Dark Ages in Patras 2018
Ghaznavid vs Early Arab
Two games in and the sun was shining, the victories were rolling in, and all was good in the Greek afternoon. But even better we were about to break for lunch!
Once lunch had passed us all by in a mere matter of calories, outdoor warmth and sunshine and good companionship, and after we had thrown our plates smashing onto the floor in true typical Greek everyday fashion it was time to face the Early Arabs in the third game of the day - a workout against the Belgian Mastrieux Senior and his Early Arab army.
Drawn from the beginning of the book but still alive in the early middle ages they must surely be a durable bunch?
Post Lunch Gaming Rituals
The lists for the Ghaznavid and Early Arabs 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 terrain fell extremely open, possibly as I didn't really know what to expect other than a load of Medium Foot (like, who takes rubbish like that to a competition..? ) and so just went for a default open plain. Or it might have been me attacking in a desert, who knows?
Stories would be told of this day across red and white chequered tablecloths for many years to come as the Ghaznavids weighted themselves away from the one bit of rough going which they - righty as it turned out - expected to be stuffed with Medium Swordsmen and Elephant-hunting Javelinmen.
Across the table the Ghaznavids had matched the enemy foot with their mounted wing, then the Death Star and Death Star+ commands were facing a Byzantine ally of Impact/Shooty Horse and a wall of Camels. Not too shoddy a job of second-guessing the enemy even if I say so myself.
The rather dour-looking Byzantines clearly didn't fancy helping the desert-dwellers by putting themselves in the path of a herd of elephants, and promptly rolled a 1 to go unreliable at the start of the game.
This gave me a dilemma - a big patch of the centre of the table was now out of bounds., as advancing to within 4MU of the Byzantines would trigger them to start playing again.
The Dailami Death Star command was facing off against the opposing camelry - probably a good time to see if Elephants are discomforted by Camels, and vise versa
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Camels are spooked by Elephants, but not the other way round. Phew.
After giving sacrifices to Yanis Varoufakis' Euro-burning bowl of rich wine-soaked Stifado, and drifting to the right the Ghaznavid CinC stormed forward towards the line of Camelry as his two supporting wingmen Ghulams drove on to bully the Arab LH out of the way as well and clear the decks for a quick charge before the Byzantines came online again.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Ghaznavids initially planned for an attack weighted towards the right but the unreliability of the Byzantine centre to the Arab army has meant that this plan has to be carried out even more quickly before they restart. They have denuded their left flank by moving Ghulams away to the right, knowing only slower-moving foot are facing them on the left.
The Camel Corps are unkeen to get into combat against such a potent array of forces, and are probing gently forward probably more to delay than engage.
Byzantine Cavalry vs The Arabs
Don't Mention The Turks! With the Indian Death Star also driving itself towards the Camelry the rest of the Ghaznavid army had just about remembered why they had deployed the road, and were swinging in behind the elephants to pile on the pressure against the Arabian left wing.
In this game the list with the Ghaznavid "Skoutatoi" had been picked, giving the Ghaznavids some pretty potent abilities to interdict and disrupt the Camelry at distance.
The Bedouin tribesmen were not keen on this, and fell back piecemeal, leaving a smaller force intent on trying to tempt the Ghaznavids and Indians into unreliability-triggering range of the still-uncommitted Byzantines.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Ghaznavids coherent advance on the right is continuing, with their infantry archers driving back the Arab camelry and leaving them badly bruised and battered. On the opposite flank the Arabian foot soldiers are unkeen to emerge from the terrain even against only a couple of Ghaznavid cavalry.
The Byzantines remain an enigma in the centre of the table, still yet to commit to battle.
Two Ordinary Cavalry are not usually that frightening a force, but if one of them is Impact-armed, and you are a unit of Light Medium Foot Javelinmen In The Open they become an object to inspire fear and outright terror. The first evasion of the game was done on foot as the Javelinmen scooted away at some speed.
How well do the Kurdish Lancers fight then?
Average Heavy Cavalry seem on the surface to be a strange choice in an army that is allowed Elite Ghilmen but they add a new dimension to the army that is effective in the right circumstances. In particular, their Impact ability gives them the edge in first-round combat against enemy non-Impact cavalry, so when added to a line of Ghilmen they provide serious food for thought for any similar bow-armed cavalry formations they may be facing off.
Despite not being Elite their Armour (as Heavy Cavalry) gives them some degree of resilience against enemy shooting and allows them to be relilient against most infantry and competent against opposing mouted troops. Where they shine is in combat against flanks and enemy foot in the open, where their Impact +1 can turn a victory into a rout and open up a world of possibilities for the Ghilmen to exploit.
