Sunday, 13 July 2014

A day out with Lost Battles -

Work's finally starting to ease up, and yesterday I headed off down the road with my 15 mm Successor armies in the boot of the car to play a couple of battles of Phil Sabin's rules (Lost Battles).  Since Aaron was keeping the record of what went on, he'll no doubt be posting a proper write up on his blog soon, but here's my brief recollection. (edit: Here's the link to his first post, on Raphia)

First up was Raphia.  We followed the scenario booklet OOB, despite my misgiving about it in several key points; most notably in that Phil arbitrarily reduced the fighting abilities of the Seleucid phalanx to give the Ptolemaic side a better chance of winning the battle.  I took the Ptolemaic side while Aaron played the part of Antiochos III.  My left crumbled as in real life, forcing Ptolemy to seek shelter behind my phalanx; unlike real life, Aaron wasn't forced to pursue my defeated troops, and thus his cavalry were free to sweep around my rear.

Young Ptolemy has managed to extricate himself from his stricken left, and is attempting to urge on his central phalanx, who are alas being sorely pressed by their Seleucid opposites.  At the top, my victorious right is taking time to mop up the Seleucid left wing.

On my right, I broke his left, although not as swiftly as was required, and the central clash of pike was resolved in favour of the Seleucids, as my army's morale was shot by being surrounded and having my camp ransacked (there is no possibility of defending a camp in Lost Battles with just "baggage guards",  a very different handling of things to one of Phil's previous rule sets: Legio ; you need to leave out some of you normal troops to do the job in Lost battles - a point I had forgotten).  As a result my entire army routed (i.e. real-life surrendered) with the exception of a single pike unit on my right, giving Aaron a comprehensive victory.

Here's the scene just before my army broke and ran.  The unit on my left didn't make it off the board in time; that pesky elephant on the Selecucid left held up my victorious right.  Not a great day out for my lads!

Next up was Ipsos.  This isn't one of the scenarios featured in Lost Battles, due to the lack of decent sources - numbers and troop compositions can be ascertained reasonably reliably, but deployment details are very murky, so we used the free deployment rules.  I took the Antigonids while Aaron took the allies.  Each side had two generals, and the Fighting Values were somewhat larger than for Raphia: 72 for the Antigonids and 79 for the allies.

Here things also went well for the underdog - which happened to me this time around...  Demetrius' charge on my left was well supported by high dice rolls, and Seleukos was killed attempting to rally his cavalry.  The Allied elephants were deployed across the battle field, but didn't achieve all that much, and my right also put in good work, so Lysimachos was well boxed-in in the allied centre.

Hmm, this scene looks familiar!  Obviously Antigonos being on a horse instead of a litter has lifted his army's spirit!

Once Demetrius's horse swept around the allied rear, with the allied elephants in front of their phalanx rather than behind it, the allied morale collapsed, handing me as big a victory as Aaron had extracted from me in the previous game.  A great couple of games.


  1. Luke,

    what you think of the lack of pursuit for cavalry? In my view usually the horses were going away following the enemy except if commanders or training were there to prevent this. I have never broached the subject with Phil in person but I always thought it was one of the weaknesses of the system.


    1. I agree, it's a weakness. In my opinion, a commander who wanted to restrain horse from pursuit would pretty well much have had to plan this advance; after all, the horse are there to pursue! Even a commander on the spot would not typically be able (or even be aware of the need) to restrain pursuit. Like Antiochus III at Raphia or Magnesia...

      In Lost Battles this would best be simulated IMO by forcing horse to move into a sector they have beaten, unless their side had spare command points left over that they hadn't used up in their previous bound, 1 command point per unit restrained, plus an extra one per command point that was used to give a combat bonus.

      So if you want to restrain yourself, you will also have to pull your punches in the actual fight.

    2. Hmm, I don't agree. I reckon that the no-turn-and-attack-in-the-same-turn rule takes care of the pursuit issue. Pursuing cavalry have therefore one and possibly two turns before they can get back into actual combat. Remember that spent cavalry are very vulnerable to rout once the army has taken four shatters or lost a general, so if a morale roll goes bad they may not even be able to return to the fight at all. The victorious cavalry in our games never got into contact again, so their effect was a morale one, which I think was justified. Without a general on the scene it's expensive to activate cavalry as well, so I think the rules are good as they are.

    3. But spent cavalry being vulnerable to routing assumes they are on the (currently) losing side, not the winning one! An entirely different thing, IMO. And contact is a red herring. It's the morale effect that actually counts, and that is very easy to engineer. It was decisive in both of our games last weekend.

    4. You'd think so, but I've had victorious spent cavalry rout for the winning side too. It's happened at Trebia, Cannae and Zama if I recall correctly. But yes, it's a roundabout way of simulating a cavalry pursuit, that's for sure...

    5. I'm not necessarily against roundabout methods,so long as they work; I'm just not convinced they do in this particular case :-)

      Part of the problem might be to do with the labels attached to the outcomes, I suspect. What does it mean for a "winning" unit of horse to "rout" when there are actually no (on-table) enemy nearby? Whatever it is, it isn't what I would call a "rout"...

      "Disperse in search of plunder"? Maybe...