Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Umayyad vs. Alan

Not all the people known as Alani moved westward during the period of the great migration. Those Alani who settled in the northern Caucuses sought a life as farmers and cattle herders, nonetheless, in emergencies they could muster a cavalry force of nearly 30,000 according to Arab sources. As early as 715 AD, the Umayyad invaded the Kingdom of the Alani only to be repelled. Later invasions by the Umayyad and equally unsuccessful, encountered the Khazar allied with the Alani.

Game one
Awaiting the arrival of the Alani, the Umayyad positioned its infantry in centre with the bulk of its cavalry deployed on the open right flank. Hills secured the left flank and here, archers supported by cavalry were placed. The approach of dust clouds finally settled revealing the bulk of their army facing the Umayyad right flank forcing their general to revise his plans.

To meed the impending threat, the Umayyad general shifted his reserve formations from its position on the left flank to the right. No sooner were the orders given the Alani were seen moving forward. 

The situation on the Umayyad right becam desperate as new lines were adjusted to meet the Alani attack. In the maelstrom of charge and countrecharge of lancers and horse archers, the Umayyad subordinate general was severely wounded and carried off the field. A panic gripped the Umayyad right forcing the Umayyad commander no alternative but to call a retreat. Score 8 - 2 for the Alani.  

Game two
With reinforcements, the Umayyad continued their campaign north of the Caucuses and found the Alani prepared for a fight. A light cavalry screen shielding their heavy lancers positioned in a second line and meet the Alani deployment, Umayyad spearmen, supported by archers formed the Umayyad centre with the bulk of the cavalry forming a reserve. Smaller detachments of cavalry protected the extreme left and right flank.

Umayyad infantry line right wheeled so as to approach the enemy better and have the left less exposed to an Alani flank attack. On the Umayyad right, Jund cavalry easily dispersed Alani light horse but the threat on the left flank was now critical. 

Moving relentlessly forward, the Umayyad infantry drove the Alani light cavalry back and seized the rough ground to threaten the Alani position. This forced the Alani to commit their lancers to action. 

Casualties fell heavily on both sides, yet both commanders were determined to battle despite the cost. The anticipated Alani attack on the enemy’s left flank however, could not gain ground and pressure from the Umayyad right forced the Alani commander to call for general retreat. Score 8 – 7 for the Umayyad

Both armies are doubled in size as single commands (24 elements).
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).
1 x general (3Kn), 3 x nobles (Kn), 7 x horse archers (LH), 1 x camp follower archers (Ps).

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Consular Rome vs. Iberians

Following Rome’s victory over Carthage, ending the Second Punic War, the senate reviewed its overseas policies with respect to Hispania. During the conflict with Carthage, Rome successfully invaded the peninsula at two areas which later to became the provinces of Hispania Ulterior and Hispania Citerior. Following the war, the process of Romanization of the Iberian tribes would take nearly two centuries to reach its completion during the reign of emperor Augustus. Hispania would prove a vital testing ground for tactics and reforms of the military. 

Game one
After a period of capturing towns and villages, Rome found the Iberian horde offering battle positioned between two steep hills. A village split their line in two and this offered the consul an opportunity to defeat the enemy in detail. Holding the Iberian right wing back, Rome would focus its attention on the Iberian left wing, first clearing the hill of its defenders to take advantage of an exposed flank. The Iberians had other plans and caught Rome off guard with the rapidity of their assault on the Roman left. This placed the Roman left-wing scrambling to establish a new defensive line. 

The situation on Rome’s left escalated such that reserve units of triarii and hastate were taken from the main assault. This kept the Iberians in check but had the unfortunate result to weaken the main assault easily held back by the Iberian centre. Losses on both sides were high but seeing no opportunity to turn events around, the consul called for a retreat.  Score 9 – 8 for Iberia.

Game two
Following their victory, the Iberians pursued Rome forcing them to give battle. Near an abandon village, Rome deployed in its familiar formation with legions in centre and on its flanks, the allied infantry. 

The Iberians began the battle moving its right flank against the hill position held by velites and allied troops. Outnumbered, it was not long before the hill position had been swept clear of its defenders giving the Iberians a view of an exposed Roman left. 

Seeing the rapid assault on the hill position, the consul ordered a rapid assault on the Iberian centre. Reserve units of triarii were repositioned to deal with the Iberian threat from the hill, but as the Iberians were busy plundering the Roman dead the threat did not seem imminent. 

The Roman assault on the Iberian centre quickly gained ground as the hastati and principes cut through their line. Seeing the collapse of his centre, the Iberian warlord called for a retreat. The battle proved costly to both sides, but Rome held the field. Score 8 - 7 for Rome

Both armies are double sized single commands.
Polybian Roman
1 x General (Cv), 1 x equites (Cv), 4 x hastate/principes (4Bd), 2 x triarii (Sp), 2 x allies (3/4Ax), 2 x velites (Ps).
1 x general (Cv), 1 x horsemen (LH), 6 x scutarii (3/4Ax), 4 x caetrati (Ps)

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Middle Imperial Rome vs. the Carpi

Taking advantage of the crisis situation that struck the Roman Empire, hordes of Goths, Vandals and Sarmatians led by King Kniva crossed the Danube intent on pillaging and capturing slaves. The Carpi joined the venture but directed their attention further west to the province of Moesia Superior. Before confronting the Gothic horde, the Carpi must be dealt with and Emperor Decius led a mobile column to join the provincial governor Gallus near Naissus.

Game one
Securing both flanks on a village and wood, Rome deployed in three lines; the first to slow the barbarian rush, the second to shatter the warband and a third, to clear the field of any left standing.

The auxilia did performed their task but a number of barbarian columns were able to pass through and surprise the second line. To help contain the situation, elements of reserve cavalry were ordered forward to restore order.

The charge of the Sarmatian lancers proved devastating and to remian on the field would incur a severe set back. Decius called for a retreat. Score 9 -3 for the Carpi (35”).

Game two
Reinforced, Decius resumed the campaign and met the Carpi on an open plain. Placing the majority of his cavalry on the left, beyond the woods, the main body formed two lines. The entire auxilia component formed the first line with units of legionnaire interspersed among them. A second line consisted of the remaining legions and guard cavalry.

The Carpi gambled on a quick victory and marched forward their warbands at Rome’s first line. Seeing the dust cloud created by Roman cavalry, the Sarmatian allies halted their advance. To contend with the flanking attack, a screen of Carpi light horse and falxmen were positioned to delay them.

Not waiting for the barbarian assault, Roman auxilia moved forward to intercept the Carpi left wing. Despite Roman losses, this had the effect of greatly reducing the number of Carpi that eventually reached the Roman line. To add further complication to Carpi plans, Roman guard cavalry advanced forward. 

The situation for the Carpi proved threatenning as the flank attack scattered the Carpi screen. Recovering their order, the Roman cavalry resumed the advance on the Carpi commander's reserve.

Despite the situation to their rear, the Sarmatian lancers charged the Roman line. The legions held their ground and further effort destroyed a number of Sarmatae cavalry and Carpi warband. Sensing the battle was lost, the Carpi fled the field. Score 10 – 6 for Rome (45”).

Both armies are double sized single commands.
Middle Imperial Rome
1 x General (Cv), 2 x equites (Cv), 1 x equites (LH), 4 x legionnaires (4Bd), 4 x auxilia (4Ax).
1 x general (Cv), 1 x horsemen (LH), 6 x warriors (3Wb), 2 x falxmen (3Bd), 2 x javelinmen (Ps)
Sarmatian Allies
2 x nobles (3Kn) + 1 x javelinmen (Ps).

Historical side note:
Decius did repulse the Carpi invasion to continue his campaign against the Goths of King Kniva. His reign as emperor came to an abrupt end at the Battle of Arbritus.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Carthage vs. the Iberians

Carthage vs. the Carpetani (220 BC)
Following the death of Hasdrubal in 221 BC, Hannibal took command of the Carthaginian army in Hispania and in a series of campaigns along the Ebro and in the west defeated a number of Iberian tribes, among them, the Vaccaei and the Carpetani. This provided the historical backdrop to further experiment with the large command of 24 elements using one die for pip scores.

Game one.
The Vaccaei had abandoned the village to established a defensive line on either side of a steep hill not far away. Hannibal proceeded to move against the enemy left using his Carthaginian infantry, Gallic mercenaries and the elephant corps while skirmishing against its right wing with his light troops. Unfortunately, the Vaccaei were not of like mind and launched an aggressive right hook catching the Carthaginians flat-footed. The rapidity of the assault quickly eliminated the Carthaginian screen setting the Gallic cavalry scrambling for cover. The Vaccaei left wing proved tenacious against Carthaginian infantry and elephants. Sweeping down off the slopes of the hill were more Vaccaei forcing Hannibal to break of the battle. In five turns, the Vaccaei scored an 8 - 2 victory.

Game two.
Unvexed by a minor setback, Hannibal continued his campaign finding the Vaccaei and Carpetani in battle formation between hills and wood. Tempering his eagerness for a quick victory, Hannibal devised a plan to utilise Mago’s cavalry wing.

As expected, the forest edge was brimming with enemy while the enemy centre edged forward. The Carthaginian held their position giving Mago time to execute his planned manoeuvre. Anticipating an attack on their rear, the Carpetani were ready to engage the Punic and Numidian cavalry.

Seeing little movement of the enemy centre, the Vaccaei launched an assault against the hill position to their left, from there they could attack the Carthaginians in the flank. This move proved difficult as the Carthaginians stubbornly held their ground despite being attacked by twice their number.  

A foreboding sense of doom settled on the ranks of the Vaccaei and Carpetani as trumpets were heard further to their rear. This was the awaited signal from Mago at which Hannibal launched his centre against the enemy line. Caught front and rear, the Vaccaei and Carpetani broke and fled the field losing nearly half their number. A clear Carthaginian victory, 10 – 2.  

By Alcides Pinto - Based on the map done by Portuguese Archeologist Luís Fraga, from the "Campo Arqueológico de Tavira". The reference map can be found at this location [1]., GFDL,

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

The March To Battle (Cavalry action)

Continuing with the latest theme ‘March to Battle’ places the next test somewhere in the steppe north of the Crimea. Here, the Alani confront a Hunnic raid. Unfortunately, errors were made in the initial two tests which ended in a 5 – 0 victory for the Alani. After correcting the errors, battle number two was fought on a similar field. 

Test number two
Alani scouts report dust clouds in the distance mean the Hunnic horde are not far away. Entering an open plain between hills and scrub, the Alani fan out to deploy. 

A short time passes to let dust settle to reveal both armies prepared for battle.

The Alani horse archers move forward to skirmish against an equal number of Huns giving time for Alani lancers to deploy into line. Anticipating a Hunnic move against the Alani left, horse archers are dispatched to confront the possible threat.

The signal is given sending the Alani horse archers to attack the Huns near the hills. Alani lancers advance forward intent on dispersing Huns to front and on the hill. 

The conflict escalates in earnest with casualties quickly mounting. The Alani lancers now add their weight to the combat.

A second wave of Alani lancers join fight which did tip the balance, but not in the direction anticipated. Taking advantage of exposted flank and rear, the Huns forced the Alani to admit defeat and withdraw from the field resolving to fight another day, 4 – 3 for the Huns.

(game length, 8 turns fought in 30 minutes) 

Assessing both tests.
These tests should be viewed as an exercise in formulating the deployment of formations intended to skirmish, attack or support. As noted in this and the previous post covering infantry armies, the alignment of troops is not always perfect, which makes the tests useful as troops appearing in disarray can actually be setting a trap. 

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Sassanid vs. Early Byzantine

On the heels of a few standard size games the next few will return to the enlarged command; double size command, but using one die for pip score.

Game one
The Byzantine deployed its infantry in centre with cavalry on either flank, while skirmishers secured the rough ground protecting both flanks. The Sassanid positioned its main cavalry force in centre with the levy and elephants posted to both flanks. More cavalry formed a second line supporting each wing and centre. Adjusting their line of approach, the Sassanid right wing struck first gaining an initial advantage which the Byzantine could not overcome resulting in the loss of the entire left flank. Despite valiant attempts elsewhere Byzantine resistance crumbled to give Sassan an 8 - 5+2xHd victory. 

Game two
Facing the Sassanid on similar ground, the Byzantine revised their deployment positioning the infantry on both flanks with a strong cavalry centre. The Sassanid deployment remained unchanged but due to the restrictive nature of the ground, the divisions were grouped closer together. The wind played havoc for the Byzantine (low pip scores) as signals were routinely misunderstood. Initiating their attack with their right wing, the Byzantine lost their momentum on which the Sassanid seized the advantage. Caught in mid-stride, the Byzantine were dealt a severe blow (6 – 1). For the next hour, the Byzantine tenaciously held their ground to swing the casualty count to even the score  at  7 – 7. Personally leading the reserve cavalry, the Sassanid general tipped the scales to snatch victory iver tge Byzantines, score 9 – 7 for the Sassanid.

Game three
With their right wing resting on a deserted village, the Byzantine deployed in their standard formation with adequate spacing between divisions. Similary, the Sassanid right made use of the cover provided by the difficult hills. All the asavaran and Immortals formed two lines in centre with all the horse archers taking a position on the left. 

Holding their right in position, the Byzantine psiloi advanced to seize the first of two hills with the heavy infantry following close behind. Byzantine cavalry shifted their position to better support this operation. The Sassanid were not idle and moved their own left wing leaving the asavaran cavalry to strike the Byzantine first.

Taking heavy casualties (2 – 0), the Byzantine recovered by sending the heavy infantry to support. In the village, the psiloi frustrated the Sassanid elephants.  through the village on a merry chase. After a period of inconclusive fighting both sides committed their immediate reserve formations. In that time, the elephant threat was eutralised bring the score nearly even (5 - 6).

The conflict reached a highwater mark as the Strategos shifted his attention to the left flank and moved his cavalry reserves to charge the Sassanid supporting units led by their commander.

On the Byzantine left, working in unison, the psiloi distracted the levy while the heavy infantry attacked the elephant corps and second body of levies. This opened an avenue for the Byzantine cavalry to move through and strike the asavaran.

Eliminating the levy, the psiloi now skirmished with the asavaran reserves while awaiting the arrival of the heavy infantry to join the.m. The amount of pressure brought on by the Byzantines was too much for the Sassanid to counter giving the Sassanid commander no choice but to signal a retreat. Score 9 – 6 for Byzantine.

Some thoughts,
The Byzanitine were plagued with low pip scores in games one and two, which made game two a miracle for the Byzantine; bringing the score from a 6 – 1 deficit to an even 7 – 7. 

Game three required a different strategy and after reviewing "Belisarius" by Ian Hughes, I decided to develop a “Dara” gambit. This worked, as the loss to two Byzantine cavalry on the right flank lured the Sassanid to feed further their initial success. Once the Sassanid effort reached its high watermark, the battle shifted to the other flank catching the Sassanid off balance to end the battle with a score of 9 - 7.

Double the following battle order to reach 24 elements.

1 x general (Cv), 5 x cavalry (Cv), 1 x Heruli (3Kn), 1 x light horse (LH), 2 x scutati (4Bd), 2 x psiloi (Ps).

1 x general (Cv), 1 x cataphract (4Kn), 5 x asavaran (Cv), 2 x horse archers (LH), 1 x elephant (El), 2 x levy (7Hd). 

Saturday, 23 November 2019

The March To Battle

The Art of Warfare In Western Europe During the Middle Ages by  J.F. Verbruggen, gives a detailed analysis of the various components of medieval warfare, such as the mounted arm, foot soldiers, command and more. In chapter IV, Ggeneral Tactics, the march to battle caught my attention and interested me enough to experiment with it on the game board. 

In DBA3, following the placement of terrain pieces the defender deploys his troops followed by the attacking player. These are positioned no closer than 480 paces from his opponent’s line. There are however, a number of historical examples that demonstrate how contact between advance parties escalated to a full scale battle. 

With the following tests I would like to explore the development of battle away from the procedure as described above. Commanders must contend with a fluid situation and make a quick assessement to seize key terrain or deploy for battle. Pip scores will heavily influence the positioning of troops, but that is the objective with the following tests. Hopefully, the following examples may interest others to experiment with their own collections.

Below is an engagement between the infantry heavy armies of Neustria, blue banner and Austrasia, red banner, in Northern France. 

Test game
Spearheaded by advance parties of cavalry and skirmishers, these spy one another across an open plain. Maintaining a steady pace of 2BW per turn, the remainder of the army slowly move their columns and deploy on the battlefield.

Evaluating the situation, the Austrasian commander directs his warriors (4Wb) to form on the left with the spearmen (Sp) forming behind in support. The Austrasian cavalry screen this operation to its completion.

Opposite, the Nuestrian commander and cavalry have seized the gentle hill and deploy their own spearmen to face the Austrasian warband positioned between hill and woods. The Nuestrian warband, trailing at the rear of the column, deploy on the reverse slope hidden from view by the enemy.

Two hours have passed (8 turns) since the initial sighting and with orders passed to the troops the Austrasia begin the battle advancing their warband toward the Neustrian shieldwall. The spearmen move forward in support. 

In the ensuing clash on the left, the warband are repulsed by the Neustrian spearmen. Advancing toward the hill, the Austrasian spearmen with the help of the Austrasian cavalry  intend to sweep the enemy off its crest. 

Renewing their effort against the Neustrian spearmen, the warband breach the shieldwall and though a minor victory, this was overshadowed by the quick destruction of Austrasian units on the slopes of the hill. From their concealed position, the Neustrian warband broke the Austrasian spearmen adding to the increasing casualty toll created by the Neustrian cavalry giving Neustria a clear victory, 5 – 3 (game length: 12 turns in 45 minutes). 

A suubsequent action is planned, this being an all cavalry encounter. This should take place next week. Following the two reports I will post a review adding a few suggestions for readers experiment with their own 'March to Battle' games.