Syrian Wars 8

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NEWSFLASH!!!....King Ptolemy Vth agrees to machimoi demands....NEWSFLASH!!!

More Seleucids against Ptolemies
Warhammer Ancients Battles Armies of Antiquity version Two

Paul Rigby's impressive war elephant (Aventine Miniatures) smashes into the Machimoi phalanx


Well, after some fears that it would never be.. Warhammer Historicals released the AoA2 compendium of army lists for Warhammer Ancient Battles. This is a welcome addition because the book does a number of positive things for the WAB community- such as there still remains. First it tries to unify the mistake made in having WAB Ancients separate from WAB Medieval. This seems to be the course first directed by Martin Gibbins with the WAB2 rules. Now the basic lists for a large swath of armies are able to be played in synchronicity. Skirmishers and Open Order now is consistent with armies across time.

The important change comes to the points determinations. The new lists make infantry more expensive and cavalry remain relatively the same to previous versions. This means that a typical 2000 point army of old WAB now is closer to 2800 points from these new lists. The keen thing is the change in relative net worth for some troops has been well needed for WAB to continue to be played at conventions and open competitions- and WAB2 and AoA2 in combination do help the net worth of cavalry. The armies in this book lose some granular detail but the overall mix seems much more balanced, so that's easy enough to research on one's own, from the already published WAB books, or other historical sources. For example one really does not need to know that a Skirmisher slinger in his Seleucid army is a "Trallian" goat herder, or Idumenaean goat header, or a goat herder from the Taurus mountains.

Of course as an anal stick up my arse binder-- I do think that the term peltasts for thureophoroi in Successor armies is a bit over simplified.. but then I am an anal stick up my arse binder type on this. What I can say is that Martin did an exceptional job translating my submitted draft lists for the Successors into AoA2. He did miss some points, which I will enumerate below, but the fun thing about AoA2 is that after ten years we can now play Successor armies that are not polluted by massed staff slingers in combination with totally 'beard-cheese' Levy pikemen- supported by cataphracts and Indian longbowmen. These lists spread those assets out amongst the actual armies, and get rid of totally the heinous staff slinger that never appeared in any field army- and can only be justified by a single appearance (if the kestrophedrone is indeed a staff sling at all! link ).

The other positive for Classical era gamers is the inclusion of all the out of print WAB Alexander the Great lists, minus maybe the Mountain Indian-- which can be built out the other list on one's own. This is considerably enhanced by offering a series of enhanced army lists for the Classical Greeks who now have lists that split them by efficacy into early wars, civil wars and later Successor also ran categories (don't short the late list- it's one of my favorites since Philopoemen is the best general ever!! IMHO). This means players can play campaigns and stick to a closer model for their favorite City State army. One of the other outstanding tournament lists is the Campanians-- for those who can't help themselves and play the stacked armies :) The Later Persian list really benefits from the cavalry points changes- in fact it may be a tougher army than ever for Alexander to trounce!

On the down side, the Republican Romans get a bit of a white washing compared to the myriads of specialness in the Hannibal supplement. It remains to be seen if the watered down legions can compete. My guess is that they still will be competitive-- and I was never much in agreement with the device of allowing them free unit command as a method of creating smaller unit cohesion--- still it gave them a serious edge when ten units lose 15 points each that ends up with a lot of extra velites-- and velites are not chopped liver in the panoply of WAB skirmishers. I felt that on a small table the HatPW Legion rules were a bit too much-- but we will see if they once again drop from sight because their ears have been trimmed too far back.

One upsetting things from the transition form mu own Successor lists to AoA2 is the characters and cavalry are not "Used to elephants".... sadly this changes things a bit and the armies suffer somewhat when this small rule is not applied to them. I kind of disagree with the WAB2 Used to elephants rule in some respects-- I would change the rule that troops used to elephants - ignore the effects of their own elephants but still fear and are terrorized by the enemy beasts. The rule is too broad as it stands now. Nobody panics from their own elephants- unless they are stampeding through their ranks of course!

Another Successor specific issue I would quibble about is the lack of a 0-1 armored 'peltast' for the Ptolemaic list, they should have one. Martin has already stated in errata that the WS4 Seleucid thorakites is an error. The Pyrrhic army should be able to convert the Tarentine hoplites into pikemen. It is simple enough to say they can be either armed with spears and large shields, or shield and pike. Their point cost should be the same. Another odd stat on the Pyrrhic list is the high cost for Ld 8 cavalry, or should all the Ld 9 cavalry on the other lists be higher?
You can view the PDF of AoA2 errata here:
AoA2 Errata

Some lists have a small number of typos and issues (many of which have been sorted out already by Martin on the WAB forum). The inclusion of allies always creates wild swings of judgement from players-- from strict adherence to the actual troops used at an actual battle-- to the nonchalant cherry picking of the best allied unit to serve the needs of the whims of the moment. Luckily it appears that all Allies must use the unreliable rule- which means- that unit of allied scythed chariots may not move in the game, or those Galatian chariots can't use the army general's leadership to rally.

One thing I did not like was the intrusion of this nutty horse archers get to shoot while charging and then apply the results of the shooting to HTH combat. While this may be a sensible rule for Mongols or Huns, it is one of those across the board changes that cause unknown results-- like suddenly making Getae or Skythians much better in hand to hand combat-- which is kooky. In fact one wonders why all missile cavalry cannot follow the same mechanism- such a ruling would give skirmishing javelin cavalry the dramatic edge over skirmishing foot they need, and would also give the the ability to charge into the rear of a combat and maybe overcome their lack of armor saves with those extra missile losses. Of course the other problem is associated with counter charging and penalties for shooting while moving and all the other dastardly dirty details that pop up when such a rule is hoisted onto us out the blue. (But I hate the new WAB2 counter charge rules anyway- so I am biased against the whole thing). Still this would have been a fine rule for the the already over the top Mongols, I just did not need it to intrude into my Persian army.

But in general the positives far outweigh the negatives so far in my estimates-- at least for the armies of the period of pre-christiandom (after that I have little or no opinion). So enough of this blather, on to a game or two.



AoA2 kicks off the next round of Syrian Wars

Paul Rigby came over and we played a game of 2800 points Syrian Wars with AoA2. Both of us were planning to go up to Los Angeles and play at the President's Day LAX WAB tournament organized by Harold Hildebrand in homage to Alex Webster, who recently passed away. Alex used to run the LAX WAB games and his loss is sorely missed, in fact the tournament of two games was renamed in his honor. Paul and I felt it was a great opportunity to test out the new AoA2 lists in the ongoing Syrian War campaign context. We were both pleased to be able to build just about the same army as we were used to in our game tests of the lists in the WAB Successors supplement. 2800 points did indeed match my normal allotment for a Ptolemaic army, and Paul's Seleucids seemed as usual too. My only switcheroo was to borrow Paul's Thracians since I have still a pile of my own to paint on my desk.

As usual we set up in the pitched battle way by alternating units. My Ptolemaic army was deployed with Achaean heavy (line) cavalry on the far left, then the heavy Companions covered by javelinmen. The Thureophoroi and the African elephant guarded the phalanx' left flank. In the middle three units of phalanx, two Macedonian and one Egyptian. On their right they had Thracians and Cretans watching things. The Seleucids had their Thracian cavalry on their extreme right wing facing the Achaeans. Next to them were the cataphracts covered by javelinmen. and then three solid phalanxes. The Seleucid phalanx flank was covered by thureophoroi and their armored elephant and Arab archers. The Ptolemies won the toss and surged forward. And for the rest I will let the pictures tell the story.....

My intrepid Cretan archers by Essex and Foundry have seen many battles.... their bow strings were a bit slack this game as the Arab archers out shot them. The Thracians advanced into the woods yonder, taking full advantage of their stealthiness. The right wing skirmished in place with neither side gaining an edge.. this allowed his elephant to creep up!!

The Seleucid general reacts to my moves. My cavalry moved to the left to keep his cataphracts in check, and the Achaeans ride hard to knock out the Thracian cavalry. Mostly desultory skirmishing occurs this round.

The Seleucid right wing advances....

The Achaeans ride hard towards the Thracians.. while the Guard cavalry take up a counter charge position. The Aetolian javelinmen occupy the woods, then charge the enemy javelinmen-- but the over exuberant Aetolians are sent packing and licking their wounds.

The transplendent cataphracts slowly roll forward.....

But wait.. off in the dust..... that elephant halts them in their tracks.

Meanwhile on their flank the Thracians are overrun by the Achaeans. In a crazy turn the cataphracts flee from the pursuing Greeks.... but the Greeks ride off the table edge. The new WAB2 rules for this are a disaster, turns are too important in WAB to randomize these things.. here the Achaeans hardly made it back in time- and there is a possibility that they might never come back and they count as lost for game points??? This is a bit harsh!


While the drama unfolds on the left flank the phalanxes engage and as usual it is heavy action. The Seleucid elephant slams into the Egyptian phalanx and they barely hold on. The phalanxes battle furiously.

Here the Thracians on the edge of the wood are being whittled down by the thureophoroi.. neither side could risk a charge and the Warband Thracians held back!

On the right wing the cataphracts regain their composure and launch a lumbering charge on the thureophoroi open order infantry. It seems hopeless but after the dust settles the cataphracts have whiffed, and the spearmen blows were all saved... the cataphracts lose and flee.. because.. why ... er... no!!!!

Yes... when the phalanxes engaged the Seleucid general got within 8" of an elephant.. off he went in terror! There he is at the table edge riding by the returning Achaean cavalry, who are welcomed back onto the table by Arab archers shooting them to pieces. The fleeing general breaks the Seleucid will to resist. The cataphracts fled and were run down, the phalanxes then crumbled without leadership bonuses. All in all- an unforeseen victory ensues from the worst run of luck for Paul that I have seen in a long time. Yes that die is used to show 'momentum' in the game, I reckon I need a marker that shows this better-- even though I don't like markers.

So the game went well. The lists from AoA2 were great. We had fun. Our armies performed as expected.. except for the "Used to elephants" gaff. Definitely these two armies need that rule, as does the Bactrian, Pyrrhic, and Later Carthaginian armies. However, I'd make the point of adding that an army has to include an elephant to be used to them.
I hope you have enjoyed our Syrian Wars games as much as we have had playing them.

Note you can listen the the Historical Wargames Podcast to hear much more about the AoA2 lists from Pat Lowinger and Paul Rigby.... just tune out the Jeff hero worship stuff... :)
Historical Wargames Podcast



Wise Ptolemy speaks:

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