Sunday, June 17, 2007

Melee - Art of War: 10 June 2007

Oh dear.

Another tournament; to be honest I have to wonder why I put myself through them. It seems at times I'll go a long way to get a game.

Be that as it may, a tournament was organised, relatively speaking, on my doorstep; well, Sheffields' Wargames Emporium gaming centre, which is about 40 miles away. Not having been there before, and apparently having forgotten my last experience of a tourney, I signed up. Three games of Warhammer, lunch and a chance of some prizes, or at the very least a shopping trip - why not I thought?

Anyway, the place itself is pretty handy, I'm not so sure it'd be all that pleasant in the middle of winter, but on a rare warm summers day, the adapted factory unit made for a pleasant and airy event space.

I'd elected to take my Flemish, a solid army, which I hoped would give me a balanced base to face all comers. It would soon become apparent that it lacked the spark to achieve very much, to my great frustration. Nonetheless I had hopes that with Three pike blocks I could stand any infantry out there, and with knights for punch and mounted sergeants to cover my flanks I hoped I could hold my own in the cavalry battle.

My first game would throw an enormous spanner in the works of that Idea.

Samurai were an army I knew well enough from the supplements to know they'd be a huge problem. However they shouldn't have been insurmountable. In the event my deployment was poor and my troops hung back far too long, letting them take more or less all the initiative. An army full of high skilled skirmishers with high attacks and saves was soon cutting through me like butter. Only my knights made any impact down one flank, and the two cannon were next to useless. I lost 28-4.

Meanwhile two other games were going on, one was ancient Chinese versus Ostrogoth; two pretty armies, and a chaotic battlefield.

It appeared though that the Chinese had the worst of it, despite light horse harrying the enemies' flanks.
Elsewhere two Viking armies faced one another.

After lunch it was my turn to face the Chinese, and naturally I hoped to do better. Despite the unknown quantity of chariots, and another large number of skirmishers, I felt I had the measure of this lot. At first I looked to be dead wrong as the light horse immediately turned my flank; but learning from my first battle I pressed forward as aggressively as possible and got the knights and pikes stuck in.

This time at least one cannon did sterling work too, and it proved that his chariots were no match for my knights.

The Chinese were lovely figures, but as an army they were perhaps the only force there I could categorically say my army was going to beat easily. I came out of it 20-12 up.

Lastly I faced one of the Viking armies. They deployed dense on one flank and thin on the other. I knew they would be a tough enemy man to man, Vikings are an army I too field; but this time I thought their deployment played into my hands.

Alas my cannon didn't tear through his serried ranks as well as I hoped, missing, or misfiring on I think 5 out of 6 shots when his units were packed into a narrow defile (where a good hit would have surely killed 6-8 men each time I ultimately killed 3 with 6 shots). The shot below is the Flemish high water mark in the game; the point at which it all turned.

My knights and pike just beat the Hesir, but they passed their morale. My cavalry failed to break the bowmen, and so his flank remained secure. Although with a little more luck I could have made this at least close, on the result of this turn it was all downhill for me; next turn the knights routed, taking the general with them, and slowly but surely my army crumbled.

It ended up as a massive 32-0 defeat.

So that was that, two losses and a win. I can console myself in it not being a whitewash at least, and getting respectable sportsmanship scores; but it was nonetheless last place for me.

What I've realised is that you can't bring a nice fair, historically reasonable army to these things and expect to make much headway.

My force was too weak; the knights were too feeble (they were the cheapest in the book and only their charge and high saves redeemed them), aside from my stubborn pike blocks my troops were apt to run at the slightest provocation. My firepower was too weak.

But most of all it would seem I was suffering for a lack of 'uber troops' The Samurai were lethal against me, the Vikings individually too tough and aided by Beserkir who operated like suicide bombs.

Despite the humiliating thrashing I got it was a better experience than my last tourney, this was a much less 'anally retentive' type of competition, nobody felt the need to re-roll every dice that was 0.1 degrees off level, or use machined metal rods to determine precise measuring or spacing.

I just feel I got my ass handed to me on a plate twice.

Oh well, maybe next time I'll take my murderous HYW English, or shiny new Spartans; I'll make sure they are someone who's some use at least!


  1. So are we seeing the same sort of "trickery" that did for WRG then? Armies composed of troops that will win under the rules rather than troops that were fielded in their correct proportions? Whilst I liked the idea of WAB and the way in which they had created lists and identified various weapons/tactics/troop types the idea remains - to win you need to play to the rules weaknesses.

  2. I think the answer is, any set of rules that is transferred to a competitive arena will fall foul of players exploiting the strongest and cheapest forces within it. The Samurai army was very cheesy (as they say in the trade), the vikings less so, but both started from an extremely tough baseline.

    There is a division between WAB players and DBM/DBA players which tells a lot. DBM/DBA'ers like it because it has few unit types, but it becomes a game of thousanths of an inch and very pedantic play. WAB players love the huge variety of the game, and are by and large an easier going bunch, but the nature of the game lends itself to abuse and armies that are frequently unhistorical; built purely to compete.

    I think WAB as a historical game works well. I think all rules systems are flawed for tournament play as they suffer from the imperfections of writing (and critically - points values). I guess you can make exception for chess, but I'm not a chess player am I!?