Ancients (Roman Period) at Roll Call 2016
Mithraditic vs Early Imperial Roman
Roll Call, and a full year of UK ADLG competitions rolled around. Last time out Roll Call was the first ever event held in the UK, and it attracted a huge crowd of French players keen to try Le Rosbif and Feesh and Cheeps whilst playing the most popular ancients competition game in continental Europe right now. This time the numbers had increased overall anyway, but with the novelty of Cranfield in April gone, the number of UK players had risen an impressive 300% year on year!
The period was set at a new-rules-friendly Roman and Early Byzantine era, capturing the boys in red and many of their classic opponents. In reality, with Romans being, erm, not really as good as they should be in pretty much every other set of rules, this had brought out a mass of Roman armies who were stumbling into the light of a new dawn of competitive wargaming outings for the first time in many, many years.
Bucking this trend I'd gone with the other obvious "they haven't been on the table in years" choice of Mithraditic.
Mithraditic - an army that can take a bit of everything, and where the temptation is to do exactly that. The core of the army is a solid block of pikemen and imitation legionaries, with the added spice of some Impetuous Galatian foot if you want to make life difficult for both yourself and your opponent. A similar mix of strong vanilla and existing spice exists on the mounted arm, where Elite normal HC fight for space with Impetuous Impact HC, rounded out by lots of flavours of LH. ON the rough terrain side, again a bit of everything - Thracians with their fearsome 2HCW, MF javelinmen to shoot and skirmish at close range, and MF spearmen to be not quite as good as anything else but not quite so bad that you can't find a bit of love for them too. Top it all off with a mass of LF of all varieties and sprinkle with a scythed chariot or two and you can get pretty much all of the rubbish out of deep storage an onto the table in ADLG.
The lists for the Mithraditic and Early Imperial Roman from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Roll_Call can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
My first game was against one of the many Roman armies in the competition - Early Imperial. The table was textbook Plains, with a couple of fields and a hill which had ended up too close to my base edge to be really useful. My army had been designed with three separate commands with different tasks - the Heavy Foot command, the Rough Terrain command, and the Mounted on the Open Flank command - which became immediately tricky given that this table didn't really have an open flank.
With no real open flank - at least on my opponents side of the table - I deployed L-R with Rough/Heavy/Mounted. The general plan with my mounted command was an experimental approach involving taking a mounted command with 3 LH with javelins, aiming to bully enemy LH who I expected would mostly be LH bowmen and thus gain a quick decisive advantage on the extreme edge of the battlefield. After that, I hadn't really thought much more really, but having an advantage on a flank must be cool, right? This left the heavy foot in the open in the middle, and the Thracian/Javelinman/Spearman command on the left.
The Roman Army
My opponent had picked a similar composition, and their army was stacked up with lots of cavalry and lots of legions, leaving their rough terrain flank a little light on troops. Moving first, my 6 units of MF immediately split into two groups, one of which raced out into the flank zone to try and draw out some of the enemy Auxilia whilst my LF bowmen pinned them back to their front. The general aim was to bottle up the enemy in this field, and the threat of the flank pressure plus my secret weapon - the Scythed Chariot - which was there to keep the enemy MF in the rough as my infantry and cavalry won elsewhere
The mounted flank immediately exposed my idiotic LH javelin strategy for what it was - instead of having 3-4 LH bowmen that could be bullied, the enemy had taken almost no LH at all, leaving my LH with enemy Medium cavalry to face off against. Medium Cavalry are traditionally rubbish in all rulesets, and they are the same here in ADLG...but against LH they look like fully armoured cyber-mech superstars...which is what they were facing here. My LH were no longer looking like game winners, but they still rushed forward to try and delay the enemy Medium and Heavy Cav long enough to let my increasingly busy-looking HI do the business.
On the other flank my opponents Auxilia pushed forward towards the edge of the rough terrain, coming under fire from my harassing LF bowmen as they advanced. My javelin-armed MF were now in position on the flank to threaten them if they came further forward, so in theory my swift first couple of moves to bottle them up were working well.
