Viewer's Choice Celebration MiniCampaign

It has now been over 20 years since I launched "With MacDuff On the Web" and nearly 10 years since I launched my 2 blogs: Gathering of Hosts and Battle game of the Month.

To celebrate the years and the friends and the million hits I've decided to run a 3 game mini-campaign in late October. By popular vot e it will be set in the mid 18th Century.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Teaser #8: Mede me at the Pass

This game is the first in a mini-campaign for lazy gamers. At the moment I will not be laying out the full details but basically it will be a short series of linked tabletop teasers drawn from Battlegames Magazine. The armies involved are my pre-Achaemenid Mede army and their Lydia enemies, more about them can be found at .

This battle takes place in a mountain pass (the mountains being off table, I don't have painted backdrops so please use your imagination). The ground is much cut up by small hills, clumps of woods and so forth and is split in 1/2 by a fordable stream. I was feeling distinctly under the weather when laying this game out  as well as feeling very aware that time was limited and accidently laid the stream off to one side rather than down the middle, I don't think it made a major difference to the game and anyway, no two passes are exactly alike! Several small bridges were replaced by fords that I declared to be open terrain.
Victory required seizing the 2 built up areas that dominate the main bridge and the center of the valley.
Turn 3, the armies draw near.
The 2 Napoleonic armies in the original are balanced forces, similar in size and fighting power but not exactly alike.A battalion of Grenz plus 7 infantry units, battalion guns and 5 cavalry vs Grenadiers, 6 infantry, 6 cavalry and a battery of guns. Having in mind roughly the size of game that I wanted, I decided not to exactly translate the Austrians and French to Medes and Lydians but settled on two similar, balanced but different forces of 36 cavalry and 120 infantry per side. The armies had to enter with all units in march column but spread out as desired. The rules in use were Warhammer Ancient Battles v1.5 with both armies using the Achaemenid Persian list (after all both ended up being part of that empire) but selecting different options. I didn't count points but just selected appropriate units as far as possible. All units were morale 7 apart from the Lydian lancers and the skirmishers. (you call 'em marines, I call em Uxians, Thracians etc)



Army General Rossius in a light chariot.

3 regiments, each of 24 medium infantry armed with some combination of bows and thrusting spears and carrying large wicker shields capable of being used to form a wall of shields. The Hyrkanians (yellow caps), the Raffum regiment (white caps, shields white with black chevrons), The Ecbatana Garrison regiment (white caps, white shields with red bars),
1 regiment of 18 mercenary light infantry with bow and thrusting spear. The Uxians (bare chested), this unit should have been 24 strong but 6 new recruits were not ready to take the field.
2  companies of skirmishers, 6 with sling, 6 with javelin.
1 squadron of 3 heavy chariots. These I initially counted as equivalent  to 6 cavalry , only after the game did I realize that they should have counted as 12 and thus the Medes unintentionally got 6 free cavalry in place of their 6 missing light infantry. (The problem arose from having removed 2 horses from each model to make them look more like the old Funcken picture, then deciding that they really ought to be 4 horse chariots to avoid rules complications since 2 horse heavy chariots don't appear to be contemplated in the rules and are unlikely anyway. Only 1 of the 3 actually had 4 horses for the game and thus I violated a key principle for the campaign of only fielding units that are finished as what they are supposed to be. They will not be allowed on the field again until the horse issue is resolved!)
1 squadron of 6 mercenary Skythian horse archers,
1 squadrons of 6 Hyrcanian medium cavalry with bow and shield,
3 squadrons, each 6 strong, of the Raffum medium cavalry regiment armed with javelins, all carrying shields, 1 with light armour as well.

General Aloettes, bearing the look if not the effect of an armoured lancer
1 wing of 12 Lydian lancers, elite armoured cavalry with thrusting spears
4 mercenary squadrons each  of 6 medium cavalry with javelins
1 regiment of 24 Phrygian spearmen with armour and shield.
1 regiment of Mercenary Greek infantry in heavy armour with large shields and spears, trained in phalanx
1 regiment of  Ionian Greek infantry as above but wearing light armour
1 regiment of Thracian light infantry levies with javelin, spear and shield
4 companies of skirmishers each 6 strong, 2 with bow, 1 of slingers, 1 of javelin men.

