Sunday, October 2, 2022

Later Crusaders versus Fatimid Egyptians

And for a while it looked like it was going to be the real late Crusaders.

An historical match using the Great Battles option with three players per side.

The Fatimids were commanded by, left to right, Mark Woods (his figures), Stephen and Simon.
The Crusaders (my figures) were commanded by me, Brad and John.

Hard to fit it all in one photo,
but this is what my army looked like.

Despite skillful placement of difficult terrain,
it immediately became clear the Crusader's flanks
were going to be threatened.

So an immediate change of plan was called for.
No waiting around, advance!

With a breakthrough imminent on the Crusader's left, 
a precious unit of knights was shuffled in an attempt to cover the approach.

The faith that the Crusader's had put in their crossbows,
was not forthcoming

The Foot Sergeants finally made contact,
it could have gone better.

The Crusader's left flank has been torn open.
Their knights have no option but to press on.

In the centre, the solid phalanx of spearmen has not produced immediate results

On the right the Fatimid light cavalry has also broken through.

The climax on the left flank came with this pitiful roll:
the knights scoring only one hit, but receiving four.

Everyone is fighting now,
it is slow grizzly work.

Those Fatimids on the right might be too late...

But on the left the Crusader command has been broken.

However the same fate had befallen the Fatimid centre.

While the Crusader's centre now has to recover order and turn to face the threat,
on the right the Fatimids are now round behind the knights.

But a loss to the Fatimids of their right wing commander's unit,
tipped them over break point.
A very close run victory for the Crusaders.
Great game!

Saturday, October 1, 2022

The Sword Of Rome

First attempt at this multiplayer game.  Richard was the Etruscan/Samites, Jeff the Greeks and I went Roman.  The system is very similar to that used by Barbarians at the Gates and once we played a few turns it played quickly and smoothly.  The short game was complete with the Greeks in a winning position as the Italians had just about fought themselves into oblivion.  We played the Carthaginians wrong to start with and that might have altered the balance somewhat (we had them in Italy which is not allowed).  The Gauls were random events and basically just added to the woes of the Italians (and the Greeks) by reducing support and causing losses - small, but all adds up.

Very interesting combat system.  You roll three dice, add them up, with a few pluses and minus regarding the combat situation.  Highest wins, but losses are determined by the value of the dice thrown, with 4s, 5s, and 6s producing causalities.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Dacians versus Late Imperial Romans (East)

Almost a perfect match up.  John and Brad faced my Dacians.  Would they (the Romans) be lucky?  No.

This is what the Romans saw

The Dacians were out scouted, but didn't care.
The Romans had a plan,
the Dacians didn't,
so nothing could not go according to plan!

A very cautious start.
The Roman plan was immediately obvious.
Luckily the Dacians had placed the troops best able to counter it.

The Dacian chieftain faces the Roman General.
The Dacian archers keep up a steady fire. 

The Dacians charge the Roman cavalry
Being FL they had the range,
particularly when the Romans closed.

The Dacians defeat the Roman cavalry
Thanks to a bit of luck

The Dacian warriors are having a hard time of it

A very hard time,
but the Romans came off worse.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

RO6 Camillan Roman: Heavy cavalry with javelin & shield

These were an 85% complete cavalry unit that came as part of a bigger purchase of unpainted and part painted Romans via a Facebook trading group thingy earlier this year.  Finally some progress.  One figure has been painted from scratch, I changed the position of the spears which required the plumes to be redone, one horse's tail had broken off and has been resecured and there were a few chips to the paint work to repair.

Very happy with the original paint work and pleased I was able to match it.  Good luck picking out which figure is all my own work :-)

The only way I can pick the figure I painted is by looking at the faces.  My technique is different.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Don't Mention The War - Part 21

The glorious summer of 1942 did not last and the game soon reverted to bad weather and short turns, but before then there was a massive battle on the western approaches to Kiev. It was an 11 blitz and a roll of 18 put the result at TOTT.

