Monday, 1 January 2018

L'Art de la Guerre 145 BC - The king is dead!

The year still is 145 BC. After the previous battle against his cousin Demetrios Nikator (HERE), Alexander Balas still sits uneasily on the Seleukid throne in Antioch. Demetrios has withdrawn to Kilikia and established a rival Seleukid court at Tarsos. Alexander, flush with his recent victory presses on and leads his men north to settle the matter once and for all.

This game was a rematch of the last Seleukid civil war clash we had with the same two late Selelukid armies. I was once more playing as Alexander I, this time assisted by Sheik Jameel commanding the unreliable Arab contingent. Andrew reprised his role as Demetrios II - hoping to do better this time.

Above you can see the opposed lines from the southwest. Demetrios's forces are at the top - Alexander's are at the bottom. Demetrios fielded an infantry division across his right and centre, with a cavalry division supported by a mixed light infantry and elephant division, both on to the left of his centre. Alexander held the centre and left of his line, with Sheik Jameel's Arabs holding the right. He again dispatched Plato the Galatian with two units of heavy Galatian horse on a wide sweeping flank march around to the north, hoping to catch Demetrios' camp unguarded.

Demetrios' elephant and skirmisher division advances towards the Arabs. 

The two lines fly towards each other, Alexander's Skythians unleashing a mini (unsuccessful) arrow storm against Demetios' locally recruited hillmen. At the far end of the line, Demetrios' skirmishers exchange shots with the Arabs.

History repeating itself - Demetrios' elephant corp take on the Arab camelry. Unfortunately for Alexander, history didn't quite repeat itself. Rather than scattering the smelly nellies, the camelry were very quickly driven from the field. Cataphracts also charged forward against the Arab archers. The results were pretty much the same.

The rest of the lines close up, each commander hoping to match combats to their best advantage. Well, maybe not so much, but one can hope. 

The cataphracts  did not have room and time to extend their line and are swarmed by the Arab mediocre medium foot. Arab swordsmen slip into a plantation and attack the elite Cretan archers who had sought safety there.

In the centre, Demetrios' elephants made the most of their newly created breatch in the opposite line to turn in on the flank of Alexander's heavy foot. Even without the nellies on their flank, Alexander's infantry were getting the worse of the melee throughout.

On the extreme left flank, Alexander's agema cataphracts make some headway, destroying a unit of hillmen in the first contact. However, his infantry were still feeling the pressure. Even Alexander's Galatian infantry failed to make any headway against Demetrios' Thracians.

Back on the right, one unit of Demetrios' cataphracts were overwhelmed, but the others were doing ok against the Arab foot, despite successive flank charges. The Arab swordsmen in the plantation had managed to route all the Cretan archers, but back at the centre, Alexanders infantry continued to suffer at every point.
That was until Demetrios and Alexander both joined the fight. In a brutal shove of pike phalanxes, Alexander's infantry finally managed a significant win.

Demetrios survived to fight elsewhere, but Alexander had achieved enough of a win to let his men breath. Alexander's flanking Skythians now wheeled around. One unit assisting the infantry melee, the other making for Demetrios' camp. 

Alexander's agema start rolling up Demetrios' right flank, but it may, by this stage, be too late. Everywhere, units on both sides have started to crumble and flee the field. Alexander's line was, in reality, a bloody mess.

Another inspiring moment for Alexander's cause when a clutch of Arab skirmishers attacked and destroyed some of Demetrios' prized elephants.

However, Demetrios' cataphracts continued to hold their own against overwhelming numbers. back in the plantation, the Arab swordsmen found more skirmishers to kill. Off in the distance, the Arab medium cavalry were making a sweeping manoeuvre towards the enemy camp.  

Despite his temporary respite, Alexander and his phalanx found themselves the recipient of an elephant flank charge.

Unfortunately, the elephant charge proved too much - the pike phalanx crumbled and Alexander was killed in the route. At this point, Alexander's army was brought to its break point and collapsed. Demetrios was just two points away from breaking himself. However, with the death of Alexander and the settlement of that particular dynastic dispute, Demetrios had done more than enough to restore the legitimate branch of the Seleukid family to the throne.

The little Galatians who could - but decided that they'd rather not... That particular flank march didn't really work.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

The return of Don Marko

Another quality update from Mark in Thailand:

Hi all

It’s been two years (Dec 2015) since I last reported on the adventures of Don Marco da Pattaya the “popinjay of the Indies”. Having a day to spare, I thought I’d bring things up to date.

We last saw Don Marco in command of the successful expedition to capture the KhiNok Island from the Chinese pirates. He was appointed Governor of the islands, tasked with ensuring the lucrative trade in birds nests continued and the profits flowed back to Malacca. 

