Saturday, 31 December 2016

Seleukid-Ptolemaic mini-campaign, part 2

Following on from our first clash, the Sarlukids looked to extend their territorial ambitions. The second battle of the day used the 1st Chaironea battlefield from the rule book. This feature not one but two streams meandering across the battlefield, as well as a pocket of marsh and three hills to congest the field of play.

Both the forces in play were very similar to those used before. The Aronaic horse was definitely improved in quality (1 x ALC replaced by 2 x VHC), while the infantry was somewhat less numerous, with 1 x APH and1 x LLI missing from the previous line up. Overall, the forces consisted of:

Aroniacs:                    Sarlukids:
2 x AEL                      2 x IEL
9 x APH                      8 x APH
1 x VPH + AL             2 x AHI
1 x VPH                      1 x ALI
2 x LLI                        2 x LLI
1 x AHI                       2 x AHC
1 x ALC                      1 x ALC
1 x AHC                      1 x VHC + AL
2 x VHC                      1 x VHC
FV: 68                          FV: 68

The field viewed from my side of the table. Terrain by Aaron (some work still to be done).
My generalship in this contest was not the best. I failed to tailor the forces in each of my zones to properly account for the attack limits imposed by the terrain. As a result, my left, while numerous, couldn't bring its weight to fully bear on the opposition properly, due to the watercourse, while Aaron's opposite force, consisting of smaller units, was able to strike more tellingly. Thus, despite the presence of my king in this sector, I was soon in trouble, and the spent markers quickly added up.

As a result, I was forced into attempting "rallies",  always a dicey proposition, especially if you are a mere "average" leader... Too many rallies, and the inevitable happened: I lost my leader.  Now the army technically survived this loss, but not for long. Morale plummeted, and command and control was crippled, so I was unable to salvage victory from other zones were I had been faring better. It was just left for Aaron to mop of the paralysed remnants of my army (a unit of light infantry in the marsh on my right was doing good work holding off his horse there, but was then overwhelmed, for example).

We were thus on equal honours after two games. The final showdown took place on a battlefield taken from Gabiene. A plain, devoid of significant terrain, but with the wrinkle that "dry and dusty" conditions were in effect. This meant that every turn, there was a 50-50 chance of a turn reversal occurring, meaning the player who previoulsy went second would now go first - which could be good or bad, depending on the situation. Extra fog-of-war randomness!

Sarlukid elephant, with new-fangled tower on top.
Army compositions changed somewhat again. Aaron's forces had only one unit of elephants this time around, and an extra unit of average light cavalry in compensation. Mine had more extensive changes. There were now three contingents of elephants instead of two, and sporting towers as the campaign date had marched on. However, the two units of mercenary heavy infantry had been reduced a single large unit of native levies, and one of the average light infantry units had disappeared. One of the veteran horse units was now only average, but it had an "uninspired leader" accompanying it. Further, my side had an unfortified camp to protect.

This battle was even more closely fought than the other two, and both sides suffered heavily. My sub-general, on my right, should have given me the edge in the cavalry fight there, but Aaron's forces were better man-for-man (VHC against AHC), and prevailed much to my disappointment. They were then able to sweep around the field and threaten my camp. Aaron pulled an excellent move by squeezing a unit of LI between the battered lines to encircle some of my infantry units, making them very nervous. If his victorious cavalry sacked my camp, my by-then precarious morale situation would have shifted over to "sunk", so I pulled back my C-in-C in an attempt to defend it, but this meant leaving my damaged phalanx leaderless, and it was then destroyed. Game lost! So that made for three great games, and showcasing Lost Battles' first-class combination of nail-biting decision points with historical verisimilitude.

Aaron's account here.

Seleukid-Ptolemaic mini-campaign, part 1

Well, it's been a poor year in terms of gaming, but yesterday I managed to get down to Aaron's for three games of Lost Battles. Aaron had stiched together a mini-campaign with him taking control of forces based on 3rd-century BC Ptolemaics, and me with their Selucid equivalents.  Each side would consist of 66-68 FV ("fighting value") of forces, with battlefields taken from the rules book, and simple campaign rules to determine who would deploy first, etc.

The first game used the Paraitacene battlefield, featuring a line of hills along one flank, and open ground elsewhere. The "Aronaic" forces featured a strong Macedonian settler phalanx, with no less than 10 units of average phalangites (APH), plus two of veterans representing the royal agema, etc (VPH). These were supplemented by a unit of mercenary infantry (AHI, average heavy infantry), and numerous levy Engyptian light infantry (3 x LLI). Theer was also two groups  of African elephants (with their integral infantry escorts; AEL); a unit of light horse (ALC), as well as two of settler xystophohori (lancers, AHC). The king (AL, an "average leader") chose to fight on foot at the head of his agema, rather than mounted.

Initial skirmishing; the guys on the big square base are mine.
The "Sarlukids" had a somewhat inferior Macedonian settler phalanx: 8 APH, supplemented by two contingents of mercenary foot (AHI). The Sarlukid infantry argyraspides had eveidently been left at home to guard against potential usurpers... The two herds of elephants were of course Asiatic rather than African (IEL), and in addition to their escorts, further reasonable light infantry was available from the various subject peoples of the empire (2 x ALI). The Sarlukid horse was however definitely stronger than their Aroniac counterparts: two units of settler xystophoroi (AHC), one of Tarantines (ALC), plus the mounted agema and the royal companions (2 x VHC). The Sarlukid king (AL) rode at the head of his companions.

Sarlukid left (foreground) and Aronaic right (distance)
Aaron deployed first, with his veteran phalangites pushing quickly forward on his right wing. The majority of his horse was also on his right, while his left was refused. Since the great majority of my horse was massed on my left, this would lead to a big cavalry fight on my left wing.

Seeing his cavalry inferiority, Aaron skillfuly redeployed his right-most elephant corps even further out to his right (see photo left, out of focus in the distance). This would stymie my cavalry assault for quite a while, giving Aaron time to assault my weaker phalanx with his stronger one, further aided by his commander-in-chief being presnt in person.

However, eventually, my left cavalry wing overwhelmed his right despite his elephants in this zone. However, in Lost Battles, a victorious cavalry wing cannot automatically cease pursuit of broken foes, and the extra turn spent turning my horse inwards to assail his phalanx meant my centre was in dire straits.

Crisis point! 
So, it was a race - would I roll his pahalnx up before he could punch through my centre? To the right you can see my cavalry have just cleared my left wing (the unit furthest from the camera is my light horse, advancing into the now-vacant Aronaic zone), but my central zone is in trouble - every unit there is spent (indicated by the "casualty" markers in use - the little round bases with one or two javelins impalled head-first in the earth). Aaron would repeatedly shatter units in this zone in the next couple of turns, but some excellent morale dice rolling rolling saved my bacon here, and I squeezed out a victory, albeit at the cost of my centre taking heavy casualties. A close-run affair!