ADLG World Championships at Rome 2019
Khurasanian vs Carolingian
After a brief break to yet again frequent the not too unappealing onsite poolside bar of the Grand Hotel Giancolo (making somewhat of a change from the 'kettle and tea bags' usually seen at most wargames events we were off again for round four..
With 2/3 of the US contingent already now played, and a room full of Italians gesticulating over excitedly it was of course inevitable that the next battle would see the Khurasanians facing a Mexican Frenchman with an unusually Carolingian army in what was surely simply an aperitif before the days main event - buffet lunch.
The lists for the Khurasanian and Carolingian 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.
The Carolingians are an unusual choice in some ways, but one which relies - like the Khurasanians - on charging cavalry as one of its potent strike arms.
It also has an obligatory mass of some of the most under-loved troop types in the game - Heavy Spearmen - making the Dailami version of my list the more obvious one to choose on the basis that it would almost certainly be necessary to defeat a slab of the spearmen frontally to win the game, a task the Dailami were designed to do.
The battlefield was pretty bare - suffering from a lack of a playing cloth which I had neglected to bring after learning that the organisers were providing all of the terrain for the event, and wrongly assuming this would extend to playing surfaces as well as features.
A plantation bestrode the centre of my deployment area, and expecting an unmaneuverable enemy army with a core of plodding spearmen I had gone for the textbook approach of massing everything on one flank to try and wrong-foot an ungainly opponent.
For the second time, despite their Failami performance in the second game, the Dailami allied version of the list made it onto the table.
Gare du Nord! The Carolingians had also opted to ring the changes on the allied contingent front and had brought along an old-school Frankish-style ally, giving them even more Heavy Foot than I had expected.
These allies however were wild, ferocious barbarian swordsmen ready to charge in and wreak huge damage on any enemy they could hit - essentially copying the Galatians I had taken to an event earlier this year.
This was a mixed blessing and cure for the Khurasanians - the Carolingian army was more unwieldy than I had hoped, but also more dangerous frontally too.
The Dailami were deployed in and next to the terrain - a safe space for them to practice their basket weaving and other rural skillsets gathered in the foothills of the province of Dailam, or Buyideria or wherever they were actually from.
But as anyone who has tried it will attest, basket weaving is a compelling and habit-forming hobby and given the opportunity these Failami decided that after their experience in their first outing they would ideally not actually play, and so started the game with an Unreliable dice roll of 1.
Carolingians? Who are they then?
This lack of a huge chunk of their combat troops could have been seen as a problem for the rest of the Khurasanian army, but with a combination of elephants and spearmen facing off against a small detachment of elephant-fearing French chevaliers on the Khurasanian left the much better option seems to be to simply steam forward and overwhelm the right wing of the enemy army and then roll up their infantry along the line.
Bold, but if the Carolingians declined to advance towards the unreliable Dailami their army would be itself pinned in place by a desire not to trigger the Buyid contingent into action.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Carolingians are ignoring the offset deplyment and simply advancing with their infantry in a solid line, confident in the superiority of their Frankish-type ally to frontally beat the Khurasanian Death star and strike infantry.
On the Khurasanian left the Carolingians have driven their powerful knights through the uneven terrain and now they are starting to emerge to face a rather thin defensive line which the Khurasanians are patching up with redeployed cavalry units from their original centre. More Knights are frantically redeploying from the far edge of the table, moving as great speed down the transverse road.
The Dailami are stuttering slowly into life, and will soon emerge from the plantation where they started the game - but now they find themselves somewhat disconnected from the rest of the Khurasanian line as the Afghan cavalry have redeployed away from the centre to face more immediate threats.
Gravillions! The Carolingian horsemen were having none of this ridiculous elephant malarkey.
With many of the zoos in southern France having been closed following a particularly virulent outbreak of animal rights campaigners at the end of the 9th Century, most of the Carolingian nobility had only seen elephants in wildlife documentaries in illustrated manuscripts - but even so they knew they didn't want to be fighting them anytime soon.
