Sunday, February 14, 2010

Retrospective: 17 July 2009 Historicon WAB Medievals (Game 3)

Opponent: John Eiche (Imperial Ottomans). Sardonic and delightfully sly, John had seen some of what had happened to his son Tom’s army in the previous game, had heard even more details about the wrath of the Burgundian gunline, and was confident that nothing similar would happen to his elite janissary corps, consisting of the crème de la crème of the Ottoman Turkish military. That said, it’s difficult to see what the Burgundians and Ottomans would be doing facing each other on the field of battle. It’s a bit anachronistic given the fact that the Burgundian military reforms that my army is based on, all happened after the major European Crusades against the Turks, and shortly afterward Burgundy ceased to exist anyway – but anachronism is the name of the game in WAB, so full steam ahead!

Army: (2250 pts)
  • 1x10 Drilled Medium Cavalry (plus General, ASB, and Meterhane)
  • 1x10 Allied Knights (with Lances, Full Plate, and First Charge)
  • 1x8 Drilled Medium Cavalry
  • 1x8 Medium Cavalry
  • 1x8 Light Cavalry (Nomadic Bowmen)
  • 1x10 Janissary Infantry Halberds
  • 1x24 Janissary Bowmen
  • 1x10 Janissary Handgunners
  • 2x Light Artillery and crew
Mission: “Pitched Battle” – standard 12” deployment zones, with two variations. First, both sides deploy in secret, setting up all forces with a screen dividing the table. Second, both sides may deploy all the way to either short table edge, given the larger point values being fielded. Table quarters do not count for VP purposes.

Terrain: The table was essentially wide open, with just a small field of crops and a nearby grain silo in the middle of the table (on my right flank), and a farmhouse and attached hedgerows in my deployment zone, toward my left flank.

What happened?
Expecting John to have a rather conservative deployment, with infantry in the center, cavalry in the wings, and spread across most of the table, I decided to try a heavy flank set-up on my side. I put my three light artillery in and around the farmhouse, and anchored my lines with my Pikemen and General, just to the right of the farmhouse, with a screen of skirmishing archers in front. I crammed two units of “shooty”, backed by Knights, in the twelve inches to the left of the farmhouse, and packed the remaining three units of “shooty”, backed by Knights, Light Cavalry, and a Multi-Barrel, to the right. My entire deployment took up only half of my entire available frontage on the tabletop, with my General and ASB positioned to grant leadership bonuses to all but one formed unit of shooty, and with decent LOS and inter-unit support to the left flank, and **spectacular** LOS and inter-unit support to the center and right flanks.

As I had anticipated, John had a far more conventional deployment, with his two artillery pieces in his center, with his janissary infantry spread to both sides. He did have a somewhat unweighted deployment by putting all his medium cavalry on his left flank (my right flank), and his allied Knights and nomadic cavalry on his right flank (my left, facing my entire army), but his General and ASB were on the far flank, well out of support range of the rest of his forces. This meant that, at the start of the game, two of his MedCav units, including the one with his three characters, were entirely out of position and unlikely to do much for a few turns at least.

I put my deployment to good use, and marched out with both units of cavalry on my right flank in a very aggressive fashion. I destroyed two units of Ottoman cavalry on my first turn of shooting (the Light Cavalry directly across from me, and the Medium Cavalry closest to my lines), sent the surviving crews of both Turkish artillery pieces scurrying for safety, and had so much firepower left that I was able to badly hurt the other two units of Medium Cavalry with long-range cannon fire, as well. I followed up by blowing away another unit of Medium Cavalry in turn two, and baiting the last unit of Medium Cavalry (now badly damaged) into charging my unit of Knights, who simply counter-charged and wiped out the last of the Ottoman cavalry, killing the General, ASB, and Meterhane in the process.

The Janissaries proved how l33t they were by refusing to fail the subsequent “Ohmygodthegeneralisdead!!!11!!11!” tests, but it was still a bad turn of events for the Turks. Yet even had I lost that combat, the victorious Ottoman characters would have ended up in full view of no less than three units of my “shootiness”, backed up by artillery – and very likely would have been dead from shooting half a turn later. All in all, a very bad set of potential outcomes for the Ottomans.

At any rate, by the start of Turn 3, John had just one unit of cavalry left: his allied Knights. He also had a lot of Janissary guns and bows that were doing very little to my shooting units (between the Pavises and skirmishing), and who didn’t have range or LOS to my Knights, and no cannons left to threaten me with. The next four turns were fairly anticlimactic, as I became a great deal more cautious, but with a unit of my Knights rampaging around his backfield, things went very badly for the Ottomans. The only bright spot for the beleaguered Turks was when John’s badly shot-up allied Knights managed to win combat against my charging Gendarmes (my WS5 Knights!) and chased them off the table.

But that was the sole bright spot, as only three of John’s allied Knights survived the battle, and largely by virtue of being off the table for a turn – literally every other model in the Turkish army was lost. By contrast, the Burgundians lost two units to Ottoman shooting (Archers and Gunners), three artillery pieces to misfires, and the Gendarmes Knights to bad fortune. Final score: 2165 Burgundy, and 835 Ottomans.

Turning the Tables
The battle was basically decided during the deployment phase. John chose to spread out far too much, and by doing so, conceded the initiative to his opponent. He put his leadership-bonus-granting models well out of range of the rest of his army at the start of the game, and had a very “thin” center that was not well suited to rapid redeployments or supporting elements that were in danger of being overwhelmed.

By contrast, my deployment was a bit of a gamble, but its only glaring weakness would have been in the face of a heavy right-flank deployment by John, which might have overwhelmed my under-supported left flank if (a) John had moved first, and (b) I had a turn of bad shooting trying to stop him.

John also was fielding an army filled with elite (= expensive) units, between his two units of Drilled Janissary Med Cav, and his three units of Janissary infantry. Spreading out such an elite force across the tabletop simply ensured that they would be overwhelmed at whatever point I chose to concentrate – and indeed, most opponents would probably have been able to outnumber the individual Janissaries units, as spread out as they were. Clustering up a bit more would have been far more effective for the Turks in this case, wherever they chose to do so.

That said, once the game started, John made relatively few glaring tactical errors. The only decision he made that I might have suggested doing differently would have been taking the “bait”, as it were, and charging my unit of Knights with his Janissary Med Cav. Even with his characters in the unit, the odds were not promising for him, as I had dropped his numbers with shooting in the previous turns, and even had the Turks won, they would have ended up completely exposed to another turn of my fire. The highly maneuverable Ottoman cavalry would have been better off remaining out of LOS of my shooting, and sending the characters off in relatively safety (as solo models) to bolster and support the Janissary infantry in the center. Instead, the unit charged in, and a few minutes later, the Ottomans had only some allied Knights left for cavalry… and a dead General and ASB.

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