So, some news. My copy of Extra Impetus 4 has arrived, and, if you'll excuse the phrase, the game's afoot! While a wide range of free lists are available via the dadiepiombo website, this expansion of the game offers a wider variety (and better developed) lists. Having spent several hours muttering to myself and digging through the lead pile (and a few existential crises later), I've decided to morph my developing Pyrrhic force into an Antigonid successors list. This will allow me to use a wider range of my available lead, but still allows me to keep using the figures / units I've already painted. The main differences at this point are that my recently completed throakital / thureophoroi will count as generic peltasts, my hoplites will sub as Lykians rather than Italians, and my recently completed Tarantines (who will get their own post in a day or two) become generic Greek light cavalry (which, given they're from a greek colony city, works just fine). Also, my Italian cavalry go back to what they were, greek heavies. Now I know how Optimus Prime feels.
In celebration of my decision, I took the new list out for a spin against Watts (THMG member, universally acclaimed dictator-for-life of the club forums, and my opponent in this game) and his Republican Romans; the outcome suggests the decision was propitious. We rolled off for deployment, and with a significant advantage in mounted units, I won. Watts placed terrain, I switched around a few pieces, and we deployed.
We'd both learned a bit from previous games. Watts told me in course of the game that he deliberately "checker-boarded" his units to prevent the kind of light cavalry shenanigans of our previous match-up. I'd also learned a bit from my whalloping at the hands of Otherdave's Khurasanians, both in terms of deployment and terrain placement. I had deliberately placed the forest in the middle of the table to channel activity into two main zones. The plan was to more or less refuse a flank, sending my disposable units (elephants, skirmishers, possibly light cavalry) out to hold Watts off on the left, while the core of my force concentrated on the right to gain a local advantage.
This meant I spent the first few turns manoeuvring to cram the bulk of my forces through the channel on the right between the woods and the hills; as you can see in the picture above, this was a wee bit disruptive. On the left, my elephants with a light skirmish screen advanced toward his flank.
Just as things were starting to shake out, disaster struck. We rolled for initiative, and my dice came up snake eyes.
A roll of double ones drops your general down a level of expertise, with implications for both future initiative rolls, and one's ability to recover from disruption. This was compounded by the fact that I had downgraded my general when I re-jigged the list (picking up two rolls of destiny along the way - more on that later). At this point, I was starting to wonder if old one-eye had been drinking a bit too much the night before.
Despite the setback, I managed to dress my lines, and had things more or less where I wanted them. My elephants were set to "cork" the channel on my left, I had my light foot on the edge of the woods, and the bulk of my forces were nicely concentrated on my right. The only fly in the ointment were the pesky Numidians (curse them!), waiting to pounce on the other side of the forest.
At this point, I made a bit of a mistake. I had the opportunity to advance my peltasts through the wood, and engage his pesky Numidians in such a way as to prevent their evasion. Instead, I sent my own light cav, composed of courageous Greeks, to do the job, and predictably, his Numidians (curse them!) ran away.
This would have been okay, except that it also meant my Greeks were now facing not one, but two elements of cavalry.
On my left, my elephants were doing their job. As I recall, his skirmishers managed to get in close and do a bit of damage to one pachyderm, and Watts followed that up with a cavalry charge, but with little effect. The main problem I seemed to be having was getting them to recover from disruption.
On the right, things were going poorly, if predictably, for my Greek light cavalry. Faced with heavier cavalry on their flank, it was very much a question of now you see them:
Now you don't:
On the left, his medium cavalry fared almost as badly against my elephants, and eventually retired in the firm conviction that they weren't worth tangling with.
On the right, I continued to try and get my main force lined up for their eventual charge, while my skirmishers did yeoman service clearing the road. In the new, Antigonid, list, my cretan archers have been replaced with Pamphylian javelinmen. I don't know what Pamphylian mothers feed their children, but apparently, it turns them into ninjas.
The thing about skirmishers is that at point-blank range, they pose a real threat. They don't tend to last long when they get that close to formed troops, but it is possible to manoeuvre in such a way as to get at least one good volley off before the skirmishers are lost. Given that one bad cohesion roll can take out a unit, ignoring skirmishers is something one does at one's peril. To which Watt's cavalry can testify.
