What better way to start 2012 than with a game. And since I was finally ready with the terrain required for the first scenario of our long planned WAB campaign, it was the logical choice for today's entertainment.
Couple of words about the campaign itself. It's taken from "Age of Arthur" supplement for Warhammer and consists of a series of battles that, depending on results in last engagement, are selected from a batch of fifteen scenarios in the book. The resulting campaign is linear, but varied and the fact that scenarios are connected gives much better "feeling" than one-off games we run until now.
Initial scenario in the campaign is an opposed river crossing. A slight twist in deployment is provided by period-typical single combat between champions of the opposing sides. In our case it didn't make much difference (except for the quite enjoyable fact that H. had to witness his champion being butchered by my hero :-), but if finished quickly, it can make things little more difficult for the attacking side.
In any case, by the time preliminary pleasantries were finished, Saxons had their army ready for a push across the river. The bridge allowed only for passage of units with single figure width, so he choose to ignore it. River itself was difficult terrain (movement reduced by 50 percent), except in the middle where a ford was located and provided normal passage.
Neither H. nor I spent any time on painting... eh, I mean recruiting since our last game, so it was the gathering of usual suspects all over again. H. placed his chief and his merry band of butchers in the middle with clear intention of punching a hole straight through the middle of my line. He was supported by his light cavalry unit from behind. On both sides of the cavalry he deployed his three units of warriors. His archers opposed mine near the bridge.
My deployment was anything but innovative. My milites got their orders to oppose initial Saxon cavalry charge and beat back any incursions by Saxon warbands. My pedes were deployed near the bridge - I intended to get them into position near the river, form shieldwall and hope for the best. Mounted commanipulares were kept in second line as reserve. The only sneakiness in my initial setup was the fact that I placed my light cavalry on the road leading to the bridge. My intention was from the start to deploy them into march column as soon as possible and thereby threat H. with a move across the bridge and against his flank.
Since my champion won the single combat, I had the advantage of moving first. My infantry moved toward the river, light cavalry deployed into march column and some innefective shooting was done by skirmishers. H. followed his apparent plan and released his cavalry, with infantry moving in support. One of his warbands was placed to counter my light cavalry, which was just fine with me, as long as they weren't participating in the assault across the river.
In second turn we had the expected clash of Saxon cavalry and my milites. The results were both expected and a little surprising. The expected part was that my infantry held (those extra points for ranks will decide the result as long as casualties among infantry are kept at reasonable level). What surprised both me and H. was that his chief not only failed to cause any casualties, but also broke and drew the other cavalry unit into ignominious flight. Even though he rallied two turns later, he was out of the picture for the rest of the game, while the light cavalry unit unceremoniously left the field of battle altogether.
One can only wonder what his followers among infantry thought of this display of dubious behavior, but all warbands continued with their advance regardless of their leader's cowardly behavior (hey, my blogg, my prerogative for slander of the enemy:-). The foremost warband smashed into my victorious milites, routed them in two turns and managed not only to stop my subsequent cavalry charge, but were winning the melee that followed. Remaining unit of Saxon warriors moved in support and were met by my peasants with shields and crudely fashioned spears. The result of that fight was another surprise - my peasants pretty much bitch-slapped Saxon warriors and stopped them in their tracks.
By then we reached the end of sixth and final turn of the game and it was all over but the weeping for the Saxons. Their victory condition was to have two or more units (not engaged in combat) on the other side of the river by the end of the game; they had none. Their king was however still breathing, which meant that my success was only of minor nature. In next game, the Saxons will try at it again, but at a different ford.
Musings after the battle
The one thing of interest is that this was our first game with Warhammer 2.0 rules. I can't say that I am very happy with that "newish" second edition.
First of all, the language used in the rulebook is quite infuriating - I don't need a narrative and motivation of the rules in the rulebook itself, just give me the rules in clear and unambiguous manner.
Second, the new edition is incompatible with "Age of Arthur" supplement on at least one count - rules for warbands are formatted differently and we had to double-check with the original version for which rules were applicable to Saxons. No biggie, but a bit confusing.
Also, since H. didn't have time to read the second edition yet, we skipped most of the "novelities", such as giving up ground and disengagements. The only new rule I insisted on applying (for egoistic reasons ) was the fact that marching columns don't have to stop when they are within 8'' from the enemy. To be honest though, I really can't see how this rule can be used effectively when units, especially cavalry units, are in march columns. Even with movement rate of 24'' my light cavalry wouldn't even have cleared the bridge, if I decided to move it.
In any case, it was quite enjoyable game, finished in little over four hours including the setup and after game-cleanup. Nice start of 2012, hopefully I will have more to write about really soon.