I’ve been wondering what army to take to the IWC in Wellington next year. I’ve narrowed the decision down to III/67b Early Hungarians, or IV/13a Medieval Germans. The Hungarians have an interesting mix of mounted troops, while the Germans have more interesting foot. I decided in the end that I’d have more fun with the Hungarians although it was a close run thing. Just to make sure I had a solo game last Saturday. I tried out De Bellis Solitarius a few weeks ago but I didn’t like its setup rules and I found that so much decision making was left to the player that I may as well just play without DBS. Anyway, on with the show…
King Coloman of Hungary (‘the Book Lover’) meets Henry V of Germany in battle somewhere in what is now Austria.
Anxious to deny manoeuvring space to the Hungarians, Henry stations his forces near the river Danube. Somehow Coloman ends up with the Danube behind him. He has a steep hill on his left flank, while Henry has a wood on his right. Neither of those terrain pieces were far enough away from the edge for a unit to get past. I didn’t play the interpretation (well its a little stronger than an interpretation really) that units could move sideways through narrow gaps and there may not have been room even for that anyway. I also used a ‘special rule’ that all dismounting has to be done at setup. Henry elects to have his infantry as all spearmen, and not to dismount any knights so he has 5x3Kn, 4x4Sp, 1x4Cb, 2x2Ps. He deploys with, from right to left, his crossbowmen in the wood, then his spearmen supported by skirmishing archers, and then his knights. Coloman chooses archers as his optional infantry, so he has 2x3Kn, 1x3Cv, 3x2LH, 2x3Bw, 3x4Sp, and 1x2Ps. From left to right his deployment is Cavalry and Light Horse, Archers, Knights, supported spearmen, and a couple of Light Horse perched precariously on the hill.
Throughout the first part of the game Coloman must have be consulting his books as the Hungarians PIPs are somewhat unimpressive. Henry on the other hand seizes the initiative and moves forward to hem the Hungarians in. Skirmishing begins on turn 4, with the 2LH on Coloman’s left flank straying too close to Henry’s crossbowmen and getting off lightly with a recoil result.
In turn 5, Coloman rolls 1 PIP (see I told you they were unimpressive!) and moves his archers forward. His cunning plan in deploying his archers toward the left worked and in shooting they rout Henry’s crossbowmen with 6+2 vs 2+1. Henry gets his inevitable revenge seconds later when his spearmen charge Coloman’s archers. The first group fight like lions and recoil the Sp facing them (6+1 vs 1+4) but the second element is destroyed (1+1 vs 2+6). I had to double check that at the time as the combats went 6-1 then 1-6!
Coloman rolls 3 PIPs in turn 6. His 3Cv attack the German spearmen while the 2LH get around their flank to attack their supporting skirmishers. The cavalry attack first but are forced to flee due to good dice from the German spearmen, but the light horse succeed in recoiling the psiloi facing them. This was an unfortunate matchup as the cavalry would have made a mess of the psiloi. Meanwhile the Hungarian knights attack the other end of the line of German spearmen and overrun an element. Henry rolls 2 PIPs. He attacks the Hungarian 2LH with a spear element, a risky move but the 2LH have their back to the table edge, while certain of victory he moves two spear elements against Coloman’s remaining archers. He only manages a recoil in both combats, disappointing as the factors were 4-2 for the 2LH combat and 4-1 against the 3Bw.
Coloman puts his book down at last, rolling 6 PIPs. He uses it to continue his knight’s attack on the German spearmen, who have left their support behind, he also brings up his spearmen and at last his right flank light horse. Although the Hungarian archers do well to recoil one element of German spearmen, his knights are forced to recoil by determined resistance from the other element. Henry nearly matches Coloman by rolling 5 PIPs. He manages to put together a successful supported spear attack on the 2LH on Coloman’s left, forcing them to flee off the table. His knights engage Coloman’s spearmen but the losses are even with a German 3Kn doubled and a 4Sp quick-killed. Both armies are pretty much fragmented at the end of the turn.
In turn 8 Coloman again rolls 6 PIPs. he throws his forces into combat, trying for good match-ups. His 3Cv attacks a German 2Ps but it’s recoiled. A 3Kn attacks a 4Sp but it’s recoiled too. The two general’s elements are locked in combat. A supported element of Hungarian 4Sp manage a recoil on a German 3Kn. Two Hungarian 2LH attack the German 3Kn that was ZOCing them – one closing the door – but they are forced to recoil and the rear corner of the ‘door closer’ hits the side of the 3Kn that had just recoiled. Game over and a Phyrric 4-3 win to the Germans.
If one of the sides had spent a turn dressing its ranks then the battle might easily have gone their way. I always end up deploying the German knights in one big block (they look so nice that way!) but they could have done with a couple on their left flank. But overall this game encouraged me that the Early Hungarians wouldn’t be completely overmatched by any of the Knight-heavy Book IV armies, even if their PIPs aren’t too special.
The End – Or Is It?
Incidentally I looked closely at the order I’d played the last two combats in. If I’d attacked with the 2LH first, then the German Kn that was recoiled by the Hungarian Sp would then have recoiled into the rear of the Hungarian 2LH, resulting in mutual destruction. I decided to play on from there, with losses at four elements each. As I mentioned above both sides’ battle lines were severely fragmented and it didn’t get any better. In the Hungarians’ next turn the losses moved to 5 elements each, and then the Germans lost one more element resulting in a 6-5 “victory” to the Hungarians. Not the sort of thing you’d want to happen in a campaign!