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Wargaming the Byzantine Art of War with Mark Fry

Well …. my first face to face L’art de la Guerre 28mm competition gaming in over 18 months, courtesy of Keith McGlynn*, was enjoyed on Sunday at the Thornbury IPMS show.

Mark Fry , the David Niven of wargaming!

We managed three games of one hundred points LadG, to the new v.4 rules & lists with 28mm armies. There was a good range of armies:

2 x later HYW English; a Samurai; Thracian; Ancient German; Mongol; Scythian, Bedouin Dynasties, Beja, Classical Indian; Ancient Brit; Late Roman and I am sure I have forgotten a few others.

Andrew Unwin’s beautiful Gallic force

I took my Nikephorian Byzantines – consisting of:

1 x Competent General

4 x Tagmatic HC – lance & 1/2bow (the new v.4 designation)

1 x Pechenga LC bow

1 x Competent General

3 x Skoutatoi – HF mixed spear & bow

1 x Menaulatoi – MF swordsmen with polearm (a new addition to the lists & a new weapon category)

1 x Psiloi LI javelins

1 x LI fire-syphon (a new addition to the lists & a new weapon category)

and a standard unfortified camp (with an army BP:11)

Beware the Greek fire!

My ‘theory’ had been to ensure that every unit could shoot and aside from the Menaulatoi (which I might have been better replacing with Peltastoi – Javelinmen – with hindsight) everything had a missile weapon of some sort.

28mm fire throwers!

Game 1) verses Beja (bloody impetuous camels!) …. this was a disaster of a game. My opponent won the initiative and chose to attack me (in the Plains) – his army is a mix of elite MC, LC impact, impetuous camels and then a host of MF swordsmen & LF javelins or bows.

If I could have got my HC opposite his foot & my foot opposite his mounted troops I might have stood a chance, but it was not to be.

The dreaded Beja!

On the restricted 100ap playing area, there is nowhere to run or manoeuvre and my mounted division was ridden over by the camels and elite MC/LC impact combo rather quickly. I also lost a general in melee (I don’t normally put generals into combat!!!) which sealed my fate. My infantry scored some good shooting hits but the enemy MF swordsmen kept out of combat. So I lost in 3 game-turns – a credible 7-11. The 4 impetuous camels are the business against other mounted troops, and the 2 additional MC elite gave him overlaps and are adequate in melee if required to fight frontally.

Game 2) verses a Bedouin Dynasties (commanded by Keith). I’d look at this army myself – as the combo of good quality HC impact elite, plus 3 LC impact and a MF infantry block consisting of a mix of Daylami elite MF impact swordsmen and Sudanese MF mixed spear bow gives you some flexibility and good quality fighting troops.

Keith went all out with the impact horse!

Again, I lost the initiative and was attacked in the Plains (NB: it appears that in the 100ap game winning the initiative is critical, as is opting to attack – as with only 2 commands and a lack of space to maneuver and limited time to redeploy, you need to be facing the right troops against the right opponents from the outset). Keith deployed his cavalry wing against my cavalry and his infantry v my infantry (the smart way to do things). I deployed back on my base line (to buy me some time) and to use the terrain in an attempt to funnel his cavalry to reduce the risks to my flanks from his 3 LC impact.

The feared Byzantine heavy horse

I initially had the advantage in the missile exchange with the infantry, but once the Bedouin infantry got stuck in things went pear-shaped quickly. The Menaulatoi went down & routed on impact (a 1-6 dice roll didnt help) to a charge from the Daylami with an engaged general, which then caught my LF fire-syphons in the rear as they attempted, unsuccessfully to evade (a schoolboy error). The Sudanese & Skoutatoi exchanged shooting and casualties pretty much equally. In the cavalry melee, my Pechenga LC had disintegrated on impact by a unit of Bedouin LC and in the protracted melee, despite my numbers & armour, and a good impact result against another of those pesky LC impact; in the end Keith’s dice and his elite status prevailed and I broke.

The less than impressive Byzantine foot head homeward!

I think the result was 8 (or maybe 9) – 11.

Game 3) Ancient German – this is an interesting army in that it was fielded as a the MF impetuous option with a Strategist commander. My opponent, who’d been reasonably successful in his previous games had opted for a command of all MF and a command of all MC elite, with a fortified camp. This time I won the initiative and the German defended in Forest. Woods are not great for me, as most of my troops get penalised for shooting in or out of them. However, the terrain ‘gods’ were kind to me and most of the terrain fell on the flanks with only a Gully in the centre. I had the edge on deployment and so deployed my mounted wing against the MF and my Foot against the German cavalry (perfect). My opponent has placed an Ambush in the gully and so I sent the Pechenga to investigate. There were a couple of German MF lurking in it, which promptly charged out to try & catch the Pechenga (who evaded successfully). This left those MF exposed to a charge, in the open, by my Tagmatic HC – which dealt with them in short order (HC impact, with overlaps catching MF swordsmen in the open, is a receipt for disaster for the MF). However, the disaster was compounded as the German commander had brought up the rest of the MF division right behind the ambushing units, which spread havoc by routing back through their ranks. There then occurred a stalemate, as the MF division would not leave the Gully and the Tagmatic HC would not charge into it, but the Tagmatic HC had the advantage of being able to rain arrows down on the MF. However, with a Strategist general in command, there were plenty of German PIPs to attempt to rally these off.

German lurkers!

On the other flank, the German MC played cat & mouse trying (unsuccessfully) to avoid the Scutatoi archery and the Byzantine LF had a disastrous encounter with some German LF javelins in a wood. In the end, the Pechenga managed to get into the enemy’s rear &catch a unit of German LF in the rear destroying them, and the luck of the German general ran out on dicing-off the archery casualties.

So a victory 14-4 (my only losses were my 2 LF). I think my opponent should probably have taken the risk to try and come out of the gully, as he had an overlap. Or maybe risked throwing his MC elite into my HF Scoutatoi, which would have fought as Mediocre in the melee. But both were not the best options.

Mediocre? outrageous!

So lots of good learnings … I suspect my good final victory might have placed me about mid-table in the rankings.

I like the Nikephorians – they have flexibility and the missiles can give you an advantage (sometimes). The new list have pulled their teeth slightly – the new 1/2 bow category (which is a realistic interpretation) is not so good as the v.3 list, but it makes the army more affordable.

Horse against heavy German foot!

I think I could do with maybe another LC to aid my scouting points and I will also replace the Menaulatoi next time (maybe with some Armenian MF spearmen), as they ended up not really doing what I had intended them to to do, which was to protect my flanks in terrain. I am also not sure about the LF fire-syphon – it is a gimmick and as it has to get within 1UD to shoot it is not very effective. But I had an extra 1point to use up.

I like the 100ap format – it gives a really fast and usually decisive game. It also allows some armies that wont work at 200ap to be used.

Got to love Big Boys’ Toys 28mm

Looking at the way that other players were playing, Berkeley tends to play with distinctive commands (generally all Foot or all Cavalry) – Clevedon does similar. Some of the other players (Birmingham & SLWG) play with mixed commands – but I am not sure how that worked in the rankings.

Thanks for Keith for putting it on. It was a good reintroduction to table-top gaming.

It would be good to see the list of armies and the scores. ( next post ; Editor)




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