ADLG World Championships in Rome 2019
Khurasanian vs Steppe Mongol
It's The Worlds! Yes, barely a year after the excitement of Birmingham 2018, The Worlds returns in the calendar to a classic venue - the Eternal City of Rome.
The Italian Wargames Federation had pulled out all the stops and taken the bold move of hosting this year's event in an all-inclusive fashion in an upscale (but still cleverly discounted) hotel on the outskirts of Rome. This did threaten to tax the budget of the notoriously stingy wargaming community but fortunately the appeal of a weekend in Rome and the recognition that we've all paid fortunes more in lead than the cost of one nice hotel room for a weekend and all inclusive wine and food won out to see 60-od ADLG players from 11 different countries congregate for a weekend of 6-game action.
With an evening game on the Friday it seemed like the best bet was an early morning flight - so, bleary eyed and hesitantly expectant the Central London Pre Brexit World Tour rolled on for yet another outing via BA's finest hand-sold M&S sandwiches and paid-for coffees. Unless you happened to have lounge access of course..
Arriving in Rome we immediately discovered that the Italians had been following their historical antecedents and had created a subtle floor mosaic in the arrivals hall no doubt as part of a prayer to the Roman gods to ward off uncouth Mancunian Geordies from entering their fair country
After a half-hearted debate about whether three of us should save 4 Euros each to take a train, bus and half hour uphill walk or get a taxi we arrived in a taxi at the Grand Hotel Giancolmo to be greeted by professional-standard advertising for the festival of jugeos into which we were about to immediately hurl ourselves.
Well, given this was Italy, perhaps the whole "immediacy" thing needed a little rethinking. After almost checking in it appeared instead to be time for lunch and a dip in the not unappealing hotel swimming pool. And a bit of sun and banter.
The festivities actually ended up starting with an official reception and first evening communal buffet dinner by the poolside around 6pm. Unsurprisingly this was somewhat popular with the global wargaming community, some of whom had even gotten dressed up (i.e. had put trousers on instead of shorts) for the occasion. A hearty buffet was demolished as old acquaintances from Europe, the Antipodes and the US were reacquainted over prosecco and white wine (and beer).
Bloody hell - after that I guess I need to think about playing a game?
The big decision for a 6-game 2-list sort of important tournament is what to take. Having wheeled out Alexandrian for the last two events and done decently well that of course was an option, but it would have been a bit dull as well - the fact it would mean using the same figures again for a third year in a row ruled it out entirely. With one list discarded, there were only around 249 other possibilities to choose from.
Narrowing things down further I committed myself to taking an Arab army of some flavour, mostly on the back of a relatively successful trip to Estella at the end of 2018 in which an Umayyad army came agonisingly close to winning the whole event in 5 very entertaining games. Much faffing around later and the Khurasanians finally fought their way to the top of the pile, for some reason.
The Khurasanians are a relatively early Arab army, one of the initial Caliphates after the Conquests, which means they still can load up on Impact Cavalry - a favourite troop type of mine which allows you to aggressively go after enemy mounted archers.
For a two-list competition they also have a huge number of very different allies to choose from, allowing you to make up two very different lists as well.
The allies I had chosen were Abbasids, making an almost-Mongol nearly all mounted army with some Mixed Spear/Bow MF shooters and close formation spearmen for support, and a Buyid army which when added to the Death Star in the main Khurasanian list gave a frontage of 9 really punchy Impact and Impetuous Foot and elephants. This latter choice was driven by a poor experience in Pamplona earlier this year when my mostly mounted Korean army had struggled (and failed abjectly) to deal with a wide but patchy quality Seleucid force.
With the wine and beer buzz still buzzing the first game came around at the Italian-civilized time of 8pm-ish-maybe. And my opponent was the man, the legend, The Hilton McManus from across the pond. (An alternative sculpt of Hilton, similar to the current version but with more hair can be seen in the background of the reports from Hubcon 2010)
The lists for the Khurasanian and Steppe Mongol from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Rome can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
Hilton had taken the most Mongol of Mongol armies, the Steppe Mongols, and so in an attempt to both out-Mongol the Mongols and also to use the only one of my two lists which I'd actually practiced once with I picked the Abbasid Ally version to oppose him on what turned out to be a relatively open plain with just a bare hill in any area of consequence.
The Mongols deplyed from my left with first a Medium Shooter command, then a Khans Guard command, and a 6 LH "what the hell is that for?" command on the flank.
