Tuesday, 15 October 2019

The Umayyad vs. the Abbasid

During the year 747 AD, Murwan II had to contend with rebellion within the kingdom. In the east, rebel forces led by Abu Muslim would meet the Umayyad in a series of battles the following year. That revolt would later be takien up by Abu al-Abbas as-Saffah sealing the fate of the Umayyad in the final battle near the Great Zab. 

For these games, both armies of 24 elements are very similar in composition with a near equal proportion of cavalry to infantry. Both sides have trained cavalry, infantry and archers giving both sides an equal chance of victory. 

Game one.
As defenders, the Umayyad deployed its infantry in centre with cavalry supporting the flank and rear. The Abbasid, deployed in a similar fashion, but had to contend with constricting terrain, The Abbasid had planned an evelopemnt with their right wing refusing their left. While the flanking move had its desired effect the cost to both sides negated any advantage won. The shattered remians on both sides reformed on their respective center. There, the conflict escalated to a blood bath with casualties becoming even each turn. Renewing their effort, the Umayyad however launced successive waves crumbling the Abbasid resistance to end the battle. Final score 9 - 5 for the Umayyad. 

Game two.
Undeterred, the Abbasid gathered new forces to meet the Umayyad near Merv. Both sides formed their infantry in two wings with ample room for the employment of cavalry in the centre. These were positioned in a second line well outside of bow range. 

On the Abbasid left, spearmen clashed with their counterpart while Zanj swordsmen destroyed enemy archers. The Abbasid joy was cut short as they lost a unit of their own on the opposite wing. 

As the Abbasid were gaining ground on the left, their right was to suffer a similar loss against the Umayyad. As the struggle intensiified the Abbasid were able to turn events on their right to their advantage. Sensing the approach of tipping point in the battle, the Umayyad, commander launched a cavalry assault against the Abbasid centre. 

Abbasid archers found their range and were scattering Umayyad cavalry in the centre and right flank. This opened an opportunity for Abbasid infantry to leave their secure position to attack exposed flanks. The subsequent casualties were the final blow for the Umayyad forcing them to flee the filed. Score 8 - 1 for the Abbasid. 

The Umayyad
1 x general (Cv), 3 x Jund cavalry (Cv), 3 x spearmen (Sp), 2 x archers (3Bw), 1 x archer (Ps), 2 x Bedouin and Ghazis light horse (LH).

The Abbasid
1 x general (Cv), 3 x lancers (Cv), 3 x spearmen (Sp), 2 x archers (4Bw), 1 x Zanj (3Bd), 1 x archers (Ps), 1 x Bedouin light horse (LH).

The Umayyad were defending in game one, terrain features selected were from the list "Dry". This was 2 x rocky ground, an oasis and BUA (hamlet). 

Monday, 14 October 2019

Enlarging the Standard Command.

The comments have been surprisingly favourable for the enlarged single command. Below, I have listed the minor changes to the standard game with a few observations of tests to-date. 

The Game Board
The game board need only be increased by 50% when using this option. As an example, our standard game board is 80cm x 80cm is now increased to 120cm x 80cm for this option. 

Terrain Pieces.
The BBDBA does increase the number of optional terrain features, however, we did not see any reason to increase this. The increase in game board did offer offer an opportunity to select larger pieces.  

Twice the Number
Duplicating the number of elements forming a single command is the simplest expediant, however, there are a number of army lists which offer some interesting options. The Han Chinese for example may field a mix of infantry and cavalry or alternatively an all mounted command. The Graeco Bactrian used a similar option when they fought the Seleucid. 

Two Generals
One command element is designated the CinC leaving the second serves as a subordinate general. The subordinate general will extend the command distance a further 8BW but only the CinC may use the increase combat factor. The loss of the subordinate general loss will count only as one element. 

During the game, the subordinate general will take command following the demise of the CinC on the subsequent turn. Troops beyond command distance will cost an extra pip to move. 

Time Required
Generally, these games can take twice as long to complete, but we found with further testing and gained experience this was reduced. Some games were resolved in 40 minutes needing seven turns while the longest required thirteen turns  or 70 minutes to reach a decision. 

