Saka Light Cavalry

Saka Light Cavalry

Saturday, 12 May 2012

AAR German V's Sarmatian's Impetus Rides Again

As promised a AAR or Battle Report for the latest playing of Impetus. Like Basic Impetus the honeymoon is over. After a couple of games where all seems right with the world you notice the odd rankle and detail that does not seem quite right. Some of it will possibly be misreading a rule or missing it completely others will need that little thing called a house rule. That's not to say I don't like the rules, I do, do I like them more than FoG? Not a chance, but they are different and different is good. Impetus are the new DBM, I don't think they are worth the asking price and I dislike intensely the way they put army lists together. Seems they have taken a leaf out of GW's book and mixed in a Collectible Card game mentality. Mixed period lists are about as crap an idea as you can come up with. What next sell separate lists in foil packet with so many Common Lists and trading for that rare list you want? Not impressed at all.

But that's not what we are here for, we want blood and action I guess. Well the biggest plus for Impetus fans (and probably the biggest turn off for detractors) is you get plenty with these rules. Barry had picked the armies and this time we did not play with the Romans which was the right choice as they have made it out four times in a row and seem to be rather powerful. This time we had the almost all foot First German Army 1st to 3rd Century which I tool. These were 6 units of spear and sword armed infantry with 2 units of bow (big mistake, not worth having) and two units of medium cavalry. I expected more from these guys being known nutters and mostly Impetuous foot. I doubled two units so as to take punishment. Now I have a VBU of 4 and a Impetus bonus of 4 that is not any use against mounted units (why can't it count against flank and rear attacks of Cavalry?) so facing a Sarmatian Army I have issues. Barry has the Sarmatian army and has 4 units of heavy cavalry that are doubled up so only act as two units. One unit of light cavalry, Four units of so called crap infantry (they move slow but fight fine) and finally another unit of bow armed infantry that were strangely better than mine. Given that we have next to no terrain and whilst getting to grips with the rules we went for just a few hills which was good for helping us along but not so good for nice pics or a foot based army facing tanks, er I mean Sarmatian heavy cavalry. So here we are with the starting positions.

I am on the left of the picture. Both my Cavalry units are on the right facing Barrie's lights and one double heavy. I hope to distract the heavy with one of my double foot and then swing the flank round to take them whilst I keep the lights out of it with my cavalry. My far left flank is just to hold out as long as possible whilst I try to win in the centre.

It became obvious Barry had a plan of just crushing me at all points of contact as he steamed forward. The first contact was on the left, a clash of double units, Barry with horseflesh me with plebs on foot. I had a poor 6 dice (good job it was a double unit) whilst Barry weighed in with 12, 6 for it's VBU, 3 for the rear rank and 3 for it's Impetus bonus! I should have been in big big trouble but for Barry rolling fairly badly. Though this would not matter too much given he has VBU of 6 x 2 facing 4 x 2 long term it is obvious that his troops will pass more tests and will loose troops at a slower rate and so I need to send in help quickly to stand a chance. The next attack by Barry (he seemed to keep getting the drop on me early for Initiative) was a badly conceived attack by his light cavalry on my mediums, especially as he came down off the hill to do it. I rolled well and Barry did not, he then rolled REALLY badly for casualties losing the whole unit. Time to use one of his re-rolls? same roll down one unit and down half of his re-rolls! Not wanting to get the 12 V 6 dice next turn I charged his other heavy cavalry with my other double foot, he was still on 9 dice V my 6 but it was the best I could hope for.

I hold the hill the lights were dying to leave
Barry was looking shaky on the left, his Heavy Cavalry had picked up a disorder before I charged and failed to counter charge, the net result was a push back for me but I was still in the game and Barry was needing to send troops to this flank. The centre was as yet to engage whilst on my left flank he was making slow progress as we both were not doing much in the way of damage.

A few rule issues that had cropped up at this point. I say rule issues but unless we missed something it's more questionable rules. Barry before charging his light horse fired them into his target unit, whilst I would not have issue with this normally under these rules (Impulse instead of you go I go) it's possible for Barry to have fired that unit as the last action of the previous turn after coming into bow range then activate it as the first unit of the next turn. No issues with that other than he could then have fired twice at my now to be charged unit but that unit would not have been able to fire at any point at the attacker. My point is, if the attacker can fire before charging you should be able to fire back at him. Next up, counter charging is a mugs game. Fail and you disorder, OK seems reasonable but C class (the worst) fail 66% of the time. Average fail 50% and the very cream of your army bottles it 33% of the time! Seems beyond harsh and shows up the biggest failings of a system that uses a single D6 for important rolls. As already touched on, whilst foot don't get a Impetus bonus for attacking mounted frontally they I feel should get one for charging the flank or rear. Yes they get two extra dice but given the charged unit gets to fight with full strength that really is not a great bonus when attacking units with a high VBU.

The next couple of turns were brutal. I started to drop down my VBU's of both double units, even though I reinforced the melee's the heavy cavalry were just too powerful and linked to poor rolling I was in trouble. I needed to clear a flank supporting infantry unit out of the way on my right but failed to cause a single casualty. In the centre I was charged by the Sarmatian infantry, a single unit supported by the double unit. As I was on the hill I expected a fair chance but these poor infantry were again rolling more dice than me due to Impetus bonus and support. I was pushed back and things were sliding well. Soon I lost the left hand double unit to spectacular loss rolling and I was forced to throw the pathetic bow armed troops into the flank, that only lead to more trouble!

