Rome & Enemies at PAW Plymouth 2020
Gepid vs Republican Roman
With somewhat of a reshuffle in the natural order of early year events underway on the UK ancients scene it seemed an opportune moment to head West Young man and pitch up at Plymouth Association of Wargamers annual PAW show in the deepest South West coastal regions of England.
With a slightly tighter than usual "early-Mid" Roman theme my Very Late Patricians were ruled out unless I was prepared to either do some painting or turn out Sub-Roman British style legions as super-late LIR, and at the same stroke many of the more balanced hairy barbarian armies also seemed to fall foul of the theme
The outcome was to take an army which used literally every single barbarian cavalryman I owned, plus one more for luck in the shape of the Gepids.
The Gepids have a kind of absolutist purity in the charging cavalry army bracket, bereft of fripperies such as Light Horse, or even the odd Medium Cavalry Bow to sully the classic simplicity of Impetuous Heavy and/or Medium cavalry. To sharpen the edge of the army you can take the traditional up to 6 of them as Elite as well. In the infantry department it's equally vanilla, with potentially loads of Impetuous HF Swordsmen - in fact enough to potentially make some opponents expect a ploddy foot army rather than a nearly-all mounted one. Rounding out the pack are a smattering of LF and MF bowmen. All pretty textbook to be honest.
After a night in the fishing hotspot of Brixham (carefully avoiding being present in one of the pubs when the chimes of Brexit finally struck) the next morning saw a cross-country dash and an arrival in the YMCA-shaped PAW venue for a Gepid and Republican Roman first round matchup.
The lists from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at PAW Plymouth can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
The first table was one with just the one corner for the Romans to hide in - with the rather insignificant obstacle of 2 fields which to most other armies may well have been little obstacle at all, but to my Gepids may as well have been completely and utterly impassably obstacled (if that's a thing..?).
The Romans duly obliged in doing their most Roman-y thing possible (other than selling heather, and choosing a form of nomadic lifestyle which may go on to prove difficult to accommodate in far future generations of local authority land ownership) and lined up across the open ground, protecting both flanks with terrain-loving and hence unassailable Medium Infantry types and daring the Gepids to charge in
The Roman army was a well-drilled and nicely painted linear machine, used to taking over foreign lands and liberating them from the irritating annoyances inherent in being free men under the rule of tribal leaders and exchanging that for the reassuring security of slavery and a punitive tax take from the head office back in Rome.
The Citizen infantry, resplendant in their finery, formed a solid and - to charging cavalry - pretty much impenetrable line.
But the brave men of Gepidacia had a cleverer plan - a round 1, first game flank march which was sent off on what would hopefully prove not to be a mad honking great wild goose chase over to the left flank.
The rather half hearted 5-strong line of Heavy Infantry Warriors who formed the allegedly solid infantry centre around which the wildly flapping wings of the Gepid army were loosely stapled started making slow progress towards the Roman line, their sandal-clad feed trampling through the pastry-debris of discarded pasty rinds which littered much of the landscape of pre-Christian Devon and Cornwall, and who's fossilized remains would greatly puzzle generations of future archeologists.
This small but sweaty band of barbarian infantrymen already knew that they lacked the heft, numbers and probably quality to have a realistic stab at taking on an entire Roman army alone, so rather than steam forward at full tilt they inched carefully onwards in the hope and expectation that the flank march would at some point arrive and start to soak up some Roman attention and pip points thus giving the barbarian infantry a better chance to charge in supported by cavalry on their flank
The Romans had an also very well painted but mediocre Elephant as the (not at all a) surprise package in their army, accompanied by a handful of sub-par cavalry who had already spotted that they needed not to be anywhere near the Gepidian flank march when it arrived, and who were therefore already falling back at a pace not seen since someone hollered out "half price pasties" as a practical joke outside Plymouth's premier Pasty emporium prior to the great Pasty shortage riots of the late 1970's in the city.
The Roman horsemen decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and hastily headed for some relative safety nearer their camp.
Ta-Dah! In only the second or third turn the flank march rolled the obligatory 6 and announced it's arrival - much to literally no-ones surprise it was on this flank where the Romans were holed up and waiting for it already.
With not much moving on the Roman side of the table, the Gepids were free to waste, sorry, allocate a special mission to some of their less well armoured mounted warriors, who promptly set off to threaten to undertake some sort of beyond-my-cleverness type attack on the Greek peltasts who were protecting the Roman flank by sitting in terrain.
Quite what the Gepid plan was other than "look like we are doing something constructive whilst we actually wait for the flank march to win or lose the game alone" no-one really knew, but at least their horses were getting a bit of a run-out.