Opposite them I dropped an all-mounted shooty command, a mostly mounted but with spearmen command in the middle and the Abbasids, with their Mixed Bw/Spear MF on the flank to oppose enemy LH - which there were now many of.
Galloping Ghengis! The Mongols were not messing about, as the Khans Guard and the LH command swept forward across the newly-bought (from Rafa) terrain mat to narrow the distance between themselves and the Abbasids.
This speedy charge forward looked to try to pin the allies back and limit their opportunity to expand out into the flank areas, thus cutting off the Mongol LH's chances of sneaking round the back of the Arab army.
If you're afraid - don't do it,
If you're doing it - don't be afraid!
Hilton was by now a veritable blur of motion, moving faster and more decisively than the human eye could truly hope to even comprehend...
Being closed down so quickly was already a serious risk, and so the Abbasid allied General immediately tasked his Sudanese 'Abid foot with the job or rushing to the right to close the door on the sneaky enemy horsemen.
It was untidy, and more than a bit rushed but the 'Abid had managed to do just enough to get into range of the Mongol's light cavalry.
Unleashing a barrage of archery they peppered the enemy horsemen in a clear warning as to what might happen if they dared press their position further.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Yeah, one hit, Meh. Well, for most armies yes, but the Great Khan's strike cavalry are very pricy, as if their command and control supplement making this a pretty tiny sub-20EE army. Losing even one or two bases before the battle is properly joined could be fatal, and so the Mongols need to shepherd their men carefully in the early stages of the game
With the Abbasids occupied the other two commands of the Khurasanian army were massed together and driving back the central Mongol Medium Shooty command through sheer weight of numbers.
The Khurasanians had plenty of cheap and vulnerable Medium Cavalry lancers in their front line, but unlike the Mongols they could afford to create a few martyrs in the course of achieving their victory as simply trading base for base would see them win this game comfortably.
Mongols vs Arabs
Tamerlane's Toenails! The Sudanese 'Abid had by now firmly shut the door to the flanking aspirations of the fermented-milk-smelling (or that could just have been Hilton?) unwashed Steppe horsemen, but with the infantry's effective shooting being deployed against the enemy LH the rest of the Khans Guard command were able to close in against the rather sub-par Abbasid combat cavalry at some speed.
This looked like an area where a decisive charge was coming sooner or later.
What's Going on Here Then?
Both armies have 2 commands vs 1, with the Mongols pressing hard already on the Arab right flank and the Khurasanians in turn having superiority in the centre. The Mongols however have the ability (and no doubt intention) to concede ground in the centre whereas the more lance-armed Arab army cannot just evade out of combat on its right.
OK, sooner then.
The Great Khan's men charged home, mostly clattering into the Heavy Cavalry (Legio Heroica figures) of the Abbasid allied contingent and also taking on the 'Abid as well.
The quality and fighting prowess of the Khans Guard was known across the Middle East and the Abbasids already realised that their task was simply one of holding up the enemy for as long as possible - this was not likely to be a place where there was grounds for one Abbasid command to beat two Mongol hordes.
Well.. could have been worse I guess? The Abbasid line fractured and split at its' weakest point where the Khans Guard had engineered an overlap against them - but, vitally, the Mediocre Lancers at the other end of the line had managed to stand up to the initial ferocious assault.
The Abbasids were holding up their end of the bargain, but this was a team game with the whole army committed to achieving an overall result.
In a blur of motion the other two Arabian commanders had continued to drive back the Khans horsemen towards their own base edge whilst the excitement and a attention was focused on the Abbasids, and now had almost managed to push the enemy horsemen off the edge of the world!
With the enemy fortified baggage in the distance a moment of reckoning beckoned for these Mongols.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Fortifying your Baggage costs extra, but adds one extra break point to your army and cannot be captured by mounted troops. For a small army like the Mongols that's a double-win if they are allowed it.
Aaaagh! The Giant Evil Hand of McManus loomed large over the battlefield, spooking the usually rather unimpressed Essex Arab Spearmen and the rather unimpressive Lancashire Games 'OK we're clearly Mahdists but let's pretend we are generic arab javelinmen' Javelinmen.
Hilton Tells It Like It Is (back in 2007)
The spearmen were low of the list of things the Mongol Cavalry wanted to fight, and so far they had been making good ground across the table, charging and rolling long on a couple of occasions as they helped drive away the steppe warriors - and now only the Giant Evil Hand of McManus stood between them and an assault on the walls of the Great Khan's baggage train.
Giant Evil Hand !
The Abbasids had outperformed all expectations in the initial clash of cavalry forces, but now as the battle turned to man on man swordsmanship the resolve of their sub-par horsemen was faltering faster than a wargamer in the middle of an important game being offered a free beer.
