Tuesday, 12 October 2021

The Triakontaschoinos 275 BC

"Land of the Thirty Schoinoi" described a region dividing Ptolemaic Egypt from the Nubian kingdom of Meroe. From here, piratical raids by the Nubian forced Ptolemy II Philadelphus (284 BC – 246 BC) to send an army and seize the region and eradicate their presence. This was of course of primary importance, but there were other concerns, such as securing the gold mines located there and demonstrate Ptolemaic rule over the native population of Upper Egypt, thereby eliminating any potential threat of rebellion.


The campaign took place in an area between the First and Second Cataracts of the Nile River, known to be a haven for Nubian raiders. Choked with boulders, the waters between the two-cataract made navigation by ships impossible, neutralising any option of a naval landing by the Ptolemaic army. Overland, the march southward was for the most part over arid and difficult terrain.

Terrain pieces to be placed by the defending Nubian are; 1 x waterway, 2 x difficult hills, 1 x dune and if playing the double size command option, add 1 x BUA.

Ptolemaic force

1 x General (3Kn), 1 x Xystophoroi (3Kn), 1 x Tarentine horse (LH), 2 x Macedonian phalangites (4Pk), 5 x Greek and mercenary peltasts (3/4Ax), 1 x javelinmen (Ps), 1 x Cretan archers (Ps).


1 x General (Cv), 1 x cavalry (Cv), 2 x tribal archers (3Bw), 5 x tribal spearmen (Sp), 2 x tribal swordsmen (4Bd), 1 x herdsmen with bows (Ps).

Note: The composition of the Ptolemaic force has been adjusted to reflect the declining number of Indian elephants as its source had long been blocked by Seleucus. A victorious campaign by Ptolemy II would open potential trade route southward to procure the African breed.



Reaching the First Cataract, the Ptolemaic force deployed in echelon formation hoping to pin the elusive Nubian against the eastern bank of the Nile River. Encountering stiff resistance by Nubian spearmen, the assault lost momentum resulting in the phalanx becoming isolated from its auxiliary support resulting in heavy loss of casualties, compelling the Greeks to retreat (4 – 2).

Catching the Nubian in the open, the Greeks deployed a strong right wing with all the cavalry and the phalanx leaving the auxilia to form a left wing. The Greek right wing bowled over the Nubian opposition to roll up the Nubian army and earn a decisive victory (4 – 1).

Recovering from their defeat, the Nubian took a defensive position near the Second Cataract. Both sides deployed in similar formations as before, but the Nubian held the advantage of terrain protecting both its flanks. Nubian archers on both flanks contained the advance of the Greek wings leaving the auxilia and phalanx to make first contact. Nubian swordsmen made quick work of destroying two units of auxilia forcing the Strategos to commit his bodyguard and the Xystophoroi. Unfortunately, this came too late as the entire left gave way forcing the Greeks to retreat (4 – 1).

A resumption of the campaign was postponed as the situation in Syria and potential invasion by Antiochus I required immediate attention.

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

The Franks and the German Confederation 406

 The great German migration of 406 moved along the Danube to skirt the territories held by the Alamanni and Burgundi before reaching the Rhine. However, their search for a suitable crossing was contested by the inhabitants of the eastern bank of the Rhine, the Franks. Friction between the two great tribes escalated and in the summer of 406, several intense engagements took place leading to a final battle on August 23rd, ending with the Vandals losing 20,000 men and King Godegisl, yet the late arrival of the Alan forced the Franks to withdraw. That winter and faced with near starvation, the German confederation crossed a frozen Rhine River to enter the Gallic province of Western Rome. 

Alan arrival

One of the difficulties of creating a scenario for the final battle is the timely arrival of the Alan. The conventional method is the cast of one die each turn to determine a successful arrival. Alternatively, one’s score can denote the number of turns before arrival on the field. Another solution was devised for our test games and is not for the faint-hearted. 

In this scenario, the Vandal die cast will remain hidden (dice cup), this will be revealed after incurring the first element lost. Alan arrival is successful after one element lost (1,2), two elements (3,4) or three elements (5,6).  To compensate what may seem a disadvantage, late arrivals may enter at any board edge on the  Vandal player’s following bound.  


The forces

Using the army list from DBA3 we have the following composition of forces.

Ripuarian Franks

1 x General (Cv) or on foot (4Wb), 10 x warriors (4Wb), 1 x archers or javelinmen (Ps).

 Hasdingi Vandals (King Godegisl)

1 x General (3Kn), 1 x nobles (3Kn), 7 x warriors (4Wb), 1 x dregs (Ps), and an allied contingent 2 x Alans (LH) arriving later.


In the series of three test games, the attacker did pursue an aggressive game knowing that off table troops could enter at any board edge.

Game one, the Alani arrived on the third bound (a score of one element lost) to seal a Vandal victory, 5 – 3.

Game two
, a similar score allowed the Alani to enter on the fourth bound. Unfortunately, the Franks were on a killing spree to reach 4 – 0 by turn five.

Game three, the Franks did not move from their initial position, risking an Alani arrival reaching the Frankish rear. After an initial clash and the loss of an element each, the Vandal needed one more element to have the Alani join the battle. As if on cue with a pip score of six, the Franks dealt a killing frenzy to secure a 5 – 1 victory just before the arrival of the Alani.

Sunday, 26 September 2021

Battle of Calama

Note, both commands were increased to 24 elements giving Count Bonifatius 8 mounted and 16 foot. Keeping the majority of his foot warriors, Gaiseric held back the dregs (Ps) and a unit of Alan (LH) to accommodate the contingent of Moorish troops.. 

The Battle

Straddling the road and barring the approach to Calama, the Roman army were arrayed in two lines; the first comprised of auxilia with light horse extending their line and the heavier armed equites and legionnaires were positioned in the second line. Among the latter, the vexillum of Bonifatius and his subordinate general could be seen. 

Eager for battle, Gaiseric formed his Vandal warriors in two wings with Gaiseric commanding the right and his brother in arms, the left. Positioned further to Gaiseric’s right could be seen Vandal heavy cavalry and Alans. The contingent of Moorish cavalry and skirmishers were positioned on the opposite flank. 

The battle opened with Bonifatius sending his light cavalry to deal with the Moors while the remainder of the army held their position to await the Vandal advance. 

Moving forward at a steady pace, the Vandal infantry approached the Roman line, unfortunately the light cavalry action brewing up checked the Vandal left from advancing any further. That slight delay did not deter Gaiseric as he crashed into the Roman first line with devastating results leaving half their number cut down. 

To retrieve the situation, the legion counter charge was as effective gaining time for the Roman left to recover from its setback. Roman skirmishers, among the grain fields, held the Alani in check as reserves from the second line were brought forward. 

One the Vandal left; the cavalry action ended with the Moors falling back to reform their line. Having no further orders, the Roman light cavalry did not pursue and so held their position. 

Following this, the Vandal left resumed their march to reach the Roman line, however, the loss of momentum diffused their expectations as the Roman line held its ground. 

Over the course of an hour’s fighting (4 turns), casualties mounted heavily on both sides. Seeing the inactivity of the Moors, the Illyriciani circled the rear of the Vandal horde to support the legion in their fight nearly shattering the Vandal left. In a desperate gamble, Gaiseric launched his cavalry in an all-out assault to deliver a crushing blow on the Roman left. This action was decisive as it tipped the balance leaving Bonifatius no other option but to retreat to Hippo Regius.

Final score 8-7. 

Friday, 24 September 2021

Count Bonifacius and the Vandal threat

“Bonifacius, the African army, and a contingent of supporting Gothic foederati confronted and were defeated by Gaiseric near the city of Calama in 430, after which Bonifacius retreated to the city of Hippo Regius.” - Wikipedia

The Vandals departed Hispania for Northern Africa in 429, whether this was at the behest of Bonifacius or on Gaiseric’s own initiative, is still debated among scholars. I am inclined to the latter, as Gaiseric was shrewd enough to view an opportunity offered by the conflict between Bonifacius and F. Constantius Felix reducing Africa’s military strength. More importantly, a move to Africa would avoid further entanglement with the Suebi.  

Alan and Gothic troops joined the Vandal army and together they quickly overran opposition in modern day Morocco and northern Algeria. Coloma was Gaiseric’s next target as it provided a vital grain supply, seizing it would cripple the food supply to Rome and feed his own people and troops.  


The battle is described as having taken place “near” the town of Coloma which is located on a relatively open plain bordered by hills, these would likely be covered with fields of grain or vineyards. A fortified residence of a rich patrician would not be out of place on the game table and slicing the battlefield, a paved road. The siege of Hippo Regius began in May or June, which would make April as the possible month of our battle.

The forces

Using the Notitia Dignitatum to determine the units forming Bonifacius’ army would most likely have changed as troops relocated to stem the German migration or join the civil conflicts that flared between 395 and 429 AD. To simplify the composition of the Roman force, I used the DBMM Patrician list as an extra reference. This produced a greater number of auxilia to represent the border police detachments and light horse.

Patrician Roman Army (Western)

1 x General (Cv), 1 x equites (Cv), 2 x equites (LH), 1 x legionnaires (4Bd), 2 x auxilia palatina (4Ax), 3 x auxilia (4Ax), 2 x archers (Ps). 

Early Vandal Army

1 x General (3Kn), 2 x nobles (3Kn), 7 x warriors (4Wb), 1 x Alans (LH), 1 x dregs (Ps). The Later Moorish Army served as allies after 428 AD.

1 x General (LH or Cv), 1 x horsemen (LH), 1 x javelinmen (Ps).

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

The Khan of Kazan vs. Muscovy

 During the 15th century, the territories dominated by the Golden Horde began to reassert their former independence. The throne of Kazan, usurped by Ulugh Muhammad in 1438, held sway over the former land of the Volga Bulgars. Throughout his reign, Kazan forces raided Muscovy and its subject lands during the reign of Vasily II. One such raid forms the basis for our historical match up.


IV/44 Post Mongol Russian

IV/47 Golden Horde and Successors


A relatively open plain bordered by woods and gentle hill. 


The forces of Kazan and Muscovy met on an open plain surrounded by woods, but did not hinder their deployment. Both sides held formidable numbers of mounted troops supported by a small number of infantry. Cavalry on both sides formed two lines with intervals between divisions allowing supporting troops to move through.

Expecting a prolonged skirmish, Kazan only re-positioned its light horse to allow cavalry from the second line to move forward. Surprisingly, a cautious Muscovy took advantage of the redeployment to move forward at a quick pace followed by a charge to contact.

Repulsed in centre, Muscovy regrouped to charge a second time forcing the Tartars to fall back.

At this moment, the distance between wood and Muscovy’s right wing opened presenting opportunity for the Kazan light horse. The immediate threat was checked by the timely intervention of the Russian general and bodyguard.

Meanwhile, on the Tartar right, light horse archers moved into action.

The cavalry fight in the centre developed into a slugging match with both side taking casualties. Unfortunately, disaster struck when both Russian flanks succumbed to enemy light horse. Seeing the collapse of their flanks and the loss of their general, the Muscovites fled the field.

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Ostland – 1495 - 1497

The Russo-Swedish War of 1495–1497, overshadowed by the Italian War, did bring together two significant powers as allies; Hans, King of Denmark and the Grand Prince Ivan III of Moscow. The target of their combined might was the southern region of Ostland, then ruled by house of Sture. This consisted of the counties of Vyborg, Savonlinna and Hämeenlinna and to protect the people of Western Finland, Sture enlisted the aid of German mercenaries and people from Sweden.

In the autumn of 1495, Moscow sent an army to lay siege to Vyborg Castle and after an unsuccessful three months, the siege was lifted. Undeterred, Ivan planned another campaign for the following year and this army would be led by Russian generals Vasily Kosoy and Andrey Chelyadnin with the sole objective to devastate Swedish Ostland as far as Hämeenlinna (Tavastehus).

Our game will focus on an episode of the Russian chevauchee and players of DBA3 will note, neither are listed as enemies of one another. Despite its omission, our hypothetical clash of arms is set for the year 1496.

Forces involved.

The following lists are used without alteration.

IV/44b Post Mongol Russian Army.

IV/54d Other Scandinavian Army

The communities dotting the coast of Ostland are littoral for the defending Swedes giving them a waterway, hamlet and several wood.


Informed by scouts that the nearby fishing community was defended, General Vasily Kosoy rode ahead with a small escort to view the disposition of enemy troops. Quickly assessing the situation, militia troops would move along the shore. seize the village and destroy it. The boyars and their retinues will smash the peasants formed in battle line, nothing fancy thought Kosoy.

A veteran in the war against the Danes, Gustav laid out his plan to defeat the Rus to his Leidang.  

Putting spurs to the flank of the horse, the Russian cavalry dashed forward, leaving their militia infantry behind and tossing the general’s best laid plan in the dust. The Tartar light horse, equally animated, circled the woods intent on reaching the rear of the Swedes.  

The shock of cavalry was met by Leidang spears and halberd and interspersed were crossbowmen dropping horse and rider with unerring accuracy. Repulsed by the sudden hail storm of bolts, the Russian cavalry regrouped to charge a second time. Meanwhile and beyond the wood, a dismayed Tartar light horse were met by smaasvenner cavalry who cut down half their number leaving the remaining half to reconsider other options.

The Swedes defiantly held their ground leaving the supporting Russian cavalry to look on as spectators. Quick thinking mercenaries in Swedish employ fell on the open flank of the engaged Russian cavalry initiating a chain reaction of destruction and eventual flight of few survivors. The assault on the defended village met a similar fate, leaving General Vasily Kosoy no option but to withdraw his severely mauled force and look for easier pickings. 

Swedes 5 – 0.       

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Rome recrosses the frontier 359 AD

The recent victory over the Sassanid had tarnished the military reputation of Shapur II, however, Armenia who bore the brunt of the losses coupled with news of a failed revolt in Persian led Roman command to question the wisdom of continuing the campaign. Thoughts, pro and con, were heard during the military council and the decision was made to cease continuing the campaign and make preparations to recross the frontier. 

Aware of Rome’s decision, Shapur II was confident that Rome would relax their march as they approached the frontier. Taking a circuitous route, Shapur II crossed the frontier to position the army to block Rome from continuing its march back home. The gauntlet was cast. 

The Forces.

Each force fielded a single command but with double the number of elements. Follow the link to read how DBA24 is played.

To simulate the hilly countryside of eastern Anatolia, two difficult hills and two woods were placed on a board size half times larger (120cm x 80cm) by the defender, Rome.  


Even from a far distance, the glitter of spear points and dust clouds, Rome knew this was no raiding party that confronted them and little time was needed to deploy into battle formation. The legions and auxilia formed two wings with light horse extending their line and behind them, the heavy cavalry formed a second line. 

The Sassanid positioned all their infantry and the elephant corps on the left, skirting the woods and hills leaving the open plain to be filled by their cavalry to form its centre and right flank.

The advance of the Sassanid infantry and elephant corps opened the battle against the Roman right wing while the asavaran cavalry skirmished with the legion and auxiliaries on the opposite flank, intent on breaking their formation.

An hour and a half (6 turns) inconclusive fighting had past, then disaster struck as Roman infantry made quick work of destroying the Persian infantry and scattering the elephant corps. With the collapse of the entire Sassanid left, both sides moved their armoured cavalry with Rome looking to make a breakthrough and the Sassanid to stave off disaster.

To the surprise of Rome, the Sassanid broke off their attack to place distance between them and the Roman left wing. Ceasing their advance, Rome made use of the respite to redress its own ranks, but no further hostile activity by the Sassanid was made three quarters of an hour (3 turns).

FootnoteSassan was 2 short of break point while Rome sat comfortably at the half way mark. 

Sensing not much would be needed to send the Sassanid on their way, both Roman wings moved forward.

Springing into action, the asavaran moved forward at a trot and showered the Roman line with arrows as the first ranks, with lances thrust forward charged into the Roman line.

The combat was brief as gaps began to appear along the line. Startled at the sudden loss of its line, Rome called for its survivors to withdraw while the reserve cavalry would cover the retreat. Content at having regained its reputation, the Sassanid let Rome retire unmolested. Victory for Sassan, 8 – 6.