Ancients in Saumur 2016
Early Achaemenid Persian vs Romans
Into the fourth game with the EAP, and a saddening realisation that in all three previous games (2 here and one at the Club) the army had been broken and swept from the field... ouch! At least this game was in mid afternoon, after a nice sandwich or 4 and shortly before an evening drinking in the sunny afternoon of an un-brexitted French Loire Valley historic town.
Having been run down by a wall of heavy foot in the previous game, the perfect opponent for game 3 was... a Roman army.
The lists for the Early Achaemenid Persian and Romans from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Saumur can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
Romans are, well, like what you'd expect from Romans. Really good foot, patchy cavalry in the early period that gets gradually better, and some great rough terrain troops.
The terrain this time narrowed the board with some rough patches on both flanks, which again was not ideal against an army who was likely to have good troops in the centre....so I ignored the whole centre, deploying the Greeks in a rather odd and somewhat risky position on a flank in the assumption that the Romans would put Auxilia through the rough going on the flank. This was a clear attempt to do a Cannae on the Romans.... had they read their history?
What's Going on Here Then?
The Persians have a refused centre, and facing off against them the Romans have a pretty standard deplyment, with auxilia on one flank and cavalry on the other
What Hannibal was missing at Cannae was a wall of well-equipped specialist archers with which to intimidate the Roman horse... who sadly turned out to be Hunnic allied horse, much more resilient and pretty good at shooting back to boot (or sandal).
The left flank was already shaping to be a race to the extremities, as both sides looked to secure the extreme flank overlap. The Romans did have loose formation foot advancing across the open ground, making the Persian horse lick their Persian lips in anticipation... Mange tout!
Having been walked over by a wall of infantry in the previous game, this was the game to experiment with a bold, innovative new concept - redeployment. Much to the astonishment of almost everyone in the entire museum, some of the Persian cavalry moved behind the Greeks (secure probably in the knowledge that most small provincial French towns lack a decent curry house, so only onion soup based flatulence might issue from the buttocks of the be-skirted hoplites as they passed) and lined up to threaten the Auxilia.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Cavalry hitting Medium Foot in the open get a net +1 in the first round of combat - unless the MF are armed with Spears. These weren't
The newly re-minted formation wheeled towards the still stunned Auxilia.
On the other flank, bemused by such apparent witchcraft, the Sparabara Immortal types were deeply reluctant to charge towards enemy cavalry, all too conscious that whilst they were decent shooters, they were still themselves also Medium Foot in the open. Voila! The Romans were trying to slide some LH round the flank, but the ever-vigilant Thracians tried to head them off.
Fromage frais! The Legions were coming, and faced with the certainty of crushing defeat the Immortals decided that the best way to retain their "not dying" status was to add "not fighting" to their roster of skills. They turned tail, split into too many groups to control in future and headed off in many different directions as the bemused Italians looked on in disdain.
Whilst the effete trouser-wearing Persians were showing the enemy clean pair of heels, the far more manly skirt-wearing Greeks were made of sterner stuff - they, together with the Persian horse, charged home into the potentially exposed Auxilia. Creme de la menthe !
What's Going on Here Then?
The Persian's unusual deployment has caught out the Romans, and the Persians are quickly pressing home their advantage on the left before the Romans can redeploy to deal with the asymetric threat. As the Romans spend command points redeploying their Cavalry across the back of their army their advance starts to falter, uncertain which of the many Persian targets to follow as the Persians redeploy to avoid unfavourable matchups.
The Persian Elite horse were fired up after their near-miraculous movement and smashed straight thorough the shocked Italiote almost-citizen auxiliary foot. Suddenly the Romans were in a huge world of pain, as the Persian horse stepped forward and placed themselves in a position to turn the flank in their next turn. Pot Pourri!
Chateauneuf du Pape! The pride of the Roman army was reduced to shouting Latin obscenities at peasant skirmishers dredged up from the furthest-flung corners of the Persians world-spanning empire. Their painstakingly painted shields were taking a steady battering from a hail of rocks and javelins as they advanced.
What's that coming over the hill? Is it some more Legionaries? Yes is the resounding answer, but faced with nothing but evade-capable Medium Cavalry their ability to do much to get themselves into gladius stabbing range were not exactly numerous.
It's a Monster!
Emboldened by the success of the Persian Horse, the Greek mercenaries (allies technically) decided that they did not want all of the glory to accrue to the Asiatics, and striking a blow for the cultural hegemony of mainland Europe over the degenerate laxness of the Orient hammered the once-confident Auxilia fimly into the ground in a demonstration of martial prowess that had more akin to knocking in a tent peg than fighting some of allegedly the best foot soldiers in the known world.
With the Greeks triumphant, the Persian horse were soon able to flood back towards the Roman centre - this entire flank had been swept away by the devastation caused by the cute redeployment of a handful of horsemen.
Bonnet de douche! In the centre the Legions pressed on, suddenly conscious that over to their right a catastrophe was unfolding that could soon start to impinge on their rather un-warlike world view of sweeping Persians off the back of the table and luxuriating in a full body massage in the mobile bath houses and eunuch-parlours of the Persian camp.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - There are only 2 types of camps in ADLG, they are either fortified, or unfortified. Fortified camps are harder to capture, and light troops can't capture them at all, but they cost more and count as a greater loss against the army break point if they are taken. Like, why would you want more than 2 types of camp...? That would surely be an act of madness...
Bain Marie! The Persians were again using a mercenary Greek horseman to delay the Romans a little, but with the Greeks fast arriving it would be time for the Sparabara to make a stand in the imminent future. The Romans were looking to draw horsemen from their left flank to the right to shore up the collapsing sector.
The excitement on the left had left the right side of the Persian army somewhat short of limelight, but with fast-moving medium foot and the ability to project power over distance (through shooting) in a way which would not be repeated in military history until the advent of late 20th century US Nuclear Powered Aircraft Carrier task groups they were still capable of giving Rome the sort of bloody nose which best matched their red uniforms. The attempt to sneak round the flank had therefore descended into irregular warfare in and around the fields of Rome in which this battle was being fought.
Every unit counts towards demoralization- that's at least what the Persian General was telling himself as he and his bodyguard unit joined two skirmishers in chasing down some Roman Psiloi in a field far away from the part of the table where medals would be handed out...
The Army of Rome was famous for Crossing the Rubicon, but in this game the biggest achievement their legions might make would be to emulate a big red chicken and successfully cross the road.
That whole evading skirmisher thing ? Remember that from other rulesets? With the "will we roll short, will they roll long?" excitement on both sides? Sometimes it's not so clever when the skirmishers roll long, but evade through your own proper Sparabara who had been hoping to sneak off unnoticed ...and the Roman legions also roll long, clattering into the back of the hapless Sparabara! Admittedly they wouldn't have done that well even if they had been hit frontally, as Armoured Heavy Swordsmen are a lot better than Unarmoured Mediocre Medium Swordsmen, but even so it did sting...
The left flank had now been tidied up at the not inconsiderable inconvenience of the Persian General accompanying some of his Immortals to help the Thracians mop up the outflanking horsemen
Pictures of Legionaries from my Ancients Photo Directory
As the Romans advanced towards the Persian baggage train they started to leave a vast open flank - the traditional solution, of an ablation of infantry, shedding single bases and weakening the axis of attack, was sort of working in terms of avoiding having Persians actually fighting them... but a lone slow moving pedestrian in a red skirt and wearing a massive hat with two sets of eagle feathers on it was hardly an inconspicuous target for Persian archery either. The Romans were being peppered with well aimed arrows.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - This is a lot of points of Persian shooting, but three bases means the Immortals can choose to be the primary shooter rolling "Elite" dice in which every roll of 1,2 or 3 adds +1, and the Romans take a -2 (on their base factor of 1 + 1 for armour) for the extra 2 shooters. That effectively makes the baseline score +1/2 for the Persians vs 0 for the Romans.
The Auxilia were almost at the baggage train when the multicoloured silk-wearing trouser-clad effete Persian Medium Cavalry appeared on their flank. The Roman advance was halted....
Auxilia in action
The Roman mounted reserve was glacially arriving in the combat zone, but the Persians and Greeks had already largely finished their combat session for the afternoon, rolling up the last few remnants of the Auxilia with an encirclement by the hill
The massed Persian shooting was now slowly evolving into a trap, with the Legions unable to advance towards their tormentors without risking being caught in a flank and frontal attack. Stuck between a shooty place and a hard place, the Romans were caught in no-legionarys-land
What's Going on Here Then?
The Romans are being collapsed from the left of the Persian line - a powerful and coherent force of Persian Cavalry have reformed and are preparing to smash into the remnants of the Roman flank, supported by Greek mercenary spearmen.
The Sparabara who had been hit in the rear were however firmly in back-in-the-tin land, as the Legions bumped over them in short order. A Roman Touchdown loomed, but there was no prize for the end zone here, just the realisation that Cannae had happened again...
With Persian cavalry shooting into the Auxilia, and Greek LH mopping up lone Roman skirmishers the Roman army slumped to a defeat - the Persians had at last won a game, and had, at the fourth attempt, failed to be broken !!!
The Result is a big victory for Persia.
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 Early Achaemenid Persian Commander
Hey Diddly Dee! Victory at the 4th attempt! And how sweet it tastes to gain it against the devilishly skirt-wearing Romans and their obsession with conquest of cold and miserable places in northern Europe. Everyone knows that the fun places to take over and rule need to be near the sort of sea where you can bathe all year round, and where interesting-shaped fruits grow. Because interesting-shaped fruits are always worth enjoying.
Here I think I am likely even to get some love from the beardy one who normally dislikes me so intensely - recreating one of his greatest victories by a refused centre (even though some of my men did eventually get a nasty shock when charged from behind) and some powerful work on both flanks
The temptation of baggage is one I have dangled in the past and ended up regretting it when it has been carted off to some ghastly foreign land, but here it was just far enough away to let my men have chance to win before it was gone.
And, finally, well done to the brave mounties on the left - a bit of proper redeployment to surprise a more pedestrian enemy and a swift charge in the open saw to what looked like a nasty case of Auxilia in the terrain. I think I could come to like this winning thing. A lot!
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
You foppish oil-soaked bearded hipster, how can anyone think this was anything other than a poor imitation of Cannae? You had at your disposal proper high quality Heavy cavalry when I performed miracles with the sort of LH and MC crap that list-writers tend to dole out to Carthaginian armies on my flanks. And the squishy retreating centre of your army was your own troops, your own flesh and blood... when I used Gallic mercenaries, saving Carthaginian flesh and bone as well as quite a tidy penny when they didn't need to be paid later on account of being, erm, dead.
If this had been me I would have regrouped my mounted forces far more quickly, and rolled up the Roman right long before it got within sniffing distance of your stinking baggage. And on the right, quite what your General was doing leading your best bowmen on a wild goose chase after one LH I really don't know - had he been in the centre perhaps the Sparabara might have survived ?
You were a pale imitation of me, not even fit to stand in my quite considerable shadow. Maybe the next game will plunge you into everlasting darkness?
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition