Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Graeco-Bactrian vs. Mauryan Indian

This series bringing pike armies to the game table features the Graeco-Bactrian army and the Classical Indian army of the Mauryan dynasty. W.W. Tarn in his book, The Greeks in Bactria and India (1966) describes in chapter four the campaigns conducted by Demerius, his son Demerius II and Menander. The book is available online and worth a read. 

In our test games, the Indian army have an imposing array of bow, chariots, elephants and cavalry and defend their tropical homeland against the Greek invaders. The game board is 80cm x 80cm and terrain pieces selected for all three games were two woods and two marsh areas. 

Game one
The constricted nature of the battle field forced both sides to deploy in deeper formations. For the Mauryan, all infantry were positioned to the right with their entire elephant corps and chariots taking the left hand position; all the cavalry formed up behind them.

Facing them, the Greeks amassed their pike opposite the infantry leaving the Greek cavalry to deal with the elephants and chariot in front of them. An assault would be in echelon with the pike formations leading and cavalry in support. 

The Greek pike columns did performed their task well but the Mauryan were quick to exploit the moment to mount their attack against the supporting units.

Casualties fell heavily on both sides eventually reaching an even score of 4 – 4. 

The fatal blow came when the Mauryan cavalry helped seal the fate of the Greek lancers to end the score at 5 – 4.

Game two
Battlefield two offered the Greeks ample room to extend their formations with the infantry securing their left along the marsh and wood leaving the open terrain for the cavalry to operate in. Mauryan infantry formed up against the Greek foot leaving enough space for just the elephant corps to deploy leaving all the cavalry and chariots took a reserve position behind the main battle line.

In range, Indian archery proved effective at sending a few Greek formations back on their heels while the elephant corps struck the Greek cavalry.

Both lines became heavily engaged and the battle line now broke up into isolated combats. Disaster struck the Greek side as their general became wounded and was carried off the field (2g – 2).

Despite the lose of the general, the Greeks surpassed themselves by redoubling the efforts (good pip scores). Casualties fell on both sides to bring the score to an even 4g – 4. The final blow came when the elephants trampled a unit of Greek lancers to end the battle. Score 5(g) – 4 India

Game three
The presence of woods and marsh did not hinder the armies as both sides could deploy their formations in an extended line. The Greeks used their standard formation while the Indian army placed their infantry in center with units of mounted covering both flanks. 

Greek infantry spearheaded the attack leaving the cavalry to cover both flanks. The Mauryan responded by advancing only their infantry and elephant corps forward with the chariot and cavalry held back in reserve.

Both lines crashed into each other causing immediate casualties. The Greeks lost their elephant to the tribal skirmishers but pike columns took their revenge by opening the Indian battle line.

The slaughter continued with the chariot corps crushing the mercenary units to bring a decisive victory over the Bactrian host. Score 4 – 2 India.

In Retrospect
The Indian army had a greater number of mounted units than the Bactrian side. This advantage was negated some by the constricted terrain in the first two games, Both games ended with narrow victories for the Mauryan that easily could have gone to the other way.

In the final game both sides could extend their lines fully which offered the deploy in extended lines offering the Indian host a slight advantage. Destroying the Bactrian elephant at the outset was critical for the Greeks as they could not regain their momentum.  

Army composition
II/36a Graeco-Bactrian 250 BC – 130 BC
1 x General (3Kn), 1 x Arachosians (LH), 1 x Saka horse archers (LH), 2 x Iranian lancers (3Kn), 1 x Indian elephant (El), 4 x phalangites (4Pk), 1 x militia settlers (4Ax), 1 x Cretan archers (Ps).

II/3a Classical Indian 500 BC – 175 AD
1 x General (El), 2 x elephants (El), 2 x 4 horse chariots (HCh), 2 x cavalry (Cv), 3 x archers (4LB), 1 x javelinmen (4Ax), 1 x wild tribal archers (Ps).

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Beyond the Fifth Cataract (Ptolemaic vs. Meroitic Kushites).