On the whole, the games were very enjoyable. The single die cast for pips resulted in rethinking one's deployment strategy as troops worked best when moved as a group and less so individually. The game tempo slowed as troops required three or four turns to move into striking distance, this included supporting elements. This reslted in casualties falling turns four or five. The delay did produce some advantages as armies could initiate some subtle maneuvers. 

Current tests have involved armies of mixed troops types or all mounted ones. Tests involving two infantry armies have yet to be done but I suspect these would be quite long.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Middle Imperial Rome vs. the Marcomanni

I have found that using the larger command size (12 to 24 elements) does require a refinement of one’s game style. With one die cast, you will quickly find insufficient ‘pips’ to move all your troops even if grouped well. This can often be the result of terrain becoming an inconvenience to formations or as the defender you can find yourself wrong footed. Developing a methodical approach in the opening moves worked best for the attacker as not only attacking units were moved but sufficient supporting troops were brought forward to sustain an attack. This did build game tension as focusing on a threatened sector would mean another sector would remain idle. This did equate to taking a risk.

To continue the experiment I selected a historical confrontation between Rome and the Marcomanni. View this as a ‘back to basics’ meeting between balanced forces.  

Game one
Rome deployed in a deeper formation with auxilia positioned in the first line followed by the legions in the second. A third line held all the cavalry and command forming the army’s reserve. The Marcomanni positioned all its cavalry on the right with warband forming its centre and left wing. Advancing in line, the Marcomanni slowly moved forward while Rome took measures to extend its by moving the auxilia to extend the army’s line leaving the legionnaires visible. The initial clash came as Marcomanni warriors met the auxilia who were quickly supported by units from the second line. Seeing the initial rush falter, Rome counter charged catching the Marcomanni on the right and centre off balance. The Marcomanni line quickly crumbled with the battle ending with a 3 – 8 victory for Rome. Half the army was employed while the remainder remained spectators.

(7 turns in 49”)


Game two
Rome deployed with a few minor changes in three lines. The Marcomanni revised their deployment by forming less deep and amassing its cavalry on the left.  

To counter the extended Marcomanni line Rome moved its cavalry reserve to strengthen the right and on the army’s left, auxilia were seen trotting off to harass the enemy line.  

Marcomanni approached slowly sending skirmishers to deal with the auxilia on the right. When the warbands struck, Rome held their ground or repulsed the Marcomanni buckling their line.

Seeing the success of the auxilia, the Praetorian and legio Parthica impetuously charged forward. In the ensuing melee casualties fell quickly on both sides with the Marcomanni holding a slight advantage (3 - 2).

Unlike the previous battle, the Rome’s second line were quickly drawn into the conflict brewing up with the number of casualties increasing on both sides. The pendulum no swung in favour for Rome (4 – 5).

Gaps now appeared (turn six) bringing the conflict to a critical point as both sides attacked exposed flanks bringing the score to an even 7 - 7. The Marcomanni sensed victory (pip score of 6) proceeded to flense the Roman line, destroying legionnaires and equites, to end the battle with a score, 7 – 9. 

(7 turns in 48”)

Middle Imperial Rome
1 x General (Cv), 2 x equites (Cv), 1 x equites (LH), 4 x legionnaires (4Bd), 4 x auxilia (4Ax).

Early German (Marcomanni)
1 x General (Cv), 2 x cavalry (Cv), 9 x warriors (4Wb), 1 x skirmisher (Ps).

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

The Seleucid vs. Graeco-Bactrian

In 238 BC, Diodotus governor of Bactria, used the Parthian rebellion to assert his independence. Seleucus II planned expedition would seek to recover the region, first dealing with the Parthian before moving against the Bactrian province.

This historical conflict continues the usage of one command enlarged to 24 elements. The composition of both forces is listed below with the Graeco-Bactrian fielding both options listed to reach their total of 24 elements.

Seleucus invades the territory of Bactria which is characterised by steppe terrain features; two gentle hills, and rocky or scrub ground.

Game one
The Bactrian with superior numbers of mounted troops easily stretched their battle line beyond that of the Seleucid army. At the start, the Bactrian quickly enveloped the Seleucid left, but in the ensuing combat came off the worst for their effort. Incurring heavy casualties (3 – 0) the Bactrian commander probed for weaknesses between the phalanx and left wing. This proved successful with the destruction of units to include the elephant and chariot corps bringing the score even (5 – 5).

