This was the one I had been waiting for. No more playing-testing and explaining things to newbies but a rolled-up shirt sleeves, head-to-head with a "Grognard". This guy had seen it all, from death on the snowy plains before Moscow with Napoleon, to marching with Alexander The Great into Persia, to the modern slaughter of Hill 112 in Normandy. He is also no stranger to 'any' Wargaming genre and has been official play tester to several leading brand rule sets and organiser of convention events, notably Impetus. Most importantly he is not a "bad-ass" competition wargamer (pardon my DBM French). I implicitly trust Mr K's analysis as honest and revealing. He too had been intrigued by my Strategos II posts and wanted to play, so with great anticipation we set-up First Mantinea (see below, Argive to the top, Spartan to the bottom of the photograph [yes there is Frankie Howard joke there]):
As befits his character and genuine interest in playability Mr K even opted to play Argive knowing full well from history he was going to get the much harder time of it. He opted for a strong middle advance, feeding units from his weak left flank into the middle where he faced Spartan veterans. His logic being to win on his right, hold the middle until help arrives and use his Athenian horse to worry the Spartan right into guarding a "key zone" with hoplites. Arms folded he awaited developments (see below):
Sparta's turn. As the bulk of the average Argive hoplites (six average units) had come within spear thrust of the Spartan King Agis and his bodyguard plus another the Spartan veteran hoplite unit in the central square, it seemed reasonable to exchange cordial greetings of death. It also caused the first interesting conversation. The newbie's had not questioned the factors but accepted them but a Grognard will ask "what does that mean exactly?" Why does a "lead" unit benefit from a "+1 attack bonus" but not a veteran? Why when attacking outnumbered (in a local tactical sense) is there no negative modifier? Which is a very interesting point to be taken up with the Lost Battles YahooGroup. Meanwhile combat dished out two spent markers on the Argives, which in retrospect does seem a "good result" attacking at poor odds (1:3 if you count "units" but 1:6 if you calculate it out in terms of men), even considering the Command points spent on buying "attack bonuses". The Spartan's refused their left (not keen on meeting the best Argive troops any time soon) and advanced in the center to guard their king. On the Spartan right the two advanced veteran hoplite units advanced fearlessly forward to threaten the Argive central flank even though this also placed themselves in a perilous position to (flanked left and right by enemy troops which means they would fight at a -1 modifier). The risk seemed worth it as the enemy hoplites to their front were off to reinforce the Argive center and cavalry of this period does not (or was deemed) not to be a "big threat" besides the Spartan "levy" cavalry (levy=danger to themselves) was about to "have a go"! (see below):
Sadly (for the Spartans, aka me) the "charge of the party ponies" (sorry I have been reading too much Percy Jackson with my son lately) came to naught. After concluding the cavalry action on the right flank Agis posed for an heroic "action shot". One may perhaps deem this as un-Spartan and tempting fate as Greek gods were known for their love of teaching mortals the meaning of hubris (see below):
The Spartan battle-line composed themselves to receive the Argive attack (see below, the "party ponies" despite their number seemed a tad nervous):
For good reason it turned out. The first Argive action was to charge them with "average" Athenian horse, but average is still a quality ark above "levy" and when you throw as good a dice as this Grognard you simply shatter and scatter them to the four corners of the battlefield (see below):
First blood to the Argive, can he turn it too his advantage and help the political career of the young Alcibiades by ruining Sparta in the field of battle?
To be continued ...