Saturday 25 September 2010

Empire: Turn 7 complete

Turn 7 was another one in which none of the empires managed to achieve very much.  Events in the order of occurrence:

1: Pontus rebels from Macedonian control
2: The Macedonians are defeated in Pontus
3: The Carthaginians are defeated in Italia
4: The Romans are defeated in Magna Graecia
5: The Persians are defeated in Mesopotamia
The map at the start of Turn 8
There have been no rebellions that matter, so the first event of Turn 8 is another Roman attack on the Carthaginian mercenaries in Magna Graecia.  We will play that next Tuesday.

Friday 24 September 2010

The Persians run out of time

Tuesday's game in the Empire campaign.  The Persians attack the Macedonians in Mesopotamia again.  This is the deployment plan.  The Persian army is in blue at the top of the map.  The Macedonians have a large ridge line to their left and a piece of rough ground to their right.  There is a small hill on the Persian part of the field, which has no real importance as the game plays out.

Gordon had already constructed the Persian army list and decides on the set up.  I command the right wing (top left as you look at it), while he takes the left wing himself.  As you can see, he goes for a hollow centre, hoping to split the phalanx and use large amounts of shooting across the army to whittle down the stronger but less numerous enemy.  I won't attempt to describe the Persian army.  Suffice it to say, both forces are composed of a large mass of cavalry of various kinds with skirmish support and a block each of Kardakes.  I have the best of the heavy horse, while Gordon takes the Takabara Light Infantry to help with the rough ground.  Skirmishers abound.

Simon had brought in the Macedonians and goes for a deployment that looks to me as though he intends a right hook:  Peltasts for the rough ground, with elite horse to their inside, followed by the Hypaspists and the phalanx.  His left is anchored on the long ridge line.  We don't know what is behind there, but a good guess is light horse and some more Peltasts, which turns out to be just about right.  His army is relatively heavy on phalangites, with few skirmishers.
My cavalry advances towards the Macedonian ridge
Most of the photographs are taken from the Macedonian side of the table, just because it turned out to be easier for me that way.
My advance again, off to my left
As my force advances, I lead with the good cavalry from the outside, with Skythians inside them, linking with my Kardakes.  I leave my Colonists and other rubbish behind until I have a better idea what might be lurking behind Simon's hill - no point in risking the fragile!
Gordon advances his lighter troops
A light wave of Persians advances towards the rough
Gordon plays it cagey to start with as well - both of us are acutely aware of Macedonian superiority both in weight and morale.
The battle develops on the Macedonian left
And on the Macedonian right
The Macedonian phalanx starts to come forward into a sort of arrowhead.  With nothing facing them in the centre, the battle will turn on whether the Persians can do enough missile damage and then pick off occasional units before the phalanx catches us.
The phalanx is getting close!
The shot above is one of the few I took from our side of the table that came out okay.  It gives a decent view of the way Gordon's force is stretching the enemy, while at the same time showing the threat posed by the phalanx.  And time is running out - we only have three hours in total at the club.
My cavalry thunders onto the ridge
I hope the photo just above shows my situation okay.  My heavy cavalry has already disposed of one unit of Peltasts quite easily between them, but the Armenians go charging off in pursuit and end up in a bit of a pickle against the other two Peltast units.  This shot is taken facing straight into the Macedonian centre from behind my extreme right - you can see how far their phalanx has advanced by this point at the top left of the picture.  The Macedonian rear table edge is off to the right of the photo.
Gordon's troops have nowhere to go!
By this point, the phalanx is entirely split, but is making serious headway into Gordon's forces.  The shot above, again taken from behind the Macedonian army, shows the phalanx crunching into Gordon's Kardakes unit.
Colonists against Prodromoi
In the meantime, I had managed to bring some Colonists forward.  My light cavalry scouts had uncovered the Prodromoi and after they took some shooting damage, I charge in with the Colonists.  The shot above of the combat is taken from right on the Macedonian base line at their left rear.
The Phalanx eats more of Gordon's troops
The game ends at this point.  I have wiped out all of the supporting cast at my side of the field for no loss, stripping the phalanx units there of all flank protection.  On his wing, Gordon has destroyed the Macedonian light troops and elite cavalry, while losing quite a few units to the phalanx.  A few more turns would have seen a belated Persian victory.  Simon did really well on his own in a battle that turned into two matches, although he probably didn't enjoy it much.  A draw is as good as a win for the defending force in these circumstances.  I think there is a problem with the Later Persian list as it stands, because it doesn't specify any compulsory massed infantry units, which means that the Persians are free to set up in a rather unconventional manner.  Darius always seemed to have infantry galore, even though it wasn't exactly all that good most of the time.

That finishes Campaign Turn 7.  Next up: the Romans try to prise the Carthaginians from Southern Italy.  Again.

Thursday 23 September 2010

Something Slightly Different: American Civil War

Billy set up a game with his 25/28mm American Civil War figures at the club on Tuesday.  I took some photos, since I had my camera with me to document our own campaign game:

These are the ones that turned out best.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Romans lose again (surprise, surprise)

Last night was the next in our ongoing series of bloody defeats for Rome at the hands of the Carthaginians in Italy (1st Punic War period).  After winning for a change in the previous game, the latest one was an attempt by the Romans to mount a meaningful counterattack and beat someone.  Deployment map:

William made up the Carthaginian army list (at the top of the plan, in blue), but he wasn't able to make it along, so Simon set them up.  He opted for a conservative, reasonably balanced deployment.  The army's right wing (top left of the plan as you look at it) was under Simon's command: a unit of 12 skirmish javelinmen in rough ground; a cavalry column of three units (8 Numidians at the front, followed by two 12s of Heavy Cavalry); and the 24 Sacred Band in three ranks.  Billy played the infantry centre: two units of 36 Italians; two 48s of Spanish, and a final 36 of Italians partly on the long ridge.  Marco played his first Tactica game and had the far left flank of the army, hidden behind the hill: three units of 8 Numidians and the 12 Punic Nobles.  Across the front of the army was a long line of skirmishers of various kinds.

I used the same Roman force that actually won a game, and set them up.  I was torn between aiming the main fighting force, the legions, at the area to the inside of the rough ground, or to echelon them more to the open right.  I thought the Carthaginians would anchor on the rough and pack the far wing with loads of cavalry.  I was wrong.  I deployed with the usual Italian sacrificial foot in two units of 24 to the left of the legions, intending to refuse that flank as long as possible.  Next came the four legions, each comprising a front line of 11 Velites (actually Leves in this period); 12 Heavy Hastati with pila; and 24 Heavy Principes with spears.  The Triarii were left in camp.  The right end of the infantry line had a large unit of 36 Italians angled to aim for the open right wing, set up hidden behind our only hill.  I packed the right flank itself with two units of 8 Italian light horse and two units of 18 Equites in two waves.  The intention was to use this lot and the extra unit of Italian foot to absorb and then destroy the expected hordes of Carthaginian horse, and then swing in to the centre to help the legions win the battle.  Except it didn't work out that way.  We also had some slingers on the right and skirmish archers on the left. I played the Roman centre right and right; Gordon took the centre left and the Italian foot on the far left.
The battle began accordingly, with the big Carthaginian left hook failing to materialise, which meant that they had more weight than expected to our left, but relatively little to face our packed right.  This in turn meant that we would be able to shift some of our horse into the centre to help win the game there earlier than anticipated; we thought the Italians would hold out long enough on the far left in the meantime.  The photograph above shows the Hand of Billy just beside the second unit of Carthaginian heavy cavalry on the right.  As a long table shot, it shows the battle in full swing with the infantry centres moving together and the Roman cavalry superiority visible at the far side.  We thought we were onto a winner.
The second photograph is a close-up of the centre at the same time.  Right in the middle of the shot are two legions fighting the large units of Spanish; this is where the tables would be turned on the Romans.
Photo number three (above) is a turn later, at the same central point.  The Roman right is quite happily swinging round towards the centre; off to the right of this shot the Carthaginian horse were being mercilessly wiped out.
And here it is happening (above).  The foremost unit of Equites was destroying everything in its path, at great cost to itself, so I swung the large unit of Italians to finish off whatever might be left.  This opened up enough space towards the centre that I was able to charge the reserve Equites into the Italians fighting for Carthage (you can just see the second unit of Equites at the extreme left of the photo).
Meanwhile, on the Roman left, we see the Hand of Billy again, pointing to the Sacred Band.  One unit of Italian infantry has been destroyed and the legions are being exterminated with great glee by Billy's Spanish infantry.  I haven't seen sustained excellent dice like his for a long time, and they are easily the best I've seen him throw: for four turns the Spanish killed twice as many legionaries as they should have done on average.  What should have been a grinding Roman success was turning into a complete massacre in the centre.
Here we are again, with the legion on the right advancing to glory while their pals in the centre were dying in droves.
At this point David came across from another part of the club and commended me for loyally taking photos of my own army's demise, which was nice.  Sportsmanship, and all that.  To tell truth, I really wanted to document Billy's splendid triumph.  I don't want to mess with those Spanish again, and here they are in the picture above, having disposed of one legion without pausing for breath, and about to exterminate another.
Just for posterity, the final photgraph of the evening shows the victorious Roman right wing.  It all went to plan, Carthage was comprehensively outmanoeuvred, and then the Spanish arrived in the centre...

Next week: Persia attacks the Macedonians.  Again.  This is not a grudge match, honest!

