Rome Slaughters Sassanid Raiders - an example AoW Game

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neilhammond
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Rome Slaughters Sassanid Raiders - an example AoW Game

Post by neilhammond » Sun Feb 11, 2007 10:42 am

Report filed by the commander of the Romans and as such an impartial correspondent.

This was a game between Clive, using Sassanid Persians and myself, using a 3rd Century Imperial Roman army. The rules are the new Art of War rules (beta version).

The Romans had won the pre-battle initiative through the cunning ploy of rolling a high dice score. They chose a battlefield (see photo below) in an agricultural area, where there were orchards and ploughed fields to protect the flanks of the infantry against any wide encircling move by the more mobile Sassanids. The centre of the battlefield was open.

In AoW figures are mounted on 40mm (60mm in 25mm scale) bases. Each base will have two, three or four figures mounted on it, depending on troop type and operating density. For example heavy infantry have 4 figures to a base whereas light infantry is 2 figures to a base. The Roman order of battle was:
  • Three veteran legions (each 4 bases of legionaries and 2 bases of integral archers)
    Two cohorts of auxilia (each 6 bases of auxilia and 3 bases of integral archers)
    One cohort of auxiliary archers (6 bases of close order archers)
    One unit of locally recruited light infantry archers
    Two groups of field artillery (each 2 bases of bolt-shooting ballistae)
    One ala of Roman cavalry (6 bases)
    One unit of Numidian light cavalry (4 bases)
    One unit of auxiliary horse archers (4 bases)
The terrain on the edge of the battlefield (see picture below) would force the Sassanids to fight a frontal engagement. The Roman army was deployed in two ???wings???, with light horse in the centre connecting the wings. The bolt-shooting artillery, one group in each wing, was intended to disrupt the Sassanid advance. Once suitable disrupted up by artillery bolts, the infantry would attack. The central light horse would harass the enemy until the wings had crushed their opponents. It was a reasonable plan which did not survive initial contact with the enemy.

The Sassanid order of battle was:
  • Three high quality units of Sassanid noble cavalry (each 6 bases)
    One unit of very heavily armoured lancer cataphracts (4 bases)
    One unit of fearsome elephants (4 bases)
    One unit of light cavalry (6 bases)
    One unit of light infantry archers (10 bases)
    One unit of auxiliary infantry (8 bases)
    One unit of foot archers (4 bases)
    Four small units of poor quality defensive spearmen, guarding the baggage.
The Sassanid plan was to use the highly effective cataphracts and the elephants to punch through the Roman lines, with the noble cavalry supporting the two strike units. The light infantry were to screen the elephants from bow shot.

Deployment is shown in the photo below. The Romans are on the left, the Sassanids on the right. You will notice that the Roman light infantry have seized the orchard on their far-left flank (top of photo) and have pushed forward their light cavalry in the centre. The Sassanids have light infantry and light horse screening their main battle line. Both armies have a baggage train deployed on their base line; with the Sassanid baggage well protected by a hedge of infantry.

Image

In addition to the obvious difference between the two armies, mounted Sassanids versus Roman infantry, there were several other differences: 1) The Romans were drilled; the Sassanids undrilled. In AoW terms this means that the Roman units are able to execute more complex manoeuvres. 2) The Roman infantry were all armoured and better swordsmen than the Sassanid foot, whereas the Sassanid cavalry were generally better than their Roman mounted counterparts. 3) In addition the Sassanid nobles were all skilled horse archers and could choose to either shoot or charge into combat as they wished. 4) Finally, the Roman commander was highly talented (an inspired commander in AoW terms) whereas the Sassanid commander was competent (a field commander). An inspired commander is represented on the table by an increased command range and an increased ability for troops within that command range to pass morale tests (called ???cohesion tests??? in AoW).

Turns in AoW are taken as alternative bounds. After the initial three pairs of bounds the battle looked as follows:

Image

The Romans have pushed forward their wings to form a crescent shape, with the tips of the crescent anchored in the terrain on each flank. The Roman light horse in the centre pushed forward initially but was quickly driven in by Sassanid shooting.

At this point the Sassanids split their battle line in the centre, with each half wheeling to face off to their respective Roman wings. The Sassanid light horse was given the job of linking the two halves together and to deal with the cowed Roman light horse in the centre. The light horse clash in the centre was to eventually decide the outcome of the battle.