Gepidacious! The flank march - all 6 cavalry units of it - arrived on the table with a dreadful blaring of Gepidic battle horns and quite a bit of amateurish shuffling about to fit them all onto the narrow sliver of table available. The Roman elephant pricked up it's ears, eager as a big grey puppy (with what for a puppy would be an unfeasibly long nose and a world-beating expertise in flatulence) to get involved in the fighting
Just in case this wasn't enough, a couple more horsemen belonging to one of the on-table commands also made it through the field at the end of the table and joined in the vaguely thought-through attempt to overwhelm the enemy line with sheer numbers in lieu of actually having a real plan to do so
The Roman skirmish screen was being well and truly driven back, but it did also appear as if the Gepids answer to the enemy elephant would be "take it on frontally at terrible odds and probably lose"
Hastati-tastically the Romans hurriedly cobbled together a makeshift defensive line as the disprganised rabble of well-armed and probably even a little bit more angry than just plain furious horsemen clattered towards them at pace.
Wherever the Legions looked, Gepids were closing in from all sides. The less competent wing of the Roman army was fearing the most, as it was the one which was about to bear the brunt of the barbarians brutal and swift attack (with the Elite legions being, of course, carrying red shields as opposed to these Average black-shielded guys)
Goths vs Romans
The sword-waving and spear-poking Gepids wasted no time at all demonstrating their committment to the cause, hammering home into the enemy infantry wherever they could find them (usually right ahead of their direction of travel)
There was no science here, just a trusting to the Gods of Dice and Furious Charge, both of which would be needed compensate them for lack of Impact at the points in the Roman lines where Hastati spear-carriers opposed them sporadically. The demarcation point between simply marching about and fully brutal and intense combat was fast approaching.
SupercallifragilisticGepidalidocious! At the other end of the line the Gepid cavalry were floating haplessly in space, not sure if they should stick or twist against the solid wall of Elite Armoured Legions and Triarii facing off against them.
(rules hint - a frontal charge might be spectacular, but more likely will be suicide.)
At least the gravitational pull of the lancers was drawing out the stoic and well armoured legionaries a little, as they inched forward keen to maintain their coherent line at all costs and under all provocations.
Arriving like a somewhat anachronistic and yet also deeply cliche'ed steam train the flank marching Gepid cavalry hammered into the hastily assembled welcoming party that Rome had pulled together in their honour.
All along the line maniacally charging horsemen struck piledriver blows against the Romans best available obstacles, recording a devastation series of hits on the Italians morale as the shock of the initial impact translated into serious losses for the army of the Tiber and it's 7 hills.
There's probably some suitably dramatic text that should or could accompany this picture, with a narrative thread along the lines of the Gepid cavalry on the opposite wing to the flank march taunting the Elite Roman Legions to ensure they were unable to reinforce the resistance against the flank march..but hey, these are fantastic figures, arent they?
And surely sometimes that's got to be enough?
Goths overrun Rome
By now the Gepid infantry had also closed the distance between themselves and the front line of Rome's bog-standard Legion to sword-stabbing and axe-swinging units of measurement, piling even more pressure on the Roman 'hinge' to add to that being poured down by the flank marchers themselves.
The Roman line was creaking, but apart from a couple of holes the resilient Italians had in the main managed to hold out after their initial reverses and the Gepid mounted initiative was starting to wind down as their infantry joined the fray.
With a mighty blow Rome's Legions promptly decided now was the ideal time to take up the initiative and smote down some of the Gepids weaker Medium Cavalry at a stroke.
The Barbarians had yet more infantry coming up to join the assault, but that first-bound ferocity of the mounted Gepid charges had very much dissipated, and Rome's morale was on the rise again.
The Romans fighting skills were now hotter than a pasty on a hot tin pasty plate in a hot oven on a hot Devon summer afternoon!
The solid weight of charging, densely packed warband infantry was but a mere inconvenience to these refreshed and rejuvenated Legions, and they hurled pilums and swung gladiuses (gladioii?) with gleeful abandon, stopping the Gepid footsoldiers in their unwashed tracks with some stunning reverses
The Gepid infantry had gambled everything on a wild and unruly initial charge, so to be repulsed quite so violently and rudely by the rotten Romans was a reverse they had failed to expect - and as a result their morale sank faster than a piece of steak in an overly-liquidized pasty filling.
Jubilant, the Romans pressed home the attack, blasting huge holes in the serried ranks of early dark age and fairly anachronistic (from the fromt at least - hence the angle of photography) Heavy Swordsmen.
The Legions stepped smartly forward, exploiting the gaps their expert use of the blade, shield and uppercut had created leaving the Gepd attack in tatters.
What happened to the Goths?
But, even as the Roman infantry gained an upper hand, forearm, elbow and probably even a VAR-disputed use of the shoulder type advantage in their fight against the Gothically challenged infantrymen, the mounted component of the Gepid army had somehow managed to find at least part of it's mojo again.
