This was set up as what you might call a ‘closed box’ game. In other words, until the terrain pieces were chosen and laid out by usually a non-playing volunteer, or more likely a ‘pressed man’, none of the players, with the obvious exception of myself know which two armies are going to be engaged. This is particularly important when very mobile armies such as the Mongols, who favour open, forest free flat terrain are pitted against an army such as the Hungarian army composed of 60% infantry, most of which are non-missile troops. The Hungarians needed plenty of forest cover, hills and escarpments to help neutralise the effect of the compound bows and excellent mobility of the Mongols.
The terrain turned out to be pretty open, with a couple of small woodland areas to the right and a scattering of hills and escarpments scattered across a sea of open grassland – this was definitely Mongol territory!
The Mongol army had 18 units, 4 heavy cavalry, 14 light cavalry and 3 generals. For the same points value the Hungarian army had 22 units and 4 generals. There were 4 units of Hungarian heavy cavalry, 3 units of mounted crossbow, bow and crossbow infantry, spearmen and 6 units of militia infantry. Three crossbow units were equipped with pavisses which were to prove very useful.
Tony and Steve chose the Mongols and Dave and I had the Hungarians, which, after winning the di roll for first move we deployed across two thirds of our table edge between a 7 hex escarpment and the two areas of woodland. In this open battlefield this deployment offered the best defensive position – the ‘C’ class militia could take cover in the woods and the bow and crossbow armed infantry form and extended shooting line with the Hungarian heavy cavalry behind in support.
The Mongol first tactical move brought them to just beyond our missile range, and their second move brought 4 light cavalry units into bow range of a single unit of Hungarian crossbow on top of the 7 hex escarpment. And despite the Mongols best efforts these hardy crossbowmen sheltering behind their pavisses resisted all attempts to shoot them away for nearly the entire game. This secured the left of our line and on our far right the militia in the woods provided another bastion.
After much tactical manoeuvring, the Mongols had little option but to try a frontal assault on our central defensive line. Repeated rounds of shooting from both sides caused the loss of a few stands on either side, but when the Mongols committed some units of light cavalry into hand-to-hand combat in an attempt to draw the Hungarian infantry forward things really started to spin!
A Mongol heavy cavalry unit attacked the Hungarian line and was stopped and locked in combat with a unit of Hungarian knights. Mongol light cavalry units were caught in hand-to-hand combat with Hungarian infantry. The Hungarian line was pushed back to within 3 hexes of the table edge, but this attack was proving just as costly to the Mongol lights as to the Hungarians. The 3 so far uncommitted Hungarian heavy cavalry units lurked behind their embattled infantry ready to charge into any gap. Mongol light units were drawn away from the militia to support the attack in the centre. The Hungarian militia left the cover of the woods, formed column in an attempt to follow their much faster opponents only to be showered with arrows from evading Mongols.
After a rather successful Hungarian round of hand-to-hand combat I took stock of the current situation and did some maths! The Mongols had lost 5 units of light cavalry and we had lost 6 infantry units, mostly archers, crossbow and one unit of militia. Our Hungarian knights were still waiting to confront the Mongol heavy cavalry which would be a pretty even fight. The Mongols had lost far more army points than us but had squeezed us into a tight but strong defensive position. At this point it was very possible for the Hungarian army to win this game if the current level of attrition could be maintained.
The next Mongol tactical move saw Tony try to rescue a trapped general and his unit of light cavalry that had been stopped by our intrepid unit of crossbows on top of the 7 hex escarpment, by sending two more light units to his aid and in doing so confront an Hungarian general and his unit of mounted crossbow. This was indeed the pivotal moment of the battle. If the Mongols lost this general and his unit plus at least one of the other two units send to his aid, half their light cavalry would have been lost and they would be reduced to just 2 generals against the Hungarians 4. Tony, needed a score of 8 or more on 3 out of 4 on the D12 shooting dice to force a recoil on the mounted crossbows and their general. This he achieved! This resulted in the loss of the general and his unit as they were trapped against their table edge and had nowhere to recoil to, plus the crossbows on top of the escarpment were also finally defeated.
The next round of hand-to-hand combat also went very badly for the Hungarians now squeezed back against their table edge, many units and generals disrupted. The fights had been generally even in points, but the dice rolls in this critical round went heavily in favour of the Mongols. In just two rounds of shooting and hand-to-hand combat, Dave and my Hungarians had gone from gaining the upper-hand against the elusive Mongols to decisive defeat.
For Hungarians to defeat a Mongol army in such open terrain was always going to be challenging, but this scenario did produce a very entertaining game for other club members watching as well as the players. The Hungarian defensive line between the escarpment and the woods worked well, but it was perhaps two hexes to far back towards the table edge. This squeezed the ability of the Hungarians to respond to the quickly changing direction of the Mongol attacks. This said, this did turn out to be a pretty even contest until the last couple of very decisive game turns in which the dice did play to the invaders from the east!