The idea of drawing off the flank troops from the opposition advance was also working well on the other side - a block of Medium Cavalry were right down the throats of my LH, who, after frantically flicking through the rules had suddenly realised that they would be able, or more accurately compelled, to evade off the side edge of the table - unlike FoGR where LH meeting the side edge then turn and stay on table! Oops! My own rather paltry 3-strong Heavy Cavalry force was keeping safe next to my foot, already realising that their main job was to hang on to protect the flanks of the foot.
With an advantage of numbers the enemy Cavalry were straight in - their heavy foot were a long way behind meaning that my own block of Cavalry enjoyed the advantage of an overlap on their left, but importantly the enemy had a more manoeuvrable cavalryman on their overlapping side, with much more capability to take advantage of any openings created as the two lines clashed.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Pikemen lose 2MU off their move distance when they turn 90 degrees. Given their move distance is 2MUs, you get the idea that they are better going forwards.
The enemy Medium Cavalry were also very keen, facing equal numbers of my LH Bow and Javelin-armed men. Unable to evade without going off the edge of the table, my LH had no alternative but to stand - although the bowmen had inflicted one hit on the central enemy Medium Cavalry, which levelled up the combat factors there. In addition the javelin-armed LH would also be at evens in the initial round of combat against Medium Cavalry - so this was two evens combats at impact, and one where the enemy had a +1 advantage.
Mithradates - the books
The two sets of Cavalry had gone past impact and were fighting multiple turns of melee - they were now locked into a serious hand to hand fighting and my troops, with Impact on the lancers and Superior on the other Heavy Cavalry were so far coming off better with hits inflicted on all of the enemy units in contact. My Heavy Foot were now tied into supporting the ongoing Cavalry battle, preventing them advancing on the enemy legionaries who were deliberately drifting to the left as they advanced in order to try and avoid taking on my pikemen.
The LH strategy was working! Not entirely as I expected, but all the same the enemy Medium Cavalry had come off much the worse in the initial pretty-equal melees. As soon as the Medium Cavalry had taken a hit they were on evens with the LH in terms of combat factors and also in terms of numbers of hits left. The balance was tipped further by the arrival of more of my LH to join in the melee and add an overlap.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - LH contacting someone in the flank just counts as a normal overlap - it doesn't generate the same traumatic and destructive effects as being hit by real troops (which are on pages 56 and 59)
The left flank was going to plan so far - the enemy Auxilia, much better than my rag-tag collection of units, were bogged down with indecision in the face of the multiple threats presented by my manoeuvrings, and were unable to decide whether to advance or stay. My main aim was still to keep them from supporting the flank of the advancing Legions, and so even as they drifted rightwards to gang up on my Javelinmen I was still fairly happy.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Javelinmen are a troop type with no real parallel in either DBx or FoG. They are sort of Super LI - they can shoot (1 MU), they can evade, but they don't really cut it in melee against proper MF - and they are far more vulnerable to mounted troops in the open than normal MF as well.
The Legions had continued their advance towards my line of foot as well, but with a lot of points invested in their mounted wing (and needing to leave a few units hanging back in case my Cavalry pulled off a surprising victory) my opponents line of heavy foot had ended up just a smidge smaller than mine. This was a Mexican standoff - my Impetuous Galatians probably wanted the enemy to charge them, and vise-verse due to the way Impact capability worked in ADLG.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - "Impact" ability gives your infantry a +1 at impact against most infantry opponents, which is great. "Impetuous" infantry - like the Galatians - count as if they have "Impact" ability UNLESS they charge into enemy foot swordsmen. "Impetuous" infantry do however have an ability called "Furious Charge" which causes the enemy to lose one additional cohesion point if they win the first round of combat.
The overall effect is a more subtle and less extreme version of the Blade/Warband interaction in DBx, where Blades start on a better factor but where Warband quick-kill Blades if they win. In ADLG the Impetuous (warband) "win big" if they end up winning, but they will also start on evens factors against the Blades if they can hang on until the Blades charge them first. It costs 3 pips to hold Impetuous troops who are in charge range of enemy, so this is rather tricky to achieve....
Astonishingly - as it seemed - my Cavalry were gaining the upper hand on the left flank of my foot line, and with the enemy Legions thinning out towards this end of their line a block of Pikemen even found time to turn onto the flank of the enemy cavalry to try and sort this combat out even more quickly, hoping to free up my Cavalry to start rolling up the enemy line.
