Thursday, 31 May 2012
Xerxes Moves West was supposed to turn into a "campaign without maps" but for some reason or other that didn't happen. Instead I turned to the next part of another long discussed project "Great Wargames of History Refought". Having already done Marathon (based on the scenario in Grant's Ancient Battles for Wargamers) and The Korepsis Pass (From the same author's Wargame Tactics) we moved on to Plataea, which features in Grant's The Ancient Wargame. I tweaked his scenario slightly and bumped up the numbers of troops on both sides.
I'm sure that all ancient wargamers have their favourite writers, I should say here that I have a particular fondness for Peter Green, whose book The Year of Salamis (1970. Reissued - as The Greco-Persian Wars - by University of California Press in 1998) I also used in compiling the scenario.
The Battle of Plataea 479BC
Despite the troubles King Xerxes’ army suffered at the Battle of Thermopylae (480BC) and the defeat of his navy at Salamis in the same year, Persian forces were still able to occupy Athens. However, in the autumn, fearful that his lines of communication with his Empire were fatally stretched, Xerxes withdrew half his army East across the Hellespont leaving the other half under his brother-in-law Mardonius to hold Northern Greece, an area that had traditionally been sympathetic to the invaders.
In the spring of 479BC after much debate the unoccupied Greek states resolved to attack Mardonius at his base near the city of Plataea on the border of Attica and Boetia. The army that set forth northwards was made up of contingents from 31 cities including Sparta, Athens and Corinth, around 39,000 strong it was lead by the Spartan Pausanias.
Finding that Mardonius had established a winter camp on the northern bank of the Asopus River the Greeks marched through the pass at Mount Cithaeron and attempted to provoke the Persians into an attack by established themselves on a ridge on the southern side of the river.
The Persian army numbered about 50,000 men of which a fifth were mounted. It included strong a strong contingent of Theban hoplites.
The ridge on which the Greeks were located was too rough for a cavalry attack and so with Mardonius well supplied in his camp a stand-off developed that went on for eleven days. Eventually, after Persian horseman had destroyed a supply train and succeeding in poisoning the only water supply accessible to the Greeks, Pausanias decided to return to the city of Plataea.
A staged night withdrawal was planned with each contingent leaving in turn. Unfortunately due to the traditional arguments that accompanied any joint venture by the Greek states, the retreat was chaotic. When morning came, the Spartan force was split, a phalanx under Amompharates still on the ridge and the rest (including their Tegean allies) on the plain in front of the village of Hysiae. The Athenians, meanwhile were near the Vergutiani Spring to the west of the Spartans and separated from them by about a kilometre of open, flat country. The remainder of the Greek army had arrived at Plataea – six kilometres from the Spartan position - in darkness and set up camp. They arrived late in the battle, piecemeal and apparently in some disorder.
Mardonius, meanwhile, seeing his opponents on open ground at last ordered an immediate attack…..
On eastern edge of Asopus Ridge
Spartan Alpha Phalanx (under Amompharates)
Helot Javelins A
(Spartan helots - Garrison 20mm peltasts - hold the wood on the Spartan right flank. S Range Assyrian horse archers are galloping past)
Main body under the command of Pausanius and Euryanax
Spartan Beta Phlanx
Spartan Gamma Phalanx
Spartan Delta Phalanx
Spartan Epsilon Phalanx
Helot Javelins B
Helot Javelins C
Near The Vergutiani Spring
Athenians under Aristides
All hoplites are in units of 24. Spartans are elite.
All light troops are in units of 12.
Total 288 hoplites, 72 light troops.
Allied Greek States
Hoplite units from Megara, Phliasia and Corinth will appear on the North East table edge on the throw of 18,19 or 20 on a D20 (per unit). Throw at the start of each Greek turn after move one. On a positive score they appear but do not move until the following turn.
40 Immortals (elite)
40 Ectabana Infantry (Persian)
40 Hamadan Infantry (Mede)
20 Persian Archers
20 Mede Archers
12 Dahae Archers
12 Nineveh Javelins
16 Persian Lancers (close order)
16 Persian Lancers (close order)
16 Assyrian Horse Archers (light)
16 Scythian Horse Archers (light)
40 Indian Spearmen (Auxiliary)
40 Phrygian Axemen (Auxiliary)
40 Assyrian Spearmen (Auxiliary)
20 Ashur Slingers (Auxiliary)
20 Indian Archers (Auxiliary)
12 Assyrian javelins
12 Assyrian archers
Under Asopodorus of Thebes
24 Theban Hoplites
24 Phocian Hoplites
24 Locrian Hoplites
24 Malian Hoplites
12 Boeotian javelins
12 Nubian archers
12 Ethiopian archers
16 Thessalanian Cavalry (light)
16 Boeotian Cavalry (light)
40 figure units are close order infantry
20 figure units are close order missile troops
All 12 figure units are light troops
“Medized” Greek hoplites are of lower quality than Athenian and Spartan hoplites.