With the enemy attention fixed on the Ghilmen, this one Kurdish unit can often sneak under the radar and be dismissed as mere padding - allowing them to get into a position to use their unique gifts to maximum, devastating effect
The Camels were trying to be clever as they spent pips and time flicking through the rulebook to present their flanks to the Impetuous Indian Swordsmen
Fortunately some decent command dice and the prompt arrival of a load of Elite Shooting Ghulams soon put paid to their trickery and dished out one of the first baklava-tastic markers of the game to boot.
As the coffee guy says..
L'Art de la Guerre hint - The Impetuous Indian Swordsmen are not forced to charge if they would contact the front edge of an enemy mounted unit in the open, so here the Bedouins have deviously (cleverly) presented their flank instead. With this as a legal target, the Indian Death Star needs 3 Command points to hold its foot warriors from charging off impetuously.
Despite being fortified by an evil mix of Metaxa and Ouzo, suddenly the Ghaznavids mood turned as flat as pitta bread as the Byzantines finally decided to join in
This was the signal for a rapid advance on all sides as the Indian Death Star drove off the other batch of camels, forcing the Ghaznavid Ghulams to move up and pin the Byzantines in order to protect the vulnerable flanks of the now rather extended Death Star.
Trembling Taramasalata! The Ghaznavid shooting infantry block were a force to be reckoned with in this game, and they were using that strength to push the Arabs hard.
Combining their shooting with the flanking Ghulams they pushed at the disjointed Arabian camelry as hard as they could in a series of rapid advances.
As harshly squeezed olives winced all across the land, the Camels were taking hits and losing bases as the massed archers of the Ghaznavids rained arrows and death down on them from all sides. But mostly from the front to be fair.
Evading and falling back was their only way to ensure safety from the deadly showers of arrows.
Driven forward by thoughts of Prince Phil The Greek Philip's EU-funded brand new motorway, on the opposite flank the CinC and his Arabian foot now had enough command points to actually advance in a coordinated fashion (having been lending the Byzantines points to try and get them to join in during previous turns).
They swept forward out of the rough terrain in a massive line, giving the Ghaznavid screening force pause for thought and reason to leave at the same time.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Byzantines come online and immediately go onto the offensive, bypassing the Ghaznavid Death Stars and pouring towards the Ghilmen cavalry holding the centre of the table. The Ghaznavids main strike troops appear to have drifted a little too far to the right in their attempt to avoid triggering the Byzantines into action and now find themselves in the wrong place to put pressure on the enemy centre.
The Camelry are falling back steadily, but on the opposite flank the suddenly pip-rich infantry have regained their mojo and are moving up to support the Byzantine horsemen.
The rest of the Ghaznavid cavalry had been forced to evade or risk coming off much the worse against the powerful charging strike force of the Byzantines
Their attempts to protect the flank of the Death Star had been left to just one of their number, and now the Indian foot looked very vulnerable indeed. Something would surely have to give as the Arab-Byzantine force was in no mood to let the Ghaznavids Elephant Corps just sail unmolested to the rear edge of their side of the table.
The game was now so exciting that some of the local Greek spectators were considering putting off their weekly strike until the following Thursday
Galloping Gyros ! The battle was now extending in a solid line diagonally across the field as both sides sought to outflank their opponents from their right and wheel inwards.
With the Ghaznavid Cavalry now committed to the fray against the Byzantines, the Ghaznavid elephant-mounted General had abandoned his Indian foot and was rolling like a big grey four-legged wrecking ball into the rear of the Byzantine command as the Dailami Death Star moved up steadily to take his place in the line.
He was actually quite happy about this...
Desparate Dolmades! Unable to put anything meaningful in the path of the deadly elephant-mounted General, the Byzantines suddenly found themselves in dire straits, overrun by impetuous Indian swordsmen who slammed into their flank even as their attention was fixed on the Ghaznavid Ghulams to their front.
Not since the days of the 300 Spartans had so much heaving male cleavage been seen as the Byzantine Embedded General (based as the Cataphract) was finding every pip dice roll a time-consuming challenge as he was forced to think hard how best to extricate his men from peril.
Meanwhile, the Ghaznavid rollup gathered pace.
Klattering Kleftiko! The fragments of the Camel Corps were in disarray as the Ghaznavid machine marched forward relentlessly shooting into the long-legged desert striding Bedouin mounts.
Hold the Halloumi! Things were getting tight as both sides looked for opportunities to outflank each other in the close quarters and increasingly deadly cavalry on cavalry combat in the centre.
The Ghanavid left flank force of 2 cavalry were as relieved as a normally sized person already stuffed full to the gills with succulent roast lamb at a Greek meal who has just been told there are only 3 more main courses to go, as half of the Arabian foot had now decided they were needed elsewhere and had broken off their drive for the baggage and were instead heading for a showdown with the rampaging elephantry!
