A good old fashioned thrashing is a great learning experience as this 400pt FoG battle between the Gauls and the Pyrrhics demonstrates. This is a brief account of ‘not what to do’ when commanding an undrilled ‘barbarian’ foot army.
My first mistakes were at deployment which is one of the most critical phases of Field of Glory. This is especially true on a 4 x 3 board as the armies can start only 6 MU apart. I had created both lists so even though I drew the Gauls I was well aware of the capabilities of the Pyrrhic army.
Here’s my catalogue of errors:
No. 1: When your opponent has troops that can dominate uneven or rough terrain do not move the terrain towards the centre of the board. This will give him a flank he can rest his army on as seen in the deployment image below. Medium and light foot, even elephants, are unphased by open fields.
No.2: Have a solid battle plan. Winging it with an army of limited maneuver is not an option and in this regard I have been spoilt playing my well drilled all cavalry Byzantine army.
No.3: When your vague plan is to close quickly with the enemy foot do not deploy opposite his light horse, especially when he has surrendered the initiative to you.
A bad deployment can be difficult to recover from, but at least the Pyrrhic commander’s intentions were clear from his deployment; an outflanking move on the Gallic right supported by a steady advance in the centre with his pike and elephants.
The Gauls did have a mobile reserve and I was hopeful that this could be deployed to where it would be most useful. The Pyrrhic outflanking cavalry would be dangerous, but perhaps they could be held off by one large unit of warriors and a supporting cavalry unit whilst I worked the other flank and centre.
No.4: Outflanking units, even cavalry, take a long time to move into position!
Even with my general double marching my reserve cavalry an attack against the enemy right flank was never really on and I should have realised this sooner. They would have been better deployed against the Pyrrhic cavalry threat on my right flank.
In retrospect I wish I had delayed marching towards the Pyrrhic army and instead taken the time to realign the Gallic army before advancing. Contracting the left most Gallic warrior unit would have assisted this redeployment.
No.5: Use your skirmishers to screen shock troops.
The Gauls as Impact Foot are keen to get to grips with their opponents – too keen perhaps, but their strength in the impact phase is the key to victory.
In the first Impact phase the Pyrrhic light horse charged off my light foot and in conjunction with their archers forced the units of the main Gallic battleline to break their extended battleline. This was skillfully achieved by the Pyrrhic commander and once isolated from one another the Gallic foot units could be overwhelmed by superior numbers despite the robustness of the large warband units (8 bases).
No.6: Do not surrender the initiative of the Impact phase without good reason.
I made the mistake of surrendering the impact initiative by holding back my Gauls in the centre. The idea was that it would give my left flank, with the elite armoured Soldurii, the opportunity to maneuver into a better attacking position, but heavy foot move very slowly and I misjudged this. The Pyrrhic pike and elephants charged first and in the melee phase got to line up on my unit, which forced the elephants to the left blocking my Soldurii units path to the remaining Pyrrhic pike block.
On my right the Pyrrhics charged home with their cavalry and medium foot, who would be at a disadvantage against the Gauls, and I had good reason to expect the Gallic warband, supported by cavalry, to halt the Pyrrhic attack on this flank, but some good dice and superior numbers won the day. The Gauls obligingly failed all their cohesion tests at impact and again during the melee phase. The centre warband, which had only lost the impact combat by one casualty and had disrupted the elephants, broke and the right most warband routed on seeing them flee. Perhaps the dice were a little cruel, but my opponent had taken full advantage of my errors and had successfully contacted my troops with useful overlaps.
Surprisingly, in the next turn, my armoured cavalry routed his lancer armed cavalry and the elephants were broken by the staunch Soldurii in the centre. The Gauls, however, were not in a position to win the battle as the warband on my left flank had fragmented against his average pike, and although his large unit of poor Tarantine pike were no longer steady (disrupted on seeing friends rout) I was in no position to press the advantage with my units scattered across the field of battle and unable to effectively support one another. The Pyrrhics, in contrast, had better options and could easily hold me off, break my remaining warband and were close enough to assault and loot my camp within a few turns.
I conceded the game at this point.
If it was a competition game I could have played on for a couple of more victory points as the scores at game end were 4 to 5 in the favour of the Pyrrhic army, but after the destruction of two warbands in one turn the Gauls were never going to pose a threat to the Pyrrhic army.
This was a great learning experience and full credit and thanks are due to my opponent, Paul MacQuibban, for devising a solid battle plan, taking full advantage of my errors and commiting his units unequivocally to combat at critical moments in the battle. I look forward to our next clash which will hopefully feature my rebased Carthaginians.