DBM Club Tournament 2004
A Player’s Perspective

Battle 5 – Muslim Indians

Well, like Mal, Graeme’s a regular opponent and we’ve forged our armies in the heat of battle against each other. My artillery convinced Graeme that elephants aren’t such a good idea and my cavalry regularly muched up his massed archers. All well and good but he now has a lean, mean, fighting machine that I’m frankly dreading! The problem is that the Indians have a very flexible troop option list, which means that I could be facing massed Jagir cavalry, masses of blades and bows, elephants galore… This makes planning for the battle extremely tough.

This is, in fact, a problem not experienced in other more formal tournaments. It is common for a player to have to submit a set army list and to play with that army against all opponents. Dave (the tournament organiser) has gone for a more flexible approach, whereby each army has only a set number of points (AP) rather than a set list. Each player is allowed to reformat and reconstitute his army according to the opponent to be faced. Both systems have merits and flaws, of course, but on the whole, the flexible system seems to be working well. Except now. When Graeme could field anything and I’ve no idea what to field to counter him. Now it sucks. Really bad.

That said, I’m pretty sure Graeme will field his cavalry-heavy ‘Jagir’ force, as he did against Malcolm’s Sung. I’ve faced one or two of these cavalry armies and I’ve come to a conclusion about the Mongols; they don’t fare well against lots of enemy cavalry. The Mongol army relies on being able to use mobility and speed to outmaneuver its foes. This capacity is severely reduced by cavalry rich opponents, who invariably also outnumber the Mongols. Graeme’s Indians can field a nasty force of cavalry that I’m not confident I can beat (if pinned into melee, the Mongols tend to lose. They need to be hitting exposed flanks – hard to do when the opposition can move as fast and redeploy as quickly as you).

With this in mind I’ve got two optional armies ready to go:

Army A
This is a traditional ‘field’ army, with nothing in it but cavalry (ordinary and superior) and light horse (superior). Oh and a few battleslaves, dragged along to guard the baggage (I’ve found they are more trouble than they are worth up front, getting in the way of the action and annoying pretty much everyone (especially me!)). I know what I’m doing with this force, but it’s likely to be outnumbered and if it gets caught in a grinding fight, will be outflanked and destroyed. It fits my mobile, aggressive mentality though…

Army B
I developed this force to take on John’s Sciri (which I’ve yet to do). One command is an allied Uighar force of spearmen and psiloi (mainly). It’s designed to draw the opposition into defensive terrain of my choosing and has a light horse command ready to pounce on the rear of any enemy in combat. A moderate-sized cavalry force is flank marched to arrive by the Uighars to support them and cause the opposition trouble. Thing is it’s defensive (I get impatient) and untried…so I’m in a quandary as to which army to choose.

Thus the fateful night came and I’d decided to go for option A, a traditional field army. Considering that there’d be a fair few Jagirs knocking about I decided to try and max out the cavalry I could get. With three commands I had a massed cavalry command (superior backed by ordinary), a smaller light horse command and the CinC with the hordes.

So to war. Amazingly, I lost the aggression roll and so Graeme’s Indians were invading the steppes. In autumn, the weather was fine, with not even a risk of rain. The battle began an hour after dawn. Graeme placed a single river running north-south on the eastern flank. I responded with a hill that ended up in my centre rear another hill in Graeme’s centre front and a river close to the Indians running east-west from the fist river.

Thus the field was set and deployment began. Used to invasion I had the frustrating task of deploying my largest command first. I rely on being able to see where the opponent’s main strength lies and so this was a risky business for me. Grasping the nettle however, I placed the massed cavalry in two ranks forward on the western flank. Graeme chose to leave me unopposed here and deployed to the east of the hill, defending the hill itself with a line of cavalry. My light horse deployed in the centre and behind the cavalry, while I scattered the hordes of slaves across the eastern flank to hold up the Indian advance here. I care nothing for these troops and they are completely expendable. More usually deployed to defend the artillery or baggage, this time I threw them into the furnace, knowing they’d all die. As long as they held up the Indians, that didn’t matter.

Graeme didn’t have his Jagirs. Instead he had a mixed force of cavalry, elephants and infantry. Hmm…could’ve done with some artillery to go ‘hunting Heffalumps’…

Graeme opened the batting with his light horse investigating the river (which turned out to be paltry along its length, little more than a stream), before marching his eastern flank across to ride down my hordes. His centre began a complex maneuver to join up with the cavalry on the hill; moves that wouldn’t really be completed for the whole battle.

I began by wheeling the cavalry towards the Indians on the hill. The light horse behind them columned out to file in on the cavalry’s right flank. The remaining light horse pushed the Indian skirmishers in and set up to delay anything that came through the hordes. The hordes stood their ground (given that we’d chained them there they didn’t really have a choice!).

Numerous (12!) turns followed where our lines maneuvered towards each other. As Graeme’s eastern flank wrapped round, slaughtering their way through the slaves, I columned off a small force of cavalry to meet them. My light horse fell back here, up the hill to my rear, ready to hit his cavalry in the flank. Other light horse pinned his elephants back, and followed the cavalry into the fray, protecting their right flank. Finally, galloping up the hill, the Mongol cavalry crashed into the Indians. The brutal fighting dragged on but gradually the Indians were cut to pieces. Only the Mongol left flank at the prow of the hill struggled as they were lapped round and forced back, many cut down. Eventually, the Indian commander was slain and his command collapsed. At this stage I was on a 6-4 win.

Meanwhile, down on the flat ground below, the Mongol cavalry commander was organising the defense against the Indian cavalry and elephants coming in. The positioning of my commander here was the only mistake I made in the battle and it was a HUGE one! Basically, once I’d achieved victory on the hill, my commander was too far way to keep order there and exploit the win. In fact, he wasn’t even able to stop the cavalry impetuously charging into the demoralised bows beyond, a move that basically ended the combat effectiveness of my main army force…Hopefully this is a mistake I’ll not repeat in future.

So the action moved down onto the plain as the end of the battle rapidly approached. Our cavalry lines faced each other but Graeme had his elephants threatening my flank. They were still held up by my light horse, however, the final skirmisher died and the only thing standing in the way now was my light horse commander. I was faced with a relatively easy decision and threw the commander into a suicide attack against his elephants. Not before I’d brought up some straggling light horse into the frontage of the elephants so that if the command broke, they would draw the elephants away from the cavalry. I usually avoid my generals getting into combat (that extra command penalty for being in combat is a killer), but there are times when they just have to. In this situation I was risking a return to a 5-5 draw to protect against a 9-1 loss. Predictably, the commander was mashed under pachedermal foot but even then I could still keep the command alive. I just needed a 5 or 6 in the next command roll (good odds on 3 dice)…I rolled two 3’s and a 1…curses!

So the command demoralised and the 5-5 was the result.

The game wasn’t over yet though and in the last turn both Graeme and I would suffer complete army collapse if we lost 3 elements. Grame got 1 of mine, I got 2 of his and it came down to the last combat. With a Cavalry element uphill (gentle) of a bowmen element we were on equal odds. However with my superior troops facing his inferor the balance was firmly with me. After the rolls and adjustments, it came out….a draw!! Aaaagghh!!!! AGAIN! This happened against Gary’s Tudor force in the first game! No, no, no… OH well.

So things ended in a 5-5 draw. A good result for an excellent match.

Blimey, this was a tough game, tense as a bowstring right up to the final dice throws! Graeme’s a great opponent, fair and sporting. If his attention doesn’t wander (which it usually does!) he’s also a tough player to beat. More often than not though, as in this battle, his oversights and careless mistakes helped me out on several occasions!

I can see a pattern emerging for my force. In the vast majority of games I’ve played, I’ve found I inflict 3-4 losses for each one I take. I can usually break one opponent command but just fall short of breaking their army. I’ll have to tweak things to get that ‘final push’ capability.

So, I’m now at 20 tournament points from 5 games (max 50 points). Hmm… Fair to middling as they say…

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