Tuesday 28 December 2021

A little bit of Christmas and New Year holidays reading

I’ve been almost buried in books this Christmas, with no less than fifteen new titles (ten from Helion) arriving on my doormat or down the chimney. Where to start?

The last two are to help me with my 2022 mini project. I hope everyone had a few nice surprises under the tree this year and that the holidays can be used for what holidays are meant for ie painting (lots) more little men!

Tuesday 21 December 2021

The last game before Christmas - Huns v Late Romans

Readers will hopefully be aware of the Late Roman-set campaign I’m running here at the Burrow. Well, as previewed Here, last Saturday saw the final game played at the Burrow before Christmas, and what a game. The army of Titarse Jarminicus (Dave) had been marching west towards Barborum Castra, home of the Visigoths (Neil), when they were ambushed by the Huns of King Uiskabar (Conrad). The Romans were lucky and sprang the ambush early, so were at least not caught in march formation and had managed to form a square as the Huns were going to enter the table from all sides.

I’d rehearsed aspects of this game to make sure that it was going to work, and work it certainly did. I think everyone thought it’d be a less interesting game due to the scenario but it quickly became a really tense and gripping battle from which victors and the defeated emerged a little more knackered than normal. Based on my rehearsal I had a good idea what tactics should and should not be followed by each side. For once I was right, but wait until the end to find out how.

Rulesmeister Neil and Paul assisted Dave while John and Richard joined Conrad. We used Sword and Spear as ever. There were around 10 percent more Huns than Romans in terms of the campaign army points system but that sort of advantage is pretty insignificant really. The Romans and some of the Huns and all the Gepids were mine, while Conrad's Asiatic Hoard were the rest of the Huns. 

The Roman plan was to try and move the army off the table without damaging the integrity of the square too much, while the cavalry cleared the way ahead of it. Far be it from me to intervene but within the context of the campaign, the army was stuck in the middle of nowhere surrounded by Huns, so moving off the table would not be the ‘win’ that a stand-alone game might have produced. I wasn’t joking when I said I’d just pull the cloth along if necessary. Thankfully (?) it wasn’t necessary. The Huns planned to isolate and destroy the Roman cavalry while subjecting the infantry to an arrow storm to weaken them before charging in to administer the coup de grace with the Hun and Gepid heavy cavalry.

So, on to the battle. As usual there now follows an avalanche of photographs, mostly I hope in the correct order, depicting the course of the game. Hopefully the narrative that accompanies them makes some sense of it all.

The players. Huns on the left, Romans on the right. For reference purposes, the garden end, farthest away from the camera, is west.
The Roman army ready to combat the Huns.

At the head of the column/square the Roman cavalry of Captain Cato advanced rapidly to engage the Hun cavalry under their captain Balamber. The Roman main body can be seen beyond the cavalry; already there are gaps appearing in the square.

The Roman cavalry made short work of the Huns blocking the advance of their army, quickly driving off or destroying the whole command, including their captain. Sadly in the course of this fight the Roman cavalry were seriously weakened and soon after were forced to flee the battlefield.
The Romans again. I was worried (ok not actually worried but I was aware of their frailty) about the auxiliary archers posted in between the legions.
Esme taking up position with the Gepids.
The main body of the Romans, together with their baggage and livestock, my famous sheep actually having a meaningful role for a change.
Early in the battle Hun cavalry exploiting the weakness of one of the Roman auxiliary archer units on the southern side of the square.

The archers are broken leaving a large gap in the square. Thankfully the cataphracts are there for just that situation.
The integrity of the square has been lost.

The narrative may now become a little hard to follow as I was so engrossed at my end of the table that I don't actually recall what was going on at the other. Some of the photos from here on are out of order but I think without spoiling the account of the game.....

Burnt out Roman farm. Warbases, with proper terracotta roofing added. You can't see from here but I'd printed out some Roman mosaic floor tile designs and a couple of frescos, which have been stuck on the floors and some of the interior walls.

As the square moved large gaps opened up in the sides.

