A Korean Expedition

One of my preferences is to fight historical, or near historical, opponents. Having recently played a number of games between Japanese armies of the Sengoku Jidai period it was with anticipation I prepared to face another players well painted Yi Dynasty Koreans (IV/78) army. While I’ve had my Japanese for many years I’ve never used them against the Koreans. Historically the Japanese invasion of Korea occurred in 1592, and therefore is officially outside the period of the DBA rules. However, the later armies are effectively the same as those covered by the rules, excluding an increasing number of arquebus from 1542. As a result only a little historical license must be taken to accommodate an earlier invasion of Korea.

The Koreans in this period have a mix of foot including many armed with long spear. Those of better quality are rated as pikemen while the militia, who are of lesser quality, are rated as horde. These are supported by massed archers, artillery and light troops. The mounted component is numerically significant and comprises both heavy and light cavalry. My own Japanese have a range of options but I selected the ashigaru derivative providing an army whose foot were mostly armed with yari (3Pk), a few archers and of course a solid mass of dismounted samurai. In contrast to the Koreans only a few samurai opted to fight mounted.

The Koreans deployed their army on a plain bordered by two rocky hills which restricted their deployment initially. As expected the infantry was on the centre and right and their mounted concentrated on their left. The Japanese centre comprised the dismounted samurai and the centre was extended on both flanks by ashigaru. Finally, on the Japanese right the token mounted samurai were deployed, their rear ranks bolstered by followers on foot.

The battle began with a rapid Japanese advance which was clearly designed to restrict the Korean mounted deployment. The Koreans ignored this pushing their mounted to their left, arguably dangerously, as can be seen above. On the Korean right a rocky hill was secured by archers and light infantry, as can be seen below.

Soon, the Korean light troops were thrown even further forward, unwisely, to pin the Japanese left. While the Korean light infantry were quickly overcome the Korean archers, some on the hill and others on the flat, were more resolute. Indeed, Korean archery continually harassed the Japanese ashigaru who were unable or unwilling to engage, suffered heavy casualties.

The Japanese right pressed forward with the intent of slowly driving the Korean mounted, to their front, back. The ashigaru, armed with yari (3Pk) had the advantage and it was hoped that eventually the Korean horse would be pushed back and caught between the rocky hill to their rear and the Japanese. Instead, the battle swung back and forward inconclusively.

The Japanese centre meanwhile was disrupted by Korean artillery fire. An assortment of carts equipped with rockets being particularly effective in disrupting the dismounted samurai.

Eventually, on the Japanese left, a body of ashigaru flanked the Korean positions on the rocky hill on the Korean right and attacked the Korean main line from the flank. Simultaneously the Japanese samurai advanced in the centre engaging Korean spear and artillery. The Korean militia fought determinedly, pushing the ashigaru opposite back. The samurai, fighting the massed regular spear armed foot (4Pk) were more evenly matched.

Meanwhile, the battle on the Japanese right continued inconclusively.

While the battle on the Japanese right continued inconclusively, above, a decision in the centre was approaching. Eventually the Korean artillery was overcome and aa a result the samurai swirled on to the open flank of the Korean spear. Attacked from the front and flank the Korean pike were overcome.

With this massive rupture of the centre, Korean resolve collapsed. The army, including the relatively organised mounted component, fled the field.

The game was fascinating and despite only having 12 elements in each army lasted over 90 minutes. The final result was a 4-3 Japanese win with the Japanese only recovering from a losing situation in the last few turns. I’m certainly looking forward to a rematch.

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Empire: 280 BC to 271 BC

Seleucus, having regained Syria in 286 BC could either have moved east against the Antigonids in Asia or west to regain Bactria. Planning was well underway when Seleucus was assinated in 281 BC, aged 77. Control of the Empire however passed without incident to Antiochus who in 279 BC, at the head of a significant army, advanced east intent on crushing Andragoras II, King of Bactria.