Continuing the test series of pike armies in preparation for the Battle of Magnesia, I have taken the Ptolemaic army on an expedition south to the Kingdom of Kush, see DBA army lists II/20b and I/58. The Greeks are invading the steppe regions and as with all our test series, the terrain for a subsequent game is determined by the defeated army retreating to their home terrain. In this test, the Ptolemaic army have littoral terrain and the army of Kush, steppe.

Army composition.
1 x General (3Kn), 1 x xystophoroi (3Kn), 1 x Tarentines (LH), 2 x Macedonian phalanx (4Pk), 2 x Egyptian phalanx (4Pk), 2 x mercenary thureophoroi (4Ax), 1 x Galatian (4Wb), 1 x elephant (El), 1 x skirmisher (Ps).

Meroitic Kushites
1 x General (Cv), 1 x cavalry (Cv), 2 x Meroitic archers (3Bw), 5 x tribal spearmen (Sp), 2 x tribal swordsmen (4Bd), 1 x skirmisher (Ps). 

Game 1 (terrain type: steppe)
To face the invading Ptolemaic army, the Kushite deployed all their spearmen forward with archers positioned on both flanks, further support was provided by swordsmen and cavalry, both were held in reserve. The Greek battle line matched that of the steppe dwellers as the pike maintained a deeper formation. Positioned to the right of the pike were the elephant and cavalry and on the left formed all the thereophoroi, mercenary troops and skirmishers.

Kush moved cautiously forward and seeing the Ptolemaic right wing advance ahead of their battle line countered by moving their own cavalry to cover. That threat was quickly contained as the supporting Kushite archers quickly rained a baggage of arrows causing chaos among the Greek ranks. Despite the confusion the Ptolemaic pike and supporting left wing continued their advance to make first contact against the Kushite shieldwall. To the Greek’s surprise, the shieldwall rebuffed their assault along line leaving the elephant corps to make a solitary impression.

Kush seized this advantage to counter charge and both sides now suffered casualties either through combat or the deadly accuracy of the “archers of a thousand eyes”. Having dealt the death blow to a supporting unit of thereophoroi, the archers joined the combat between the generals to seal the fate of the battle. Score 4(g) – 3 for Kush.

Game 2 (terrain type: littoral)
Following their victory, the Kushite invaded Upper Egypt to encounter a second force encamped along the Nile River. The Ptolemaic force deployed in their manner, but collected all their mounted on the right wing as the army’s left flank was shielded by two dense forests of palms. The Kushite, deployed as before, but positioned all their mounted troops to counter the Greek cavalry facing their left.

Moving the Tarentine light horse along the bank of the Nile had the desired effect of drawing the archers away which opened a gap for the Xystophoroi to launch their attack. Unfortunately signals were crossed (low pip score) and the main body were slow to execute their advance.

The general engagement that followed left neither side with an advantage leaving both lines unbroken. Photo 47
This changed when the struggle on the Greek right took a disastrous turn. Native archers avoided isolated combats to join the cavalry battle and help dispatch another strategos. Carried off the field, the army lost heart and fled the field. Score 5(g) – 1 for Kush.

Game 3 (terrain type: littoral)
To restore the situation at the fifth cataract, a third army was sent under the command of a new strategos. The Greeks formed their battle line in the usual manner, but due to the constricted nature of the ground they positioned their cavalry behind the center of their battle line.

Seeing a cautious Greek advance, the Kushite forces extended their line to threaten both flanks of the Greek force. This had the desired effect as Greek units were redeployed from the battle line to protect the threatened wings thus narrowing the line to facing the Kushite shield wall.  

On both flanks of the shield wall Kushite swordsmen led the attack on the Greek line and cut up the supporting units guarding the pike formation.

The battle ended quickly as the warriors of Kush destroyed both flanks leaving a newly appointed strategos no option but to call a retreat. Score 5 – 0 for Kush.