The chickens of Kiev are getting nervous

But then the rain set in during September/October.  The summer battles had however weakened the Soviets to such a degree that they decided to retreat leaving Vilnia and even Kiroy Rog (the location of three resources) only lightly defended.  Sloshing through the mud both were automatic TOTT assaults.  

Great weather for ducks

Less so for trucks

But then it was time for an assault on Kiev.  It was about an 11 attack and an average die roll produced a result of 21 which was just enough to liberate the city.  Phew!

Kiev, or Kyiv as we like to call it, under new management.

At the same time Germany had just about used up all its oil, thanks to previously agreed generous provision to Italy, all part of the happy European family.

After the rain came the snow...  

In other news the Imperialists stormed Oslo forcing Norway to surrender, but not before weapon caches were hidden to support future partisan activity (we shall see).

The future of Norway

In the Pacific the Dutch East Indies are now the Japanese East Indies, but Kwajalein was captured by the Americans.


The massive air wars in July/August have provided a surplus of pilots, but the production Build Points might have peaked.  Road construction has started to link the liberated resources of the Donbas to the European grid.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Barbarians at the Gates - The Return and Conclusion

We completed this game in our second session with Richard trying out new strategies for the Romans.  The game played to the very end and was full of reverses of fortune.  The Romans won by 1 point, but it was a hard road and hard to stay if it was the new strategies or the unlucky usurper emperors that gave Rome the win.

As with previous sessions, Richard has been inspired (always a sign of a good game) to provide the following write-up.  It is long, but highly recommended read.

Barbarians at the Gates (337-cc 476) Campaign scenario

Turns 5-9.

A Roman Victory in Barbarians at the Gates - was it "to be or not to be?"

In what can only be described as a truly stunning set of setbacks and miraculous comebacks this game ebbed and flowed more like a Tsunami than a tide. Would the last vestiges of Roman Civilization in the West be swept away by the Barbarian Tide or would the Barbarians be tamed by the decadence and culture of Rome?

Turn 5

As foreshadowed earlier, there were multiple threats to the Loyalist brewing for the start of turn 5. There was an Usurper Emperor Card coming up in the Barbarian player's hand this turn. When would he play it and where? Also the Vandals and the Visigoths were inside the borders of Illyricum and Gallia Lugdenensis in substantial force.

The Barbarian always takes the first turn, so there were important decisions to make.

The timing of play of the Usurper Emperor card is a crucial decision for the Barbarian player. Does he keep it hovering like the Sword of Damocles over the Romans' head and hold it until the last card of the round or does he strike early in the turn to do maximum damage? One of the big advantages in waiting is that the Roman will be constantly second guessing himself, whilst playing it at the very end of the turn and flipping control of a province means it will probably be impossible for the Roman to regain it.

With a card available to play and three possible targets to choose from in Africa, Hispanae and Gallia Viennensis, there was a significant choice confronting the Barbarian player.

The Loyalist had expected an early play of Usurper Emperor, however, the Barbarian played Bagaudae Uprising in Hispanae at Mons Scaple thus creating more difficulties for the Romans with the Usurper Arbogastus already in place on the northern coast at Brigantium. Hispanae was slowly slipping from the Loyalists grasp as both Barbarians and Usurpers eroded control.

The Romans had to neutralise as many threats as quickly as possible. They decided to play the "Rome Offers Settlement" to the Vandals who were resettled away from Illyricum to Africa. One threat dealt with, two to go.

Meanwhile, the Usurper Arbogastus took the opportunity to attack Loyalist garrisons in Hispanae. Moving from Brigantium, with a view to overwhelming the castra and 2 CU garrison at Caesar Augustus, he was intercepted by Magnentius moving from Burgidala with a force of 3 CU. The now respectable defence, anchored by the castra and its defensive bonus seemed like a reasonable prospect to attempt to stop the Usurper from capturing the provincial capital. The ensuing battle was a rout for the Loyalists assisted by play of the "Enemy Leader Wounded" card which reduced Magentius' battle rating to zero, thus giving Arbogastus a +4 DRM. The result was predictable, with Magnentius being displaced, and all CU lost.

The Castra had been placed at the cost of a valuable 3 OPs card, so a costly investment now a waste. It was difficult to have to sit back and watch this destruction however, the Loyalist had to be methodical, remembering the new mantra, so opted to play the "Tribute to Barbarians" card. This card gives the Barbarian 5 free plunder points, but crucially prevents them activating with their leaders for the rest of the turn. A costly exercise, but with the two large remaining Barbarian tribes in the Franks and the Visigoths drunk on plunder and neutralised for the rest of the turn, this allowed the Loyalist to concentrate on the Usurper threat.

With Barbarian options now off the table, sure enough next play by the Barbarian, out came the Usurper Emperor Card which was played on Bauto in Gallia Viennensis, and suddenly another province was lost to the Loyalist. More trouble for the Loyalist, but at least there would be no further risk of losing leaders to usurpers for the rest of the turn. Biding his time, the Loyalist forced marched troops and played the "Stilichio" card and brought that leader on at Tarraco to try and bolster the defences against the Usurper threat.

The Usurper's battle against Magnentius, whilst successful, had reduced their forces to 5 CU. Camped in the ruins of the former castra at Caesar Augusta they looked on to their next target, the provincial capital Tarraco. With Stilichio at Tarraco with 6CU with a small but crucial advantage in numbers, the loyalist engaged Arbogastus with an ace up his sleeve. Battle was joined and then the Loyalist played the "Usurper Killed by his own men" card. If the loyalist has a bigger force than the usurper, this card eliminates the Usurper leader and all CU and changes control of the space. The insurrection in Hispanae is now gone, but the Civil War rages on.

With all major Barbarian player threats eliminated or neutralised, the action died down somewhat for the remainder of the turn as both players took positioning moves for the next turn.

Stilichio spent another turn reconverting and garrisoning spaces in Hispanae to regain control of the province and positioned himself to intercept raid attempts.

The Romans resettled the Visigoths in Gallia Belgica, with the hope that this large force would keep the Franks at bay.

Byzantine assistance was summoned by the Loyalist and a Byzantine leader and 4 CU appeared at Sirimium in Illyricum to bolster that province.

The migration phase was next, and with 2 major tribes already resettled, the Barbarian had merely to migrate the  Jutes, Bagaudae and Franks

The Jutes migrated to Gades, the Bagaudae migrated to Cordoba.

The Romans commanded 8 provinces for a gain of 1VP. An excellent return from what looked like a whole pile of woe at the beginning of the turn.

Turn 6

This turn saw the addition of the third wave cards and these were shuffled into the remaining undrawn cards.

As part of the Roman anti-Usurper strategy, the provinces of Italia, Suburbarica and Annonensis were deliberately left leaderless to prevent them being targeted by usurpation. Substantial reserves had been accumulated, particularly at Roma where there was an enormous force of 16CU, carefully concentrated by reinforcements and forced marching. This little nest egg was just waiting for a Roman general to arrive to command it.

Unfortunately, that leader turned out to be ... an Usurper!

With the third wave of cards now shuffled into the deck, a whole new set of events were now possible.

The Barbarian has the advantage of going first in a turn and as luck would have it, he drew and immediately played the "Odoacer" Card which places the Odoacer leader on any Loyalist CU without a leader. Roma. The catastrophe this represents for the loyalist is hard to overstate. With only a small loyalist force in Hispanae, the Emperor and his entourage in Gallia Belgica with a garrison sized force, the Byzantine lead force in Illyricum too far from the action, the whole empire is now at the mercy of Odoacer and his huge force at Roma.

The Roman player now makes a momentous decision. Risking everything on a Successful Usurpation action, the Roman Loyalist switches sides. Everything Loyalist becomes Usurper and and everything Usurper becomes Loyalist.

The game has a unique mechanic where the Roman Loyalist player can simply switch to the other Roman side if he is unhappy with his current loyalist situation by playing any card in his hand.

The result is that, Odoacer is the new Loyalist Emperor crowned with the "Successful Usurpator" Marker and now sitting on his enormous army of 16 CU, but the cost is high with only 5 provinces under loyalist control. Swift action will be required to restore provinces to loyalist control, otherwise negative VPs will quickly erode the Roman VP base.

With only 2 CU at the former Emperor's disposal, the Barbarian player gathered up the, now, Usurper cabal (4 other Roman leaders who had been shielding under Honorius to avoid Usurpation attempts). Led by Honorius  who has to abandon his poultry and skulk off with his cabal into Thuringia to get away from the risk of any possible attack on him. (The displacement and consequent elimination of a Usurper Emperor immediately ends the Usurpation).

Despite the large army at Roma now under firm Loyalist control, there seemed little that the Loyalist could do to end the insurrection quickly. There were no nearby forces, with only a tiny loyalist presence in Hispanae - Maximus and 2 CU at Nova Cathargo and Stilichio at Caesar Augusta with the Byzantines far away in Illyricum which they needed to guard in any case.

What could the loyalist do? The only substantial forces nearby belonged to the Visigoths who had been settled in Gallia Belgica. Allied tribes are activated by cards in the Roman "Tribal Reserve". These cards are normal game cards however, they can only be used to activate Allied Tribes and as their OP value is unknown until they are flipped over, with the potential that there may be insufficient APs available to perform the action desired.

Assessing the situation, the loyalist determined that the Visigoths under Aleric were theoretically capable of reaching Honorius in Thuringia. With no better options, the Loyalist went for a tribal action and pulled a card with just enough AP to reach Thuringia from Augusta Trevororum, where they had been pre-positioned to best fend off the Franks.

Honorius tried to avoid battle, but the auguries (presumably from his pet chickens*) were not favourable , and the attempt failed. Battle was joined and the large Visigoth force turned on their former Emperor. Despite the overwhelming numbers against them the die rolls were poor and there were limited casualties and there was a single CU separating the Usurper from oblivion. Unfortunately for Honorius, a retreat was required. Being deep in the uncontrolled territory of Germania, a retreat required another CU loss, resulting in the displacement and permanent elimination of Honorius and with the loss of the Usurper Emperor, the end of the civil war!

* At that time they say that the Emperor Honorius in Ravenna received the message from one of the eunuchs, evidently a keeper of the poultry, that Rome had perished. And he cried out and said, 'And yet it has just eaten from my hands!' For he had a very large cock, Rome by name; and the eunuch comprehending his words said that it was the city of Rome which had perished at the hands of Alaric, and the emperor with a sigh of relief answered quickly: 'But I thought that my fowl Rome had perished.' So great, they say, was the folly with which this emperor was possessed.

—Procopius, The Vandalic War (III.2.25–26)

Having fought so hard to stabilise everything in the previous turn, only to see it all come undone on the  play of a single card, the loyalist went from the depths of despair to unbridled euphoria in two moves.

A triumph was organised for the ebullient Loyalist. Ave!,Ave! they cried as he made his way to the Temple of Jupiter. 

What a series of moves? Could it get any better? Unbelievably, Yes, Yes it could...

The rebellion over, the big tribes happily settled in Roman provinces and only a few other minor tribes in the game, what would the Barbarian player do next?

The big plays from the Barbarian hand kept coming, however. Next to be played was the Hunnic Invasion, bringing on Attila and his horde (or should that be herd...)

The Hun Invasion.

The Huns are a superpower in Barbarian terms. They have the best possible leader with low activation cost and highest possible battle rating of 4. They start with 10 CU and replace at 3CU per turn. They cannot be resettled in the Empire. They are meant to cause a lot of damage and be hard or impossible to stop. They are Roman slaughter machine, that's if they fight of course...

Attila the "shun" (...well on anything but a 1 that is...)

Before turning into the personification of blood thirsty barbarian, Attila started out as the shy sheep herder migrating from the steppes of Asia. He and his tribe entering Western Europe at Casurgis.

Whilst brave enough to eliminate a couple of border garrisons and give siege to Aquilea in Italia Annonensis, Attila was very reluctant to face the new Roman Emperor Odoacer who had marched up from Roma with 10 CU to confront the new menace. Fresh from his triumph and not intent on resting on his laurels...the new Emperor was keen to stamp his authority on the Empire and immediately advanced to relieve the siege of Aquilea. The garrison holding out in Aquilea also sortied out and this gave the Romans a crucial +1DRM with every CU above 10 in a battle space providing a +1DRM. Attila has a combat rating of 4 (the highest possible) and Odoacer is a 3. So the Romans had a net +1 overall in the combat roll.

The Romans roll high and the Huns roll low. The Huns are smashed by Odoacer, the Loyalist adding insult to injury by playing the "Barbarian Booty Reclaimed" card, which drops plunder by 5 after a Roman victory against Barbarian CU. This ended up in regaining 1VP.

Attila retreats from Aquilea and is pursued by Odoacer. Attila tries to avoid battle, but failed his roll (only rolling  a 1 will do that!). The Huns have a -1 DRM for the upcoming combat. They are routed and lose another CU on the retreat into a loyalist controlled space. The Huns are reduced to a minor raiding force, now far from their tribal marker.

Usurper threat gone, Huns banished into oblivion. Surely, it can't get better than this for the Romans? Well, yes it can actually.

The Barbarian player is now seriously miffed. Everything they've thrown at the Romans has been shoved right back at them. Time for revenge..or not...

The Barbarian player (let's call him Mark Raeder - no relation ) loves to raid. He carefully positioned the Jutes the previous turn so that they could raid into either the Atlantic or Mediterranean. So the Jutes are ready to exact a swift retribution on the Romans with a raid into the Mediterranean, the soft underbelly of the Roman Empire. Leaping into their long ships they thirst for plunder. Unfortunately shortly after setting off, they are intercepted, as the Roman had been keeping the "Roman Fleet Interdicts" card up his sleeve for just this particular occasion. With the play of this card, the raid is cancelled, it also eliminates 2 CU, which also displaces the Jute leader, since both raiding CUs are lost.

Seizing yet another opportunity to regain control in Hispanae, the Loyalist activates Stilichio and moves against the Bagaudae. Their small force is wiped out, displacing their leader Tibatto. Moving on immediately, both the Jute and Bagaudae tribal markers are overrun and since their leaders are displaced, the tribal markers are permanently eliminated.

The Barbarian player is well and truly reeling at this point. With all his big gun cards played and limited raiding opportunities his hand exhausted of high value AP and no events of interest, he resorts to raiding in Britannia with the Picts.

A few bits of plunder are gained to keep the plunder track ticking along. Every bit helps you know. You can just imagine the poor villagers of Northern Britain surrendering the last of their amphorae filled with Garum. "What did you bring back from the raid dad?" the eager young Pictish children asked quizzically of their fathers. "We have fermented fish guts son. Help yourself." No wonder they were so angry...

This turn so far has seen the Loyalist repel a tsunami of Barbarian wonder weapons. Every blow was met with counter blow. Surely now, the Romans, must be out of options. Umm, well no actually, there is still more pain for the Barbarian player.

The Romans play the "Eastern Conquests" card and march the Byzantine led force into the Far East box. This allows them to count this area as a province for VP purposes.

The Barbarian plays the Saxon Invasion, at Roskilde.

With not much left to migrate, the Huns mill around in a daze tending their sheep as Attila plots his revenge (the taunts of "Attila the Shun" still sting his heart), the Franks move toward Gallia Belgica and the Saxons newly invaded, migrated to Tingis, as with the Jutes, ideally placing them at the juncture of the Mediterranean and Atlantic thus allowing naval raiding in either sea area.

In what can only be described as a stunning turnaround, in this turn the Loyalist stared down the Usurpation at Roma by taking a massive gamble and switching sides with the Usurper faction, defeated the Usurper Emperor thus ending the civil war with all Roman areas returning to Loyalist control and prevented certain plunder gains with the Roman fleet by intercepting the Jutes en route, cancelling the raid and gained an unexpected province through the Eastern Conquests. In any other game, you would probably have to say that there was now little chance of a Barbarian victory, surely if the Romans can fend off what had just been thrown at them, then there is no comeback. In this game, however, that is not the case. The most powerful weapon in the game, raiding, can easily assail even a substantial VP lead in a matter of turns.

The end of this turn was, thus, the high water mark for the Romans, managing to gain a net 2 VPS for the turn to advance to 13VPs. Despite the impressive VP total a lot of effort had to be expended to defeat the existential threats facing the Romans. This meant that precious little else was available to restore the garrisons and raid proof the empire. It just can't all be done. With the damage done earlier by Usurpers leaving gaping holes in Hispanae ripe for plunder and another naval raiding capable force in the form of the Saxons ready for naval raiding into the Mediterranean. The ever present threat of further usurpation in the refreshed draw deck also loomed large.

Turn 7

With the excitement of turn 6 behind them and fresh cards drawn. (The Romans must place two cards face down in the tribal reserve for the two settled tribes).

The nerves of both players are clearly spent as a series of rather dull event cards are played.

The Barbarian opens with the "Roman Discipline Falters" card, which stops the Roman combat advantage and has the Barbarian win ties.

The Roman counters with "Bureaucratic Revolution" which means in future turns, one fewer card than number of settled tribes needs to be placed into the Tribal Reserve. Only if the Roman player remembers to do that of course....

The Saxons raid by sea into Sicily and reach the boot of Italy racking up significant plunder gains and placing control markers.

The Roman counters, by forced marching CU to cover likely landing spots for future raids. Unfortunately, there aren't enough CUs to cover the whole of the Mediterranean coast and the Saxons raid again. Plundering at will and starting to chip away at the Roman VPs and also causing provincial control problems.

With the refreshed deck, there is a renewed danger of Usurpation, and sure enough the Barbarian has this card and plays it on Stilichio in Hispanae, flipping control of that province and also giving the Barbarian the opportunity to strip the garrisons and allow more raiding. Stilichio wipes out Maximus and his garrison sized force at Mons Scalpe and then moves North to threaten Gallia Viennensis

Meanwhile in Germania, the Franks advance closer to Gallia Belgica. The Romans try to activate the Visigoths who have been in Thuringia since their defeat of Honorius. The tribal deck is not kind and they can only move one space closer to their resettled home. The Franks are, however, in a position to intercept them and are much closer to allow them to strike into Gallia Belgica.

The Roman player's hand is very weak, with a series of 1 and 2 Ops cards which limit what can be done. The Vandals are activated and sent to recover Caeserea which was captured earlier in the turn by the Mauri. An inconsequential battle followed which resulted in the Vandals besieging Caesarea.

The Barbarian played the "Young Warriors" card and stripped out 2 CU from the Vandals and effectively replaced the CU just lost in the battle of the previous turn.

With a fresh Usurper threat on the loose and making their way to a weakly defended Gallia Viennensis, the Roman desperately needs to move Odoacer west. This exposed the frontier to the recovering Huns who raid, gaining plunder in subsequent raid moves which the Barbarian, flush with high value Ops cards, is more than eager to play for raiding.

The Barbarian plays the "Lost Conquests" card dropping a VP off the Roman total.

The Romans are desperate for reinforcements and once again the existential threat must be weighed against the holding of an additional province in the Far East box. The decision is made to recall the Byzantine leader from the Far East box, but not before the Julius Nepos card is played, upgrading the leader rating and depositing another 4 CU in the Far East which it is intended to leave behind as a garrison in the hope of retaining control of this province.

The Barbarian player moves Stilichio into Gallia Viennensis and takes the provincial capital by storm, with other spaces already raided and control changed, the control of this province flips away from the Loyalist.

The Roman player has limited options due to low value OPs cards, but there is enough to march the Byzantines out of the Far East box so as to at least offer a counter to the rebuilding Huns.

The Barbarian player plays Alan invasion and starts the tribe in the Far East box, which immediately precipitates a battle which they decisively win. This is a big blow for the Romans with another province lost.

With now only Africa, Illyricum, Gallia Belgica,and Italia Suburbarica and Anonennsis under loyalist control, there will be a minimum shift of -2 VPs at the end of the turn.

Unfortunately for the Romans, the Barbarian plays the "Depopulation Card" which sees castra and CU removed from along the border and in cultivated spaces, thus opening them up to fresh raiding opportunities.

The Romans inch closer to the Usurper threat in Gallia Viennensis with Odoacer who establishes in the South of the Province in the hope of being able to be in a position to intercept threats from the Usurper to the west and Hun and Franks to the North. The Visigoths are trapped on the wrong side of the Rhine away from their home province of Gallia Belgica and are blocked by a substantially rejuvenated Frankish force.

With the holes opened up through the depopulation card and with the Byzantines still on the march from the Far East, the Barbarian migrates the Alans to Sopanae. Being the third wave, Tribal markers can migrate 3 spaces ignoring transit spaces,so they can move a long, long way.The Franks cross the Rhine and are ready to threaten the Visigoths in Gallia Belgica. The Huns make their way well into Northern Italia Annonensis.

The effects of raiding are immediately felt with the Romans losing 2 VPs for provincial control deficit a further 1 from event card play and another VP from plunder, with the plunder track well advanced for a further loss early in the next turn.  The Roman VP total stands at 9, with 2 turns to go and big, big problems in the form of a rejuvenated Hun tribe, the Alans and Franks on the move and a Usurper running rampant in Gallia Viennensis.

Looking back to the position the Romans were in at the end of turn 6, it seems like an unlikely turnaround. The super weapon of Barbarian Raiding is what set all this up in the space of a couple of turns.

With 2 turns to go, can the Romans pull out another turn 6 miracle or will they succumb to the weight of plundering raiders and Usurper wreckers?

Turn 8

New hands are dealt and both players study them to see what can be done with them.

(The Roman player forgets that he played Bureaucratic revolution and deals 2 cards into Tribal Reserve, denying him a card to play for the Romans. (It turned out it was Major Campaign!).

The Barbarian player plays a card for Ops and activates Attila and moves against the Byzantines marching from the Far East Box. Battle is joined and the Barbarian player plays the "Barbarian Fervor" card giving them a massive +4 DRM to an additional +1. The result is a predictable massacre and the Byzantine lead force suffers heavy losses to the point of making it a spent force.

The Roman is in a game losing position, the dizzying fall from the heights of the end of turn 6 Pax Romanae is spectacular.

There are limited options, with a curtailed hand and low value Ops cards to play. The only ace to play is the "Gallia Placidia" card which converts a non-Usurper Emperor leader, in this case Stilichio the CU and the space, back to loyalist. Where there is life there is hope.

The Barbarian player plays a card for Ops and raids in Hispanae, Gallia Lugdunum and Italia Viennensis, racking up more plunder points.

Fearing further raiding by sea, the Saxons are resettled at Lugdunum to neutralise that threat, however, the damage has pretty much already been done.

The Barbarian player activates the Huns again and they rampage through Italia Annonensis, sacking Aquilea, Mediolanum and then making their way to Gallia Lugdunum. Massive plunder gains of 3 per sacked city are made.

The Romans are seemingly impotent (where is that large Cock of Honorius when you need it!), however, Odoacer musters whatever remaining CUs are to be found in his vicinity and marches to confront Attila.

The Barbarians move the Franks into Gallia Belgica and sack Augusta Trevororum for more plunder points and this tips control of the province away from the loyalist.

The tribal reserve cards are of no use to the Roman tribes, an attempt to move the Visigoths sees them move a space closer to their capital, but they are blocked by the Franks. The Vandals cannot do anything other than garrison whatever they still control in Africa, as there is nothing further to be gained. The shores of Hispanae are a leap too far.

The Romans lose a further 4 VPs due to plunder and provincial control deficit, down to 5 VPs. It looks like history will repeat itself and there will be an inevitable Barbarian victory.

Turn 9

The Barbarian takes the first turn and engages Odoacer at Mediolanum. It's now Attila the Hun in full fight. The Romans lose badly and retreat back into Italia Suburbarica.

The Romans need to get back a province, every VP is now vital. With only Stilichio left in Gallia Viennensis, it is all on him to pull out a game saving miracle. It starts well, with control of that province being regained.

Ironically, raiding opportunities have suddenly dried up for the Barbarian player, because there is nothing left to raid! They have it all already.

The Huns are activated again and they go on a rampage, taking out the recently settled Saxons and flipping control of Gallia Lugdunum, sacking Lugdunum and gaining more plunder.

Stilichio still has a theoretically possible chance to flip back Hispanae, but he needs to get control of the provincial capital, Tarraco, which is ungarrisoned. Playing the best card he can muster the Roman pins his hopes on Stilichio. Marching to besiege Tarraco, the first attempt is a dismal failure, a 1 is rolled, modified to a 2 for Roman but for a no result. A minor setback, but there is hope as he still has remaining AP. Another 1 is rolled and this crushes the Romans hopes for a last minute reprieve.

The Franks move on the remaining the Visigoths, besieging them in Durocortorum and consigning them to history by successfully besieging that space and gaining plunder.

The damage has been done, the Western Roman Empire is on its knees, mortally wounded by wave after wave of raiding and a rampaging Attila the Hun and his horde. Now reduced to 4 VPs and with the last card to be played, the Romans were staring into the Barbarian Abyss.

With the Romans set to lose 4 VPs with control of only Gallia Viennensis,  Italia Suburbicarica and Africa it looked to be a Barbarian victory, but the Loyalist had the last card of the game to play. He held on to the "Vital Alliances" card for this very possibility. Playing it gives the Loyalist 1 VP for every settled Barbarian tribe. With the Vandals still happily settled in Africa, that is 1 VP to the total. With 4 VPs lost due to provincial control deficit and a further -1 VP loss to plunder after 11 tumultuous turns, it was a Roman Victory by narrowest possible margin, 1VP!

Post Mortem

This is the first Roman victory in the 4 full campaign games. The fact that it was by the narrowest of margins and exactly what had to be overcome reflects on exactly how difficult it is for the Roman player to win.

This game was the only game played with the "anti-raiding" strategy at all costs strategy for the Romans.

I guess as a "historical" simulation of sorts, the Romans are probably not expected to win, however, as a gaming experience there are certain aspects of the rules which really make it nearly impossible for them to win against competent Barbarian play with raiding as the prime strategy.

To illustrate the power of raiding, at the end of turn 6 the Romans were sitting on 13 VPs, with 3 turns to go. This was completely turned around in 3 turns, not by massive Barbarian Invasions, although there was a lot of Hun activity and cities sacked for plunder. The damage was done by individual CUs raiding and converting control of spaces thus leading to loss of control of provinces and hence VPs.

Perhaps some modifications to the raiding rules may be warranted in order to make things slightly more competitive. Perhaps Barbarian control not being counted for provincial control unless there is actually a Barbarian CU present in the space.

In spite of a disciplined approach to placing garrisons and castra, it is impossible to ignore major existential threats that arise through the course of the game. With Usurpation the key to open up areas to raiders, there doesn't seem to be an effective long term solution to this problem. Perhaps fewer Usurpation cards or some limit, to improve play balance.

I think this game should be played as a round robin series with victory determined by the best overall result, so how long each player manages to last as the Romans or how quickly the Barbarian defeats them. The overall winner being the player who does best overall.

It is definitely a roller coaster ride. Worth playing, it is a true tussle until the end, where you really need to fight hard to win with the resources at your disposal. Every point of plunder, every CU can potentially be very important.

Overall, an exciting tense game, if you don't mind wild swings caused by card play.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Sicilian Arabs versus Nikephorian Byzantine

I took this matched pair of armies to the club and suggested Steve run the Byzantines as I was keen to see if I could do any better with the Arabs than they had in their previous encounter.  I couldn't.

The Sicilians out scouted the Byzantines and felt confident with their deployment

The Byzantines won every initiative role,
but that was not such a problem.

The Byzantines deliver some effective bow fire,
which was more of a problem.

The Sicilian centre is wiped out.

Berber lancers out for revenge

Byzantine commander with the icon of Saint Zoe

There is a bit of a ruckus.

And it's not getting any better for the Sicilians...

In fact it is getting a lot worse...

Game over