The Rus & Viking World at The Southern League R4 2022
The Rus vs Carolingians
One of the great beauties about L'Art de la Guerre is the way the shorter game time (about 2.5 hours) means you can fit 3 games into a day. It sounds fairly minor, but a 3-round Swiss Draw tournament is just, well, a lot, lot more "meaty" than a 2-round one would be - but without imposing so many games on you that a poor army design could leave you cursing the protracted pain of facing a series of lengthy drawn out defeats either!
That, and the smaller army size also means a niche theme event also isn't almost impossible for anyone who doesn't have an army already on the shelf to participate in - one chap at this Southern League One Day event had even painted an army the week beforehand!
The theme of this One Day event ticked all of those boxes - the World of the Rus and Vikings - armies with a connection to either of these peoples, in the form of a historical antipathy or conflict, a mention in the army list notes, or an allied contingent of either of the two. I however went full Zelensky on this one, and chose a Rus army with no allies at all, a simple list chosen mainly as it was as close as I could get to using all of the lockdown-rebased Rus spearmen I owned all on table together whilst not totally ignoring the "good" options in the overall design.
That did mean a lot of spearmen - an often-unloved troop type who are nevertheless superb in the right circumstances. Unfortunately those circumstances are "when cavalry choose to charge them", which, given the multi-leg scenario which mounted troops are well known for fulfilling, is something they can usually manage to avoid doing. This therefore was an exercise both in deploying stuff that had been tarted up recently, and trying to make a silk purse out of a situationally sometimes silk-like sows ear.
And, of course, how could I forget, a chance yet again to deploy the age-old groan-inducing Rus Abbot punchline against three unwary opponents!
Game 1 saw the Rus facing another army I had considered (as I had recently painted one), The Carolingians.
The lists for the The Rus and Carolingians from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Southern League R4 can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
I've got a Carolingian army myself, and building a list has always been what to do about the Elite HCv Impact - go big on them, or use them to give a refined cutting edge to a more traditional blunt instrument Impetuous Cavalry force. I've of course bought and painted enough figures to do both, but in some ways having them as Impetuous isn't really doing anything that a load of other lists can replicate. So maybe the "drilled" option is better?
The first game against a mostly mounted army turned out to be a game against a Carolingian list with only one real mounted command, with a mahoosive and punchy 8 Elite Impact Cavalry, as well as quite a few vanilla swordsmen as well.
With no waterway a Marsh (one of my favourite home made terrain bits) was having to play the role of table-narrowing device in order to allow the Rus army to go wall to wall (if you ignored the two rather gaping flanks on either end of their line).
The Carolingians were clearly in a hurry to get into action in this one. No Sunday morning snooze button for these professional spear armed and aggressive noble-borne horsemen
Possibly they had been forewarned of the Rus Abbott joke and wanted to get into combat and outflank the Rus army before it could be deployed to devastating effect?
Perhaps instead they were all members of the Holy Roman Empire's largest Bella Emberg fan club, and wanted to get an autograph from the lanky northern 80's comic turned Catholic monastry-mesier to complete their collections?
Either way the well drilled horsemen raced in a Strategist-inspired way over to the extreme edge of the playing surface and piled towards the end of the Rus line at quite a clip
Led by their Great man Strategist Zelensky the Rus line wheeled outward to match the frontage of enemy cavalry as best it could
But the speed and aggression, and the rather Heavy Cavalry-tastic extreme end of the Carolingian line had already placed some reluctant Rus archers in the Carolingian firing line, as the men of Charlemagne had somewhat unsportingly not deployed the traditional Light Horse outriders for the Rus to simply shoot away
L'Art de la Guerre hint - It's long been a real cliche to deploy a couple of Light Horse on either end of your line. They move fast, can easily fall back after harassing and delaying the enemy after your proper troops arrive, or can just be an irritant to the enemy that forces them to keep something there to counter the threat of a cheeky baggage looting run too.
That's why it's now become also something of a cliche to drop a couple of your own bowmen on the end of a line to oppose and drive off (well, totally shred) those same enemy LH.
It would appear however that Charlemagne's genius has now moved us all onto Phase 3 of this microcosmic arms race: Bowmen-skittling (with a following wind..) Heavy Cavalry.
At the other end of the line the rapidly advancing Rus infantry had managed to pin the almost-Breton small cavalry command of the Carolingians into a bit of a bind, hard up against the edge of a strategically placed marsh (no doubt since drained to create more wheat fields ..)
Here, in a more succesful mirror image of the other end of the line, the 2 Rus bowmen were happily plinking away with long range rocket assisted HIMARS bowfire at the vulnerable Carolingian horsemen, safe behind the protective clutches of the best pieece of home made boggy ground in all of Greater Ukraine!
Whether a standoff between the Kievan Rus Wall or Spears and the Holy Roman Empire's Knights of Yore could ever truly be described as "Mexican" is a matter of some debate, but what was certain was that the Carolingians had outslipped the Rus by quite some margin
The men from Aachen now had a potent cavalry force pointed squarely at the squishy bow-flavoured bits of the Rus right flank command who were lurking behind the end of a supposedly protective line of spearmen.
Faced with such accuracy, the Carolingian light horse had little choice but to reverse back out of danger faster than a Russian tank being towed by a Ukranian farmer
This however simply opened up the angle of attack for the Rus archers.
As the spearmen inched ever more gingerly forward, the two units of bowmen started hurling arrows across the boggy ground into the soft side belly of some Carolingian horsemen who clearly had expected just to be doing a bit of slow reversing against a non shooting enemy while their Elite Caballeros did the damage on the opposite flank.
The Carolingians had done their best John Barnes rap impresonation and had gotten down the wing and round the back, charging home into a hail of incoming Ukranian HIMARS archery as they attempted to puncture the bowmen's stoic reserves of resilience.
The charge was painful, seeing the bowmen drop two of their three hit levels at impact, but at least they were still in the game!
L'Art de la Guerre hint - The factors in this combat are pretty swing-ey and can generate some dramatic outcomes.
In the first round the Carolingians are at a basic 1, +1 for Impact = 2
The Bowmen (in this instance) are on a basic +1 for facing a mounted charge at the halt, +1 for the extra unit in support position on their flank = 2 as well
So, it almost looks like a lottery.. but the Carolingians are Elite, so add +1 to any roll of 1,2 or 3 and also have armour, so add +1 if they end up losing after the dice are rolled as well.
They also have Furious Charge, so any win this round inflicts an extra hit on the bowmen
Despite the initial factors being even, that then makes the outcomes of this matchup actually look a little like this :
In the centre, the inevitable arrival of Warfare as Barker Intended had somewhat inevitably arrived, as the two lines of troops slammed together and started rolling dice
The battlefield was by now as smelly as Eric the Priapic's three-forked undercrackers! Both sides had combats they really didn't want to be fighting, but both leaders urged their men forward confident that their "factor up" guys would win easily in a display of statistical normality, while their "factor down" chaps would out roll their opponents and somehow manage to beat the odds through sheer force of will and military heroics
There were however heroics happeing with the lancer-impaled archery block, as the battered and once wobbling shooters managed not only to fight off the Carolingians in sustained melee, but also to manage to rally off one of their two hits as well, potentially prolonging their resistance for a vital extra turn or even more, and saving the rear areas of the rest of the Rus line from some serious lancer battering
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Rallying off hits for a unit in combat costs a Pip, and needs a 5 or 6. This is reduced down to a 4,5 or 6 if a General is also present
In reality, these odds usually pan out in game with you never managing to rally any of your units, and your opponent rallying the most vital unit they dice for 100% of the time.
The massive line of scrimmage in the centre had started sort of badly for both sides.
Viking Gods looked down on the battlefield from the very summit of Steffan the chicken-castrator's Swedish two-piece sofa and reclining chair set!
The Rus had come off much the worse against the Carolingian and Saxon infantry, barely recording a hit in a stretch of scrimmage running from Sevastopol to Reims
But the cavalry component of Charlemagnes army on this wing was designed to skirmish, not fight, and having been forced to charge into combat in order to match the excessive frontage of the Rus army and deny the legions of spearmen an overlap against the Carolingian foot, had found themselves on the wong end of a very sharp sticking indeed
The Mighty Mighty Rus Archers were still pulling it all out of the bag as inspired by the green t-shirted form of their Glorious Strategist they were now piling insult on injury and starting to knock lumps out of the becalmed cavalry facing off against them
With the bowmen proving an immovable obstacle, the Carolingian Knights had instead to resort to simply rolling up the end of the spear line by dint of just having spare units floating around there to charge the enemy flanks
Many of the warriors involved in the combat would soon be paying a visit to Valhallah, to be massaged by a team of heavenly virginial maidens, using scented oils made from Thor's hawknose self-assembly wardrobe! Fearing an imminent demise the skirmishey cavalry on the opposite end of the Carolingian line executed a textbook Breakoff move to escape the clutches of the line of pointy implement dudes in fur hats who were giving them such a rough handling
This lack of support rather discomforted the Carolingians own mercenary infantry, who suddenly started losing combats and picking up hit markers at a rate of knots as the tide of combat turned in favour of Kyiv
The Rus were taking some serious damage themselves, but with embedded generals leading the way their long linear formation suddenly started to turn ito a sawtooth as units stepped forward into potentially devastating flanking positions along the line, all the while praying they would be given time to strike the decisive blow by the resilence of their injured comrades
The Carolingian Army
The Carolingian horsemen were now perfectly poised to unleash a similar wave of attacks on the other end of the line of combat, having started rolling up the Rus line with some aplomb.
Only the risk of being attacked in turn by the ridiculously tough Rus bowmen (who were still bucking the odds and hanging on) was holding them back from a sweeping move around the Rus line
The Carolingian horsemen suddenly exploded into a fury of action and impetus, scattering the shocked Rus soldiery on this flank into a panic as attackers swooped down on them from all sides
Even the bowmen could no longer resist this furious surge - but the question on every Carolingian's lips was would this be too late, or would their infantry and cavalry on the other wing and in the centre have crumbled before the knights could win the game alone from here?
The story of the battle was developing as if it were being told in a tapestry woven from the threads of Brogger the Agrophobic's Ikea horny helmet! . The Rus line of spearmen with its Varangian cutting edge was by now chewing up the Carolingians at some speed.
The Charlemagnian horsemen had been unable to touch the spearwall frontally, and as the gaps opened up the Frankish infantry were being whittled away like bridges behind enemy lines in the Donbas
With these gaps came more opportunities for the Kievan Rus to turn flanks and tip the enemy infantry towards destruction
Suddenly the decisive blows were struck, and Carolingian morale crumbled dramatically
As their embattled infantry feld in droves from the relentless Kievan Rus' attacks, the Carolingian army simply ceased to exist as a fighting force on vast swathes of the Ukranian steppe
The Result is a Victory for Zelensky against the Invading Holy Roman Imperialists, as the Rus suffer 20 losses out of their break point of 25, and the 22 breakpoint Carolingians are completely routed!
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 The Ukranian Rus Commander
This has been a great victory for my people, their spirit and their resolution to defend their homeland against the Imperialist invaders
We are grateful for the many kind donations of very long, sharpened sticks from our friends and neighbours, and also for the medium range twangy bows and arrows as well.
But what we need now is even more equipment, of a more modern design. Yes, I am talking pikes, not spears, and Roman-style torsion field artillery not just archery equiment castoff as second hand by many of our adjoining countries
We also need a never ending supply of slightly too small, dark green t-shirts as I am starting to get sweaty defending our homeland and coordinating the survival of our people in this summer heat. I can only begin to imagine how much perspiration is running off the Rus Abbot under all of that religious garb as well.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
What a lot of lovely looking figures you have managed to deploy here, and in such a staggeringly banal and unimaginative way!
I am already thanking my lucky Viking stars that there are only 3 games in this tournament as my ability to make any sort of meaningful commentary on a battle plan that seems to involve lining up and advancing is going to run out of steam rather quickly I fear
At least on the edges of this battle line you managed to do some stuff that looked worthy of some sort of commentary, but whether "running out of spearmen and being forced to put bowmen in the front line" really counts as a strategy of "gradually drawing the enemy into a series of combats they would prefer to avoid by teasing them with a seemingly vulnerable part of your line" I am unsure in the extreme. It looks more like you just didn't have enough spearmen, or enough terrain on table to me.
But, as I said at the start, as a Lockdown refurbishment and rebasing project the army has come out spiffingly well, and even the unwelcome reappearance of a Rus Abbott joke which will make little if any sense to anyone from outside the UK has not tarnished their overall appearance unduly. Let's see if we are sick of the joke by the end of the next game
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition
A Viking/Carolingian matchup I played on TTS during Lockdown