Saturday, 2 January 2010

Second Battle of Nisibis.

Thanks to a heavy fall of snow yesterday, the original family plans were stopped in their tracks. Instead I set about doing some urgent housework, and sorting out the piles of re-cycling generated by the festivities.

But after that, I had enough free time left to have another go at the Nisibis scneraro, in another solo game. I was intrigued by the situation, and the new units and rules, and over the last 24 hours had been pondering on the right tactics for the Parthians. In short, I was aching to have another bash, and as the board and remaining units had not yet been packed away, it was the work of a moment to set the game up anew, and get down to it.

The Parthian army is a tricky one to handle. In this, and the other scenarios that feature it, it is mostly Cavalry, and perhaps 50% of the army is Light Bow Cavalry. Whilst this gives the advantages of speed and long-range firepower, the disadvantage is that any Cavalry-strong army can pose serious command and control problems. In C&C: Ancients this is simulated by the fact that some command cards are used to activate Infantry, and only if one lacks any infantry can one use the alternative activation on the card, ie, activate a single unit of another type.

Although I did not mention it, the first game saw the Parthians spend the initial three turns getting their Cavalry organised and ensuring enough command cards to keep them moving. Luckily the Romans did not take advantage of this, and just stood back waiting for the enemy to come to them

In this game the Parthians initial command cards were far better. From the second turn they had a full command hand that would allow their cavalry full rein over the battlefield.

And they blew it.

I hate to admit it.... Even with my usual objectivity at solo play, as the Parthian commander I messed up big time. I took counsel of my fears of the Light Foot and their caltrops, and instead of using my army's advantages (mobility coupled with long-range firepower), I threw them away and then allowed the other side to find and punish my force's weak spots.

After the Parthian Cavalry's heavy attrition in the first game, at the hands of the caltrop-tossing Roman Light Foot in the centre, I instead sat back and used my long-range bow fire to try and whittle the Roman Light Foot down and force them back.

But that takes time, and when I switched to the Roman side, I made the obvious move for them. The Romans pushed forward their fast-moving (for foot) Infantry on their right wing, and then followed with a similar move on their left, and all of a sudden the Parthians were in a mess.

Their Cavalry, especially the Light Bow Cavalry, needed room for manoeuvre but were suddenly denied that room. Pressed back against the second Parthian line, and suddenly in range of a Roman army in which EVERY unit was missile-armed, they started to get trapped and chopped up. And as Light Cavalry retreat four hexes for every un-countered Flag rolled against them in combat, they need a LOT of retreat room. Taking a hit for each hex of retreat that was blocked, the Parthian Light Bow Cavalry were pinned and suffered terribly.

The Parthian moves became little but unplanned reactions; desperate attempts to ease the pressure on their flanks, especially on their left. And as the Roman centre moved into contact, the Parthian plight got worse. They only managed one serious counter-attack, a Heavy Cataphract Cavalry unit led by Atrabanus himself, which slammed into the advancing Roman Legions and forced back two of them, then paused breathless at the main Roman line. Within another two turns, the unit was pinned and smashed as Legionaries surrounded and hammered it.

There was still the chance of a turning point. The Parthians poured a rain of missile fire onto the advancing Roman units. But it had little effect other than forcing those Romans back out of range of further missiles. When the Romans again advanced and retaliated with a deluge of javelins, arrows and pilum, an 8th Parthian unit (Light Cavalry) was wrecked and the battle was over.

A Roman Victory: 8 banners to 1.

No. I don't think this scenario is cracked yet. The command cards, and how one uses them, will always ensure that there can be no fixed forumla for a Roman victory here. I am once more thinking hard about Parthian tactics. Granted, as in real life the caltrop posed a huge problem for such armies, but finding a way around those weapons would have been vital.

That is one reason why I love wargaming; it puts one in the position of those people, helps one empathise with them, see what they faced and understand the decisions they arrived at, and why.

And that, after all, is how one REALLY learns History.


Peter said...

Wonderful C&C report. I love that game, but only have the basic set. Did you try the rules link I sent you a while back?


Poacher said...

Hi Peter....

Happy new year, BTW.

Yes, I did get the link, thanks. :-)

I actually have a copy of the Gush book, and may well get around to trying out those late-period H&M rules.

I think I still have a copy of his old WRG Renaissance rules soemwhere in the loft, too...


Peter said...

I played ACW with the T.Wise rules from the Airfix guide.
My favourite rules were the napoleonic rules by Gush. I was trying to upgrade the Airfix rules with mechanismes from the Gush rules until I found the Gush/Finch book. That was a happy moment. Is suggest playing through the basic firing/mĂȘlee rules first. You need just a couple of turns to figure those out...from then on it goes really fast, but I suggest making your own summary sheet. I would send mine...but it's in Flemish.


Peter said...

and thanks for following my blog. I promise it will get better.
And of course best whishes to you and all those dear to you. Have a healthy 2010.