Wednesday, 30 May 2012
In a previous post I raised the question of what army the Egyptians should be pitted against. The obvious answer is, of course, the Assyrians. I already have a large number of these fellows - both S range and Garrison 20mm - serving with the Persians. I would need to add less than 100 figures to make up a substantial force and I could deploy the home-made 4-horse chariots. Yes, that would be the sensible thing to do. So why do I keep thinking about Kushites and Philistine ox-chariots?
When it comes to military matters it's always good to get in a three-letter acronym (or TLA as they call them in the army). Here are some of the original S range OPC cavalry - Greek on the left, Persian horse archer on the right. They went OOP when Minifigs introduced seperate riders and mounts c.1969. Some examples of the painted Greek cavalry can be seen in Charles Wesencraft's Practical Wargaming.
Tuesday, 29 May 2012
Posted by camsell59 at 03:45
(S range Egyptian heavy spearmen from the John Tuckey trove. These are the original 1968 figures. They were redesigned c.1970/71 with chainmail shirts and in an advancing pose)
When Stephen and I first decided to refight Charles Grant's Apocryphal Well scenario I'd thought we'd just do a switcheroo on the armies and make it Assyrians v Persians instead of Assyrians v Egyptians. However, having photographed a few of the John T Tuckey Egyptians for this blog I took it into my head to opt for the armies Grant used in his battle. I already had a couple of close order Egyptian spear units and two units of skirmishing archers serving under the Great King. By painting up a few figures - 40, 50, 60, there's not much to them, really - I could quickly make up the forces required. Chariots? I had a bag full of the original Minifigs S range Egyptian chariots that Tony Wade had brought to the Durham Show back in 2004. They are small and primitive compared to the later redesign, but they looked like they'd do. I didn't have any horse to go with them, but I did have lots of spare Persian chariot steeds that would look OK. A couple week of painting, merging under strength units, rebasing and juggling command figures and I find I now have 200 close order spearmen, 80 close order archers and 84 skirmishers. The chariots I'm still working on, but there seems no reason why I shouldn't finish up with 16....And then I just need an army for them to fight against...
(Below: S range Egyptian spearmen, from the later redesigned range. The original of this figure wears a loincloth and carries a "peep hole" shield)
Monday, 28 May 2012
Ever since reading Terry Wise account of his Carthaginian v Romans clash "The Battle of the Po" (a thrillingly Old School affair in which Airfix redskins are deployed as Numidians) in his Introduction to Battle Gaming (1969) I have experienced a, frankly, juvenile excitement about the prospect of deploying elephants on the tabletop.
In wargaming, I think it is fair to say, the elephant is just about the only thing that is capable of doing more damage to its own side than to the enemy (Insert your own joke about the commanding officers here). This capacity for uncontrolled mayhem is, naturally enough, the wargame elephant's greatest appeal.
In Terry's battle, the pachyderms - six Britains baby elephants with cardboard howdahs - were formidable indeed, destroying "all infantry in a line two inches directly in front of them" and requiring consecutive sixes from opponents to kill (the howdah occupants are more easily dealt with). Looking at Terry's account of the battle again, however, I was suprised to find no rules that gave the elephants the opportunity to run amok. Once all the pachyderm's crewmen were killed he appears simply to have subsided with a weary sigh, like a well excercised dog in front of an wood fire.
Luckily this suprisingly dull approach from one of the Sixties pioneers is more than made up for by the radically different attitude of another two, Don Featherstone and Tony Bath. In the ancient rules provided in The Don's War Games (1962) the pachyderm is delightfully capricious, requiring no more than a good shouting at to go into full stampede mode (when approaching infantry three ranks deep and D6 throw of 1,2,3 cause Jumbo to swerve, with a directional dice score of 6 sending him racing back towards his own lines, trumpeting and flailing his trunk). In the Battle of Trimsos, played with Bath's 30mm flats, three elephants are deployed on the Hykranian side. The first is killed almost immediately by a stone thrown by a war engine. The other two successfully charge through a unit of Hyperborean infantry, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake, but then when faced with a second infantry unit one shears off to the side and drops off the table edge. The other carries gamely on, smashing through a further Hyperborean infantry formation before a crushing blow on the head from a well-aimed missile from a war engine brings him to a juddering halt.