Kebab-tastic! Whatever happened next with the combat rolls, it seemed certain that SOMEONE would be hit in the flank or rear in the next few turns!
Klattering Kalamaris! The already-injured Byzantine general pulled some reserves of strength out of the deepest recesses of his soul, and broke the resolve of the Ghulams facing him.
The left flank of the Ghaznavid attack was now exposed to Byzantine lancers - would the Ghaznavids be able to win before they themselves were smashed in the flank
Inspired by the spirit of the Athenian Sacred Band's tzaziki-smeared brand new motorway, the Ghaznavid Death Star carried on its relentless advance, the Arabs alternated between resolute combat and breaking off and evading to try and minimise their losses.
Each command roll presented them with a range of unpalatable options, and their commander thought long and hard about each difficult decision as the clock ticked down towards the end of the round.
A nasty 4 vs 3 situation was also developing on the Ghaznavid extreme left as the holding force came under barrages of javelin fire - unable to risk a charge against such greater number of opponents they had little room to do much but sit and take it and hope their Death Stars could win the game elsewhere before their own inevitable losses counted too much against their own army break point.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Byzantines attack has started to falter as the Ghaznavid Death Star get back into the action. The attempt to swing round the Arab left and into their baggage by the Ghaznavid forces is almost complete, but the delaying and skirmishing of the Camelry may mean that the game times out before they can reach a position to make a telling difference.
The Arabian infantry have been split into two groups, realising that the threat of Elephants taking out the flank of their Byzantines allies is greater than the opportunity to overwhelm 2 Ghulam cavalry near the Ghaznavid base edge.
Sizzling Spanoptika! After much cogitation and prolonged consideration, the slippery Camelry squirted away from the advancing elephants and bowmen, who remained still some way short of a Touchdown into the enemy end zone despite driving forward relentlessly throughout the game.
With only a few more hits needed, and with the Camels seemingly set to manage to escape against the driving Death Star and ceaseless shooting of the Ghaznavid right wing the Ghulams and Elephant-mounted General decided they needed to close out the game themselves.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - LH attacking the rear of an enemy don't cause a cohesion drop (this chap must have been injured already) but anyone in contact with the flank or rear of an enemy causes that enemy to lose any "first round" bonuses, such as Impact or Javelins.therefore effectively helped his Ghulams by a net +2. That's +1 for an overlap, and another net +1 by denying the Byzantine horseman his Impact bonus in the first round.
But it was not to be. The Result is a timed out draw.
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
Clarly I am a big fan of beards, and the Arabian desert is a great place in which to grow and develop facial hair, protecting you as it does from the vagaries of weather both hot and cold. But, in this army we faced an opponent who did not know the true meaning of a close shave, and so as the battle ebbed and flowed like styles of beard in the period from 1973 to 2016. so did the opponent as they declined to engage fully with almost any of our forces.
Getting an allied command to do all of the fighting is an interesting tactic, but it does appear to rely on the allied command being prepared to actually fight - which the pecunious Byzantines are often loathe to do unless the filty lucre is in plentiful supply. Perhaps the Arabs need to do some digging and try and find a source of naptha with which to raise foreign capital to pay their mercenaries - as otherwise they are left as a rather toothless army, which is not a good look on the whole bearded man front.
With a few turns more the game would surely have been mine, as my army were pressing deep into the heart of the enemy lines but as it was this was not to be - the complexities of escaping my unsubtle and rapid advance clearly vexed the poor Arabians and taxed their thinking muscles to the limit.
In some ways a game which could have been more winnable if my opponents army had been less overmatched, as then the opposition would have been more inclined to try and attack rather than scooting away. Anyway, undefeated still we march on towards dinner.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
What tomfoolery is this, to suggest that you did not win because your opponent was so outmatched he became paralyzed by your brilliance and failed to move his men into positions where you could easily crush them? How generous do you expect an opponent to be to you - perhaps though you do need that sort of advantage to record a victory as your own skill is clearly not enough to force this pace.
The truth of the matter is that you I believe failed to coordinate the advance of your men on the right flank, leaving behind the Dailami Death Star and failing in the most simple of tasks, to keep a straight line and advance along it. To end up in the mess you did is quite remarkable given how little effective opposition you actually faced, and it is hard not to conclude that a little less haste and a little more speed, especially with your Mock-Skoutatoi might have paid dividends to develop that attack more effectively.
If they had been placed in the centre instead of on a ing these slow moving men could easily have played a much bigger part - invinciple against camels, and able to reach out and interdict their movements at vast distances the mixed formations needed to be in the heart of the action, not on the periphery
The only question remaining now is whether you will make such a hash of consuming yoru dinner as you did in moving your men almost unmolested across a bald open plain? Lets see if you spill tzatziki down your shirt before the next game shall we?
Anyway, in the meantimehere's some more wonderfully painted Knights 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