Wednesday 25 August 2010

Pontus Rebels from Macedonian Control

This is the deployment map for yesterday's battle in our Empire campaign: the Macedonians attempt to quell the revolt in Pontus.  I couldn't make it along, so Gordon took in the figures and played the rebellion.  Here's his report.  The defenders are in red at the top of the map, the attacking loyalists in blue.

Macedonian Punitive Expedition Meets Disaster in Pontus

The Pontics deployed without seeing the Macedonian map. All the cavalry was deployed on the left centre with a light infantry unit outside of them to move through the rough ground. The Pontic phalanx was deployed right of centre with the citizen phalangites on the right and the professionals and the elites on the left end of this block. Beyond that were the skirmishers and light infantry in the flank area.

The Macedonians did not attack initially. On the left the Pontic large 16 figure light cavalry unit backed up by the Scythian horse archers and the light infantry advanced rapidly and drove off some of the Macedonian skirmishers and then defeated the Macedonian horse archers. The rest of the Macedonian skirmishers remained a nuisance killing two light cavalry units by the end of the game.

On the Pontic right the mass of missile troops gained an ascendancy over the light forces facing them.

The Macedonian Phalanx began to advance but on the Pontic left the endmost Macedonian Phalanx unit was forced to wheel outwards to protect a flank. It then suffered very heavily from missile fire coming within one hit of breaking. By judicious advancing and retiring, making full use of its good morale, the Pontic heavy cavalry paralysed the Macedonian phalanx opposite it. The good quality units of the leftmost part of the Pontic phalanx were able to engage the rest of the Macedonian Phalanx at an advantage although the Macedonians used their heavy cavalry skilfully to prevent the rest of the Pontic phalanx lapping round the open end of the Macedonian line. Nonetheless the advantage of numbers lay with the Pontic phalanx in this melee. The battle between the Phalanxes lasted 5 turns by which time the Macedonians had lost all their light infantry and much of their cavalry to the extremely effective Pontic shooting so that when two units of the Macedonian Phalanx broke the total Macedonian losses were such that the battle was over. The Pontics lost two massed units only, both of these being light cavalry.

The entire Macedonian Battlefield Photography Unit was massacred so there is no photographic record of this startling Pontic victory.


General Secretary of the War College of the Central Committee of the Pontic Revolutionary Peoples Front

When Gordon returns the figures tomorrow evening we'll roll for next week's battle and terrain.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Empire Campaign Turn 6

Another turn finished.  Events this decade were :

Armenia rebelled from Macedonian control.
Armenia was quickly and efficiently returned to Macedonian control.
Carthage conquered Magna Graecia from Rome.
Rome failed to retake Magna Graecia.
Persia was comprehensively defeated by the Macedonians in Mesopotamia.

At the start of Turn 7, the Macedonians are faced with another rebellious province, this time in Pontus.  Next week's game is the fight there as the Macedonians try to repeat their success against the Armenian rebels.

Persians crushed again

Yesterday evening saw the latest game in our Empire Campaign, Macedonians defending against Persians.  This is one of two major conflicts, the other being between Rome and Carthage.
The map shows the Macedonian deployment.  I chose the army and set up.  In previous battles, even when Macedonia has won, the sheer number of Persians has given rise to some scary moments.  Given that one flank would be very open, I decided to try something I haven't done for a while, in an attempt to offset the Persian wave attacks.  This explains why the Macedonian extreme right is deployed as you can see, with sacrificial light horse in front of the Companions, and an extra unit of light infantry in reserve just in case.  I made the Companions one large unit of 18 figures to help absorb the expected damage, and I also angled the guard infantry behind the hill so that they could help out against the usual horde of Persian horse.  The phalanx was in the centre as usual, with a whole load of light infantry on the refused left flank, helped by some rough ground.  I played the Macedonian right and centre, while William was in charge of the refused flank.  Gordon constructed and set up the Persians; he also played the main central command.  Billy was on their right, opposite William, and David played on their left.  I haven't shown their deployment because the numbers made it all a bit of a blur.  Suffice it to say that their right was rather thin; their centre was composed of Kardakes and guard infantry, with a central cavalry reserve; and their open left flank had waves of all sorts of cavalry.  The usual skirmishers were in the forefront of both armies.
All of the photographs are taken from the Macedonian perspective, because that's where I was.  Up first we have the bulk of the Persian centre; I haven't shown their right wing, because it was relatively sparsely populated.  On their right centre (the leftmost units as you look at it) are their infantry and reserve cavalry.

The second shot shows the cavalry on the Persian left wing, the open part of the field, with skirmishers aplenty in front.

Photograph number three shows the start of the game, facing the Persian right.  There's not all that much here, because Gordon knew that their style would be cramped by the rough terrain in the foreground.  It is already occupied in this shot by Macedonian skirmishers.

The situation more into the centre at exactly the same time.  You'll notice that there is a bit of space here; this becomes important later on.
A longer shot of the centre and Persian left.  In the foreground you can see the Macedonian guard infantry advancing from behind their hill.  Immediately to their rear are the Thessalians, who are in position to move into the centre or right as the opportunity presents itself.  The Persian horse on this wing stayed put because of the quality troops to their front, hoping to do enough shooting damage to even the odds.

The centre develops.  Remember that space to the Persian right?  As the Kardakes and friends advance in the centre towards the phalanx, the Persian reserve cavalry moves to fill the gap, hoping to crush the light infantry on the Macedonian refused flank and turn the phalanx.

At the same time, the Macedonians continue to advance their guard infantry, choosing to swing the Thessalians to the right to help out against the huge numbers of Persian horse here.

Back to the far side.  Billy's initial shots against the Macedonians in the rough were superb, but this may in fact have been counterproductive as the situation stabilised, turning this wing into a stand-off.  This suited William, because it meant that he was able to ignore Billy's troops in the meantime, as Gordon's cavalry column continued to advance.

And here they are.  Unfortunately for the Persians, William's shooting became really effective at this point.  In the right foreground of this photograph you can see the Persian guard infantry advancing on the hill.  Just out of shot to the left rear of the phalanx is a waiting unit of Greek hoplites.

The same turn, more into the centre.  The phalanx right in the foreground of this photograph has already taken some shooting hits, and will be facing the large column of Kardakes.  To try to compensate, the two phalanx units to the right have come off the hill and both of them have slammed into a single unit of Kardakes on the level ground in ront of the ridge line.  A major decision is pending here.

This shot shows the Macedonians advancing on their right.  The reserve unit of light infantry is holding position to keep its options open.

A long table shot of the whole battle from the Macedonian left.  I wanted to capture the essence of the moment at which major decisions are about to be made.  I would have preferred to take it from the other flank, but there wasn't enough room!

Crisis in the centre as fighting rages all along the infantry lines.  The central Kardakes column gives the weakened phalanx a real scare, but apart from that all the rest of the Persian infantry are in real trouble.

The same moment to the right of the phalanx.

The Macedonian right at the same time.  The Prodromoi are in trouble, but the Companions are right behind them.

Another full table shot.

The Kardakes have crumbled as the two rightmost phalanxes keep going forward.  You can also see the Macedonian guards advancing on the right of this shot, with the Armenian heavy cavalry to their front, the best cavalry in the Persian army.

The Thessalians have wheeled into line and advanced in tandem with the foot guards.

A third table shot.  Just after this, the whole Persian army suddenly collapsed.  William advanced his light infantry to hem in Gordon's cavalry column, which was hit in the flank by victorious hoplites fresh from wiping out the Persian infantry.  On the right, the Macedonian heavy guard infantry and cavalry destroyed many Persian cavalry, and it was all over.

Monday 16 August 2010

Essex Phalangites

Four shots of a revamped Essex phalanx.  They are still a bit on the dirty side, but then they are 20 years old.
There are 72 figures here, finishing my pike contingent nicely.  I may in future buy some command figures to go with them, but that can wait.  I forgot that I originally painted the front rank guys with bronze cuirasses.  Reworking them has given me some ideas for a couple of Argyraspides units for Magnesia.  In the meantime, this lot will do for the main pike blocks.

Saturday 14 August 2010

Another photo from Claymore

Willy sent me three photos he took of the Zama game at Claymore.  This is the best one, I think:
The stick in the middle is to remind the Roman players whereabouts their commands end!  One of the other photos is similar to this one, so I haven't posted it.  The third shows some rather impressive wargamer physiques, which is not something I want to unleash on an unsuspecting world...

Thursday 12 August 2010

Rome fails again

On Tuesday, we played the inevitable Roman counteroffensive into Magna Graecia as part of the Empire campaign.  And they lost again.  This is the deployment map:
I set up the Romans in their usual symmetrical fashion; William deployed the Carthaginians with a classic right punch/refused left flank formation.  The Carthaginians also had the advantage of a ridgeline for their infantry, which I haven't shown in the map because it didn't matter.  You'll be able to see the hills in the photos.