One the left, things were going fairly well. Although my peltasts in the woods had been chewed up by his cavalry, they were hanging on. His other medium cavalry were trying to manoeuvre around my flank, but the need to give my elephants wide berth had them labouring over a hill, essentially out of the game. This let my elephants begin to put pressure on his flank, pushing him in towards the limited space between the woods and the hill.
I used one elephant to "drive" his cavalry, while the other pushed in towards his light cavalry and skirmishers. I then miraculously managed to rally the unit from disruption, and put them on opportunity. In Impetus, having a unit on opportunity allows a player to interrupt the opponents turn with a reaction. For example, if your opponent begins to move a unit in the charge lane of your "opportunist", you can interrupt to charge them. If things go well, you can even wipe that unit out and charge into another in close proximity. Kind of like this.
Although this meant my elephants ended up in combat with his elite infantry (which would not work out well for them in the long run), it put real pressure on the left flank, and also prompted him to disengage his damaged Numidians (curse them). They in turn were promptly felled by short-range javelin fire from my ninjas. I mean, Pamphylians.
I definitely need to paint up this unit.
At this point, things were definitely picking up. Initiative rolls had started to go my way, and I had a couple of turns where I was able to "double up" my turns by winning key initiative rolls. Watts's commander had suffered the same fate as mine (apparently, not only Anigonus had been drinking the night before), which evened things up again. I had the core of my army lined up and ready to go, and while I hadn't been able to whittle down his core infantry, I had a fair shot, a a clear charge lane straight through his army to his camp.
I began the main attack with the cavalry, who chased away his skirmishers, and then bounced off his triarii, chewing them up a bit in the process.
His skirmishers, which had been pushed off to the flank, then gave me a taste of my own medicine, and slid in behind my flank to finish off my battered Agema. Despite this small victory, Watts seemed somewhat troubled by the situation.
I then drove in my remaining cavalry and infantry. The Lykian hoplites chewed through the principes in front of them, while the phalangites gave their target a good mauling.
My greek cavalry hammered in on the already damaged Triarii, adding insult to the injury caused by the Agema. In the end, the Triarii and their skirmishers finished off the brave Greeks, but not without cost.
Things hovered in the balance. Both of us were within a few points of breaking. On the left, his other triarii, having finished off one of my elephants, attempted a charge on the peltasts hiding in the woods, but weren't able to take them out. It must have been poison ivy . . .
On the right, Watts took advantage of the line-change rule available to legions to swap out his damaged principes for a fresh hastati. He also tried to take out my Pamphylian ninjas (I mean, javelinmen), but true to their training, they evaded him.
On the next, and final turn, the Pamphylians finished off the damaged principes in a hail of javelins, while his Hastati went down under the pikes of the phalangites. With their army in tatters, and their camp open and undefended, the Roman army broke and fled the field.
What an incredible game. Tense throughout, and about as close as they come. If Watts had managed to take out either the peltast / skirmisher combo, or one more base of either phalanx, he would have won. One of the things I really like about Impetus is the unpredictability of combat. While there are factors you can control, there is always the potential of things to go south. Winning requires that you commit your troops, but that commitment always carries risks.
Overall, the game went as well as I could ask. My basic plan seemed to work, and while I had some abysmal luck early in the game, there were a couple of critical moments where the dice went my way. I'm finding the elephant / skirmisher combo is terrific as a disposable, but effective threat, especially against cavalry. In terrain where they can avoid being outflanked, they can hold up a whole wing. In retrospect, I may have thrown away my cavalry in the successive attacks on his triarii, but to his credit, Watts used the combo of them and his skirmishers effectively, and in the end, the cavalry sacrifice let me get my block of heavy infantry engaged. While the downgraded commander meant some frustration with both initiative rolls and my ability to rally, having two "rolls of destiny" at my disposal made a difference, keeping both my itallian cavalry and the Lykian phalanx relatively fresh into the late stages of the game.
**update** Just realised I played this game at 12 points over the limit. I missed the jump in points between the elephants that appear in the Pyrrhic list, and the ones that appear in the Antigonid list. My apologies to Watts. I'll have to give him a chance at vengeance - something I'm sure he'll want ;)
While I have some slingers primed and ready, I really do think that unit of Pamphylians deserves some paint. I'll try to give the the attention they earned over the weekend.