Wednesday, March 14, 2012

There's Hold (ing) In Them Thar Hills!

The next game saw the Greco-Bactrians pushing forward in pursuit of the Chinese "bandits".

POP! Oh, there they are! Are those crossbows? Thunk Thunk thunk! yup. 
 The game was Holding Action (1) from Scenarios for Wargames.  My troops diced for which of 2 roads  they would enter on. I had 3 heavy cavalry units (1 cataphract), 2 horse archers, 3 units of pike  phalanx, 2 of peltasts, an elephant and 1 each of archers and javelin men. Breakpoint of 13 with heavy cavalry and pikes each worth 3 pts and the others each worth 1. As an experiment in simplification I fielded my pikes as single VBU 6 units rather than as double units made up of 2 VBU 4 units. Same dice in combat vs infantry and about the right effect as far as I can tell and simpler to follow.

The Chinese had, well, no army at all as far as I could see. But eventually the hills turned out to be hiding 2 units of massed crossbowmen mixed with spears, 4 units of shock light infantry swordsmen, a light cavalry lancer and a skirmish crossbow unit.

The scenario calls for the attacker to advance quickly to clear the pass. It doesn't actually say that you can't break column until you spot the enemy but that seemed like the spirit. And so it was then, that my horse archers were the first into the pass and the first to spot some crossbowmen. I had of course won the initiative that turn so the crossbows were able to advance and shoot. Ron then deftly flipped the initiative on the next turn getting to shoot again, and bringing forward another crossbow unit from his left which shot up my  horse archers.

As I tried desperately to deploy, peltasts and cavalry on the flanks, pikes in the center screened by skirmishers, Ron's crossbows took out my archers and helped by his light cavalry broke my Companions.
At this point 2 units of swordsmen showed up and charged into my peltasts before they could escape.  Suddenly I was down 5 army morale points, and was 1 hit away from losing my horse archers, my column was just deploying and there was nothing to screen them but a single unit of elite Euzoni javelin skirmishers. Ron had a slight scratch on his light cavalry. It didn't look good, especially as the rest of his army emerged on my open right flank.

The ambush is sprung! Chinese crossbows shooting from behind a wall of spears.  
The lack of pictures beyond this point does not reflect reluctance on my part but worried concentration on the excitement in hand!  

No point in going home early (although given the ice pellets and slush I met when I did go, I probably should have), so I brought up the pikes, elephants and remaining cavalry for an assault uphill against crossbows and tough infantry. But as my javelinmen nimbly flanked his crossbows, I suddenly got a break, a hit by the javelins (needing a 6)  followed by a catastrophic cohesion failure on his part, (also a 6) resulting in the crossbowmen routing. OK I was on the board! and the pressure was off, I had room to deploy. As his infantry came up, we proceeded to repeat the skirmish attack 6 to hit, 6 to fail cohesion, not once but TWICE!  These infantry were tougher and didn't rout but they had lost their shock value. I tried hard to catch them with my cataphracts but while they chewed up my 2nd peltast unit, I held on and javelins eventually cleared that flank.  
In the center, my pikes charged up hill, driving back the crossbows but shock infantry caught them in the flank and they crumbled. I was now only 2 units away from breaking, but so was Ron! There was nothing to do but push forward and hope. Forward the pikes! Ready the Heffalump! Charge with the cavalry! As Ron's army morale crumbled he launched a last desperate gamble.
The Chinese cavalry make a last desperate attempt to break the pikes but these guys don't carry long pointy sticks for nothing. 

Army morale is assessed at the end of  a turn and Ron was moving 2nd, he knew he was going down but it was close enough that it was just possible that a suicide attack could work, I'd have to miss with all dice, he'd have to hit with a couple then I'd need to roll one of those 6's on a cohesion test, get caught by the pursuit and do it again. A long shot but possible and it would change the game to a draw. Well, my pikes missed on all 6 dice but his cavalry also missed on their 4. A drawn melee! I WON!!  (By a nose)

You'll just have to imagine the extra 7 Chinese units which crowned the hills in a ring around my army a turn earlier. The troops in the center right background, crowning the hill, are my proud javelinmen who practically won the battle single handedly, with a little help.


  1. Congratualtions, Ross . . . a victory snatched from the jaws of defeat is always sweet.

    -- Jeff

  2. It is Jeff, much better than the opposite which I have also done!

  3. The read was tense, the actual action must have been better. I'm surprised you noticed the weather on the ride home after such a victory :)

    Thanks for sharing

  4. It's a pleasure to look at your photos, a great report, and the figs are really nice! And congrat!