Dark Ages in Patras 2018
Ghaznavid vs Jurchen Chin
Something weird was now going on, l as yet again I remained on top table with this army which had barely made it onto any table in previous weeks before the event.
Lunch was sensibly deferred until after the game partly as some people had to scoot off early, and partly as everyone was still stuffed to the gills from the previous night to such a degree that the mere thought of yet more food would send up all wobbling slowly to the hills screaming for mercy from the relentless barrage of fresh produce and roasted lamb-based meats.
So, fortified only by coffee and an unwavering sense of self belief the Ghaznavids took to the battlefield yet again - this time against an army from the empty steppes of wild China - the Jurchen-Chin.
The opposition were the rarely seen Jurchen Chin, an army from the messy and complicated post/intra-Mongol invasion period of Chinese history comprising of plenty of charging/shooting Bow/Impact cavalry. It would be mobile, it would probably be aggressive and its list together with the list for the Ghaznavid army from this game (which unsurprisingly was the option with the mock-Skoutatoi mixed bow/spear unit rather than the somewhat static Heavy Artillery) as well as all the other lists from the games at Patras can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
Jurchen Chin is one of those armies that is relatively easy to skip across in the book, looking a little like a poor man's Mongol - but clearly this one had something going for it, as I was presumably about to find out.
The terrain mat safely deployed, the rest of setup was a partial success with some jungle scattered on the left flank and the enemy getting an ambush-friendly hill on their left as well.
But, the key thing was that I was going first, which with decent pip dice would allow my army to race forward and bottle up the enemy before they could get much lateral movement going on.
The list I had chosen for this of course had the Skoutatoi-types in it, as Heavy Artillery would be no use in such a potentially mobile battle.
Turks vs Chinese
As kebabs twisted on their skewers in shops, restaurants, homes and roadside shacks across the land, my left flank moved forward and gained line of sight to behind the hill on my right - and suddenly, immediately the least surprising ambush in history was uncovered - 4 medium Cavalry hidden behind the hill, ideal fodder for the Ghaznavid Skoutatoi to frighten off especially as they were closely accompanies by an Elephant lurking nearby as well.
The pips had been kind and generous in the first roll all across the line and before the supposedly Chinese opponents could react the Ghaznavid army had lurched forward in an extremely coherent line, bottling up the Jurchen horsemen (if that was what they were) and their Mongol allies in the gap in between the forest and the opposite edge of the table. That transverse road would come in for some serious pounding by almost-Mongol hooves if the enemy were to succeed in doing anything much more complex than attacking the Ghaznavids frontally.
As the line of Elephants, foot and Ghulams continued their advance into a second turn, the Gothic Chinese Barbarians had little choice but to evade and reform in front of the Moslem Sultanate's drive forwards.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Ghaznavids have raced forward, pinning back the Jurchen Chin army against its rear table edge. In the advance some elements have been left behind, but the key components of the Death Stars and cavalry are advanced fully forward.
The Jurchen forces have brought their ambushed troops quite quickly into the centre of their army, allowing them to mass a large body of cavalry in a small area. This has caused somewhat of a log jam - but has also created very short lines of control and communication.
Trembling Taramasalata! On the left the solid and coherent dvance of the Ghilman command had already sent the Mongol 4-pack of LH skittering back in some disarray, but as they fled the deadly Mongol archers successfully peppered the lone lance-armed Kurdish unit (who had been dragged into the front line to provide a little extra width) with reverse-shooting arrows. Now a good day to be a non-shooting Cavalryman.
On the opposite flank the advance was equally measured and equally hard for the Jurvhen forces to resist. As the Ghaznavid infantry archers moved up they were sending out a steady shower of arrows which, as they fell, were hammering the opposing cavalry with a consistent and debilitating series of hits. The vaguely European dark-age looking Chinese horsemen of the Jurchen Dynasty were being forced to fall back out of range, as the alternative seemed to be a very real risk an early elimination at the hands of Ghaznavid infantry archery.
Struggling to drag everyone out of range and still leave adequate gaps for evades, the Jurchen commander ended up leaving behind a lone and unlucky horseman unit (who seems to have lost a figure already, in a taste of things to come perhaps?) to be caught by the Dailami's
And lets face it, no-one wants to be caught by the Dailamis, do they?
