Ancient Warfare magazine

Sunday, March 8, 2015

DBA Weekend Campaign - Part Two

Clearing my head from the absolute disaster that was the last battle, I was determined to not make the same mistakes. Would the gawds be with me this time around? The sacrifices to Mars and Jupiter were a plenty preceding this battle. Surely that 'marching carnival' before us would fall on their own pikes this time around. Down three campaign victory points to none, the pressure was on for the forces of Rome.

Battle Two: Divide and Conquer!

After the last battle, the Romans would be understrength with only eight elements vs. twelve for the Seleucids. However astute readers will notice that the Romans actually fought this battle with nine elements! Somehow and extra element of blades slipped in by mistake. We discovered this late in the battle but kept it none the less. We would find some other way to penalize the Romans next battle to make up for it.

The armies have deployed.

Once again the Seleucids were the defender and chose the terrain (arable) and laid out the battlefield. Again keeping things more wide open, a gentle rise (good going), a wood (bad going), and a crop field (good going) dominated one half the table. A road cut across the battlefield. The Romans (my side) had choice of edge and chose to take the side with the wood and hill (to deny the enemy a strong defensive position - something I might need myself). This was followed by the deploying of camps and troops (starting with the Seleucids).

The Seleucids arrayed themselves in standard formation in a long line with pikes and cataphracts in the center. Their right wing contained those nasty circus elephants as well as scythed chariots. supported by psiloi. The opposite flank was protected by a Galatian 'solid' warband, Thracians ('fast' aux) and more psiloi.  To their center-right was the Seleucid camp. My own Romans deployed between the wood and over the small rise of ground on either side of the road before us. Although I planned on deploying in double line I chose to instead extend my line as far as I could to both cover my camp (near the wood behind my lines) and get some faster troops on my left in order to slow up the enemy left (his elephants, chariots, and lights). If I could I wanted to take out these troops in two directions to better my odds. Of course I would play somewhat more defensive in the battle as I wanted to hold on to that high ground facing his oncoming shock troops.

As the Seleucids advance, the Romans make a move on their left to threaten the enemy right wing. The Seleucid psiloi get into the woods on the Roman's right.

With the Seleucids making the first move of the battle, they advanced on my position. All well and good. I held my ground and threw out my left wing cavalry and velites to threaten the flank of the advancing enemy. Seems the Seleucids had a similar idea as their left wing psiloi (and warband not far behind) penetrated the wood guarding my right. This kind of surprised me as I forgot about psiloi making second moves in the first bound and bounds they end in bad going with a subsequent move. I panicked slightly and re-deployed by aux. on my far left to shore up my right near the wood. Yes, a long move indeed, but I did not want to risk my heavy infantry on those woods.

Both armies flanks are under attack

My cavalry and velites on the left made their moves and attacked his vulnerable right wing. My velites unfortunately were defeated against the Seleucid Asiatic archers (psiloi). My cavalry were better off and not only destroyed those nasty scythed chariots, but pursued into the enemy elephants as well! Of course I would be at a disadvantage against these large beasts, but slowing the advance was my goal and that is just what happened.

At this point the Seleucid psiloi on my right in the wood were joined by their Thracian allies ('fast' aux). My Aux rushed into the dark wood and engaged! Unfortunately they were defeated thanks to those Thracians! My right flank would have to be shored up by something more suitable.

Romans fight in the wood to the right and all along the front, isolating the enemy pike blocks.

As fate would have it my cavalry engaging the elephants were flanked by the enemy psiloi while in desperate melee causing their destruction! My flanking forces were destroyed, but I did manage to occupy the enemy shock troops (even destroying their chariots!). Holding the hill with my legionaries and general, I threw my line at the advancing pikes and enemy cataphracts! As for those pesky Thracians and psiloi on my right flank in the wood, I committed a blade element to dealing with them - drawing them out of the wood it was hoped.

Seleucid pikes flanked! My hastati keep the Thracians in the wood at bay.

All along the battle line the legion engaged the pikes of the enemy, many times throwing them back. The cataphracts and Galatian warband were both destroyed after a headlong attack by my heavy infantry (blades). The gawds were favoring me! With his line staggered and broken up I was able to isolate his pikes and defeat them in detail (all four of his pike elements would be destroyed by battle end). A lack of pips (and fear I must add) kept his elephants from engaging my troops holding the hill top. I should note however, the pikes did manage to push my triari on the hill top back enough to not only deny me the high ground, but give himself that same bonus. In the end it was for nothing as my spear armed triari (supported by blades) managed to destroy the relentless pike block.

The Romans manage to isolate the two main pike blocks after defeating the cataphracts and Galatians.

It was all a matter of time at this point. I must say however, the battle was close indeed at this point. Both sides were tied to lose the battle; both having lost four elements or more. However, the pike elements were eventually destroyed and this would give the Romans the victory they needed. The Seleucids did eventually manage to destroy my blades in the wood with his Thracians and psiloi. This was due to the fact that my blades were lured into the wood by a recoiling Thracians! This resulted in the blades fighting the 'fast' aux in bad going and with an overlap from their psiloi! Oh the horror!  These silly psiloi also managed to attack my camp in the next bound, defeating my camp followers and sacking it!

 (Rules Note: It turns out this was a rules error we made. The blade element did NOT have to pursue the recoiling Thracians due to the fact that such a pursuit would take the blades into bad going terrain - the woods. We decided to let this error go since the Romans were fighting with an extra element anyway.)

The Seleucid elephants refused to attack my position on the hill, leaving their pike allies to fight alone un-supported!
The Roman general looks on.

In the end this close fought battle was devastating to both armies, although the Seleucids faired the worst. Victory was granted to the Romans! The Seleucids had lost 6 elements (not counting the scythed chariots), the Romans lost five (including the sacking of their camp). For the campaign, the Romans would gain +2 victory points, the Seleucids zero. After two battles it was looking close.

Campaign Score
Seleucids: 3
Romans: 2

The end of the battle. Although the pikes had been defeated entirely, enemy Asiatic archers did sack my camp (bottom right)!

At this point it was time to see what troops come back ready for the next battle. One half of the lost elements (rounded down) in this battle would return (specific elements determined randomly). This meant that the Seleucids would get back three random elements, the Romans getting back two random elements. Once this was completed both sides would see what troops they get back from those destroyed from previous battles in the campaign (I call these models 'reserve'). Roll a d6 for every such element: 2+ that element re-joins the army; otherwise stays in 'reserve' for next battle. As it turned out the Seleucids had no reserve elements, the Romans had three and all of these also returned for the next battle. So, after all that taken care of, the next battle would have a Roman army of 10 elements vs. a Seleucid army of 9 elements; a close battle to be sure.

The destroyed Seleucid forces. Half of these would end up returning for the next battle.

The destroyed Romans. Note the camp followers in the background!

Observations and Notes: So far this was turning out to be very fun, not to mention challenging. The Seleucids are a very strong opponent if played properly. Even with all my 'solid' blades it is a challenge (granted I am very rusty).

As for my tactics they worked well enough. I rolled fairly decent in combat (especially in the initial assault destroying the enemy warband and cataphracts!). But what really won the day was isolating and flanking those deadly pike blocks.

All in all the battle could have gone either way, both sides being taken to below 4 elements late in the battle. It was a close one indeed. A hard fought victory for the Romans.

The campaign seems to be running very smoothly, although we have been making little adjustments here and there as we go, In fact, to make up for our mistake of adding an extra element to the Romans in this battle, we did the same for the Seleucids. SO they will get back an extra element.

We have also been tinkering with all kinds of nifty things to add later that offer advantage or disadvantage to armies based on success or failure in the battles. This makes up for the relative lack of permanent losses in the armies as they take losses. Many elements come back, and this is fine considering the small number of elements in armies to begin with.

Here is Part One in case you missed it.

Click here for Part Three!


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