On the first day of the FoG tournament at Battle Cry 2014 I followed closely Carthage’s path in the second century BCE: a string of set backs culminating in its destruction. On the morning of the second day I was told that I will play against the two top players in the tournament, both fielding well composed and so far very successful chariot armies. While this meant that I would have it even harder than the day before, I also looked forward to play against their armies, as they were quite different compared to the ones I played against the day before. The final game of the day would be fought with Stonehenge in sight, as my Carthaginians faced Early Scots.
IV. And the sky turned black…
He found himself on a great plain, the horizon flooded by the red of the morning sun. Confused he tried to find his brothers, but he was alone amongst his soldiers, their faces stoic, their eyes without gleam.
“We have to attack general. His deadly presence and poiseness bite hails down on us”, said a short soldier holding the reins of his horse. “What is it, that we fight against?” he replied, his head humming of the screams around him. The voice of his servant failed when an arrow hit his neck, the reins leaving his hands.
He looked up, his centre before him, arrow upon arrow lightening his ranks. His best troops stood strong against the onslaught, while he could not see any of his men on his right flank. On the left he saw the Iberians protecting his flank. “May Ba’al welcome you”, he spoke as he looked down to the servant, took the reins and mounted his horse. His sword glistened in the sun flooding the plain and he lay his eyes on his opponent.
Bowmen riding chariots enveloped him like a strong current, taking with them man after man. Close to the Iberians he could make out some shadows advancing fast. Where these men or specters? If they were men, they would spill blood, attack the only way to prove it. “Advance! Ba’al with us!”, he clamoured to his men, sword raised.
His main line advanced, the chariots always a step ahead, but eager to return and hail new death on his men. On the left the Iberians held their ground, staring towards the shadows lining up opposite them. Why did they not attack?
Infuriated his men pressed on in the center, breaking up the line of battle to follow the chariots as they swiftly turned to the left and right.
It were the Gauls who finally caught these phantoms, proving that they were men. Bleeding of many wounds they fled, but the Gauls advanced ahead to plunder what appeared to be their camp. Gilded walls and a sarcophagos made of pure marble in its centre lured them inside, never to been seen again.
He drifted far to the right with his most experienced men, now facing no less than a thousand chariots. Despair and fear took over his heart as he order his troops to stay close together, their spears directed towards the enemy fully engulfing them. The sun darkened when they unleashed their hatred onto them, arrows piercing his every limb.
He awoke with a scream bathed in hot sweat. “Water”, he uttered to a servant and sat up. He wiped his face and left the tent. Before him lay the plain of Zama, in the far distance he could see the fires of the Roman camp. These men were no shadows…but were the gods against him?
Post game analysis:
Fighting a chariot army excelling in fire power and manoeuverability is no easy task, especially if they are led by an experienced player. I intended to keep the opponent’s medium foot on my left flank occupied and advance with the centre to force his chariots off the table edge or better to catch and destroy them. My Inspired General, superior troops and armour helped to avoid the worst effects of the shooting, but it was only a matter of time until he would grind me down. I was able to catch his camp and fragment one of his battlegroups, but his chariots proved too elusive for my heavy foot to catch them. My skirmishers fell victim to his chariots early on, meaning I had no leeway with my other troops. I should have taken them back when there was still time and not allow my opponent to get 4 attrition points early in the game. While not a victory the game went better than most of the ones I played the day before and was an interesting challenge.
V. The will of Ares
“Come closer Hiram, warm yourself at the fire.” the old man said, his cloak wrapped around him, only prompting a lamenting “I am cold grandfather” from the young boy. Merbal smiled. “Then come closer and we share my cloak child. I will also tell you of the deeds of our ancestors, that should keep your mind of the cold.” “Of heroes and gods and great battles?”, Hiram asked full of excitement. Merbal smirked and nodded. “Yes, of heroes old, the kind songs are written about, of the God’s intrigues and a battle so great only the Golden Age could have brought forward it.” Hiram sat down at the fire, sharing his grandfather’s cloak, watching the lambent flames listening…
“Hundreds of years ago one of our great ancestors Hannibal faced one of the greatest heroes who ever walked the earth: Achilles, son of Peleus and king of the Myrmidons. I told you about the great Trojan war Hiram, but I did not tell you about our revered ancestor’s exploits. He was a proud man always keen to test his mettle and prowess.
