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Roll Call - march of the Massagetae

Page history last edited by Rob Brennan 9 years, 4 months ago

After having a win and a losing draw on Saturday, I was somewhat surprised to find myself still on table 2 on Sunday morning.  More alarmingly, I was up against John Fletcher who was fielding Later Achaemenid Persian.  My spies had been hard at work (John had played Jon Smith, my clubmate, in the previous round) and I knew that the Persians were big (Darius III) and horrid - with a lot of LH(O) and Cv(S) (both very scary to LH(F)) and a wall of hoplites that I would find it very hard to pierce.  On the other hand, LAP vs Massagetae is a historical matchup to savour, and those always create great games.

My list (hopefully legal) was:-

CinC - Irr Cv(S), 5 Irr Cv(O), 8 Irr LH(F), 14 Irr Bw(O), 6 Irr Ps(O), [2 Irr Bge(I)] - 36 ME

Sub - Irr Cv(S), 3 Irr Cv(O), 11 Irr LH(F) (headhunting ladies), 12 Irr Ax(O),
[2 Irr Bge(I)] - 26 ME

Sub - Irr LH(F), 22 Irr LH(F), [2 Irr Bge(I)] - 28 ME

Army Baggage - 1 Irr Ax(O), 6 Irr Bge(I) - 6.5 ME

Total: 96.5ME

Stratagems: Scouting and Feigned Flight

The Massagetae confederation were invading the empire.  Darius gathered an enormous army to repel the raiding force, meeting them on a plain with a town to the Persian rear left and a range of hills (a pair of difficult hills about 800p in on the right with a further gentle hill just on the persian side of the halfway on the far right.  The Persians deployed to block the invaders' advance, in four commands.  From left to right there were (1) a command of 10 LH(F) plus supporting Cv(O), (2) 10 LH(O) with Cv(O) general, 2 Kinsman Reg Kn(F) and some psiloi scampering about in the rear, (3) a wall of Reg mercenary hoplites, with imperial guard Sp(S) and a mass of 20,000 horde covering the entire rear of the battlefield, and finally Darius himself who deployed a thin (but tough!) line of Irr Cv(S), Kn(I) and a El, with 8 Ps(O) in the difficult hills and a pair of Cv(O) far on the outside to slow and disrupt any on-table outflanking manouevre.

As John deployed, the part of his army that I was really scared of was his LH(O), and I was pleased to see that I had correctly guessed that they would be on the open side of the table, on the left.  My CinC's command was deployed on that side, the all LH(F)-command for once in the middle - facing off the hoplite wall - and the Ax and huntresses on the right, to take the hills and operate from there.  The plan was to bottle-up the Persian LH with the archers, keep the hoplites entertained with LH(F) and psiloi and hope to get lucky against the Persian Kn(I) and force a break in the line.

John was high-PIPing Darius's command, which was sensible given the threats that he was facing but useful in terms of drawing PIPs away from the two LH commands and so slowing down any attempted redeployment.  The hoplites had the lowest PIP, but their job was just to push forward and cramp me for space.

The early moves on the left saw the archers head out wide in column and then turn 90 into line, facing the majority of the LH.  The CinC's own LH were covering the outside of the archers, and his skirmishing foot commenced harassing the hoplites (not very successfully, it has to be said!)  Anxious not to let the archers completely off the hook, John peeled the back rank from his hoplites and headed out left with them to try to attack the archers.  The main LH(F) command advanced toward the hoplites and Cv(S), and then turned and ran away again (2 PIP turn, not feigned flight at this stage), trying to lure the Persians to advance.  John duly did follow, and a gap began to develop at the far right end of the line, where the elephant and Kn(I) formed the end of the persian battle-line, with the imperial chariot and a pair of his heavy mounted covering the flank.

The auxiliaries pushed forward, attacking into Darius and the Cv(S) and beginning to drive past them, forcing a vulnerable flank (as vulnerable as an elephant is against mounted...) John's pair of Cv(O) wide on the outside advanced to threaten the Ax(O), and my own 4 elements of Cv(O) countered.  Darius fought hard (well, for 10 minutes...  :o)  ) and then thought better of it, John realising that with all those clumsy elements he couldn't afford Darius to get stuck in close combat and PIP-restricted.

John had been able to bring over half of the LH(O) and they arrived just in time as the girls were intruding around the flank and threatening Darius. Several squadrons were surrounded ... but despite being 2:0(F) down and unable to flee, one amazon survived and pushed back her opponent.  By doing so, she created space and time for her companions-in-arms to attack the flank of the elephant element - overlapped and with a Kn(I) blocking the recoil, the pachyderms panicked and destroyed the Bactrians behind them in their rout, and suddenly everything opened up.  Just to ice the cake, the amazon heroine killed the LH(O) opposing her.  Darius's was a big command (30ME) but with each available element counting 2ME we were eating into them and John could see that he would have to gamble, and soon.

