Roman & Classical in Patras 2019
Assyrian Empire and Sargonid vs Middle Imperial Roman
Patras. One year on Team Central London decided that they had just about lost the weight the excellent catering had put on all of them after their last visit, and to give the long trop to Greece another go.
A godforsakenly early start saw the team at Heathrow before any of you lot were up.
Dave Allen, Greater Rugbys most succesful slum landlord and radical Marxist Revolutionay Early Retiree came late to the plane as he'd been living it up in the executive lounge
On the way to Patras we of course had to stop for lunch. The weather wasn't great to be fair, but even so we did manage to find a (surprise) Greek restaurant with panoramic views across the sea
In a staggering taste of things to come the salad was enough to count as a main course for all three of us. But this would not be Greece without some grilled meat - and therefore we had also ordered..
.. the mixed grill, in a valiant attempt to emulate the missing member of our party who had been forced to duck out with a very mild heart attack in the days right before the trip.
After more driving down the EU-funded "only decent road in Greece" we ended up in Patras just in time for a spectacular and almost-stormy sunset, and a rendez-vous with the rest of the English, French and Belgian contingents at the hotel
Marching at pace through the town, an ultimately futile effort was made by all of us to lose Ian Dickie, but sadly this failed despie our best efforts and we retured to a quiet and sophisticated local hostelry for a small glass of dry sherry as a nightcap.
OK, maybe not that quiet after all !
OK, maybe not that quiet after all - after an absence of many years, possibly after we had drunk the place dry in the days of DBM, the local brewery in Patras is now back up and running again - and jolly nice it is too!
The next day dawned much brighter (and dryer) and after another attempt to lose Ian Dickie (this time by car) we all ended up at the remote and rather perfect venue in the suburbs of Patras - basically it's like someone has built a wargames club in the middle of an olive grove, and stocked it full of food, coffee and beer.
So, all of a sudden the travel and the pre-game feasting is over and the Assyrians have to actually take to the table. Yoiks!
Sargonid Assyrians are a strange beast of an army. There is potency of course in the Chariots, but the unusual aspect of a Biblical era army is the large number of Elite Bow-armed Heavy Cavalry, allowing the Assyrians to have both considerable shooting and a lot of speed across the table. That in turn leads to a game plan of rapid concentration of overwhelming force, shot in by mounted and foot archery. The infantry are also no slouches, but here they play a supporting role in the main.
My two-option Assyrian army lists had been bashed together over the course of a few days of dithering, mostly because the dozen or so variants which Richard Case had sent me to use as a basis for my army all seemed to make no sense whatsoever, but clearly were quite effective in the right hands.
The end result was that I had to do a lot of reverse engineering, tweaking and fiddling around - and still ended up with something I wasn't at all sure how, or even if it would work.
But, here goes...with the first game against a Middle Imperial Roman army.
The lists for the Assyrian Empire and Sargonid and Middle Imperial Roman 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.
With me expecting to out-cavalry the Romans the table had ended up pretty much bald in all of the key areas - apart from a well positioned hill in the front of the Romans deployment zone.
The Assyrians were planning (of course) to fall like wolves upon the fold of the cowering Romans (yadda yadda ...) from both flanks with a fast moving infantry block on the right and a mostly cavalry block on the left.
Two chariots were floating in the middle with a pair of horsemen for company.
The Romans were as it turned out far from textbook in their composition, with an Armenian ally occupying the right flank position with a line of Cataphracts dumped on a somewhat cliched transverse road. Tough as they were, this seemed like much better Chariot fodder than the opposite flank and so the wheels all sprung into action and the totality of the Assyrian strike force made it's way towards Armenia at some speed
The Assyrian right flank wasn't really geared up to take on a line of Full Fat Legionaries frontally, but they did have speed on their side. Dancing to the extremities of the table the Middle Easterners were hoping to outflank the supposedly slow moving closely packed Legions to exploit their flanks.
The lone Roman cavalryman looked like easy prey for the Assyrian archers.
ADLG Rules Hint - "Full Fat Legionaries" are Elite Impact Swordsmen HI with Armour. They cost more than your house and car put together, but should comfortably kick seven bells of sh-t out of most things they can get a good grip of in the game, and shrug off enemy attacks as if you were rolling fluffy dice from a 1970's Ford Capri (1.6, not the 3.0 pokey version of course) against them. Some can even have rear support, but this is rarely seen as most players appear to believe that spending all 200 points on just 3 units is not a great way to design a list
But, Romans know their roads.
The Legions turned about and marched rapidly (like, very rapidly indeed) to counter the Assyrian outflanking move.
