Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A short holiday, in which Philippi was sneakily re-fought twice, but without any pictures to show for it.

I've just got back from a two-night getaway with the family.  We headed down south to take the kids to the zoo-cum-theme park there,show them a few dancing dolphins, let them take a few mildly-daunting rides and generally have a good family outing.

Needless to say, dad needed something to do once the kids were in bed, and as the in-laws were staying with us it was thought that the Lost Battles board game might do the trick...

One of the good things about having the board game version is that it allows me to re-fight battles that I don't have figures for (or that I rather sadly do have figures for, but have not yet painted...).  Therefore I decided to give First Philippi a go as I've been reading Appian at nights (my life is a real humdinger at the moment, can't you tell?) .

As Philippi is a relic from the original Strategos rules, the scenario is not included in the Lost Battles set.  It can, however, be found in the files section of the Lost Battles yahoo group.

The Triumvirs, led by Antony, have a fighting value of 82.  They have 15 average legionary units, an average light infantry, an average heavy cavalry, a levy heavy cavalry and a levy light cavalry unit.  Antony is classed as an inspired commander.

The Republicans, with good old Cassius and Brutus leading from the front, have a fighting value of 74.  They have twelve average legionary units, two units of average light infantry, three of levy heavy cavalry and one of levy light cavalry.  Both Brutus and Cassius are rated average.

The terrain favours Antony, for the Republicans have a hill in their right rear zone and a large patch of marshy river in three of the left flank zones.  This makes it tricky for them to make good use of their superiority in cavalry (it's tough to move cavalry in poor terrain).

In the first battle there was a stand-off on Antony's left as neither cavalry force wished to give the other a first-strike advantage.  On the Republican side Cassius directed one unit of heavy cavalry and some light infantry to wade through the marshes on the left and outflank the enemy that way.

The infantry combat was protracted, with both sides having periods of ascendancy.  Antony was the first to shatter a unit, but Brutus replied in kind and, thus encouraged, the cavalry of the right launched into the fray, only to be promptly beaten.  The infantry combat continued on, with the Republicans beginning to get the better of it.  By the end of the seventh turn, all of Antony's legionaries were spent, and his fourth unit was shattered.  The resulting morale penalty (-1 to morale for every four friendly units shattered) caused his cavalry to run, and then it was tit-for-tat.  Fortune played a merry game with both sides (Brutus rallied one unit and then fell by the sword), but eventually the Triumvirs were defeated.

The final tally was 123 to 76 in favour of the Republicans, which was a whopping victory.  Antony lost 10 average legionary units shattered and would have died himself if I had read the correct table following a failed a rally attempt.  As it was he survived by the grace of the gods and escaped the field with his last few loyal legions.

The second game (on the second night, oddly enough!) started out similarly, except that Antony decided to beef up his right to prevent another pesky encircling move.  Brutus closed with his cavalry early, scoring an impressive three hits on the first charge and shattering a levy unit immediately.  Antony had kept three legionary units in reserve this battle though, and he was able to shore up his left in response to this eventuality.  The infantry lines again slugged it out, and although it was close Antony got the better of it this time in two out of the three central zones.

When the shatters started coming Brutus fell (again), and this in conjunction with the -1 for four units shattered meant that the cavalry and light infantry did not hang around for too much longer.  The infantry fight was grim, and both sides struggled for command points, but in the end it was Antony who prevailed, with a tight 103-84 victory.

Philippi is an excellent scenario - both sides have a good chance of winning a battlefield victory and the nature of the terrain means that choosing how to employ the cavalry and light infantry resources is a puzzle within a puzzle.  Although I played it solo there was real drama to it, and carting the box up and down flights of stairs was well worth it in the end.

It was also a fine accompaniment to late night gins-and-tonic (ah, that's the life!).

Finally, I said in the title that there weren't any photos, but I'm afraid that I was not being entirely truthful - there is one of an interested onlooker...


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chaeronea, 86BC - the battle.


As outlined in my last post, I played through a refight of Chaeronea (86BC) last night.  Here then is the promised report.