Andragoras was now well established in the sprawling province. Initially the Seleucid invasion proceeded well with a number of smaller cities being bought to heel. However, in the Autumn of 278 BC the Seleucid army was caught by Andragoras who himself had determined to bring the Seleucids to battle, rather than risk further devastation to his kingdom. Andragoras attacked quickly while before the Seleucids were fully deployed. Antiochus countered and expanded his left rapidly while resting his right on an area of rocky ground.

Soon the Bactrians were in a precarious situation with their own right under heavy pressure and their pachyderms giving ground. Andragoras, desperate to stabilise the situation, ordered forward a number of his heavy cavalry in the centre. Unbelievably the Seleucid centre, comprising phalangites, began to crumble. Both commanders now threw in reserves, but Antiochus was unable to stabilise the situation and the Seleucid line collapsed. Antiochus, as with his father before him, was forced to abandon Bactria.

Meanwhile to the west of the Seleucids the Antigonids were also suffering revolts. In 279 BC the province of Pontus, stripped of Antigonid troops, erupted in revolt. Instead of eliminating these revolts Demetrius focussed his efforts to securing Macedonia. In 277 BC the Antigonid army moved from Thracia into Macedonia.

Macedonia had seen many Kings since Alexander’s death and believing that Pyrrhus’ position in Macedonia was weak, Demetrius felt confident that a quick victory would secure him the old capital and the legitimacy that would provide. In the late Summer of 276 BC the two armies deployed for battle on an open plain. Demetrius’ army comprising a core of Macedonians was bolstered by a number of mercenaries, while Pyrrhus drew his support from Macedonians, Epirotes and Greeks. In addition both armies deployed some 50 elephants.

Demetrius struck first moving decisively towards the left Macedonia right flank targeting Pyrrhus. In a series of clashes Pyrrhus was first isolated and then wounded. As he was carried from the field Melander his trusted general rallied the right and then moved his reserve, comprising his elephants, to bolster the Macedonian flank. 

Now, Melander counter-attacked. In the ensuing combats Demetrius was himself mortally wounded. Unlike the Macedonians the Antigonids now fell into a lethargy and were progressively outmaneouvered by the remaining Macedonian forces. Demoralised and leaderless the rump of the Antigonid army fell back to Thracia where it was rallied by Antigonus Gonatus.

Carthage, frustrated with her failed invasion into Gallia looked again to Magna Graecia. In 275 BC Hamilco crossed from Sicilia at the head of a magnificent army. The Carthaginians had by now abandoned the heavy chariots but Hamilco was keen to try a new weapon. Having transported some 100 elephants to Magna Graecia via Sicilia he hoped these beasts would unnerve the Romans. Hamilco’s Punic army, comprising pachyderms, hoplites, auxiliaries and cavalry was indeed imposing. Several cities opened their gates to the Carthaginians, hoping to regain their independence from the Roman oppressors. Moving north however Hamilco was soon met by a Roman army under Lucius Cornelius Lentulus Caudinus deployed outside Heraclea.

Like the Carthaginians the Roman army had undergone reforms. Now the hastatai and principes were armed with pilum and only the tararii the longer spear. Hamilco determined to attack on his right where he massed his mounted and elephants, while holding his centre and left with his foot.

The Carthaginian pachyderms had the desired affect breaking up the Roman flank despite being countered to an extent by the Roman light troops. This allowed the Carthaginian mounted to break into the Roman line and eventually, with support of the Punic foot, destroy the Roman army.

Rome however was not broken by the defeat and in 274 BC the Senate ordered Manius Curius Dentatis to advance south and bring the Carthaginians to battle. Hamilco was deployed with his elephants in the centre and his right extended towards Asculum by his heavy Punic foot. His left, constrained by the steep and rocky slopes of a nearby hill was held by various mercenaries, more suited to the broken ground.

The Romans deployed with the allied legions, drilled in the Roman style, on the left and the Roman citizens on their right. Hamilco pressed forward where his elephants once again battered the Italian legions back. The Punic heavy foot on the right and the mercenaries on the left pressed forward in support.