One day Ares, the god of war himself appeared in his dreams and told him of a hero tenfold greater than any other man, cunning, versed in the art of war and favourite of the gods. Ares had watched Hannibal and found a glimpse of the fire that burned inside Achilles heart. As Ares expected Hannibal was quick to accept the challenge and seek out this favourite of the god of war to assume his rightful place.
It did not take long for him to find Achilles, as he was occupied to amass even more glory following Agamemnon, son of king Atreus and king of Mycenae, on a campaign against the usurpers Aegisthus and Thyestes.
Hannibal had only a small force of experienced soldiers to his disposal facing a much more mobile force of chariots and lightly armed spearmen. He decided to use the terrain to his advantage and deployed his infantry in a crescent shape on the slopes of a steep hill, using its southern side to make camp.
Faced with a long line of chariots to the north he lined up his spearmen and a group of Gauls against this threat, two more units of spearmen positioned on his flank and thus able to turn at a moments notice to oppose the enemy should he decide to attack his open left flank. Some Spaniards he ordered to stay close to the camp, should the enemy break through and attempt to take it. Finally his light Numidian horsemen and Iberian heavy cavalry he positioned on the far left, hoping to gain an advantage this way.
The Mycenean advanced quickly and before Hannibal could issue new commands he found himself surrounded on all sites. His left fell in slight disorder, confused by the new commands and eager to outmanoeuvre their much more agile opponents.
Finally battle ensued on the left flank, while his centre remained unharassed. Achilles himself led his Myrmidons through a freshly ploughed field to attack the spearmen positioned there supported by a number of chariots. Attacked both from the front and the side panic spread through the ranks of spearmen, risking to expose the centre and lose the battle before it even began.
Eager to prove himself to Ares Hannibal ordered his men to hold the lines, should the remaining chariots attack and made his way to the faltering spearmen. It was not long until his whole left flank was fully committed in battle, men and horse fighting against the ever-increasing pressure. Ares surely had his hand in the outcome of this battle, as not only Hannibal’s men stood strong, but were also able to force their opponents back, releasing the pressure on the left. Hannibal was more than pleased and led a last charge into the heart of the Myrmidons seeking out Achilles. He saw his crested helmet from afar and heated up by the battle and eager to face the hero, he struck men to his left and right to reach his prize. Ares decided it was not time for Achilles to join the ranks of the gods and before Hannibal could reach him the Myrmidons retreated.
When the screams fell silent and the dust of battle settled, Hannibal could see the full extend of the slaughtering. Both sides had lost a tremendous amount of men, with only his Iberians and Scutarii in good shape, most of his spearmen hacked down or pursuing the enemy. What he sought to be a moment of triumph soon turned into his demise.
His troops scattered Hannibal decided to advance his centre, hoping to crush the remaining chariots. He hoped for the victorious Iberians to join him, but reserves harassed them and made it impossible to partake in the ensuing fighting. Faced with fresh troops to his front and no hope for reinforcements Hannibal decided to retreat.
The battle he had lost, but he was still eager to dethrone Achilles, a taste of which he had enjoyed on this very day. Ares would soon need to acknowledge him…”
With these words the old man ended his story. Hiram still gazed into the fire. “Did he slay Achilles in the end?”, he asked, looking up to his grandfather. Merbal smiled. “This is for another night around the camp fire child. For today we shall get some sleep.”
Post game analysis:
Faced with light chariots again – however this time armed with spears – I hoped to use the terrain features and fight my opponent’s troops on my terms. Unfortunately I manoeuvred too much on my left flank, making it hard to position my cavalry properly. I did also not realise that my opponent was able to attack my veterans on the left with both his chariots and his Myrmidons. While this should have sealed the deal the gods were with me and I rolled the dice like never before. Even my Iberian cavalry was able to not only face, but also break a unit of spearmen, followed by my opponents Myrmidons. A rare case of dice luck being so influential that it did negate the superior strategy of my opponent. I made another mistake in forgetting that light foot can attack any troops in terrain, thus binding my cavalry and making it impossible to influence the battle on the other side of the table. In the end I had taken too many losses and reached my army break point. A very intense game with many lucky dice rolls on my side and unlucky ones on my opponent’s side. However, still a deserved victory for him and an enjoyable game. My opponent also won the tournament, as he did last year, and it was a very good experience to play against such a skilled player. I also have to mention his camp, as it depicts Achilles on a chariot drawing Hector’s body behind him. A very creative solution for an army camp indeed!
VI. Danger and delight grow on one stalk
It had rained for days and the strangely dressed barbarians harassed them since they set foot on these fog covered lands. Himilco had been sure that these are the lands of the Hyperboreans, but the more they travelled inland, the less likely it seemed that this would be the lands of plenty, where gods and men dined together.
Some local farmers speaking a strange Celtic dialect did point them to a site of great power, at least they believed the site to be touched by their gods. Could this be the legendary court of the Hyperboreans? The closer they came, the more fiercely the scouting and foraging parties were attacked, culminating in the sighting of a great force, marching towards them. Himilco realised that in this weather retreat was not an option, nor could he ransom or negotiate with these barbaric people. His best bet was on a pitched battle, dispersing these barbarians before they could pose a real threat.
On the day of battle the rain had stopped and Himilco had been able a entice his opponents to meet his force on a great plain. The sheer number of his opponents made him pray to Ba’al and he had to speak words of courage to his men, to keep their moral up. The barbarians lined up in a straight line, their numbers their strength. Himilco’s troops were less in number, but seasoned veterans. He deployed in a short line, his cavalry he sent to the left in an attempt to go round the enemy.
As Himilco expected the barbarians furiously advanced, seeking to surround his force and make their numbers count. He sent his centre forward to meet the enemy, but ordered the troops on the left and right end of the battle line to turn and protect the flanks of the central spearmen. His Iberian Scutarii he send to the right, too, supporting the Gauls.
The centre made first contact with the enemy, standing strong and finally breaking through his ranks. On the right the Gauls and Scutarii faced a warband that had left the line of battle to threaten Himilco’s left flank. While they were able to stop their advance, the Gauls proved unreliable and the Scutarii were overwhelmed by the great numbers of men and their furious onslaught.
On the left the spearmen could not only bind yet another warband, but also held long enough for the centre to turn and renew the fight. At this point the cavalry had been successful in binding the enemies reserves on the left, but unable to go round or to join Himilco’s centre. However, the Iberians made it possible for the Numidian light horse to escape their pursuers and to return to the left crushing into the rear of the already committed barbarians. Faced with an attack from all sides the barbarians still fought brave, but it was Himilco’s lead in the end and his encouraging words that brought victory in the end.
After the remaining barbarians witnessed the fate of their kin, hacked down where they stood, fear and panic spread, causing the army to disperse, pursued and hunted down by the victorious Carthaginians.
After a long and hard fight Himilco stood amongst the bodies of hundreds of men in the far distance he could see a structure built of colossal rocks forming a circle. Was this the Hyperborean court? For the answer he had paid in blood, now it was time to meet the lords of these lands.
Post game analysis:
A victory at last. The game went very well from the outset. The terrain was in my favour as the army of my opponent consisted mainly of medium foot, but the battle group size made up for this disadvantage ranging between 10 and 12 stands. I realised that the main problem would be numbers and that I had to destroy his forces step by step. The battle ensued first in the centre, were the combination of superior troops, fighting against medium foot in open terrain and some good dice rolls led to victory. At the same time my right flank was not as succesful, but was at least able to stop yet another enormous battle group from catching me in the flank. I was a bit too keen with my Gauls, attacking his unit in column and thus wasting my impact foot advantage. On the left my spearmen were able to stop one of his remaining units, while my heavy cavalry was able to bind the last of his units. This way I could bring my light horse back and help with charge in the rear. While one unit of the centre spearmen made its way to my opponents camp, the other one turned and reached the fight just in time to support the already committed spearmen and light horse. The numbers being to my advantage his unit and army broke. A good game, that was very close in the beginning and finally decided by the staying power of my veteran spearmen.
I enjoyed myself enormously during this year’s Battle Cry Field of Glory tournament. I had six excellent games with good opponents and tons of fun. While the first day was not as successful as I hoped, the second day made up for my less than stellar performance on the first. I was able to achieve my goal to not come last and to at least win one game. The army list worked quite well, but might profit from some light tweaking. I also got again the impression that Field of Glory is an excellent tournament game and favours skill over luck. While I am not sure if I can attend Battle Cry next year, I surely would like to and see if I can further improve my performance. I hope you enjoyed reading the battle reports and might even be interested in giving Field of Glory a go.