Sunday, 5 May 2019

Mortem et Gloriam - Game 32 - 2019/05/05


In the fourth and final round of the Mortem et Gloriam tournament, Ascending Valhalla, I played against the army of Ghaznavid  commanded by Carl.

I played against Carl at CanCon so it was good to have a re-match so quickly! Back then he played with the army based on Khurasanian Dynasties. Ghaznavid army seems to me to follow the theme of less known factions in the history and once again I found myself trying to learn about them after the game.

Carl's army was a bit smaller than mine, with 9 TuG's only but as it had no SuG's it had higher break point. All cavalry was equipped with Bows and that in itself was a very interesting option. Here is the army list with all the details:

Ghaznavid - Army List

On one hand, this army has a great flexibility with its cavalry. Both, Ghilman and Horse Archers can switch between loose and skirmishing formation, that may provide extremely useful for maneuvering. Being equipped with bows also means that these units can put a good distance between them and the enemy and still be able to shoot.

On the other, the flexibility of these units comes at a price and they did not come cheap. What is more, even though Ghilman are Superior, they do not really have any other advantage that is being taken into account for close combat.

Spearmen seemed to me to be a defensive formation, especially with Shieldwall and could hold on their own for some time. It was clear though that they would also need help as they are not able to inflict much damage on their own. 

Hence the armored Elephants, probably the only unit in the army dedicated to melee. Quite expensive too. 

My initial understanding of how that army may work is that it needs time to inflict some damage with shooting, to split enemy forces with hit and run tactics and perhaps use initial skirmishing formations to move around the flanks of the opposing force. It needs coordinated attacks to quickly eliminate the enemy units and cannot afford the war of attricion.

Here is my army list for reference:

Early Seleucids - Army List


Pre-battle phase resulted in a battle field with a secured flank marked by mountains. Other terrain pieces landed on the opposite side of the battle field and once again, the middle was flat and empty.

The scouting phase did not provide any further advantage to either side. I was the invading player in this game.


Early Seleucids vs Ghanzavids

Deployment of the Armies

With the disadvantage in terms of numbers of cavalry units, I decided to play refused flank. Simply to make sure one side of the battle line is going to be relatively protected. 

At the same time I knew that the enemy cavalry may easily avoid my infantry. In order to counter that I deployed half of the phalanx in the middle where they would be able to engage the Spearmen. In addition I deployed Charging Lancers in between the phalanx so that they would be able to to threaten any enemy mounted archers.

My own light cavalry was deployed on the right and was tasked with usual delaying duties. 

Seleucids - Turn 1

Turn 1 - Sequence of Actions

Phalangites advance

Seleucids army advanced at a double towards their enemies. On the contrary, Ghaznavid army or at least its infantry contingent, remained where it stood, waiting for the foe to come to them. Only bow armed cavalry approached enemy units, getting into effective range for the shooting.

Closing the distance.

Ghaznavids - Turn 2

Turn 2 - Sequence of Actions.

Horse Archers paid ultimate price for their mistake.

Seleucid Horse Archers were the first casualties in the battle. They paid the ultimate price as they got too close to the enemy and, ironically, were defeated with their own tactics.

The success on the flank encouraged Ghaznavids to converge upon the Tarentine Cavalry. However this time Seleucids send reinforcements in the form of Companion Cavalry.

The battle enters the dynamic maneuvers phase early.

Seleucids - Turn 3

Turn 3 - Sequence of Actions.

Cavalry Charges

Seleucids put enemy light cavalry under the pressure and started attacking it with Charging Lancers. One Unit started chasing the enemy behind the main battle line, while the other hit the Spearmen. However, in a well coordinated attack, the same enemy was also engaged by the Phalangites.

Also Companions chased away one unit of bow armed cavalry. This allowed Terntine Cavalry to focus on slowing down only one group of Ghilman horsemen. Fortunately for Seleucids, the opening on the flank was not exploited by the enemy in time and for now they sealed the gap.

