Using the tribal grouping system does work well for the many nomadic nations throughout history. One can imagine leadership rivalries or territorial disputes between sub-tribes that will invariably lead to a major clash and for this exercise, I selected the Parthian Empire.
In 10 AD, the Parthian nobility were split between those who backed the newly enthroned King Vonones I and others who supported the rival claimant, Artabanus III. Artabanus, who lived among the Dahae in the northeast of the empire gathered the support of nearby satraps to march on the capital. In response, King Vonones marshals the royal troops, nobles and their retinues to head Artabanus in the highland regions south of the Caspian Sea.
Both armies have a similar composition of cataphract nobles and tribal light horse, but King Vonones can field the larger army (18 elements) to meet the usurper’s rebel army of 12 elements. The terrain is for the most part ‘dry’ but ideal country for cavalry.
The King’s forces are deployed over a wide front with the Royal household troops in centre flanked by the noble houses and their retinues. Artabanus has placed the majority of his force in the centre with each wing holding a small number of horse archers.
Mixed signals resulted in little forward movement among the Royalist troops (low pip score) and here Artabanus took the initiative to concentrate his assault on Vonones’ centre and right wing.
The Royalist forces were successful at repulsing the attack and pushed their left wing to take out the horse archers and attack Artabanus from his rear. The horse archers simply drew back frustrating the Royalist column; it was decided to leave a holding force and ride to help the King in his battle against Artabanus.
The situation took a desperate turn as both the centre and right wing of the Royalist army were breaking. In a gamble, a column of Royalist horse archers attacked Artabanus in an attempt to retrieve the battle (note 1).
. at this moment, Artabanus was down two casualties and his death would mean a victory for the Royalist side. Fate decided otherwise bringing the score of 8 – 2 for Artabanus.
The Royalist, deployed in three divisions, moved the left wing to roll up that enemy’s side. Artabanus obliged by withdrawing the horse archers to support the main attack now developing
The ferocity of the assault caught the Royalist troops off guard by smashing their right wing.
Rather than pursue the routed units, Artabanus wheeled his noble cavalry to catch the King in a pincer move.
The loss of the King sent the Royalist forces fleeing the battlefield ending the game with a score of 7 – 1 for Artabanus.
Artabanus changed his strategy by deploying in a defensive formation. Facing this, the Royalist formed up as before with the King’s division in centre flanked by the nobles and their retinues. The location of the hills and rough ground left a small plain for both sides to manoeuvre in.
The Royalist troops moved quickly forward to catch part of Artabanus’ screening horse archers. This forced Artabanus to launch an earlier than planned attack. This unfortunately lacked the momentum of the previous battles giving the Royalist an opportunity to destroy key units and earn their first victory. Score 4 – 0 for Vonones.