Thursday, 26 August 2010

Romans Vs Dacians - the game that went wrong!

This report shows you how not to set up a wargame! Apologies in advance for the quality of the photos.

Alas - the boys got overambitious this time! 2000pt Warmaster ancient armies (Baccus 6mm figures - hi Peter! : D) on an 8 x 6 foot table. Sounds like a pleasant days gaming? Well you're right until I tell you that we had never used the rules before!

We diced for sides - highest role picked the army (Scott), lowest picked the table edge (me). The table comprised a river meandering through the centre of most of the table (with a prominent loop), 3 hills on the baseline at one side, and one on the other. Scattered woods and small settlements made up the rest of the terrain.

Scott chose to be the Romans, so I chose to take the edge with 3 hills (partly to discourage Scott from being too defensive! It is worth stating at this point that on balance, I tend to be the more aggressive player, while Scott tends to be more of a wily defensive type. Thing Lee and Longstreet respectively). We certainly got the armies most suited to our temperaments!

Anyway at MY suggestion, we THEN we gave ourselves 7 MINUTES to set up - up to a foot from the central river. Needless to say in seven minutes Scott had around half of his troops deployed, and I managed around a third. We should have known by now.....

Early on (around turn 5). Note terrain. By this point both of my wings (cavalry at any rate) were either crossing the river, or in the case of my left wing having flanked it and occupoied the sole hill on Scott's side of the table. No real combat as yet - after 1.5 hours!

As Warmaster's key mechanism is the quality of your commanders (Roman sommanders have values of 9 and 8, Dacian commanders have values of 8 and 7), most activity is dependant on your ability to roll the Command Value or less and 2d6. This can result in units either whizzing across the table (as each unit can perform up to 3 actions per turn if the dice are kind), or absolutely jacksh*t. The first hour and a half saw Scott form whar was effectively a massive square anquored on his baseline, while I struggled to form a cohesive plan and co-ordinated  attack. My light horse on the Right crossed the river and skirmished with some Roman lights occupying a wood and some Roman auxiliary cavalry, while my left wing cavalry flanked the river and occupied the only hill on Scott's side of the table. The hit and miss progress of the Dacian infantry across the table was a cause of both concern and frustration On my part. Scott meanwhile completed his defensive setup and basically waited for the storm to break.

Dacian infantry struggle to reach the river while Scott rolls dice and reveals early evidence of middle age spread. The Roman deployedment can be seen taking shape in the distance (under Scott's belly!).

Roman deployment nearing completion. The mass of infantry on the left soon filled the gap at the bottom of the shot (boo!)

After a lunchbreak we getting cracking. fed up with hanging around for the infantry, my left wing cavalry descent from the hill on Scott's right flank. A unit of cataphracts charge into a veteran legion who are also supported by Auxilliaries. At last - a ruck!
Dacian heavy cavalry finally charge... (note how they all bear an uncanny resemblance to the Godfather of 6mm. Minus the glasses of course..)

Meanwhile on the opposite flank Dacian light horse continues to skirmish with Roman javelins. As with most skirmishes, no - one was too badly injured. One of Scott's boys got a burst nose, and one of my horses last a shoe. i.e. HANDBAGS!

My heavy cavalry unit on the left made decent progress through three lines of Roman infantry - achieving a breakthrough. A second heavy cavalry unit joins them to exploit the breach further. Much spilling of blood ensues - all units taking casualties and a unit of Roman Auxilia being annihilated.

Meanwhile the heavy cavalry on the right flank livens up and crosses the river. The two units target a battery of scorpions each (the most obvious weak points in the Roman hedgehog), and muster up the will to get good dice rolls that will let them charge. As usual the Dacian infantry saunter across the field in dribs and drabs, picking the occasional daisy, and wondering who the nice men with the red shields waving to them are friends of theirs... (at this point Paul throws the toys out of the pram and cycles 15 miles for his tea, telling Scott to give the barbarian flower children a boot up the *rse...)

In short my right wing cavalry DIDN'T charge quickly enough, and the Romans replaced the scorpions in the line with more infantry. My leftt wing heavies were then confronted by Roman reserve archers and a legion doing an about turn and charging them. When the dust had settled, there were really only some archers left standing, and some more Roman reserve infantry moved up to plug the gap. Meanwhile the Dacian infantry were spotted frolicking around the riverbank, at which point Scott also threw his toys out of the pram and walked 10 yards for his tea....

The attack that never was..... cataphracts get ready to smash up some scorpions!

All in all an enjoyable day, only frustrated by our overambition and unfamiliarity with  the rules. Scott played to his (and his army's) strengths, while I have now realised that I used too many commanders, and this fragmented my approach - and resulted in my cavalry being the only units engaged.

What was promising to be a bloodbath ended up being a major skirmish really, with honours roughly equal. There were more spectators than participants! However, we both intend to try this out again ASAP....

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