Friday, December 23, 2016

Playtest - the Battle of Plataea with l'Art de la Guerre

Earlier this week a few members of the club got together to continue playtesting the l'Art de la Guerre rules. Myself and Gunnar have tried it a couple of times using my 15mm Byzantines and Arabs. Both times we've been quite pleased with the rules and had very enjoyable games.
So this time we decided to try the rules with Gunnar's 6mm Greeks & Persians. These armies are very different from the Arabs and Byzantines. Not to mention that I've been looking forward to seeing Gunnar's tiny guys on the table....
For this game we were joined by Mark who has a 6mm collection for other historical periods.
To make it a little more interesting than just lining up 'equal points' armies and slugging it out, we decided to try for a more historical battle.
I chose the battle of Plataea, very much a classic encounter (more info on the battle can be found here: Battle of Plataea).
The Greek army was a rather loose alliance of city states. We only used the parts that saw extensive fighting, The Spartans (under the nominal C-in-C Pausanias), the Tegeans and the Athenians.
The Persians had a more coherent command structure and included a contingent of 'medizing' Greeks fighting on the Persian side against their fellow Greeks.
The Athenian contingent deploy on the Greek right wing facing....

.....the Persian left wing with the medizing Greek hoplites along with some Persian cavalry and foot archers.
I tried to use a variety of troop types in this scenario. partly to test the rules and partly to differentiate between the various contingents. For exampe, I graded the Spartans as the best spearmen possible in the rules (Heavy Spearmen, Armoured, Elite), while the Athenians were Armoured but not graded Elite. The Tegeans were graded as Heavy Spearmen but neither Armoured, nor Elite. In the game, this really did make a difference, as the Spartans shrugged of clouds of missiles. The Tegeans, on the other hand, did take quite a few casualties as they advanced on the massed Persian archers.
Apart from Hoplites and a few undistinguished cavalry, the Greeks also fielded a few Peltasts and psiloi with javelins and a few archers. So the Greek army was very strong in close combat Heavy infantry, but weak in cavalry and with very limited missile capability. Mobility isn't that great either.
The Persian force was more varied with numerous foot archers. Then there were medium spearmen and foot skirmishers.
The Persians also had good quality Persian Noble cavalry (heavy cavalry, Elite archers) as well as light horse archers. The only really good Persian infantry was the Immortals (mixed medium swordsmen and bowmen, Elite) and 'medizing' Greek Hoplites from city states siding with the Persian empire.
With the exception of the 'medizing' Hoplites almost the entire Persian army was armed with bows and javelins and could launch massive volleys of missiles. But close combat was a different story. As the Persians had more and better cavalry and skirmishers, they were also more mobile than the Greeks.
The Greek centre and left wing. The Spartan contingent led by Pausanias in the centre, with the Tegeans in a column on the Greek left wing.
In our refight, I was playing the Greeks, while Gunnar and Mark ran the Persians.

The Athenians faced the 'medizing' Greek Hoplites on the Greek right wing, while the Spartans met the Persian elite Immortals in the centre. On the Greek left wing the Tegeans faced a Persian command of massed foot archers supported by a lot of skirmishers and cavalry.
This broadly corresponded to the historical deployment, although a lot of the Persian deployment is uncertain.
In our game (as in the real battle) the Greek Hoplites were not numerous enough to cover the entire battlefield and had to rely on skirmishers to cover gaps in the line and secure the flanks.

The Game
As in the historical battle, the Greeks immediately started advancing to close with the enemy as soon as possible. I was fully aware of the awesome Persian firepower and the need to get into close combat as quickly as possible.

As the Greeks trundled forward, and into range of the Persian archers the difference that armour an Elite rating makes quickly became apparent. The Spartans and Athenians were hardly affected, but the Tegeans started to take a beating from Mark's massed Persian archers. The Persian dice were not kind as the Greeks rolled just well enough to escape being hit again and again.
I suppose the Greek pre-battle religious ceremonies and sacrifices went down well with Zeus, Ares and the rest of the gang up on Mount Olympos.......
The climax of the battle is near as the Spartan Hoplites charge the Persian Immortals and Guard cavalry. Persian archery proved ineffective against the armoured Spartans. This is going to hurt.......

Further along the line, the Athenians are closing in on the medizing Greek hoplites on the Perisan side as Geeek psiloi skirmishers harrass the Persian line to stop them from exploiting the gap in the Greek line.
So both the Spartans and Athenians made it into charge distance of the Persian line in good shape. On the way forward the Athenians had even chased some light Persian cavalry off the table.
But the Persian Immortals facing the Spartans were also Elite troops, while the Athenians were facing the 'medizing' Hoplites who were just as disciplined and armoured as they were themselves.
The only urgent problem from a Greek point-of-view now was the Tegeans who were also advancing but were taking a beating from the Persian archers.
Still, things were looking quite good.
The Persians were a bit worried though, as the Greek Hoplites got closer and closer despite all those arrows shot at them.
Meanwhile on the Greek left wing, the Tegean Greeks are approaching the Persian right wing. This Persian force consisted almost exclusively of archers. The archers managed to cause quite a lot of damage to the Tegean Hoplites as these were not as heavily armoured as their Spartans and Athenian partners.

The Tegeans press forward, but continue to take casualties....
The Greeks braved yet another missile volley (escaping damage again with some very lucky die rolls). And then the Spartans and Athenians finally charged into the Persian line...

The decisive clash! Pausanias' Spartans crash into Mardonius' line of Immortals and Guard cavalry.
Both commanders personally lead their men into battle, fighting in the front rank. No less can be expected of a Spartiate and a Persian Noble, of course ...
At the same time, the Athenians charge the 'medizing' Hoplites and cavalry on the Persian left wing.
The decisive fight as viewed from the Persian lines
The heroic leaders Pausanias and Mardonius cross swords as the Spartan steam-roller hits the Persian Immortals and Guard cavalrymen.
At close quarters, the elite Spartans have an advantage over the Persian elite soldiers due to the Spartan armour. Will it be enough?

Spartan Victory! The Persian Guard cavalry are routed by the ferocious Spartan charge and Mardonius is killed. The Immortals also take heavy casualties. The Spartans did have an advantage, but also had a lot of luck.
The Spartans start by rolling extremely well in the fight against Mardonius' Guard cavalry. The Elite Persian Nobles are crushed in the very first clash, killing Mardonius. This is devastating as it saps Persian morale and also hampers their command-and-control. This trend continues with the Spartans making short work of the Immortals as well with some more good die rolls on top of their superior armour.
The Persian front line collapses.
On the Athenian wing the results are less dramatic, but the 'medizing' Greek renegades on the Persian side are ground down in a couple of rounds of intense fighting.
The same is true in the centre, where the Spartans continue to wipe out the Persian Immortals.
At this point the Tegeans still have not managed to advance into the Persians facing them. But it does not matter, as the overall Persian losses, and the loss of Mardonius in the first clash, is enough to cause the entire Persian army tocollapse and run.

This was a very enjoyable battle that we were able to play in about 2.5 hours even though we are all new to these rules. We used the 'normal' 200pts game scale in the rule book.
I am sure we missed some rule somewhere, but that's our own fault... The l'Art de la Guerre rules are well written and come complete with a huge variety of army lists in a large book.
Overall the games we've had so far have all had a good feel to them. Among other things, they do not focus too much on the exact hardware the soldiers are using, but more on what their tactical role is and how good they are at it. Also command and control is very important and you do get major advantages from keeping the units together in coordinated lines. They also are forgiving when it comes to basing the troops, so we can easily use our existing DBA/DBM and FOG armies.
And playing this battle in 6mm really did give a sense of a major battle between massive armies.
We will certainly play some more games with these rules.
Some more pics from the game can be found on Mark's blog (Wargaming in Sverige!).


  1. I've not played these rules but they look to give a good game. 6mm really does give the feel of a large battle.

  2. Thanks for the full write up on the game. It was fun and I like how the rules flow. The miniatures are very good looking. I look forward to more games in the future.

  3. Thanks guys.
    Glad you like it. The l'Art de la Guerre rules are quite good and Gunnar's 6mm armies look very nice indeed. it was a very fun game.