The mounted component of the Allied command fractured and fled into the wilderness, as the Khans Guard had simply swept them away with almost no losses.
Now only the scraggy remnants of the Abbasid allied command - mostly in the shape of a Sudanese 'Abid who had been stealing all of the good dice to hold up a Khans Guard for the last few turns - were left to claim their post-event pay from their Khurasanian masters.
Smell The Hand! Suddenly Mongol horsemen were everywhere.
The handful of remaining Abbasids had no answer to the seemingly countless hordes of swirling horsemen who were now assailing them from all sides as the Khan's men yelped their fearsome victory cries and circled round for the decisive strike against the Sudanese 'Abid infantry.
What's Going on Here Then?
The strong Mongol attack on the Arab right flank has suddenly started to pay dividends, and the Khurasanians Abbasid Ally contingent is in tatters. The Arab army is however large enough to absorb the losses of their allies without too much pain so the question is not whether the Mongols can overrun the remainder of the Abbasids, but if they can then parlay that advantage into a position from which they can move on and attack the rest of the Arab army.
The Khurasanian forces are pressing on as quickly as possible, partly to try and catch the evading Mongols in the centre and partly to get away from the soon to be victorious Khans Guard to their right. The Mongol Baggage is starting to come into view as a possible target for the handful of Arab infantry moving up with their cavalry component.
With the other Mongolian command now out of table and options they faced a tough choice. Evade off table for some half-weighted losses and lose any opportunity to damage the 2/3's of the Khurasanian army they were facing, or stand and fight and see if they could do enough damage to help push the Arabs to defeat as their Glorious Leaders horsemen mopped up the Abbasid ally. Oh, and they'd flown 14 hours in a tin box from Atlanta - so not fighting would be a pussy's choice.
The Mongols stood as the Khurasanians attempted some sort of over-complex charge against them.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - evade off table and you lose your army 1 break point. If you can afford the losses, and can afford to leave the table uncontested that can be better than standing, fighting and being killed to lose 2 break points. If you are already injured when you evade off, it's still only a 1-point loss, making this effectively "free" to do.
As the Abbasids continued to hang on by their fingernails, Khurasanian troops from their central commands started to arrive into the flank combat zone.
This in turn allowed the remnants of the Abbasid army some respite, but even so these Khans Guard were tough cookies (6 weeks in a knapsack next to a slice of dried yak hanging off a horse saddle can do that to a cookie) and the Arabs attempts to eke out some extra hits continued to prove a challenge.
The game wasn't however all about just these two confrontations. Over to the far left of the Khurasanian army a couple of Mongol LH had tried to sneak round that flank, only to find themselves opposed by Khurasanian Bow Cavalry and Light Horse.
For either side this could easily have been an accidental loss of material numbers of points - but actually there is only one picture as nothing happened here all game.
How to beat Horse Archers
Sizzling Subudai! The Medium Shooty Mongols decision to stand and fight was somehow paying off, as the supposedly more charge-orientated Khurasanian forces stuttered with what seemed like an easy victory well within their grasp.
Khurasanian horsemen fell from their saddles with remarkable alacrity as the two lines of horsemen clashed at the very edges of the world
Meanwhile the mopping up operation against the Abbasids on the part of the Khans Guard continued.
The losses were mounting for the Khurasanian army, but time was running out for the Mongols as their small army realised that it would now struggle to redeploy the Khans Guard to do anything effective from such a fragmented and disorganised pursuit on this flank.
Trembling Tamerlane! In the centre the resistance of the Mongol horsemen had gotten a little out of hand, and the Khurasanians decided that enough was enough.
Marshalling all of their forces they launched a second series of attacks, pitting lancers and Heavy Cavalry against Mediums, outflanking and surrounding the recalcitrant steppe warriors formation. More importantly the Khurasanian CinC had taken personal control of the rather shoddy Javelinmen and driven them at speed towards the Mongol encampment.
Under his stern gaze they girded their Mahdist loincloths and started to scale the camp walls.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Mongols have run out of ground in the centre into which to retreat, and with their Khans Guard still yet to finish up despatching the Khurasanians Abbasid Ally the Mongol centre is now isolated.
The Khurasanian army is battered through the loss of almost all of the Abbasids, but the Mongol Guardsmen will be scratching around for their next victims as the rest of the battle is now a long way away from their present position.
A successful attack on the enemy camp will now dramatically tip the scales in favour of the army of Al Khurasan.
