Wednesday, August 4, 2010

8-9 July 2010 Historicon Warhammer Ancients Tournaments (Analysis)

All my list construction theory was tested during actual fielding of the army, at which point I noticed a number of things:

(1) Elephants are quite punchy, but they are also very slow, and against large blocks of infantry really do need to be supported by another unit (ideally a second elephant).  Given how slow they are, they really can't be held in reserve, and putting them on a far flank is a bit of a risk -- there's a danger that they'll never actually get into battle at all.  Elephants need to be set up with a plan to throw them into the thick of the enemy, as soon as possible.

They are also an all-or-nothing investment, as I discovered that in half of my games, my elephants panicked fairly quickly, rampaging around the field uncontrollably after being either shot to pieces, or (more commonly) losing combat after doing poorly in melee against a large block of resilient infantry.

In my match-up with Heraclian Byzantines, all three of my elephants managed not just to stampede
but to stampede directly into each other at one point.  Pratfalls and other hilarity ensued.
In fact, in this picture, you can see the Greek skutatoi (spearmen) pointing and laughing.

(2) The cavalry option in my army list is awful.  Beyond that, however, I suspect that in general, any light or medium cavalry in an elephant-heavy army list will be fairly fragile, simply because, as a fast and hard-hitting unit easily able to support an elephant assault, they also make excellent targets for enemy attacks.

(3) Elephant escorts are very nice for keeping enemy skirmishers off my elephants, and even providing a few potential extra attacks during a charge.  Skirmishers can very easily frustrate elephants, and having a relatively punchy skirmisher unit (in the escorts) to screen my elephants is great.  I ended up wanting as many such units as possible, and probably will try to field more in the future.

(4) Having two blocks of infantry was rather redundant – I rarely had any reason to use both at once, and in fact, often ended up using one or both blocks of infantry to support elephant assaults, simply because I had no other good use for them.  And because elephants remove ranks of all units in a melee, I discovered it was actually somewhat dangerous to simultaneously assault units with both an elephant and an infantry block – the risk of losing combat (due to infantry losses) was too high.  I would be better served saving a ton of points by dropping one infantry block, and plowing the cost-savings into other units.

Big blocks of infantry are both pretty on the table, and give a sense of security.
But throughout all my games, these two units were the least effective and reliable for their points.

(5) Relying on large units of Ld5 skirmishers as my relatively static archer line is pretty much a waste of points: they break too easily, and a formed unit with a higher leadership value would probably be well worth the extra two or three points each.

I ended up forming my archers into lines in most of my games, anyway.
After all, why move around with a unit that is designed to stand around and shoot?

(6) Drilled enemy units are my bane.  Of course, I got to learn this lesson over and over, facing five enemy forces that ALL had drilled units.  Drilled cavalry can simply dance away from my elephants, while drilled infantry will simply let elephants run right through them (well, most of the time, anyway.  If they fail a Leadership test to open a hole for the elephants during the charge, the elephants assault them successfully).  The counter is probably to swivel the elephant around directly afterward, and threaten to charge the drilled infantry unit in the rear, two turns later – at the very least, it would take that particular infantry block out of the game if they choose to turn about, and slow them down otherwise.

(7) Quite a few people choose to mount their characters on elephants.  Given how much of target for enemy fire this would make them, as well as how immobile, I can’t imagine why anyone would choose to do this.  My decision to field my general and battle standard on cavalry and simply place them where they could best provide leadership bonuses to units, seems like the way to go moving forward.

We see here the Candace and Battle Standard escorting two elephants.
The fellows in the white pants are proxies representing Elephant escorts.

(8) “Bad games” are certainly very possible in historicals wargaming – I certainly experienced my fair share this weekend.  However, it’s pretty clear that some of (what by reputation are) the worst opponents in a historicals tournament were still far less onerous than some of the worst opponents in a 40K or Fantasy tournament.  I suppose this is just another data point suggesting that older, more mature gamers tend on average to be more civilized and mature to face in a miniatures wargames (even when they’re not a ton of fun overall).

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