Thursday, May 2, 2013

Nike dwells here.


As mentioned in the last couple of posts, Vonplutz has caught the Impetus bug, and is looking to do a PW Athenian force, which has in turn prompted me to get back to work on my Spartans.  As he's not yet had a chance to play the game, however, we set out to give him a test run.  This meant we were playing a game with his bases versus my less than half finished Spartans, but it also gave me an excuse to get my finished stuff on the table, so what the hell ;)

Who're we going to kill today, boss?

I found this game interesting for a couple of reasons.  First, Spartans are pretty weak on cavalry; in my 300 point build list, I've taken the maximum, i.e., 1 unit.  This is something of a departure from my Antigonids, where something like half the active elements are mounted and mobile.  While Spartan discipline gives them manoeuvre options (when one remembers to use them, see below), they're still pretty slow.  Second, though the Athenians aren't quite as limited, they're still a hoplite list, and big slow infantry blocks dominate the game.  This produced a very different dynamic in play.

Peltasts and allies left, Spartans centre, peltasts and cavalry right.

With the edge in mounted units, and a good die roll, VP won the roll-off, and opted to defend.  We used the new tournament rules for terrain,  which I quite like.  VP placed two forests and a swamp, and I moved the latter back into his deployment zone to try and choke up his cavalry.  Deployment was fairly straightforward, with hoplites in the centre, and the flanks held by peltasts and cavalry, skirmishers to the fore.

My cavalry begins a deadly game of "catch me, catch me".
Opening stages of the battle were fairly predictable.  Main lines advanced, while we both moved our light infantry in a bid to hold the forests on the flanks, and cavalry looped around.  My plan with the latter was basically to draw off his cavalry, preferably far enough that they couldn't get back into the game in time to make a difference.

Couldn't make a 2+, huh?

I seemed to have similar problems with discipline rolls this game as I did with the last one; even with passing on a 2+ on the general's unit, I seemed to roll a hell of a lot of ones ;)

See all those white stones?  It's why I could never play terminators in 40k.

The varying degrees of disciplinary success led to a bit of a patchwork advance.  This was one of the first points I really noticed the shift in armies.  While playing Antigonids I do have to be conscious of my flanks, I also tend to have lots of stuff available to screen.  With the Spartans, I have to coordinate, because the infantry blocks need to cover each other.  It didn't help that at just about the same time I picked up on this idea, I rolled the dreaded snake-eyes for initiative, and my general dropped a quality level.  This is getting to be a habit!

And the tragedy continues.

Among other things, this meant that my line could only advance as its slowest component, which were generally the Discipline B allied hoplites.  This bears consideration in bigger games, where it might make sense to organize commands by discipline class.

Allies.  Slow of mind, slow of body.

Despite these concerns, I managed to get the hoplites back into a rough line as the two sides closed.

Getting back into shape.

Meanwhile. on the right, the cavalry were starting to close on each other as well.  The terrain hampered VP, as I'd hoped, and it gave me time to position my unit on opportunity as the Athenian cavalry approached.  At a bare minimum, I'd be able to counter-charge.  I'd also pushed my peltasts into the woods, in the hope that they'd be able to coordinate.

Cavalry on the far side of the woods to the right.

In  the centre and left, the hoplites were getting into spitting distance, and the skirmishers were starting to exchange fire.  VP's peltasts (thracians, apparantly) had taken the woods on my left, and I knew I'd need to flush them out, or face the possibility of my flank being compromised.

Skirmish duel begins.  You can see how the Skiritai did their thing on the right.

Then the cavalry fight began.  VP charged in, I counter-charged, he brought in his second unit, and after a swirling melee, I got off lightly.  Although I lost, and had been driven back, it was with only moderate damage, and the terrain was so tight, VP couldn't coordinate an effective pursuit.  This would become a running battle that might cost me my cavalry, but had a chance to take VP's out of the game.

Phase one of the cavalry duel.  Went better than I expected.

At this point, I discovered another little secret weapon in the Spartan arsenal, the Skiritai.  These are skirmishers with an Impetus value, i.e., they can charge and initiate melee combat, something that skirmishers generally can't do.  Ordinarily, this is of limited use, as skirmish units are automatically destroyed by contact with formed units, but it allow the Skiritai to charge other skirmishers, generally driving them back as the target of the charge evades.  You can see where this happened on the right, below.

The lines about to close.

Now things started to heat up.  I sent in a unit of Spartans, but VP elected to stand and shoot with his skirmishers.  It cost him the unit, but stalled my attack for a turn.  On the left, the peltasts began their duel for the woods, while on the right, the Athenian horse finally took out my cavalry.  If they could get back to the battle in time, it was going to cause me problems.

Athenian skirmishes stall my attack.

Athenian cavalry win on the right, but now they have to make their way back to the battle.

I won a key initiative the next turn (rolled 11!), and got in the chump shot, starting the hoplite slog.  I had a temporary advantage, as VP was still trying to bring his general's unit into line (he'd deployed in depth, with the general behind his other phalaxes).  It didn't do me much good however, as sub-par attack rolls lost me the combat.  Cohesion made up for it however, and my only slightly battered hoplites locked their opponents in combat.

Phalanx clash.

In the woods, my peltasts were getting the better of it, but the Athenians just would not break.

Peltasts duel in the woods.

Things shifted when VP finally turned the tables on me, and swung his general's unit around to crash into the flank of mine; now I was fighting an uphill battle.  My Spartans fought like heroes, however, and pushed the attack back.  My peltasts also put their Athenian counterparts to flght, and claimed the woods.  Now it came down to attrition, and a race to the flanks; whoever got a unit in behind the opposing line first would likely win, but would it be my peltasts surging out of the woods, or VP's cavalry riding to the rescue?

The critical moment.  Who will break first?

Turns out. neither made it.  My general held off the two opposing phalanx just long enough for my other two to smash through the Athenian line, and in a chaotic battle (4 large units engaged), broke a second Athenian phalanx as well.  They died hard, but the died, and it was enough to bring VP's army to it's break point.  A good thing too, as my thoroughly battered general was about to get hit from all sides !

Not the Spartans!

What's the greek for "Fetch me my brown trousers"?

This turned out to be very different than prior games of Impetus, but still very fun.   The dynamics of a game where both armies are composed primarily of heavy foot demanded a different kind of army management, and put a real premium on the value of more mobile elements in the army.  VP wasn't impressed by his peltasts' performance, but I thought mine were gold; not so much as a "killing" unit, but as something that can actually move around the table.  I think if VP had been able to get his cavalry back faster, or coordinate between his light foot and horse, the game would have gone differently.

Speaking of mobility and co-ordination, I managed to completely overlook one of the key advantages the Spartans have; the mobility they derive from being Discipine A.  This allows them to move obliquely without disorder, something that would have been invaluable both to protect myself from the flank threat, and in the close quarters manoeuvring prior to the clash of lines.  I didn't remember this until the game was over, despite having mentioned it to VP before the game began!

While we were slogging it out, some of the other guys got in a biggish game of Bolt Action, with 2 x 500 points a side.  Looked good, and I believe the Germans won.


One last thing to mention.  I was talking to VP last night about Dan Carlin's podcast, "Hardcore History", and was shocked to discover that he'd never heard of it.  It occurred to me that others out there might not have heard either, so I'm including the link.  More recent stuff is available free, older stuff is available for a nominal fee, and they're excellent.  He's just finished a multi-part series on the Mongols, and I highly recommend his series on the fall of the Roman Republic, and on the Punic Wars as well.  Great stuff to listen to while painting.

I'm going to have a more detailed post on the completed Spartan unit for the weekend.  Next week seems a little up in the air, but hopefully I'll get some kind of game in.  Spartan peltasts are primed and in production, so things seem to be moving now that the insanity at work has abated.



  1. Once again a beautiful table and great looking figures...very nice post!

  2. The fact I want to get in a game of Impetus reflects what a great story you tell. And Hardcore History is tops. I've bought all the old episodes and I too, listen while I paint. I tried listening while I drive but my kids complain!

  3. At the beginning it's almost like a Greek tragedy; '...and a storm of ones caused disorder in the Spartans' ranks. Only the gods could cause such problems, the omens were not good...' but then the hero turns the tragedy into an epic.
    Your painted minis look great by the way :D

    1. It was such a fun battle and caught the hoplite style warfare very well. First he pushed my line back, then I his, and vice versa until one side had enough.

      I didn't per say not like my peltasts I just don't think I used them to their full advantage. Losing the first unit of them to yours sucked, especially when right after my wounded unit of horse clobbered the Spartan peltasts into the dirt.

  4. Awesome report - I'd like to give Impetus a try at some point I think. Your painted units look fantastic!

    I have been listening to all of the Ancient Warfare podcasts while I paint recently and I highly recommend them as well.

  5. Φέρτε μου καφέ παντελόνι μου-Fetch me my brown trousers in Greek :)

  6. Very nice report!
    Want to see more units painted ;-)

  7. great battle report, Spartan are classified A and suddenly can manoeuvrre really advanced very quickly not forgotten.
    Impetus is really a good rule