Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Retrospective: Cold Wars WAB Doubles Tournament, 11 March 2011 (Game 1)

Opponents: Mike D (Teutonics) and John B (Ottomans).  John is a long-time opponent and I am very familiar with his maneuver-heavy playstyle with Ottomans.  Mike’s Teutonic Knights, on the other hand, was sure to be a fairly blunt instrument, but also heavily reliant on cavalry.

Armies: (3000 pts)
  • General & BSB on warhorses with full armor, not attached to units
  • 2 units of 5 Knights and 5 Turkopoles in back ranks, one unit with WS5
  • 3 units of 8/8/9 crossbows with heavy armor and pavise (3+ saves)
  • 1 unit of 8 skirmishing cavalry with bows
  • General & BSB on horses with armor, not attached to units
  • 2 units of 10 medium spear/archer cavalry (one unit is Janissaries)
  • 2 units of 9/10 skirmishing nomadic cavalry
  • 2 units of 9 skirmishing infantry archers
  • 1 unit of 10 medium infantry (Janissaries with halberds/bows)
  • 1 Bombard artillery piece with crew
Mission: Alternating deployment (2 units per side until all units set up), 12” in from long board edge, and an unmodified roll-off afterwards to decide who takes first turn.

Terrain: Playing on a 4x8 table, the left half was almost completely open, with a few trees and hills about 12” in from either long edge.  The right half had a huge hill in the middle of the table, neatly blocking up LOS from most angles.

What happened? 
I knew that Ken and I would do best if my elephants could be sent to “greet” the relatively slower-moving Teutonic Knights, while Ken’s Saxons would fare much better fighting against the lighter-armored Ottomans in melee.  As a consequence, Ken and I spent a good deal of our initial deployment ensuring that as much of the Ottoman cavalry was lured into setting up on one half of the table.  To our delight, John chose to set up his mobile, ranged cavalry on the side with the large hill blocking off his LOS, while the Teutonics spread out on the far more open side of the table.

That’s a lot of unwashed hordes

Once that was accomplished, it was simply a matter of closing the jaws of the trap.  All of Ken’s Saxons, as well as two of my elephants, trapped John’s Ottomans into one corner of the table.  The rest of my army simply played for time, delaying Mike’s Teutonic forces as long as possible.  We were aided by the fact that neither Mike nor John noticed what we were doing until the second turn of the game; by the third turn, the fast-moving Saxons had completely cornered the Ottomans, and by the end of the fourth turn, only the Teutonics were still left on the table. 

Between my archers, ballistae, and a surprisingly solid performance from the Worst Cavalry In The World (the Nubian cavalry), the Teutonics had been unable to come to the aid of their allies, and the final score demonstrated the lopsided nature of the contest:

The Ottomans had lost everything, save the one unit of Nomadic cavalry they had seconded to the Teutonic far flank.  Everything else had been trapped and destroyed by the Saxons.

The Teutonics had lost only one unit of crossbowmen, and a smattering of casualties to their Knights from ranged attacks.  In turn, they had killed my Nubian cavalry (although it took them the whole game to run them down), as well as one Elephant, one ballista, and had caused a second Elephant to go berserk.

The Worst Cavalry in the World defies its nickname,
refusing to go gently into that good night.

The Saxons had not only lost no units at all, but had captured two standards from the Ottomans in the process.  Final score: 1707 for the Ancients, and 617 for the Medievals.

Turning the Tables
In many ways, this game was won and lost in the deployment phase.  The Ottomans allowed themselves to get trapped in a corner of the field, and the Teutonics found themselves too far out of position in order to help.  What’s more, the two medieval generals didn’t seem to think out the consequences of which opponent they would have faced.  Even had a aggressive Teutonic response occurred, Mike would have been faced with elephants and war machines, the twin weaknesses of his heavy-cavalry-dependent army list.

Only a good setup if your cavalry have room to maneuver.

Against the Mv5 Saxons, John had only a very short time to recognize the danger of his deployment and get his cavalry units out of the trap, but even had he done so, the ‘mouth’ of the trap was a combination of woods (difficult terrain) and elephants (cause terror in cavalry).  In all, it was an untenable situation, and the medieval generals started the game with a huge disadvantage, particularly when the ancients armies (Ken and I) got the first turn of the game and chose to move up, greatly restricting their options.

Given the combination of units they had at their disposal, the medieval generals would have been far better off fully integrating and intermixing their two forces, with a traditional setup of heavy cavalry and infantry in the center, with progressively lighter cavalry on the wings, and their limited ranged weaponry on the flanks.  Instead, the two generals set up as largely discrete forces, and the Ottomans paid the price for this decision.

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