Under this new assault the Mongol horsemen's will to carry on fighting suddenly dried up like a desert wadi in high summer.
Arab horsemen overran the enemy archers from all sides, picking up huge handfuls of break points in a surge of unrelenting assaults and knocking the Mongolian army further towards its own break point.
The Mahdists have it! Breaking down the palisades and scaling the encampment walls the wild desert infantry ran amok through the enemy baggage, looting and pillaging as they went.
Seeing their carefully curated booty stash stolen in such a brazen act of thievery was a shocking blow for the long-travelled Mongols, and their morale collapsed instantly.
The game was over, a first round win for Khurasan!
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 Khurasanian Commander
Ha'wey, and welcome to a reet good weekend oot in Roooohm . Quite why I ahm still back here in that' studio do'in these match reviews is still summat of a mystery t'me, but as long as that old DBM-era pun involving the Al Sheara Infantry holds warter both Madaxeman and Tha' BBC will carry on payin' me, so that's hl reet bah me pet.
Heeah me an' th'lads got off tha' mark wi' a good win - not summit that the Mighty Toon Army often achieve with Sultan Ashley in the Big Chair ah must say, ne'er mind who he persuades to be manager like. The army ah had was designed to be a beet like ah Mongol Horde, but against a Real Mongol Horde it looked fur a wheel that it would com proper unstuck like. Much like the Toon Army ah could have been looking forward to a summer of findin' new generals and new players, but uin tha' end they prevailed reet proper like ah knows.
Tha secret seemed ta be that mi' army is reet big like, ahn most importantly a beet bigger thahn tha Mongols were. So, when ah lost one command ah still had 2 roving free to get hold of tha enemy weak parts and give them a reet good kicking like, aht least once they had finished running away with the lads. tHopefully, in this stifling; heat we also managed to do some lootin' of the baggage camp ahn pick up an air conditioning unit and a portable generator - maybe a Kawasaki or somthin' similar like? A bit of ah cool down is needed after that reet spicy ding dong for sure.
Havin' achieved on success I am sure that we will go on t' win tha' leage, just like we ahlmost did when ah was runnin' up the middle for the Toon back in the day like. A big empire like ours, with massive support, and I mean massive, surely must win summat eventually like. Reet? Haway th'lads!
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
You dunderheaded ignoramus, blasted by the desert winds of Iran one might think that dust has gotten into your brain and made it seize up so little thought appeared to go into your planning here. You are the most vapid opinion-spouter on the MOTD sofa, and in real life you are equally bereft of analysis worthy of the name. You came so close to losing this battle that you needed a 6-point swing when your men captured the enemy baggage to claw it back from the bring - how on the face of the earth can you expect to use a second-rate poor man's mongol-style army against an actual honest to goodness Mongol army and then turn up expecting that your Poor unarmoured Lancers can hold on against their Armoured Elite ones for more than a mere moment?! Your luck was that your men lost sufficiently far away from your baggage camp that the enemy didn't have time to follow up their total victory with a looting of their own.
If your opponent had stuck to the task at hand and concentrated on getting his (arguably too) many light horse through and past your men and into your rear areas rather than bogging them down in front of your sub-par infantry archers the game would have been lost long before you got close to his baggage. Indeed, if the other block of Cavalry had just been proper, fully paid up clever cowards instead of brave idiots and evaded all the way off table your men would have been left scratching their camel-flea-infested asses at the edge of the table, with your army still many units short of being able to break your opponent.
You came perilously close to defeat here against an enemy you should surely have anticipated having to play at some point - probably a more punchy version as well, with elephants and all of the other complex and potent paraphernalia of the Ghaznavids or the Yuan to give your paper-tissue-thin attack of Poor lancers even more to worry about than even these Mongols managed to conjure up. Against a better opponent you need to shoot and scoot, and look for flanks - but, instead of doing that and concentrating your efforts on that and that alone, you tried to fight (as usual) toe to toe with opponents who were much better than you, and as a consequence got very close to throwing it all away.
The only saving grace was that your simple minded, sub-standard, badly painted infantry were so inconsequential and obviously useless that everyone missed them and paid them next to no attention - allowing them to plod unimaginatively towards the enemy camp, unhinge it's gates and nip in to steal the treasures of the Mongol empire, looted from lands far and wide to win the game. Success through theft and repossession of looted artefacts is not the way most military men earn their reputations, but a win is still a win - and a 5-course pasta led meal is still ahead of you no doubt at some stage too. Maybe you will use this narrow escape as a learning opportunity for your next game tomorrow?
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition