Westbury Wars 2018
For the first 25mm competition of the year I dusted off some veteran hoplites and fielded a Later Hoplite Greek army – Spartans, early 4th century AD so with Reg Ps(S) peltasts. Two commands each had 8 Sp(S) and 6 Sp(O), and the third had only 6 Spear plus 3 Cv(O) and 3 LH(O). Each command had 9 Psiloi of varying quality. I named the C-in-C Lysander.
The first opponent was Gavin Pearson’s spectacularly-painted Later Mycenean army – lots of Cv(O) “heroic charioteers”, each element labelled with the name of a Homeric hero, Sp(I) followers, Nestor’s Kn(F) chariots and Pk(X), numerous psiloi (many of them Inferior), and Achilles’ Wb(S) Myrmidons. I defended and placed steep hills, all of which landed on the far side of the table; Gavin attempted to place some more which wouldn’t fit. So, in the open against a more mobile enemy and nowhere for my psiloi to hide. My small mounted arm was overwhelmed by Nestor’s chariots (they and their supporting psiloi did kill a couple of the Kn(F), though), and when the Myrmidons finally charged against my hoplites they swept all before them. 0-10 defeat in a quick game.
The Spartans face their Mycenean ancestors
Against Pete Howland’s Early Carthaginians I had much better luck. Steep hills gave me a good defensive position with attacking possibilities too, and I was able to secure the heights with Ps(S) peltasts. The main clash came between Spartan Sp(S), with Sp(O) in reserve to plug any holes, and assorted Carthaginian spear with their few Kn(O) chariots. The Sp(S) Sacred Band held up against the Spartans but the chariots failed dismally and died, while peltasts made short work of Ps(I) javelinmen and more hoplites slew Sp(I) for a 10-0 win.
Then I faced John Mee’s Seleucids – again with plenty of steep hills. I set up the hoplites in defiles and awaited attack which duly came – the fearsome Pk(S) Argyraspids and their accompanying Pk(O) phalangites crashed into my spear line. On one flank the two Seleucid elephants strayed too close to a steep hill and were attacked by my psiloi; one died and the other hastily retreated. My peltasts defeated enemy psiloi and a few auxilia, breaking the flank command. In the centre the pikes drove my hoplites back but failed to kill any, then I managed to work the flanks and pikemen started dying. The phalanx gradually crumbled for a 10-0 win.
The Seleucid phalanx in action against Jeremy’s Armagnacs
This brought me up against Jeremy Morgan’s Armagnacs – lots of knights, almost all dismounted as Superior Blades, a few longbowmen, Ax(X) brigans and a handful of psiloi. The knights who remained mounted were two wedges of double-based Kn(I). I defended with the usual steep hills, and refused my left which was held by psiloi and a few hoplites. Nothing much happened on the right, where psiloi on steep hills negated each other. On the left Jeremy expended many PIPs on marching Bd(S) around my flank, where they eventually attacked hoplites with little success, and attacked the hinge of my position with brigans and a few longbowmen. My peltasts fought back valiantly and inflicted casualties, but were eventually overwhelmed leaving the flank of my hoplite phalanx exposed. The hoplites were heavily engaged against Bd(S), with light casualties, but the exposed flank was decisive and my left-flank command broke. The other commands were in little danger, but Jeremy saw an opportunity when Lysander slew a Bd(S) element and broke through the line. A double-based Kn(I) general attacked Lysander and bounced off, then charged again and died! I had an opportunity to break that command but failed, so the game ended at 4-6.
Gavin won the competition with 31 points, from Tim Myall’s Middle Imperial Romans in second place, and I finished fourth. Russ King won the coveted “Dead Hero” prize.
Venta Silurum 2018
Into Wales for Paul Apreda’s doubles competition, in glorious summery weather, with 18 players (three more than last year) making up 12 “teams” with some playing solo. Paul had stipulated that all armies must be dated BC, and Russ and I went for Early Imperial Romans – Drusus Germanicus the elder in Germany. Three Roman commands with their usual troops (no Fast Artillery at this date, unfortunately, but we had a stone-thrower and a couple of bolt-shooters), plus a German ally with 16 warband (front rank Superior, others Ordinary), two cavalry and a few Inferior Psiloi.
First up was David Sheppard with a Magnesia-type Seleucid army bristling with formidable troops. The Seleucids refused their right, where we couldn’t get to grips effectively, and attacked our right and centre. The action was short and sharp; our German allies (who were reliable in every game) went for the pikes in the centre and slew four elements while losing two themselves. Then the German Cv(O) general had a nasty accident against a Fast Knight and died… 4 or better needed on the next German PIP die and we didn’t get it, so the allies fled. Our C-in-C’s command on the right came under heavy pressure from two enemy commands, three Superior Elephants making their presence felt, and a trickle of casualties broke that command and our army. 0-10 defeat.
Pharaoh Martin Golay was next, with a Rameses III Egyptian army. Lots of Bw(I) archers and Bd(O) swordsmen, two lots of Cv(S) chariots, and a command with Libyan Fast Warbands plus a few Sherden Fast Blades. We invaded, and deployed our Germans against the Nile on our right facing the irregular infantry. The Germans made short work of the Libyans and Sherden, then captured the Egyptian village and started looting the baggage. Elsewhere legionaries fought indecisively against Egyptian heavy infantry, but Roman cavalry on the far left gloriously defeated chariots. Egyptian losses eventually mounted to half their army for a 10-0 win.
The third game was against Duncan Thompson with Late Carthaginians, including maximum cavalry, a large mass of Gallic Ordinary Warband and a Numidian ally. The main action was in the centre, where our Germans were attacked by Carthaginian cavalry and the Gauls charged into an area of rough going held by our Superior Auxilia. The first combat round was disastrous – we lost six warband elements against the cavalry, leaving the Germans half an element from breaking and the remaining warband in a precarious position. The Libyan spearmen, who’d been hanging back for fear of the warband, doubled forward to help exploit the expected gap once the Germans broke. But the Germans rallied, took no further losses and drove the cavalry back, killing them and taking out some spears at the same time. A Roman bow element struck the decisive blow, charging into the flank of a Numidian LH and backing it into the Carthaginian general. The Carthaginian cavalry/spear command broke. Meanwhile the Roman auxilia defeated the Gallic Wb(O) in rough going, eventually breaking that command too. 10-0 win.
Then another Egyptian army commanded by Andy and John Brooker – almost the same as Martin’s Egyptians but with Fast instead of Ordinary Blades. This was a very hard fight. We again put our Germans against the Nile, this time on our left, where they faced an all-arms command. The Egyptians moved chariots to protect their infantry and defeated the Germans, though with heavy losses (including a chariot, an auxilia and a psiloi shot by the few Roman bowmen). The Egyptian command on that flank was close to going but we couldn’t get in position to finish it off. In the centre our legionaries and auxilia beat the Fast Warband with small loss, breaking a command. On the right legionaries and auxilia (some of them, facing massed bowmen, were dismounted cavalry) fought a gruelling battle against chariots and swordsmen, inflicting losses but suffering a trickle of casualties. In the last combat of the last bound an overlapped chariot scored a 6-1 as the only result which would kill the last element they needed to break our command. Despite two commands having gone, our losses were just less than half our army so the game timed out at 4-6.
The Brookers’ 6 points were just enough for them to win the competition – congratulations to them. All our games were hard-fought and enjoyable, and surprisingly our 24 points earned us third place.
Fall of Assyria, February 2018
The sixteenth of my themed competitions attracted a record 20 players and there was a real buzz in the hall at Frome.
Heavy concentration on Sunday morning!
Despite the handicapping army-choosing system, the top three were the same players as last year, though in a different order. With most armies featuring colourful four-horse chariots the games made a fine sight, but the leading armies all relied on large numbers of spearmen. Nick Coles’s Ionian Greek hoplites proved the superiority of the latest military style by beating all comers after an opening draw against their Lydian neighbours.
Babylonian chariots, on the right, broken up by Phoenician archery
For a change I played a couple of games rather than just watching and umpiring. Paul Apreda had an important business appointment for the Saturday night, so I stood in for him for the second and third games, using his Kyrenean Greek army with plenty of hoplites and a large Libyan ally mainly of Superior Horde spearmen. Against Andy Down’s Lydians the hoplites decisively beat the Fast Knight lancers, after a shaky start, and defeated the Lydian Inferior Spears. Then the Libyans came into their own against Pete Connew’s Phoenicians: the Hordes absorbed a small force of Kn(O) chariots, shrugging off their losses, while hoplites defeated Auxilia and Inferior Spears. An enjoyable couple of wins!
Ken Cooper manoeuvres his troops against Jeremy Morgan
Vast numbers of horse-archers as the Skythians take on their Kimmerian cousins
Assyria definitely fell: both Later Sargonid armies scored zero points on the Sunday and finished 13th and 20th out of 20.
For the first round of the 2018 doubles Russ and I took Middle Imperial Romans again, with a rather different mix from last year – no Praetorians. Two large Roman commands each had legionaries, auxilia, supporting psiloi, artillery and a few mounted, a smaller command had cavalry, cataphracts, light horse and psiloi, and an Arab ally had 5 light horse and 5 camels. We defended in all four games.
