Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hoplites versus Legionaries

Gladius against Kopis; Scutum against Hoplon; Hasta against Dory. When Greek discipline meets Roman relentlessness, who will win, and who will be left punctured on the battlefield? The answers to your burning questions in this log entry. After rescheduling last week, I met with GG at the Hub to play some Hail Caesar. Let us look at the armies.
The last time I had a brief, inconclusive match with GG, I learned that I needed a considerably larger band of Greeks to match his Roman legions. I painted industriously over Christmas break, but I was painting light cavalry -- not for new units but to make my existing units not look so skimpy, peltasts (cheap as shit) and archers (cheap as shit even when upgraded to Cretan marksmen) and slingers (cheap as shit even when upgraded to marksmen from Rhodos). So I ended up with about 350 points to GG's 400. Wanting the fight to be somewhat even, GG allowed me to bestow bonuses to my men, so I upgraded every hoplite to Elite and Stubborn. In this picture you can see my medium cavalry (hippeis) and some low-born peltasts and just the extreme right wing of my long line of phalanxes, including my heretofore invincible Spartans.

 On the other side of the table are GG's legions. I think we are looking at a veteran legionary unit in red, a regular legion with blue plumes, and some lesser warriors -- hastati perhaps? in the rear. Of note are those archers. Roman archers are not skirmishers; they're light, or in some cases even medium infantry. On the round base is their commander. How unRoman of him to lead from the front. Who does he think he is, Alexander?

GG had been busy painting, too. The last time we met, I was looking at a lot of white primer. This time his men looked good, in bright colors, high contrast. He had based or re-based a lot of men. The army looked good. I wonder if GG believes, as I do, that the only purpose of the game is to parade out your beautiful little toys.

 GG's equitae, medium cavalry, on his right wing. On this side of the field, I had no cavalry to oppose him.

 Fuzzy close up of some Greeks. Slingers march 3" in front of phalanx. If the slingers need to evade, they can pass through the phalanx without disordering it. Witness the Hippocampus standard, my own invention.

 Long shots of the same gang, my left wing.

Rounding the usually-tranquil sacred spring of Aphrodite (a nice piece of DIY scenery you can read about in the previous blogg entry), the Greeks get aggressive, attacking the Roman center. GG is going to win a little shooting match before the real slaughter begins, making my archers and slingers fall back behind the hoplites.

GG is trying to slip around my flank. A bunch of the hoplites on my left wing break off to stop them. He's going to flank me anyway.

GG leads with his elephant. He considers the beast useless -- when he meets my Persians, I'll show him how you use an elephant.

An elephant never forgets the first time he charges into a thicket of eight foot spears. (the elephant did force another unit of skirmishers to yield ground)

This is happening on my left. My slingers are slinging, his archers are shooting. My hoplites are way distracted trying to stop his equitae and so neither of us are doing much on this part of the field. Between us, we had probably 4 units standing around scratching their balls for most of the battle.

GG has a good round on my right wing, driving my light cavalry back and obliterating the unit of peltasts (fast-running hammipoi). But note how many of my units are in this area even after the peltasts get removed.

Here, in the center, we see Greek infantry doing what Greek infantry does best -- charging, spears level,supported by many ranks of comrades. His archers stood and shot, found it hard to get a hit against heavy infantry in closed ranks, and got pushed back. Pushed by the general who bears the Golden Fleece, my hoplites did a sweeping charge into a veteran legion. That legion has no support from nearby Romans, and the dice didn't grant GG a reprieve -- they were shish kebabed. They got cocky and turned into souvlaki.

One of the supporting phalanxes on the sweeping charge carried on into this group of archer auxilia (medium infantry with bows). I am not sure this was 100% legal. These guys were in the way of this phalanx, which had been supporting the Spartans) joining the Spartan sweeping charge. If any reader knows Hail Caesar and wants to comment on whether we played this right, I'd appreciate it. Here, too, I won big, with the hoplites annihilating these lowlies (they had already taken hits from shooting).

Those equitae cavalry had gotten their swords nicely wet, but now they were on their own against my light and medium cavalry which hit them in the front and the back. We chewed them up as well. Round 3 was a terrible round for the Romans.

 What I didn't get a picture of is how his other medium cavalry, after utterly outmaneuvering my slow hoplites on the opposite wing, got shot and driven off the table, I mean battlefield, by the same archers an GG had driven back with his elephant and missiles. Their earlier defeats had put them in a good position to defend my phalanxes' backs. This was important -- those cavalry could have been devastating if they hit the rear ranks of engaged phalanxes.

Everybody on the right continues to bravely do nothing.

 GG's legions continue to fight the Spartans into the fourth round. The Spartans are taking casualties (see the rings on the dude's spear?) And another veteran legion is about to join the fray.

 GG's left wing finally gets moving, enveloping and murdering this phalanx, the one that had broken their archer comrades. Hit from the flank and rear, these brave Greeks had no chance.

Fairly evenly matched melee combat in Round 4

GG did all right in Round 4, but he had not inflicted the kind of damage he needed to make up for Round 3, in which he lost a division because more than half of the relevant units broke. He threw in the towel, probably the right decision. Greece is victorious. The Romans flee the field, and the alliance of the democratic poleis will resist the Western empire, at least for now.

