Thursday 26 October 2023

Bactria crosses the Indus

Following the demise of the Mauryan dynasty by the Shunga, Demetrius, the son of Euthydemus, invaded the subcontinent in 180 BC. The motivation for the invasion is debated by historians, but some suggest the invasion was intended to show their support for the Mauryan empire. Sources remain sketchy, nonetheless, Demetrius may have reached the imperial capital of Pataliputra, completing the campaign by 175 BC. This benchmarks the origin of the Indo-Greek Kingdom, which lasted for almost two centuries. 

Game one

Shunga forces are positioned east of the Indus, in an area covered by woods (3x) and marshes (2x). All Shunga infantry interspersed with heavy chariotry formed the first line with elephants protecting the flanks. Forming a separate corps, the Shunga cavalry were positioned on the far right. 

Demetrius’s plan was simple, pin the enemy left with his infantry and pierce the enemy line with his cavalry, between their right wing and right centre.

As expected, the Shunga cavalry opened the battle bringing the elephant corps in support.

The Shunga archers readied themselves to shoot the advancing pike as they entered the killing zone. On the right, the Shunga cavalry engaged the Bactrian horse archers and heavy cavalry.

The cavalry clash continued, neither side gaining an advantage, however, a greater threat developed when the Shunga elephant corps moved to derail Bactrian plans. To delay the inevitable, Iranian lancers made a suicidal charge intending to disrupt their advance. Meanwhile, Bactrian pike supported by elephants were able to breach the Shunga battle line.

The breakthrough by Bactrian elephants threatened to roll up the Shunga left flank prompting the Shunga commander to counter charge. This put the Bactrian elephants to route, but the direction of flight was not as intended. The consequence, Demetrios was presented with an 8 – 6 victory in five turns.

Game two

Deploying on a narrow front, the Shunga army positioned its infantry and chariotry as before. Elephants formed a second line with cavalry evenly distributed on both flanks. 

Demetrios planned a similar assault, infantry leading, but this time, the cavalry was evenly distributed on both flanks. The Bactrian light horse formed a group and would encircle the Shunga line and draw off their reserves.

The Shunga battle line advance slowly forward and Demetrios countered by wheeling a portion of the army and proceeded with the encircling maneuver.

The battle did not take long to heat up, Shunga archers on the right rained havoc among the Bactrian cavalry, but elsewhere, the Shunga were feeling the pressure of the Bactrian assault.

Due to Shunga archery, the Bactrian left was now in shambles. To relieve the situation, Demetrios charged the heavy chariotry destroying it, then struck the Shunga archers in flank. In centre, the Bactrian pike pierced the Shunga line sending others recoiling.

The battle field became littered with small combats putting the Shunga in no condition to recover. Demetrios, displaying a demon-like fury, forced the Shunga commander to contemplate his navel and call a retreat. Another 8 - 6 victory for Demetrios. 


Game one ended on a bizarre note. The decision to attack the Bactrian elephant, forcing it to turn to flank, was a blunder of the first order. Thinking a simple recoil would destroy the Bactrian cavalry to its rear, the consequence of flight was not foreseen. This quickly ended the battle on turn five.

Game two was a beast of game requiring ten turns to complete. By turn seven, the Bactrian were well behind with a score 5 – 2. Turn eight, the magic happened as the pike did their handy work and Demetrios played “Rambo”, destroying three elements with the Shunga rajah looking on.

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