Wednesday 28 October 2009

Thrace succumbs

Yesterday evening, Alexander finally conquered something, and he wasn't even wounded in the process. The Thracians set up in a long interspersed line, while the Macedonians (in red above) set up with a powerful right cavalry wing and phalanxes en echelon. They faced an area of rough ground in the centre of the Thracian line with a large block of light infantry.

The Macedonian elite horse carved their way through the Thracian left flank with relative ease as the phalanxes trundled forwards. The central Macedonian light infantry had a bad day as the Thracians attacked in the centre, and the leftmost phalanx suffered severely. In the end, though, the result was a relatively straightforward Macedonian victory, as it should have been in Illyria.

When I was putting together the armies for the diagram, Battle Chronicler calculated that the Macedonian army was over 250 points too strong. William had put the list together, but when the figures arrived there was some re-design by committee; the result was that they had the equivalent of one phalanx too many. That would have made the game a bit less easy for the Macedonians, especially on their extreme left. As it was, there wasn't a great deal the Thracians could do, barring extreme luck.

We might need to compensate by penalising the Macedonians somewhat in campaign terms, maybe by reducing their army by 125 points for each of the next two battles, or by making them forego one campaign move. In any event, we're taking a break next week, because a large Sharpe Practice campaign is beginning at the club. Our own next battle is Alexander's first move into Asia Minor, and we will need a few players for the large Persian army he is sure to encounter. But that will be in two week's time...

Thursday 22 October 2009

Finally, a victory

On Tuesday, the Romans tried for the second time to unite central Italia under their control. They set up (red at top) slightly offset from the centre, with a unit of Italians anchoring their right flank on some rough ground. The legions were in the middle with the other Italians to their left. The open left flank was occupied by the cavalry. The Romans set up their velites in the rough on their right and to the left to cover their cavalry; they knew that their opponents would have stronger cavalry, and were hoping that they would take damage from the skirmishers. They also risked not covering the legions, since they are extremely good anyway.

The Italians set up with light infantry, light cavalry and slingers on their left opposite the rough ground. Their long centre was composed of an interspersed line of hoplite equivalents and blocks of lesser armed infantry. And on their right was the rest of the cavalry plus a small number of javelinmen.

The game was immensely enjoyable and very close. The Romans had a possible overlap on the left of the Italian battleline, but the latter were able to contain this with their swarm of light troops. The centre came down to the expected grind. And on the Italian right, their cavalry repeated the exploit of the previous encounter, sweeping all before them and then chasing off in futile pursuit. The overlap of Italians on the Roman left almost won the game for the Italians, as the leftmost legion came under very severe pressure. Luckily for them, though, the leftward deployment of the velites finished off the opposing damaged cavalry units. The legions won the day, as the triarii of the left legion held out and the heavy infantry in the centre crunched their way through the opposition.

The Romans lost more men than the Italians, but the Republican legion structure dictates that no legionaries count towards army break point until the whole legion is destroyed, giving them enough of an edge in a heavy infantry fight to win the day, which is what happened here. It could so easily have gone against the Romans, as it did the last time, but the triple line gives them tremendous staying power as it attrits the enemy.

So we finally have a victory by one of the empires. Next week, Alexander goes on the rampage against Thrace, seeking a jumping-off point for his long awaited attack on the Persian Empire. He hasn't had any success elsewhere, and the way the boardgame works made us realise that the Macedonians need to gain victory points at the expense of the Persians.

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Another bloody draw

Yesterday we had a bit of a discussion about the continuing inability of the great powers to defeat anybody else at all, bearing in mind various possibilities mooted over the last couple of weeks or so. The consensus was to leave things as they are - if the so-called conquerors can't conquer anything, then maybe our (alternative) world is a more interesting place. We then played the game of the evening, the second attempt by the Great King of Persia to assimilate Aegyptus into his dominions, and again we had a drawn battle. This time massed cavalry on the Persian left wing crushed all before them, while the Egyptian left wing light infantry waded through everything in front of them in some pretty rough terrain. We ran out of time before we could race to see who would swing into the centre and get the result, so we called a draw. Everyone is still happy with the way the campaign is going, especially because the games themselves are usually very interesting. However, the Persian general on the night (Gordon) was heard to wonder about huge armies being unwieldy in the time we have. So we might try this particular match-up with 1500 point armies if it occurs again. Given the mutual mediocrity of the two forces, they'll still provide a decent size of game, just because of the numbers of troops they can have for that points total. Next week: the Romans try again to unite central Italy under their control. After that, it's time to see if Alexander of Macedon can live up to his promise, as opposed to getting badly wounded every time he appears.

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Syracuse holds out

I couldn't make it to the club yesterday, but Gordon won as Syracuse against William and Simon as Carthage. Mark said at one point a week or so ago that if the great powers continue to be unable to conquer anything, we might need to tweak the game. So far we have ruled that a draw counts as a victory for the defence, in that it forces the attacker to retire. Perhaps we should amend this so that if a great power manages a second draw against a province (not another great power), then a deal is struck and the province is assimilated voluntarily. Which doesn't preclude a later rebellion, of course. I mentioned this idea to Gordon and he wasn't convinced, but I think I'll moot it more generally before next week's game: Persia tries again to conquer Aegyptus.

Thursday 1 October 2009

Tarentine Light Cavalry

Twenty years ago I painted a Pontic army for a friend of mine for Tactica, and then bought them all back from him a few years later. These Tarentines (Essex figs) were part of the army. In between Romans I've been slowly revamping my classical period figures for use in our ongoing Empire campaign. I gave them a touch-up, added some shield transfers, then varnished and rebased them. I still have a soft spot for Essex figures, and I used their Seleucid figures for the Pontics. After adding to them subsequently, I have a huge phalanx army plus extras to use for pretty much any Successor state, and later. I've always liked the idea of using one manufacturer for an army as much as possible. If I ever get round to it, I'll do a 1st Corps army to fight them, but that's probably a long way off...

On the painting tray for October

In September, I finished everything I wanted: 24 Principes; 24 Triarii; 4 legionary command figures; and 12 slingers. I also managed to renovate 8 Tarentine light horse. This month, the schedule will be to begin Legio II for Zama, with 24 Hastati and 24 Principes. As part of my ongoing revamp, on the tray also are: 8 more Tarentines; 12 Seleucid Xystophoroi; and 15 Greek casualty figures, some of which need painting from scratch. Since I started keeping this record, I've been able to complete everything I hoped each month. It would be good to keep this going; fortunately, the cavalry are already well advanced.