Thursday 2 September 2010

The Romans see off the Carthaginians - for now

On Tuesday we played the latest in our series of campaign battles between Rome and Carthage.  This time we had to adjourn to the hall next door to our usual club premises, because the club was full.  Which was nice.  Having said that, table space was at a premium next door as well, and the lighting wasn't great.  I took 27 photos, of which less than half a dozen were any good.  Here's the deployment plan:
The Carthaginian host was the same army composition that easily thrashed the Romans in the previous encounter, only this time they are on the offensive into central Italia; they were deployed by William, and played by him and Gordon.  I chose and deployed the Romans and Billy joined in as the other consul.  The battlefield is relatively constrained, because there is a river running down the right flank as you look at it.  We didn't place this on table because of the limited space, which we reckoned would work in Rome's favour anyway - less room for Punic manoeuvres.  So we compensated by reducing Rome's defensive terrain a little.

The Carthaginians (in blue, at the top of the map) set up with the four units of 8 Numidians on their right wing; next came all of their heavy horse in three units of 12; then the three large columns of 36 Gauls; the 24 Sacred Band in three ranks; and then the Italian foot (32 figs in four ranks; 36 in three ranks; and 40 in five ranks).  They also had javelin and sling skirmishers.  The Roman army had a different composition from previous occasions, mainly because they are so easily defeated that we decided to try something else.  The reason for this is that in a points-based game, the classic Republican three-line legion is incredibly expensive, especially if it is bought in something like the proportions that existed between the various heavy infantry lines.  This means that a huge amount of fighting power is concentrated in the centre, as indeed it should be, but there are never enough points left over for much else.  The Romans always lose because the Triarii are effectively redundant while the enemy strips the flanks and then moves in for the kill - it's too early in campaign time for Scipio-style deployments to counter this.  Which makes for a rotten game.  We agreed that in order to even things out, the Romans could purchase legions without Triarii, and so have enough points left over to pay for more troops outwith the legionary deployment.  This is in fact a historically accurate Roman set up for the period; it is often noted that the Triarii were just left in camp.  The end result for this particular battle is that a legion is composed of 12 heavy Hastati with pila (as opposed to mediums), and 24 heavy Principes with spears.  The Velites are relatively numerous at 11 figures.  The rest of the army is maxed out in support troops, with two large units of 18 medium cavalry; two units of 8 Italian light cavalry; a 36 and two 24s of Italian medium infantry; 12 skirmish archers; and 12 skirmish slingers.  I packed the Roman left with all of the horse, and placed all of the Italian infantry on the right, resting on the hill and up against the river.

The game played out very neatly as the Romans advanced en echelon from their left, and the opposition did likewise, in mirror-image.
One of the few reasonably okay photos I managed to take.  It shows the whole table from the perspective of the wing farthest from the river.  On the right, you can see the Roman cavalry advancing; then the legions in the centre; and the Italians on their hill in the background at top right as you look at it.  The Carthaginian horse in the left foreground have stayed put, while all of their infantry advances towards the endmost legion and the Italians on their hill.
This one was taken from behind the Roman centre left, a couple of turns later.  The first of the Warband columns is already engaged, and the Carthaginian heavy cavalry are starting to take an interest.

Next up we have the same point in the battle, only more to the right.  The large unit of Italians fighting for Rome is en echelon to the right rear of the Romans as the mass of Carthaginian foot advances; you can see two warbands fighting Hastati, while the other lines up with the Sacred Band for their onslaught on the hapless Italians, whom the Romans were quite happy to abandon to their fate.  The warbands fighting legionaries were disposed of quite easily in brisk fashion.
At the same time, the poor Italians on the hill are beginning to feel rather lonely.  They will have to sell their lives dearly, because they won't be getting any help!
The last of the decent photos, showing the lines engaged right across the field.  This one is taken three turns later from the right corner of the Roman line, with the Italian hill right at the bottom of the shot.  You should be able to make out both armies en echelon.  The victorious Italians fighting for Carthage had turned about, but are too far away from the centre to take any further effective action.

Overall, the game was a draw.  The Italians fighting for Rome were wiped out.  The legions crushed two of the warbands and almost all of the enemy cavalry.  The two lines would have had to turn about and charge each other, and my own feeling is that the legions would have won.  The Principes were relatively intact and the Romans still had quite a few cavalry, while the remaining Gauls and the Carthaginian Sacred Band had taken quite a bit of damage from the brave Italians before their demise.  Carthage retired gracefully.  We'll play the next Roman attempt to drive them entirely from Southern Italy in a couple of weeks' time, when it looks as though some Spanish mercenaries will be in the Carthaginian line-up instead of the Gauls.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

On the Painting Tray: September 2010

Last month I renovated 72 old Essex phalangites for my Seleucids.  This month, I have another 48 Hastati on the tray to help finish off a couple of the legions I began for the big Zama game.  I probably won't post pictures of these when they're done; it's basically more of the same.