Saturday, August 15, 2009

DBMM Battle Report - Komnenan Byzantine vs. Later Crusader, 14 August

Dave wanted an excuse to use his Crusader and Byzantine figures, and brought along the typically professional-grade painted armies for tonight's DBMM match-up. The battle was one of massed knights on the Crusader side against the smaller and more maneuverable, but still knight-heavy army of the later Komnenan Byzantine on the other side. A few of the usual Friday Knights crowd showed up at Game Kastle for the fight.

Bruce and Jim were the Crusader generals. (Bruce is the bearded fellow, for those who don't know us.) I don't have any pictures of Dave and me playing the Byzantines. The battlefield, with the Byzantines invading the Crusader territory, was generally open, though hilly. In the end, the only hills that had any even remote effect on the battle were a pair of tiny rocky hills on the Byzantine right.

The Crusaders deployed with the mass of their infantry, mostly poor-quality spear and crossbows, holding the right. The commander's force of irregular knights held the center, while the Order knights (Hospitallers and Templars) were on the left flank.

The Byzantine Latinikon and Kavallarioi were spread between the Byzantine left flank and screening the Crusaders in the center, supported by the commander leading a force of archers. The picture above shows the Byzantines, on the left, advancing on the Crusader forces, with the left flank in the distance, trying to outflank the Crusader infantry. A force of mounted Varangian guardsmen formed a mobile reserve on the rear of the Byzantine right.

The Byzantine knights flanking the infantry, intending to follow the Skythikon light horse after they overran the weak Crusader flank guard of Frankish archers, ran into troubles as the archers refused to give into overwhelming numbers. (Bruce just kept on rolling 6's on every combat they fought!)

Meanwhile, the Crusader knights in the center advanced, forcing the Byzantines to charge or allow the Crusaders to spread out and get the advantage of numbers. This looked very promising for the Byzantines initially, until the Latinikon suffered terrible losses (Bruce rolled yet more 6's), followed by the loss of the commander of the Kavallarioi on the Byzantine right.

Soon after that, the Byzantine right cavalry command broke, but through sheer luck, the Byzantine commander, supported by a single element of bow, broke the Crusader center command. (A 6-1 by the bow against knights, allowing the general to double-overlap the Crusader C-in-C and destroy him.)

While the center collapsed on both sides, the Order knights on the Crusader left were making very slow progress. The knights had the lowest of the regular command dice, and Bruce was making up for his incredible rolling with the archers by rolling a long series of 1's for Jim's Hospitallers and Templars. To further complicate things, the Templars were trying to run behind the Byzantine flank, only to find the Varangians firmly in control of the rocky hills to the Byzantine rear. (And in case anyone is taking a careful look at the pictures - yes, that is a stand of Ancient Greek peltasts leading the Varangians. We were missing a couple of stands of skirmishing archers and needed to use something.)

Finally, it came down to the battle on the Byzantine left. Against all odds, the Byzantine bow were being pushed back by the Crusader crossbowmen, allowing the spear to begin to outflank the Byzantine knights. The Byzantine Kavallarioi made a reckless charge into the spear and crossbows, doing significant damage, but failing to defeat the infantry command before being broken themselves. I'm not sure the image to the left looks like anything other than random chaos, which it basically was. But trust me, it's a definite Crusader victory there.

As usual, this proved to be an enjoyable game and showed that DBMM moves pretty quickly once everyone is acquainted with the rules. We managed to finish this with enough time to spare to pick everything up before the store closed. This doesn't mean that there weren't a few lessons and, in retrospect, a couple of rules I think we missed. (Has anyone, anywhere, managed to play through a complete DBMM game without realizing that they got something wrong along the way?)

Stratagems - We still haven't worked out the best way to play strategems. I purchased 20 points worth, because it just doesn't seem like Byzantines without strategems, does it? The scouting was mostly done to prevent another Elephant Stalks at Midnight night battle (a game we failed to write up anywhere). All that accomplished was to kill the one light horse sent scouting. I never really saw an opportune time to use the feigned flight. The hidden path through the rocky hill was useful to slightly annoy Jim by racing the Varangians onto his flank, but I'm not sure it was worth 10 AP.

Breakpoints - ARRGH! Biggest thing we forgot was disheartened commands! I only realized this long after the game. That would have broken the Byzantine center earlier.

Outcomes - I'm also wondering whether we forgot to check for fast knight losses any time. I remember the Kavallarioi fighting a fair number of battles toward the end, and I can't recall whether we ever had a -1 for losing in enemy bound.

Finally, a quick shout-out to the fine folks at Game Kastle, who provided the venue. Bruce, Dave, and I all bought copies of the DBMM book 1 army lists. (Just trying to let the GK folks know that the historical minis crowd aren't total skinflints. And Jim probably would have bought a fourth copy if they had one.) I don't think any of us has a DBMM-sized army of Book 1 chariot forces. I did note that the Early Lybians may now be fielded with 144 stands of superior horde, for anyone who wants to spend the enormous amount of time painting up that much lead for something so idiotic. Wow. That's kind of tempting, isn't it?

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