John's command pinned the south east corner of the square.
Huns trying to exploit a gap in the square. They were held by the cataphracts.

....while Richard's Gepids hit a Legio in the flank on the north east corner.

Fleeing Roman legion from the rear of the square.

The southeast corner of the square held on grimly but was doomed.

One of the cataphractoi units was attacked by Gepid heavy cavalry  and Hun light cavalry. Already damaged, the cataphractoi were broken. the Gepids followed up into the legion that can be seen to the right. They failed their discipline test for seeing a friend rout then threw rubbish dice in the melee and were broken. To add insult to injury, the Roman captain attached to them was killed, leaving the central division of the square leaderless.

Over on the north west side of the square, the Huns can be seen closing in on the remains of the central division, who are by now getting close to being demoralised. Titarse can be seen rallying his troops, exhorting them to stand and fight.
The Roman vanguard has turned half-heartedly and too late to try and lend support to the disintegrating remains of the main army.
The remains of the centre are attacked by Hun heavy cavalry, but they stand their ground.

The vanguard thinks better of trying to save the day and marches away from the slaughter.

The end of the rearguard is close.

Titarse abandoned the rearguard to join the main body.

Confusion around the baggage train.

Looking east towards the Roman rearguard in the distance.

The second cataphract unit was finally overwhelmed and broken.
The last legion of the rearguard about to be overwhelmed.
The same combat from a different angle.

Hun light cavalry about to pounce on the Roman baggage train IF they win the initiative and get some decent activation dice. 

The Huns won the initiative and also had better activation dice so were able to attack and destroy the Roman baggage before the Legio to their flank could intervene.

The Huns evaded the Roman charge but the baggage was already lost for the Romans. In some small way  the Romans were compensated as the evading Huns failed their DT (discipline test) so took another hit that broke them. This had the knock on effect of causing DTs in the rest of their command.

The Roman baggage guard turn to face the Huns rushing down the table towards them. Titarse can be seen rallying his men and sheep after the death of their captain.

The last units of the central division attempt t hold back the Hun onslaught.

These are the kind of dice scores that saw the end of the rearguard. 

Pretty much the end of the battle. The cataphracts have broken and the Gepids pursued into the isolated legion and smashed it in one round of melee.

We had to stop at 4:00pm on Saturday but as the game was very much in the balance I carried on with extra time on Sunday, assisted by my daughter who kept an eye on the dice rolling. Four or five moves later and it was all over. The Roman rearguard had been overrun, its commander fleeing with the survivors, the cataphracts and another legion from the main body were overwhelmed by weight of numbers loosing their captain in the process and causing that command to disintegrate. The Roman cavalry had already been killed or driven off, the supply train was captured and the by now very demoralised vanguard was left isolated in the middle of nowhere with no supplies and no hope of getting away from the Huns. I discussed the possible options with Dave and we agreed that the surviving Romans would be unable to escape and would undoubtedly be slaughtered by the Huns. Titarse Jarmanicus dashed off a couple of quick messages then, Patrician that he was, took a large swig of Hemlock XXX Brew and bowed out very dead. 

The Roman mistake was to forget that the world did not end at the table edge in terms of the campaign, and rather than trying to escape they ought to have held where they were and slugged it out with the Huns. The Hun archery was never especially effective and the integral archers within each of Dave’s legions gave him an advantage in shooting, it being far easier for the Romans to kill a Hun than a Hun kill and armoured Roman. That said the Huns were slow to get stuck in with their forces in the eastern quadrant but when they did it made a big impact and contributed to the annihilation of the rearguard and cataphracts. I don't think the Romans were on a hiding to nothing but we shall never know as they made their plans and stuck to them.....to the end.

Thanks to everyone for playing with such enthusiasm and gentlemanly manners throughout. One or two times the tension bubbled to the top but only briefly and light heartedly. I feel bad for Dave having his army annihilated but the whole scenario and events leading up to the game were guaranteed to give a cracking game.

No more games now until at least after Christmas. We do have another battle to fight in the campaign but I want to do something else before playing that one.