First engagements.

Ghanzavids - Turn 4

Turn 4 - Sequence of Actions

The chase ended up badly for the Ghaznavid Horse Archers.

The battle started evolving into more individual duels. One of the units of Ghaznavid Horse Archers attempted to chase away Cretans but in doing so run right into the Phalangites.

Combined effort of Line Cavalry and another battalion of Phalangites resulted in breaking the first unit of Spearmen. 

As Argyraspides managed to gain some control over the flank, the Companions changed the direction and got ready to charge enemy infantry.

Ghaznavid flank was breached.

Seleucids - Turn 5

Turn 5 - Sequence of Actions

Seleucids vs Ghanzavid infantry

Seleucids noted another success when the enemy Horse Archers failed to disengage in time and were broken by the Phalangites. Other two units were also in a fight.

Using the opportunity, second squadron of Line Cavalry turned to assist in the fight in the center. And it was very much needed so that Argyraspides would be able to brace for impact against charging Elephpants soon.

In the meantime though, it was Ghanzavid infantry that was under the pressure.

Who is going to hold?

Ghaznavids - Turn 6

Turn 6 - Sequence of Actions.

Mutual flank charges

In the mutual flank charging attack, both armies committed more units to the same fight. But while elite Argyraspides managed to hold against the charge of the Elephants, Ghaznavid Spearmen suffered too many casualties and broke. Nearby unit of their companions also have had enough and Ghaznavid infantry contingent disintegrated.

Ghaznavids are close to the breaking point.

Seleucids - Turn 7

Turn 7 - Sequence of Actions

Race towards the enemy camp

Ghaznavids made final attempts to shift the balance into their favor. One group of Ghilman cavalry raced towards the Seleucids camp, hoping that sacking it would dishearten the enemy. 

Another charged the Companion Cavalry from the rear but the Seleucid elite horsemen refused to break. 

When Ghaznavids lost one more Horse Archers unit the army was broken and the survivors withdrew from the battle field.

Final positions of the armies.


Turn-by-turn animation summary


Many thanks to Carl for a great game! I must admit I was really worried when I left that right flank opened after moving Horse Archers too far. Not only I lost the unit but the fast Ghilman cavalry and Elephants could have exploit that breach.

Fortunately Argyraspides were there to help and Companions chased away one unit of enemy cavalry to slow enemy advance and plug the gap.

I am glad the attack through the middle worked as Phalangites had an advantage over Spearmen. Also, it seemed to me that two-rank formation was too shallow as any base loss removed Shieldwall effect too. 

At the same time I wonder what was Carl's plan with the Horse Archers as they ended up fighting Pikemen. And that didn't end well neither for them, nor for the army. The final result of the battle was 15:3 in favor of Seleucids.

Tournament - Impressions

I would like to thank  Andrew and the crew of Hall of Heroes for organizing the event! It was great to be able to travel and play against some new players but also to catch up with the ones I have met before.

The venue was well prepared and I am further motivated to keep working on my terrain to make the battle fields look even better. I had fantastic opportunity to play against varied armies, even those that could have been quite similar, Alexandrian Macedonians and Asiatic Successors, were significantly different.

Second day was a bit crowded because we had another tournament organized in parallel. I am aware it may not always be possible but I think it would be better to avoid such situations. With people coming to the shop to buy things in addition to all the participants, it was quite difficult sometimes.

Other than that I really enjoyed my games and I hope I will be able to attend tournaments in the near future again. Final standings:

1. Martin - The 5 Hegemons
2. Dean - Scottish in France
3. Aleks - Serbian Empire
4. Alan - Ancient British
5. Phil - Alexandrian Macedonian
6. Paul - Early Imperial Roman
7. Mitchell - Palmyran
8. Craig - Free Company
9. Pawel - Early Seleucid
10. Geoff - Asiatic Successor
11. Leigh- Early Imperial Roman
12. Trevor - Spartan
13. Carl - Ghaznavid
14. Tony - Early Imperial Roman
NR.Andrew - Picts

I ended up with three draws and one victory out of four battles. I find it quite interesting because of two reasons, first - it is good not to lose the battle :) But I need to do something to start winning sometimes too!

As noted many times, it seems that I simply do not play enough turns to get the resolution. I noticed I need 7-8 turns to do so. If the game lasts for 3.5 hours, assuming around 30 min for setting up terrain and deployment, that leaves around 20 minutes per turn. Well, I am sure I am not there yet. However, as playing games alone has not resulted in significant improvements, I need to do something more to achieve my goal.

What would be your advise? I am looking forward to hearing from you as I do need some help! :)

Many thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this battle report and the whole series from this tournament!


  1. Hello I'm yet to play my first game, so explicitly as an outsider with experience in other games I might humbly suggest:

    i) Asking this question of your competitors on the day- if everybody's feeling the pinch, something has to change. Reduce points to 7k, or will this diminish the fun?
    ii) Are your opponents dawdling? Some systems employ turn clocks with severe penalties for using too much time. Could this help?
    iii) Pre-game terrain seems to be taking a lot of time. Is there any way that lists could be submitted and this terrain sequence played ahead of the event? Ie- players rock up committed to lists and with an idea of terrain. You might even consider play-by-mail or online client to work out your deployment before the event. Obviously tournament / Swiss pairings might have to be re-jigged to accommodate this approach.
    iv) Are you using movement trays for your units? Is there anything physically slowing you down as you play? Could templates be employed for more difficult movement sequences?

    Anyhow random thoughts from an outsider- hopefully not too silly. Thanks again for these reports- have me quite hooked on the game :)

    1. Hi David!

      Many thanks for your fantastic feedback! I greatly appreciate it! I will do my best to comment on your suggestions and how to implement these whenever possible.
      i) I am afraid it is really me who is slower than majority of players. Despite the fact I play with quite a compact army that should have rather straightforward approach.
      Yes, we played at 7,000 points too. What I noticed, however, is that the army is not necessarily that much smaller. And with lower amount of cards available I was still thinking long and hard how to use them.
      I also think that 10,000 points or more allows for more interesting games due to a bit higher break point. As a result, one can still put up a decent fight and even win in the end, despite initial losses.
      ii) Again, I am most likely to blame.
      Mortem et Gloriam is a dynamic system, where actions in the frame of a single turn are performed alternately. It is harder for me to predict if players would need the same amount of time, as it all depends a lot on the army and cards.
      iii) Pre-battle is an integrated part of the system. Yes, it was suggested to try but consensus was that it is what makes the game different from others as well.
      My attempt to speed up this process was to prepare certain amount of terrain I would bring to every game. Then depending on how many pieces are allowed, I would have them ready with pre-defined type before the battle (more often just rough going type).
      The part that still takes time is deciding upon deployment where I need to consider both the opponents army and terrain set up.
      One element I tried to suggest was exchanging army lists. Sometimes the opponents keep their armies "in the box" and I found it difficult to form the plan. However, it also adds to that part of the game where scouting matters and if you force the opponent to deploy more troops first, you can have a better overview of the possibilities.
      iv) I am happy to tell you that I got myself a set of movement trays and that is huge improvement! Movement templates may indeed be considered too, I think.
      What I did observe about the way I move is that due to constant changes as a result of alternate movement of individual units or even blocks of units, I tend to re-calculate the options over and over again.
      Because of that, I approach the game with very little in terms of plan and try to come up with one during pre-battle stage. This is not easy because I am trying to consider all the factors, the terrain, the army of the opponent (often not yet knowing its composition), how to protect the flanks of a more compact force and how to compensate what I may already spot as dangers. I also need to take into account not only what I want to move and where but also when
      I think that in order to speed it all up I need to come up with a bit of a different plan. Basically, I need to start thinking in terms of groups of units under each commander and what I want to do with them. Next would be to come up with a simple plan and try to stick to it instead of reacting to every move.
      That is why I would like to stick to the army I have, with minor shifts here and there, mainly to accommodate more cards by upgrading an army commander to talented one for example.
      I noticed that in my games there are up to 20 actions per turn. Which means I should allocate 1 minute per action on average. I am sure with regular games it should speed up but as I mentioned before, I need something more to make it happen.
      I think coming up with the plan for blocks of units and plans for them should help here the most.
      Well, I think that was almost like a post itself! I simply consider it as a open discussion at the moment, kind of brainstorming the ideas where everything is possible.
      I hope we can continue the discussion further and I am very happy to know that my reports are entertaining. And that you are interested in the system! I think it is really worth trying!
      Thanks a lot!

  2. I've never really played an alternating wargame system. I come from Warmachine, KoW, 40k and a myriad of board games and card games replicating the 'grand turn' mechanic. My guess is that the impulse to play reactively while playing in the MeG fashion must be difficult to overcome. Wargames are emotive undertakings, and it can be difficult to avoid getting lost in the noise of minor impulses. I really like Simon Hall's attempts at realistic battle design (staging, positioning, forcing the battle et al.), and I'm guessing that this niggling chaos is a happy accident: He seems to have replicated the madness of commanding an army in battle.

    It's hard to commit to a vision. It's difficult to know when to give up on a plan. You're stuck in a crumbling framework trying to work out whether to commit more units or switch tact. It's good stuff and, to my mind, it's testing on players (in a good way, of course).

    I'm going to put my (utterly unearned) 10c on this bet: Outstanding deployment and commitment to a plan must have determined the outcome of the majority of engagements. There was too much chaos innate to the horror of ancient warfare and to my mind this seems to have been the most pragmatic decision point. If you commit to a grand vision at the outset- and then stick to it regardless of the apparent cost- you'll be engaging in relatively clean, efficient, and decisive play. Ask lots of questions about your opponent's army, then maybe try a quick sketch at the outset in addition to deep thinking and try to make it happen. If you're not throwing decisions at every turn it'll hopefully lend you crisp and decisive play, and get you to the same outcome without the self-doubt and recrimination.

    Ok now I'm blowing smoke and theorising over a game system that I'm very much looking forward to playing. Well and truly out of my depth ;-)

    In earnest I can't thank you enough for the effort you've put into these posts, Swordmaster. Great writing, production and insights that I've enjoyed immensely. I've got my first batch of Visigoths in the post and I look forward to squaring off one day, if only to get a chance to thank you for the effort in person and maybe appear within these reports as 'poor player that got tabled but still managed to have a fantastic time talking shop' :)

    1. Hi David,

      Coming from similar games such as Kings of War into Mortem et Gloriam I definitely agree. I have not realized how that dynamics difference changes the way you perceive the situation on the table. Even when you use chess clocks (which I really like as it allows for better planning, especially of events), the pressure is different. I would not say it is easier to play when you have games with "I go - you go" approach. Just different but to a higher degree that I anticipated.

      However, that makes it all even more interesting and intriguing. I think you are spot on with the comment on the way such dynamics captures the chaos of the battle.

      It seems to me that deciding on unit blocks prior to the game, having a good plan as to which commander is assigned to which and then a general idea what enemy to fight with each one of them should result in a better organized play on my part. Not too detailed, because that will always be affected by the quickly changing circumstances. But structured enough to execute it.

      I am really happy to hear that you are enjoying the reports and that the way I present them is good. Yes, it takes time to prepare it but I like doing it and it motivates me to keep searching for even better solutions when I know I am going to the right direction. Thus I greatly appreciate your feedback!

      It would be fantastic to meet you in person on the other side of the table! I am sure we would have a great time and then we would be able to discuss the battle after the report! That is, in fact, the part I always hope for. To talk about the game with my opponent and learn from each other.

      I am looking forward to the opportunity whenever it may arise!