Instead it was left to the allied Franks to advance, and discover that their flanks were now no longer supported by their paymasters
With cavalry screening the centre of the enemy army the Elephant Death Star strode boldly into action, trusting to its innate elephantness to overcome a wall of opposing troops exactly like the ones that I had used against successfully against elephants in the aforementioned competition earlier this year.
Bonnet de Douche! The advancing enemy had by now also triggered the Buyids to life, and so they were also rushing forward to join in a line of combat which would seemingly have a massive gap in the middle of it. What could possibly go wrong...?
Coquelles! Rushing up as fast as they could the Dailami had just about managed to get some of their troops into the right place as the two solid blocks of infantry (and elephant) clashed in a dramatic crescendo of close quarters combat action.
Dailami fought Norman-style spearmen, elephants slammed into Frankish barbarians and in the middle a couple of unwanted flanks gave an advantage to the Carolingians where the Khurasanian army had only cavalry available to plug a gap in what they had already realised was a pretty odd deployment
The battle was joined, and it was all so exciting that I even had motivation to grab an additional photo on my ipad to upload to Facebook immediately. Fortunately this seemed to deal with the ambient light more effectively than my own camera, so you can even see what the troops looked like !
With Furious Charge on both sides the combat was almost inevitably going to be truncated - and not necessarily in an elephant-friendly way at that!
The breechless Franks drew first blood, sweeping away the Khurasanians wild Bedouin swordsmen infantry and carving a dangerous flanking position on the rug-enabled elephant corps at first contact.
Elsewhere however the Franks and Carolingian spearmen had taken some pretty serious damage too, in a crescendo of combat which was practically dribbling raw drama down its chin as it salivated at the possibility of a future movie deal to monetize the excitement and fury.
Hotel Chocolat! The Carolingian cavalry had beat a hasty retreat on the Khurasanian left earlier in the game in the face of a lone elephant - but with that same elephant now firmly embedded into the frontal regions of a wall of Franks the coast was now clear yet again for a return of the mounted proto-knights into the fray.
Driving unexpectedly quickly through and past the terrain, and by now reinforced with more noblemen redeployed from the opposite flank a veritable tide of horsemen were bearing down on what suddenly seemed (and was) now to be an inadequately defended and possibly gaping open Khurasanian flank.
Only a pair of poor quality spearmen represented much of an obstacle to the French horsemen, and Khurasanaian cavalry looked on nervously as they sensed a coming debacle
What's Going on Here Then?
The Carolingians and Khurasanians most dangerous infantry (and Death Star) are going at it hammer and tongs in the centre of the by-now greatly reduced battlefield, and both sides are knocking great lumps out of one another.
The Dailami are also now fully committed to battle, and are facing a mix of squishy bowmen and stoci spearmen on their side of the line of scrimmage. Whoever makes the biggest breakthrough will have plenty of opportunities to exploit it, as neither side has much in the way of reserves.
On the Khurasanian left Afghan cavalry who earlier redeployed away from the centre are now facing up to the reality of taking on the Carolingians knights, but in turn they too are struggling to get past the Khurasanian block of spearmen who have ended up ideally positioned to obstruct the Carolingians plan to steam through the terrain and outflank the Khurasanian army on their left.
The whole Khurasanian line was creaking like a curry house staircase being mounted by a portfolio of well-upholstered 6th edition players (and their 25mm single-based lead collections) as the Franks and Carolingian infantry ground their way through the initial assault of the Dailami and Elephant Death Star and started to use their momentum and resilience to gain the upper hand.
The theoretical mobility of the desert-dwelling nomads had been exchanged for a strategy of breaking through the very centre of the enemy line before their flanks could be rolled up by a tide of mounted nobles.
The Pachyderm packed its trunk and said goodbye to the circus of combat without even the good grace to wait for the enemy to turn its flank!
Simple good old frontal fighting, hand to hand, mano-a-dumbo had done for the Khurasanian Empires most successful trans-continental mobile rug salesman advertising billboard, and now a vast chasm was appearing to extend the two internal flanks which the Arabs had already created for themselves earlier.