It's Cool to be Greek
With shooting hits racking up the Mongols realised that both table and time were running short. Moving onto the front hoof, they took the decision to take their decidedly Byzantine and Gothic looking hearts into their Steppe Nomad-weathered yak's-milk-stained hands and charge bravely into the Ghaznavid Ghilmen facing them.
The Ghilmen were not there to fight but if they evaded they would leave the flank of the Death Star exposed anyway - and counting up the number of shooting hits already inflicted on the enemy along the line they quickly calculated that even a net loss in this part of the battlefield could contribute significantly towards breaking the Chin army.
Adding in the fact that they would have to leave behind the (non-evadable as they had Impact) Kurdish lancers anyway, the Ghilmen decided that the right thing to do was in fact to stand. A brave decision, but soon to be proved a foolish one as the Mongol Commander led the line, rolled well and blew a huge hole right through the Ghaznavid line at first contact - a hole the Ghulams had no real plan for filling.
What's Going on Here Then?
Pinned back in their deplyment area the Jurchen forces have launched a fierce and highly focused counter attack against the Ghaznavid Ghulams, who, perhaps unwisely, have elected to stand and try and ride out the storm in order to better protect the left flank of their Death Stars. The rest of the Ghaznavid army is moving up systematically, led by the elephant units who are even now struggling to find targets in the fast-moving morass of enemy mounted evaders.
The Ghaznavid bowmen and Ghulams on the right have been caught flat-footed by the sudden Jurchen attack, and are not yet in a position to contribute positively to the outcome of the battle.
Hold the Halloumi! With the rest of the command already pinned or in combat the Ghaznavids left flank holding force simply lacked men and resources to react to this fearesome assault in their own next turn, and suddenly the Late-Roman-esque Mongols were flooding round and rolling up the Moslem Indian army's flank at an alarming rate.
Cool Cavalry & Elephant stuff
Even as this fast and sharp battle was going on to collapse the Ghaznavid left, the Ghaznavid centre was continuing to drive forward with their Baklava-tastic Elephant Death Star Corps and the deadly shooting of the infantry archers.
The Jurchen were crushing it on the Ghaznavid left, but on the right they too were being rolled up like a Mongolian / Chinese crossover designed carpet as the Dailami and Elephants combined to drive forward.
How well do the Dailami fight then?
A must-have first name on the team sheet for pretty much every army list that is allowed them, 2 Dailami infantry will most often be found wrapped either side of an Elephant in the classice ADLG Death Star formation. Here, the Elephant protects the group against mounted who would otherwise try and ride down the MF Dailami, and the combination of the 3 units, all with Impact, is frightening for almost anything on table
With Impact and Elite status, the Dailami are best going into enemy foot - HF are do-able but have extra resilience through their 4 hits, and MF are usually a prime target. Keeping the Dailami fresh for combat maximises their power, and in common with the Elephants they will often use a screen of LF to protect themselves until they get to hand to hand fighting
Being MF they are of course also unfazed by uneven terrain, and become practically untouchable by anything if they can find a hill on which to sit. But that would be a waste of their offensive capacity, so they are unlikely to stay in such a spot for long.
Sizzling Spanoptika! The Ghaznavids were in fully defensive mode on the left as they simply sought to buy time with the rag-tag remnants of an already doomed command - all they could do was pin the Mongols and force them into engaging in mopping up combats instead of exploiting the gaping gap their aggression had created.
But, the Mongols were clever, resourceful and most importantly knew the rules on pinning and Zones of Control very well indeed.
With the Kurdish lancers seemingly pinning the Mongol General he cleverly sent his own LH into the flank of the Kurds - a battle the Light Horse were perhaps unlikely to win, but one which instantly freed up the Mongol General to go attack someone else instead.
"Seriously? Us again? I was thinking that by Game 5 you'd forgotten about us. Who are we supposed to be today - Ghaznavid Soothsayers perhaps? Rules-readers from the desert-dwelling edges of the Chinese Empire? Can't you just give us a rest and find some more animated Gifs somewhere as we're utterly irrelevant to this battle."
