Dark Ages & Feudal Wargaming at Patras 2018
Ghaznavid vs Feudal Spanish
The night was still young when we headed off in a convoy of mostly not German cars up the hills behind Patras to one of those country-style restaurants in the absolute middle of nowhere that you only find in Mediterranean countries.
This would be a meal the like of which will be remembered longer in the memories of the participants than many of the games. Well, unless they rolled a "1" at a crucial time and burped up half way through swallowing a piece of squeaky cheese.
The food came faster than an elephant charging downhill, and in similar portion sizes as well. Plate after plate hammered home the Greek advantage with pastry, meat, rice and a variety of highly effective sauces combining in a full spectrum attack on the eager digestive systems of the visiting foreigners
Plate after plate of Greek dishes the like of which us poor non-Greeks had never seen stacked up on table (almost) as fast as we could eat them (and drink the wine, in all three official colours too). I was blacked out. I was cracked out. I was caved in.
Bizarrely, the restaurant seemed at first glance to have acquired Greece's entire stock of 2nd hand FoG v1 army lists .... but on close inspection this turned out just to be recipe books!
The actual game the next day was against one of the top Greeks - by some dint of alchemy, magic and copious amounts of red wine I had remained on top table and was now facing my first - amazingly - set of Knights in the shape of the Feudal Spanish
The lists for the Ghaznavid and Feudal Spanish 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 table was nicely narrowed by some fields or plantations running across it on the Ghaznavid left
With an open flank on the opposite side the deployment order pretty much wrote itself, with the CinC on the left, the Death Star command in the centre and the Cavalry on the open right.
Against Knights the Ghaznavids had dispensed with the bow-armed pseido-skoutatoi and had instead taken the Heavy Artillery list in a bid to mess with the heads of the Greek-commanded Spaniards across the field from the Ghaznavid start line.
How well do the Heavy Artillery fight then?
Somewhat of a novelty troop type, Artillery in general and Heavy Artillery in particular can often catch opponents out who are unfamiliar with their potency. With a huge range of 8 MU giving them a 13MU reach across the 20MU-wide battlefield right from deplyment they can reach out and touch enemies when they least expect it
Artillery treat all opponents as having a Protection of 0, so any shooting is basically a straight die roll to see if a hit is inflicted - much better odds than any other type of distance combat, and even better if a crafty LH or LF can help with closer ranged support as well
What they are terrible at however is movement and combat. Heavy Artillery can only pivot in place, so it has to be deployed where it can expect to find enemy in front of it - a role which can often cause enemies to arguably overreact by moving out of it's arc of fire and handing control of their movement to your army. In combat they do down quicker than the Titanic, with a combat factor of zero and a generous gif of a +1 to all opponents. Their other unique ability is to be able to shoot over friendly and enemy LF as long as they are not too close to the gunners - something to give serious pause for thought to any enemy Elephants relying on LF to act as a protective barrier against enemy missiles
Heavy artillery are really there to deter enemies, and provide a drip drip drip of hits and losses which will slowly but surely sap the enemy will to continue if it is allowed to carry on throughout the enture game.
With speed and mobility very much on the Ghaznavids side on the right flank (where cavalry faced off against Heavy Foot) the Mounted Command sped to the flank like a Greek taxi driver looking for a gap in the traffic.
Whether they really expected to sneak past a wall of spearmen who could see them coming very clearly indeed was something of a moot point, but if it forced the Spears & Crossbows to split their formation and wheel out to the flank it would still be very warmly welcomed by the Elephant Death Star General.
The ghost of Dennis Roussos looked down on the battlefield approvingly as on the other flank a half-hearted bit of skirmishing was about to take place between two sets of troops who were seriously considering whether it was even worth even pretending that anything would ever happen here.
Medieval people vs Araby peoples on horses
The Spanish Spearmen and Crossbows had duly obliged by wheeling out to the wing, allowing the 2 Ghaznavid Death Stars (now that's a Star Wars sequel we want to see..) drift together and zero in on the mounted nobles of the Iberian aristocracy
What's Going on Here Then?
The Ghaznavids are racing forwards and looking to concentrate on the weak point in the Spanish line, the Bowmen, who have already been fixed firmly in place by a rapid Ghulam advance - but surprisingly the Spanish Knights are making a bee-line for the Ghaznavid Death Stars in the centre as well, clearly unfazed by the presence of the Elephants.