I then lost the other double unit and was one unit off auto break. I had managed to remove three units from Barry but was no were near on any other unit. So Barry charged my last bow armed unit. I had a VBU of 2 so it did not look like they would win but could they at least not die? I think it was three hits, I needed a one to pass, a 2 or more would kill them, yep they died and a win for Barry.

Again it was lots of fun and fairly quick. Two players with a good knowledge of the rules and focused fully on the game must be able to play this out in just a hour to two hours, we took longer but had lunch and a few diversions and rule hold ups.

Another Impetus rule I dislike is the "If your disordered you can't really do anything but move forwards" and whilst a Heavy Cavalry unit or Pike Block would require a good bit of re-ordering before wheeling or even forming into a new formation I really struggle with the idea that something like a war band could not about face and move back a half move and turn to face again. Sure they would be still disordered but why can't they do that? The same goes for turning to face and expand on the spot. The idea that they would not do this to face a new threat because they were disordered is strange. Sure they would and again they would remain disordered. It would be better to say, can try and re-order and if successful can then turn to face and expand but if fail the re-order check can not turn to face etc. OR you get to turn to face without being allowed to come out of disorder that turn (i.e. the time spent trying to form up would not allow the position change) or you get to try to re-order in the new position but have a -2 to the roll which would men Class C would not be able to re-order. This was a issue for Barry who was winning all around a unit that was disordered but it could not well, turn or do anything inspite of seeing all run before it.  This is made worse really by the big base of a Impetus unit. Other rules have the units split into smaller bases that allow for staged changes so it is a double whammy.

The game did play out as you would expect a powerful horse based army catching a foot based one in the open would do which obviously is a god sign. But like all dice based games a run of great dice can overturn any what should happen scenario. The dice in this game were not when taken over the whole game for either of us. Both of us had moments were good dice could have given us that all important break. If I was to use that army again I would play a little different and would expect more terrain to give them some place to hide. Next game will probably be 6mm Napoleonic using the rules we have been trying to cobble together.

Barry may well give us the lowdown on the Sarmatian army in the comments section and possibly his view of the battle and rule points, the other side of the hill as it were.


  1. In 69 CE Rome was having a civil war- it was the year of the four Emperors. The Sarmatians [particularly the Roxolani a clan of the Alans; 'Roxolani means 'the smart Alans'] took advantage and invaded Moesia. This was what we were enacting. The following year Vespasian kicked them out again. My plan was to have a weak centre to pull Ian's impetuous infantry forward and then crush them between flank attacks by heavy cavalry. However he outflanked me on my left and so a quick change of plan and the cavalry on my left became a wedge formation. I sacrificed my light cavalry in the hope of making Ian's flank worn and therefore remove their bonus, but didn't expect them to be totally destroyed in one go. My centre held up better than I expected. [ why an I telling Ian this?]. The rest of it went roughly to plan.
    Question- the Sarmatian cataphract's contus lances were made of fir tree wood which smashed after penetrating the enemy creating nasty deadly shards, and the contus was then dropped and they used swords and maces in the ensuing melee- you can't fight a melee with a 12 foot lance. Would a rule varying the impetus bonus after a first contact reflect this? Is it worth it?

  2. An excellent batrep!!! And well done to both you and Barry!.
    I'd have a special rule for the melee, the lance should only be used once or you'll have a tiger tank roaming the battlefield all game.

  3. The trick is to cause one point of damage, then they loose their impetus bonus (3) so it would have either 8-9 dice if a double or a lowly 5 if a normal regiment.

    Personally I think I would use these as single units not double as two units attacking have 18 dice between them and a double unit only 12. OK they won't take as much punishment but these two hitting units side by side should punch through one unit.


  4. I don't really understand how the game works...I just like the picture that you post of it quite a bit.

  5. I'm not sure I agree with Ian. It depends- two single units take up twice the frontage- OK if you have sufficient room but in the end charge I was quite squeezed. Also casualties are taken from the rear unit so you get to fight for longer.
    At some stage I think I'd like to replay the Sarmatians v Romans again- Vespasian's Legio III Gallia sent to Moesia in 70 CE maybe, to see how it goes again. [and I could use my Sarmatian covered wagons I've just modelled]
    Ray- they did still have 4 foot double handed swords and spiked maces- but maybe better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
    Can I add I don't necessarily share Ian's reservations about these rules- eg. you can win a fight but still lose more men as King Pyrrhus famously realised. But I agree about the lists. Imperial Rome is in the same lists as Vikings and the First Crusade, whilst Republican Rome and the Punic Wars are in with ancient Greece- Spartans &c. I can see that adding the Saxons and Romano-British to end of Imperial Rome makes sense historically but surely putting Republican and Imperial Rome together makes more sense? Particularly since the Marian army reforms [ very roughly about 106 BCE- they were over an extended period ] and the armies of Caesar would technically come in the Republican section- that make no sense at all as these are much more Imperial in style.

  6. @ Barry, I'm not saying it's the best tactic but just that given the power of these guys four units v'rs having two they could do some serious damage, but you are right space was an issue though you still had some space left over.

    My main issue is the ammount of the swing, sure win the melee and loose more troops but lets say a medium cav has a VBU of 5 and is hit buy a unit with just a vbu of 2 which only gets a single hit against 3 hits against itself. It rolls a 1 and SAVES against the hiits whilst the Medium rolls a 6 and thus is slaughtered, just seems not right. At the most it should loose 2 VBU to maych the strength of the attacker. Just seems the game has far too much decided in single rolls and not in getting into the better position.

    I still like it though