Saturday, 30 April 2011

Favourite Units of Mine No. 7

To Joe Public, the 15mm scale model above by Essex Miniatures will look like an Elephant with some guys on top it.

To an Ancients Wargames General, however, what he will see is an instrument of terror, several tons of crushing power, the scourge of mounted troops, a harbinger of chaos and doom and that's just when the General is thinking about the effect the Elephants will have on  his own Army!!

There is no doubt, the Elephant is one of the more colourful troop types available to the Ancients Wargames General. The Ancient Worlds' version of the tank, the Ele can be devastating to formed bodies of Heavy Troops, particularly cavalry, who will normally be under some kind of penalty for being in close proximity to the beasts. In Warhammer Ancient Battles 2nd Edition, an Ele will cause fear in infantry and terror to cavalry - and that's to the troops on both sides! And if an Ele takes wounds from a shooting attack, then if it is not slain, it takes a stampede test and if that test is failed then the Ele will stampede moving 2D6" in a direction determined by a scatter dice. If an Ele loses a combat it automatically stampedes. And of course, if it runs into an another unit, friend or foe, it will attack that unit.

In Hail Caesar, the Ele has a similar, although perhaps less dramatic effect. In combat, any Cavalry charging an Ele will lose it's charge bonus and will risk disorder on a roll of 1,2 or 3 ( which then gives that unit a -1 in it's combat round). An enemy unit that loses a combat to an Ele may be forced to re-roll one of it's dice when taking it's break test. And if the Ele gives ground in a combat, on a roll of a 1, it will stampede 3D6" away forcing any unit that it bursts though to take a break test.

No doubt other rule sets will treat Eles in a similar way but it is with good old WRG 6th Edition now re-printed by John Curry and The History of Wargaming Project that I had my greatest ever wargaming disaster.

At Dundee University Wargames and Role Playing Society back in 1983, I had arranged to meet my mate, Chris, for a game of Ancients at the club. Chris had been busily painting his new Aztec army which he had purchased from Tin Soldier UK. As my Byzantines were nowhere near ready, I agreed to use Chris's Carthaginian Army. I had played with the Carthaginians before, with various degrees of success, so felt I could handle them, so much so that in addition to the 4 "Irregular C" Class Elephants that could be fielded I also decided to field 4 "Irregular D" Eles, but didn't bother upgrading them to Irregular C. Irregular D class troops were the real time bombs in any army, regardless of what the troops actually were. It was a very fine line between the unit going impetuous or turning tail and heading for home.

So I duly arrived at the club room, Chris was already there.

"Did you bring terrain?" asks he.
"No" said I. "Was I supposed to?"
"Well I've brought all the figures, I didn't have enough hands to carry anything else!" he responds.
"So what are we going to do??" I asked.

Much scratching of heads.

"Okay" says he. "We can use some books for hills and we can tear up scraps of paper and use them for woods, rough ground and the like."
"Okay", says I.
So it wasn't going to be the most aesthetically pleasing table to fight over but needs must. So we deployed terrain as per the rules, a few hills here, a bit of rough ground there, and a wood right on my far right flank, just inside Chris' side of the table.

So with terrain deployed we took a step back and looked at the lie of the ground and then, and to this day I don't know why, I took off the bit of paper that represented the wood on my right flank. I guess I must have just been on automatic pilot and was "tiding up" the battlefield of rubbish before the game started. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it, okay?!

So we then drew our maps and wrote down our deployment and orders for the first turn. We started deploying our troops. By this time I had realised that although Eles in WRG 6th Ed can be devastating, there were no mounted troops in the Aztec army to cause panic on. And as most of the Aztec Army had Two Handed Weapons (2HCW), they were pretty effective weapons against Eles. Sooooo as the Eles were looking a bit vulnerable I stuck both units on my right flank, as near to the centre line as I could go, with the Irregular D's being on the extreme right, with the thought of trying to out flank the Aztecs and try and threaten their rear.

So troops deployed we were about to start the first turn.

"Hang on" says Chris.
"What?" says I.
"Where's the wood?"says he.
"What wood?" says I.
"The one that should be over there!", says he, pointing to the spot on my far right flank, just inside his centre line and right opposite where the Irregular D's were standing.
"Oh Bugger!" says I. "I thought that was just a scrap bit of paper! It's in the bin".
"Well it's not scrap, Garfield!" says he (Garfield was my nickname at the club, due to the belief,  and in my view, much mistaken belief, that I looked like the cartoon cat). "Go and get it out of the trash and put it back on the table!" (Chris was American hence the use of the word trash).
"But I've put my Eles right in front of where that wood is now sitting!" protests I. "I wouldn't have done that, if I had realised that there was a wood there!" (Elephants could not move into woods). "Can I move my Eles?"
"No!" says he.
"That's not fair!" I protest again. "Come on, let me shift them?"
"No!" he retorts. "We'd have to redo all the deployment again and we haven't got time. And it's your own stupid fault for removing the woods in the first place!"

I knew I wasn't going to win the argument, so with heavy heart I relented and we started the game.

The Eles were pretty stuck. They couldn't move directly forward because of the woods so, as there was a sizeable gap between the woods and the nearest unit of Aztecs I decided I would aim them for that gap and wheeling the Irregular D's to their left, started forward. The first turn's shooting saw me cause absolutely zero casualties and Chris scored a few, but not enough to force a unit to remove a model.

So the second turn started. Charge Declarations. I had none as the nearest Aztecs were still some distance away from me. Or so I thought.

"Ok", says he. "My unit of Otomi in the woods will charge the Eles" (Otomi were "Irregular A" Light Medium Infantry, as were the majority of the Aztecs, which meant they didn't suffer penalties for moving through woods and they carried 2HCW).
"WHAT???!!!", screeched I. "Where the hell did they come from???"
"They were at the back of the woods at the start of the game, moved through them on the first turn and now they are going to charge your Eles. And oh, I believe that it is also in the flank".

The grinning leer on Chris's face as he uttered these words has lived in my nightmares for a long, long time.

So he rolls his charge test. Irregular A troops, 3D6 to roll, needing 11 to charge, 12 to go impetuous, nae bother. The savages go impetuous and make the charge distance with about 5 paces to spare.

So I roll my reaction test. Again being Irregular troops, the Eles would roll 3D6 but being "D" Class, I needed at least a 9 to avoid being left shaken in the ensuing combat.

1, 1, 1.

Chris' howls of laughter around the room were only drowned out by my wails of anguish.

"Let's work out the result!" he chortles.
"Do we have to?" says I.
"Oh Yes! Let's see, you get +1 for advancing, but no other pluses, so that puts you on 4. You get -1 for me advancing, -2 for having enemy on your flank, and -3 for being mounted troops being charged by foot, so that's a total of -2. Break!!"

So the Irregular D's turned and fled. And in WRG 6th Ed, when a unit breaks, every friendly unit within 150 paces must then take a reaction test in response to that break, for which you then get a -2 to your test for each friendly unit within 150 paces that you see being broken. And you tested from your right flank to your left.

So which unit was next in line? The "Irregular C" Eles.

They broke.

There then followed the worst sequence of reaction test rolls I have ever made in my life. Like a row of dominoes toppling over, unit after unit failed their test, even the General's unit spectacularly failed it's test, with the end result that by the time I had taken the last test on the last unit on my far left flank, the entire army was routing towards my table edge.

I hadn't inflicted a single casualty and my army had routed off the field, on TURN 2!

Needless to say, I was not allowed to forget the game for many, many years.

I don't think I played with the Carthaginians again after that battle, such was my humiliation. Still it gave me plenty of incentive to get my Byzantines painted as quickly as possible.

So it's probably a misdescription to call the Ele a "favourite unit of mine", though it is certainly a memorable one, but for all the wrong reasons.

This Ele is not a Carthaginian Ele, but an Ele from the Alexandrian Imperial range by Essex Miniatures. I won't have Carthaginians in the house!!!


  1. LOL! I hope you've given him plenty of payback over the years?

  2. I'm still laughing and I've been there, only it was my first battle with my brand new Greenwood and Ball Greeks against Dave Court's converted Airfix Indians. My beautiful little painted army was gone at the start of turn three, it was either 2nd edition or my first game with 3rd edition. I can still see all those converted plastic archers standing on that hill!

  3. I tell you should be writing for a comedy programme....very your style :-D

  4. Many thanks guys.

    Certainly does not go down as one of my finest moments on the wargames table!