Michael Douglas in the Guardroom in Slingshot 206 inquired as to how a Trajanic army could successfully face a Mongol or a Hun army in the Armati rules system. Others have raised the same question here on Warflute and on the Yahoo Armati group.
Quality cavalry armies, like the Huns and Mongols, have a higher initiative rating than do infantry armies. In the armies cited the Hun initiative is 8 and the Mongols is 9. This compares to an initiative of 7 for Trajan.
Armati is a move counter move game in which the initiative number is added to the roll of a six sided die with the high roll choosing to move first or second in a turn. This allows a high initiative army, the chance to move second in one turn and first in the next. This can be deadly of it results in a flank attack. Flank attacks by heavy units are usually first round routs. Flank attacks by FV 1 or 2 light cavalry are not as dangerous. Against Roman infantry, they generally lose after 2-4 turns without reinforcement by either side. They are deadly however against Roman mounted troops. On average die rolls, they will kill a Roman heavy cavalry unit in 2-3 turns assuming an attack by a two light cavalry unit division.
The most common cavalry army tactic is to lurk at extreme bow range and attempt to create opportunities through attrition. This is coupled by utilizing a great deal of spatial separation between divisions in order to maximize the potential for flank attacks if the foe advances.
The counter to this is a combination of terrain selection, troop selection, and tactics.
The board is 60 inches long by 40 inches deep. The larger the playing area, the more advantage to the more fluid, more mobile cavalry. One, therefore, limits the playing area by selecting a rough ground piece - 4 inches by 8 inches of impassable terrain for cavalry.
The rough terrain should be placed with its diagonal running through the line dividing the left or right flank from the central deployment area. The rear should be placed within 39 mm of the baseline thus denying all movement past the edge of the rough terrain to cavalry, within 79 mm of the baseline denying passage to all cavalry divisions organized two stands wide, or within 4 real inches (6 game inches) of the baseline and garrisoned by a light or light heavy infantry unit.
In Armati, a hostile unit may not move through the first 4 real inches (6 game inches) of two flank lines in one turn. A unit that is placed in rough terrain is not disclosed to the enemy until it moves or fires or the enemy approached within 4 real inches (6 game inches). A hidden unit is not subject to archery. A unit in rough terrain receives an additional plus 1 to its missile defense rendering it better able to survive archery. There is only a 1 in 6 chance of hitting a light or light heavy infantry unit in rough terrain with archery. At most two units can be brought to bear to fire at it for no more than one turn. A light infantry unit takes 2 hits to kill. A light heavy infantry unit takes three hits to kill. The return fire from the light infantry or light heavy infantry unit hits on 10 in 36 rolls. Light cavalry take only two hits to kill.
Finally, when a hostile unit approaches within ½ charge reach of a unit that did not move more than ½ its move, the slow moving unit may initiate a support charge. If a support charge is not possible, the infantry unit will get a charge next turn and will fight the cavalry with a frontal factor of 4 versus a frontal factor of 2 winning the melee 26 of 36 rolls and tying 4 of 36 rolls.
There are two basic tactics for dealing with archery heavy cavalry armies - the slow advance behind the heavy infantry screen and the rush. Regardless of the tactic chosen, army organization starts with Roman strength in infantry.
Armati armies have core units and bonus units. The core units come free of charge and the bonus units are purchased with points as is terrain. Generally, Armati games are played with the core army and 75 bonus points plus 1 free piece of core terrain. For Trajan, the free terrain is a gentle rise. While this can be used to screen archery, it is not as effective as rough ground or woods against light cavalry armies. Trajan can buy one rough ground and one woods. Each costs 3 points. One is necessary leaving Trajan 72 points left with which to purchase bonus units.
Roman cohorts are seductive. Resist temptation. They are also costly at 13 points each. Instead, purchase 2 marine units for 9 points each. The frontal attack and defense factor of 6 is sufficient for the cavalry armies that you are facing. The best Mongol frontal attack factor is 5. The best Hun frontal attack factor is 4. A tie is a win for the Romans as attrition favors infantry over cavalry. Counting ties as a win, marines win 27 of 36 melees against Mongols and 5 of 6 melees against Huns.
Marines have a +2 missile defense as do cohorts, resulting in a 1 in 6 chance of a missile hit, and take 4 hits to rout. Marines have a plus 2 flank defense as do cohorts. This is the equivalent of a light cavalry frontal attack factor and light cavalry take only two hits to rout or fatigue thus reducing their combat potential. A light cavalry attack by a single light cavalry unit on a marine flank is a Roman win with average die rolls.
For the rush, one maximizes cavalry picks. This means 2 HC allies and 1 Sarmatian HC for 31 points. One Moorish and 1 Allied bow-armed light cavalry for flank protection are selected for 14 points. One light or light heavy infantry at 7 points to either garrison the woods or serve as additional flank protection and 1 skirmish sling at 2 points to add a little archery threat and soak up hostile archery round out the army. The light infantry can be bow-armed if you would like to use them as flank protection. The bow-armed lights have a reasonable frontal factor and a 6 inch longer range than horse archers. This gives 1 point for a veteran unit - probably the Sarmatians
This gives a breakpoint of 4 and a well-rounded combined arms force. (In the alternative, trade one of the light cavalry units for a camel which should be veteran and increase the army break point to 5.). The breakdown of units is 4 HC, 3 cohorts, 2 marines, 1 light or light heavy infantry unit, 2 light cavalry units, and 3 skirmish units. You have a magnificent total of 2 foot archers, 1 mounted archer, and 1 slinger to face 12-16 nomad archers. If your javelin armed get in missile range, the nomad is not thinking. However, each one of the nomad units is critical and even this limited archery threat will worry a good nomad general. His missile defense is only +1 versus your average +2. A 10 in 36 chance to hit versus a 1 in 6. So, the numerical disparity is not as statistically significant as it appears although it is still daunting. Remember, one hot turn of dice and 2 nomad critical units are gone.
Trajanic armies are permitted five heavy divisions and four light divisions. The 2 marines form one heavy division, the 3 cohorts form a second heavy division, the Sarmatians form the 3rd heavy division (with camels if you buy that option), 2 Roman HC form the 4th heavy division, and the last Roman HC forms the 5th heavy division. The Moors form1 light division, The bow-armed allies form a 2d light division, The light infantry form the 3rd light division.
The 3 skirmishers form the 4th light division.(1)
The front line should start with the marines in wide formation 40 mm from the inside edge of the rough ground even with the front line of the central deployment area facing directly forward. The three cohorts should start directly to the left of the marines with a spacing of slightly more than 80 mm. This allows the marines to perform a complex maneuver, if necessary and move directly toward the rear flank of the cavalry limiting down playing space with their flanks secured by the faster wheeling cohorts.
The light infantry unit should be placed to the rear of the marines to provide flank support and a mild archery threat as the marines move away from the woods. I tend to select light infantry versus light heavy infantry giving up the extra casualty in exchange for the ability to turn without penalty and move - critical with LC all around. The bow-armed light cavalry should be placed to the interior rear of either the marines or the cohorts to provide interior flank support in either direction.
The Sarmatians should be placed next to the cohorts with about an 80 mm gap to the flank and a slight spacing to the rear to allow the cohorts to draw fire. In Armati, all archery is directed at the closet unit. Cohorts have a much better missile protection than cavalry - 1 in 6 to hit versus 1 in 3.
The two unit Roman Heavy cavalry division should be placed next to the Sarmatians with a 40 mm. spacing. The one unit Roman HC division should be placed in reserve midway behind the two heavy cavalry divisions at a distance of not less than 6 real inches (9 game inches). The Moors should be placed to the rear flank of the outside heavy cavalry division in order to provide flank security.
The skirmish infantry should take a position where they can advance before the heavy cavalry to screen missile fire if necessary or fall back through the heavy cavalry to permit a rush.
In Armati, set-up is double-blind behind a screen. So, when the screen is lifted, your tactics depend on the location of the opposing cavalry. If they are directly ahead, down lances and rush. If they are greatly to one side or the other, adopt a more measured advance behind the infantry screen until it is possible to down lances and rush. If a measured advance is necessary, your cavalry and light troops should only advance at ½ pace in order to preserve the support charge to protect your flanks and the infantry. Remember, Roman melee potential is much greater than that of either the Mongols or Huns, so any melee contact to your front is probably good for the Romans. Also remember that the Mongol or Hun breakpoint is going to be 6 or better so you have twenty turns to bring them to bay. Don't be overly aggressive. You can certainly always bring their heavy units to bay. If you do that, at best, the Huns or Mongols can get a draw,
For the slow measured advance, I pick the Armenian option at 27 points, the marines a 18 points, 1 Roman heavy cavalry at 10 points or veteran camel at 8 points, one light infantry at 7 points, and 1 sling-armed skirmisher at 2 points. This yields a breakpoint of only 4 but with a plus 3 missile protection, the cataphracts are virtually missile proof. Never mind that I once shot away a cataphract in one turn with only three shots. If your luck is that bad, you're going to lose anyway.
The divisional organization for the infantry is identical to the above. The cataphracts and camels form separate divisions. The 2 Roman HC form a separate division. The light division organization is identical to the above.
The infantry set-up is identical. The Armenian LC take the place of the Moors and the Allies. The cataphracts should be placed next to the cohorts and back 4 real inches (6 game inches) and lined up so that their forward movement intersect the rear edge of the outside cohort to prevent those obligatory charges. If selected, the camels should be to the inside of the cataphracts so that they can advance either through the gap between the cohorts and the marines or the gap between the cataphracts and the cohorts. The two division Roman heavy cavalry division should be be placed to the outside rear of the cataphracts with the skirmishers to their immediate front. The one unit Roman Heavy cavalry division should be placed to the rear center of the 2 unit Roman Heavy cavalry division prepared to protect either flank.
Once the screen lifts, begin a measured advance behind the skirmishers and infantry using them to soak up archery. Remember to stagger the infantry lines so that units with significant casualties are further away from the archery than fresh units rendering them unavailable as targets. The infantry should advance at full pace. The light troops and cavalry should advance at no more than ½ pace to preserve the support charge option and should not overtake the infantry until contact.
Using these tactics, I generally have been able to score a win if I am careful and patient. A tendency to aggressive action should be restrained unless it promises clear success with immediate reinforcement possible. Unless the archery is very lucky, a draw should be the worst result. If the dice gods are against you, you can lose in 1-2 turns, but no one can defeat hot dice. Your best ally may be the enemy. People who choose cavalry armies are not generally patient and the slow measured advance may draw them into mistakes.
If worse comes to worse, Rome always has the will to field another army. Carthago delenda est.
1. The units that are not described under the purchase paragraphs are part of the free core army. Warflute organized tournaments permit the use of a SI slinger to Trajan as they are featured on Trajan's column, at Adamklissi, in the epigraphy, and in texts.
Armati Second Edition copyright 2003 'The Strength Trainer'
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