We started against Duncan Thompson’s T’ang Chinese: lots of Superior Cavalry and various light horse in two commands, a large infantry command mainly of Inferior Spears, and a Hsi ally with a couple of cavalry and lots of LH(F) horse-archers. The Chinese deployed with the spears as a refused right flank and cavalry on their centre and left, while the Hsi flank-marched on our right. Our legionaries were in the centre, with the mounted command on the left and the Arabs on the right. Our plan of launching the camels at the light horse and cavalry facing them was frustrated by our first PIP dice – the Arabs were unreliable, and remained so until the Hsi turned up and attacked them in the flank. The Arabs made short work of the horse-archers and the Hsi command soon broke. Our legionaries found the going hard against the Cv(S), with losses on both sides, but the victorious Arabs and some Roman cavalry caught and killed enough light horse to break a Chinese command for a 10-0 win.
Next we played Nick Coles and Paul Apreda with Nick’s favourite Spartan army – a good choice in a competition which turned out to have no warband. They placed a waterway with a couple of galleys, which were a great nuisance to the mounted command on our left, and advanced determinedly against our legionaries with four blocks of hoplites, two of them Sp(S), one of Reg Sp(O) and one of Irr Sp(O) in a Thessalian allied command. Again the Arabs were unreliable, and again they came on line only when attacked, by the Thessalian hoplites who pursued into contact after recoiling legionaries. By the waterway our mounted delayed the Spartans and the cataphracts charged, riding down two Sp(S) and having a good crack at the Spartan C-in-C. Unfortunately this failed and the hoplites managed to kill enough to break our small command. Elsewhere the Sp(O) proved much less formidable and our legionaries came close to breaking a command, but the game timed out at 4-6.
Dave Madigan and Chris Smith’s Burmese looked formidable, with 10 Superior Elephants and good supporting troops including Regular Blades swordsmen and archers, plus a Yuan Chinese ally whose Cv(S) proved tough opponents. We played on a bare plain, all the terrain landing in a far corner. Our mounted command on the far left faced a row of elephants and spent the game retreating, while the Arabs on the right tried to get at the Chinese cavalry but were badly shot up by a few Chinese archers – two camels died with the first two shots. However, our artillery destroyed three elephants and a Bd(F), taking the sting out of the main Burmese attack in the centre. The Arabs were quickly driven back and a series of combats between Chinese cavalry and psiloi-supported legionaries and auxilia was indecisive. A fourth elephant died, but the game timed out at 4-6 (no commands broken, but the Arabs had lost a quarter of their strength).
Going into the last round, any of six teams could win the competition. Dave and Chris led with 20 points, we and John Vaughan had 18 each, Nick and Paul had 17 and Jeremy and Richard were on 15 as was David Sheppard. We played John Vaughan’s Alexandrian Macedonians in a classic game of ebb and flow. The terrain favoured us, with a useful steep hill on our left and a large area of rough going in the centre. We manned the hill with legionaries and the rough going with all our auxilia. There was more rough going on our right, perfect for the Arabs’ camels; our mounted command was on the far left.
Again the mounted command was faced with unpalatable opponents in the form of a massive two-command pike phalanx which it could only delay. By the end of the game the pikemen had started forcing cavalry to flee and was about to chase light horse off the table. The main action was on our right and in the centre. On the right the Arabs faced Ps(S), cavalry and light horse; they killed some psiloi but lost two light horse against the cavalry. Our C-in-C rode over to help and, owing to carelessness on my part, John was able to back a LH into him. The combat was 2 v 2 and John won the dice… the Roman C-in-C died, but his command held. Then, after similar carelessness on John’s part, his Cv(O) general was attacked by our LH(O) Arab general with an overlap and no recoil – this time he won the dice 6-1 and the Arab general died. The Arab command broke. A demoralised camel managed to sandwich and destroy a Cv(I) which had rashly pursued into rough going, but it looked to be only a question of time before the Macedonian cavalry nibbled away the nearly-immobile legionaries of our C-in-C’s command.
Pictures courtesy of John Vaughan. Top: the Macedonian psiloi and cavalry face the Arabs. Middle: the Macedonian phalanx advances against the Roman mounted command. Bottom: the clash of auxilia is about to start.
This Macedonian command included a force of Thracian auxilia which attacked into the central rough going, together with the Ax(S) Hypaspists. Our auxilia beat them in a prolonged series of combats, aided by some psiloi who beat off and then destroyed a LH(S) element. Four Thracian elements died, breaking that command and relieving the pressure on our legionaries. Then the Hypaspists started dying too and a second Macedonian command went down – to our surprise that made half the Macedonian army so we won 9-1.
Top: the Arab general makes his doomed attack on the apparently trapped Macedonian general. Middle: the auxilia fight is decided in favour of the Romans. Bottom: the Macedonians try to roll up the Roman C-in-C’s legion before their centre collapses.
The other results went our way so our 27 points were just enough to win the competition. A good start to the wargaming year, and a series of excellent and sporting games.