L'Art de la Guerre hint - once you are engaged in combat on any flank you no longer exert a ZOC
It was now becoming apparent that the Jurchen Chin army moved faster than pretty much every unengaged unit in the Ghaznavid force
As if possessed by the long-dead soul of the Athenian Sacred Band's ouzo-soaked lamb-scrotum, the Jurchen horsemen broke off from the slower-moving Ghaznavid Elephants and infantry combination and started to filter back a turn later, sneaking into gaps and crannies in the Ghaznavid lines to pick out the weak spots and wreak havoc on the overstretched flanks of the Ghaznavid infantry and horse.
The Jurchens were wobbling, but they were also striking back hard and fast against a Ghaznavid army which was both at the end, and the start of the day not much different in size to their own.
What's Going on Here Then?
Having overwhelmed the Ghaznavid left flank the Jurchen cavalry are wreaking havok as they turn the Ghaznavid's flank decisively and start to push into the centre of the Indo-Moslem army.
The Ghaznavid Death Stars are pushing forward and chewing up elements of the Jurchen army, but the rate of attrition does not match the rapid advance of the flanking cavalry who are knocking over the Ghaznavids like ninepins as they flood into the heart of the Ghaznavid formation.
With olives now falling from the nearby trees like rain in the stiff breeze which had by now blown up off of the Adriatic, and with German banksters circling like sharks in the neighbourhood the scene was set for a cataclysmic end game.
With the Mongols on one flank and Gotho-Jurchen nobles breaking through on the other, the centre of the Ghaznavid army was no longer a coherent whole - and as a result whilst these brothers in arms from the borders of India and the Afghanistan were perhaps not quite at the stage of forgoing riffs and instead choosing to exclusively play their guitars using only fast single-note picking motions, they were certainly very close to being in Dire Straits.
One thing was sure - Dailami and Arab swordsmen were no match for Baklava-tastic enemy horse in the open with lances.
What a Jurchen Chin army is supposed to look like
The Ghaznavids however were not done yet. They had done their own maths, and had worked out yet again just how small the Jurchen army was.
And small meant almost defeated. With a decisive and successful drive to the baggage, and perhaps an Elephant victory against some isolated Gotho-Jurchen horsemen who were too close to the table edge to risk evading and the game could yet swing back towards the Arabo-Indian army.
But time to achieve this was limited, and was by now fast running out. The Mongol allied command had already racked up huge numbers of Ghaznavid losses on the left wing and were steadily making similar minced lamb meat of the centre of the Ghaznavid force as well. These were losses which a 19 EE army could not sustain for much longer.
Not since the days of Alexander had such brilliance been seen in Greece as even the odd actual proper Mongolian-looking Jurchen-Chin unit got into the action as the Chiese forces inched their way towards a seemingly inevitable victory.
Klattering Kalamaris! The left wing of the Ghaznavids was now just one lone Ghulam unit, fighting for survival and to occupy as many of the enemy as it could before they went down - this was not a real holding action, it was simply buying time for the Ghaznavid infantry and Dailami to try and make it into the Jurchen baggage train.
Fortified by an evil mix of Metaxa and Ouzo, in the next turn the Gotho-Byzanto-Jurchen forces would certainly finish off the Ghaznavid army and give them an Ouzo-esque hangover. There was one last chance to stack up a series of shooting and combat wins to try and claw the game back to a draw, or possibly even to a victory for Ghaznavia, but to achieve it everything would have to go right, every arrow would need to count, every combat roll would need to be much better than the dice of the enemy!
What's Going on Here Then?
With the Ghaznavids on the brink of defeat, the Jurchen cavalry are moments away from success. The Ghaznavids are struggling to save themselves from the fast moving flankin sweep, but there is a small chance that the tide can turn if they hit the Jurchen hard and with good fortune.
Knowing the game is almost up and this is their last hurrah, the Ghaznavid troops tee up a series of potentially game-winning combats and begin to pray.
Desparate Dolmades! The dice rolled, the hearts of Ghaznavias finest beat strongly on their sleeves and lept as if seeking to escape and join in the fighting themselves into their throats.
But of course, none of these desparate ploys worked, none at all, and once the last cubic random number generator had clattered, spent to the tabletop the dist settled to show a scene in which there was almost nothing left on the left or centre of the Ghaznavid army at all..
The Ghaznavid army's morale was by now crumbling like feta cheese over a Greek salad as the Jurchen started what would surely be their final, decisive and winning turn.
..and then, as foreseen, with the Ghaznavids left flank gone, and their centre, the game was lost for Ghaznavia and won for the Gothic hordes of Jurchen-Chinia. Time for lunch, and time over-and-out for the Ghaznavids.
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
Well, this was an unfortunate turn of events, and one which was quite unexpected given how well the terrain appeared to fall and how quickly my men raced across the table with their initial pip allocation.
After such a great start, to lose must surely be a sign of bad luck and poor dice, as strategically even the greats of Greek military history would have surely been looking down from Olympus and beaming at my genius?
We were also playing some very experienced warriors, who had seemingly fought their way from the plains of central Europe across the great unwashed steppes of Eurasia before finding their home in rural China. On those travels they had surely learned many things and gained the experience that only using one list muct surely bring them, so perhaps things were more stacked against me than I thought?
But, even considering that, to go home with a 4th place finish is a very clever result, especially when one considers that I both played all of the top 3 (beating 2 of them along the way), and also factoring in how tightly packed my hand luggage only fbaggage was the rick of picking up another Greek trophy would have been a challenge in itself.
And, there is still lunch to come - so all is good with the world. And anyway, if I really did want to take home a trophy I could always pick up one of these tasteful beauties from Athens Duty Free Gift Shop and just pretend I won it once I get home
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
At last, the result your incompetence so richly deserves, and even better one where a few small but obvious mistakes - which I spotted, but which you clearly missed - has caused your downfall
The first error came very early on, when your largest command comprised of Elephants, Cavalry and the Mock-Skoutatoi advanced in the first turn. This is a complex mixed battlegroup, and requires more skilfull handling than you managed all weekend - but here you made a ridiculous decision to spend 2 pips in your first turn on moving the Elephant Death Star a second time, just to gain another MU further across the table for the Pachyderms and warriors.
Getting the best units in the army into combat is of course important, but this small incremental move accomplished nothing - they were still 2 moves away from combat whether they stopped at 5MU from the enemy or 4MU, but what you instead sacrificed this for was the opportunity to move your Ghulams and Mock Skoutatoi further up the table. If you look back at the end of the game, your loss stemmed from an inability to press home your advantage on the right and more specifically your falling short of the enemy camp - both of these things were made difficult in this very first turn mistake as having 2 Ghulams 8MU further up the table would have put incredible pressure on the enemy Sino-Gothic cavalry hiding behind that hill, and left them certainly in baggage eating range long before the end phase of the game played out.
You then compounded this error on the right by simply lining up your men on the left, being totally unmindful of the need to evade in the face of better quality Impact enemy mounted - an inevitable outcome given the army composition of your opponent and the tight corner you had jammed him into. Your Ghulams are not there to fight, they are there to delay the enemy and protect the flanks of the Death Stars - by putting them at risk so early in the game you succeeded in exposing the Death Star flanks to an enemy who's sole strategy was to get into their flanks, and this led to your ultimate and inevitable downfall.
Thankfully the warm weather, cheap beer and food, copious and warm hospitality of your Greek hosts, the camerarderie of the players drawn from across Europe who all play this ever-more-popular ancient rulest, the chance to meet long lost friends, the high quality of umpiring and the presence of a succesful EFL Championship manager serving unlimited coffee and cakes throughout the entire weekend will have gone some way towards offsetting the shame of having sat at the top table throughout the entire competition only to fail to walk away with any of the prizes, and perhaps someone else will have been able to learn and benefit from your many mistakes and the wisdom that I have been able to share in highlighting them so cruelly and explicitly. Onwards and upwards eh?
Anyway, here's another picture of some wonderful Greek food from the (included in the entry price) lunch. Because let's face it, that's the main reason why you all came ..
That's the end - so why not go back to the Match Reports Index and read some more reports?