Sunday, February 14, 2010

Warmonger Charity WAB Tournament: 30 January 2010 (Game 2)

Opponent: Paul Georgian (Thematic Byzantines). A cheerfully pessimistic fellow from Boston, Paul and Bob (from my previous game) were long-time friends who were both quite enthusiastic about the possibility that their friend might get pummeled by Burgundians. I had been unable to decisively put down the Teutonic Knights, but Paul was gloomily convinced that the anachronistic match-up would heavily favor my artillery over his medium cavalry, and predicted a horrifically lopsided Burgundian victory.

Army: (1500 pts)
  • General and ASB on horse, operating solo
  • 2x9 Medium Cavalry with w/Kontos and Bows
  • 1x10 Nomadic Cavalry
  • 1x30 Medium Infantry with Spears and back ranks of Bows
  • 2x10 Skirmishing Infantry (one unit of bows, one of slings)
Mission: “Delayed Reserves” – before the game, each player places two non-light formed units (infantry and/or cavalry) into Reserve. The remainder are deployed as per Pitched Battle, with the proviso that all skirmishers and war machines set up FIRST. Reserves enter the table on a 4+ on turn one, or automatically on turn two regardless. Games last strictly 6 turns, maximum, and neither table quarters nor standards count for VP purposes.

Terrain: Paul chose to deploy on the table edge where three hills and a large woods piece formed a shallow arc (concave side toward me), very nicely blocking LOS from my side of the table to both of his corners. I had just one terrain piece in my deployment zone, a hill centered along my long table edge. The center of the table, between my hill and in front of Paul’s “arc” of terrain, was a rather large and barren killing zone.

What happened?
Paul used his pre-game Special Movement to move his Nomadic Cavalry into position to make a first-turn charge on my artillery, which I didn’t have quite enough bodies to screen, be they crossbowmen or skirmishers. As Paul dolefully predicted, the aggressive action was ultimately futile, as I won the roll-off to go first, and blew away his Nomadic Cavalry with a combination of artillery, crossbows, and light cavalry bowfire.

Having taken what was apparently the one risk he was going to take in the battle, Paul immediately changed strategies, shifting his skirmishers to his right (my left flank), and moving his units in from reserve and directly into hiding, behind the massive wall of trees on that side of the table. Paul was playing for a tie game. If I was going to win this battle, I was going to have to go “dig” him out of his corner.

It took several turns for my units to come in from reserve and move to that side of the table, and not until Turn 5 was I able to charge my sole unit of Knights (because I only fielded one unit at 1500 points) into his unit of Spearmen; a risky move considering I was starting down +2 combat resolution, but ultimately worth it. They fell back in good order after losing the combat, and my Knights slammed into a unit of Skirmishing Archers standing just behind. Likely to lose on points if he lost the Archers, Paul charged in one of his two units of Medium Cavalry, frantically reforming units to try and get as much support into the very cramped space as possible. However, even with the charge of his Themata Kavallaroi (medium cavalry), the combat was going to go poorly – I simply poured all my attacks into the very lightly armored skirmishers, and won the combat overwhelmingly.

The Medium Cavalry and archers fled the combat and were ridden down, and the Knights slammed into the Spearmen again, now bolstered by the Byzantine General and ASB. This was a very bad scene, however – with the ASB on his side, Paul’s Byzantines started the combat with +3 combat resolution, and with hard-hitting characters in the front ranks. I was able to win the initial charge, but the infantry refused to break, and the subsequent grind (now at S3 for myself) led to my Knights losing combat on the bottom of the last turn, and running for the hills.

The loss of my Knights meant that the game was actually extremely close: 696 points for the Burgundians, and 315 points for the Byzantines. It was a Burgundian victory by just 6 points! (the margin for a victory being 375 VPs). What swung the game in my favor was not just the actions of the proud Burgundian Knights, but also the continued sniping at extreme range by my artillery (and archers) against his skirmishing slingers, who finally fled off the table in Turn 5, giving me just enough points to make up for the loss of the Knights.

Turning the Tables
Paul’s initial maneuver with his light cavalry was very risky, not only as it meant that his nomads would be caught in the open if I won the roll-off to move first, but also because he would only be able to attack one cannon at a time – I had not deployed them in battery, and they were well away from each other. I would also have been able to “box” his nomads in with my reserves, when they entered, and odds were very high that they would have had serious difficulty escaping from what would (for them) have been a complete suicide mission. Really, this was a gamble not only that his nomads would move first, but also that they would be able to successfully charge, that my reserve units would not come on immediately, and that his nomads would have been able to turn around and again successfully charge a second time. That’s really pushing the odds.

However, assuming that was Paul’s intention, that would probably have left me with at least one operational cannon still surviving, my two reserve units out of position, and a turn or three for his reserve units and infantry to move forward and threaten my position, possibly via a flank move. But with his infantry effectively trapped into one approach, having started the game behind the line of trees on his right flank (my left), Paul was either forcing a sizable delay in engagement, by moving along the very cramped right flank of the table, or promising to move his cavalry up the center of the board completely unsupported – both rather suboptimal situations given how his cavalry matched up with either my Knights, or my pikemen.

All in all, I think Paul was rather over-dramatically concerned by my cannons, to the point where he set up in a very conservative, defensive position, and played the game not to win, but to rather to play to a draw. I think he also set up his infantry in exactly the wrong place if he was going to give himself the option to be aggressive – he would have been better off using the ‘screen’ of hills on his left flank (on my right flank) to threaten my lines. Not only would his units have been able to move over the hills at any point, instead of being ‘trapped’ behind trees on the other flank, but the hills were actually closer to my deployment, and would have forced my own reserves to either commit to that flank, and a fight in the hills, or deploy on the other flank and get ‘trapped’ as Paul had been by the trees on that side.

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