Sunday, March 14, 2010

Syrian States - Humdrum at Cold Wars

Although I had a great time at the Cold Wars Field of Glory Armored Knights theme tournament, my performance with the Syrian States was at best mediocre.  Below is the actual list and order of march that I used:

4 stands Turcomans LH Unprotected, Average, Undrilled, Bow, Sword
4 stands Turcomans LH Unprotected, Average, Undrilled, Bow, Sword
4 stands Bedouin LH Unprotected, Average, Undrilled, Lance, Sword
4 stands Turcomans LH Unprotected, Average, Undrilled, Bow, Sword
4 stands Turcomans LH Unprotected, Average, Undrilled, Bow, Sword
4 stands Bedouin LH Unprotected, Average, Undrilled, Lance, Sword
4 stands Ghilman CV Armored, Superior, Drilled, Bow, Sword
4 stands Ghilman CV Armored, Superior, Drilled, Bow, Sword
4 stands Ghilman CV Armored, Superior, Drilled, Bow, Sword
4 stands Lancers CV, Armored, Superior, Undrilled, Lance, Sword
4 stands Lancers CV, Armored, Superior, Undrilled, Lance, Sword
4 stands Lancers CV, Armored, Superior, Undrilled, Lance, Sword
1 Field Commander
3 Troops Commanders

The theme did not allow for any heavily armored knights.  My thought was to use the Turcomans to protect flanks while shooting at targets of opportunity, the Bedouin to run down light foot, the Ghilman to shoot and scoot against knights, and the lancers as a strike force.  I didn't consider the list optimized primarily since the three lancer cavalry units probably tied up too many points in counterattacking undrilled troops who would find it more difficult to position themselves for flank charges, and I thought the Bedouin light horse lancers, although characterful, wouldn't prove especially useful.  But rather than transferring the points to take more Ghilman and Turcomans (thereby building what would be really only another shooty horse army very similar to all the other ones out there), I thought it would be more fun to play with a force structure more representative of the historical Syrian States armies of the Crusader era in the Middle East - and in that case I just had to add in the cavalry and light horse lancers.

My first game was against Anglo-Normans, skillfully played by my opponent who surprised me by not only bringing the prerequisite offensive spear and medium foot archers, but also a Welsh ally armed with medium foot longbows.  Ouch!  I didn't realized that there was an army with longbows allowed in the theme.  Not the kind of battle groups that my completely mounted force was thrilled to face.  I was forced to keep running away from bad matchups, and when I finally found an opportunity to get a lancer charge into an unit of unprotected medium longbow, standing in the open, without taking any shooting damage on the way in, they whiffed completely, disrupted, lost a stand in melee, and then broke off in the joint action phase.  In the following turn, my opponent shot them to fragmented, and then in his next turn, broke them with yet another round of shooting.  And that was it - 2 attrition points lost by me and none by my opponent, resulting in a losing draw, 11.7 to 8.3.  The picture to the right shows my initial deployment with the light horse concentrated on the right ,and the Ghilman and Lancers on the left.  Note that my opponent, winning the initiative, was able to position protecting terrain on both his flanks.

My second game was against Feudal Scots - yet another wall of spear, but this time my opponent had very little missile capability, allowing me to use "shoot and scoot" tactics.  Most of my opponents miniatures were manufactured by Thistle and Rose, and were very characterful.  Too bad this manufacturer is now out of business, and it looks like the only place you can get these wonderful figures is at flea markets, or possibly EBay.  I would love to see this line get revived.  To the right is an image of one of the Thistle and Rose Dark Ages infantry units opposing me.



The Scots did deploy in what was essentially a shield wall, trapping their knights to the rear for most of the game, allowing my ghilman to ride up, stand out of  heavy foot charge range, and keep shooting into the ranks of the shield wall.









My opponent kept passing his cohesion tests, so my shooting had little effect on his large, 10 stand spear units, but this face-off at least kept the initiative on my side.  Fortunately for me, on one wing, the Turcomans and Bedouin were having much greater success against the Scottish Highlander ally and a couple of light foot archer units.  The Bedouin chased the light foot into some rough terrain, eventually killing both units, while the Turcomans shot one unit of Highlanders to broken while fragmenting another.



I did lose a unit of lancers to the Scottish knights when I got stuck in a fight I didn't want to have, but the Ghilman in the photo to the right, who were disrupted after being caught in the rear by a long rolling offensive spear charge, were able to break off and get away.  Once time got called, it resulted in a 15-5 winning draw in favor of the Syrians.





The third and last game was the worst performance of the day by the Syrians.  This time I actually did come up against the kind of army I had expected to face - Later Crusaders, with multiple units of superior, armored knights, but also with a Syrian ally.  I did line up my Ghilman in single line (to enable evades) opposite the wall of knights, and my light horse supported by a lancer unit against his flank protecting Syrian ally.




On my right flank, I was able to catch an unit of my opponent's Ghilman with my lancers, and I also forced it to fight in two directions by charging in with my Bedouin - but all to no avail.  The lancers got no hits, disrupted, and lost a stand while the attached general was killed!  Everyone seeing the general die either broke or fragmented, depriving me of a third of my army in a single combat resolution, and completely opening one of my flanks.  For the rest of the game, I was forced to shoot and evade with my remaining Ghilman until eventually being pushed to the rear table edge - I just couldn't get enough hits on his knights who were supported by an inspired commander anti-missile force field.  I was eventually able to get a flank charge in with lancers on a knight unit that was eventually broken, salvaging a shred of self-respect, but my army finally fled the field after a last desperate attempt to stand with the Ghilman against the knights at the end of the table.  Final score was an 18.3 to 6.7 point Later Crusader victory.

I've got no real regrets - the Syrian States were a lot of fun to play, and for a change of pace, I got some experience using a completely mounted army.  With a total score of 30 points, I think I finished in the lower end of the middle pack in a field of 16 players, but I would just love a chance to re-fight that last battle where my lancers and general died so early, suddenly, and unexpectedly on me.  Overall, the biggest lesson learned of the day for me was from the first game - and that is, don't underestimate the power of medium foot missile troops - even if unprotected.

I wish that I could have stayed for the Cold Wars double tournament - hopefully I can do that next year.

The next Ancients gaming for me will be at the HAVOC convention up in Massachusetts in two weeks time.  On the Saturday there, I will be playing Catalan Company in the Field of Glory open tournament, and the next day, I will be using Republican Romans in a Warhammer Ancient Battles two round tournament.

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