**  Unfortunately (and embarrassingly!), I misread the scenario details and had the battlefield reversed.  It was in fact the Pontics who had the river on their side of the table.  This is a result of my own wrongheadedness, and should not be blamed upon the author of the rules! **

Under Lost Battles Archelaus has twenty units of Pontics, made up of a vast quantity of cavalry, phalangites and light infantry.  Against this horde Sulla has sixteen units of Roman veterans and his lieutenant Murena.  With a fighting value of 50, for Archelaus' men to actually win the field would be a difficult task.  Given the disparity in quality, Archelaus' best chance is to try to win a game victory by scoring as many hits as possible on the Romans before his fragile levies flee the field.

Being a positive sort of fellow, Archelaus hatches a plan to refuse his left, hold the Romans with his centre and push the cavalry forward on the right to turn Sulla's left.  This done he will roll up the Roman flank, slaughter the legions and teach Sulla a lesson he will never forget.

Meanwhile, the genius of Lucius Cornelius has informed him that the aim must be to win the battle without suffering major casualties.  He has a fighting value of 77, giving the enemy a very useful victory point handicap of 39 points; his plan therefore is to refuse the left and rely on the river to his rear to help his own left-wing cavalry fend off any attempts at encirclement.  He will use his command and quality superiority to get his veteran legionaries into position quickly, break the enemy phalanx and then return at pace to reinforce the left before Archelaus gets into the baggage.

Such at least were the the pre-battle plans of the two commanders...

Initial dispositions.

Archelaus has a hill in his rear centre and rear right zones upon which he deploys most of his phalanx and his scythed chariots.  The right (currently splashing through a stream) is made up of two average and four levy units of cavalry.  The far left, just to the left of the hill, is enjoying the shade of a few trees and a last drink of unbloodied water.

Sulla, who is somewhat taken aback by how large a host the enemy has gathered, deploys his infantry in the three central zones in a four, five, four distribution.  He has supporting cavalry units on both wings and a solitary unit of light infantry in the centre to deal with the scythed chariots.  Murena, he decides, will hold the left.

The phalanx on the hill, supported by light infantry and the scythed chariots.

The mass of Pontic horse, which is already giving Sulla pause.

The battle.

Turn two (deployment is counted as turn one) sees a low command roll, but this does not put Archelaus off advancing his centre and right centre.  They will no longer get the dubious benefit of the high ground, but they will secure the key zone and give themselves first attack at the Romans (assuming these glorified Etruscans elect to advance).  Archelaus does not have enough commands to do anything fancy with his cavalry, so they just forge ahead and create a lot of dust.

Murena advances to meet the Pontic right centre, with the rest of the line following.

The Roman centre approaches the chariots and the light infantry readies for action.  On the right Sulla double (express) moves into contact with the enemy's refused left.

One unit of Roman cavalry is left behind to guard the rear; the other moves forward with Sulla.

Turn three sees the scythed chariots charge.  The experienced legionaries deftly open gaps in the line through which the chariots are funnelled, but the light infantry prove to be a little less sanguine and are forced to retire shaken.

Hey, watch out for the riv...

Archelaus' cavalry now bears down upon the Roman left.  Two units of light cavalry are sent to deal with the Roman rear-guard; the rest turn to threaten Murena's flank.

Sulla's advance is met with determined resistance.  The veteran legions - who appear to be a little disordered following their rapid advance - suddenly find themselves hit twice and under the cosh.

I thought you said these guys were levies?

On their own turn the Romans give better than they got, scoring seven hits along the line, shattering a levy heavy infantry unit on the left and forcing a supporting unit of light infantry to rout.  None of this can delay the inevitable charge of Archelaus and his left, however.

Turn four sees the Roman cavalry guard shattered immediately by the bows and javelins of the advancing light cavalry.

Who was the smarty pants that left us unsupported against those fellows?  Ah yes, Aaron Murena.  Thanks!

Archelaus' flank attack with the cavalry on Murena's zone is also successful as they bring their weight to bear.  The phalanx attacks see a flurry of all-out attacks being scored, which result in the Roman infantry line beginning to look a little fragile.  Now that they also have cavalry to their rear it might be an opportune moment for Sulla to think about hurrying up and finishing off the enemy left...

