Biblical at Warfare 2022
Achean (Mycenean) vs Zhou and Spring and Autumn Chinese
Finally, a full year of ADLG had almost passed, and it was time again for Warfare, this time in its new venue in Farnborough. The theme of the event was a straightforward Biblical era competition, which gave me pause for though, and an opportunity to again bring out the Acheans to try and improve on their one previous outing, a disastrous CLWC 1-day competition in which they had been run down by every manner of Impact Foot and Heavy Chariots that the pre-Classial era could throw at them.
My 15mm Acheans
My theory to rectify this prior failure was to steal an idea from someone who had done well with this same army at a competition I had attended immediately pre-Covid in Cavaillon in the South of France.
The successful chap there had cut down the number of Chariots as much as possible, and used the army as a spearwall with added bowmen, a very vanilla approach which seemed to lean on an unloved troop type - perfect for me to try as well!
How Does This All Work Then?
So.. The plan I had about how to use my army was fairly simple - and was perhaps best articulated by the writer George Bernard Shaw in his "Why you should never try to wrestle a pig in the mud" theory.
The key to this plan was large numbers of the often unloved troop type, the humble Spearman, and more importantly the fact they are HI with 4 hit points each.
What I was looking to do was to force/encourage my opponents to decide that a frontal attack on my line was their best option, accepting the risks that more punchy (aka "impact" capable) opponents might come out on top after the first round of combat in order to draw them into a battle of attrition in which my more resilient (and 4-hit-sustaining) Spearmen could eventually grind out a win, swamping the enemy in the process.
The first game was another matchup against the once-dicetastic Spanish maestro, Iniaki and his hard-charging Zhou Chinese army.
This would be a real test for the ability of the Acheans to absorb a wave of tanks, and then get down and dirty to wrestle them into the mud ! The lists for the Achean and Zhou and Spring and Autumn Chinese 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.
Zhou and Spring and Autumn Chinese are all about the large numbers of high quality elite Impetuous chariots - more Heavy Chariots than almost any other Biblical era lists makes this a sharply pointed blunt instrument of an army, overwhelming the enemy with a wild wheeled charge but of course struggling if that initial attack doesn't go well!
So, on with the business of recreating the Iliad, in miniature!
You've heard of that famous old poem, a
Story of Ulysses the roamer;
Troy besieged and then burned .
That's the tale which we learned
As received though the writings of Homer.
Now this new version has just been penned
To drive Madaxe fans round the bend;
As they read of the game
And the Myceneans' fame
In Farnborough, right at the world's end.
So relax and enjoy and be glad
That this poem's not the Iliad.
Though it's written in verse,
It's considerably worse.
So we give to you "The Silly-iad."
For this first game, the terrain dice smiled on Achilles and his men as a Waterway narrowed the table almost to the exact width of the Achean army.
A couple of fields cluttered the table further, leaving the chariot-furious Chinese with two clear alleys down which to bowl their Impetuous wheeled machines of potential death and destruction.
There was a young man called Achilles,
Anyone that he fought got the willies,
He had a big horse,
(It was wooden, of course!),
And a penchant for terrible ditties!
(Homer, The Silly-iad)
The Achean army was arrayed with Achilles and his Myrmidions in the centre, eager to sit in a field and avoid being run down by enemy chariotry, while the rest of the table was spanned by a wall of spearmen behind their distinctive cowhide "double bass" shields interspersed with knots of quivering (see what I did there?) bowmen
The Chinese were all in from the off, charging forward to test their Chariot skills against the wall of untried Achean infantry in a cataclysm of spokes, rims and other parts of chariots I am currently struggling to think of
Hector's House! The men of Mycene were able top form a shallow arc of fire, pouring what limited archery their line possessed at the oncoming chariotry from all angles as the spearmen decided whether this would be their day to triumph, or if they should turn and rush back to their boats and return home to Crete?
Achilles Anorexic Angle-poise lamp! It wasn't subtle by any stretch of the imagination - had the Trojan Wars been fought between these two armies, even a poet as legendary as Homer himself would have struggled to make what was happening sound all that interesting!
The Zhou War Machine
Ajax in a bucket! On the opposite flank the rest of the Chinese chariot force was surging forward too - here the Acheans had the extra advantage of Nestor and his Pylian Spearmen, the only units in the revised v4 Mycenean army list to be allowed Rear Support.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - Rear Support (listed as "Support" in the army lists) represents deeper formations, often with bowmen in a rear rank. It gives a mitigating +1 to infantry who lose a first-round combat (so is kinda like one-shot Armour) but also, crucially, cancels an opponents Furious Charge ability too.
This means enemy mounted troops such as these Chinese Chariots will find it harder to beat the spearmen in the first round, and also will do less damage even if they do manage to win anyway.
Paris' Personalized Plastic Pritt-stick! The Achean archers were firing furiously, but the protective skin of skirmishers were so far catching all of the arrows ideally meant for the Chariotry.
The question however was how long could the Chinese wait before crashing in?
The Chariots were eager, but their infantry in the field would be no match for Achilles and his Myrmidions, leaving the Chariots almost inevitably dangerously exposed on their left flank as the combat developed.
How Does This All Work Then?
As you can see here I have interspersed a couple of bowmen into the line of battle. In terms of standing up to a Chariot charge this is not the best idea around - they are weak spots in the wall of spearmen - however my aim is to encourage the Chinese to charge, accepting some losses in the first round and then winning by attrition over time. With this plan, giving the enemy a reason to believe that a (hasty) initial assault will be victorious is vital if I want to persuade them to commit to the idea of wrestling my "pigs in the mud"
The bowmen also will plink away at either the enemy chariots, and/or their screening light foot, causing a drip-drip of irritating casualties - not quite enough firepower for the enemy general to decide to stay away from, but just enough that the idea of standing firm in front of my infantry while perhaps trying to work an advantageous situation on the flanks of my block of troops will feel less appealing than just charging in, praying to the Chinese gods and rolling the dice.
The Achean Warrior
On the other flank the high quality of the Chinese troops had left them rather short in the quantity stakes, allowing the hardly greased-lightning like Acheans time and space to wheel round and start to pour archery into the sides of the block of wheeled Asiatic warriors
Both blocks of spearmen - the Pylians and the Acheans - had by now stepped forward too, leaving the rather squishier bowmen behind the line and daring the Chariotry to come and have a go if they thought they were hard enough.
This was it - time had run out and the eagerness inherent in the Chariots Chinese DNA saw them surge forward into a wall of enemy pointed sticks.
The battle would be decided in the coming moments as the Pylians dug in and took the charge at the halt!
On the opposite flank yet more wheeled mayhem was being unleashed next to the oceanside as this time ocher-painted chariots hurled themselves at a slightly less well prepared line of spearmen and archers
The bowmen were a weak link, but without that opportunity for victory it was hard to see the Chariots changing their arm at all so in the greater scheme of things the archers had been asked to serve as a Mediterranean sprat to catch a South Chinese Sea mackerel
Chinese spearmen were also in play, attacking yet more bowmen and avoiding Achilles at all costs
Surprise surprise - the Zhou chariots had broken through the weakest link in the Achean line, the archers, and stampeded through into the rear of the bare-buttocked spear carrying warriors formation as the rest of the cowskin covered chaps tried valiantly to hold the line
On the opposite side of the table the Pylian spearmen were struggling as well against the mighty MSG-flavoured onslaught, taking hits as their line bowed under the weight of wheels and horseflesh hurled toward them at high speed
This was not exactly going to plan, in that the whole "losing" thing was really supposed to be happening to the opposition, not the Acheans. Anyways, at least now the Zhou chariots were bogged down in the middle of a pile of Pylian bodies
How Does This All Work Then?
The Pylian command sits in the middle of the army, and contains the only "Supported" spearmen available in the list. Its makeup is as follows:
As this command has less ability to contest terrain than either of the other two commands it will always sit in the middle of the table butted right up in between the other two - and in prime position for the Supported spearmen to absorb the best the enemy has to throw at them.
Nestor being Unreliable makes the command a little cheaper, but even if he is unfortunate enough to be Unreliable at deployment, where he is going to be deployed makes it difficult (or almost impossible) for the enemy to then attack either command on the flanks without coming close enough to Nestor's chaps to trigger them into action.
I ducked the option for Nestor's own Impact-capable chariot as I found it was too tempting to try and use it proactively, and that sat uneasily with the pig-wrestling theory of the army. Instead I used one of the two compulsory "normal" chariots as a mobile reserve, capable of moving swiftly behind the lines to fill any gaps that might befall either Nestor's spear line, or even that of the adjacent command.
I also elected not to put Nestor as an Included general as this would greatly reduce his ability to move around and potentially help to rally damaged spear units in a protracted period of combat - consistent again with my "attrition" theory of how the army would try to fight
By the waters edge, a more even struggle was slowly emerging as the morass of combat started to chew down on the tasty side-wheels of the now becalmed Chinese chariot force.
Spearmen dug deep and repulsed some of the enemy, but not everywhere as the grains of sand on the exactly linear beach were running thick with the metalic taste of metallic miniature men's metal blood.
The Zhou had a breakthrough and were expanding it fast!
Charioteers from China hit land,
Placed their wheels on Mycenean sand,
Then a man with a spear,
Said "'Scuse me, I live here!",
And your attack, I plan to withstand!
(Homer, The Silly-iad)
The Pylians gasped in relife as the Zhou nobles pulled their chariot force away from combat - suddenly very conscious of the threat of a spearman pile-on coming to rescue the Pylians
The narrowness of the Chinese line had indeed left loads of spare Acheans over to the left of this shot, and they were poised and ready to roll up the wheel to wheel FoW-esque tank park had it decided to stick around any longer
Nestor urged his men to recover their somewhat wobbly morale as soon as possible - ideally before the Chariots spotted the spearmen's disarray and elected to charged home again
The left wing of the Achean army was now fighting a fairly desperate rear guard action as the Chinese chariots rumbled through their once-coherent lines and started to turn in towards the centre.
This side of the battlefield was not going to be where the game would be won for The Proto-Greeks, but the spearmen still had an important job to do in holding up the enemy chariots long enough for Achilles and his Myrmidions to chew up large swathes of the Chinese infantry.
How Realistic are films like Troy?
Nestor's Pylians had by now survived another fierce charge from the enemy in the centre, holding up what the Chinese no doubt hoped would have been an attack to blow the deep blocks of spearmen and archers away at first contact
In fact the opposite had happened, and the Chariots had started struggling - one unit on the end of the line had already fallen in battle
The spearmen on the Achean left had just about managed to reorganise themselves, and were doing all they could to hold back the Chinese tide as the chariots ploughed a furrow away from the beachside towards the Achean centre.
In the field nearby, Achilles and his guys were doing some mighty smiting into the more squishy bits of the enemy army.
Suddenly the camera angle changed, and the true level of devastation wreaked on the Chinese infantry became apparent
The whole middle of the table was now empty of oriental foot warriors, and Achilles and his men were pushing out into the flaks of the over-eager blocks of Chariotry
Acheans were everywhere, and the impetuous Chinese wheeled battle cars were now floundering in their wake
The countless hordes of Mycenea eventually made their sheer weight of numbers count, breaking the violent frontal attack of the Chinese chariots, suckering them into close quarters fighting, and then swarming them from all sides with loincloth-clad, shield and bow-toting infantrymen to drag the Eastern Emperor's forces to defeat!
With 23/28 losses, the result is an 84-26 win for Achilles, Nestor and the Acheans!
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 Achean Commander
Hector, Achilles, Agamemon and other Greats with names even harder to spell, all of the Greek Heroes are but foot soldiers now beneath my ocean-spanning military genius as I take this dog of an army and fashion it into something of purest gold!
The benefits of coming to the competition with a plan, and some idea of what to do, and also having practiced but once with the army and then made some minor tweaks to the list cannot be underestimated, and I castigate thoroughly all of my forebears on this great web page for not following through with this unique, novel and sheer genius-like approach
The Chinese fell neatly into my trap, even putting down a waterway (possibly, although that could have been me?) and splitting their forces, deploying cannon-fodder against Achilles and his deadly Myrmidions, and letting the command of Acheans without a famous leader to envelop them even as they impaled themselves on the Pylians manly spearpoints
All of this was achieved by the power of my great mind, suckering them into an attack which ended in failure. Who needs to win when you can convince your enemy to lose?!
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
I deem that there is no viler mortal than thou amongst all those that with the sons of Atreus came beneath Ilios, to claim this victory as one which your so called tactics contributed to shows not a whit of intellect beneath your large eye-browed Gallagher-brother-bothering brow.
This story of yours is told well, but surely I would rather be called cowardly and of no account, if I were to yield to you in every matter that you say, especially the nonsense of placing bowmen in the front line against Impetuous Heavy Chariots who have a compulsion to charge home even against a solid line of spearmen?
So, go forth and on others lay these commands and stories, but do not give orders to me as to the source of your fortune being anything related to skill, for I do not think I shall obey you any longer
And another thing I will tell you, and take it to heart: with my hands I will not countenance another passive display gifting the initiative to your opposition, and I will not fight for the girl's sake either with you nor with any other, since you are taking away what you have been given and using it to build naught but a false foundation for the next game
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition