impetuous Barbarians may struggle to hold themselves back from charging as this needs 3 pips to do... but, if the Barbarians win and overcome the +1 difference they then go onto inflict an extra hit in the first round as their Furious Charge combat outcome bonus still counts whether they are claiming Impact or not.
With the Loyalists left flank running away in fear, and As if possessed by the long-dead soul of the Spartan Hoplites' olive-oil rubbed last stand at Marathon, Panos' Rebel Greeknavids swept down off the hill and teed themselves also up for a big tilt at the Loyalists Dailami Death Star.
This would clearly be a brutal and fast game of deadly hand to hand combat in which skill was leeched out as clearly as the light shining on the table leeched colour out of the playing mat.
How well do the Ghaznavid Elephants fight then?
The best Elephants in the game, and capable of carrying a General into combat these beasts are the power that drives the Ghaznavid army's engine. Typically found in the classic ADLG Death Star formation along with Dailami, Arab Indian Swordsmen or even Bowmen, the Elephant pack a bigger combat punch than any of their supports and also protect the entire group agianst mounted who would otherwise try and ride down the MF. The combination of the 3 units, all with Impact, is frightening for almost anything on table
With Impact and Elite status, Elephants can do well against almost all types of foot and mounted - enemy cavalry will try to use their speed to get out of the way, so fooot are a more common target. Driving a Death Star towards the enemy baggage will almost certainly mean encountering something in the way which the Elephants can look to crush before sailing on
Keeping the Elephants fresh for combat is an absolute must however, as their hopeless Protection against shooting of 0 makes them easy prey for all sorts of opposing missile troops - and uniquely in the game, Elephants are unable to rally off any hits they take, so even one LF Javelinman can drop their combat prowess significantly with a well-aimed shot. As such they always need a screen of LF to protect themselves until they get to hand to hand fighting
A terror weapon that will crush most things in its path, and cause the enemy to spend pips moving out of their way, Elephants are still at heart Glass Cannons - deadly going forward, but unmaneuverable and highly vulnerable if their (expensive) supporting cast of fellow Death Star components are stripped away.
Spinning Spanoptikas! Panos' Rebel Greeknavids had split their cavalry force more equally between the two flanks and so had units to spare to chase down the Loyalists screening force. Faced with overwhelming odds and the knowledge that their army break point was so tiny that even a couple of losses could be traumatically fatal, the Ghulam Cavalry fell back to safety
With table fast running out (see, I don't just make this stuff in the hints sections up you know !) there was little choice but for the Elite-quality Loyalist horse to turn about, charge home and take on the Ordinary Greeknavid Ghulams. Unsuccessfully as it turned out.
Both armies had a keen eye for style as well as tactics, and as they came together they had both managed engineer things such that they were in full sunlight making their colour ping with freshness and clarity.
Quite why one of the Greeknavid elephants had chosen to dress as a Mexican Wrestler is however anyone's guess..
What's Going on Here Then?
The two sets of Death Stars are in combat in the centre, turning this part of the game pretty much into a lottery with identical troops on both sides. On the flanks, the two stronger Cavalry wings - one mine, one Panos' - are starting to develop positions from which they should be able to swiftly crush the smaller forces facing them.
The battle in the middle is likely to come out as a bit of a wash for both armies, so the real action is going to be decided on these flanks.
Well, that didn't quite work out as planned - Panos' Rebel Greeknavids hurl their two elephants wrestling-style into the line of Loyalist Dailami, leaving behind one of the Indian swordsmen and getting in with an overlap on their left - reciprocated by the Loyalists on their right as well. The dice would decide this one for sure.
The Arab warriors faces turned as pale as tzatziki as one Dailami unit, Urging themselves forward with thoughts of the Spartan Hoplites' Euro-burning imposing Greek column, decided that it was best back in the tin double-quick as it exploded at contact with the Luchador Elephanto Grossimo!
Elsewhere along the line however things were far more even, with Panos' Rebel Greeknavids picking up the odd hit. Luchador Elephanto wisely decided not to follow up into the gap
Trembling Taramasalata! As the battle intensified, so did the deployment of hit markers as Panos' Rebel Greeknavids recorded another kill, this time on the Indian Swordsmen of the Loyalists. Loyalist Impact cavalry, redeployed from the far right slammed into the loose formation enemy Dailami but protected as they were by their own Essex Elephant the enemy line stood firm. Both armies were engaged with all of their troops - not something that 19-strong forces can afford to do for too long
Rules Hint - Cavalry in contact, even at a corner, with an Elephant get a -1 in combat. That's what makes the Death Star such an effective unit as it renders Medium Foot almost cavalry-proof as long as it sticks together.
Galloping Gyros ! With the table almost turned on its edge, the other components of the Loyalist army had simply wheeled round and continued ploughing relentlessly forward. This unimaginative effort at tactics now saw Panos' Rebel Greeknavid left flank screening force similarly run out of table in the face of concerted enemy aggressive advances, forcing them to stand and fight or risk being swept from the field of play. Not since the days of the 300 Spartans had so much heaving male cleavage been seen as the Indian Swordsmen realised at last that they had a role to play, teeing themselves up nicely for a flank attack in the next turn.
Not that this was apparently needed, as the Loyalist Ghilmen, having first gargled copious amounts of Retsina, smashed through the enemy resistance and blew a 50% sized hole in what had already been a clearly undergunned screening Greeknavid cavalry wing.
As Olimpiakos ended yet another unsuccessful Champions League group stage qualifying campaign with a forward line led by Yanis Varoufakis' tzaziki-smeared Persian slave tutor, things were getting as squeaky as Halloumi as both sides crept towards a break of their army - in particular the centre was now a scene of carnage with barely a base left on either side as the two lines wiped each other out.
Panos' Rebel Greeknavids had enjoyed the better of the exchange for sure, but their losses had left their once-coherent formation severely broken up and largely incapable of doing much more without a serious pause for reorganisation.
At least the depleted Loyalists had a single block of troops left in play.
Klattering Kalamari! The rest of the Loyalist cavalry, having started on the right were now being thrown piecemeal into shoring up the Loyalist left as Panos' Rebel Greeknavids advanced towards the Loyalist baggage.
With the legendary Greek battle cry of "Bring More Kolokithokeftedes" echoing in their ears, baggage hunting was also on the agenda for the Loyalist right wing as they mopped up the last of the enemy over on the opposing base edge with the help of the Indians.
The last Loyalist Dailami fell to a front and rear charge leaving the finger-pointing Strategist with almost no-one of note to command.
The pitter-patter of falling olives continued in the background as one injured elephant, attacking an enemy in the flank with support as well proves that it could still be a pretty potent force.
Quite how it then intended to survive the inevitable rear attacks it would then face is another matter entirely...
Still driving along the length of the table, the Loyalists own right hook was driving back enemy Cavalry with a complex and ever changing array of threats from the various elements making up the rag-tag force
What's Going on Here Then?
The end game is fast approaching - in the middle both sets of Death Stars have suffered terrible casualties leaving the survivors generally dazed, confused and in so many small groups their generals are struggling to reassert their authority.
With the rest of the battle drifting out to the flanks, only one of (my) surviving elephants seems to be in a position to be able to support his cavalry, and is even now lending his considerable weight to the potentially decisive attack on the outnumbered enemy screening force.
With both sides teetering on the edge of defeat, the deadly flank attack was the deciding factor - a win for the Loyalists, only just...
The Result is a narrow victory for the Loyalist Ghaznavids, hanging on just a little longer than Panos's very similar opponents !
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 Ghaznavid Commander
What a wonderful return to the world of gaming to meet an old friend and foe in the now manfully grizzled shape of Panos after so many years. The glory days of DBM are almost upon us again, as across the plains and mountains of Europe vast numbers of slumbering legendary generals are stirring from their repose to emerge blinking again into the light of deeply sociable international competition.
This was always going to be an epic clash, with near-identical armies going at each others throats, intent on securing the vital kill in a head to head matcup to take the opponent down whilst they remained standing, bloodied and worn, but still standing.
And that prediction came true, with elephants clashing with elephants, Dailami smashing into one another at high speed, and the wargamers classic of trying to turn the table to the shorter edge in order not to be outflanked. A classic of the genre, worthy of the epic days of DBM combat across the earths surface !
In many ways it was a game that neither player wanted their opponent to lose, so great was the familiarity between myself and my more than worthy opponent. But then again, the wily Greek bas-ard beat me by a smidge, and nicked the trophy at the same time all those years ago, so to give him a good old fashioned kicking here was as prety much as sweet as baklava, and so was a nice appetizer for the great lunch to come
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Aaaah, what foolishness bubbles forth from your bearded face when you try to paint this battle as an epic worthy of comparison with the greats. If any Homer were to be writing up this one it would surely be the yellow-faced resident of Springfield, and the word "DOH!" would feature loud and proud on almost every line of the text.
Here you faced a wiley opponent who realised that you may have the drop on him in the minutae of the rules. He had a plan to counteract that, of rushing into combat and turning the game into a luck-fest, whereas you failed utterly to anticipate this obvious approach at all, save perhaps for deplying the artillery just to puzzle him a little. But even then you failed to use it well, attacking too fast instead of waiting for the enemy to commit and striking back with a counterpunch.
You were in fact lucky to come out on top in the game, and defeat to a new player, even one as experienced as Panos would surely have been the end of a sort of promising career as a Ghaznavid commander.
Nosebleed territory threatens, and once you have survived the epic lunchtime you have only one game left today before the travails of the evenings entertainment start to impose themselves upon your belly and your eyes. We will need to see which is bigger after the next game
Anyway, in the meantime here's some more wonderfully painted Byzantines from another one of the Greek player's armies just for your viewing pleasure.
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition