Sunday, 5 January 2014

New Year's Game

For many years now our lot has tried to maintain the tradition of some sort of large game over the winter holidays.  Now that I have a games room, it was my turn to host.  Graham suggested that we do something outwith our current classical period campaign, and since he has been painting sort of 4th century AD Romans we put together a bash between them and the Sassanians.  I constructed and deployed both armies because I knew what figures were available, and also to help speed things up on the day.  Also, following Simon's suggestion, we made it count for the Empire campaign, since even though the game is out of period, the armies are from the correct region.  We'll probably do something similar with his chariot armies at one point - all that really matters for campaign purposes is that we play a game and get a result, and this is one way to play armies that wouldn't otherwise see use.

So it turns out that a large Sassanian army is moving into Asia Minor and meets up with an equally large Roman force blocking their way:
These armies are about 25% larger than our usual game, so I decided to give them each five commands, including one under direct control of the overall c-in-c.  I had no idea how many players would be able to make it, and this is about the maximum I could accommodate.  Using my trusty Tabletop Games map set, I rolled up an area of rolling hills with a water feature and some woods.  Obviously the Romans are trying to stop the Sassanids camping around the useful watered area.

The Romans are in red at the top of the map.  From the left as you look at it:
Roman right wing: Armenian allied contingent.  A large unit of 18 Cataphracts and six units of 8 Horse Archers.  Photo:

Roman centre right: a unit of 24 elite Auxilia Palatina in three ranks and three legions of 36 medium foot armed with all sorts of javelins and darts and stuff.

Roman centre: two legions as above and another unit of elite Auxilia Palatina.
Photo of the legions:

Roman centre left: two units of 12 Auxiliae light infantry and two units of 18 Auxiliae with bows.
Roman left wing: 18 elite Clibanarii on partly armoured horses with lance and bow and two units of 8 Equites Illyricani light horse.
Photo of these two commands:
Central skirmishers: two units of archers and one of legionary lanciarii, each twelve figures strong.

The Sassanids, from their left:
Left wing:  six units of 8 javelin-armed Arab light horse.  Photo:

Centre Left: four units of 12 elite Cataphracts led by the King of Kings in person, and a couple of skirmish archer units out front.  Photo:
Centre:  One huge command of mixed horse archers and Clibanarii, the horse archers in two waves interspersed amongst the heavy guys.  In total, there are five units of 18 armoured heavies in three ranks and ten units of 8 light horse.  Photo of some of them:

Centre right: two units each of Clibanarii and horse archers, with a dozen light infantry out front.  Photo:
Right Wing: Six units of 8 horse archers.  Photo:
The Romans were easy enough to deploy, but the Sassanids presented more of a problem.  For a while now I've wanted to try out an interspersed formation, to maximise firepower and also give the expected central Roman legions a headache.  The Cataphracts were meant to be an elite attacking force in two waves, and the logical place to put them was to one side of the centre.  They don't like woods very much, so the left was pretty obvious. The small reserve command I placed behind the wood, the idea being that they could go in either direction, or even through the trees if they really wanted.  It now remains to be seen how it went...

As it turned out, Graham couldn't make it anyway.  Fortunately, I had deployed my Byzantines to mark unit positions.  The original intention was then to swap them with Graham's guys, but instead they could stand proxy.  The gaps between the cork mats have been filled with cheap imitation furry type stuff to break up the look of the field a bit.  Willie played the two right commands of the Sassanids; William took the central mass; and Simon had their elites and Arab allies.  I played the left half of the Roman army, Billy the right.

Above is a final long shot of the two sides before the action begins - Sassanids to the left..  All those cavalry sure look menacing, but the Roman legions have a lot of value.  The armies are in fact almost equal in break points.
Above you can see the armies advancing.  I throw my light infantry forward to contest the woods to their front, while angling the auxiliary archers towards the flank to create a lane of fire to try to help my cavalry, which is hanging back at the extreme bottom right of the photo as you look at it.  The moving mass of Sassanian horse does look rather impressive.
The photo above is how the horse archers look from my perspective as they pour across the field past the woods.  However, they are already beginning to suffer from my combined archery fire - a unit is destroyed straight away by my Clibanarii and auxiliary archers.  First blood to Rome...
The action develops on my flank.  The Sassanians have sent both of their reserve units of Clibanarii in my direction.  With stoic resolve, my Roman commander considers this to be a good thing, because it will protect the legions from them...
In order to cramp Willie's style, my guys go in with some style of their own.Willie has committed one of his heavy columns against my archers, while the other remains stuck behind his light horse.  I'll just have to grind my way through all of them then.
My auxiliae have cleared the woods, but at great cost to themselves.  They seem to have taken it personally, since one unit has chased after the fleeing enemy beyond the woods.  Unfortunately for them, there's a reserve unit of horse archers lurking just off the left of the photo above.
Meanwhile, the legions are pressing forward in the centre.  Quite a few Sassanian light cavalry have been destroyed, but now the heavies are going in.
On our far right Billy's Armenian cataphracts stood like a rock against the tide.  They didn't seem to kill very much of anything, but it took the opposition a long time to remove them, which protected the right flank of the infantry.
Back to my side of the table.  The enemy reserves have destroyed my errant light infantry, and are in position to attack my others before they can help against the tempting flank of an enemy heavy unit.  I used my various steppe nomad figures for the second wave of Sassanian horse archers because we didn't have enough of the proper types.  The ones at bottom left are some Foundry Huns Oldbob sent me, doing what they do best - wiping out isolated enemy units!
The legions continue forward bravely in the centre of the field.
Over on Billy's wing, the Arabs have finally broken the Armenian horse archers and are about to swarm those stubborn cataphracts.

That's the last of the useable photos - well, it was 4.00 in the afternoon by this time in mid-winter Scotland, so the light faded fast.  Suffice it to say that the Auxilia Palatina performed wonders, as did my Clibanarii, destroying enough of the enemy's heavy horse to counter the eventual destruction of three of our central legions - a draw as both armies reached exhaustion point at exactly the same time.

Everyone seemed to enjoy it - setting up a large game in advance and then just getting on with it really seems to be the best way to run a multi-player.  We haven't played this period in a long time - the closest was Chalons in the spring of last year.  The Persians haven't been out since Callinicum.  It was good to play something outside our current campaign setting.  The legions are weaker in melee, but have some limited firepower to compensate, and the match-up produced a memorable game.  Nasty, though...


  1. It's always nice to see your Tactica games!

  2. Hi Cory, it's good to hear from you - hope you had a good winter break! All the best for 2014.