In Practical Wargaming (1974) Charles Wesencraft - who deploys Minifig S range and Garrison 20mm figures in his armies - divides elephants into light and heavy, summarising the former as "Usually fairly obedient, they have a tendency to go berserk...". The later meanwhile "do no not go berserk so easily as light elephants but when they do disaster can follow". Wesencraft gives the mahout the opportunity to kill his rampaging elephant before it does any damage (throwing 3,4,5,6 on a D6) but after that hilarity ensues.
While I can't say that I have read around the subjective exhaustively it appears to me that there is actually little in the way of substantial evidence to support the "mad stampeding elephant" idea (though, of course, it happens quite often in Tarzan films). It is true that at Xama Hannibal's elephants were confused by loud noise and ran away, but as a counterweight Porus' elephants at the Hydaspes seem to have fought gallantly and to the bitter end without trampling their own side. On balance Terry Wise may have taken the correct approach with his sensible slumping pachyderms. However, for historic wargaming reasons - and because it's vastly more entertaining - I follow the Featherstone-Bath-Wesencraft line.
Posted by camsell59 at 03:21
Sunday, 27 May 2012
Saturday, 26 May 2012
At the Battle of Barca the Persian chariots proved highly effective. On reflection, too effective. In the rules used for that battle chariots were treated as individual units. This gave each model the power of a dozen foot skirmishers. Even allowing for the fact that chariot crews were a highly trained elite that is clearly too much. In future I intend to group 2-horse chariots in units of four and 4-horse chariots in units of two, giving each the same fire power as the individual models in the original rules. Even with this reduction the chariots will still be of high value - they occupy a smaller frontage than light cavalry units, making them easier to maneouvre through gaps in the lines, while higher morale status make them more difficult to destroy.
While chariots used in Asia seem to have been predominantly as mobile fire-platforms - I find it hard not to imagine them riding into battle to the music of Wagner with Robert Duval cackling madly in the lead vehicle while unleashing volleys of fire arrows (though I have drunk three espressos this morning) - in Europe the Celts seem to have adopted a different approach pulling to a halt in front of the enemy and then jumping out to engage in combat. This is altogether harder to simulate and needs some consideration.
Friday, 25 May 2012
(Minifigs PBs Numidians and Arab Camelry are about to clash. S range horse archers can be seen galloping about too)
Accounts of the great battle of the Barca Oasis are fragmentary. However from consulting various sources we can piece together the following facts. The Persian army lined up with the Arab camelry supported by horse archers on the left of the line, close order missile troops in the front centre and heavier cavalry and Persian and Assyrian chariots on the right. The close order infantry was held in reserve. The Iranian strategy - outlined in an ancient electric rune despatched by one commander to another – was to utilise their superior fire power by advancing their close order missile troops towards the Carthaginian lines, and then executing a rather complex staged withdrawal shadowed by the cavalry. In such a way they hoped to blunt the greater weight of the Carthaginian infantry and drive the enemy elephants mad.
The Carthaginians meanwhile put faith in the great grey beasts, who would punch a hole in the enemy centre through which would then pour the similarly wild, but altogether less disciplined Gaulish infantry. The two cavalry forces would – or so Bomilcar believed - simply cancel one another out. His heavy infantry would stay in reserve to protect the waterhole, which was, after all, the objective.
The battle began with disappointment for the Persians. The camelry, whose vast swords promised mayhem on a Conan the Barbarian-scale, surged splendidly forwards in the manner of Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia. In response two units of Numidians galloped towards them, let loose a couple of flight of javelins and a handful of very favourable dice and the Arabs turned tail and ran.
The sight of this galumphing rout of the lumpy quadrupeds caused a great cheer to group from the Carthaginian lines. Perhaps the Gauls thought the entire Persian army was in retreat, for at this point they chose to ignore all orders and charge a squadron of Persian chariots that had galloped the entire table length pecking ineffectively but irritatingly away at Bomilcar's slower moving troops from distance. One of the Persian chariots was over run and destroyed in the rush, but the others simply bounced away across the sand, firing as they did so. The Gallic pursuit continued, but now they were hopelessly isolated and in range of the massed Persian archers. His second wave of shock troops having gone too early, Bomilcar unleashed the elephants in an attempt to rectify the situation.
