Friday, July 30, 2010

Ancients at Historicon 2010 - Part III

After a frustrating two days of Ancients gaming for me at Historicon 2010, (did I mention that at the Theme I had a total of four generals killed, two in a single melee sequence) I headed into the last day with low expectations.  The Saturday at Historicon is traditionally for Ancients in general, and Field of Glory in particular, the last day of tournament gaming, and it is the occasion of the Open event, where any army from any historical period is allowed to compete - yeah, I know, fantasy for you purists, but fun for me none the less.  Although the day still left me on my quest to become the lowest ranked player in the USA, I left at the end feeling much better about my abilities than I did when the day started.

I played my Catalan Company again for this competition, with a list that I have now settled on as my preference when putting the Almughavars out on the tabletop.  The list I used is:

1xIC, 3xTC
1x6 Greek Archers - LF,Unprotected,Poor,Undrilled,Bow
2x4 Albanians - LH,Unprotected,Average,Undrilled,Javelins,Light Spear, Sword
2x4 Turcomans - LH,Unprotected,Average,Undrilled,Bow,Sword
5x6 Almughavars - MF,Protected,Superior,Drilled,Offensive Spear
1x8 Almughavars - MF,Protected,Superior,Drilled,Offensive Spear
1x4 Cavalls alforrats - Cv,Armored,Superior,Undrilled,Lance,Sword

Intial deployment against the Carthaginians
Carthaginian Flank March Arrives

My first game was against a Later Carthaginian army, where a lot of dense terrain was clogging the table and all the action took place on the terrain heavy side.  In addition, the game was flavored by an early arriving flank march launched by my opponent.  This game ended as essentially a tie.  My opponent's flank march didn't come to much since I was able to divert an unit of Almughavars off to the side to deal with his protected, medium cavalry, but he was able to maneuver it along the side edge of the table to prevent it from being trapped there.  The rest of the battle involved my Almughavars facing some impact foot that I didn't want to take on in difficult terrain, some heavy infantry of his trudging along outside the terrain onto my flank, and some more of the Carthaginian cavalry being pinned by my Almughavars.  My Almughavars defeated the cavalry they actually got a chance to fight, my skirmishers shot up the heavy foot (even thusly breaking an unit), but some of  the Almughavars got beat and disrupted in impact by the Spanish impact foot outside the terrain, thereby loosing their spear POA advantages.  Lesson learned - when facing impact infantry, take the charge with the minimum frontage possible so as to reduce the number of dice your opponent gets to throw against you.

So after being frustrated by terrain and bad impact rolls (along with shifty maneuvering by my opponent), I moved along to my second game of the day against an elephant heavy, Classical Indian army.  This game unfolded unusually for several reasons.  The first was because I actually got a bunch of terrain down not only in areas that would actually help me, but also a nice big piece of difficult terrain in the middle of the battlefield that made it possible to spring an ambush - something that I had yet to do in a Field of Glory game.  In addition, in this game also, my opponent attempted a flank march.  Anyway, the ambush allowed me to deploy further forward than I would have normally been able to do, my opponent's flank march of protected, light spear cavalry was a complete failure that got slaughtered by my Almughavars, and once I was able to contact any of my opponent's bow-armed infantry, they were dead meat against my superior, offensive spear.  In addition, the Indians had difficultly on multiple occasions passing their "anything but a one" death throws with their elephants, causing an autobreak each time they failed. Actually, by the last dice throw of the game, my opponent failed another elephant death throw, resulting in a break result for his entire army, and a very rare 25-0 victory for myself.

Ambush Markers in Plantation Terrain

Almughavar Ambush Revealed

Killing Nellies
My tie in the first game, and my large win in the second game put me in the very rare circumstances for me of playing the last game of the day on the second table.  Although, even if I could have pulled off a win of 25-0 over one of the better players in the country, I would still have had almost no mathematical chance of  actually winning the tournament, but to be so high up had me situated in a position that my nerves weren't prepared to handle.  As a result, I probably played my worst game of the weekend - or possibly exhaustion from playing 9 games in 3 days was setting in - or maybe it was the decision that it had now become late enough in the weekend to not be as concerned with the quantity of personal beer consumption.  In any case, I didn't take advantage of the maneuverability of my Almughavars, I senselessly walked into matchups that I had almost no chance of winning, sent my light cavalry on wild goose chases with no chance of accomplishing anything, and I split up my Almughavars in different directions where they couldn't support each other.  Of all the games I lost all weekend, this is the one I keep kicking myself in the rear end for all the stupid decisions that I made.

Walking Obliviously into Armored Opponents

Getting Slaughtered by Armored Infantry and Chariots

Lancers Salvaging Pride against Chariots
Lessons learned:

Don't fight armored infantry with Almughavars, and if your opponent has them, use your drilled, medium foot speed to redirect your attack at targets that you can fight effectively.

Keep the light cavalry in a position to be supported by the rest of your army - in the Catalan Company, they are there to skirmish and to protect flanks - not to accomplish anything additionally on their own.  Don't get greedy with light horse.

If your skirmishing wing is widely separated from the rest of the army, make sure that there is a general nearby to bolster troops disrupted by your opponent's shooting.

Anyway, I did salvage one shred of self respect by breaking one of my opponent's heavy chariot units with my lancers and a rear charge by the Turcomans, but soon after that my army broke.  All in all, though still a better day for me since my ultimate finish in the open after this catastrophe was 8th place out of 19 players.

So, Historicon was a really great time.  It was nice to see all my Ancients gaming friends again, and it was fun to play three completely different armies over the course of three straight days.  The venue in Valley Forge was more than acceptable also.  As always, the highlight of my wargaming year.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ancients at Historicon 2010 - Part II

Continuing my Historicon Ancients roundup...

Greco-Bactrian Lancers searching for a target
On the second day of Ancients gaming, I played in the 15mm, "Terror of the Steppes" theme event.  Finishing in 18th place out of 20 players, I actually thought about naming this posting "How Not To Play Field of Glory".  My first error was in showing up with an army that I played zero practice games with.  If there is anything that I have learned playing over the last several years, it is that for me, doing that is a recipe for disaster.  The way the theme was organized though, with half the players representing a variety of steppe armies and the remainder doing the same for a selection of civilized armies was an unique tournament organization, and made for a bunch of fun and interesting matchups.  There was supposed to be a campaign map that could be used to track the progress of the campaign, but the organizer who was to bring these materials couldn't make the convention at the last minute due to family obligations.  Regardless, I think that attempts like this that offer something in addition to the standard, open format, line up and kill-the-other army type games, are fantastic for maintaining interest in a gaming system.

The army I played in the theme was Greco-Bactrian, and the list that I used was:

4 x Troop Commanders
2x6 Archers - LF, Unprotected, Average, Undrilled, Bow
1x6 Cretans - LF, Unprotected, Superior, Drilled, Bow
3x4 Bactrian Light Cavalry - LH, Unprotected, Average, Undrilled, Light Spear, Bow
1x4 Saka Cavalry - LH, Unprotected, Average, Undrilled, Bow, Sword
3x8 Phalanx - HF, Protected, Average, Drilled, Pikemen
3x4 Iranian Lancers - Cv, Armored, Superior, Drilled, Lance, Sword
1x4 Greek Lancers - Cv, Armored, Superior, Drilled, Lance, Sword

The Phalanx advances with lancers on the flanks
My thought was to fix an opponent with the phalanx, skirmish, with the LH and LF, and strike with the lancers.  All that is easier to accomplish in theory, I suppose, than actually executing on the tabletop - I had trouble getting the phalanx into range of anything, my lancers kept getting shot up while losing bases, and I still indulged in my typical Ancient gaming flaw of misplaying my skirmishers in such a way as to loose enough of them to end up on the short end point-wise of scores.  My first game was against Mongols, and I forget the specifics, but in general, I made all the above mistakes, loosing even though my army didn't actually break because of getting all my skirmishers into jams that I couldn't extricate them from.

Lancers performing poorly...grrrr!!!
My second game was the most frustrating of any game that I played all weekend.  My opponent played Dominate Romans (on the steppe side since we needed to balance the field out and his army was built more like a steppe army than a traditional Later Imperial Roman army).  I thought that this was a good matchup for me, with plenty of protected, undrilled, lance-armed cavalry as targets for my own armored lancers.  I maneuvered my army in such a way as to get all the matchups I wanted, with my plans all coming off exactly as I wanted.  In most cases, when the climactic battles took place, I even had overlaps and rear support. set up  But everywhere I completely whiffed  on my dice rolls while my opponents scored hits, and of course I always dropped in cohesion while loosing bases to death rolls.  All of the melees I thought were to my advantage turned disastrously against me, and I ended up with my largest margin loss of the day.  I guess that some days the bear just gets you.

Kushan lancers facing pikemen
My last game of the day was again a dignity salvaging event where I got a narrow win against a Kushan army that kept me out of the overall last place position.  I think this game ended with my phalanxes getting into position where the Kushan lancers were forced to charge into them when they failed their "don't make me charge" rolls - and lancers versus pikes is not a good thing for the lancers.

So...even though I didn't play as well as I would have liked, I loved the tournament format and had an overall great time.  I would love to see some more alternate format events like this on the circuit.  For instance, I have heard of other ones like:

"Homage to Ganesh" - where players must bring a legal list with 4 stands minimum of elephants
"Average Joes" - any legal list allowed, but all units can be graded no higher than average.

I think that events like this, along with historical theme events are great for the health of Ancients wargaming.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Ancients at Historicon 2010 - Part I

I recently returned from Historicon 2010, and I found that I really enjoyed the new Valley Forge Convention Center.  The facility itself was a definite upgrade from the Host, with noise-limiting high ceilings, no moldy smells, reasonably clean bathrooms, and food no worse than that served at the Lancaster Host. Yes, the elevators were slow and broken down in the Ramada where I stayed, but my room was more than sufficient for my needs when my primary purpose was to play as many games as possible in the time I spent there.  I also really liked the way most of the gaming, including tournaments and participation games, were all located in one large hall, and that the vendor's hall was located in the same building on a separate floor.  Although  Historicon's move to a new location has been one major imbroglio for the HMGS Board of Directors, I think that they have ultimately settled on a fine new location with a reasonable amount of room for growth.  Good job, I say.

At the Convention, I decided this year that I was going to do all Ancients gaming, all the time, playing in as many tournament games as I possibly could.  I arrived just before noon on Thursday, and almost immediately, even before checking into my room, started to play in the first round of the Field of Glory 650 point mini open tournament.  My plans for my Historicon postings had been to put up detailed After Action Reports of all my games over the weekend, but after playing nine games in three days, everything has become a bit of a blur.  And either my photographic abilities are rapidly degenerating, or my camera isn't operating as well as it used to, because only a few of all the photos I took came out well enough to even consider posting.  So, I'll only post a general description of how each of the tournaments went for me, and wrap up with my thoughts on the health of Ancients gaming in general at the convention.

In the mini, I played below even my normal level of incompetence, finishing 9th out of 12 players.  My first game was against Philistines, a game that I thought was a good matchup for me - armored romans are supposed to cut through those barbarian hordes.  But if I recall correctly, the Philistines were all offensive spear instead of impact foot, so once my Romans lost their impacts, it became an evens-up battle everywhere. I also made the mistake of worrying during deployment too much about chariots (of which my opponent took few), and cooperated in putting down too much terrain onto the table.  Flank charges and numbers eventually got me, although the Romans didn't break and they did score some kills.

The second game was against a Chinese Warring States army.  I found that to be a tough list to go up against, with all the armored medium foot with crossbows in the second rank. Heavy chariots too.  And my opponent was a top player whose play definitely outclasses mine.  To the right, you can see my "heavy" cavalry trying to run away like little girls from all the nasty stuff in the Warring States army

In my last game, I managed to salvage a bit of dignity with a hard fought win over a Dominate Roman army that was not a Morally Bankrupt Swarm, but was cataphract heavy instead. According to recollections, the game was close, but the Romans were able to take out the heavily armed lancers by outnumbering them locally and getting in some flank charges - see photo to the right.

The list that I played was:

Fortified Camp
1xFC, 2xTC
1x6 Archers LF, Unprotected, Average, Undrilled, Bow
2x4 Light Cavalry LH, Unprotected, Average, Undrilled, Javelins, Light spear
5x4 Legionaries HF, Armored, Superior, Impact Foot, Skilled Sword
1x6 Legionaries, HF, Armored, Superior, Impact Foot, Skilled Sword
1x4 Heavy Cavalry Cv, Protected, Superior, Undrilled, Light Spear, Sword

I'm still convinced that this army can work with a bit more practice and concentration during play, and I intend to play again once I get a chance with the full 800 point version.

Although most of the tournaments I've played in are of the full 800 point variety, I must say that I also really enjoy the 650 point minis.  The quicker games are nice, and they make for a nice warm up at the beginning of a convention.  These size games are probably also a good point total for introducing new players to Ancient gaming.

That's it for now.  My next post will cover the "Steppes versus Civilized" theme tournament from the second day of Ancient gaming at Historicon.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Matched Readings and Miscellaneous Figures

Not much time for updates lately, and things have gotten a bit busier on the homefront now that my daughter has gotten a Spanish exchange student staying with us for the summer.  And besides a fast approaching work deadline, I'm busy trying to get a couple of units painted up in time for Historicon. 

I have done a bit of reading though.  The last two books that I finished were the classic, "The Western Way of War", by Victor Davis Hanson, and the newly published "War", by Sebastian Junger.  This made for an especially interesting pair of matched readings.  Hanson's book is just marvelous - I love the "Face of Battle" technique that he uses to try and reconstruct what hoplite warfare was like for the common soldier at the point of the spear, and it makes a very interesting contrast that is still complimentary to the depictions of the tentative nature of Republican Roman combat described by Adrian Goldsworthy in "The Fall of Carthage", and by Philip Sabin in one of his scholastic papers.  I don't have much time to get into this now, but the contrast between hoplite othismos and the interactions of Roman maniples is something I hope to put together for a future posting.

Junger's book is flat out intense, and there is a film documentary entitled "Restrepo" being released soon covering the same material that I'm looking forward to seeing.  It was very eye opening to read about how isolated and intense the combat in Afganistan actually is at the point of contact between the Taliban and elite American units.  The book is non-political, gripping, and fascinating - just a first hand, eye-witness account of men at war.  Reading it right after "The Western Way of War" made me reflect a bit that regardless of how much technology may have changed modern warfare, that for the warrior with a rifle, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Anyway, I do have a couple of pictures of some of my most recently painted units to show.  To the right is an unit of Numidian archers from Corvus Belli.  These will function as the light foot support skirmishers for my Republican Roman army.  Nice figures and commonly available in the USA.  Really easy to paint also.

Also, here is a picture of an unit that I plan to use as Dailami armored medium infantry.  I really want to do a Dailami army in the relatively near future, but I haven't been able to decide on a list that I like yet.  The Dailami and the accompanying Ghilman are so expensive, it is difficult to get more than 11 units in an 800 FoG army, and I don't know how that will play.  Maybe after I use the Republican Romans at Historicon, I'll feel more comfortable with a small unit count army.  These are also Old Glory 15 figures, actually Syrian armored infantry.  I'm not sure that I really like them that much, and I'll probably still be looking for alternatives - maybe Legio Heroica or the new Islamic armored infantry from Mirlition.

Off to Historicon on Thursday, and I should have some AAR's posted soon after of the three tournaments that I plan to play in there.