Thursday, 16 July 2015

Strategos II (aka Lost Battles) First Battle of Mantinea 418 BC (Part 2 of 2)

Time to pay the Ferryman: Turn 3+

The Argives advanced on their right flank in a desperate attempt to relieve the pressure on their centre (too late perhaps?). On their left a success was scored as the Argive Cavalry hit and panicked away the Spartan "levy" Cavalry (first 'true' blood to Argos but the Spartans easily passed their Army Morale Test caring nought about those 'bloody silly horses'). The Argives strategos could see a flicker of hope though. The Argives renewed their push in the centre showing great spirit and indeed managed to hurt the Spartans, but we all know the Spartans like it rough and was it really enough damage? No. The Spartan response was swift and devastating. It only took two hits to effectively destroy the Argive centre. An impressive blow took the last "fresh" Argive hoplite to "spent" status, then a follow up hit smashed into the lead unit and took it away causing a morale check. The Argive Army Morale now needed to be tested and the Argive strategos rolled a one. Seeing their comrades so brutally slain was too much for the sensitive sons of Argos and the remaining five hoplite units as a single mass turned and ran for their lives least they be "reaped like ripe wheat". The Argive centre was no more, it had bolted. Oh the fickle fortune of war, the damning hand of fate or yet another wargaming example of when not to throw a one when a two would have saved you, we've all done it! (see below, where have all the Argives gone?):

Bravely the remaining (left and right flank) Argives fought on, steadfast in adversity gaining Spartan respect. Then the myth of  Spartan "martial invincibility" took a Public Relations battering. Two whole units of Spartan hoplites were removed from play. Admittedly it was probably "other Peloponnesian Allies" under the microscope rather than true Spartiates, but still the fact remained the Spartan left wing 'disintegrated' as the powerful Argive right wing lead by their Argive "chosen" Veteran hoplites struck home. However the panic was checked as the rest of the Spartans outside the "zone of disaster" passed their important Army Morale Test. Unfettered by the shackles imposed by the Spartan "levy" Cavalry the Athenian Cavalry took great delight in racing to an advantageous position in the rear of the Spartan battle line (heroic stuff, the poets of Athens will make use of this feat of arms)! Finally the Spartan centre turned to face the emerging threat on their left flank while the elite Spartan right wing wreaked reciprocal havoc on weak Argive left wing (of a puny) two "average" hoplite units. In cricket terms the Argives here "did not trouble the scorer" (see below, see the emerging spiral of the classic hoplite battle):

The Argive ultimate hope rested on their last relatively "fresh" units of their right wing hitting the mostly "spent" Spartan centre. Great store was put in store for the (albeit "spent") Athenian Cavalry charge into the flank of the Spartan centre phalanx. The latter four legged Athenian attack alas spluttered, so sadly no great advantage was gained as the Spartans held the 'central squares' which were deemed to be good solid infantry terrain. In truth the Athenian horse were not true "impact cavalry" (unlike Alexander's Companions or Cataphracts of later years) and were content to mill about not appreciating the long pointy spears of the Spartans. So it fell again to remaining fresh units of the Argive right which attacked with urgent fury but was absorbed (not without pain) by the stoic Peloponnesians. The Spartans had somehow hung on and now it was their superior "veteran" status allowed them to go on fighting and start the "true killing phase of the battle". Despite being mostly "spent" the additional command attack bonuses and the leadership of the their King Agis tipped the balance. The keenness of the edge of the Argive attack was ground away as four out of the last seven Argive hoplite units became "spent" (see below):

Note re: Agis: Received mixed reports from his elders. It has to be said (negatively) he did not manage to rally a spent unit all game despite a dozen or so tries, but in fairness he did not also die either which could have had worse morale test consequences (as well as in terms of young Agis' personal self esteem and his ability to walk upright).