Destroying the elephantry and running down a handful of sub-par Roman cavalry the Gepid Nobles started to break through into the rear echelons of the Italians army even as the last knots of resilient Italian and Allied infantry tried their best to hold firm in an increasingly deep sea aways with enemy horsemen.
The Gepids steamed forward into the gaping spaces at the back of the fully committed Roman army, trampling hapless opposing cavalry with barely a pause or thought as they advanced towards the enemy baggage..only to discover and remember that it was compulsarily Fortified, and thus something they could do little about.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Fortified Camps, not all armies get the option to take them, they cost points whereas normal camps are free, they add 1 to the break point of your army, cannot be captured by enemy mounted troops (booo!) but if captured count as 6 losses against your army rather than just 4 for a normal camp. And Republican Romans have a compulsary Fortified Camp
Returning from their abortive attempt to sack an unsackable camp, the last tattered remnants of the Gepid flank launched themselves at the rearmost elements of the Roman back line as it paused for breath after taking down much of the rest of the Gepids surprise lateral assault.
The rest of the 2nd line Legion advanced carefully and methodically, cutting down the few surviving Gepid warband infantry to complete a near clean-sweep of pedestrian warfare success on this lelft flank of unsuccessful Gepidacian attacks.
The battle was by now all but lost, and so with a heavy heart and a wild battle cry the remaining proto-Gothic horsemen launched themselves into a nigh-on suicidal frontal assault on the Elite Legion's footsoldiers, secure in the knowledge that their army was about to collapse anyway so why not just see if they could rack up a handful of extra casualties to boost their in-game score before defeat cast its dark shadow over their failed attempts to build an Italian mainland empire
Desparate times, desparate measures.
The Gepids were even resorting to assailing the Roman's support troops in the fields, much to the disadvantage of the mounted horsemen.
A double attack went some way to mitigate the pain but even so this was scraping the bottom of a very deep barrell with a somewhat blunt scrapey instrument.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Cavalry vs MF are at a base factor of 1, +1 for the flank attacker, -2 for being in a field (rough terrain). The Impetuous Impact capability cannot be claimed as the combat takes place in uneven terrain.
The MF Spearmen are at zero after being contacted on 2 sides by enemy combat troops, -1 for the cohesion loss caused by being hit on two sides in one turn. The end result is a rather unspectacular 0 vs -1 combat advantage for the Gepids ... not quite what you expect for attacking Medium Foot on two sides with Impetuous charging cavalry.
The Hail Mary Gepidacious charge has achieved some successes, with their commander in particular blasting a hole through his frontal opponents but even so accumulated losses from the unsuccesful assault in the centre and other flank as the flank marching troops struggled to beat their way through a line of Roman resistance has done for the Gepids leaving them with an unfortunate first round defeat.
The Gepid Submarine is launched this afternoon.
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 Gepid Commander
I'm sure you suspect I am but a mere savage, unwashed since childhood and born in the saddle to a life of pillage and destruction, however that image is sadly wide of the mark. In fact a chance meeting with some of the most educated military men in all of recorded history, I managed expound to them my glorious theory in regard to this game, and frankly all of them were very impressed
The astonishing boldness and foresight involved in choosing in the first game of the weekend, and the first game using this army to make a flank march was not - as some might well argue - a sad inditement of the fact that I had not selected a group of followers who had the capability to take down one of the most obvious and likely opponents in this theme in a fair fight, but instead was a strke of bravery so great that the captains of history gazed in awe at my boldness.
Sadly, fortune alone deemed it a fact that this great idea would fail to generate its fair reward and defeat was the unfortunate outcome of such a spectacularly innovative plan
I have however learned even more erudite lessons as a result of the chasteninig experience of failing to run over a better quality and better armoured and better equipped enemy. Next time victory will be mine for sure.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
You dithering dunderhead, wallowing in a vat of self-pity that your lack of foresight and preparation, compounded by elementary errors of luggage resulted in you suffering an entirely avoidable defeat and having the temerity to try and blame it on bad luck rather than a fatal attraction to an overly heroic plan
These Romans, against an army such as yours, were always going to turtle up in a safe space to protect their flanks from a right tonking. But, once they had deployed their elephant you had every chance n the world to dismount pretty much all of your army and send them hurtling towards the static Italians with a far better chance of being succesful than your horsemen ever would have had
The problem really was that firstly youo had only packed 5 dismounted bases, and secondly that you lacked the brains to even use that many of them but instead went straight for the hero shot and the glamour of a do or die flank march
Hopefully the joys of pedestrian transport will be more apparent to you in the next game, as I'm betting that everyone you play this weekend will be tooled up with a suite of elephants to allow you to dismount.
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition