Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Historical Match ups - Early Byzantine vs. Sassanid

Early Byzantine vs. Sassanid

Despite the 'Eternal Peace' the Byzantine and Sassanid faced off on a number of occasions, Lazica, the Caucusus, Armenia and in Syria. No allies were used in the three matches as these will be used in a later rematch. 

Game 1
The Sassanid denied the Byzantines the use of any advantageous terrain which meant the Sassanid deployed in serried battle array. Leading the assault were the massed levies supported by elephant and as the group made its way forward Asavaran formed up on it flanks.

Poor pip scores plagued the Byzantine that the initiative continually slipped through their grasp. This was a slow meat grinder of a battle dominated by the Sassanid from start to finish. Score 4 – 2 Sassanid.

Game 2
Byzantine deployment was text book work; cavalry battle line with LH extending the formation and infantry held back in support. Psiloi were brigaded together intending to seize the field splitting the Sassanid line.

Infantry support foiled an attempt by nomad light horse to take the Byzantine camp which the main battle line performed a convincing use to text book drill to crush the Sassanid. Score 4 + 2Hd – 1 E. Byzantine.

Game 3
The Byzantine found themselves with their backs to an open plain facing a Sassanid right wing of foot and elephant and a left wing comprising all the Asavaran, cataphract and light horse.

In less than one hour (4 turns) the Sassanid turned the Byzantine world on its head and proceeded to cut the cavalry to pieces. Score 4 – 1 Sassanid.

Both sides had access to allied troops, but none were employed. What did seem unusual was the uncharacteristic performance of the levy. Once committed to combat, they tied down valuable troop types that would have been better employed elsewhere. The Byzantine paid dearly in game three and the Sassanid Asavaran took advantage of their extra number to produce a solid victory. 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Historical match up - Early Byzantine vs. Later Moorish

For all their light horse and infantry lacking armour, the later Moorish proved a tenacious opponent.

Game 1
As the attacker, the Byzantine were able to deny the Africans any advantage of terrain and caught their army on the open plain. All the Byzantine infantry formed on the left taking advantage of the wooded hill and the cavalry deployed in line covering the distance between two hills. A small column was set with the task to encircle the Moorish open left flank.

The Moors launched their own surprise by moving quickly to seize the tip of the wooded hill severing the link between the psiloi and the legion. On the extreme right a small Moorish column brought havoc to the rear of the Byzantine force.

The situation settled down as the Moorish threats were taken out one by one. The flanking column ensured victory and brought a close to the battle. Score 4 – 1, E. Byzantine.

Game 2
The second game offered the Moors a better opportunity to deploy. Set well forward, the infantry took cover among the wood and hills allowing the cavalry to deploy further back. The narrow opening between the two features would hopefully negate the Byzantine advantage of numbers.

Prepared for a flanking attack, the Moorish cavalry countered this and stalled the Byzantine effort to seize the hill.

In the ensuing cavalry clash, the Byzantine Strategos heavily wounded was escorted off the field. This brought both sides to one point from victory, but the East Romans were without a leader. Incensed by the loss of their commander and with a health pip score of ‘six’ the Byzantine were able to secure a victory. Score 4 – 3g,  E. Byzantine.

Game 3
The final game saw all the terrain features placed in two quadrants leaving both cavalry forces an open field to manoeuvre in.  

The Byzantine first line moved well ahead to lure the Moorish light horse to attack. The Moors responded by bringing their infantry down from the hill to pin the infantry support and a lone Moorish light horse hovered on the opposite flank.

The ploy worked and the Byzantine cavalry fell back to a new position while extending their line. The Moors in turn were forced to follow their charge through.

The battle lasted another 30 minutes (2 turns) with the Byzantine cavalry winning the day. Score 4 – 3, E. Byzantine.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Historical Match up - Early Byzantine vs. the Nobades.

This was the second in a series of nine matches. The Nobades are predominately an infantry army with equal numbers of spear and archers supported by cavalry and home terrain being ‘Dry’ afford them an ample selection of rough and bad going terrain.

Game 1
The Nobades deployed first and positioned their infantry spear flanked by archers as their first line. These would be supported by all the mounted which formed the reserve.

The Byzantine faced the Nobades infantry with all its legionnaires and psiloi. With the exception of the Herul all the Byzantine cavalry formed on the left with their main objective would be to envelop the Nobades reserve and by sheer weight of numbers would destroy their mounted arm.  

Paralysed by the impending danger, the Nobades cavalry caught flat footed (low pip score). The Nobades tribesmen surged forward to meet the Byzantine infantry. The Byzantine cavalry changed from column to line formation leaving the Hunnic LH to complete their encircling move.

The battle was brief and hotly contested as both sides reach 4 – 4 score on the same bound. A final effort by the Byzantine cavalry secured the victory by eliminating the Nobades general. Score 6g – 4, E. Byzantine.

Game 2
The second engagement was quite similar in deployment as the previous battle. The Byzantine mobile column performed their task efficiently to secure the victory, again by taking out their general.

The Byzantine infantry added their success to complete the victory. Score 5g – 0, E. Byzantine.

Game 3
The final battle, the Nobades deployment reflected a change in strategy. Taking advantage of a difficult hill to secure their right, the army deployed in echelon with their left refused. The troops so positioned would foil any attempt by the Byzantine to turn an open flank.

Emboldened by their previous victories, the Byzantine modified their plan by placing nearly all their cavalry and infantry on the right and leaving the Herul and Huns to cover the centre and left flank.  

The Nobades were not slow to react as they quickly moved troops to add weight to the endangered left flank.

The Byzantine cavalry struck first shattering infantry formations and their cavalry recoiling under the weight of numbers. The Byzantine infantry joined the battle committing all but the Huns who were lurking about for their moment.  In two bounds, the battle was over. Score 5g – 1, E. Byzantine.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Historical Match-ups - Early Byzantine vs. Nomad Arab.

I have decided to set aside the 'Migration to Kingdom' project for the moment and do a series of historical match ups using the newly completed early Byzantine army. I expect these will require a learning curve as they are predominately cavalry with a small support group of infantry. 

Their opponents will include all those listed for III/4a with the exception of the Southern Slavs, so this will generate nine matches totalling 27 games. 

Early Byzantine vs. Nomad Arab Army.

Game 1
Nomad Arab deployed in the depression between two difficult hills. The Byzantine lines were broken by the rough ground and sand dunes that spotted their deployment area.

Throwing caution to the wind, the Byzantine cavalry struck first followed by the supporting left wing and the infantry. This had the desired effect breaking the nomad line into smaller groups that were easily picked off by supporting troops. Score 5 – 1 E. Byzantine.

Game 2
Both sides made adjustments to their tactical plans. The nomad would adjust the number of terrain items so as to work to their advantage and the Byzantine would use their speed of manoeuvre to encircle the nomad horde.

The Byzantine made use of the rough ground and difficult hill to position their infantry while all the cavalry formed up on the left flank. The nomad concentrated their infantry in centre and positioned their mounted troops evenly on both flanks.

The attempt to hold back the Byzantine encircling manoeuvre failed as the main column slipped between the two active melees. Forming line, the Byzantine cavalry swept the nomad reserve taking out their chieftain. Bereft of their command, the nomad infantry were cut down bringing an end to a hard won battle. Score 4g – 3 E. Byzantine.

Game 3
Neither side were hampered by the rough terrain and deployed in their standard formation; a Byzantine cavalry line supported by infantry facing an Arab infantry centre flanked by two wings of mounted troops.

The battle turned into a brutal slugging match with each side matching the other’s score. The lines became thinner exposing a flank or two and seized as an advantage by the opponent. In four or five turns, the battle was over; Score 4 – 3 Nomad Arab.

Changing the terrain items did help the Arab in games two and three as this placed the sand dunes as a dominant feature on the battlefield. The Byzantine cavalry reigned supreme when they could manoeuvre and utilise their advantage of speed; however, forced into a slugging match they did not always do well. 

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Migration to Kingdom - Improving the Campaign rules.

Moving forward in the timeline, the next campaign will focus on events in Hispania during the years of 409 to 429 AD. From a scenario perspective, the period can be viewed as two parts, the Vandal domination of Hispania followed by the resurgence of the Suevi. This is particularly interesting as the Alan still play a minor role in the events as do the attempts by Rome to regain control of the peninsula.

The game will have players take the Vandal or Suevi tribes and the participation of the Alan and Rome becoming a non-player function with their activation taking place during the card game exchange. This will mean both players will serve a dual role on the game board as players take command of the Alan or Rome forces. 

The immediate problem is how best to compress ten years of conflict into an evening or two as the alternative (ten evenings for each year) is not appealing. This will most likely move through a process of trial and error, but when finalised it will become a nice option for the campaign rule set opening its use for longer conflicts.

Those features developed during the previous campaign will be carried forward; inter-tribal rivalry for both Suevi and Vandal tribes, marauding parties, and plunder. There are a few situations that will need some attention, such as armed resistance by the inhabitants and piratical raids. 

Play testing should begin at the end of next week. 

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Migration to Kingdom – Moving forward.

Looking at events following the crossing of the Pyrenees in 409 AD, each of the migrating tribes (Vandals, Suevi and Alan) sought to claim a portion of Hispania to settle in. What transpired in the next two decades permanently severed Hispania from Rome leaving one of the three migrating nations to dominate the peninsula and one other to depart to the African provinces. Readers interested in this and other developments of the Western Empire I can recommend Ian Hughes’ book Patricians and Emperors; this is a well documented treatment of the era with 25 maps tracing the major turning points in Rome’s final chapter.

The next step in the Migration to Kingdom theme is how best to address the next two decades with its barbarian rivalry and feeble attempts by Rome to restore control over Hispania. I seriously doubt there are many among us who would relish playing the same theme for twenty evenings, so there will be a need to “compress” play into a manageable time frame.

Other aspects such as adding diplomacy, local resistance by the inhabitants, piratical forays and movement across seas will need to be added to the basic rule set to include the modifications made with the last project. 

The map shows the peninsula divided into the five diocese, these will facilitate movement. 

Friday, 20 January 2017

Rome and the Nobades incursion.

During the winter month of January, reports were arriving to the capital of Thebais of marauding bands plundering the small communities along the Nile. The message was passed quickly throughout the province as Rome began preparations to form a punitive expedition. By March, only troops from Arcadia marched through the gates of Ptolemais, so not wishing to delay longer than was necessary the Dux marched his forces south. The mobile column stationed in Aegyptus would meet the main army later {1}.

By April the Nobades were found on the left bank of the Nile (Littoral) deployed between difficult hills and patches of dunes. Despite the Nobades having greater numbers the battle was hard fought and brief; several Roman units were mauled as Nobades foot troops appeared from nowhere (ambush) and despite a small success, the equites sagittarii sacking their camp, the Dux called for a retreat (a Nobades victory, 3 -2) {2} .

Two months were needed to reconstitute the army and proceed with the campaign yet for unexplained reasons the Nobades remained relatively quiet {3}. After a failed attempt to bring the Nobades to battle in June, it was not until the following month that the armies were to meet again.

The battlefield was a wide plain broken up with a few sparse woods and a large difficult hill. The Nobades deployed between the woods showed less cavalry which meant a good number of their mounted force were out foraging (flank march). Anticipating this, the Dux led his troops in echelon with the legions heading the attack supported by the cavalry. Auxilia protected the flanks from possible turning moves and a unit of auxilia were guarding the camp against any threat to it. The battle was hotly contested with both sides losing heavily, but Rome prevailed (4 – 3 victory) {4}.

Rome was literally in hot pursuit of the Nobades (August) and caught up with them near the frontier. Having little time to gather reinforcements, the Nobades were now at a disadvantage regarding troop strength {5}. Moving quickly, the Dux caught the marauders spilling out of their camp (rapid deployment). The engagement that followed did not last long as the Nobades broke and fled leaving the field littered with their dead to include heir warlord (a Roman victory) {6}.

{1} Not present were the equites clibanarii and scutarii, 2 x 4Kn and 1 x 3Cv respectively.
{2} Jan had no shortage of sixes and so used the ambush rule to great effect.
{3} Jan’s good fortune with the die did not extend to the cards; lacking activity points kept him inert.
{4} The flank march arrived on turn three, but their effect was blunted by auxilia troops. In this battle, the equites (LH) used again their multiple move to seal the fate of two Nobades foot.  
{5} With seven elements remaining, the Nobades needed two to break.
{6} The Nobades warlord displayed exceptional prowess by destroying two equites (LH) in the second battle but met his demise under the sword strokes of two units of legionnaire. As the Nobades are well known for their inter-tribal rivalry Rome can expect another incursion in two or three years.  

This was a quite a hard fought campaign which saw three battles and eight months of campaign play finished in less than 2 ½ hours. The campaign system was a new experience for Jan in which he used the stratagems to good effect.

We did not use the grouping of clans as this would have slowed the game as two of the three battles were long affairs lasting more than six turns. For this campaign a simple die cast was used to determine which terrain type would be used for battle, arable, littoral, hilly or dry.

Plunder (Draft):  Each new province in which the marauders remain uncontested would be deemed plundered. A counter would be placed in that province and at the end of the campaign, the number of counters would be debited from the defender’s total. During battle, spoils would become part of a comp’s content and could be recovered; this would remove the counter for that province.