It already seems obvious that very little will happen in the plantations over to the Ghaznavid left, however the Spanish Almughavars remain becalmed in it as their commander devotes all of his pips to his Knights.
As the scent of lamb being roasted wafted across the room the Elephants were fast forming up into an impenetrable line of knight-butt-kicking capability.
Perhaps rashly - or more likely, having realised that the still-to-be photographed Heavy Artillery was dinging them relentlessly, the Christian horsemen decided that they needed to force the issue before things got too crazy - they charged home into an outflank-able Dailami unit in a matchup which even the Elephants -1 on enemy mounted could not really turn into a good result for the Arab pedestrians.
Arab vs Medieval European style swords
After giving sacrifices to Prince Phil The Greek Philip's scutum-carrying sandals, more Greek-led knights steamed into the other Death star as well, slamming into the rather surprised Arab Swordsmen.
The Spanish had bet everything on Red (& White) with the Embedded Knight General leading the way from the front.
Ba-da-bump - the Knights sailed forward straight over the top of the Indo-Arab infantry. Putting themselves in a rather tricky position in the process...
What's Going on Here Then?
Much to the Ghaznavids surprise the Spanish Knights have taken the brave option of assaulting the Death Stars frontally, hoping to run down the swordsmen and Dailami before the Elephants can get into action. This wiill ensure the Elephants are occupied irrespective of the outcome of the knights attacks and so the Ghulams on the right now face the challenging prospect of taking on the Spear & Bow formation alone rather than simply occupying it whilst waiting for the Dailami and elephants to smash it to pieces.
The Almughavars are making a rather half-hearted effort to chase down Ghaznavid skirmishers in the plantations, as their commander remains preoccupied with controlling his mostly impetuous Knights.
Pausing only to compare thinkness of body hair with the local Greeks, the Death Star commander turned his elephant around, commanded the Indian Arab Swordsmen to avenge their brethren and whistled for the Naffatun as well. A 6-0 combat on the enemy General - ouch!
L'Art de la Guerre hint - As the Elephant started the move touching the enemy Knight General, he can't "charge" him, but he can "conform", creating what is in effect an ongoing combat continued from the last round. As such the Elephant can't count "Impact", but does count as attacking an enemy flank for a total factor of Elephant (+2) + Flank (+1) + General (+1) +2 Overlaps (+2) = 6. The Knight fights at Zero for being flanked, with General (+1), offset by 'In contact with Elephants (-1) for an overall, erm, Zero.
Unsurprisingly that didn't last long at all, and the General and his Arabs pursued forward into the flank of yet another Knight.
This would not quite be so good as the enemy would have the chance to turn around and conform in their own turn, but avoiding Impact was a Good Thing as far as the Arab Indians were concerned. A view shared by the other Ghaznavid cavalry too.
The Arabs - cool!
The centre of the table was fast descending into an uncontrolled melee of swirling horse and foot as the formations broke apart under the twin pressures of enemy attacks and the need to take advantage of the flanks and overlaps that were popping up everywhere for both sides. This was already desperate fast-paced stuff and we were barely in turn 3 !
The pulled-apart line of spearmen and crossbows had now drifted into many separate blocks as they tried to pin the mounted jelly of the Ghaznavid cavalry formation to the nicely presented tablecloth wall of the imported playing surface.
Despite having witnessed the bad things that can happen if you try and steam into enemy foot just to take advantage of an odd overlap, the Ghaznavid horse fancied their chances against the bowmen in the open, so decided to try and steam into enemy foot just to take advantage of an odd overlap.
How well do the Ghaznavid Cavalry fight then?
Ghilmen, Elite Heavy Cavalry Bowmen are the meat of most Arab-type armies. These well equipped horsemen have speed and flexibility on their side, rapidly covering the table and once they identify an opponent they wish to fight they will seek to soften them up with a shower of archery before closing to combat.
