I wanted to try out my not so newly painted Nikephorian Byzantine and Early Hungarian armies. A little dice rolling got me 1034AD, so… Michael IV ‘the Paphlagonian’ vs King Stephen I.
Michael is on an expedition into southern Hungary, he encounters Stephen on a plain edged with gentle hills.
Stephen forms up with their cavalry on the left and their foot on the right, save one element of Hungarian skirmishers which is deployed to support the right flank. The Byzantines form up in a mirror image of this deployment.
An energetic 6 PiPs for Michael. He moves his Psiloi and Light Horse ‘flank guards’ up onto the hill on his left flank, with 3Cv ‘kavallaroi’ support. It’s not a very tidy move though so he ends up with three elements rather than one group. His remaining 2 pips are used to move his main body forward with his right flank forward of that.
Stephen rolls 4 PiPs. He moved his right flank 2Ps up to the hill, supported by 2LH. His left flank 2LH moves up to 1 Barker away from the Byzantine 3Cv. His main body moves directly forward.
Puffed out after all the exertion last turn the Byzantines roll 1 PiP. The main body moves forward – forming a group with the kavallaroi.
By contrast Stephen rolls 6 PiPs. His Psiloi moves up to attack the Byzantine 2LH on the hill, with Hungarian skirmishers closing the door. The massed 2LH on the left divides – two moving out toward the flank, and the other two withdrawing to join the main body, which has moved forward.
In shooting, the Hungarian Bows fire ineffectively on the lone Byzantine Psiloi.
John’s LH withstand the Hungarian assault and force a recoil. The Hungarian LH that supported the attack are now out of line of sight to the general, so take no further part in the battle.
Michael rolls 2 PiPs. His main body moves forward, bringing one kavallaroi element into contact with a unit of Hungarian skirmishers. Eager for a quick result, Michael sends a kavallaroi element in to close the door.
Shooting proves to be quite ‘interesting’. One element of Byzantine skutatoi and one of Stephen’s two Serb archer elements are in range of each other and so must shoot at each other. Each is supported, so that makes it 1 vs 1 – very nasty. The Serbs roll 6 and the skutatoi roll a 1, just to rub it in. So that’s first blood to the Hungarians. Another skutatoi element, with support, manages to force Stephen’s knights to recoil.
Second blood comes shortly afterwards. The Byzantine kavallaroi lose their fight against the Hungarian skirmishers. The element that had closed the door recoils into another kavallaroi element and is destroyed. The other kavallaroi element flees.
I made a mistake here – I must have read the combat result in rough terrain – so the cavalry should just have recoiled. I think the Hungarians would still have won in much the same way.
Stephen rolls 4 PiPs. Since there is now nothing in front of them, the two skirmisher elements on his left flank move forward. One makes a double move toward the undefended Byzantine camp. The Slav infantry charge the Byzantine skutatoi.
In shooting, the Slav archers continue their winning form and destroy Michael’s lone psiloi.
The Byzantine skutatoi prove to be redoubtable in combat, one forces a 4Sp to recoil, and one combat is a stalemate.
Michael rolls 2 PiPs. Now with 3 PiPs he could get his flank guard LH unit back to interfere with the Hungarian LH that were menacing the camp. And with 6 PiPs he could really turn the game around. But with 2, all he could do was attempt to kill at least one element to take limited revenge. He moves his kavallaroi that had previously fled in to attack the Hungarian 2LH that was behind the Byzantine lines, and moves forward with kavallaroi in support to attack two more 2LH. He would like to have taken his klibanophoroi along but their base is so deep that there was no room for them to shift sideways to conform.
In shooting, skutatoi force the Magyar noble 3Cv to recoil.
In combat, Michael forces a recoil on every element that was engaged, but no kills.
Stephen rolls 3 PiPs. He moves a 2LH into the Byzantine camp, and moves in to attack Michael and his supporting kavallaroi with his two 2LH elements, with a Magyar noble 3Cv element in support, and a 2LH charging the rear of the kavallaroi.
In shooting, skutatoi force the Magyar nobles to recoil once again.
The kavallaroi force their attackers to recoil. Michael destroys the now unsupported 2LH that was attacking him.
Game over – 5-1 to the Hungarians. Michael IV the Paphlagonian wished he’d never left Paphlagonia, fallen in love with Empress Zoe, killed her husband, and usurped his position!
My friend Mark and I were discussing reserves quite recently, noting that some players have this quaint notion of holding troops back in order to exploit advantages or rescue a situation. Michael could really have done with a reserve in this game (or at least I need to paint that camp follower element!). If he had left his skutatoi as a rear line they could have kept the camp safe. Also it would have given his horse a bit more room to manoeuvre. On paper, they could have beaten the Hungarians fairly easily on their own. The hill was a bit of a distraction for both sides, a more determined effort might have secured it, probably for the Byzantines as they had a kavallaroi element that just sat there. I didn’t really have a plan for either side, so that both sides acted somewhat at random. Next time I’ll write a plan down for each side at the start of the game.
Non Historical Note
History notes that Michael IV didn’t leave his court much because he prone to epileptic fits. But it was really because of embarrassment at this battle!