On the left the enemy Auxilia had succumbed to the taunting of the Javelinmen on their flank and had massed for an attack. This would surely mean the demise of my Javelinmen, but at least it kept the Auxilia out of more interesting areas of the field.
And this was where those interesting areas were - two lines of troops slamming into one another in the middle of the table. With the enemy Auxilia distracted, my two units of Thracians had been able to join the main battle. Being MF they were not really geared up to taking on HF (with more hits than them) in the open, but their armour-denying Rhomphias partly compensated for their lack of resilience and so into the fray they were pressed.
The Auxilia were trashing my Javelinmen and smashing through the flank - even with my General there to try and rally them in a vain attempt to hang on a bit longer.
By now my LH had pretty much succeeded in chewing up the enemy Medium Cavalry, and some of the Greek LH were making a bee-line for the enemy camp (when their General could spare the pips to move them, being somewhat distracted at the time by his role in supporting the ongoing cavalry melee!)
The Thracians were having a dramatic time - blowing a hole in the line of enemy Legions, but losing a base of their own as well. The end of the enemy HF line was really exposed, but more importantly the Scythed Chariot (which had been held back in reserve) was now moving into position to charge into the gap in my line and look to run over the exposed Legionary!
Remember that cavalry melee that I was winning? The tide had turned, and the relatively brittle 3-hit cavalry had crumbled leaving a rather shell-shocked but now unengaged line of enemy cavalry blinking in surprise and waiting to roll up my line from this end.
The Chariot was in! And supported by a flank attack from one of my fast-moving Medium Spearmen as well - this looked grim for the enemy legionaries!
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Units fighting enemy Scythed Chariots cannot count friendly overlaps at initial contact, and both baseline combat factors are set to zero (apart from LF, who are at 1). That makes Scythed Chariot combat into a total lottery. Great!
The Chariots rolled well, and with Furious Charge giving an additional hit point loss for the first-round victory the enemy were evaporated!
With that, the enemy center was done with being battered, and with the attrition on the enemy Medium Cavalry adding to the losses elsewhere the game finished with a decisive victory for the forces of Mithradates ! The Result is an 84-26 Victory!
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 Mithraditic Commander
This was an intriguing battle. Faced with better quality troops on both flanks, my theory was to try and shift some of the troops on both of my wings as wide as possible, with the hope that this would thin out the Roman army's centre, as they diverted more and more forces to try and mop up the (sort of expendable) elements on my extreme left and right.
To a degree this worked, particularly on the left where almost the entire force of Roman Auxilia were occupied despatching a pair of Javelinmen and a lone base of Medium Spearmen, which in turn allowed my Thracians to extend the line of my Heavy Foot in the middle, to devastating effect as they started then rolling up the Roman infantry.
On the right things were a little more erratic, as the Romans lack of LH, and use of Medium Cavalry instead (as a sort of heavy skirmish unit) meant that my LH were outmatched, as were my own small Cavalry force too.
Fortunately weight of numbers and some brave fighting by the Skythians and Greek LH meant that I ended up trading units on the right, which in the end was simply enough to allow my crushing victory in the centre to tip the Romans to defeat long before my army reached that point.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Your mind is one vast wasteland if you think this flowering of military prowess is anything other than a temporary blooming of rudimentary grasses in the desert of your competence. Here your army was almost undone, by dint of poor selection and poorer still tactical nous.
You are the stench of a low-life latrine that burns my nostrils if you did not realise that in this tight theme there would be many Roman armies, all with Impact-capable and probably armoured Auxilia, any one of which would comfortably outmatch your hodge-podge collection of rough terrain troops. This command of yours is not so much one to contest rough terrain, more one to throw away 4 units or more against all of the most likely opponents you will face.
Finally your paltry cavalry force was cruelly exposed for the half-cocked effort that it truly is by the enemy's use of more, better forces. You were lucky to remember to read the rules on evading off table, or your LH too would have suffered an even worse fate
I imagine that you will face more Romans in the next game. I am sure it will be painful.
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition
Learn more about L'Art de la Guerre on my ADLG Page.