The Medes deployed on the North West, their plan was to send the Hyrcanians and slingers over the ford to seize the far village, send the Ecbatana regiment to seize the near village and deploy the rest of the infantry to protect the flank and hopefully shoot up the Lydian cavalry. The Mede cavalry was to delay and harass the enemy but avoid getting into melee if possible. The chariots, being both slow and the only shock unit in the Mede army, formed a reserve by default.

The Lydian plan was similar with skirmishers backed by the Phyrgians being sent over the stream, the Greeks being sent to attck the near village with the light troops and cavalry movinga round on the flank, hoping to drive in the Mede cavalry. The lancers were to form a reserve.
Turn 4, the Hyrkanian cavalry suffers the 1st loss of the day to javelin fire.
Initially, the battle went according to the Mede's plan and they swiftly occupied the village across the stream and were sure to reach the other village 1st. Based on past experience and on the difficulty of assaulting buildings under the rules, they were confident of holding both. The Lydians on the other hand had to start scrambling as various weaknesses in their plan and deployment came to light. Their main reaction was to get aggressive with their cavalry. On the left, they pressed the Medes hard, gaining the initiative. In the center, the Lydian lancers, supported by light infantry and  archers  drove into the Uxians in an attempt to keep up the momentum. On paper, the odds were all against the completely unprotected infantry but they held firm.

On the right, the Phrygians, were directed to forget the ford and rush the near town and storm it. Since their equipment was only slightly heavier than the Medes, this was a bit of a long shot but they managed to get into the town before it was fully occupied and caught part of the Mede force in the streets. The melee was short and sharp and left the Phrygians ahead by 1. The Medes checked morale and threw boxcars! uh oh. Their rout move didn't take them far and I was envisaging this recently revised unit being destroyed and leaving the campaign, however, that would have left the Phrygians vulnerable in turn, especially as they would be dispersed from fighting amongst buildings and not formed up. I decided to try and hold them back and when they passed, I allowed them to occupy the buildings they had stormed as their after melee reform. Probably not technically correct but it felt right. (luckily I am used to normally being able to take this 'feels right' approach even when not playing solo) This was the Phrygians first taste of battle, the varnish being barely dry on them and I was well pleased with their performance.
The Lydian cavalry in melee across the line while the street fight is about to begin.
Things were looking up for the Lydians but their cavalry suffered from atrocious dice  and on the left, after a few tied melees, their units were destroyed one after the other. The Thracians rushed up to plug the gap but suffered heavily from enemy missile fire and then had to flee from a  chariot charge. In the center, the lancers declined to rally back and, after a gruelling melee  lasting 4 rounds, the Uxians finally broke. The lancers pursued and ran them down, then crashed into the chariot reserve. I thought being caught halted would weaken the chariots, and it did, but not nearly enough. In the melee which followed, I found out just how tough they were and with the casualties suffered in the long infantry fight, the lancers fell below 5 figures and were destroyed. (oddly enough, about 30 years ago at Origins, I blew the North American WRG Ancients Tournament by charging my Clibinari into the flank of a chariot unit rather than running down the enemy general. I was tired and thought I'd be clever and scare his chariots then be  intercepted by his general but my opponent was too clever for that. I've never felt the same about too clever moves or chariots since then.)

As the Medes regrouped and sent cavalry out to harrass the enemy rear,   it looked like they had it in the bag, all they had to do was take back 1 village.At long last though, the Greeks were deployed and up. While the Ionians watched the flank and rear, the mercenaries charged the Raffum regiment's shield barrier, at first the barrier held  but eventually a no hit round meant a dice off and the Medes lost. Their morale held but the wall was breached! On the next round, the heavily armoured Greeks slaughtered the Medes and drove them into flight, panicking the chariots but not able to catch and destroy the enemy.

Since I hadn't set a time limit and there is no army morale, I could have continued  but with nearly 1/2 of the units in each army destroyed or routed and with each side securely holding 1 town, I declared exhaustion and called it a draw. In campaign terms though, there is no doubting the Mede strategic victory, all of the Lydian cavalry, 1/2 of their total potential cavalry force and nearly all of the combat ready ones, have been destroyed compared with 1 regiment of auxiliary infantry for the Medes. (albeit a new and favoured unit). The impact of this drawn battle will be felt in the next game.
The fighting comes to a halt as both sides rally their infantry and count up the dead and wounded..

