Zhonghli Quan nodded and the battle began.
The Hundun Spirit let the Phoenis and Raven divisoons at the double time straight into the softly golden glowing ground that seemed blessed by the gods. Reaming there and keeping the opposing Daqin army out would hearten his own troops and slowly demoralize the enemy, Quan knew. Still, it was a transient advantage, because there was a similar blessed ground near the Daqin host that they'd undoubtedly seize as well. So in the end it would come down to hard fighting.
As Quan expected, the Daqin began their advance in the center, although he was disconcerted to see that the Daqin were leading with their archers, ratehr than the large-shielded infantry. He was even more disconnected when those archers let fly with a surprisingly devastating flurry of arrows that mowed down half of the Phoenix Division in seconds! This was unexpected, as the Daqin, known as Romans in their own tongue, were reputed to be indifferent archers. It was evident this was some outdated intelligence. It appeared that the Daqin planned to followup their success as a small body of mechanical construct infantry charged toward Phoenix Division.
This appeared to be a premature move, however, as the Hundun Spirit quickly noted the advance and fired, downing several of the constructs. The Phoenix Division regained its composure and dropped a few more and finally the crack Raven Division wheeled into firing position and finished off the constructs! First blood to the Han. Quan nodded again and the Dragon of Wrath began its advance on the right.
The Daqin archers continued to fire on Phoenix, although less accurately now, possibky due to fatigue and now some of the large-shielded infantry advanced as well, with some occupying the blessed ground on the left and others moving towards the Hundun Spirit.
Soon a swirling melee developed in right center and it became hard to make out the details. The Daqin fed in unit after unit, including some of their fearsome steam-armored infantry. Quan, too, carefully fed new troops into the fray.
Some minor affairs caused a momentary distraction. The Dragon of Wrath was pestered by another group of constructs, which were quickly reduced to a pile of parts. Quan's own constructs of the Honor Division came under effective fire from some additional Daqin archers. Losses were heavy, and some arrows fell close to Quan, himself, but he judged it was not the critical sector and kept his focus on the central fight. Eventually the Hundun Spirit, himself, fell under the rending blows of the steam armored infantry. He was, as a spirit, naturally impossible to actually slay, but without the coherence of his armored to confine the spirit in place, he dissipated. He would eventually regroup and rejoin the Crusade, but in days or weeks, not tomorrow.
Quan sent in the Lightning Division horse archers, the Thunder Division lancers and the fearsome Hizume horse. The fighting was hard, and the Hizume, especially, suffered heavily, but in time the Daqin had enough and Quan saw their line waver and then break. A pursuit seemed unwise, however, as his own cavalry was weary and the Daqin's still fresh. He noted that they expertly formed up to cover the retreat, so at least one Daqin leader seemed to have kept his wits about him.
As he surveyed the wreckage on the field, he noted that the human losses were remarkably low. Most of the units that had been wrecked were made of constructs, not living beings. Even the defeated Daqin didn't leave an extarordianry number on the field and indeed, it seemed both victor and vanquished lost about equally. Quan was impressed with the valor and stolidness of the Daqin soldiers, but was less impressed with their eladersm who seemed unimaginative.
Marcus Agrippus glanced over at the bloodied -- and chastened -- Titus. No doubt the defeated general dreaded what Agrippa might report to Augustus. And indeed, the battle might have been handled better, Agrippa admitted to himself. But Titus would get another chance. He had been valorous enough, right in the thick of the fight. He'd been trampled by Han horsemen and had to be rescued by one of his beloved Invictus steam-powered infantry. Still, the Han were a worthy adversary, the toughest Rome had met in more than a century, and this first encounter would provide lessons on how to deal with them in the future. Their foot seeemed none too impressive, although they were not really tested but their skilled archers, valorous horse and fierce Dracos would require more than the standard Roman steadiness to defeat. No, it might be time to ask the Druids for help ... .
A solitaire run through for familiarization purposes I pitted Han and Roman armies of abourd 14,000 points against each other. This is larger than the recommended forces, but I wanted to explore as many units as possible.