In retrospect
To say this was a surprising reversal of fortune for a pike army is certainly an understatement. The Kushite demonstrated an unexpected resilience in holding the Ptolemaic pike to a standstill while giving time for supporting units to do what they do best. The Kushite  shieldwall consisted only of five spear, yet overlapped the pike group with elephant support. Of the Greek units protecting the pike group, the thereophoroi and Galatians could make little impression against Kushite swordsmen and skirmishers. Likewise on the opposite flank, Greek cavalry were hampered by Kushite archers and were effectively countered by the timely approach of Kushite cavalry.

These two are definitely worth a rematch.

Friday, 22 February 2019

The Classical Indian II/3a,b

These took about a month to paint and I am pleased how they have turned out. This is the second time around for the Classical Indians as I sold off the first collection five or six years ago (pre-DBA3.0). I renewed by enthusiasm for the Classical Indians as they are viable opponents for the Seleucid which are currently running through their paces. The figures are for the most part Old Glory and surprisingly have improved over their earlier production, perhaps new molds were made. 

Archers are Old Glory and javelinmen are from the former Black Hat Miniatures now Fighting 15s.

Cavalry are Old Glory and this pack came with all its troopers in the same position. The lance was shortened to a javelin length and the throwing arm were re-positioned on all the troopers to give them an animated look. The Saka light horse are Black Hat and though slender and slightly smaller in comparison to the Old Glory they do fit well. 

These are Old Glory heavy chariots with the exception of the central model (Black Hat) which represents a  commander. The Black Hat model fits a 40mm x 40mm base but portions of the chariot do project beyond its base.  

Again, these are from Old Glory with the exception of the central model which is Black Hat and this too represents a command figure. The elephant escorts are also from Black Hat.

Some Painting Notes:
All the figures were given a white undercoat. Garments which would remain ‘white’ were painted mid-grey then highlighted white. The skin tone was a mix of GW Kislev Flesh and Mournfang Brown thinned so muscle would seem highlighted. This was later given a coat of GW Reikland Fleshshade.  
Horses were painted in varying shade of brown with the ‘grey’ treated in the same manner as garments; painted mid-grey, then highlighted white. A deviation from my standard style, the tails and manes were highlighted mid-blue as were the weapons. I used a similar technique with the Goblin and Orc collection and found this a pleasing change that I duplicated this for the Classical Indians.

A final order with Timecast was placed so the collection will expand for the ‘big battle’ option. Extra figures were included to represent the Republican Indian (II/1) and Mountain Indian (II/2) armies, so there will be new opponents for the Seleucid and Graeco-Bactrian to fight.  

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Seleucid versus Parthia – preparing for Magnesia 190 BC

Continuing my refresher exercise for pike versus blade, the combined Roman-Pergamene cavalry strength at Magnesia was estimated at 3,000 strong. This is dwarfed by Seleucid totals and thought it a good moment to field the Seleucid against a mobile opponent, Parthia. The battle was fought on the larger board with both commands increased to 18 elements. The Seleucid were invading the steppe lands of Parthia.

1 x General (4Kn), 1 x cataphract (4Kn), 4 x phalangites (4Pk), 1 x Theurophori (4Ax), 1 x Galatian (4Wb), 1 x elephant (El), 1 x scythed chariot (SCh), 2 x skirmishers (Ps).
Additional troops:
1 x cataphract (4Kn), 2 x phalangites (4Pk), 1 x elephant (El), 1 x Galatian |(4Wb), 1 x Asiatic skirmishers (Ps).

1 x General (4Kn), 2 x cataphracts (4Kn), 9 x nomad horse archers (LH).
Additional troops:
1 x cataphract (4Kn), 3 x nomad horse archers (LH), 2 x city militia archers (3Bw).

Recalling Alexander’s battle against the Scythian, the phalangites deployed in line and not their usual deeper columns. Behind them, the cavalry formed a reserve with the elephants and scythed chariots holding the left wing. Having deployed first, the Parthian deployed in five groups with ample spacing between each group. This proved beneficial as the Parthian quickly shifted their light cavalry to occupy the Seleucid left wing while the main threat would sweep the light troops from the hill exposing the phalangite line.

The Parthian assault on the Seleucid right was stemmed by the determined resistance of mercenary troops.

The battle for the hill cost the Parthian dearly in pip expenditure, leaving the Seleucid time to roll up the Parthian right to earn them a victory (6-4)

Swapping the role of defender-attacker, the Seleucid deployed first forming their battle line in echelon with a reserve formation posted on the hill to their rear. The Seleucid cataphracts formed to the left of the battle line had the elephants and chariots to their rear. In response, the Parthian formed a contiguous front with their foot archers positioned facing the Seleucid cataphacts.

Learning from the previous engagement, the Parthian would refrain from attacking both flanks, but concentrate on one; the Seleucid left. The Parthian battle line would keep pace with their foot archers and move steadily forward.

Seizing the initiative, the Seleucid phalangites struck first and despite their thin line, the sent the enemy horse recoiling back with the losses. During the same bound, the elephant and chariot re-positioned themselves between the Parthian light horse and their camp; this offered ample room for the cataphracts to attack the Parthian light horse inflicting more casualties.

A counter attack by Parthia proved costly as the Seleucid were able to contain each threat and retake the advantage on their bound resulting in another victory (6-2).


Command control posed less an issue for the Parthian commander, however, considering their mobility it is quite tempting to use or in this case mis-use flanking maneuvers. Integrating light horse among the cataphract has its risk as LH will flee if defeated by foot troops leaving the Parthian cataphract exposed. Consider also mounted will also recoil from solid foot on even combat scores, making the Parthian a difficult army to use. 

If there are any weak aspects of the the Seleucid army, then that would be the elephants and chariots. A simple ‘more than’ combat result will finish them both, hence their being tucked away in game two. 

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Rome versus the Seleucid - a preparation for Magnesia 190 BC

It has been nearly three years since the Seleucid army marched across the table and in preparation for the Battle of Magnesia later this month, I decided some re-fresher training might be in order. After a few standard 12 element games which ended in disasters, I increased the size of each command to 18 elements. This produced a much tighter game with the victor winning by one element.

Seleucid Army
1 x General (4Kn), 1 x cataphract (4Kn), 4 x phalangites (4Pk), 1 x Theurophori (4Ax), 1 x Galatian (4Wb), 1 x elephant (El), 1 x scythed chariot (SCh), 2 x skirmishers (Ps).
Additional troops: 1 x cataphract (4Kn), 2 x phalangites (4Pk), 1 x elephant (El), 1 x Galatian |(4Wb), 1 x Asiatic skirmishers (Ps).

Consular Army
1 x General (Cv), 1 x cavalry (Cv), 4 x hastati/principes (4Bd), 2 x Latin allies (4Ax), 2 x triarii (Sp), 2 x velites (Ps).
Additional troops: 1 x cavalry (Cv), 1 x hastati/principes (4Bd), 2 x Latin allies (4Ax), 2 x velites (Ps).
Note: the additional troops produced an even number of Roman (red) and Latin (white) types which can be seen from their shield colour.  

Test games
Rather than give a blow by blow description of the test games, I will highlight some of the key events that made this a useful exercise.

It goes without saying, the flanks of the phalanx are most vulnerable and in the first two tests, the phalanx was adequately protected by placing catapracht and elephants on either flank; subsequent tests did experiment with their placement.

The timing of an attack is crucial as the elephants are particularly vulnerable to enemy skirmishers as can be seen in the photo below.

In general, the both sides were well matched and scored an even number of victories. The Seleucid did avoid a catastrophe by exerting enough pressure against one Roman flank. This forced Roman pip expenditure on their bound must be re-diverted  to stave an impending disaster. 

Another test game Rome adjusted  their deployment to position a “flying column’ on each flank. This double envelopment by Roman cavalry and infantry support proved worrisome for the Seleucid as the cataphract were held back to protect the army’s right flank while on the left, troops supporting the phalanx were peeled off to deal with the threat on that side.

The final test resembled the deployments made at Magnesia. This was not on purpose, but developed as a consequence of trial and error of five games. The battle progressed much like Magnesia with the Seleucid cataphract destroying the Roman line to their front, the phalangites did make headway but exposed their left flank to a Roman counter stroke. This was not enough however to claim victory as entire Roman left crumbled to the combined efforts of Galatians, thureophoroi and cataphracts.   

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Rome vs. the Carpi

After a minor setback at our last meeting it was time to put the Romans through their paces in preparation for our next game. This time the Carpi would be invading and to make the games interesting I would increase both commands with six additional elements (18 a side). Space would pose no problem as our boards are 80cm x 80cm.

Game 1
The Carpi warband have falxmen interspersed between the columns; the left flank is covered by skirmishers and the right are the Sarmatae allies.

Rome deployed in depth with auxilia forming a screen ahead of the legions. The Praetorian guard and cavalry formed a central reserve.

Roman strategy would have the auxilia to take up positions in the BUA and wood while the legions of the second line form a contiguous line, This would funnel the Carpi approach forcing them to halt their advance to deal with auxilia or risk its flanks being turned.

In this case, an average pip score decided the latter option was selected as can be seen in the photo. The battle for the BUA and wood resulted in heavy casualties for both sides but to win, the Carpi must force a decision in the center. Keeping the pressure on both flanks and advancing the warband left no pips over, so the Sarmatian allies remained inert for two turns. A final desperate charge did result in one dead clibanarii, but the legions sealed the victory with a score, 7 – 4.

Game 2
Too much time and pips were needed to move the screening troops to each flank (auxilia) and for the Roman heavy infantry to  deploy into line. The placement of troops for this game would address those issues in addition to relocating the cavalry to positions were they would be better employed.

Changes were also made to the Carpi battle line; warband were grouped together, the falxmen were placed to clear the wood while the Sarmatae remained on the right flank.  

The Carpi advance maintained a uniform front slowing their tempo to allow both wings to clear the wood and BUA of enemy.

The Bastarnae were successful in clearing the wood of auxilia while the BUA still remained in Roman possession,

Sensing the time was right, the Carpi and their allies attacked the Roman center. Roman legions on the right not only held their ground but forced the Carpi back, but disaster fell to the Sarmatae as they were cut down to a man

At this point, Roman signals became confused (low pip scores) letting many a golden opportunity slip through their fingers. The Carpi recovered quickly and dispatched two more elements to bring the score to 5 – 3. On the subsequent bound, Rome responded with a vengeance to even the score at 5 -5.

The center now became maelstrom of elements flanking enemy elements with the Carpi capturing a narrow victory with a score of 7 – 6.

Game 3
The last test eliminated  a wood exposing an open flank for both armies. The change would hopefully give the cavalry sufficient room to use.

A classic head on collision of both front lines; Rome had half its force held back in either a reserve position or ready to move on the Carpi flanks.

Rome did strike at both flanks forcing the Carpi to deal with the threat on both flanks before launching a general assault. Sarmatian cavalry charged and destroyed the Roman light horse while on the Carpi right warband were able to contain the threat by the auxiliaries. Fortune turned for Rome as the Carpi center crashed into the Roman battle line destroying two blade but losing a warband to the Roman general and his bodyguard.

The Praetorian were next in line for the barbarians and they succeeded in eliminating half their number. Elsewhere, in a desperate struggle, the Sarmatian cavalry were holding off twice their number. Every Carpi unit had been committed in the fight, but Rome still had uncommitted reserves

Rome regained advantage to close on a number of exposed flanks to destroy a unit of Sarmatians. The Praetorians and General assisted by the timely arrival of auxilia destroyed their opposition leaving the Carpi no alternative to exit the battlefield. Score 6 – 5 for Rome.