Saturday, October 22, 2011

Romans to the front, allies to the rear

Plans to field my Ottoman Turks today were delayed due to a lack of medieval opponents. Instead, I brought out my Mid Republican Roman army for the very first time. To get in the Roman spirit,  I'd planned to bring a chaise lounge down to the Source and bark commands while reclining & dining on de foie gras and bacon. Then I remembered that I don't have a chaise lounge and my wife ate all the bacon.

To demonstrate my Roman cunning, I settled for giving my opponent Al a chair slightly more uncomfortable than my own.  Al brought his brand new Carthaginian army and the question on everybody's lips was, could Monty possibly lose as the Romans?  The fact that everybody asked me this question before the game was not an encouraging sign.  

The initial setup presented me with a problem.  I had a large farm field in the middle of the table to contend with.  Roman legions do poorly in anything but open terrain.  Marching a legion through the farm field would delay my entire line of battle so I decided to deploy my Italian Allies in the center.  Being Medium Foot, my Italian Allies had the ability to move and fight with impunity in uneven terrain like a farm field. Unfortunately, they were also my weakest units.

As I launched a vigorous advance on the Carthaginian line, I had a feeling of disquiet about my center.  I didn't have any reserves or units providing rear support. Then I remembered the Battle of Cannae and how Hannibal purposely put his weakest units in the center of his line.  Worse comes to worse, I could conduct a double envelopment of the Carthaginian center with my strong right and left flanks.  Riiiiight...
Someone get those fellows pants!
Al's center was composed of Gallic foot and elephants and he decided to send them in once I came within charge range, which was just as well as the impetuous Gauls are unlikely to listen to a general's orders to stand fast in the face of the enemy.  My Italian Allies crumpled on impact and crumpled too were my plans to conduct a double envelopment.   I now understand Romans reluctance to grant full citizenship to their Italian Allies in the Republican era.  Nifty shields and great hair but they can't fight worth a darn.

With my center evaporated, the battle devolved into a series of small actions.  Al's elephants proved effective against my legions. Against all odds, one battlegroup of fragmented elephants managed to grind down and then break the Hastati to its front.  With that, the battlefield became a chaotic swirl of units ebbing in every direction.  My camp was sacked and enemy roamed with virtual impunity behind my lines.  The battle ground on and on with neither side yielding. Finally, with each side's army a single point away from breaking, one of   Al's units broke and the game was called.
Roman velites tackle the non-business end of the elephants. 
Closest thing to a double development I saw.

Lesson's learned:

1.  Don't put your weakest unit(s) in the center of your battle line.  Put them on the flanks or in reserve where they can't cause too many problems. 
2.  Cretan Archers are expensive but fantastic.  They had a hand in breaking two battlegroups. 
3.  You can only deploy 16 bases of Upgraded Veteran Legionaries in the Mid-Republican Roman list.  Arggg!  Reading fail on my part!  My list had 24, which means the match goes to Al!  

Other matches today included Bruce's Byzantium army versus Clay's Teutonic Knights.  Unfortunately, a flank march with the Knights did not come off properly, contributing to the game going to Byzantium.

Bruce put a brand new Numidian army on the table against Klay's Pontiac army.  I was curious to see how 32 bases of Numidian Light Horse made out.  The short answer was not very well today as Klay had the hot hand and the victory by day's end. 
Al tells his dad Brandt that he should have brought Romans. 
Elephants could not save the day for the Numidians. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Spotlight on Later Ottoman Turks

For historical gamers, the Ottoman Turkish Empire has much to recommend. The Turkish armies have some of the most exotic and colorful units you'll find and they bumped up against a multitude of other nation-states during their 500 year empire.  For purists, there are abundant historical adversaries and also research materials to recreate armies and battles.

I chose Later Ottoman because I wanted to paint up a colorful army that would be significantly different to run from my other armies. The Turks delivered in spades! I'm not exaggerating when I say every unit in this army shoots, except for the camp.  The emphasis on cavalry units means that you get a very fast AND shooty army.

Janissary handgunners: These superior handgunners are a "must have."  In addition to rerolling 1s, shooting at an enemy with firearms means that unit tests at -1 during any cohesion tests in the shooting phase, regardless of whether they were actually hit by the firearms!
Azab Handgunners:  You can't have too many handgunners in a medieval army so take these handgunners as well. These can be taken as average or poor. I take them as poor.  While unlikely to hit, the smoke and sound of their guns can frighten enemy troops and inflict the -1 cohesion during the shooting phase.

Azab Archers:  These fellows aren't discouraged at all to be using B.C. technology on an A.D. battlefield.  They're decent skirmishers and a required unit in the Later Ottoman list. They have a job to do and they do it in high fashion!
Akinjis: You may have noticed I'm a big fan of Light Horse.  How big? How about 20 bases worth in this instance.  I used a trick painting these up. I chose 5 color schemes-blue, yellow, green, orange and purple-and repeated the patterns over the 40 figures that make up the 5 battlegroups. I'm very pleased with how these turned out. 
Janissaries:  Superior, protected, drilled, medium foot armed with sword and bow.  Whew! I'm guessing they will be tough as nails on the battlefield and I can't wait to take them for a spin.

Qapu Khalqi Cavalry:  These are the elite guard cavalry responsible for protecting the Sultan.  Drilled, armored, bow and sword armed, they are "Death on Horseback."

Timariots:  Timariots are the bulk of the Ottoman heavy cavalry.  While they'll have difficulty going toe to toe with knights in melee, the trick is to retreat in the face of a charge and arrow your pursuers to death.

Serbian Knights:   As if the Ottoman army isn't tough enough, you can take Serbian Knights as an ally.  I figured with all of the medieval armies built around Knights, I better have a few stands of my own.

Commanders:  In the Ottoman Empire, the more important you were, the bigger and more elaborate your headdress.  My Minnesota Vikings ball-cap tells you everything you need to know about me, by Ottoman or modern standards.
Camp:  I think you'll agree these tents are in keeping with the subtle color scheme of this army. 

If you're thinking of painting up a medieval army, consider the Later Ottoman Turks. Their fighting style is radically different from the knight-centric armies that dominated Europe during this era and the wild colors speak for themselves-quite loudly in fact!  As a bonus, a Later Ottoman Turkish army can easily morph into a Seljuk Turk army if you're willing to paint up additional light horse and heavy cavalry.  It could also be fielded in the Renaissance era so you might say it's a 3 for 1 special.

This army is composed of Old Glory figures and I found these sculpts to be almost uniformly excellent.  They are the best I've seen from Old Glory and were a joy to paint. I'm going to bring this army down to our club games for the next 3 or 4 months and see what I can do in the Medieval era.  Only two weeks until I get to put them in battle so stay tuned!