Inspired by the spectacular failure of the Elephant strike force, the Failami decided that they too wanted a piece of the Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Disaster Blues that were now being sung loudly across the Khurasanian army.
A string of stumbles, blunt weapons and unsuccessful parrys of enemy spear thrusts suddenly saw the Failami warriors imploding like a string of Christmas lights plugged into the wrong transformer!
Claire de Lune! Suddenly this game looked like it could be lost before the second coffee break of the morning, with only a couple of unexpected breakthroughs on the part of the Arab cavalry to cheer the Khurasanian media pack and give them something positive to write home about.
The Khurasanians were all at sea, and storm-tossed by the prospect of defeat as the Carolingians and allied infantry stared at a positive Swiss cheese of holes which their attacking prowess and the Failami's incompetence had created.
But just like a contraflow system, a line full of holes created by successfully advancing infantry works both ways.
The erosions of the Khurasanian army's competence had also limited the number of units each of its commanders had available to command, and with a flurry of paperwork and flag-based signals they took advantage of a momentary imbalance in the opportunity/command points situation to launch a stunning series of complex attacks, assailing the Franks and Carolingians from all sides.
The opposition were staggered - in their forward motion they had simply failed to anticipate that the battered and seemingly beaten opponents they had been seemingly crushing with ease still had any fight left in them at all.
But flanks are flanks, and even if you are winning they need to be kept safe - but in their eagerness the Franks had forgotten this basic rule of military execution.
Led by the crappy lancers, and with some deeply shamed Failami-Dailami seeking to recover their self respect, the formerly beleaguered Khurasanian army started to claw its way back into the battle step by step.
What's Going on Here Then?
The centre of the battle line has completely broken apart for both exhausted armies as Carolingian and Khurasanian infantry neutralize one another in a series of explosive combats. This in turn is now creating multiple gaps into which the surviving, faster moving Khurasanian infantry and cavalry are flooding. The carolingian spearmen lack the mobility to respond, and instead are driving forwards towards the Afghans baggage, pushing fleeing Khurasanian cavalry before them as they go.
The Dailami command has now pretty much run out of men and run out of impetus too, but has inflicted telling damage on the spearmen facing it. With terrain blocking their advance the Carolingians have reached an impasse on this part of the field, unable to exploit their success over the zupin-holders.
On the Khurasanian left the Carolingians have managed to squeeze some of their excessive amounts of knights past the blocking Arabian spearmen, and they are now chasing down Afghan cavalry who have little choice but to try and delay and distract the dangerous knights from making a dash for either the Khurasanain camp or swinging into the rear of the rest of their battered army.
Plat du Fromage! This was a pivotal moment - the Carolingian cavalry were starting to form up ready to break through on both ends of the Khurasanian line, and with the Arab baggage train in easy reach and their army already dangerously close to disaster already a breakthrough on either flank would certainly see the tents and camels looted and the Khurasanians routed.
The Dailami's limited cavalry force was the only last line of resistance on the right, and with most of their Failami infantry routed the Dailami commander had no better thing to do than personally join in and try and stem the French assault in trying to stop the looting of their flocks of baggage camels and sheep
On the opposite flank the Khurasanians were opting for an altogether more cowardly 'evade and return' plan to delay the tide of proto-Norman cavalry who had managed to sneak past the Arabian spearmen through the simple but clever strategy of moving much faster and being far too numerous for the Arab infantry to have a cat in hells chance of stopping.
Normally the evade and skirmish plan was a good one, but the Failami's incompetence had clearly rubbed off a little on the Khurasanian horsemen, as they evaded short as the I Can't Believe They're not Norman lancers also charged long to halt their run towards safety in its tracks!
The delaying strategy had turned into a strategy of losing to enemy knights hitting them in the rear.
But straight after inflicting on the Khurasanians the utter disaster of being caught in the rear and overrun, the Carolingian cavalry got a come-uppance of their own as the second wave of Arabian cavalry turned and caught the Carolingians in the rear in turn.
Aire de Service! The trade-off of units was gathering pace as both sides started to look nervously at the piles of injured and broken units in their off-table dead piles.
Carolingians? What went wrong?
The centre of the Khurasanian line, made up of bow-armed cavalry, had been unable to halt the grinding advance of the line of enemy heavy infantry. With the Failami now all but eliminated, all that was left was again for the Arabian horsemen to fall back towards their baggage camp as the advancing wall of enemy heavy infantry repeatedly charged them away.
Patisserie Valerie! The battle was getting desperate for both sides, as they sought to find an area of the table where they could get to grips with one another.
Parc de Princes! Led by the personal intervention of a General who had failed to persuade his men to even start this particular battle, the Dailami cavalry component had successfully halted the Carolingian threat to the Khurasanian baggage, defeating the hard-hitting enemy horsemen with some good old fashioned grit and a +1 in melee for being led by a general.
This door was now closed, and the enemy infantry off in the distance were either struggling to deal with the only half-competent Failami infantryman in the entire command, or had been left bereft of opponents by their earlier victories.
The Khurasanian army was close to defeat - but the Carolingians, whittled away by the counterattacks of the Khurasanians and Dailami once their own coherence had been shattered in the first flush of success - were also now teetering on the edge of disaster.
Poulet Roti! Things were so close, and so desperate that taking ridiculous opportunities and grabbing them with both hands, at least one prehensile set of long toes and a small set of 3 identical G-clamps bought from a nearby corner hardware store suddenly seemed like a very good idea.
Carolingians? Name me one of them!
The Khurasanian CinC, knowing his army was going down, stepped up and took personal charge of a unit of light cavalry lancers and sent them steaming into the exposed flanks of a Carolingian infantry unit in a lose or die trying effort of greatest bravery!
The risks were too great for him to actually look - but, inspired by his presence, they triumphed!
It was a mutual Destruction as both armies slumped to defeat in the same turn!
And on that bombshell there was just time to dip my somewhat sweaty toes into the immaculately tiled Roman swimming pool, suck back an ice cold Peroni and prepare for the next challenge - buffet lunch!
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
As Al Shearer, King o'the Khurasanians Ah felt this battle showed owah men in wor best light, an wor worst. Wi' a reet clever deplyment we almost managed to key aloost half o'the enemey army ooot of tha game, but then when they didnae play to woah plan ahnd tried to put other troops on the table like, it ageen came doon to a street head t'head fight and owah men were not as good as the enemy fighters like.
Ah alsop shall have te have sharp words with the Dailami like, as they didn' look at ahny point likely to score like Andy Cole, but instead were gannin doon tha road towards bein' a Mike Ashley signin in the sad age of Dennis Wise as Director of Football like. In tha end they sort of came back, but the enemy were also a lot tougher than they looked.
In the end like, wor lads have given us a hald-decent start to tha competition like, with a win, a draw and a loss. There is many a game to go, aftah lunch, afteah dinner, and after another lunch and perhaps even a kebab doon Rome's equivalent of te Bigg Market as well, so this could be much worse.
If ernly wi had more powah doon the wings, or a bit more space like ah think this could have been a win. But it also could have been a loss. So, not so bad, not so good.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Another shame-free retrospective retelling of the activity designed to try and make you lack of planning and preparation seem less incompetent I'm afraid.
You had no real idea what would be in this enemy army, and you then compounded that failing by not placing the Dailami in a position where the enemy would be obliged to attack them. The combination of these two textbook errors meant that your plan to wrongfoot a supposedly slow-moving and lumbering enemy actually meant your army was jammed into a tiny box with no room to move, had fully 1/3 of its men and perhaps half its combat troops out of play all whilst your enemy was able to throw their entire potent force at exactly the point of your army they would have chosen given a free choice.
This would have been a shit plan if you were commanding a rack of 10 skittles in a bowling alley, but with a supposedly fast moving mostly mounted army of the desert it was staggeringly inept indeed.
You were, in the final reckoning, remarkably lucky to come out of this with anything other than a defeat of the largest magnitude. I fear your opponent is more aggreived than you are relieved. Let see who is the most dissapointed after the next game!
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition