Feudal Ages at Warfare 2021
Feudal Hungarian vs Komnenan Byzantine
It was the coldest of times, it was the most complicated of times. Yes, Warfare 2021, finally hoving into view after a year-long Covid delay was now imminent and I was apparently determined to make it as complicated as possible for myself.
The cavalcade of complexity started by squeezing in a Moderna Booster (hoorah!) on Thursday, then circumnavigating chunks of the wet Friday night M25 to drop off Mrs Madaxeman at Heathrow and then head onto Gatwick to collect Iniaki, inbound from Bilbao for a dangerous foray into This Infected Isle
After dropping the top-rated beer-starved Spaniard off at some of the tipmost top quality Premier Inn accommodation near to my house, we then both hit an appropriately nationality-neutral Italian Craft beer pub for a few pre-game pints of "god knows what frankly, but if you are from The North you'd certainly be horrified by the price" Italian Craft Ale.
But hey, it was nice and gave me something else to blame other than the booster for a sleepless night of night-sweats the like of which only someone using a newly-painted lockdown army could envisage.
The next day dawned cold and windy, as is the wont of November around Warfare.
Adding a Dave to the car in addition to the Spanish contingent of one inspired the Teutonic Sat-nav to give us a tour of the historic riverside of Runnymede on the way to the new one-time Warfare venue of Ascot Racecourse, arriving rather early to make sure the venue was navigable and there was time to set up the printer and ad-hoc wifi network that would power the ADLG competition draw throughout the weekend.
For this first Feudal outing I had brought the Hungarian army that had been painted in Lockdown 1 way back in mid 2020. This was a decision which had been set in stone back then and which remained in place even after I started to look at the Feudal Hungarian army list and discovered that it was somewhat generic and uninspiring, with its unique selling points being the excitement of Medium Cavalry Bow (ooh) and, at a pinch, a couple of medium foot Croatian axemen. Madness eh?
This gave me a vague plan that involved using vanilla spearmen and archers in close combination with the Hungarians slightly sub-standard allocation of Noble and Lesser Knights to outmatch what I expected to be a number of opponents more numerous and well equipped in the Knight department than my boys from Budapest.
With all of that preamble fully executed, Let Battle Commence!
The first battle in the draw saw a Balkan-fest, with the flower of Hungarian Chivalry matched up against the Komnenan Byzantines.
The lists for the Feudal Hungarian and Komnenan Byzantine from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Warfare can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
Komnenans - one of those Byzantine armies that festoon the army lists after the Nikephorians, representing the rump states that became progressively more, well, medieval in their approach to warfare whilst still maintaining some decreasingly competent mounted archery type cavalry and the occasional Varangian guard unit for good measure.
Given the legacy and persistence of mounted horse archers as well, this gave the Komnenans a very similar feel to the Hungarian composition, with less spearmen but more top drawer knights.
With both armies full of knights the battlefield had ended up classically arrayed for the somewhat eastern European milieu of the combatants, the encounter taking place near a small town nestled on the banks of a fast-flowing river.
Occasional patches of more fertile soil had been claimed by local farmers and turned into fields which stood out like postage stamps on a Christmas envelope against a baked-grass plain which faded into the steppe-like far horizons in all directions.
The end result was a setup which leaned towards favouring the Komnenans, a smaller army with more good Knights who could force a head-on smash where the Hungarians greater width could not come into play.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - The ADLG terrain rules are pretty straightforward and quick, and often result in these fairly textbook battlefields with some meaningful terrain on the outer edges of the sort of open ground across which most ancient and medieval battles tended to be fought. If one side does want to engineer a more cluttered table it is possible to do so, but as the last set of reports demonstrated, it's not always possible to do so!
With a line-up and fight battle pretty much nailed on in the centre in which the better quality Byzantine knights would hope to prevail, the Hungarian army was already looking to the flanks to try and redress the balance.
Goulash Ahoy! Two units of mercenary German knights (Mirliton figures vs the all-Essex rest of the army) started to rev their engines in preparation for a diesel-fuelled, emissions-test-evading rapid tilt at the line of Varangian Guardsmen who were functioning as the bookends to the Komnenans wall of knights.
Knocking this handful of Viking dudes over with the help of Hungarian and Croat rough-terrain infantry moving up through the town would unnerve and outflank the Byzantines and redress their superiority in the centre - well, at least that was the theory anyway!
The Hungarians had a similar strategy on the other flank as well, where the numeric limits of the Byzantines had also been reached long before their cavalry could join their central Knightly punch up to the terrain anchoring that flank.
Hungarian horse archers and spearmen drove forward as if fuelled entirely by paprika (I may need to work on some other Hungarian tropes I fear...), forcing the Komnenan horse archers to flee in panic as they realised that they were somewhat outmatched by both numbers, and also the exciting innovation of near-suicidal infantry with pokey sticks.
The Byzantine Knights immediately found themselves facing determined and professional Hungarian infantry, with the prospect of being clattered in the flank by Szecklers should they dare to take them on.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Knights are a somewhat un-risky-sounding 2:1 down in the first round of combat against spearmen, but usually have both armour and better inherent quality to offset that disadvantage. The end result is often one of pitching both sides into a protracted 'evens' melee where the knights armour and quality will probably eventually prevail against the spearmen's greater resilience. From the spearmen's standpoint however, they should chip in a few outright wins from their initial advantages, and even if they end up losing after a lengthy struggle they are taking a powerful, mobile and far more expensive points-wise enemy unit off the board for a serious number of turns, and hopefully doing them some damage in the process - a decent return for their labours all things considered.
The one vaguely clever element in the Hungarian list design was the inclusion of a pair of Croat Axemen, a potent rough terrain force in a theme where such troops were thin on the ground in many of the more popular armies.
With the waterside village an obvious hiding place for a Komnenan ambush, the Croats believed they were onto a good thing and stormed forward, swiftly uncovering a handful of Byzantine bowmen and light infantry occupying the outskirts of the settlement, sniping at the advancing Croats from behind the net curtains of the houses overlooking nearby fields.
The village was inhabited by some of Eastern Europe's most eclectic architecture advocates, and they had assembled a variety of buildings of all styles, sizes and nominal groundscales inbetween which the Komnenan infantry dodged furiously as the Hungarians advanced upon them.
Even so, the far greater numbers of Hungarians looked set to sweep through the conurbation in double time, outflanking the Byzantine army and hoovering up some army break points in the process.
When the 1848 revolution against the Habsburgs was defeated 13 Hungarian generals were executed, the Austrians clinking their beer glasses after each execution.
After this, Hungarians vowed to not cheer one another with their beer for 150 years.
That time has passed, but it is still considered rude to clink beer glasses together
Medieval Hungarian Military History
Waves of cavalry were ebbing and flowing continually on the opposite side of the board, as the Byzantines returned to the fray to protect the flanks of their knights. This in turn started forcing the somewhat disorganised and uncoordinated Hungarians to fall back in the face of locally superior numbers, or risk being overrun piecemeal and in the process lose their hard-won tactical advantage.
The Komnenan knights no doubt breathed a sigh of paprika-infused relief through their visors as they worked up courage to charge the block of resolute and colourfully attired spearmen facing off against them. The battle would be one of frontal combat, at least for the next turn or so, which suited them down to the ground.
What's Going on Here Then?
The Hungarian army is pushing forward hard on both flanks, in places where the Byzantine force with it's reliance on a core of high quality, and points-intensive knights starts to peter out somewhat.
In particular the village on the Byzantine left looks ripe for an assault by the relatively-rare-in-theme Croat Medium Axemen, who should be able to drive off the enemy bowmen to take the urban area, and then threaten the flanks of the Byantine centre.
The centre is where the Hungarians are hanging back, tempting the Byzantine knights to come forward and expose their flanks even sooner to Hungarian forces on both wings
Trumpets sounded, mighty war drums beat aphoristically, and at last, with almost no preparation on either side to tip the balance away from a straight head on clash of empires, the battle lines of Budapest and Constantinople met in a cacophony of steel, horseflesh and men with sticks.
The fate of nations and empires would be decided here on this steppe today by the dice of the gods, and there was nothing left for either side to do but pray for victory and roll great dice!
Well... that didn't exactly succeed as planned, did it?
The Hungarians had made a right goulash soup of the first couple of rounds of combat, suffering materially more hits than the Byzantine mercenary knights and losing a near-cert winner in the form of one of the blocks of blocking Magyar pedestrians on the left hand end of the line who not only had the initial spear vs Kn advantage, but an overlap to take it to 3:1 as well!
Elsewhere, the nobles of Debrecen, Szeged and Gyor (Other Europa Conference League teams are also available) had stuttered in their initial fury also, and had likewise picked up far more hits than they had dished out.
With the centre of the army supposedly tasked with holding out until the enemy flanks caved in under Hungarian pressure, it was clear that someone had made a right Goulash of the plan.
The Hungarian centre was now evaporating faster than a bowl of tomato and pepper Lecso stew left too long on the stovetop, and was leaving pretty much the same burnt and crispy mess on the tabletop as it would have done in the bottom of the pan to boot.
Massive holes now appeared in the line of East European knights as the Byzantines continued to enjoy the rub of the baize and smite mightily their Honved-supporting opponents at some rate of knots. Many of the Hungarians were now starting to feel like someone had inserted a Rubiks Cube where the sun don't shine, and they were certainly not enjoying the sensation at all.
Byzantium and the Steppes in the XIth Century
Things were not exactly progressing as advertised in the village either. Against all the odds, and against the -1 for shooting to or from a built up area, the Byzantine archers had been uncannily accurate as they sniped and shot at the gradually advancing Croats amongst the back streets and alleyways of the architecturally diverse riverside hamlet.
Both generals were aghast at the effectiveness of well-drilled urban archery, as the Croats racked up multiple hits leaving them far closer to the edge of disaster on the edge of the conurbation instead of being the strategic heroes of the army by sweeping straight through it into the flank of their opponents.
With the battle rapidly slipping away in both the centre and on the Hungarian right, the left flank offered some small crumbs of Langos on which the Szecklers could look to feast.
Flooding forward they enveloped the end of the Byzantine line, cutting off any chance of retreat for the Constantinopolese horsemen and throwing the full force of their consonant-rich military heritage into the fray to try and wrestle some upside from the place they were scheduled to win big, and see if they could implement at least part of their plan before the impending debacle taking place everywhere else on the pitch wrested the game from them.
Everywhere else things were going from bad to worse in places where they were supposed to have gone from good to better, with the Hungarian army now close to running out of both casualty markers to denote hits taken from enemy action, and their own combat troops to actually carry them.
As well as the knighty disaster in the centre, the two units of Mercenary German knights had also abjectly failed to overrun the Varangians near the village, meaning the entire right flank attack was now stalled!
Realising there would be no help arriving from the arrow-impaled Croats anytime soon, and there was very little chance of a spectacular roll-up of both flanks, the Hungarian host started to consider that by now, things actually looked pretty grim right along the line.
In a flurry of dice the shortage of hit markers was addressed and solved in an instant, as the Byzantines simply wiped out almost the entire Hungarian army contingent across almost half the table, leaving the men from Constantinople only the challenge of working out which enemy unit was close enough to reach before the game no doubt ended with yet more Hungarian fighting failures to capitalize on their numerical superiority.
When only a unit of Croat spearmen is left in a stretch of table where your plan was to hold your own against the enemy assault, the chances of winning the battle have already ebbed away a long time ago.
What's Going on Here Then?
Against all the odds the Croats have failed to take the village on the Byzantine left, allowing the Byzantine knights opportunity to advance and engage the somewhat weaker Hungarian centre and make big inroads into the Magyars break point.
The Byzantines have suffered casulaties though, with a smaller higher quality force than the Hungarian army meaning they are themselves far from coasting to an easy victory.
Unfortunately for the men from Budapest, the centre is looking set to resolve before the battle ends which will see Hungarian units broken (at a cost of 2 break points each) rather than just Dameges (for 1 each) by the time the final whistle bows, as the two flank attacks have failed to do the business quickly enough on both wings
Far from sweeping through the village and outflanking the Varangians as they struggled against the German mercenary knights, the Croat axemen and Hungarian archers now found themselves in a tables-turned situation
This was because their struggle to do any damage to a smattering of archers and skirmishers had now gone on so long the Varangians had found time to turn themselves into a flank attack.
This was not how the plan was supposed to work out, and heaped yet more despair on the Magyar forces as the game ground to its inevitable conclusion!
A final glimmer of salvation emerged for the Hungarian army as the right wing of the Byzantines finally succumbed to the Szeckler-led assault.
With the wingmen mounted archers swept from the field, the Hungarians were finally free to put their original plan into effect and launch a potent attack combining mounted archers and stoic shield-showing-off spearmen to slam into the end of the Komnenans line of knights.
It worked - but it was also by now way too late.
This last flurry had restored some pride to the men from Budapest, but the tales told around the goulash pot this evening would be ones of defeat and despair, bemoaning their dice and their luck as the Byzantines rode on to expand their Balkan empire into the heart of Eastern Europe.
The Hungarians attacks have done serious damage to the Byzantines, but the ex-Romans straight up frontal combat power has meant the result is an 82-29 Defeat, just one point off a mutual destruction! /p>
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition against the crazy camel-dudes of the Tuareg, 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 Feudal Hungarian Commander
Well, as I sit here twiddling my Rukiks cube and eating a hearty Goulash soup after this exhausting battle, I am honestly struggling to understand what went wrong here.
I had the Byzantines banged to rights, with too much power on both flanks and a solid force in the middle as well, but somehow things didn't work out as I had hoped and expected.
Perhaps it is not the fault of I, their glorious leader, but the men themselves who havng been painted so long ago have lost martial sharpness in being sat in a Bisley drawer for so many dark months unused?
All I can think and hope is that by the next round they will have shrugged off their lack of sharpness and learnt again how to fight for the glory of an ever-greater Hungarian Empire being restored, wherever it is they end up having to fight to do so
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Immediately the autumn season swings into being and there are excuses spouting forth from your face, you spongy doghearted turd!
Is this not a military brain I see before me, but instead a dankish milk-livered hag-seed pressed into unwelcome servitude and immediately out of it's depth the moment the army takes to the field?
The truth is here that you picked a list that no-one else felt worthy of choosing, and you did so because the flags were pretty - this is not a way to lead an army into battle and anyone who claims otherwise is a dissembling harlot, who art false in all.
The Hungarians are bland in their reliance on not quite enough Noble Knights, spearmen so vanilla they would be more use cracked out of a pod and ground into ice cream as a flavouring than they were in this fight, and just two Croatian axemen to differentiate the army from any other pile of villainous fly-bitten misbegotten-drivel. I cannot imagine what improvement you expect to see in their next game against the desert-dwelling hordes of camel riders of the Tuaregs!
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition and see how the flower of East European Chivalry does against the desert-dwelling Tuareg camel warriors