Thursday night in Zemst , a quietly pleasant town in Flanders and by the way, it seems, the frontline of the strange universe that is Belgian politics. In contrast to the raging storms of linguistic politics, Bart and I are going to have a peaceful evening of slaughter and destruction. We hope. As Bart starts his campaign to civilise the barbaric tribes of ěl.
Faced with a small but dangerous army of warband, Bart deploys his vulnerable legionaries in deep formation. This means that if they lose a fight to the warband they will not be eliminated, but will 'only' suffer 75% casualties.
The Barbarians, the Riesling tribe led by fearful Chief Blutwurst (my made-up names are so funny), has deployed between the two woods on the German side of the table, with Heavy cavalry to guard the left flank (ha ha, see below) and light infantry in the middle to help outflank any Romans that come into attack. That was the plan.
What spoilt this ingenious plan was... complete incompetence. First, my flank guard, seeing itself outnumbered turned tail and retreated. A brilliant idea. Except that if the Romans moved first on turn two then they would be caught in the rear.
Guess what happened? Yes. Collapse of left flank and threat of Roman cavalry in the rear of the warband. Not nice. So, I abandoned my plan (all the books say this is a really 'bad thing') and decided the only chance of avoiding annihilation was to charge the warband at the legionaries.
Not a bad option. But again, stupidity intervened and I gave up the chance of attacking on my own terms. Without boring you all, basically the warband and legionaries clashed with Bart able to get three units hitting onto my one. Yeurch.
I did a little damage in the ensuing fight, with two of Bart's legionary units sustaining severe casualties. But his concentration of numbers meant that my warband were quickly worn down. After the first round of combat, warband lose their charge bones and thereafter just inflict one casualty per turn if they win. Now, they are fighting on a factor of 5 against the Roman factor of 7, so you can see that unless they win their first fight they are in big trouble.
Tha battle was quickly over. Brenda, aka Mrs Bart, intervened at one stage to shake her head despairingly at the sight of her husband and a strange Englishmen playing with soldiers. But to be fair, she was suitably understanding of the unfairness of the battle, given the appalling imbalance of forces between Roman and Barbarian. She is a science teacher.
A sip of guinness later and the game was over. My warband were in full flight.
Only a few desperate survivors remained...
Verdict - Bart is actually rather good at Armati. It's a game system that rewards a solid deployment and a good co-ordinated attack. Unlike other systems, dbm for example, it is very unforgiving. A minor mistake like my cavalry on the left flank has devastating consequences. why? Because winning depends on defeating a number of your opponents key units. You can slaughter light troops to your heart's content, but to win the game you need to kill his key units. Conversely, if you lose one or two then you are in trouble.
I strongly recommend the system. I obstinately continue to like dbm, even though it is unfashionable here in the group, but I do accept that Armati games give an excellent feel of an ancient wargame.