Monday, September 15, 2008

Caesar and Fritz

On Sunday, I played a game of Field of Glory with Mike Garcia to teach him the rules. Mike played once earlier this year when several of us got together to play some multiplayer games in order to learn (and argue) about the rules. Other than that, Mike has been a DBM player for several years and was feeling that he finally got it--and then everyone switched to FoG.

Mike played an early German army against my Dominate Romans. You can buy a lot of cheap warband scum for 800 points. Mike's army was cobbled together from the DBM-based stands he used for a Teutoburg Forest game. He had several units of warbands and two units of javelin-armed skirmishers, no cavalry, and just two generals (which may not have been a legal list, but who's counting). In any case, there was every freakin' German in Germania on the table facing me. I know how Varus must have felt.

We fought on a field full of difficult terrain. That hurt his warbands, which were all heavy foot and thus would be severely disordered by the steep hills, marsh, and forest. None of the terrain helped me either, but I had three units of medium foot who were only disordered in this terrain. What the terrain really did was break up any cohesive mass of warband battle lines that might come against me. 

The Roman center facing the big swamp

I deployed my heavy foot in the center guarding a gap between a large forest and a swamp that dominated the center of the table. I had my equites sagittarii and Huns on my right supported by auxilia palatina. On my left I had the catafractarii, the equites, the equites Illyricani and another unit of auxilia palatina. My plan was to skirmish on my right with the horse archers and look for a chance to attack a flank with my heavier cavalry on the left. I held fast in the center and waited for him to come to me through all that nasty terrain.

On my left, I faced two smaller warbands (eight bases each) and one unit of javelinmen. I made some good effect against the warbands, but it never lasted. One warband had been worn down to fragmented status, but I couldn't push it to broken and Mike eventually bolstered the warband back to steady.

Horse archers skirmishing on my right

On my left, Mike advanced his other unit of javelinmen against my equites Illyricani. We skirmished a bit until he failed a cohesion test and fell to disrupted. At that point, I charged him and sent him running back behind his warbands. All the while, I was advancing my catafractarii, auxilia, and equites. I figured the catafractarii could take on a whole warband of 12 bases, I thought the equites might need more luck. I worked the equites over to my extreme left, which put them in a position to attack the flank of his rightmost warband if he moved it up too far.

Imminent action on my right

It was here that I got stupid. My equites Illyricani were skirmishing against his rightmost warband. My equites and auxilia were within 4 MUs of the warband when he declared a charge against the Illyricani. I should have simply evaded, which would have drawn out the warband into a position where my equites would have struck their flank. For some reason, which I don't understand in retrospect, I feared that his warband's variable move might take it into the auxilia, so instead I intercepted the warband with my auxilia and equites. I didn't have the flank attack in my favor, so in the impact phase he had the advantage. Both my units lost the impact and following melee combats. However, my cohesion held and I passed my death rolls, so no base loss.

The catafractarii about to go into action

On my next turn, I charged the catafractarii against his other warband and the skirmishers he'd brought up next to them. The skirmishers had to evade and the catafractarii smacked into the hairies in a one-on-one fight. This fight, too, went against me, although without cohesion or base loss.

Now I have to admit that my second stupidity was forgetting the break-off rule. Instead of backing up my equites and catafractarii because they were in contact with steady foot at the end of the turn, I kept them in. This had a double-edged effect. The catafractarii wore down the warband it faced inflicting 25% base loss and reducing them to broken status. However, the equites and auxilia were having the same done to them by Mike's rightmost warband. They didn't lose cohesion, but I lost enough death rolls to lose 50% of my equites and, eventually, more than 50% of the auxilia (both units were rated superior). When the auxilia autobroke, both the equites and catafractarii failed their cohesion tests in response and fell to disrupted status.

By this time, we'd been playing for more than three hours and had to call it. He had one broken unit, I had one broken unit and one unit that was nearly broken due to lost bases. It might have been difficult for me to do more to him. Those 12-base warbands die very hard. On the other hand, for him to get at my main line of legionarii, he would need to plod through marsh and forest getting severely disordered en route, which I don't think he'd do.

I think the game reconciled Mike to the inevitability of FoG taking over the ancients gaming scene. Much of his learning curve has to do with making the paradigm shift from DBM and I think he's well on his way. In our post-game wrap-up, he admitted that there was nothing he disliked about FoG and a few things he liked very much. As he wrote later in an e-mail, "FoG has definitely left a good taste on my palate. I'm eager to play again ASAP." You can't hope for better than that.

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