Being Elite is a great help in shooting. As Cavalry they usually start shooting against most opponents on a base factor of zero. With most opponents having Protecton factors of 1, that Elite status' ability to add 1 to rolls of 1-3 means they can and will inflict a handful of extra hits when both sides roll low compared to normal shooters. Their shooting gets even more effective when combined with other units - often Light Horse who can zip in at an angle and add a further +1 to the base factor. An Elite Cavalryman, supported by a LH starts on effectively a minimum possible score of 3 for shooting.
In combat they are solid and resilient, with Armour saving hits against many pedestrian opponents - but what they are not good at, like all HC, is taking on close formation enemy foot as they have a factor of zero against them frontally. Knocking a point or two off with shooting can change the odds a little, but often Ghilmen will opt to evade rather than go toe to to with Heavy Foot
Medium foot are a different matter entirely - the extra +1 for charging non-spear-armed MF and LMI in the open, combined with Armour and Elite status will see them rip through such opponents most times they meet them.
Despite being some of the only people in the whole of Greece who weren't currently taking a cigarette break the enemy Knights were still in some disarray with a General down, rendering them almost unable to function effectively as a result. Thhe Ghaznavid Elephant insertion machine ground into action to ram home their big great trunk shaped advantage into whatever orifice they could find in the full plate armour of the confused and dazed Spaniards.
What's Going on Here Then?
With a General down, and finding the Dailami more resilient than clearly they had expected the Spanish Knights ability to deal with a tide of Ghaznavid elephants rolling them upfrom their left is starting to prove terminal for many of the nobles. Seeing the carnage the Almughavars come flooding out of the woods to try and shore up what is otherwise already an untenable position.
The Ghulams on the flank are caught in three minds, unsure whether to fall back, sacrifice themselves to protect what is now the rear of the Elephant corps as it chews westward, or just see what damage they can do to the enemy bowmen to help tip the Spanish army into defeat as its losses mount up across the field.
It was carnage and hit markers all across the playing surface, but even though the Knights could occasionally pull a result out of the bag they still had no real answer to 2 rampaging Elephants and uncountable numbers of decent foot and horse.
Remember that bit of the table where nothing was going to happen?
With the legendary Greek battle cry of "Bring More Kolokithokeftedes" echoing in their ears, the Spanish had sent one of their two on-table Generals to try and make something happen, much to the chagrin and amusement of a lone Indian javelin-armed Light Foot who scooted between the ploughtrails in the field, carefully avoiding the rather ostentatious but clearly fake Ambush marker as he did so.
Trembling Taramasalata! Finally the Spanish were managing to get some of their reserves into action as the Elephant Rampage suffered a bit of a stutter. The swift attack and the even swifter response from the Iberian Nobles had caught their Catalans out of position and they were only now getting into a place where there were things worth doing.
Whichever way you cut it, Knights are pretty tough and there were only so many places the Elephants could be as the mounted tin cans swirled around them.
After drinking Spartan wine that tasted as if it was made from the tears of Aristotle Onassis' filthy coffee supping Dolmades, slowly the Iberians were clawing their way back into the game in the centre, as the Heffalumps steadfastly refused to consistently fire on all cylinders.
Arab vs Medieval European style warriors
As harshly squeezed olives winced all across the land, the Catalans were now coordinating with the Knights. But this had seemingly coincided with a second wind on the Ghaznavid side so the men from Barcelona found themselves flapping largely at thin air as the Ghaznavids rampaged forward yet again, only to see one of their Elephants finally succumb to waves of opponents hurling themselves at it in desperation..
"Never take on a load of foot just because there's a chance of an overlap" was starting to resemble "Never start a land war in Asia" as an undeniable military truism in the annals of Ghaznavia, as their Ghilmen horse struggled to fight their way quickly through the resolute Iberian crossbows.
Sizzling Spanoptika! Spearmen might not be the fastest moving revenge terror weapon, but when you appear to be locked in place in an unresolved melee, even a previously distracted dense formation pedestrian can find time to turn into a potential flank attacker.
Every battle has those rare moments of peace and clarity, when the cacophony of combat lifts and birdsong drifts unbidden across the field of play.
In this battle that moment coincided with the last Iberian Knight realising that he was, well, the last Knight (and that chap next to him was a General). Having gargled copious amounts of retsina, he realised that he had but a brief moment to enjoy the solitude before he got mullered by another Elephant attack.
How well do the Naffatun fight then?
