After two card plays each, an opportunity to launch a potentially game-winning attack presented itself. The situation is outlined more fully in this post: http://prufrockian-gleanings.blogspot.com/2010/03/commands-colors-ancients-puzzle.html
It was such an interesting and delicately balanced position that I thought other players might like to discuss what they would have done in this situation. Thankfully, some did! These ideas and the rationale behind them can be found in the comments section of the above link.
Here is the board again. I was the Othonians, holding the following cards: Double time, Order two units left, Order two units centre, Coordinated attack and Inspired center leadership + 4.
The suggestions took two broad turns: one was an attack on the Vitellian centre using the Double time card. If the dice were favourable, the attack should see the enemy medium infantry and heavy infantry units destroyed, and there would also be a 1 in 6 chance of killing the leader if the HI were indeed wiped out. The Othonian HI with the leader would possibly be able to momentum advance and hit the light bow infantry or the medium cavalry, forcing them to evade, while another unit would have been able to force the light infantry straddling the center/left line to evade back to the baseline. Next turn the Othonians would be able to use the centre leadership or order two centre to continue the attack, hopefully being able to push the light infantry, the light bow infantry and medium cavalry onto the baseline and destroy them, thereby gaining the five banners.
The other tack was to attack the enemy left - again with the double time card - focusing the attack on Vitellius and his heavy infantry in the first turn. Subsequent turns would see the Center leadership card and whatever else turned up to push through with the attack and get stuck into the auxiliary infantry.
Bigredbat also suggested going a bob each way, using double time to attack both Vitellius an the enemy left and the HI and the MI in the enemy centre.
All of these plans had something to commend them. The trick, of course, was to find which one was best!
The original plan had been to attack the centre with the double time card, but the preceding turn had seen the centre reinforced from the right (the second HI with leader and the MC). Even if we managed to wipe out the MI and the HI, we would most likely have to contend with a flank attack led by HI with a leader. There was also a medium cavalry there - probably now with a leader, if the HI were destroyed and the leader was forced to retreat - and with my opponent needing only one kill to win the match overall my the chances were not good that I'd get out of it.
In the end, I decided to attack the enemy left for reasons outlined well by Bigredbat - namely, that when the counter-attack comes, it's better if it's conducted by auxiliaries than heavy infantry! (see screenshot below)
Using the double time, the Praetorians and the medium infantry moved into contact with Vitellius. The Praetorians are able to hit on helmets due to their special unit status and can ignore one additional flag result. The medium infantry, by virtue of being adjacent to Titianus, will also score hits on helmets. This gives a total of 9 dice on Vitellius and his HI, with each dice a 50% chance of scoring a hit. Assuming the unit was destroyed, Vitellius would have to survive a leader check and then retreat away from the front line, meaning that my opponent would need to waste a command to get him back where he was needed to retaliate next turn.
We led off with the medium infantry against Vitellius. The result was three hits, causing a leader check. What do you know but Vitellius failed it (1 in 36 chance) and died! We experienced a great leap of confidence at this point. The heavy infantry battled back with 5 dice, but were now hitting only 2 in 6. Odds were he would kill only 1 or 2 blocks, and so it proved. The Praetorians took over the attack, scoring the single hit needed to eliminate the HI. Two banners to the good, and only one block down. It was a good start, but much depended on the Vitellian response. A strong move from the centre would force me to adjust my plans.
Fortunately, the Vittelian response was to play order three left, advance the auxiliary and heavy infantry into contact with the Praetorians, and go for gold. Unfortunately, with the leader dead, the dice were hitting only 2 out of 6 times. Although there were eight attacking dice to roll, the odds were that they would only score two or three hits, and would still have to endure the battlebacks of the Praetorians.
As it turned out, the attacks were disastrous: plenty of leader symbols rolled, but no leader to make them effective. Neither the auxiliary nor the heavy infantry scored any reds or swords on the dice, and the Praetorians scored three hits each time on battleback. They also forced the heavy infantry to retreat twice, which took them safely out of close combat range.
Here is the board following the Vitellian card play:
We now used Inspired centre leadership to activate Titianus and five other connected units, allowing us to contact the light infantry and the auxiliaries (see position after movement but prior to attacks):
This gave us the opportunity to play Coordinated attack. Trusting to luck, we used the warrior infantry to move 2 and attack the light infantry. Titianus used his 'Julian legion' ability to move the HI two hexes and give the warriors the advantage of a supporting leader, thereby upping their odds of scoring hits from 2 in 6 to 3 in 6. Also swinging things in the Othonians' favour was the fact that the light infantry were on the baseline. Any flag rolled against them (1 in 6 odds) would kill 2 blocks. Nevertheless, a failed attack here would give the Vitellians a chance to counterattack from the centre against the warriors, giving them a decent stab at picking up the kill they needed to win the game. Here was the position before the dice rolls:
And the roll? It came up hit, hit, miss, banner, giving a total of 4 hits - enough to eliminate the light infantry and score the winning kill.
It was a ridiculous turnaround and yet another example that one should never allowing oneself to admit defeat or claim victory in Commands & Colors until the last die has been rolled. I felt very sorry for my opponent. He took the vagaries of the dice with good grace.
For the commentators, BigredBat figured out my plan - and the reasoning behind it -pretty much exactly. Of course, the dice had to go the Othonian way, but there was a chance, and thanks to favourable dice and the Vitellian inability or unwillingness to move in the centre, we were able to take it.
I'll keep an eye out for similar conundrums, and if there is interest will post more teasers in future. However, in an effort to curb what could be perceived as unsporting triumphalism, I shall endeavour to present situations that do not go my way, as well!
A very big thank you to all who took the time to read through the situation, and an especially big thank you to those who posted comments both here and on TMP. It's much appreciated!
The scenario was 1st Bedriacum from the 4th (Imperial Rome) Expansion. The game was played in real time using Bill Bennett's wonderful VASSAL module, which can be found on this site: http://www.vassalengine.org/community/index.php and the tournament was conducted under the auspices of the VASSAL C&CA yahoo group, which can be found here: http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/ccavassal/