DBM Club Tournament 2004
A Player’s Perspective

Battle 4 – Sung Chinese

I’ve been looking forward to this match-up since the tourney kicked off. Mal and I have played numerous ‘training’ battles against each other and I’ve learned a great deal from fighting him. Mainly, it has to be said, about how to lose to the Sung. The early battles I tried all sorts of (with hindsight) suicide tactics, including direct assaults with cavalry across fortifications, mounted troops fighting infantry in difficult ground and so on. All of this met with predictably horrible losses. Suffice to say, you learn more from defeat than victory and I went into this match fairly confident of at least a draw. Since it’s creation, Mal’s Sung army had yet to taste defeat so I was keen to serve it up to him!

I’m pretty much guaranteed to be the attacker against the Sung and this rolled out true to form. So on a cold autumn morning (I always choose autumn and being the attacker this means the battles take place during the season of my choice) both armies lined up and waited until 10am for the morning fog and mist to clear. I chose to deploy no terrain and Mal went for his traditional waterway, backed up by a town with fields, a patch of rough ground and a steep hill. The town was placed against the waterway on the western flank, the rough ground ended up in Mal’s rear centre and the steep hill in my rear centre. I responded with a bare gentle hill on the eastern flank. Mal secured the town fields and the rough ground by stringing a fortification well back between the two. His baggage was safe at least.

I anticipated a surprise from the cagey Mal. I knew he’d painted up a few war wagons and was working on some boats so I thought maybe he’d have lots more wagons or some nasty artillery-wielding ships for the waterway. Unsure of what might arrive, I deployed my cavalry, butted against the beach in the west (ready to retreat if some boats arrived), my artillery in a central position, ready to deploy east or west (and far enough from the water way to avoid any naval action) and I strung out my light horse from the artillery eastwards, to slow up any troops here if I needed to redeploy. Frankly there was no ‘if’ about it. My cavalry were never going to attack the town ahead of them, but thankfully this kind of sweeping redeployment is my army’s main strength!

Mal set up a block force of mixed blades and bowmen, with a few psiloi and artillery across the facing edge of the rough ground and the fortifications. Basically a wall of infantry, impenetrable to my mounted force. Then came his surprise; his cavalry deployed in the open ground to the east, supported by 6(!) war wagons. I’d anticipated this as an option and had checked out these new fangled war wagons. Consequently I was not that concerned. As they can shoot, they may not choose to enter combat. This helps me immensely as I can basically avoid them. The cavalry and knights were a bit more of a threat but I was confident I could take them out.

As the invader I took the first turn and began as I intended to continue. I threw out a cordon of light horse to slow any advance Mal made to a tactical crawl. Of the remaining light horse, half peeled off west towards the central ‘killzone’ (which I knew the light horse would be safe in, bizarrely!) set by the Sung infantry and the other half peeled off east towards the gentle hill, held by a small contingent of blades. In the meantime, the front rank of my superior cavalry trotted forwards to guard against any infantry coming out of the fields and the rest (a mix of a superior front rank and ordinary supporting troops) columned off to redeploy against Mal’s cavalry. The artillery centre split in half with two pieces redeploying across to do some damage to the war wagons and the other two wheeling to cut down any infantry that tried to approach my cavalry along the water way.

Severely slowed by my screen, Mal trundled his cavalry/wagons forwards, keeping up archery fire from the wagons to try (unsuccessfully) to drive off the light horse. In the centre, Mal sent out a suicide squad of blades that were immediately ridden down, surrounded and destroyed by my light horse. First blood to me! By the time Mal had trudged through the harrying light horse, I’d formed up my cavalry, superior up front backed by their less well armoured support. Things were a bit messy on the left flank, but with light horse support I had overlaps everywhere.

By now, I’d also brought up my artillery to crossfire into his approaching forces, a factor that proved crucial. His war wagons rolled up to support the cavalry, but were unable to engage my cavalry directly and were reduced to shooting into them at near point blank range. Or lines stood opposite each other only millimeters apart, the Mongols in an unnerving, disciplined silence. The action turned to the rear of the Chinese cavalry where their commander stood exposed to the full force of Mongol artillery. After being pushed back under the hail of bolts and stones, I finally swept in with a light horse unit. The commander, forced to recoil again, was caught and killed. This didn’t demoralise his command but made its control basically twice as difficult. Mal responded by charging his cavalry into the Mongols where, outclassed and outflanked they were steadily cut to bits. The command demoralised and the resolute lines of Mongols stood and watched their foes flee the field. Only one undisciplined light horse unit charged after the fleeing Sung (it’s commander was later executed for his indiscipline). Over on the beaches, Sung blades and bowmen made an attempt to close with the Gerogian superior cavalry, left as a guard, but had to advance through a hail of artillery fire and faced being flanked by hordes of slaves driven by their Mongol masters into the battle. With the end of the battle coming close as time ran out, little changed and the Mongols claimed their first tournament victory; 6-4. Hurrah!! Victory dances till dawn, etc…

More importantly, for the first time Mal’s Sung had been defeated!

Mal’s a great opponent, tough, fair, sporting and very laid back. This was a hard game but was fought in the best sporting traditions.

Now up to 15 points from 4 battles, I’ve managed to claw back a little ground on the tournament ranking chart, but there’s still a long way to go and I’ve got some pretty horrendously horrible opponent armies still to come!

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