Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dear dice, all is forgiven

On Saturday, I played Field of Glory (FoG) at The Game Matrix with Chris Rivers (son of Al). I used my Dominate Romans against his Early Achaemenid Persians. The game started with a miracle: I won the initiative roll. I chose "developed" as the terrain type and we wound up with a village and a plantation on my left and an enclosed field on my far right. Otherwise, the field was wide open, perfect ground for lots of cavalry.

Chris set up widely scattered across the width of the board. Having an army of mainly "shooty cavalry" including a lot of light horse, he wanted to be in position to harass my open flanks. His center consisted of his three heavy cavalry units, one of which was his elite guards, controlled by his inspired commander. In front of these were two units of bow-armed skirmishers. On his left, were two units of bow-armed light horse. On his right were three units of bow-armed light horse and his three medium foot units, including the vaunted Immortals, who were on his far right.

I set up using the plantation on my left as an anchor. I put the larger of my two auxilia palatina units in front of the plantation with the idea of running it into the rough terrain to hold it against all comers. To the right of that were my two units of legionarii, a unit of auxiliary bowmen, and the smaller of my auxilia palatina units. In the center were my heavy cavalry, the equites on the left and the equites catafractarii to their right. On my right, I put all the light horse: the equites Illyricani, the equites sagittarii, and the Hunnic mercenaries.

Chris started the game by using double-moves to get his skirmishers as far out as possible to engage me on my side of the table. On my right, I outnumbered his light horse with mine, so I turned the whole battleline towards his horse with the intent of smashing it. In the center, I advanced my heavy cavalry toward the skirmishing infantry that covered his cavalry. I figured they'd be a pestiferous nuisance and I wanted to chase them off as soon as possible. On my left, I moved the legionarii, bowmen, and auxilia steadily forward against Chris' light horse.

Chris' intention with these light horse was to try and plaster the legionarii with arrows and soften them up for his foot, or at least to render them ineffectual through cohesion loss. However, the shooting of the light horse was far from withering. I kept advancing or charging against the light horse and pushed them steadily back. In addition, my bowmen consistently put the hurt on one of his light horse units, rendering it pretty useless as a missile force.

Chris pressed his heavy cavalry into the center and his left, but without mutually supporting each other. He originally deployed them formed in a single rank so they could skirmish. This formation maximized his firepower and allowed him to evade with them, but made them less effective in close combat. One unit bore towards my light cavalry. This forced me to peel off the equites Illyricani to face them. Chris veered his elite guard cavalry towards my left and the remaining cavalry unit went up against my catafractarii.

On my right, the dice favored. In an exchange of shooting between his 10 bases of light horse and my 10 bases, I disrupted one of his units and later put it to a fragmented cohesion state with no loss to myself.

This forced Chris to move his now fragile light horse back in order to bolster its cohesion back to steady. His heavy cavalry had been aggressively forcing back my equites Illyricani and now, with his light horse retreating, I could move my equites sagittarii against the exposed rear of this cavalry.

In an exchange of missile fire, my 12 light horse managed to reduce his cohesion to disrupted without ill effect to themselves. The stage was now set for me to attack. I passed the test that let the Illyricani charge home against heavies and the sagittarii struck on the flank. In the ensuing impact and melee phases, I managed to reduce his cavalry to fragmented cohesion and eliminated one of his four bases, but at the cost of my Illyricani also being disrupted; however, they were later bolstered back to steady.

In the same turn, I charged Chris' elite guard cavalry with my equites and a unit of auxilia palatina. It was a bit of a gamble for me. My equites had been disrupted by the guard's bowfire and pitting medium foot against mounted is pretty brash. However, I counted on greater numbers to prevail; also, both my units were superior. Even with the points of advantage (POAs) against me, the auxilia did yeoman's service and inflicted serious pain on the guards. The equites also held steady. Even though reduced to fragmented cohesion status, they still meted out punishment.

Chris' problem was that, even though his quality was superior to mine by a notch, he had to split his combat between two units who together outnumbered him by more than 2:1. Because he was in a single rank and I was in double rank, in the melee I rolled twice as many dice at first until his losses reduced his dice further. In the final combat before the guards disintegrated, he was throwing one die against my seven. Still, my rolling was very good. The auxilia, needing 5's or 6's to hit, inflicted two or three hits each round out of four dice. The equites, although fragmented and reduced to two dice, still scored at least a hit each round and sometimes two. Although losing every round of melee, the guard cavalry never lost a cohesion step. Even after losing bases and taking catastrophic loss in a melee round, they still held on until they were reduced to one stand and auto-broken.

On my left came the only reverse of the day. Chris' intention was to run his Immortals against the my auxilia palatina in the plantation, smash them, and then turn my flank. He started by trying to reduce the auxilia's cohesion through bowfire--every single unit in Chris' army had bows. However, as with almost all of his bowfire in this game, the immortals couldn't do any damage at a distance, so he decided to close in. In the initial impact, I got a respectable four hits out of six dice rolled. However, Chris rolled six for six, an automatic stand loss for me. In the ensuing cohesion test, I failed by one and went down to disrupted. The bright side was that Chris failed his death roll and lost a stand himself. In the melee rounds that followed, the auxilia got beat up some more and soon broke. In a game of miserable dice rolling for Chris, all his luck focused on this one combat.

Although not entirely.

In the initial break move, the Immortals caught up with the auxilia and inflicted another stand loss. In the ensuing rout moves, I rolled 1's for my variable distance, which meant a rout move of only two inches. His attempts to pass a test to cease pursuing failed several times in succession and his victorious Immortals were drawn deeper toward my table edge and away from any effect on the other fighting.

The fight between my light horse and Chris' heavy cavalry on my right continued for several turns. Like the fight against his guard cavalry, I kept inflicting grievous loss, but the cavalry wouldn't break. Reduced to fragmented status and down to two bases, they still rolled boxcars for their cohesion test, the only roll that would have saved them from breaking.

Chris' attempt to turn his light horse back against my light horse as it was beating up his heavies was foiled by mu Huns. Extending them out to a single rank, I figured I would sacrifice them in order to hold off a rear attack that would disrupt my attempts to break his heavies. It didn't work as I thought. Chris' 10 stands of light horse, in two ranks, charged my Hun's single rank of four bases. My combat dice were split evenly between his two units. two dice against each, with 10 dice coming back at me. When the bones were done rolling, I had inflicted four hits against him to no hits back on me. In the ensuing melee round, Chris rolls continued to be pathetic.

In the center, my catafractarii continued to advance against Chris' remaining heavy cavalry unit. He opted for skirmishing and managed to cause a cohesion loss to the catafractarii. He finally decided to stand against a charge and, although disrupted, the catafractarii inflicted a base loss and cohesion loss against the heavies in the impact and melee rounds with no loss to themselves.

Eventually, the heavies my lights were fighting died the same turn the guard cavalry did. With two of his heavy cavalry units lost and the third dangerously on the ropes, Chris threw in the towel. He may well have fought and still inflicted some harm on me, but his only effective unit was his Immortals, who were off by my side of the table edge working their way back. The units I had fighting his heavy cavalry were now released to run roughshod over the light units that remained. His other two foot units were only protected medium foot with spears in the front rank and bows behind. They couldn't have held up against the legionarii and the best Chris could hope for was that the Immortals would get there in time to attack one legionarii unit from the rear.



I'm not sure how I might have deployed better than I did. I got the terrain I wanted, which allowed me to anchor my infantry on a secure flank and put all of my cavalry on one side. Chris outnumbered me in mounted units, but I managed to have the local superiority against him on my flank. The three light horse units that he used against my legionarii accomplished nothing. He would have done better to use his light foot skirmishers on that flank and release the light horse to operate against the cavalry in my center and right. The foot skirmishers would still have held up a rapid advance by the legionarii, and I would have been hard-pressed by the increased threat to my cavalry's flanks.

Chris was failed spectacularly by his dice while my dice were surprisingly good. Apparently, they don't hate me or my Romans--at least not consistently. As much as I carped about the six hits with six dice he scored against my auxilia, his failure to inflict a single hit with 10 dice against my Huns was disproportionately unfortunate.

As I mentioned above, every unit in Chris' army was armed with bows. It's the shootiest army I've ever faced. Nevertheless, he made almost no impact against me at all with his bowfire. I had only three units with bows and one with javelins out of 10 units total, but I did more damage to him with my fire than he did to me. That's due to better dice rolling on my shooting, better dice rolling on my cohesion tests, and poor rolling on his shooting and cohesion.

One other thing that worked in my favor was the support I worked between my units. The loss of his elite guard cavalry and the other heavy cavalry unit could not have happened if I didn't have two units to his one in each combat. Ironically, that lesson was drummed home to me in my game against his father. In that game, I was superior to Al in cavalry and yet lost badly in the combat because I failed to support my cavalry.

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