On the effects of campaign:

  1. I went into the game only really thinking of the campaign in terms of "gotta to try and win this one if we (sic) are going to win the campaign". However, once units started disappearing and it suddenly struck home that they weren't coming back for the next game regardless of how shiny they were or how much time had been spent painting them, then my outlook started to shift to "is the victory worth the candle?".
  2. There are two decisions made during the game that I question, would I have made the same decisons in a 2 player campaign?  The first was the decision to pass up eliminating the Mede infantry by risking the Phyrgians and the town. Almost certainly the town would have been lost on the next turn and the game with it but the Phrygians would probably have been able to flee from the charge and eventually rally somewhere to the rear. A strategic gain for a tactical loss, would it have been worth it?   Probably not but I will admit that I would have been dismayed to see the Ecbatana regiment eliminated on its first outing in that guise and even more dismayed to see my only Phrygian unit destroyed if it had rolled way down and been caught! 
  3. The second was the decision not to break off the Lydian lancers, I meant to but I could feel the infantry breaking and thought that I might be able to run down the chariots in my pursuit. (oops I know better now, first time the Mede chariots have taken the field) In other words, I did a Ponsonby and it cost me the unit permanently. 
  4. . For the Medes, who used their small cavalry units to maneuver, concentrate missile fire on chosen key points and avoid close combat, the small units worked well. On the other hand, for the Lydians who kept charging the enemy cavalry it was a disaster since any unit that accumulated 2 casualties was automatically broken if it lost a round of melee and without a decisive advantage, it was a throw of the dice to see which side was destroyed. That it was the Lydians each time who were broken was just bad luck, especially since they managed to hit 1 unit with 2 of their own, but relying on lucky dice is never a sound beginning strategy and should be left to final resorts. Something for the next campaign now.
On the Rules:
  1. The rules continued to work well despite the lack of command control limitations, the all or nothing morale and the lack of an army break point or similar. I am happy to envisage couriers galloping back and forth across the table while unit commanders use a certain degree of initiative, without explicit rules. esp in such a small action. I certainly seem capable of making blunders without a chart and if the initial  plan is wrong, given the difficulty of maneuvering undrilled infantry, there is only so much adjustment that is possible anyway. 
  2. I have only been able to use the shield wall a couple of times, never against the Greeks, but I have not been happy with the rule. This time it worked just right, in part due to the heavy armour of the Greeks which provided as good protection. At first there was a struggle at the barrier, then once the Greeks broke through it, the poor Medes didn't stand a chance.      
  3. WAB 2.0  I found myself searching the net last night for info on the new 2.0 version of the rules. As far as I can see, the changes are small  but important improvements. I might be tempted to spent $25 to get the revised  rules but at well over $100 Cdn to get a copy here, there is no way, especially given the constraints of early retirement and that the majority of my ancient games are likely to be solo. So, possibly I will take the casual comments on various blogs and forums and do my own version of the ones that seem most appealing using my best guess at what the actual changes are, or just stick with what works. An open question for now and one to discuss with those friends I do play the occasional ancients game with.  

The proud Phrygian spearmen

Once again I am disappointed in the picture quality. My gamesroom is the darkest, dingiest room in the house but I thought some extra light and my tripod would help. Depth of field is still far too shallow though. Interestingly, I wrote out the report then looked at the pictures and had to go back and revise the order in which some events happened!

Permanent Campaign Losses:
Medes: 1 squadron of  Hyrkanian cavalry ((routed late in the game by light infantry bow and javelin fire), the Uxian Light Infantry Regiment. (and almost 2 infantry regiments but fortune smiled on them and drawing new shields they will return)
Lydians: 4 squadrons of medium cavalry, 2 squadrons of Lydian lancers, a company of slingers and 1 of archers (not smart for 6 man skirmish units to fight missile duels with 24 man Mede infantry units).

The next game should be sometime this week.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Ross,

    Nice report!

    Go Lydians! Beat those pesky Medes! Please.

    I chuckled at your comment about realizing that a dead unit was really a dead unit as far as the campaign was concerned. That one little effect brings a whole new line of thought to every battle. I guess you'll be painting lots to provide suitable reinforcements!

    I agree with your comments about WAB 2.0. Too expensive for my limited use of it. I checked my 1.5 rulebook. The rules are still in it. They haven't evaporated. So unless something radical happens, no WAB 2.0 for me. I'd rather buy more figures.

    Thanks again for the report.