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).