Page 1 of 1

Elba v Ebla: My First Game

Posted: Mon May 03, 2010 11:55 am
by marcusy
After having spend a month slowly working my way through the Field of Glory rules, I decided to finally put them to the test. Being light on gaming companions but heavy on assorted lead, I decided to put together 2 armies from my miscellany of figures and game it solo. My last tabletop gaming project involved a campaign in Machiavelli's Italy, so I decided that one army would be Italiain Condotta, representing the forces of the isle of Elba. I have also been working on an Early Bronze Age army from the city of Ebla- ie Later Sumerian or Akkadian List- so that would be the second. Elba v Ebla: it had a certain ring to it.

Both armies were 800 points, and the game was played on a 4 foot by 8 foot table. The Italian army was dominated by 3 units of Condottieri knights, and also included 2 small units of mounted crossbowmen, 2 small units of handgunners, and 1 unit each of pikemen, swordsmen, foot crossbowmen and heavy artillery. The Bronze Age troops had 4 units of defensive spear (1 being superior), and 1 unit each of heavy chariots, light chariots, superior medium bowmen, superior heavy axemen, superior medium offensive spearmen, medium light spear, javelinmen, slingers, light bowmen and mob. Each side also had 1 field commander as CinC and 2 troop commanders as subordinates.

The game was played on and off over the space of several weeks. I finally finished it tomight after, perhaps, devoting close to 20 hours to it overall. Much of this time involved heavily studying the rulebook before each major decision to be made in setup and the first few moves, as rule details are the ultimate determiners of tactics. As the game went on, naturally less of the time was spent on rule consultation and more on play, but even by the end of play the rulebook was in very regular use. Overall, I don't think I made any very major mistakes, but I forgot important details from time to time, such as that knights are shock troops and they need to test to refrain from charging.

I have no photographs of the battle, and they would not be too impressive even if I did, as most of my troops are unpainted, and I am also pretty sloppy as to what figures represent what troops (the Condottieri Knights, for example, were all members of Alexander the Great's Companion Cavalry). In my insanity I take the view that provided one can remember what the unit is supposed to be, that is good enough for the purposes of playing a game.

The two camps faced one another from the oppisite edges of the middle of the table. For convenience I will call the direction of the Italian camp "north". The only terrain that proved to be of any significance was a triangle of 3 features on the southern (Bronze Age) side of the central section of the table- a steep hill (to the west) and an enclosed field (to the east) along the southern table edge, and an open field in more or less the dead centre of the table.

This triangle dominated the strategy of King Irkab Damu of Ebla- within it lay his camp, and the plan was to garrison the hill and the enclosed field with low-quality troops, hold the north-east and north-west facing sides with defensive spearmen, seize the central field with the army's best medium foot covered by the javelinmen, and leave the rest of the army in reserve to grant rear support to the spearmen and to sally forth through intended gaps in the spearmen to attack targets of opportunity (this went especially for the chariots). By following this plan, the king hoped that his men would be safe from the enemy lancers, who would have the choice of attacking solid lines of spearmen with safe flanks or would have to operate in unfavourable terrain.

The Duke of Piombino, with a smaller army but more powerful offensive troops in the form of his Condottieri knights and pikemen, planned a single knockout blow on the western side of the battlefield where the longer side of the triangle could be found and his knights would have the most room to operate. He planned to take the hill with his handgunners and then roll up any defensive line with the aid of flank attacks by the handgunners, knighly charges and a timely pike attack. A unit of mounted crossbowmen was sent with the handgunners to deter light chariot atatck as they crossed the open plain- the Duke was sure his Condottieri could deal with any heavy chariots that made their appearance. The central field would be contested by the medium foot in the form of the foot crossbowmen and the swordsmen, supported by the fire of the artillery emplaced south of the Italian camp. A single unit of mounted handgunners was all that was employed on the eastern side of the battlefield, with orders to harry the Bronze Age foe and slow their advance...

Posted: Mon May 03, 2010 1:10 pm
by marcusy
The Bronze Age javelinmen were the first to enter the ploughed field in the centre of the table, where they were soon threatened by the Italian crossbowmen. Meanwhile, after I looked up the combat tables and realised that charging knights into a solid line of double-ranked spearmen was not necessarily a good idea, the Duke of Pinobino decided that perhaps he should shift some of his Condottieri to the eastern flank, where they might do some good against the columns of enemy troops advancing freely whilst the covering mounted crossbowmen were pinned down by a unit of light archers. in order to put paid to this plan, the javelinmen charged the crosswbowmen- although they were light troops against medium, they hoped to hold the crossbowmen in place until the unit of superior medium offensive spearmen could come to their aid. Seeing the risk of total disaster if his redeployment continued, the Duke ordered his knights back, and decided instead to weaken the Eblaite defensive spearmen with handgun fire and then charge in with the knights.

After being hit with the offensive spearmen, the crossbowmen broke, but the pursuing spearmen and their accompanying javelinmen soon found themselves in trouble as 3 enemy uits trehreaten them from various directionsm and they were now out into open terrain and so much more vulnerable. The Bronze Age troops decided to fight their way free by charging the Italian swordsmen, hoping to cut them down before the trap could close. It was a close-run thing, but the swordsmen were able to hold off their enemy long enough for the pike column to come to their rescue and rout the spearmen. The pikemen then continued on to roll up the javelinmen with a flank attack as a unit of Condottieri engaged the Bronze Age medium bowmen coming up in support to keep them out of the fray. With heroic fighting, however, the Condottieri were held, and after the knights broke off the fight the bowmen hit the flank of the pikemen and put them to rout.

There were now 2 routing units on each side, seemingly even, but the Duke of Piombino realised that he was behind because the unchecked Eblaite right flank was now rounding the central field to the east and would soon overwhelm the Italian swordsmen, the immobile artillery and the camp unless he did something quickly. The attempt to harry the line of spearmen to the west with handgun fire had been ineffective, with the handgunenrs forced to evade from a spear charge, but the Eblaites now seemed overconfident, stripping away a spear unit from the defensive line to reinforce their centre. This created enough of a gap for the knights to obtain an overlap advantage, and so they attacked the most exposed unit, as the medium bowmen was charged by a neighbouring Condottieri unit. The knight, however, were repelled with losses, and the Eblaite slingers chose that moment to launch a flank attack from their hill on a unit of mounted crossbowman who had drifted too close in the hope of launching a flank attack of their own against some Bronze Age spearmen.

The final turn was a bloodbath, with the last unengaged unit of Condottieri knights failing its test not to charge and engaging a steady block of spearmen at unfavourable odds. It fought well in the circumstances, giving as good as it got, but other Italian units did not fare so well. Both units of mounted crossbowmen were broken- one from the flank charge of the slingers, and the other after a marathon set of battles where it would charge the enemy light bowmen, fight an indecisive melee and then break off, before the archers would advance, peppering it with fire unitl it charged again. By progressive break-off moves, the light horse unit was slowly forced back until it finally stood, isolated and fragmented, pinned against its own table edge, unable to charge and helpless to prevent itself being shot to pieces. One of the Condottieri units making its second charge against superior defensive spearmen also broke, making a total of 10 Attrition points for the 11-unit Italian army. As the cohesion tests from one of the routs sent another Condottieri unit into a fragmented state, that was the 11th point, and the Italian forces broke. Game over, man! Game over!

Posted: Mon May 03, 2010 1:29 pm
by marcusy
As a result of this game, I have provisionally formed the following opinions concerning Field of Glory:

1. The game played out like one could plausibly belive a battle might unfold. The use of units rather than bases as the central focus made for a greater sense of realism than exists for DBM.
2. Field of Glory is not an easy game to learn quickly, at least not on one's own. Weeks of prior study still left me seriously unprepared for my first game- there are simply so many rules to know, and one needs to bear so many in mind simultaneously to develop sensible tactics.
3. Generally speaking the game was fun, although after around 20 hours of play I felt a certain sense of relief when the Italians finally broke. Hopefully my next game will be considerably quicker.

In terms of the 2 armies that participated, although I initially thought the Italians with the advantage of 3,600 or so more years of technology were going to steamroller the Early Bronze Age forces under the hooves of their heavily armoured knights, in actual fact the predominance of drilled defensive spear foot was an excellent counter to the knightly lancers, and the large numbers of superior foot in the Later Sumerian or Akkadian list meant that the Eblaites had plenty of quality to go with their quantity. My one major regret with the army was that the chariots never got into action- the light chariots were close to the Italian camp at game's end, but never got to loot it, and the undrilled heavy chariots spent the entire game manouvring awkwardly back and forth looking for where they were needed as reserves but never coming close to reaching anywhere in time. The Italian army felt far less balanced, with most of its points being in the 3 Condottieri knight units it did not seem to have enough of anything else (fielding either tiny units or too few units), and so when the knights were stymied with spears defeat quickly loomed.