As the hoplites fought on in continued mutual savagery the "average" units on both sides melted away from either hits and/or morale checks. These included the Spartan "average" hoplite unit that had "walked the long walk" from the left flank to die in the centre (that's the type of thing the Spartan poets would like, if they had poets that is). Finally the three remaining Argive "veteran" hoplite units (the chosen men of Argos) were all that faced the entire Spartan Army (see below):  

The Argives had fought well but now enough was enough. The Athenian cavalry too slipped away to fight another day, or rather race back to their boats and get back to Athens. The "chosen" Argives backed away, one step then two and then turned around and fled, discarding all items of  heavy armour and weapons that could have slowed them down. The Spartans abruptly halted on seeing this. Theirs was not the way of senseless "butchery of the defenceless" without purpose. When a heroic enemy was defeated and yielded the field without trickery the Spartans often just let them go. The defeated would tell their own tales of impossible Spartan martial might so well as to spread fear into the stoutest heart. All one had to do would be to mention the name of  "Sparta" and peace treaties and tributes would flow. So today there would be no savage slaughter of pursuit. They were Spartans, with the battle now undisputed, their victory complete they would now attend to their rituals and keep their cohesion lest Ares spring a surprise upon them. The Spartans were a conservative breed fearing hubris. The classic "spiral wheel" effect of the ancient hoplite battle has been nicely replicated in this encounter. The "veteran" Spartan hoplites and the command benefit of Agis which the Spartan King had bestowed were the deciding factors (see below):

Victory Points: The Winner is ...

Despite the overwhelming tabletop position it "only" translated to a "marginal victory" for the Spartan players as it followed more or less the historical lines. The game was heavily in favour of the Spartans (FV70 to FV51) so the Spartans should always "win" on tableto but the question is how many Spartans would die in the process. Also note, most of the Argives ran away (through morale failure) rather than were killed . Historically Sparta probably killed more on the day.

The game I feel was very well played by both sides (completely novice to the rules) and played in a great spirit of friendship and fairness, with good humour abounding. All-in-all I was not too displeased at all with how it went, part simulation, part "active learning" and part "good conversation".



Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Posted from Lost Battles forum (Yahoo Group):

There is very little substantial difference between Strategos II and Lost Battles, or at least I am so assured by some who possess both.

The Lost Battles scenario is much the same in both set-up and usual outcome. The question arises: it is actually possible for the Spartans to lose, dice being equal?

Try this as the Argive.

From the starting position, advance 4 AHO and 1 VHO into the key zone. Advance 6 AGO from rear to centre. All pretty obvious so far.

Now face left with the AHC and 2 AGO in the left rear. Watch Spartan brows furrow in thought.

The Spartans should now advance along the line, confident in their 64-51 superiority in Fighting Value. The Argive right and centre can now go full speed ahead, while the exiguous forces on their left (principally Athenians in the historical battle) go out on the flank (left wing followed by left flank) to lead the Spartan right a merry dance for a couple of moves while the right and centre do their bit.

This could work against a Spartan who is not too quick in the uptake and tries to chase down the errant Athenian force with the full strength of his right wing. A more cunning Spartan will simply detach a couple of AHO to bolster his LHC and feed the balance of his right into the main fight.

Otherwise the only Argive hope is to win on points. In the actual battle Agis tried to be a bit too clever by making some last-minute redispositions to shift forces to his left and reduce the overlap there but because some of his troops obeyed and some did not - and because he had left the manoeuvre too late - the result was to hand his leftmost units (Brasidas' old contingent and the Sciritae) to the Argives on a plate.

He still won with very little trouble, not least because Argive discipline was not what it should have been and their victorious troops 'pursued off-board', returning only to face Agis' successful and redeployed Spartiates and being soundly thrashed for their pains. In the game, this can be considered (loosely) to be reflected in the low Argive command point total and absence of leaders.


Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Another post from the Yahoo Group:

Nice report, Mark!

Just to expand on what Patrick said earlier, the main changes between Strategos II and Lost Battles are that Lost Battles introduces variable attack limits (AL is 3, 4 or 5, depending on the scenario), and introduces a +1 to the attack limit for zones which are outflanked on one side but not both. The victory point calculations have also been tweaked, and the latest edition of LB now has the command roll take place later in the turn to reduce certainty about how many command points you will have, as well as introducing an optional 'favour of the gods' rule which brings in limited re-rolls for particularly bad (or good, depending on whose side you are on!) combat dice.

Scythed chariots now have a slight chance of 'rampaging' and causing a hit on their own zone to reflect what they did at Magnesia, but I'm a bit fuzzy about that rule as I haven't checked the latest edition for a while.

There are probably a few little changes to the combat modifiers too, but I can't remember off the top of my head. Long story short, you're fine with Strategos II and don't need to upgrade. The Lost Battles book though is very useful for reference, and I often flick through it when I need to quickly read up on a battle.

Cheers, and look forward to reading a few more of your reports!