On the right meanwhile things were altogether less exciting, the two groups of heavy cavalry surveying one another from distance, like boxers fearful that an attempt to land a knockout blow might result in their own destruction. The Assyrian chariots, did attempt action. Unlike the more circumspect Persians, however they wandered too near to the enemy and a surprisingly rapid charge by the Blues Shield Scutari saw vehicles, men and horses going down in a cloud of dust.
On the left the Numidians, after their initial success against the camels, were now struggling to deal with the Dahae horse archers, whose superior missile range initially held the North Africans at bay and then drove them off completely.
In the centre the crisis for the Persians was approaching. The elephants crashed into the first line of archers, making short work of them and bursting through towards the second line. Had the Gauls been following up in support as Bomilcar had originally intended they might have carried the day. Alas for him at this decisive moment the over enthusiastic Celts, already worn down by the missile fire of skirmishers and chariots, received a volley of arrows into their flank from the now rampant horse archers. All their howling bravado deserted them and they turned and ran back to the oasis. Isolated, the elephants battled gamely on until pierced by arrows they subsided trumpeting pitifully about the wisdom of trusting tattooed barbarians.
(The battlelines before action was joined with Persian missile trops to the front centre and chariots about to embark of a table length gallop to annoy the Gauls)
By now any hope Bomilcar had of destroying the Persians was gone. His belief that he could hold the Oasis with his heavy infantry remained high, however. That might have been true had the Persians been armed only with shield and spear as his men were but now as the Persians advanced behind volley after volley of missiles it became clear to him that their archery and slingshots would, whatever he did, simply whittle his forces down. Determined to save the heart of his army for the next encounter he began a well-ordered withdrawal from the field.
Exhausted and thirsty the Persians did not pursue.
Close Order Units
(40 Figure Units)
Gaul Mercenary Warband A
Gaul Mercenary Warband B
Other Close Order Units
(Unit size in brackets)
Black shield Spanish Scutari (30)
Red shield Spanish Scutari (30)
Blue Shield Spanish Scutari (30)
Spartan Hoplites (24)
(12 figure units)
Spanish caetrati javelins A
Spanish caetrati B
Balearic slingers A
Balearic slingers B
Close Order Cavalry
8 Elephants and crews
(Numidian Prince converted from Minifig PBs figure using Milliput. Originally I tried to make the cape using the traditional "metal from an old-fashioned toothpaste tube" method. However, after cutting my thumb a couple of times and squirting Euthymol all over my painting table I gave up)
Close Order Units
(40 Figure Units)
Ectabana Infantry (Persian)
Indian spearmen (Auxiliary)
Close Order Missile Troops
(20 Figure units)
Mede archers (yellow)
Mede archers (blue)
Assyrian Archers A
Assyrian Archers B
(12 Figure Units)
Sakae archers A
Sakae archers B
Close Order Cavalry
Dahae horse archers (grey)
Sakae horse archers (brown)
Arab Medium Camelry 16
Persian Chariots 4
Assyrian Chariots 4
Battle account to follow shortly...
Thursday, 24 May 2012
(Minifigs PBs Arab Camel Riders form the vanguard of the invading Persian Army. Have a care, lads. You could take someone's eye out with those swords...)
I've assembled quite a large Cathaginian Army, but having nothing much to fight it with. So, in the spirit of Tony Bath I decided to make something up. The idea is based on some vague historic pretext, though some of the troop type involved are plainly anachronistic. But, since it let me have camels, elephants and chariots on the table at the same time, who cares?
Xerxes Invasion of Carthage BC485
On ascending the Persian throne following the death of Darius, Xerxes first task was to suppress a rebellion in Egypt. This done he now looked for other projects. He had sworn to Darius that he would avenge the defeat of Marathon, but on consideration was that really necessary? Greece was a poor place and, since its principal natural resources were yoghurt and philosophy, offered little in the way of material reward. Besides which it was tiresomely mountainous making the logistics of campaigning a frightful headache. Better by far to look for somewhere flat, rich and barbarous with treasuries full of gold and jewels.
(Garrison 20mm Persian light cavalry wearing high visibility pants and balaclavas - maybe buying that Vallejo orange wasn't such a great idea...)
A thought occurred to Xerxes. When Cyrus had captured the city or Tyre in BC510 he had planned to use it as a staging post for the conquest of that other Phoenician outpost Carthage. However, Cyrus’ attempts to raise a fleet for the expedition were thwarted when Tyre and the other cities of the eastern Mediterranean coast refused to sail against their Punic brethren.
Mindful of establishing himself as one of the greatest of the Great Kings, and with the fleets of Egypt, Cyprus and Ionia now fully at his disposal, Xerxes vowed to achieve what his celebrated ancestor had failed to do - extend the Persian Empire all the way to the Gates of Hercules. Carthage was rich. It had ivory, incense and Mauretanian gold. With the money from its treasuries he could pay one half of Greece to fight the other. With any luck they’d both lose.
An Invasion Plan
Darius had proposed to invade Greece by marching an army along the coast of Asia and supplying it from the sea. Xerxes invasion of Carthage would proceed along similar lines. Using the western Egyptian city of Cyrene as the final staging post the Persian army would set off along the coast of what is now Libya toward the eastern most Carthaginian outpost of Leptis (near modern Tripoli) taking on water and food from the fleet as they went. After Leptis they would reduce the island fortress of Syrtis before moving up the coast to Thaptus, Hadrumetum, Clupea and finally Carthage itself.
The timing was ideal for such a strategy. Persian triremes and transports could have been vulnerable to an attack by the powerful Carthaginian navy. Fortunately the ships of Carthage were currently too busy dealing with the Greek fleets in the continuing conflict with the Sicilian tyrants Gelon and Theron to get involved in any other operations.
And so it was that in the early part of BC485 the mighty Persian host set off into the sandy wastes of Libya.
The Carthaginians had usually been able to rely on the pre-eminence of their navy to protect them from foreign invaders, but with the fleet tied up around Sicily the ruling senate realised that this time their city’s survival rested in the hands of its mercenary army under the command of Bomilcar the Boetarch. The army would march out and fight the invaders near the city of Leptis. That way even should Bomilcar be defeated there would still be time to raise more troops before the Persians closed in on Carthage itself. Sacrifices to the great god Melqarth were made to ensure that that wouldn’t be necessary.
Bomilcar seized on the idea of occupying the Barca Oasis to the east of Leptis and denying this important water supply to Persian troops [Ah, so it's the Apocryphal Well scenario again...] who had just marched across the great Libyan desert. To this end he lead cavalry and light troops swiftly forward, teamed up with the Leptis garrison – recently swelled with the arrival of a phalanx of Spartans - took up position beneath the date palms and waited for Xerxes.(Minifigs Pbs Hannibal playing the role of Bomilcar supported by Carthaginian noble cavalry. These latter figures are the PBs Roman Civil War cavalry - code PBC103 - I need another six, if you have any...)
Xerxes had identified the Barca Oasis as an important staging post on his route. Water was vital to his vast army. He had therefore sent ahead a fast-moving commando force of cavalry, camelry and chariots bolstered by lightly armed troops with a view to holding the oasis until the main army could arrive.
One autumn morning as dawn broke over the desert, rising dust clouds to the east indicated to Bomilcar that Xerxes army was approaching.
Sorry about this huge gap at the bottom of the post. Try as I might I can't seem to get rid of it.
Maybe I should just fill it in with blather....
Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Monday, 21 May 2012
Posted by camsell59 at 23:50
Posted by camsell59 at 03:03
Skirmishers always present a bit of a problem in wargames. On the one hand you want them to serve some useful purpose, on the other not to turn them into superheroes (such as The X Men, or Don Featherstone's Napoleonic British Rifle Brigade). In Parum Pugna the skirmishers can fire at any point during movement, alowing them to scamper into close range of a slower moving enemy and then run away again. Their impact in one off attacks is limited, but it mounts up over time and, as we saw during the Korepsis Pass refight, will eventually wear down even a well-equipped and disciplined foe (good historical examples would be the actions at Pylos and Lechaeum). One thing I wanted to avoid was allowing skirmishers to be deployed as kamikaze squads, hurled into close combat with massed enemy units with no chance of winning, but with every possibility of delaying the enemy for at least a round of melee. In Parum Pugna skirmishing troops are simply not allowed to initiate hand-to-hand combat. This is slightly Draconian, I know and there is reason to suggest that some feistier skirmishers - such as Alexander's Agrianes - should be allowed to wade into a weakened opponent, or to charge into their flanks or rear. I should add that in the rules heavier peltast types such as the Thracians are dealt with seperately, based in larger groups and able to skirmish and fight at close quarters.
Sunday, 20 May 2012
For this game we dispensed with Parum Pugna and tried a glossy new set of hardback rules, recently published and rather expensive. Combat was resolved by an extradordinary palaver of hit throws, saving throws and penetration throws that left my morale severely shaken....
Saturday, 19 May 2012
Friday, 18 May 2012
Thursday, 17 May 2012
Posted by camsell59 at 06:53