But it hasn’t worked out that way. After two years of mysteriously small profits, and rumors that Don Marco has installed solid gold bathroom taps in the Governors mansion, the Malacca authorities have sent a squadron to arrest him.

That hasn’t worked out either. Using a combination of charm, gold, and a little arsenic, Don Marco has seized command of the squadron. His best chance of beating the rap will be to sail into Malacca with holds full of loot. As it happens he knows one of the annual convoys carrying Burmese gems from Songkhla to Canton will be sailing about now.

The wako escorts for these convoys are a legend for ferocity, and the cargo vessels can also defend themselves. Taking them on will be a high stakes gamble, but what choice does he have ...

The opposing forces are:

Portuguese (total 154 points)
The galleon Santa Caterina da Goa
Q3 C4 (76 points)
chaser guns, drilled soldiers, galleon rigged, master gunner, trained gun crews

The fragata Santa Barbara
Q3 C3 (60 points)
chaser guns, galleon rigged, master gunner, trained gun crews

The merchant brig Moscado (Nutmeg)
Q3 C2 (18 points)
lateen, merchant, master gunner

The convoy (total 198 points)
The escort: pirate junks Bok Choy, Bean Sprout, and Bitter Melon
Q2 C2 (50 points each)
derring-do, intimidating, lateen rigged, reinforced hull, yare  

The convoy: dhows Zanzibar, Socotra and Djibouti
Q2 C2 (16 points each)
lateen rigged, merchantman, shallow draft

Victory conditions:

The convoy must cross the length of the table, any vessels exiting off the sides count as losses. For the convoy, each successful junk exit is 1 Victory Point, a dhow is worth 2 VP. Don Marco gains 1 VP for each pirate junk taken or sunk, and 2VP for each dhow captured but nothing for a dhow sunk.

Don Marco must not lose either of his two major units (the galleon and frigate), doing so means his officers will withdraw their support for his hare-brained scheme.

The game:

The first photo picks up the action after two turns. The Portuguese reached the interception point shortly before the convoy, which is running before the trade wind (the wind is blowing diagonally across the table from lower left). The convoy junks and dhows are easily recognisable from their distinctive sail plans. Don Marco on the Santa Catarina galleon leads the Moscado across the front of the oncoming convoy, while the Santa Barbara frigate moves downwind to head off any escapees.

At the start of Turn 3 the galleon opened fire on the junk Bok Choy, causing 1 damage point. The convoy reacted quickly. The dhows all turned to starboard and increased speed (from Running to Broad Reaching) to try and make an end-run around the Portuguese rear. The escort turned to port, intending the usual pirate tactic of engaging the enemy more closely, except for Bean Sprout which closed directly on the Sa Catarina. This photo shows the situation at the end of the turn.

In Turn 4 the Sa Catarina fired her chaser guns and port broadside at the Bean Sprout, causing 2 damage points, but the pirates were not deterred and closed the galleon, grappling it ready to swarm on board next turn. The other pirates tacked to cover the convoy, as the dhows continued their escape run. The Sa Barbara frigate at R of the photo has reversed course to intercept them.

Turn 5 started with a bang! The Sa Catarina fired a full Broadside at point-blank range at the Bean Sprout before the pirates could launch a boarding action. This caused critical damage and the pirates and their vessel sank from cumulative hull damage. See next photo. The galleon then swung around to join the general chase after the dhows.

This photo shows the end of Turn 7. The only further damage has been to the dhow Djibouti, which caught fire, exploded and sank after being hit by long range chaser gunfire from the Sa Barbara. But the convoy has also been affected by two untimely turnovers, which have had the effect of preventing the pirate escorts from engaging the big Portuguese galleon. One of the two surviving dhows (out of frame at lower R) seems to have a clear run to the exit edge, while the other looks cornered and in need of intervention by the pirates.

In Turn 8 the two remaining pirate junks caught up to the Portuguese, who suddenly found they had wako where you least need them - attacking from the rear. The next photo shows Sa Catarina and Moscado with a pirate junk grappled at the stern of each, ready to board.

Two turns later (including one untimely turnover by the Portuguese that prevented them from trying to cut the pirate grapples before they came swarming over the bulwarks) ... the next photo shows the story.
In the foreground the dhow Zanzibar has slipped past the Sa Barbara and has clear water before it. In the background the other dhow, Socotra, has taken the other tack and is sneaking away behind the action. The galleon Sa Catarina and the pirate junk Bitter Melon are fighting each other to a standstill, each has 2 damage points. The little merchant brig Moscato is showing the bigger boys how it is done. Amazingly it has caused 2 damage points to the Bok Choy (which also had 1 from earlier punishment) suffering none itself.

At the end of Turn 11 (see next photo) the two dhows seem to have made their getaway ... at extreme R and at bottom of the frame. The exit table-edge is along the bottom edge of the frame, about 2xL from the Zanzibar. The Sa Barbara continues its dogged pursuit (on the L of frame). Behind it the Moscado has shaken off her pirate attacker (using a good Activation roll to cut the grapples, then using its compulsory under-sail move to get away).

The Bok Choy could have chased it down but instead chose to alter course and close the side of the Sa Catarina, but with no time to grapple. On the galleon Don Marco, in his finest armour and plumage, had just accepted the surrender of the Bitter Melon when the heavily damaged but still game Bok Choy came alongside.

In the last round of the boarding action between Sa Catarina and Bitter Melon, the galleon rolled two successes for activation. I checked the rules, and it seemed I could use both of them to fight two rounds of boarding actions (unlike gunfire say, where a given arc of fire for a vessel can activate only one time per turn). The first round the pirates won, both ships were now on 3 damage points. This was the heart-stopping moment! But then the galleon’s crew won, taking the pirates into excess damage territory causing them to strike.

At the end of Turn 12, with my available playing time fast running out, I called it for Don Marco. In the next and last photo you can see in the foreground the Sa Barbara has caught and grappled the Zanzibar, I am counting that as a capture. In the background the dhow Socotra is the only one that will make it off table. I am allowing it to get away although if played out the Sa Barbara and Moscado might still chase it down. The Sa Catarina fired a full raking broadside, at point blank range, at the Bok Choy and blew it into very small pieces.

Don Marco has won his gamble, it seems. His squadron has sunk one dhow and two pirates, and taken another dhow (with treasure, we assume) and a pirate. Only one dhow, and no pirates, escaped. In terms of VP allocation, that’s 5-2 to Don Marco and the Portuguese.

Maybe the reception at Malacca won’t be too bad!

Cheers from Pattaya 

'Destroyer', the meanest racer in the village

The last - or more probably, the 'latest' - racer to join my son's collection for Faustus Furius is Destroyer, the orcish steam-tank. I picked this up as an impulse buy whilst browsing the Perfect Six Miniatures site. I've said it before, and I'm sure to say it again, Richard has some really superb quality products on there. It is, rather obviously, a 6mm orcish steam-tank. In the game, it will run as a heavy chariot class meaning that it's acceleration isn't good, but it is sturdy and should handle anything other racers throw at it.

Friday, 29 December 2017

All hail Minos

All hail Minos, Beloved of the Great-Mother; Priest-king of Knossos, High-king of Crete and Lord of the Islands; the Bull from the Sea, below whose hooves the very earth shakes. Minos, all hail!

Mighty words for  6mm king, but deserved words none-the-less. I have finally finished the second division of my Minoan (Mycenaean) army for L'Art de la Guerre. The Myrmidon division was finished back in October (HERE and HERE), and while these were started way back then, the last of the chariots were only finished yesterday. All figures with the exception of Minos are from Rapier Miniatures.

This is the personal division of Minos himself and represents his household guard. Composed of elite heavy chariots, medium spearmen and light infantry javelineers, on the battlefield, this will function as one of the two swift(er) divisions with everything moving a mighty 3 base widths a turn. I never said it would be a fast army.

King Minos leading the chariots - all chariots are from Rapier's Trojan range. Two of the warriors are Rapier Hittites, the rest are Trojans/Mycenaeans wearing the famous Dendra panoply. Minos's horses are Rapier Egyptian chariot horses. Most of the chariots were miss-cast, missing either part of the railing, or/and the lower part of one or both wheels. Still, even with this close up photography, you can't really notice.

Minos is a barbarian with double headed axe from Perfect Six Miniatures. I can't rave enough about how lovely the Perfect Six stuff is, and about how good the service is. They don't have  huge range yet, but what they do have is great. Go check them out.

Medium spearmen with pavise shields and missile support - both bases have a slinger and an archer in among the spearmen. All are the Rapier Trojans.

Light infantry with javelins. I wasn't sold on the Rapier Trojan javelinmen, so went with something a little more exotic - if still plausible - and bought a pack of Libyans. All have swords rather than javelins which is a minor shame, but the two sculpts in the pack are lovely, and they will do the trick nicely. 

The final division is the heavy spearmen with skirmisher supports. Coming soon (enough) in 2018. On that note, here is a Mycenaean heavy spearman to set the mood - drawn by my friend and illustrator Orestix. Check him out on Facebook and at DeviantArt.