Things were getting messy in the centre.  With the hoplites only 1 rank deep, the massed horse archers poured into the greeks and broke their formation, before feigning flight away.  It was a perfect execution of what the rules wanted to achieve, as the low-PIPping command was unable to hold much and impetuous elements streamed forward, to be gradually annihilated piecemeal by the CinC and his Cv and the central LH(F).  Those losses alone wouldn't break such a huge command (32 ME?), but they did open up the centre and more importantly neuter the threat of the hoplites pushing my horse archers off the back of the table.

The gamble by John had to be on the left.  The archers had slipped past the hoplites and were now approaching shooting range. They couldn't be safely ignored any longer, and in any event the game would be lost on Darius' wing and in the centre unless something happened.  Courage screwed to the sticking post, the persians charged - LH(F) into Massagetic LH(F), kinsmen and their general into Bw(O), LH(O) into the rest of the archer line.  The general killed his opponent, giving the wingman bonus to both kinsmen elements.  They also broke the archer line, and we were 5 casualties down in a trice.  But, we held everywhere else, and even killed an element of LH(O).  The Massagetae countercharged, and persian LH(F) and kinsmen fell, disheartening both enemy LH commands.

Meanwhile, having paused to try to hack the head off a fallen elephant or two, on the right the headhunting girls were gleefully surrounding disheartened arachosian LH(O) and traitorous massagetai Cv(S), while our noblemen were butchering the persian Cv(O).  The persian losses were mounting, and suddenly both LH commands on the left broke, and Darius' command also.

The final result was 23-2 to the Massagetae in just over three hours of tense, tight rough and tumble.  John had commented before the game that he and I are beginning to fix a date for Sunday mornings - our doubles pairings met likewise at Burton, with victory going the same way.  :o)

I had felt that John's line was tough but fragile in Darius command, and so it proved. I had thought to try to break through the Kn(I), but in the end the elephant on the end of the line was the key.  Correctly guessing the position of John's LH(O) command was very important to the execution of the plan.  The best moments of the game (other than the relief of actually winning!) from my point of view (but not John's...) were the headhuntresses bagging the elephant with a Kn(I) behind, and the glory of successfully pulling the mercenary hoplites out of formation with a feigned flight.

After inflicting such losses on Darius, it was time for the jubilant Massagetae to head back to the plains loaded with plunder, slaves and ivory!  With two wins and a draw I knew that I'd be in the hunt for a podium finish, but who would be my opponent?


The time, round four on Sunday afternoon.  The venue, table 2, while Steve Bainbridge (6 points clear in the lead) and Ian Austin (1 point ahead of me) fought out a Seleucid civil war on table 1.  Phew, dodged those two.  Who have I drawn instead?  Shamus (Mark Hare) - excellent, he and I had never played before. What's he using?  Oh no, Kushan - massed Kn(X) and El, none which I am really equipped to fight...

My list (hopefully legal) was:-

CinC - Irr Cv(S), 5 Irr Cv(O), 8 Irr LH(F), 14 Irr Bw(O), 6 Irr Ps(O) (including 4 freshly painted slingers), [2 Irr Bge(I)] - 36 ME

Sub - Irr Cv(S), 3 Irr Cv(O), 11 Irr LH(F) (headhunting ladies), 12 Irr Ax(O), [2 Irr Bge(I)] - 26 ME

Sub - Irr LH(F), 22 Irr LH(F), [2 Irr Bge(I)] - 28 ME

Army Baggage - 1 Irr Ax(O), 6 Irr Bge(I) - 6.5 ME

Total: 96.5ME

Stratagems: Scouting and Feigned Flight

The task for the afternoon was simple for both of us.  Go for it and win, and guarantee a podium finish. Luckily, neither Shamus nor I are the shy and retiring type...

Flush with success after successfully looting the persian empire, the Massagetae raided on into the Kush, where their advance was met by the kushan king and his nobles, supported by a mass of horse archers, including a Saka ally. Battle was joined on a broad plain.  A long gentle hill lay across the massagetae rear edge and a pair of rough hills framed the Kushan centre.

The Massagetae deployed first, set well back.  The king was on the left (mounted outside, then archers, with slingers up front to form an expendable skirmish line).  The infantry were massed, with the tribal Ax(O) extending the archer-line toward the centre of the table with the huntresses then linking to the all LH(F) command on the right.  Deploying with depth, we didn't quite stretch the table, but could cover it if need be.

Shamus had his own king on the left, mounted on an elephant with another El elemnent beside him.  He held the far left of the line, and then rest of the battle-front was the three Kushan commands deployed as 1-deep Kn(X) and El with occasional elements of LH(F) and Ps in reserve.  Risky if he had an accident, but given that El are 5 (generals are 6!) vs mounted and Kn(X) are ideal LH(F) killers, it looked incredibly scary.  The king had a group of 8 or so LH(F) in reserve far back behind the rough hill, guarding against envelopment but who in the end played no part in the game.  On the far right, Kushan LH(F) horse archers and a small (12 element) Saka ally held the flank.