However, they were less successful and while the pachyderms continued forward the Punic foot began to be driven back with increasing casualties. Finally, Punic losses crippling and Hamilco watched helplessly as his army broke and Magna Graecia once again became under the Roman yoke.

It will be recalled that in 276 BC that Pyrrhus defeated Demetrius’ invasion of Macedonia and indeed killed Demetrius. Once recovered from his own wounds Pyrrhus and Antigonus Gonatus agreed a fragile peace. Both used this time to strengthen their power base and rebuild their armies. In the Spring of 272 BC Pyrrhus crossed into Thracia with a significant army under his command. Antigonus Gonatus moved quickly reinforcing his veterans with light cavalry from his Asian provinces and selected a battlefield carefully. Here he hoped his superior light troops would have some advantage over the Macedonian, Epirotes and Greeks. Both commanders faced each other on the open flank.

The advance by Pyrrhus was particularly rapid and caught Antigonus reorganising his lines. Antigonid skirmishers thrown foolishly forward where overwhelmed and the Antigonid phalanx struggled to retain its order. However, on the Antigonid right initial setback soon turned to success. As the Macedonian left collapsed Pyrrhus was lucky to escape with his life.

At the end of the decade the various states control the following provinces, the first province being the home province:

  • Carthage: Africa; Numidia; Iberia; Sicilia
  • Rome: Italia; Magna Graecia; Cisalpina
  • Macedonia: Macedonia; Greece
  • Antigonids: Asia; Thracia
  • Seleucids: Mesopotamia; Persia; Parthia; Armenia; Syria
  • Ptolemaic: Aegyptus
  • Independent states currently comprise: Gallia; Illyria; Pontus; Bactria & India.

Conquest 2017

I’m pleased to report that DBA has been confirmed for Conquest 2017.

The new owners of Comic Compulsion, who host and organise Conquest, have been working hard to firm up the overall convention. Having been working with them for a few months Comics today gave the tick for DBA at Conquest. I’m particularly pleased as DBA has been at Conquest for many years.

Conquest will be held on the weekend of the 11th & 12th of November. Details on the DBA and BBDBA tournaments can be found here.

For now start getting those armies ready and join us for a great weekend of gaming!

Of course if you have any questions please feel to ask here, or drop me an email, or visit the Comics Compulsion Facebook page.

Celtic Clashes

One of the fascinating engagements for me has always been those between Romans and Celts, be that in an historical sense or on the wargames table. A couple games last night were an apt reminder of why I enjoy these historical matchups so much. From a DBA perspective, and especially as a Roman commander, the clash can be particularly nerve racking. A well coordinated Celtic attack, along with some luck, can quickly result in the sudden collapse of the Roman line.

To achieve this breakthrough the Celts, be they Gauls or Galatians, need depth. To ensure they gain the needed rear rank support. This depth of course comes as a loss of frontage. Yet the Roman commander needs his own reserves to counter the inevitable gaps that can occur in his own line. Here the conundrums for both players begin.

In some clashes the use of a dismounted Gallic general has proven to be a useful tool to achieve such a breakthrough. A Gallic commander, with rear support, engaged at equal factors to the Roman line. When combined with the advantage of a quick kill this can potentially smash a hole in the Roman line. Of course there are ways to delay or breakup such tactics. In time a Roman player will develop these in an effort to halt the Celtic onslaught.

Of course aside from theses infantry clashes the mounted Celts can provide plenty of interest on the flanks. Chariots or cavalry harassing, outflanking or overwhelming the often numerically inferior Roman mounted.

Terrain plays a critical part. Should the Celtic commander use woods and steep hills for his warriors to move through or is a more open battlefield of benefit to his mounted troops? Despite relatively few troop types the range of permutations are numerous.

Then of course there are times that the Romans collapse and the last hope is to be found at the camp where only a few camp followers are all that protects the Roman coin from the Celtic onslaught…