Wednesday, 23 April 2014

They fought like lions

Yesterday was my first day back at work after two weeks' leave, so I was a bit mindless by the time we went to the club.  All of which means that I didn't pack the camera, which was a shame because the game saw the first use of my newly painted North Africans (Numidian foot by Companion Miniatures).  This was the opening battle of the 3rd Punic War, as the dastardly Romans invaded, heading straight for Carthage itself (you can probably already tell which side was mine).  On they came with a consular army, supplemented by some Iberians in the form of Caetrati.

The brave defenders had a mostly medium army of all round average quality - I'll post the list to the campaign page later.  I took advice from a short discussion on the Society of Ancients forum and came up with what seemed an appropriate mix of troop types.  Deployment map, with Romans at the top:
The Romans are in red, Latins in white and auxiliaries and mercenaries in yellow.  Billy ran the right half of the invading forces, and Simon the left.  Their deployment was conventional in the centre, with wall to wall legionaries.  On their right was a light command of extraordinarii drawn from both the Latin and Roman legions, along with some auxiliary Spanish Caetrati.  On their left were the combined Equites of all of the legions, bolstered by many wealthy youths seeking adventure and booty at the expense of the old enemy.  The Velites were accompanied by some contingents of mercenary Cretan archers and Rhodian Slingers.

Gordon ran the left of our army and I took the right.  He had a command of three units of light horse at the extreme left.  Our centre comprised all of the infantry, with the heavies at the left of the line.  Our right had all of the heavier horse: a small unit of Punic aristocrats and a larger one of Spanish mercenaries, eager to face the hated enemy.

There was some rough stuff to our front left, along with a hill, and another hill to our front right.  The rough would cramp the style of the legions, but we would have to cede it to the Caetrati.  I had intended to lead with the right, but the presence of all of those Equites would make this difficult.  The opening phases:
We won the initiative on the first turn, and made the Romans move first.  Simon advanced his legions aggressively - I think he was roleplaying a Roman commander.  Billy was a little more circumspect with the Latins.  Seeing that Simon was holding back his Equites to protect the flanks of the Roman advance, rather than attacking outright, I decided on a variation on the right hook.  The end unit of medium foot wheeled outwards and advanced to get as much in the way of the Roman cavalry as possible.  My shooting was excellent, and a unit of Velites vanished almost instantly under a hail of javelins inscribed with things like Romanes eunt domus.  These Carthaginians were plainly in a really bad mood.  Next:
The Romans continued in almost exactly the same way as the initial turns, except that Simon advanced his cavalry a little.  Our infantry rumbled forward as fast as it could, with Gordon holding back the heavy guys at the left rear of the developing echelon.  I also capitalised on the shooting success of my skirmishers and attacked theirs.  Various light guys vanished in the dust.
My infantry attacked the Hastati of both Roman legions, while my endmost guys continued marching forward under a hail of slingshot towards the Equites.  Gordon was quite relieved at the slower progress of the Latin legions and the Caetrati, and decided to feint to the left.  At this point, his slingers lost their shooting match with the Cretans in the woods.  The infantry fighting was vicious, with both sides rolling well above average.  Definitely no quarter given by either side in this battle.
On our left, Gordon's light cavalry presses forward, taking some damage from those pesky Cretans.  Billy counters by sending his own light cavalry wide.  More into the centre, the Latin legions and the Caetrati continue their stately advance, while my infantry and Simon's Hastati gleefully slaughter one another.  Simon retires his Roman Equites, and I continue to advance my rightmost infantry unit.  I also begin to move my own cavalry forward - the Spanish to support the infantry, and the Punic nobles to a position where they can begin to influence events further into the centre.
  Having pulled the enemy light horse to the wing, and also having taken more than enough shooting hits, Gordon puts his light cavalry into reverse.  The Latins continue to advance, but the Roman Hastati are starting to crumble before the onslaught of the big blocks of African medium foot - mind you, they are also taking a hammering.  My end unit of infantry goes into the Latin Equites together with my Spanish cavalry.
The Latin legions make contact, and Gordon takes advantage of the relative tardiness of the Caetrati to throw in his heavy infantry as well to attain a temporary local superiority.  My infantry have finally disposed of the Roman Hastati, and now have the dubious honour of facing the Principes.  Simon commits the Roman Equites to the desperate struggle at my top right.
The first wave of Caetrati joins in against Gordon's heavy infantry.  My guys are beginning to crumble against the Roman Principes.  However, Simon's Roman Equites fail their morale test and are disordered by the rout of their Latin compatriots.  Seeing this, I swing my aristos further inwards.
On our left, both sides desperately attempt to move their light horse back into the center of the field to try to gain some sort of advantage.  Fortunately for us, the swift demise of the rest of the Equites shakes the morale of the closest victorious Roman Principes, giving my heavy cavalry elites the opportunity to hit the other unit of Principes in the flank.  Nasty.  Unfortunately, though, the enthusiasm of my Spanish cavalry gets the better of them and they hare off in pursuit of the fleeing Roman middle classes.
This is now the crisis point of the battle.  Gordon has destroyed the first of Billy's units of Caetrati, so in goes the second.  Having wiped out the Roman Principes, I roll a disastrous compulsoty pursuit with my nobles and they go crashing into the rear of some Latin Hastati - which then allows their Principes to join in against my cavalry.  Gordon manages to destroy some other Romans with his medium foot, but all is now in the hands of the dice gods.  Both armies are nearing their breakpoints.
Some of the light horse clash in the centre, which ends badly for Rome.  In the meantime, the Latins finally destroy both of Gordon's remaining infantry units.  Game over.

And possibly the bloodiest draw we have ever seen.  Both sides fought well, with lots of damage being dished out, but the Romans suffered really badly when it came to morale and control dice.  In terms of army values, the Roman army was in fact almost entirely destroyed.  This is due to the way that the legions count towards army breakpoint - Hastati don't count until the Principes are also destroyed (and the Triarii, although there weren't any of those in this particular battle).  This makes them incredibly tough, but it also means that if and when they lose, they do so big time.  The Carthaginian army isn't in any condition to pursue, so the Roman remnants are deemed to have broken through and escaped.

As far as the campaign is concerned, this means that the Roman expeditionary force won't be doing any expediting any more, even with some reinforcements coming in from Sicily.  The war in Africa therefore settles down into a sullen stalemate.  However, word has reached both sides that the people of Rome are incensed at the senate's seeming inability to force a military resolution.  In order to contain the rage of the plebeians, the senate has decreed that a certain Scipio Aemilianus should be given extraordinary propraetorial powers, even though he isn't old enough.  He has already taken command of the army in Spain that defeated the Celtiberians a year ago, and is marching it southwards with the intention of moving across to Africa and attacking Carthage from the west.  The combination of that force plus the local remnants make it extremely unlikely that Carthage will survive.  But first it needs to be invested and then taken.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Numidian Light Cavalry

Finished the figures our regular ancients players got me for my birthday:
These are by Navigator Miniatures.  There are three poses of men, one chucking javelins and two slightly different ones holding them.
I was further able to vary the look of them by taking advantage of the (historically accurate) lack of horse furniture.  The Numidians were such good horsemen that all they needed was a bit of rope and their knees to control their horses.
This gave me relative freedom to position the riders, so I made half of each pose lean in to the right, and the other half in the opposite direction, giving six variations in total.
The horses themselves are very nice, but they only come in one pose.  I positioned them differently on the bases so that they aren't all looking in quite the same direction.  I think the overall look is nicely varied.
You might think that these would be very simple to paint - just a horse and a guy in a tunic.  But the lack of any horse accoutrements meant that I couldn't disguise the horse, which meant that I spent a lot of time on the musculature.  Not so easy, then, but I'm pleased with the way they turned out.

Sixty of these guys takes my total for 2014 so far to 211 foot and 104 cavalry.  Next up: Numidians with elephants, and then Caesar's Romans.  Nasty.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Bannockburn

I promised Thomas and some friends that they could play a battle during the spring holidays.  As it turned out, only one of them managed, mainly because there's another batch of chicken pox doing the rounds here at the moment.  A prior request had been made for the Scots-English wars, and so off we went:
What the small Scots army looks like to the photographer of Edward II.  Not a problem, according to his nobles.
What the English look like from the vantage of point of Robert Bruce.  Not a problem, he thinks.
An angled shot of the Scots on their nice safe hill.
And an angled shot of the much larger English army.  Knights at the front, followed by infantry and then Welsh archers.  Thomas and Robert ran the Scots while I made up some automatic rules for the English, and Cate rolled their dice.  I decided that this would be the fairest way to play the battle.  The English are very constrained, while the Scots have some important choices to make.  Besides, I've learned from previous experience that this is the best way to run a game for our younger compatriots - it's less noisy if they aren't fighting one another.  Instead, they can just gang up on me.
An aerial shot of the entire field, probably taken from the vicinity of Falkirk.  There's a big wheel there, you know.
The English army rumbles forward.  They expect to be able to form a crescent formation around the hill, shoot a bit and then have a leisurely ride over what's left of the small Scots army.  So I make the various units roll to see if they do anything more intelligent, and unfortunately for the English knights, they don't.  The modifier for rashness works against them, and on they come.  It's about this point that they realise that the soft ground has been made worse by pit traps and such like things already put in place by the cunning Scots, ably advised by one MacBaldrick.  No impetus for these knights, then.  And just to make matters worse, the Scots come off that hill.  Utterly unexpected.  The Knights now have nowhere to go and their massive army is getting in its own way.  Traffic jams ensue and just to add insult to injury the Ettrick archers cause three hits on the centre enemy unit as it struggles through the mire.  They can only take fourteen...
Two of the knightly forces make contact.  Their infantry, however, have a bit more about them, and one of them does the correct thing by wheeling to their right to try to clear the logjam of units.  The worst thing that could happen is for the infantry to bunch up too closely behind the knights, because once the chivalry are skewered the morale effect might just be a bit too much for the rest of the attacking army.
With nowhere else to go, the central unit of aristocrats goes straight up the hill.  The only way the English can win this now is to make massed wave attacks.  Surely their numbers will tell?
However, Robert has foreseen this as well, and commits the sma' folk hiding in the woods.  Dastardly Scots bounders are not playing fair!
The English knights do their impression of a horse kebab.  Two down, only one to go.  Fortunately for the rest of their army, the infantry have been a little more circumspect and largely manage to avoid a disastrous morale cascade.  The problem, though, is that they have mostly been unable to get out of that crook in the river, and so the Scots have local superiority: five units to three.
No more knights left.  What a shame.
With the English already at half of their army break point, the Scots press forward.  Three more units destroyed will see the rest turn and run right into the river...
The Welsh archers ain't daft, boyo.  Lurking at the back is the safest thing to do in this fight.
Large gaps now exist where English infantry used to be: a rare shot from behind their army.
Robert insisted that I take some atmospheric shots of the moment of victory, from the English perspective.  Above, Edward II looks on forlornly.  These rough northerners are a tad nasty, he thinks.
The same moment, from the Scots hill.  Robert didn't even need to use his lone unit of knights!
Robert took the final two shots himself from behind the Scots army.
A comprehensive Scottish victory, then.  They did, however, have to fight harder than seven hundred years ago, mainly because I wanted to give the English a chance to do something other than bunch up and then panic once the knights were destroyed.  The Scots did take some nasty losses to their units, and one of the central blocks of foot only just managed to hold it together long enough.  The figures weren't quite right: too early for the Scots and a bit too late for their opponents, but who cares, the boys seemed to have a good time.

As a scenario, it seemed to play well.  The small Scots force is bolstered by the folks in the woods, and the gunge in the centre helps to cramp the English style.  I think I'll run these games like this from now on.  After all, it only seems sporting that I should be gloriously defeated by a couple of eleven-year olds!  Next up in this occasional series will be a refight of Hastings, which will be the third outing for that particular game.  Around the beginning of June, methinks.