The massagetae spent their early PIPs redeploying the all-LH(F) command right out to the flank, where we faced off against the Kushan LH(F).  Better to chance the light-horse-lottery than to try to break Kn(X)!  The Ax(O) pushed forward in small sacrificial groups to buy time - hold back the cataphracts and stop them marching straight into us. The CinC's mounted wing began a slow advance around the wing, while the slingers ducked left, out of the way of the Kushan king's Kn(X) and aiming to take their chances against the king's elephant corps.

Shamus pushed aggressively forward, and a gap appeared where he wheeled part of his line to approach the LH(F) on the far right.  It was an opportunity and I duly threw huntresses into the gap and tried to squeeze it open further. No joy - the ladies were being taken apart, while their sacrificial auxiliaries were being run down by Kn(X) and suddenly we were 4ME down in the centre, plus a few supporting elements from the right wing, and looking toward being disheartened.  Crucially, as it turns out, we took out an enemy LH(F) from one of the central commands, however.

However on the left the slingers, assisted by cavalry, had flanked and turned the Kushan king, and he was down.  That froze his command (a series of 1s for their PIPs) and we were behind and mopping up 2 ME elements.

On the far right, the two groups of horse archers were shuffling nervously, neither wanting to receive the charge.  However, as the Kushan king's command crumbled, Shamus felt that he had no choice, and advanced.  The Saka leader was the the front rank, Shamus' view (not unreasonably) being that against enemy LH(F) his general's bonus (and possible wing-man bonus) could prove decisive.  It also made him a target, and in the first charge we killed his neighbours and then the general himself, breaking the Saka on contact. The king's cataphracts were charged in the rear and fell at the same moment and with the total +4ME penalty applied due to that LH(F) inflicted earlier by the ladies, the Kushans broke and fled the field.  The game had taken 1.5 hours start to finish, been played by both players at breakneck pace and had contained as much thrills (and spills) as a 3.5 hour game!

Mark's tactics had been aggressive, but not without reason.  Kn(X) and El are not nice for an army composed largely of mounted and light foot, and if his Saka had not collapsed in a heap, in the next bound it was quite likely that he would kill enough to dishearten the right-most command and break the centre, which would have had knock-on of breaking the right and therefore the army.  The final result was 25-0, but it could just have easily been 21-4 the other way.

So, 2 hours to wait and see what happened elsewhere, particularly on top table.  There, in the Seleucid civil war, the Austinian faction had managed to advance down one side of the table and turn the battle 90 degrees.  The game was being fought on a four-foot frontage around various terrain pieces, with two very similar-looking armies jockeying for position.  I could only watch through my fingers...

Busying myself with admin tasks, I helped to tidy up other players' rubbish, umpired, wandered off to see how the rest of the WAR team and players were faring and generally tried to be elsewhere than table 1.  The odd element was coming off, but no significant holes appeared to be forming.  However, on both sides Galatians were attacking phalangites and the wedges of knights were engaged.  As always with DBMM, anything could happen, and happen suddenly.

And then time was called, leaving Steve and Ian battered but neither broken.  A miracle - you play wargames competitions for 12 years without real success, and suddenly three come along at once.  A hat-trick of victories, Burton (thanks to my partner John Hickman), Challenge and now Roll Call.

I had chosen the Massagetae for Roll Call because I don't have anything else in theme.  Of the Skythian options available I felt that the upgrade to Bw(O) gave an increase in ME and a resistance if charged that would be useful.  I have recently bought some figures that would do as the Mountain Indian ally, but I haven't played the army with the ally before, so left them out this time.  I wouldn't have chosen to have 3 commands if a fourth general had been available, but in the end the mass that the three commands gave allowed some durability, allowing me to risk the archers, auxiliaries and/or horse archers.  I wouldn't really have dreamed of using them in v.1, but in v.2 (thanks to the changed marching rules) and in this theme (with very few LH(S) around), they worked.  I also freely admit that once again I got lucky. In game 1 against Chris I converted my 3-1s in the Ax on Ps(S) fight, and he didn't and ultimately that brought down that flank.  In game 3 the amazon heroine survived at just the moment that she needed to so, which gave me the chance to flank and kill Darius's elephant-element with a Kn(I) behind.  In game 4, Shamus's king was brought down by slingers at the first attempt, and likewise the Saka ally collapsed on impact.  On another day all of those could have gone the other way.

But that's the thrill of the DBMM rollercoaster!

Thanks, of course, to Jer, Bruce and the rest of their team for organising the event in a new location at quite short notice.  Thanks in particular to Chris, Mike, John and Shamus for being such entertaining and valiant company, and being such good sports as always.

As I mentioned on Sunday evening, the past few months have felt rather like I have entered the Twilight Zone.  It can't last, but I'm enjoying it while it does.  Fingers crossed for Rampage, where I am looking forward both to the Royal Rumble and to trying the Saka out on the smaller tables.

Tim Child

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