The situation on the Roman right / Sassanid left as the forces closed is as follows:

Image

The artillery, despite scoring several shooting hits, failed to intimidate the elephants. The elephants charged the artillery and bowmen, supported by the nobles to their right. The nobles on the elephant??™s left held back from charging the Roman auxilia, fearing to get entangled in the hedges and soft ground of the ploughed field.

Combat and shooting in AoW is resolved by throwing one dice per base. Typically the first and second rank can shoot and fight. The score required on a dice to ???hit??? will depend on the relative advantage between the two units involved in the combat. Sufficient hits will force a morale test (the cohesion test). If the test is failed the unit drops a cohesion level. Cohesion level ranges from formed, to disrupted, then fragmented, then routed. As a unit??™s cohesion drops so does its fighting effectiveness, morale and ability to manoeuvre. A general can join a unit and rally it, which will raise the cohesion level. Sufficient hits can also, if you??™re unlucky, result in a base of figures being removed.

Elephants are very powerful and once they closed the Romans facing them were in serious trouble. Eventually the Roman auxiliary archers broke and fled. The Roman auxilia cohort on the Roman far right charged the noble cavalry is a desperate attempt to salvage the situation, but this proved a mistake as the auxilia in the open was no match for the well armoured mounted warriors and they too joined in the rout. The artillery and the legion grimly held on to continue to give the flank some stability.

On the opposite flank things proved to be more favourable for the Romans:

Image

The auxilia cohort had closed with their Sassanid counterparts. Superior armour and swordsmanship gave the Romans an edge and the Sassanid infantry soon routed, despite outnumbering the Roman auxiliaries. The artillery shooting again proved inept. Despite this the rest of the Roman line managed to absorb the impact of the Sassanid charge, although eventually one legion disgraced itself by routing. The situation was stabilised by throwing the Roman cavalry ala, held in reserve, into the fight.

In the centre the shaken Roman light horse rallied (just off-table to the bottom left in the above picture) and counter charged the Sassanid light horse (seen in the foreground of the above picture, with the unit extending off table) sent to keep an eye on them. The Sassanids were quickly routed due to some remarkably inept dice rolling. This rout opened up a large gap in the Sassanid line which the Roman light horse rode through, initially in pursuit of the routing Sassanid light horse. The Romans managed to bring their light horse back under control, turn around and charge the Sassanids in the rear whilst they were engaged frontally by the legionaries. At this point the Sassanid commander conceded defeat. It was a close run battle, with the Romans being roughly handled by the Sassanid cavalry and elephants.

Both Clive and I enjoyed the game; the forces were evenly matched although I understand the rules authors are reviewing the effectiveness of elephants. The Roman artillery will be sent off to have their sights recalibrated and the Roman commander will write to Rome requesting a triumph.

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Post by rbodleyscott » Sun Feb 11, 2007 12:45 pm

Very nice battle report, thank you Neil.

Just one point I would make concerning the scale of AoW battles.

The approximate troop representational scale in AoW (back-calculated from the shooting ranges as per the famous "Slingshot" article) is 250 men per base.

Thus each "cohort" of auxiliaries in the above game in fact (at the normal AoW representational scale) would represent 4 full strength cohorts of auxiliaries acting together as a tactical unit. ("Battle group" in AoW terminology - no appropriate contemporary term being available).

Overall (at the normal representational scale) the Roman army above represents a full strength legion (or 2 understrength legions), roughly 12 full strength auxiliary cohorts of foot and 6 full strength auxiliary alae.

This is roughly the same number of men as in Arrian's Order of Battle Against the Alans, and thus represents a full sized Roman field army.

See: [url]http://s_van_dorst.tripod.com/Ancient_Warfare/Rome/Sources/ektaxis.html#orderofbattle[/url]
Last edited by rbodleyscott on Mon Feb 12, 2007 12:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by neilhammond » Sun Feb 11, 2007 4:45 pm

rbodleyscott wrote:Thus each "cohort" of auxiliaries in the above game in fact (at the normal AoW representational scale) would represent 4 full strength cohorts of auxiliares acting together as a tactical unit. ("Battle group" in AoW terminology - no appropriate contemporary term being available).
Hi Richard,

I accept that the "cohort of auxilia" would in fact be a collection of several cohorts of auxilia grouped together. It just seemed easier for reporting purposes to refer the battle group of auxilia as a cohort. It would probably have been just as easy to refer to the auxilia as a battle group of auxilia.

Neil

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Post by babyshark » Sun Feb 11, 2007 5:16 pm

Neil:

From looking at the photos (thanks for those) I gathered that the Sassanids used some skirmishers to screen their elephants from the Roman artillery and archers. How did that work? In a later photo I see the skirmishers some distance to the rear. Is that because their task was complete and they got out of the way to let the jumbos go to work? Or did they fail and flee? Or what?

I ask because I am curious about the abilities of skirmishers in AoW as opposed to DBM.

Marc

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Post by caliban66 » Sun Feb 11, 2007 7:18 pm

I have still another question. I see some BG are deployed with columns on their flanks. Concerning BG, do individual elements "mean" something? I mean, in DBM, one element wide columns use to open in a line considering each element as something "real". E.g. If the column is form by elements A, B, C and D (as we can see in diagrams) , and change into a line, then B must be aside to A, and C can be both aside B or A, but their final individual position is determined by its previous position in the column. That made that elements that couldn??t move enough to form a line and kept in the column, tend to be on a side of the line, instead of its centre. Well, if we see "Espartaco", by Kubric, we can see a very interesting opening movement, forming a line from the centre to both sides, which seems quite more realistic. So, the question is, does individual elements mean something in a BG, or can we considere it like an "amoeba", changing its shape regardless where individual elementes where placed, unlike actually DBM does?

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Post by plewis66 » Sun Feb 11, 2007 8:06 pm

Caliban:

I can't speak too much about DBM, but I can tell you what is going on in the AoW game.

The places where it looks like there are columns in battle groups are caused by two effects. One is the presence of a General attached to a battle group, and placed on his own behind the rear rank.

The second is where battle groups are joined together to form battle lines, and some battle groups are deeper than others.

Taken togther, these factors mean that the back of a battle line is generally 'ragged' when the front is in line.


For example, in the first photo, take the roman light horse (in the centre left of the picture). Here there are two battle groups, each of four light horse. The one furthest from camera is deployed in a single rank of four bases, and the one nearest the camera is deployed in two ranks of two files. Additionally, the battle group in two ranks has a general attached at the back. The overall impression is of a typical DBM-ish 'L' shaped group, expanding from column, but in fact is very different from this.

Exactly the same principles apply in all places in the photos where you see a similar effect.

In AoW, battle groups must start with an even number of bases, and if there are not enough bases to make complete ranks, then the rearmost rank can be the only one that has a shortage.

Hope I've explained myself OK.

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Post by plewis66 » Sun Feb 11, 2007 8:09 pm

babyshark wrote:Neil:
...In a later photo I see the skirmishers some distance to the rear. Is that because their task was complete and they got out of the way to let the jumbos go to work? Or did they fail and flee? Or what?
Hi Marc, I can't say for sure what happened in the photos, but within the game emchanics, they could have done either.

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Post by caliban66 » Sun Feb 11, 2007 9:36 pm

plewis66 wrote:Caliban:

I can't speak too much about DBM, but I can tell you what is going on in the AoW game.

The places where it looks like there are columns in battle groups are caused by two effects. One is the presence of a General attached to a battle group, and placed on his own behind the rear rank.

The second is where battle groups are joined together to form battle lines, and some battle groups are deeper than others.

Taken togther, these factors mean that the back of a battle line is generally 'ragged' when the front is in line.


For example, in the first photo, take the roman light horse (in the centre left of the picture). Here there are two battle groups, each of four light horse. The one furthest from camera is deployed in a single rank of four bases, and the one nearest the camera is deployed in two ranks of two files. Additionally, the battle group in two ranks has a general attached at the back. The overall impression is of a typical DBM-ish 'L' shaped group, expanding from column, but in fact is very different from this.

Exactly the same principles apply in all places in the photos where you see a similar effect.

In AoW, battle groups must start with an even number of bases, and if there are not enough bases to make complete ranks, then the rearmost rank can be the only one that has a shortage.

Hope I've explained myself OK.
Thanks a lot, my "brother". :wink: I see your point about the pics. Anyway, could you tell me more about the element meaning in a BG?

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Post by bryan » Sun Feb 11, 2007 10:05 pm

Good question, Caliban66. I'm curious about the role of elements too.

What about losses? I read that you lose bases from a BG if you are beaten by a certain amount in combat. Which element is removed from the BG? Does it matter in this game?
Could you play AoW with big bases the size of a whole battlegroup? I guess you'd still need the elemnts to make change so to speak when you had loses, but it does suggest some interesting modelling options for those so inclined.

What about the general's element? Does it ever fight on it's own or just attach to BGs?

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Post by plewis66 » Mon Feb 12, 2007 7:25 am

A base represents a nominal 250 men, though this is approximate, variable based on the army and troop type, and not too relevant.

Battle groups must comprise between a minimum and maximum number of bases, as specified in the army lists. Some battle groups can be made up of mixed types of bases (eg sowrdsmen and archers), though I must confess, I'm not sure of the implications of this...it doesn't apply to any of my armies!

Elements can be removed from play as a result of close combat, or (less likely) shooting. Whether or not an element needs to be removed from a battle group is determined by the number of hits it receives in combat or from shooting. This is compared to a 'death roll' made by the BG's owning player. In heavy defeats, and with some bad luck, it is possible to loose more than one base in one round of combat.

Generals never fight independently, and should they ever be shot at or caught by enemy troops, they immediately die.

However, generals can join battle groups that are in combat. They can do this in order simply to bolster morale, in which case they can move from one BG to another, encouraging the troops on, and making sure wavering troops stay in the fight. Or, they can join abattle group and fight in the front line. If they do this, they so inspire the troops that the troops then fight as if they were of higher quality than normal. On the other hand, your opponent has the opportunity to kill your general if he is fighting in the front rank.

Bases removed from combat are removed from the rear rank (this is where I'm not sure how it works with mixed battle groups - I suspect that an element of the type fighting in the fron rank is removed, and any rear bases shifted forwards, but I may be wrong).

Because of element removal, it's not really feasible to have BG that are mounted on a single base, though I guess you could mount them on double depth bases, providing you also provide enough single bases to switch out when elements are removed. However, doing this may reduce your options for manoevering and expanding frontage in combat if you are not careful.

I'm probably going to make up some warhammer style movement trays for use in informal games, though they wouldn't be useable in competition (I guess) due to the need for millimeter accurate measuring (as in many other systems, but not really Warhammer, which tends to be relaxed about 2-3mm here and there).

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Post by neilhammond » Mon Feb 12, 2007 1:49 pm

babyshark wrote:Neil:

From looking at the photos (thanks for those) I gathered that the Sassanids used some skirmishers to screen their elephants from the Roman artillery and archers. How did that work? In a later photo I see the skirmishers some distance to the rear. Is that because their task was complete and they got out of the way to let the jumbos go to work? Or did they fail and flee? Or what?
Marc,

Yes, the skirmishers were very irritating becasue they screened the elephants from my bow and artillery until Clive was ready to charge. They did take some damage (they lost an element to shooting and were also disrupted by the shooting) but that was their job.

They then withdrew when Clive was ready to charge in. You can't charge through friendly troops, so Clive did need to unmask his elephants just before the final charge, which gives me 2 shoots before crunch time - one shot during his turn when the elephants were unmasked and one shot during my turn. But neither of my shots caused damage through a combination of poor shooting dice and when I did get a couple of hits Clive passing his morale test (the cohesion test or "CT").

If Clive had for some bizzare reason chosen to delay charging me for several turns then the chances are that the skirmishers would have continued to take hits and would eventually rout (unless Clive got really, really lucky with his CT).

Neil

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Post by neilhammond » Mon Feb 12, 2007 8:12 pm

caliban66 wrote:I have still another question. I see some BG are deployed with columns on their flanks. Concerning BG, do individual elements "mean" something? I mean, in DBM, one element wide columns use to open in a line considering each element as something "real". E.g. If the column is form by elements A, B, C and D (as we can see in diagrams) , and change into a line, then B must be aside to A, and C can be both aside B or A, but their final individual position is determined by its previous position in the column. That made that elements that couldn??t move enough to form a line and kept in the column, tend to be on a side of the line, instead of its centre. Well, if we see "Espartaco", by Kubric, we can see a very interesting opening movement, forming a line from the centre to both sides, which seems quite more realistic. So, the question is, does individual elements mean something in a BG, or can we considere it like an "amoeba", changing its shape regardless where individual elementes where placed, unlike actually DBM does?
Hi. Yes, elements do "mean" something. So if expanding from a single element wide column, the head of the column remains fixed and the expanding elements line up next to it. An element is not a "blob" that can be shifted around, nor can you expand and "shift" sideways. Similarly, if charging, you have to be able to contact the enemy by either moving straight ahead or by a single wheel plus move ahead. A BG can't slither diagonally to make contact.

This is important in distinguishing drilled from non-drilled troops. In my game, after the auxilia defeated the enemy foot to their front and ceased pursuit, they were able to execute a 90 degree turn (because they were drilled) which placed them ready to charge the flank of the archers. Undrilled troops struggle to do this (skirmishers are an exception)

Neil

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Post by neilhammond » Mon Feb 12, 2007 8:21 pm

bryan wrote:Good question, Caliban66. I'm curious about the role of elements too.

What about losses? I read that you lose bases from a BG if you are beaten by a certain amount in combat. Which element is removed from the BG? Does it matter in this game?
Could you play AoW with big bases the size of a whole battlegroup? I guess you'd still need the elemnts to make change so to speak when you had loses, but it does suggest some interesting modelling options for those so inclined.

What about the general's element? Does it ever fight on it's own or just attach to BGs?
I think plewis66 has answered most of the questions you raise. There are rules for which base you remove, but essentially it's the base most heavily engaged in fighting. Back ranks then automatically fill the gap. With my mixed formations, initially I loose the legionary bases, but if I thinned out enough or expanded enough a light infantry archer might have to fill the gap. He'd then be much weaker in combat and would probably need to score higher to hit that his fellow legionaries next to him (usually dealt with by throwing a differnt coloured dice for the "odd" element).

Element removal does matter for morale tests once you lose 25%. So it does need to be represented. Similarly, there may be occassions when you want to deploy deep and other occassions when you want to go wide but shallow to occupy frontage.

Neil

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Post by caliban66 » Mon Feb 12, 2007 9:17 pm

Absolutely clear. Thanks to you all, guys.

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Post by larrydunn » Sun Feb 18, 2007 8:52 pm

rbodleyscott wrote:Thus each "cohort" of auxiliaries in the above game in fact (at the normal AoW representational scale) would represent 4 full strength cohorts of auxiliaries acting together as a tactical unit. ("Battle group" in AoW terminology - no appropriate contemporary term being available).
Vexillation?

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Post by rbodleyscott » Sun Feb 18, 2007 11:13 pm

larrydunn wrote:
rbodleyscott wrote:Thus each "cohort" of auxiliaries in the above game in fact (at the normal AoW representational scale) would represent 4 full strength cohorts of auxiliaries acting together as a tactical unit. ("Battle group" in AoW terminology - no appropriate contemporary term being available).
Vexillation?
This is contemporary for Romans but not for other armies covered by the rules (the vast majority). I don't think even the Romans applied it to groups of Auxiliary cohorts.

We don't want to pick a term that is contemporary for one set of armies, but anachronistic for others. Better to use an anachronistic term throughout, in our opinion.

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Post by gehiegi » Mon Feb 19, 2007 9:02 am

I think I don't understand the logic in the statement about a BG being several tactical units (3 cohorts)

Efective range for javelins: 2 MU (50 meters?) scale 1mm=1 meter
Allowing 1 meter frontage per legionary, 40mm elements give deployment space for 120 legionaries in three ranks, so a BG of 4 bases should be a full cohort of 480 or even a mora of 600 hoplites.

I liked the notion of "brigaded" units for bigger battles but the idea: BG=single unit appeals me.

Thanks and excuse my poor English,

J

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Post by rbodleyscott » Mon Feb 19, 2007 9:41 am

gehiegi wrote:Efective range for javelins: 2 MU (50 meters?) scale 1mm=1 meter
Allowing 1 meter frontage per legionary, 40mm elements give deployment space for 120 legionaries in three ranks, so a BG of 4 bases should be a full cohort of 480 or even a mora of 600 hoplites.
The ground scale is based on bow range rather than javelin range. Calculated from this the average number of men in an element is approximately 250. (More for 25mm scale, less for 15mm scale).

The javelin scale is generous for practical game purposes. As only skirmishers (Light Foot and Light Horse) are allowed to shoot javelins, you can assume that individuals are running forward out of the main body to throw javelins. This is another reason why heavier troops do not get a distant shooting capability with javelins in AoW.
I think I don't understand the logic in the statement about a BG being several tactical units (3 cohorts)
We are not saying that a battle group is several tactical units. What we are saying is that a battle group is several organisational units grouped together as a single tactical unit.

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Post by gehiegi » Mon Feb 19, 2007 9:51 am

Now, I got it. :)
Thank you a lot

J

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Post by larrydunn » Mon Feb 19, 2007 3:37 pm

rbodleyscott wrote:
larrydunn wrote:("Battle group" in AoW terminology - no appropriate contemporary term being available).
Vexillation?
This is contemporary for Romans but not for other armies covered by the rules (the vast majority). [/quote]

Right, I was responding to "no appropriate contemporary term being available."
I don't think even the Romans applied it to groups of Auxiliary cohorts.
Well, there's always that. :)

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