(A quick tour of the battlefield reveals that Archelaus' infantry are almost all spent.  Only one unit of phalangites remains on the left.  The centre has all its units on the field, but only two of them are fresh.)

(The Pontic centre right has only a bunch of bullied light infantry and some shaky thureophoroi left.)

(But there's no denying that they have a lot of fresh cavalry [and some weird musical instrument by the looks of it]!)

Returning now to the action, we pick things up during the Roman phase of turn four.  With the shouts and trumpetings from the discombobulated left reaching his ears, Sulla personally urges the men forward.  In the face of this assault the Pontic left finds it impossible to resist, and the levy heavy phalanx shatters  As this is the fourth unit to be sent from the field in this fashion the entire Pontic army is now at -1; on a morale roll of one the entire infantry line gives way.  Sulla has done it!

Think of the proscriptions, boys!  

Archelaus, however, is supported by units that are fresh, so the cavalry does not run.

But wait - there are still more...

Archelaus also uses his personal influence, and the men respond.  Two hits are scored in the charge and a veteran legionary unit is shattered.  There is bite in the Pontic canine yet!

Sulla rushes his men over in support, but it takes a turn before they can attack.  In that fateful turn Archelaus strikes again, shattering another legionary unit.

This cannot last forever though, and when on turn six the Romans shatter a fifth unit, the remaining Pontics are carried away in rout and the battle is over.  

Sulla must now count the cost...


Roman victory points:
Units shattered: 26
Units routed: 36
Units withdrawn: 13 
Total: 75.

Pontic victory points:
Units shattered: 22
Units spent: 31
Handicap: 39
Total: 92.

Archelaus has pulled off a game victory.  Mithridates will no doubt take a little poison to celebrate.  

Sulla meantime will let his troops loose on the baggage, give that fool Aaron Murena an earful and brood over his wine.  

Final thoughts.

This was an excellent victory by the Pontics.  With the benefit of hindsight the Romans should probably have kept playing for time with the cavalry on their left wing, but to be fair that's what they thought they were doing - they did not expect to get shattered by light cavalry in just one turn!

Once the Pontic line had routed Murena could also have brought in fresh troops so that they would take the lead position.  Instead he risked attacking with a spent lead unit which resulted in another shatter next turn.  As it turns out this would not have been enough to win the game, but it would have given the Romans a better chance of winning.

The key to this battle is to be found in the third and fourth turns, on which the Pontic infantry managed to score a lot of hits (nine, I think).  That three of these were all-out attacks was not a disadvantage at all: a routed levy unit is worth 3 VPs and a spent veteran unit is worth 4.  When once side has a significant handicap advantage in its favour all-out attacks can be a real bonus.

Anyway, that's enough rambling - to finish, this was yet another very enjoyable game of Lost Battles.  As always, it's great fun solo and after a reasonably stressful few weeks it was good to kick back and relax with a battle.  It was quite nice to revisit this particular scenario as it was the first one I ever played with this system, when Luke first came down here way back in 2005 or 2006.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chaeronea, 86BC.

After a long while without a proper game I decided it was time to get the miniatures out tonight.  I had a hankering for something a bit different, so I looked through the old scenarios from Strategos (the precursor to Lost Battles) and settled on Chaeronea (86BC), in which Sulla took on Archelaus and the pride of Pontus.

The Pontics had a fighting value of 50, made up of the following units:

3 x average phalanx
4 x levy phalanx
2 x levy heavy infantry
4 x levy light infantry
2 x average cavalry, with Archelaus attached to one as an average leader,
2 x levy heavy cavalry
2 x levy light cavalry
1 x scythed chariots

Sulla and his merry men meanwhile had a fighting value of 77, comprised thusly:

13 veteran legion units
1 average light infantry unit
1 average heavy cavalry unit
1 veteran heavy cavalry unit
1 uninspired commander (Murena) and one inspired commander (Sulla himself).

Here are a couple of pictures of the refight.

Gosh, that's a lot of pike, and is that cavalry I see to the left of us?  I wonder what old Marius would make of all this...

A report will follow as time permits.
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