Monday, 17 October 2005

Essen 2005 Report

I visited Spiel 2005 in Essen last weekend. Spiel is probably the largest convention focusing on boardgames. I never went before, and because Alan got the wagon rolling, I decided to join this year. So on saturday at 7am, 5 of us got into our cars and departed for Essen.

The fair is pretty large, and the halls are filled with publishers and shops. One can play a lot of games at the various publishers booths, try out new games, etc. I have to say I didn't play games -- after so many years of attending conventions I don't have the patience anymore, so I spend my time walking around the booths and picking up as much merchandise as I can.

So what did I buy?
  • Conquest of the Empire: a huge boardgame from Eagle Games, focusing on the Roman Empire. Although I have been dissapointed with games from Eagle Games in the past, I decided to give this one a try. It looks very stunning and has a lot of components!
  • Descent (Fantasy Flight Games): a new dungeon-crawling boardgame. It has been eagerly awaited, and this was the first opportnuity to buy it in Europe. Our group got 3 copies total. Yes. we're crazy ;-)
  • Burning Drachens, the new expansion for the excellent WW1 dogfighting game Wings of War.
  • Some Axis and Allies miniatures boosters. I also saw another WW2 game, Panzer Squadron (, which looked pretty promising.
  • I also wanted to get the expansions for Memoir 44, but they were sold out.
Anyway, Essen is a day of fun. There's not that much to see if you're only interested in historical miniature wargaming (although most of the big SF/F miniature publishers are present), but for boardgames, it is the place to be!

Friday, 7 October 2005

When push comes to pike

Last week, Alan and myself played another game of Armati II. The initial intent was to continue with the [Bartholomeus Sinister Grassus campaign](, but in a spur of the moment decision, we (well, I) decided to break out two Macedonian armies and do a Successor battle. Alan opted to play 'that one eyed guy' (Antigonos) while I took 'that paranoid fellow' Lysimachos. The intent was to see what Armati would do with a pike shoving match.

We used, among others, the Macedonian figures I had bought from JP some years ago. These are very nicely painted figures, but they come with a definite _handle with care_ cautionary statement. To avoid the spaghetti pike syndrome, JP likes to replace the cast on pikes (and any other weapons, for that matter) with wire versions. _In se_, that is not a problem. The problem is that the wire has actual razor sharp points. Taking these figures from their storage boxes is best done the way hedgehogs scratch their backs -- _very carefully_. I swear I could hear JP chuckling in the background as I was unpacking the figures :).

We decided to use 30 bonus point armies (Armati armies consist of a certain number of core units, which you have to take, and a variable amount of individually costed bonus units). My Lysimachid army was the usual pike phalanx, supported by three cavalry units and some light stuff (skirmishers and Thracian peltasts):

UnitNumberCombat valuesDivision
White shield phalanx18[0]0H2
Asiatic phalanx16[1]1H2
Heavy cavalry24[0]0H3
Companion cavalry24[0]0H3
Thracian Peltasts24[1]2L1
Thracian Peltasts24[1]2L2
Bow armed skirmishers22[1]1L3
Sling armed skirmishers13[1]2L3
Javelin armed skirmishers22[1]1L4

In Armati, only _key units_ count towards the defeat of your army -- non key troops can be killed to ones heart's content, but to win the game, you have to destroy a certain number of key units. In general key units are the heavy units of an army, and these armies are no exception: for both Alan and myself, phalanxes and heavy cavalry are the key units. This virtually ensures that the game will be decided by a good old fashioned shoving of pike.

And that is more or less what happened. Alan set up with, from his left to right, a bunch of light troops (peltasts and skirmishers), a line of pike, an elephant, some more pikes and two heavy cavalry units. Behind the line was Antigonos himself with a unit of Companion heavy cavalry. My own setup mirrored his, except that I had no elephants, I had light troops on both flanks and my three cavalry units were together on the far right flank. I kept no reserves were kept behind the line (a mistake, in hindsight).

The game turned out to be a pike slug fest (with a side dish of elephant and general), while on the respective right flanks the cavalry broke through. I initiated contact in the center when I charged a pike unit with Lysimachos himself attached into the elephant who got some help from Antigonos himself. Over the next few moves, while the generals were hitting each other over the head with pike and tusk, the rest of the phalanxes got into contact with each other as well.

On my right flank, my cavalry swept through some light troops (ably helped by the rightmost of the pike units), subsequently disdainfully ignored some skirmishing light horse (a bit of a stretch, that, as said light horse managed to kill one of my cavalry by way of a sneaky flank attack), only to run up against Alan's reserve cavalry. Drat.

The Antigonid cavalry, on the other hand, also broke through on the other flank and I had no reserves to stop them (bad general!). My flight forward with the pike was partly to increase the distance Alan's cavalry had to travel to reach their rear, but the Antigonid cavalry did reach the rear of my pike line in the end.

Luckily, while I did lose one pike unit to the marauding Antigonid cavalry, I managed to kill four of Alan's key units before he did so to me (but only just, as the last die roll of the last turn decided which of us would win), so it was a Lysimachid victory after all!

Again, Armati proved itself to be a very good game that gives historical results (not that I would recognise a historical result in this period, of course) and was very tense and exciting till the end in this case.

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