Why did we win?
My army had a lot of stubborn hoplites. They were damn near invulnerable to missiles. The book doesn't describe hoplites as all stubborn (Spartans are) but I added that trait to make up my army's deficit in points, paying the points the rules call for. Stubborn heavy infantry seems to be a really efficient combo. I wouldn't say it's unbalancing but it is mighty helpful. Now I'm painting another 32 hoplites so I can have a larger army with fewer special abilities.
GG had this idea of a collapsing center in which his wings would envelop the guys who charged his center. It didn't work. I think the reason is division routing. GG's center was made of an elephant, two equitae, and two medium infantry. GG hurled the elephant out front, ensuring that it would die, exposed the cavalry to considerable danger trying to flank my wings, and then presented the medium infantry as front-line targets. The danger was disproportionately heaped on the units of the central division, which weren't the steadiest units to begin with. GG's best move was getting a cavalry unit all the way behind my force.  With his cavalry, he definitely brought the hammer into play, but he never really got his infantry into a solid front, and thus lacked an anvil. Of course, there may have been some dumb luck on my part, such as my archers being forced to yield ground that put them in position to shoot at the flanking horses. Next time, I may not want to concentrate all my cavalry in one place. 
I'm happy with how my skirmishers performed. Although they got out-shot by GG's, that was to be expected -- his were more expensive. The main advantage my skirmishers have is, since they're skirmishers and not infantry, they can die, and I don't have to care because these lowly thetes don't count towards divisions breaking. Hell, my peltasts never even got off a volley of javelins and I'm still glad I brought em because that left wing cavalry charge ended with GG killing a unit of peltasts instead of somebody who was worth a bent drachma. 
All in all, an enjoyable, challenging game. I know I'll battle GG again. He's talking to me about a post-gunpowder scenario and that isn't my area of prime interest, but I'm a good sport, so I guess I'll check it out.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sacred spring of Aphrodite with water effect

Good looking terrain adds a lot of flavor to a game, and trees and rocks are bound to get stale after awhile. I bring you the Sacred Spring of Aphrodite. This is actually an upgrade of a piece of terrain that I had done before. From top to bottom, the statue is a Greek Civilian from Warlord Games painted in ivory standing on a rounded wooden 25mm "checker", also painted off-white. Underneath her, several crudely wrought pieces of styrofoam. This is the old styrofoam that appears to be made out of little pebbles -- they'd be ugly 90% of the time but here I think they work, suggesting a composite rock formation -- I'm no geologist. I cut a gouge into the styrofoam and painted it blue, green, and white for some water agitation. The pool at the bottom is a mixture of PVA glue and paint -- I got that mixture to a light blue and then, after painting a thick soup into the ring surrounded by the little (fake) stones, I stirred in some darker blue in a circular motion and stopped before it was mixed in, creating what I think is a nice swirling effect -- the water moves because of the trickle down the rock. All the greenery is either cuts from a bit of JTT flowering meadow or just glued-on flock. The small flowers are also JTT meadow, the larger flowers are real dead flowers that at one point I thought would last forever, but probably won't.

She's a fun terrain piece because she gives flavor to any Classical battleground, and could even have an enchantment effect if you were to play a fantasy game around her.

I offer this as tribute to Aphrodite, sprung from the Sea-Foam, wife of Hephaestus, lover of Adonis, Anchises, Cinyras, Dionysus, Hermes, and Ares, goddess of the shell and the comb and the net. Deliver me a woman with a tiny spark of your divine beauty, and excellent hair.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Sparabara, Elephants, Greek Cavalry, Psiloi, and Indians: what I did for Christmas break

I'm not crazy about uniforms; a lot of my troops are motley but sometimes you've got to have the unifying influence of an imperial superpower depicted in matching pajamas. Hence, my sparaparas.
 Did you know the word "pajamas" comes from Persia? This blog is educational.
Only the red and yellow sparas are new. I placed them with their blue and purple brethren to show the contrast between squads.

 And these studs are my Immortals. Only half are new. I had to turn an 8 man unit into a 16 man unit because small units in Hail Caesar are never heavy hitters (makes sense), and the Immortals should be deadly -- mind you, they'll still prefer missile fire over engaging with any of the other elite foot soldiers of their day.
 Elephants! Not much you need to say about elephants. They're big; sometimes they step on you. I'm really digging the scalemail on that rider on the beast in the middle. Also I glued a Persian bow to his back just in case anybody ever whined about that elephant having a ranged weapon (as the standard Hail Caesar elephant unit has). There's a part of me that wants to slap some brass tusk-sheathes on these guys and some Indian designs on their blankets, but for the moment, I'm happy with them

 Greek slingers! and a couple of javelin men. Got em on ebay for cheap.

The last time I played my Greeks I was dismayed by how little cavalry I had, so I painted these dudes up.

Indian swordsmen! I have so many charismatic Indians in the Persian army that they may have to break off into their own division -- including those elephants, of course.

 I've been brainstorming some terrain ideas, and came up with this ruin -- a fishtank decoration mounted with some talus, cork, and moss. Also this annoying not-quite-static grass I have that I can't figure how to get into any shape except this little plume.

Cheap plastic palm trees based with sand add a little desert flair.
 And these are what I'm happiest about -- modular difficult terrain. Just a few patches of rocky ground that you could put anywhere. Talus and sand on bases that aren't sized right for any of my men. The upper three also have bits of Christmas wreath