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.

Friday, July 23, 2010

You Shalt NOT Pass!

Rearguard: Battlegames Table Top Teaser # 12

The most recent game in the Lydian-Mede solo mini-campaign wars was Teaser 12: Rearguard. This followed on from the close fought battle at  The Pass in which the Lydian cavalry suffered a major disaster. This is a much smaller action and I almost  doubled the unit conversion rate but then I remembered  that not only am I supposed to be taking it easy but that the campaign had begun before all units were refurbished or, in the case of new recruits, painted, so I decided to stay with 6 cavalry or 12 infantry per each CS Grant unit.

The rules this time were a draft of a new set designed to meet my needs. I had been using WAB and despite not liking some things about them (like characters and neck or nothing morale tests) would probably continued for the sake of compatibility if a summary of the changes had been available, perhaps as  a downloadable PDF supplement for a reasonable fee. Since using the old rules would no longer offer compatibility, the new version is very expensive for a slightly revised set of rules and I am against breaking copyright as a matter of principle, I decided to shake their dust from my sandals and write my own. The original draft is on my gathering of hosts blog  and the updated one should be posted by Monday at the latest.

The battle takes place along the length of a narrow valley with a river down the middle. The terrain along the river is fairly open except where farms intrude but on either side are rocky hills and patches of scrub and woods. Since a Mede invasion was postulated and the Lydians took a bit of a pasting despite the technical draw last game, I made them the rearguard. The scenario calls for 5 defending units: 3 infantry, 1 cavalry and 1 gun. Since there was no battle-ready  cavalry and the terrain is not really cavalry friendly anyway, I  settled on 24 Heavy Phyrgian spearmen in 1 unit, 2 units of 12 Thracian peltasts and 12 Anatolian levy skirmishers with sling or bow, all under General Aloettes. Their mission is to prevent any Mede units from exiting from the far end of the table. Secret deployment is a bit tricky for solo games so I used the old playing card gambit. One card for each unit plus 1 dummy. I deployed them blind, not knowing which was which until they were revealed.

The invading Medes translated 9 units: 6 infantry, 2 cavalry and 1 gun into three 24 man medium infantry units with bow and spear, (the Hyrkanians, and the Ecbatana and Raffum Regiments) a unit of Armenian levy skirmishers with slings and two 6 man squadrons of the Raffum medium cavalry with javelins, all under General Rosius in his chariot.  General Rossius, with some idea of where enemy units might be but no sure knowledge deployed the cavalry supported by 1 infantry unit on the left bank and the rest of the troops on the right bank with the skirmishers in the lead. All units had to be in column and follow the river till enemy was spotted. Given that there were no sub commanders and that under these rules, units without a general within 12" might not move, splitting the force may not have been the wisest course.

The Medes won the initiative and pushed forward into the valley. Flipping over the foremost card, it turn out to be the Anatolian slingers who advanced and opened up with a devastating volley of stones and arrows. The Medes halted in disorder. The 2nd  squadron of the Medes deployed forward and soon found that trading javelins with twice their number of slingers was not a winning tactic. On the 3rd move, the rallied Mede cavalry bypassed the slingers and pushed forward,   leaving them to the Ecbatana regiment. High time for the Anatolians to pull out but being on their own they just stuck it out.The Ecbatana Regiment, perhaps smarting a bit from their defeat in the last battle, fired one volley then pushed in with spears. It looked like a walk over but due to the difficult terrain and some good rolling, several turns passed before they finally cleared the way and started the weary business of trying to extricate themselves. The only possible conclusion is that undrilled medium infantry should neither go hunting in the woods nor try to execute fancy maneuvers when in a hurry, especially not if chronically unlucky with dice. I think it took about 4 turns to back up, wheel around and start heading back up the valley. Time was a wasting!

Across the river, the Armenians tripped a unit of peltasts who charged in expecting them to run, These Armenians have a 35 year record of hard service though and decided to put up a fight. They were rewarded by luck and it was three turns before the battered Thracians finally pushed them back. By then the Raffum regiment was at hand and the Thracians began the weary business of retreating up the valley as slowly as possible, seeking to hold the enemy back without risking a tangle with the medium infantry whose bows took a heavy enough toll. Luckily for them, the Medes were usually beyond command control and showed re-markedly little initiative. (With a 50% chance of stalling when general-less, I think they managed about a 75% fail rate over the course of the game, since the Lydians had about a 75% success rate it sort of evened out in a purely statistical manner) . The Thracians even managed recover their strength somewhat when Aloettes rode forward to rally them during one of the lulls.

Having bypassed the slingers, the Mede cavalry pushed ahead brashly only to be surprised by Thracian peltasts emerging from behind a rocky hill. A heavy volley of javelins tore into them and the remnants of the white squadron broke and fled.

 Ignoring the destruction of the white squadron,  the yellow squadron pushed ahead, urged on by Rossius in his chariot. Flipping over the last hidden unit cards, Aloettes realized with a sick feeling that the spearmen were on the far bank and no Lydian units stood between the Mede cavalry and the board edge. If the Medes won the initiative it was as good as over, they would be out of reach. The dice rolled out.....initiative to the Lydians! Command roll for the Thracians.... passed! They turned and raced down the slope, not able to charge but close enough to hurl some javelins, nothing like boxcars at a critical moment!  There was still a chance that Rossius could rally the Raffum squadron despite it being 1/2 strength with enemy to the rear but it was a slim chance and he was barely able to hold them in place. The Phyrgian spearmen were now pouring over the bridge and  soon the remnant of the squadron was cut off and destroyed, Rossius escaping by the skin of his teeth.  It is not a wise general who depends on luck but two games in a row Aloettes has had to make a risky move to try and rescue the game and been smiled on by the gods.

After a slight pause to reorganize, the battle now entered its last phase. Leaving the Ecbatana regiment to make its slow way forward across hedges and pausing often (ie failing out of command rolls), Rossius crossed over the main bridge and led the right bank column forward. Aloettes and the spearmen also crossed over and took up a defensive position. An attempt to bypass the Lydian line was foiled by the nimble peltasts though these were eventually chased off and at last the main lines clashed, both sides led by their generals. The unlucky Rossius fell at the first clash but his Medes struggled manfully with the heavily armoured Phrygians and eventually the bold Aloettes was struck down by an arrow. Still both sides stuck to their work until finally the remaining Thracians, sure that the Ecbatana Regiment would never exit the valley in the short time available before dark, crossed over the bridge and fell on the flank of the Raffum Regiment. These finally collapsed and were hunted down in the hills. There was little for the Ecbatana and Hyrcanaians to do but fall back up the valley screened by the handful of remaining Armenians, and await the arrival of the main body. Whether or not Aloettes recovers from his wounds, the pass was held till dark.

So ends the 3rd Mede vs Lydian battle, a victory for each and a draw. The Lydians have lost their last unit of slingers while the Medes have lost 2 more cavalry squadrons and a regiment of infantry. I have the feeling that the next battle will decide the campaign. (if nothing else, with the rate of attrition, there will have to be a break until I paint up or refurbish and rebase more units!)


  1. Hi Ross,

    Yay! The Lydians won!

    Yay! The rules worked!

    Now back to the Gathering of Hosts blog to watch for the updated rules. No rush.


  2. A nice account of what sounds like an interesting game.

    -- Jeff

    PS, Remember to take it easy and to keep up your fluid intake.