This of course left the centre somewhat bereft of Romans, but the Assyrians were already committed to a flank-only strategy so aside from a couple of smurf-hatted LF there were no Assyrians to take advantage
The Armenians had been well trained by their Italian paymaster and likewise used their extra speed on the road to zip out to the flank and prevent themselves from being instantly outmanoeuvred too.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Assyrians have declined - or indeed lack the numbers and quality - to take on the Roman centre and assault troops on a hill, so have elected to send most of their forces to the far left to overwhelm the Armenians whist using the 3rd mostly infantry command to do likewise to the solid and mostly unsupported block of Legionaries facing them on the level ground on the Assyrian right.
The Romans clearly plan to use the road to redeploy and reposition their Legions and Armenians to keep the Assyrians at bay
The obvious counter was for the Assyrians to switch focus back to the centre - but by now the one tame elephant from the Roman state zoo had appeared and trundled down off the hill accompanied by a pair of Elite Gladiators.
What could have been a beautiful full Spartacan Death Star then did a Saucer Separation (or is that the wrong SF franchise?) and spread out to oppose the mounted Assyrian force arrayed against them.
Slide and Move was the Assyrian mantra on the opposite flank.
Flipping Feta! The turquoise-clad Elite Guardsman unit (as opposed to the blue-clad Regulars) was trying to make a dash for the open centre of the Romans whilst the rest of the Legions were occupied on the flank
Unfortunately just as soon as the Assyrians made any sort of clever move the well drilled Romans countered immediately to shut whichever door the Assyrians were attempting to jimmy open.
With two commands of combat cavalry and Chariots, the left wing of the Assyrian attack was by now seriously outnumbering the Armenians and Romans in troops and command and control capability.
The allied Armenians decided that their pay wasn't enough to be outflanked and run down by Assyrians finest. They immediately turned tail and retreated back towards the covering fire of the Roman artillery park sat on the hill in the middle, leaving the Elephant and Gladiators to oppose Assyria's wheeled military might on the biblically inspired playing surface.
Whether you like olives or not, it's hard to argue that at this point in the game , things looked well set up for at least some of the Chariotry to get a clean first attempt at combat against optimal Medium Foot opposition in what had been their short, recently painted history
Trembling Taramasalata! Using their road speed yet again, the Armenians realised that they needed to actually come back and stand up to the Assyrians or risk being caught in the rear by much faster moving Assyrian horsemen as they fell back.
The Cataphracts turned and reappeared in the front line, having suckered the Assyrians in whilst the lone Roman Elephant slid and wheeled to place himself firmly in the sights of a Chariot who definitely didn't want to be asked to deal with an elephant in its first ever actual combat.
Gladiatoral Combat - Today!
By now it was a glorious day outside, almost lovely enough to make you want to take up smoking filthy roll up fags like a proper European so you could keep nipping out to enjoy the fresh air
The left flank may have been a swirling mess of mounted action, but somehow on the Assyrian right the very plodding Roman Legions appeared to have outsmarted the Biblical era masters of war and had managed somehow to pile into some of the Assyrians most squishy Sword & Bow units, removing them rapidly from the table. Even the Assyrians attempt to outfox the puny Roman mounted force was taking far longer than it really should have done.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Mixed Sword/Bow units, with a rear rank of bow, shoot as if they were a normal all-bow unit, but fight and suffer shooting hits as if they were a regular Swordsman unit but one morale grade lower than they actually are. So, Average units shoot as Ordinary Bowmen but fight as Mediocre Swordsmen. This is not great against Full Fat Legionaries.
Holy Halloumi! The Full Fat Legions barely paused for breath as they chewed apart the hapless and rather shocked Assyrian infantry, who even as they made their way back to the tin box in which they barracked were plotting how to perhaps just approach the next game as if they were simply Bowmen rather than someone with a vague but apparently mostly theoretical on-paper ability to actually fight enemy troops hand to hand
What's Going on Here Then?
The Assyrians have made a right pigs ear of overrunning the Roman Legions, and have instead been caughth flat-footed by an aggressive unit-by-unit series of attacks in which the Romans have used their superior morale, armour and weaponry to take apart the Assyrian infantry. The Assyrian right flank is now pretty much bereft of hope that it will achieve anything, piling more pressure on the mostly mounted forces on the left to sweep away the Armenian Cataphracts.
With little hope of securing any enemy losses on the right, the Assyrians will now also need to chew through the Armenians in such a way that they can then quickly knock some holes in the Roman centre as well if they wish to tip the entire Roman army to defeat
In a development about as obvious and inevitable as the answer to the question "shall we have lamb for dinner tonight?" in a Patras household, the Legions were doing what Legions are supposed to do - and the mercenary Armenians on the opposite flank were discovering exactly why Rome had positioned its Citizen infantry in such a place where they were only fighting 1/3 of the Assyrian force
With the entire balance of the Assyrian army, including all of the Chariotry and much of the mounted cavalry army arrayed against them the Armenians and their lumbering Cataphracts were always going to struggle in the end.
As Assyrian horse, foot and battle cars descended on them from all directions the only thing seemingly here to save the Armenians from a grisly fate was a combination of good dice and the lone Roman elephant
Sizzling Spanokipitas! Even the elephant was misfiring badly as it soaked up shooting hits and then found itself double-overlappped against an Assyrian Chariot battle line.
The Chariots ploughed through the resistance of the admittedly injured and Mediocre and Double Overlapped elephant with some ease, and found themselves smashing into the flanks of the Armenian Cataphracts, aiding their own Cavalry no end in the process.
The Armenians were falling like autumn leaves as they failed to deal with the sheer number and speed across the ground of two whole Assyrian commands. Everywhere they looked the symbol of the Winged Lion was in the ascendancy
What's Going on Here Then?
The Assyrians have made a decisive breakthrough on the Roman right, breaking the resistance of the Armenians and sweeping them away in short order. The presence of so many mounted Assyrian troops on this wing is causing massive concern to the Roman centre, as with each combat the Assyrians win more and more of their fast moving horsemen and chariots are freed up to cause havoc in the Roman centre.
With the Elephant already lost the only remaining Roman forces on this side of the battle are highly vulnerable Medium foot - who are hoplessly outgunned in combat by the Assyrian horsemen
The Assyrians now were driving hard to notch up the last few casualaties needed to overturn the Roman resistance and allow them to steam into the highly appealing collection of mid-morning pastries and cakes that were already being set up in the other part of the playing area.
Occasionally this meant giving up some risk of flank attacks to the Romans, but as long as they were taking enemies down 1 for 1 at this stage such problems mattered little - a first ever victory was soon in the grasp of the Assyrian Empire!
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 Assyrian Empire and Sargonid Commander
I Am War! I Am Victory! And I am somewhat overfaced by the sheer volume of pastries (including some lovely little chocolate muffins, and a swirly sort of two-tone sweet sliced cake hing which goes very well indeed with a cup of Nespresso coffee.
But, looking back to the battle related narrative elements of this primarily culinary focused adventure, I am most pleased in parts with the outcome my Assyrian men and horses managed to extract from what, apart from Mighty Assyria (Yo Big It Up For Assyria!), one might legitimately call the Roman Army of the Second Most Impressive Empire In History. The Romans had no real answer to the speed and ferocity of our attacks, apart from on my right flank where they appeared to have an answer so comprehensive that my men seemed to have lost both the battle, the plot and probably forgotten the original question they were sent to ask.
Speed, Surprise, Violence and a fanatical devotion to the Gods of Anshar and Ashur coupled with a surveyors keey eye for keeping out of range of not one but two sets of artillery managed in the end to win the day. I must admit also to being pleasantly surprised just how fast my army moved across the table, and how this in turn allowed me to do some quite clever stuff to concentrate on small exposed components of my oppponents force.
Now that I Am Victory and I Am War (Personified) there is the real prospect of many more great victories in the battles ahead. But first, let me just take another small slice of that lovely cake...
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
You fortunate Assyrian cur, not even competent enough to warrant being called a full-blown actual dog ne'er mind one with wings and the power of flight. Here you managed to stumble and come very close to falling against an army that was structurally somewhat imbalanced, and one can only wonder how stupid your sub commanders must have been to either take so long to get into a winning position, or to actually get almost eliminated on your right flank entirely!
Your army is swift across the ground like a pack of wolves descending on the .. oh well, you already know the line anyway, but honestly, your Medium Foot and Cavalry were outfoxed by a bunch of close formation Heavy Infantry with the same speed across the ground as a collapsed section of the Ashur Gate? How on earth did you let that happen? Surely you pin them from the front - and face the loss of maybe a unit - whilst outflanking them, rather than making a ham-fisted attempt to do so without holding them in place first ?
Forgetting that the road also gave them extra movement seems like a staggering mistake as well. It's not like the road is not the biggest cliche in ADLG terrain choice and deployment, is it? Just because you are too stupid and too aggressive in every battle to select it or use it does not mean the secret has been forgotten!
I think here whilst your army recorded a win there was a degree of struggling beneath the waterline the like of which a swans legs may have felt exhausted to emulate. Perhaps a more thorough examination will be given out in the next game?
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition