Monday 11 January 2016

L'Art de la Guerre - Pyrrhic Victory

Over the weekend, we got together to try out a large game (300 points) of L'Art de la Guerre. As I wanted to get Pyrrhos of Epeiros and his Italian 'allies' on the table, we set the date at 280 BC. My foe therefore, ran Camillian Romans rather than his more usual mid-Republican (Polybian) selection. That meant less Gallic (et al.) auxiliaries, more Italians, substantially more heavy spearmen (Principes count as spear in this period) and, to my dismay, more cavalry than I could muster.

We also discovered that I can get a good 200 point Pyrrhic army, but that I don't have enough appropriate figures for 300 points. Sod. Happily I was joined by our Hellenistic Spartan player who fielded a 100 point allies Spartan army which formed our left flank.

Here you can see the lazy, stubborn Romans hanging back while our boys storm across the field. The Roman line, from left (top of picture) to right consisted of a heavy Roman legion, a medium Italian division skulking in some fields, and them two more heavy Roman legions.

Our forces from right flank (top of pictures) consisted of the Pyrrhic cavalry, the heavy infantry, the medium infantry (Samnites) and elephant, and ended with the pike heavy Spartan division.

The lines crunch together. The Roman force massed cavalry from two division on his right, seeking to outflank the Spartans. The Spartan elite hoplites held back, forming a very persuasive flank guard.

The bigger picture mid-way through the game. We found that the 300 point game ground on much longer than we expected, with the balance of victory hoovering very slightly in favour of the Romans most of the time. They had a breakpoint of something silly like 38, while ours was a slightly less silly 32 (or something simmilar - it was a long nights craic and gaming).

Although most of my troops behaved as expected, the undeniable men of the match were my Samnite medium swordsmen. Those wee buggers stood toe to toe with Roman heavy swordsmen (impact and armour) and consistently got the better of them. Meanwhile, the Spartans were having a real hard time of it against the better part of 1.5 Roman legions.

The Epeirote and Tarantine phalanxes slowly beat back the Roman Italian allies, while my cavalry division once more got locked into a struggle with formed heavy foot. Although they held out for a while, they were eventually bettered by the stoic farmers of Latium. What we did discover on this flank was how very well light infantry behave in rough terrain. My Cretan archers seized the plantation on the table's edge and refused to be shifted.

As the Pyrrhic/Spartan flanks collapsed and the Roman centre dissolved, both armies reached their break points in the same phase. The Romans ended up 5 points over their break, and the good guys just three points over, so with the narrowest of margins, we called that a truly Pyrrhic victory. There was no way that either army would be fighting again anytime soon with such heavy casualties.

We enjoyed the game again (with some reservations from the Spartan), but felt that the recommended 200 point game size probably made for a more enjoyable experience, and certainly resolved itself faster. We learnt a few more things about the game, and did a few things wrong, but on the whole, another two thumbs up from this happy gamer for a fine set of rules.


  1. Great looking figures and game - haven't tried the rules out yet myself, but it looks cool.

  2. Impressive pictures...great looking battle!