Light infantry with bombs, which have the same classification in ADLG as Firearms - giving them a rather generous range of 2MU when shooting. The firearm classification also helps them in knocking all enemy Protection down to 1, so against Knights or Cataphracts they are more deadly than archery. They are also Elite, giving them more resilience and the ability to scare off enemy skirmishers. When standing in front of the Ghaznavid Elephants their key task is to survive and prevent any enemies shooting at the pachyderms. If they take a hit it can still be worth leaving them in the line and risking their loss rather than withdrawing them to rally, as getting the Elephants into combat unscathed can be so powerful that it offsets the loss of a single unit of skirmishers.
Where they come into their own is in rough or difficult terrain, where they are permitted to stand and fight against proper battle troops - and where they take no minuses for disorder. Placed up a Steep (and difficult terrain) hill, the combination of +1 for height, a likely -1 for the enemy being disordered and their Elite status can make them a formidable opponent, more than making up for their base combat factor of zero.
Hold the Halloumi! The Spanish crossbows were hanging on grimly, supported by some last-gasp Light Horse action as the Iberian left wing realised it had only to hang on for one more round and they it would have bought enough time for the Spearmen to actually join in with the battle.
Slap! As the Strokes so memorably crooned all those years ago, "Last Knight..". It was time for the men from the east to make a decisive step towards victory by clearing away the last of the Soanish nobles. The Naffatun were yet again nipping in between the Elephants legs, adding their inconsiderable weight as an overlap to make the combats even more one-sided.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Dailami and Elephants are now engaged in what feels like a new battle with the Almughavars, with almost all of the Spanish Knights now lost.
The Ghulams on the other wing have opted to try and take down the enemy crossbowmen, accepting that they will suffer attrition in the process but calculating that this tradeoff will be enough - they hope - to finally break the resistance of the Spanish army as its losses mount up across the field.
Klattering Kalamaris! A line of battle was forming yet again out of the seemingly scattered pieces, this time stretching diagonally across the board as the pointy aggressive bit of the Ghaznavid attack reached for the back of the board whilst the ablative shielding of their left flank screening force came under ever increasing pressure from the Catalans as they got eventually into gear.
Galloping Gyros ! A rampaging Death Star is difficult to keep a lid on - still unharmed from the very beginning of the game, the General urged his steed into yet another crashing charge to strike fear into the hearts (and flanks) of the Catalans and scatter hit markers across the table to end the game in a Ghaznavid victory!
The Result is another win for Ghaznavia!
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
Yes, I have always been confident tate the decadent West was inferior to the cultured Orient and this battle has proved that once and for all as my elephant-mounted nobles basically ran over pretty much the entire senior leadership of an entire European peninsula (possibly excepting parts of Portugal) to record a well earned comeback win after the unfinished draw in the previous game.
To be able to stand up at all after the punishing and almost excessive fabulous meal last night was a feat in itself, so to round that off with a win against a top, top player is excellent. It is only a shame that so many well painted Spanish figures ended up being taken off table in the course of my victory, but sometimes eggs need to be broken, as do plates as well given that we are of course still in Greece.
With only one game to go I am sure to be sitting pretty on top of my elephant as the final round hoves into view with me ready to take advantage of the chance to clamber to the top of the pile.
Just one more game, and then a trophy perhaps - but even better, and even more sure, time for yet another meal!
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
A hapless display made possible by the generosity of your opponent in suffering a rush of blood to the head and hurling his general into a position from which a victory, and the inevitable and compulsary pursuit move would place him in certain and mortal danger.
Once you had managed to lose the first combat and trigger the advance, turning your elephant was the easiest of tasks and from then on the game should have been wrapped up in short order.
It just goes to how however the vagaries of combat in that whilst your elephants were deadly, the filler in those big grey sandwiches prived to be extremely squishy, making it more difficult than you expected to mop up the rest of the victory.
Even the Ghulams struggled against the enemy crossbowmen - although this again was partly your fault for not realising that the only "crossbowman" you took on early doors was in fact a Catalan Almughavar. You failed to identify the cause of your success, and you failed to spot the enemy's soft spots. I fear life will not be so easy on you in the next game
Anyway, in the meantimehere's some more wonderfully painted Varangians 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