Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Retrospective: Cold Wars WAB Doubles Tournament, 11 March 2011 (Game 2)

Opponent: Adam (Imperial Macedonians) and Duncan (Spartacus Romans).  Duncan is a tournament regular and true ambassador of the hobby, and had traveled to Cold Wars from England to participate in the events.  Adam is one of the more notorious members of the Warhammer Ancients scene, as you will see below.

Armies: (3000 pts)
  • General & BSB on horses with armor, not attached to units
  • 4 units of 21 phalanx pikemen
  • 1 unit of 11 companions (medium shock cavalry)
  • Special Character General Crassus, on horse and not attached to unit
  • BSB and Lictor on foot, not attached to unit
  • 4 units of 18 legionnaires (three are drilled/stubborn)
  • 1 unit of 9 skirmishers
  • 1 unit of 12 archers without command
Mission: Alternating deployment (2 units per side until all units set up), 12” in from long board edge, but also more than 12” from short board edges, and an unmodified roll-off afterwards to decide who takes first turn.

Terrain: A large hill and long arm of trees largely divides the table into two parts, one part significantly larger than the other.  Hills and trees ring the rest of the killing grounds.

What happened? 
Given how well our clever strategery had worked out in the previous game, both Ken and I were keen on trying something similar.  The terrain worked to our advantage in this regard, with a large chunk of trees likely to be able to cut off the advance of any opponents that deployed on the wrong side of it.

Both Adam and Duncan were extremely obliging during their deployment, giving us what we hoped was a fairly optimal setup for a repeat at the weighted flank (aka “dogpile one guy first”) strategy.  There were only a few differences that played a role in what turned out to be a total debacle:

(1) Duncan is a really, really good player.  He turned the tables on us, playing the hammer to Adam’s anvil.  Basically, the Macedonians absorbed the headlong rush of elephants and Saxons, and then either broken/stampeded them, or let the drilled Roman units move around and hit the enemy units in the flank.  Pow!

(2) Ken’s Arthurian Saxons are NOT a hard-hitting army.  They lack the important Warband rule that allows them to auto-break opponents they beat in combat, and they also lack the nearly-as-important heavy throwing spears upgrade.  As a result, against pikemen in phalanx formation, they were at a notable disadvantage.  In hindsight, they may have been better off going after the smaller units of Romans.

(3) Elephants operating solo are highly unreliable against decent infantry units – a term that describes all of Duncan’s legionnaires.  Of my three elephants, two ‘bounced’ and stampeded wildly about the field – one off of Romans, and one off of Macedonians.

Despite all this, it would probably have been a pretty close game anyway, except for one key factor that both Duncan AND I had thought we had accounted for, but (as it turned out) we had not:

(4) Adam cheats.

Despite knowing this in advance, and despite keeping a close eye on him throughout the game (indeed, Duncan had purposely been paired with Adam *specifically* to keep an eye on him in the doubles tournament), Adam still managed to find at least three ways that I can see, in hindsight, to cheat.

You’d expect the Nubians to lose this one,
and the Saxons to win at 2:1 odds with their characters.
But that’s only if you don’t expect the pikemen to cheat.

As a result, what probably would have been a close loss for Ken and I instead turned into a rather slow-motion drubbing.  The Romans lost a single unit of Skirmishers, the Macedonians lost nothing (rather than the two units of Pikemen, and one unit of Companions, that they probably should have lost), the Nubians lost a few skirmishers and the half-points for two stampeding elephants, and the Saxons…

….the Saxons lost everything, save their General’s unit of freemen, and their mobile unit of skirmishing cavalry.  “Fortunately” for them, their General and BSB survived, keeping the points-total from being even more one-sided.

Final score:1306 for the Greco-Romans, and 72 for the Barbarian Hordes.

Turning the Tables
The quick, glib answer is simple: don’t play against Adam again.  It’s widely known that he’s a notorious cheat, and he’s clearly “good enough” to cheat even when being closely watched by people who have a good grasp (Ken and me) or even excellent grasp (Duncan) of the rules.

That said, the slightly longer answer is that Ken and I completely underestimated the opposition, and had very few good answers for what we faced.  In hindsight, the Elephants would probably have done better against the Macedonians, and the Saxons fared better against the Romans.  Adam was understandably quite leery about throwing his phalanxes into melee with Elephants, and it’s likely that Ken and I could have distracted that cheating Macedonian bastard long enough to do a number on Duncan’s hard-as-nails Romans.

Spoiler: the fleeing Macedonian pikemen will beat the Elephant.
Unbelievable, you say?  Why yes, you are correct, sir.

As it stood, the game turned into a grinding melee in the center of the table, and both the Romans and Macedonians are better at that kind of game.  Without Adam’s cheating ways, the Greco-Romans probably would have pulled out a minor victory anyway, simply given the natural advantages they had.

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