By Konstantine Trtiambelas
Comnenan Byzantine (#133)
6x3Cav, 2x3Kn, 4x2LH, 2x4Sp, 4x4Bd, 2x2Aux, 4x4Ps
Early Hungarian (#119)
4x3Kn, 4x3Cav, 8x2LH, 4x4Sp, 4x4Ps
I used Big Battle DBA variant rules as they appear on the DBA Resource Page. Namely:
Scouting for deployment (the Hungarians deploy second since they have more light troops in their army)
Simulated fatigue by adding a -1 after the second round of hand-to-hand combat to all except LH and Ps.
The battle doesn't end automatically but the defeated army has to conduct an orderly withdraw from the battlefield and is liable to further casualties (as is the winner).
Byzantines ........................................... . Rd Camp WdWdWd . . Rd WdWdWd . . Rd WdWdWd . . Rd WdWd . . Rd . . Rd . . Rd . . RvRvRv . . Rd Rv Lk Lk . . Rd RvLk Lk . . Rd Camp . . ......................................... Hungarians Map Key Rd=road Rv=river Lk=lake(impassable) Wd=woods(bad going)
There is also a bridge where the road meets the river.
The highly mobile Hungarians have picked a field that suits their LH style of fighting and drawn the Byzantine army to them.
The battle begins with the first lines of the two armies meeting half-way on the board, both clear from the woods in which the Byzantine Aux and Ps are awaiting orders. The Hungarians have deployed their LH in one command in the front with another command comprising of the Cav and Kn behind them; yet a third command of all the infantry is blocking the way over the bridge and across the river.
The Byzantine front line consists of half the Cav and all the LH, with the Kn and the rest of the Cav in the back directly in front of the camp. The Varangians of the Guard with the Sp will try to force their way all the way across road, bridge, and river to the Hungarian camp.
As the two lines clash, the superiority of the Hungarian LH becomes obvious. Before the third round is completed, three Byzantine elements have been eliminated without a single casualty for the Hungarians. The Bd reach their opponents at the bridge quickly (they move by road) but by now the -1 for fatigue applies to them, thanks to Ps action who dash ahead on the bridge and engage them; eventually they are forced to flee through the Sp behind them but only after they accomplished their mission, that of weakening the leading Bd element. The +5 of the reinforced Sp proves too much, indeed, and the weary Bd are destroyed.
Dismissing thoughts of withdrawal from the field while he still can, the Byzantine commander moves to immediate action. The Norman knights dash forward to fill the gap in the weavering line while he, in charge of the rest of the Franks, moves to the outmost left by the woods. The Aux move forward too and are actually able to surround and destroy the LH at the extreme right of the Hungarian line, threatening the LH sub-commander who seems to be next (he actually survives and pushes them back).
Things were looking up now; the addition of fresh Cav and Kn help the Greeks push the entire enemy line back and inflict the first Hungarian casualties. Bad rolls and overlaps contribute to the decimation of the previously triumphant LH. Before long, only three elements are left standing. At the bridge the Bd are static but the Sp cross the river successfully between the lake and the bridge, deploy, and push back the enemy. The game is now tied; there is a lull, as both wounded armies pause for a moment.
Perhaps if the Byzantines had yet a third line of troops, they would carry the day. At this point, the infantry battle on the right is unfolding slowly with no chance of reaching the enemy camp before the battle is decided in the center by the cavalry. Moreover, the Byzantines have already used their reserves to meet the onslaught of the enemy LH while the Hungarian Kn and Cav are just now coming up to meet them, allowing the remaining LH to recoil through their line to the back. The charge of the Hungarian steel wipes out on contact another three weary Cav elements bringing up the total loss to eight, and thus a Hungarian victory is achieved.
Now the Byzantines have to retreat; the Kn are the only ones to win the encounter with the Hungarian Kn/Cav and have pushed their opponents deep in the Hungarian rear; now they face the task of retreating and are faced with the prospect of annihilation. On the Byzantine right, the Bd quickly leave the field still formed in a column on the road, but the Sp face certain disaster as they have to recross the river in the face of their enemy. The entire Byzantine force can now be wiped out but the generosity of the Hungarian C-in-C, or perhaps his respect for his fellow Western knights in Byzantine hire will allow them-and a beleaguered Byzantine Emperor-to retreat to safety with the loss of only one more element in the pursuit. This is how the battle ends.
The Byzantines lost nine elements compared to five on the Hungarian side. No C-in-C, sub-generals, or camps were taken/killed.
The Byzantine general will have to do some thinking before he goes out to meet the enemy again. The Byzantine army is so heterogeneous that only a combined Cavalry/infantry action will quarantee victory. By placing the infantry so far away, he stripped the Cav of much needed support against a faster, harder opponent. I keep making that same mistake with the Komnenans and always pay the price; if this was the first battle of a campaign, I doubt that the Byzantines would be able to do much for the rest of the year, having lost more than a third of the army and all of the Cav in a single battle.
Also, when the reserve line was called up to fill the gaps, it all happened haphazardly. The two elements of Kn ended up apart from each other; the battle line was not only tired but all mixed up, something like [Kn-Cav-Cav-Cav-Kn-LH-LH-Cav-,av]. How can you win a battle like that? I think the Byzantine general should be flogged, to say the least.
I like the variant about pursuing after the battle has concluded. It adds even more realism and increases the tactical considerations because now you should deploy by always keeping in mind that you might have to get your guys out of there in a hurry, i.e. think twice before you cross rivers.
The -1 close combat modifier for fatigue is a catalyst that puts LH/Ps on the supremacy. In the above battle, it was clearly the Hungarian LH who won it by tiring out their opponents so the Kn/Cav could deliver the coup de grace. I don't even want to think what's gonna happen in a situation of Byzantines (yes, I kinda like them, I play them a lot) vs. Pechenegs (9 LH, 1Cav, 2Ps) or Seljuk Turks (7LH, 4Cav, 1Ps). Perhaps using a 1d4 after the second or third round will play better; I will test it next time.
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Last Updated: June 5, 1998
Thanks to Konstantine Trtiambelas for providing this scenario and battle report. Questions, comments, and feedback are welcome. Sent them to the attention of Chris Brantley at IamFanaticus@gmail.com.