Alarmed at the breach in the line, Seleucus led half the phalanx to stave off the impending Bactrian threat. Caught in the cavalry maelstrom, the Seleucid general became wounded generating a panic among his troops. Sensing the indecisive activity among the Seleucid, the Bactrians seized the break in combat to reform their troops for the decisive blow.  This came giving Bactria a victory over Seleucus, 5 – 9 + CinC.

(13 turns, under one hour)

Game two
Seleucus now formed two wings with the right wing positioned forward. This comprised of the phalanx, elephant corps and supporting infantry. The supporting wing on the left contained the chariots and Xystophoroi. To counter this, the Bactrian placed their phalanx in centre with Iranian lancers positioned in support to the right of the phalanx all the Greek cavalry. Extending both flanks were all the Bactrian light horse.

As the Bactrian phalanx marched steadily forward, Bactrian light horse attacked the Seleucid right forcing their commander to send troops to recover the situation. Unfortunately, the situation became critical as parts of the Seleucid phalanx had to face new threats on their flank. In the melee that followed, casualties fell heavily on both sides with the Bactrian having a slight advantage (5 – 7). The final stroke came when Bactrian reserves charged the Galatian mercenaries cutting them down to a man. Victory Bactria 5 – 9.

(9 turns in 45”)

Game three
Following two setbacks, the Seleucid deployed in a compact formation with Xystophoroi cavalry forming a reserve. The Bactrians too deployed in a compact formation, but this was due to the constrictive nature of ground rather than a need to match the Seleucid tattle line. This placed their phalanx opposite the Seleucid chariot and elephant corps. 

For a period, weather conditions hampered proper signalling (poor pip scores) on both sides and after an hour (four turns) both armies shuffled forward to meet in the centre.

Iranian lancers charged Seleucid phalanx and held their advance long enough for supporting troops could turn its flank. At the same time, Bactrian light horse now threatened the Seleucid left raising alarm bells for their commander. To contain the threat, Seleucus moved the Xystophoroi held in reserve and chariots to contain the Bactrian threat. This became critical as Seleucus became wounded and was carried off the field leaving overall command of the army to his second in command (1 – 3 +SCh + CinC).  

Assessing the situation, the second in command moved forward to reform troops. In this moment, the Bactrian redoubled their efforts to take out the chariots and an elephant to widen the gap between their centre and left wing. 

Avenging their general, the Seleucid phalanx charged the Iranian lancers. Galatian mercenaries joined the battle by attacking the Greek cavalry to their front. The renewed effort tipped the balance leaving a stunned Bactrian general no option but to leave the field. Score Seleucid 7 -9

(10 turns 1:20”)

Double the number listed below will bring the total to 24 elements for each command.

The Seleucid
1 x General (3Kn), 1 x Xystophoroi (3Kn), 4 x phalangites (4Pk), 1 x Thracians (4Ax), 1 x scythed chariot (SCh), 1 x elephant (El), 1 x Galatian (4Wb), 2 x archers (Ps).

1 x General (3Kn), 2 x Arachosian and Saka cavalry (LH), 2 x Iranian lancers (3Kn), 1 x elephant (El), 4 x phalangites (4Pk), 1 x military settlers (3/4Ax), 1 x Cretan archers (Ps).  
1 x General (3Kn), 3 x Arachosian and Saka cavalry (LH), 4 x Iranian lancers (3Kn), 4 x Bactrian (Cv/LH),

The loss of the CinC counts as two elements when calculating scores. In both these tests, the loss of the CinC meant overall command moved to the sub-ordinate. Command distance is measured from the subordinate general (8BW) which in both cases left a number of troops outside coverage. Those troops beyond command distance still require the additional pip cost to move.  

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Parthia vs. the Early Sassanid

The Battle of Hormozdgan marked the eclipse of the Parthian Empire by the Sassanid. In this engagement, an all cavalry force of Sassanian met the Parthian army and her allies. Composition of the forces for this test are listed below. Both sides field 24 elements making one large command. As Parthia are initially defending, terrain pieces are selected from the arable list, but are limited to what one can expect in the arid region of the south.

Game 1 saw both sides manoeuvring bringing some units into position to skirmish. On the fourth turn, casualties began to mount and with the loss or Sassanid levy I realized I fielded the incorrect sub-list. Ardashir I had no horde. The game was played out in either case, with the Parthians ending the game with a fine 6 – 8 victory.

Game 2 saw the Sassanid with a corrected army composition which improved their game. This did end in a Sassanid victory, but game three demonstrated better deployment and tactics and report can be read below.

Game 3
Parthia, as defender, deployed first placing its militia archers forward with horse archers covering their flanks. Behind them were the noble armoured cavalry and further back were single units of horse archers positioned to support the cataphract cavalry or protect the rear area from enemy activity.

Sassan formed its main battle line in three divisions with left and centre groups comprised of asavaran cavalry and the right division formed by the majority of tribal horse archers. Each division was supported by an equal number of noble or asavaran cavalry forming a second line.  

Parthia moved slowly forward keeping pace with the militia archers. Sassan responded by probing the Parthian left. Easily repulsed, this may have been a distraction to mask the real assault developing in the centre as the asavaran moved forward. This caught the Parthian horse archers off guard resulting in a few casualties. 

Parthian militia responded by showering the asavaran cavalry, who recoiled back from the fire storm. Undeterred, the centre division renewed their assault bringing them into contact with the Parthian armoured cavalry led by their subordinate general. 

Buckling under the asavaran charge, the Parthian subordinate general fell sending a wave of uncertainty among the Parthian in centre. Sensing an opportunity to widen a gap in the Parthian line, Ardashir (CinC) moved his reserve line of nobles (recognizable by their flags) to add their weight to the combat.

As the combat continued in the centre, the Parthian commander moved his armoured cavalry but noted the Sassanian entire left wing and its reserve were moving forward to engulf the Parthian right. In a quandary, the Parthian commander’s choice became clear as all that could be seen of his centre were the Sassanid cavalry regrouping with Ardashir at their head. 

Unable to continue the fight, Parthia signalled a general retreat leaving the field to the Sassanid. Score 4 – 9, a victory for Sassan. 

Double the number listed below will bring the total to 24 elements for each command.

1 x General (4Kn), 2 x nobles (4Kn), 7 x tribal horse archers (LH), 2 x militia archers (3Bw).

1 x General (3Kn), 2 x nobles (3Kn), 6 x asavaran cavalry (Cv), 3 x tribal horse archers (LH). 

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Arab Conquest vs. the Sassanid

Continuing the larger command test series (24 elements) the Sassaniid now confront the Arab Conquest army of the ‘b’ sub-list. The army now include a complement of Jund cavalry which effectively increases their mobility in battle. The later Sassanid generals are now cataphract cavalry, with the remainder of the army comprising of the usual asavaran cavalry, elephants and levy.

Game one proved a narrow victory (7 - 8) for the Sassanid and the Arab Conquest rebounding the following turn with a 5 – 8 + Hd, victory to even the score. 

In game three, feeling confident, the Arabs deployed their infantry in three groups leaving sufficient opening between for supporting cavalry to move through. As defender, the Sassanid deployed first forming a more conventional battle line supported by two reserve formation. Light horse was positioned on the flanks to extend the battle line. 

The Sassanid moved cautiously forward leaving the Arabs to seize the opportunity to strike first. Arab archers moved through the village while infantry advanced against the light horse of the Sassanid army. Driving them back would open a gap for the supporting Jund cavalry to fall on an exposed flank.

The Sassanid assault on the Arab centre destroyed several units of infantry prompting the Arab commander to commit his reserve to stem the tide. On the right of centre, Jund cavalry fell on the open flank of the Sassanid levy dispersing them to the four winds. 

The Jund cavalry quickly followed up their success to engage the elephant on that wing, On the opposite wing, the elephant wreaked havoc among the Arab infantry whiel the conflict in-between remianed in question.

Gaining the upper hand, the Sassanid opened gaps in the Arab line prompting the Arab general (SG) in that sector to move forward. 

Smashing its opposition, the elephant moved to attack the general. Seeing the conflict nearby, Asavaran cavalry joined the melee to bring down the subordinate commander breaking the Arab resolve to continue the battle. Score 9 – 5 + 2 Hd for Sassan. 

Sassaniid Army 404 – 651 AD
1 x General (4Kn), 6 x Asavaran (Cv), 2 x vassal horse archers (LH), 1 x elephant (El), 2 x levies (7Hd).

Arab Conquest 639 – 660 AD
1 x General (Cv), 4 x Jund cavalry (Cv), 1 x Muslim archers (3Bw), 5 x swordsmen (4Bd), 1 x javelinmen (Ps).  

Double the above quantities to bring the total to 24 elements.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Late Imperial Rome vs. the Sassanid

Those of you who have regularly followed this blog may remember the games played between armies with uneven numbers or those between commands comprising of 18 elements. Following a tip from the Fanaticus Forum, I continued my experiments with an even larger command size and moved the scale to 24 elements.

For these tests, Rome invaded Persian territory giving the Sassanid choice of terrain features from the arable list. Aside from the obligatory BUA, the other features, two difficult hills and scrub, seemed appropriate for an arid clime. The gameboard was increased by half producing a area measuring 120 cm x 80 cm.

In the first game, the Sassanid deployment formed a crescent curve with the levy and elephants forming its tips and Asavaran cavalry forming its base. The Immortals and generals formed a central reserve behind the centre and tribal light horse took positions on both flanks. 

Rome countered this by placing its legions and auxilia to contain the levy and elephants and the clibanarii, equites and generals formed a central reserve to deal with the Asavaran cavalry. The battle opened with the levy supported by elephants surpassing all expectations by crushing their opposition leaving the asavaran to pick off isolated units. Rome could not respond well enough which ensured a Sassan a decisive 8 – 2 victory.

Rome, now defending, revised its deployment to fit the constricted open ground between scrub and difficult hills. This meant all the cavalry were positioned in the second line. Opposing them, the Sassanid formed two wings with its levy and elephants on the right and on the left the majority of the Asavaran cavalry. Behind them, the Immortals and generals formed a reserve. This novel deployment had the opposite effect for the Sassanid as the legions and auxilia made short work of crushing the Sassanid cavalry to earn and 8 – 0 victory.

while attention was devoted to one sector. I decided to modify this and utilise the second general to pass on commands thereby extending the CinC’s control a further 8BW. (Note, only the CinC could benefit from the +1 bonus for combat). This small change help speed the game in the subsequent two tests. Each game became less chess-like and developed as actual battle would with assaults stalling, regrouping of elements to continue an assault or concentrate an attack elsewhere. Game three proved another victory for Sassan (Sassan 8 – 3 + Hd) which took seven turns to complete. However, game four was exceptional and here follows an expanded report.

Late Imperial Rome vs. the Sassanid.
In the final battle, Rome placed its legions in centre and on either flank were equal numbers of Clibanarii and auxilia. Archers were placed to extend the battle line further. Each were supported by the equites and both generals and the remaining cavalry formed a central reserve. The Sassanid matched their opponent placing an equal number of levy and elephants on its flanks filling the gap between them with Asavaran cavalry. The Immortals and both generals formed a reserve and more Asavaran cavalry and tribal light horse were placed to support each flank.

Roman plans to destroy the levy and elephants went astray as the Sassanid right struck first. Casualties fell evenly on both sides but the severity of the fight blunted any further effort to continue leaving both commanders to look elsewhere to gain leverage. The centre was next.

In the centre, the Asavaran cavalry made repeated assaults against the legions and heavy fighting caused casualties for both sides. Nonetheless, gaps appeared in the Roman line with the Sassanid intent on widening the gap between the Roman centre and its left flank. Sensing the treat, both commanders moved their reserves forward as the score reached an even 6 – 6.

To further relieve the danger to the centre, the Roman commander ordered the uncommitted right flank to engage the enemy. Here, the auxilia swept over the hill to threaten the Sassanid line while the remaining troops engaged the levy and elephants. This had the adverse effect as the Sassanid demonstrated greater fortitude and mauled the Roman cavalry and archers. This tipped the balance forcing Rome to call a retreat leaving the field to the Sassaniid, score 8 – 6.

The Roman army was twice the following: 
1 x General (Cv), 2 x clibanarii (4Kn), 1 x equites (Cv), 2 x light horse (LH), 3 x legionnaires (4Bd), 2 x auxilia palatina (4Ax), 1 x archers (4Bw).  

The Sassanid also doubled the following for its single command:
1 x General (Cv), 6 x Asavaran cavalry (Cv), 2 x tribal horse (LH), 1 x elephant (El), 2 x levy (7Hd).