The Carthaginian cavalry wing attack en masse, as you can see from the photo above.  The Romans are hoping that the sacrifice of their own cavalry on their left will keep the enemy horse busy long enough for the legions to try to win it in the centre, or for their own right wing cavalry to make a difference.

The second photograph shows the situation at the Roman centre left.  The Italian foot in the centre left forces one unit of Carthaginian heavy cavalry to retire as the leftmost Latin legion tries to manoeuvre into position.

Here you can see the mirror image of a Roman cavalry advance on their right.  Their cavalry here are unopposed, but have further to go because of the enemy's refused flank.  The outcome depends on which cavalry wing wins through first.

This shot shows the Roman left of centre.  The leftmost Latins are continuing their advance here, leaving one Roman legion to face the mass of enemy Italian foot on their ridge.

Here we have the Roman centre right, with two legions trying to gain an advantage over the Gauls.  The Italians and two of the three warbands fighting for Carthage have advanced off their ridge.

Another shot of the same situation, further to the Roman right.

Slightly later in the same general area.  The Roman horse are starting to come round the extreme left of the Carthaginian line, held by the Sacred Band.

Back on the Roman centre left, the advance continues.

Carthage's local Italian allies attack the Roman legion in the centre.

The Warbands are in trouble and the Roman cavalry is coming around behind the Sacred Band.

However, the Carthaginian horse has now disposed of the opposition and is riding to threaten the Roman left centre.

The left Roman legion is feeling the pressure.  Just after this, the game ended as these guys and the leftmost Latin legion crumbled as one.  Many Gauls died on the blades of the other legions, and the Sacred Band routed on morale - again!

Monday 9 August 2010

Zama at Claymore

On Saturday we took the Zama game on its last outing, this time to the annual Claymore show in Edinburgh.  At William's suggestion, we made it free deployment, with the historical orders of battle, the reason being that we had already played it three times.  Rome won twice and had a winning draw once, so it seemed a good idea to try out something different to see if Carthage could pull off a win.

I produced a deployment for the Romans, which basically divided the cavalry equally between the two wings; shifted the Velites to the wings; and took the Roman Triarii from the centre onto the wings.  Overall, it was kind of similar to Scipio's deployment at Ilipa, without the Spanish of course.  The reasoning was that I was expecting the Carthaginians to put their elephants on the wings, and I wanted to try to counter them without weakening the Roman centre too much.

William and Gordon drew up a deployment for Carthage.  They put all of their heavy cavalry on their right, with some elephants in support; divided their Numidians equally between the two flanks; and weighted their left with most of the elephants.  Their centre was one gigantic phalanx in depth, with their best troops to their left and a couple of Gallic warbands at the front left.  Massing the various spearmen in depth in the centre gave them a counter to Roman heavy infantry strength, but if a couple of units routed they could disorder the rest on morale.  Like Hannibal's historical choices, it was a tough decision, set on a knife edge.
The first photo shows the game underway, with the Roman right in the foreground (note the elephants here).  The players are Billy on the left and Gordon facing him.  You can clearly see the mass of the Carthaginian centre and the legions facing them in shallower lines.

Picture number two shows the same point in the battle, from behind the Roman centre.  The Romans are already shifting some more Triarii to their right in case the large numbers of elephants there break through.

The third photo is taken from the Roman left rear.  The troops with the plain red and blue shields at the near end of the Carthaginian infantry line are my Essex imitation legionaries, standing in for Bruttians with looted Roman armour.

A close-up on some of William's recently painted elephants.

Things are starting to go wrong for Rome as the weight of the Carthaginian centre makes itself felt.  This shot is taken from the Carthaginian left; you can see their cavalry numbers beginning to tell here too.  Thanks to Michael for the pictures.

The elephants did nothing much, but the threat helped to spread the Romans just thinly enough that damage right across the front defeated them.  Carthage lost 11 out of 14 breakpoint units, only three of which were infantry.  However, another four of the big blocks of foot were near breaking point.  A good victory for Carthage, then, but a Pyrrhic one.  Which is interesting, because it almost played like a battle between Rome and Pyrrhus.

More photos will follow if and when people send them.  I find it almost impossible to run a large game like this and take pictures at the same time!

Thursday 5 August 2010

Scenario for Issus

Just added a scenario for Issus to the Ancients Scenarios page.  This follows on from Patrick Waterson's article in Slingshot 270 (May 2010).  Thanks to Patrick and the editor, Richard Taylor, for permissions.

Sunday 1 August 2010

On the painting tray: August 2010

In July, I modernised 32 pikemen from my old Pontic army and painted 50 casualty markers for Zama.  This month I'm hoping to modernise another 72 pikes.