Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Retrospective: Cold Wars WAB Singles Tournament, 12 March 2011 (Game 1)

Opponent: Eric (Sassanids).  A cheerful enough fellow leading a historically unlikely foe, Eric had a cavalry-heavy force of Persians that seemed, on paper at least, to be exactly the sort of foe that an Elephant-heavy list like mine would most prefer to face.

Army: (1750 pts)
  • General & BSB on horses with armor, not attached to units
  • Elephant with Howdah and archers
  • 1 unit of 8 Kontos/Bow Drilled Heavy Cavalry (Clibanarii)
  • 2 units of 9 Kontos/Bow Medium Cavalry (Clibanarii)
  • 1 unit of 15 spearmen/archer infantry
  • 1 unit of 10 light cavalry with Parthian shot
  • 1 unit of 9 nomadic cavalry
Mission: Fog of War (special mission).  Diagonal deployment zones 24” apart, alternating deployment, and an unmodified roll-off to decide who takes first turn.

Terrain: A number of low hills broke up the deployment areas into a number of separate sections, and some sparse copses of trees further enclosed and restricted the midfield area.  This would be a relatively tight fight in the center of the table.

What happened? 
Given how restrictive the terrain was, and how heavily Eric’s list depended on his cavalry, I was hoping that things would be straightforward.  I deployed all my Archers and elephants in the center of my line, stuck the Worst Cavalry in the World out of the way off to one flank, and put my skirmishers on either wing to keep his skirmishing cavalry away from me as long as possible.

If nothing else, the Persians are really brave.
Here they’re all lined up facing three Nubian elephants

Eric’s plan was simple: shoot at my elephants, a lot.  I moved forward and shot him up in return, and the plan came together perfectly.  One of his Clibanarii medium cavalry units faltered under a torrent of ballista and bowfire and fled off the table.  The second was chased off the table more traditionally, by Elephants.  The final unit, now badly depleted, sought the ‘safety’ of close combat with my archers, but despite tearing up one of my archer units, the other two quickly jumped in, with my own characters helping, too.  And finally, my skirmishers had tag-teamed with one of my own Elephants to shred the solo Persian Elephant in melee, and that poor fellow stampeded.

The Sassanids have a beautiful white elephant.
But only one.

By the time I got around to the rest of his army, it was turn four.  His Nomadic cavalry had finally crept around my left flank and taken out my ballista battery, but by this point I didn’t have much left to shoot at.  The nomads were chased off the table with arrows and catcalls from nearby archers and elephant archers, and the game soon drew to a close.

The Sassanid general and his elite Clibanarii
fighting for their lives against a Nubian horde

In all, Eric had his General still alive, fighting for his life against a unit of my archers, plus a stampeding Elephant, the spearmen on the hill (who I had ignored for basically the entire game), and one unit of skirmishing cavalry, who had managed to evade the Worst Cavalry in the World for the entire game.

In return, I had lost one unit of Archers (to his baddest unit of cavalry, led by the Sassanid General), all three ballista, and both my units of skirmishers.  The final score: 1295 to 442, in favor of the Nubians.

Turning the Tables
This was really a bad match-up, and even worse mission deployment and terrain, for Eric’s Sassanids.  Even though he did as well as he could under the circumstances, he was also hit with a spate of bad luck right when he could least afford it (at the very start of the game, when I managed to panic one of his Clibanarii units right off the table), and his armor saves against my shooting and melee attacks were abominable throughout.

However, there are two things Eric could have done to improve his chances, and which hurt his odds in this game.  First, he deployed his infantry – the only melee unit in his army able to realistically stand up to elephants – well off to one flank and out of the battle.  They spent the game basically watching from the sidelines, and chucking a few (ineffectual) arrows downfield.  The Sassanids would have been better served with the spearmen and Elephant right in the middle of their deployment zone, giving the mobile cavalry (which desperately wished to avoid getting charged by my three Elephants) space to move around the edges of the midfield area.  Had more than one, badly damaged unit of Clibanarii made it into my backfield, I probably would have lost more than one unit of Archers to it.

Second, there wasn’t much reason to place the skirmishing cavalry on the wings, other than habit.  They would have been best placed to shoot-and-move against the elephants in the middle, and instead found themselves out of range or LOS of elephants for much of the game, tasked instead with terrorizing my own skirmishers.  An atypical deployment, with formed cavalry on the wings, and skirmishers and infantry (and elephant) in the middle, would have probably given Eric a far better shot at beating the three-elephant army he faced.  I had basically nothing deployed in the flanks (only skirmishers and the Worst Cavalry in the World), giving his far more mobile core units a more-or-less clear path down the sides of the table had he been in a position to do so.

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