DBA FAQ Update – January 2020

The team working on the the DBA Frequently Asked Question file have just released an update. This update provides three new entries. These include two clarifications around threat zones including how threat zones are impacted by cities and forts. Finally, the team provide clarification on rivers and how these impact combat and particular rear support. We trust that the FAQ continues to standardise playing conventions between players around the world.

The most up to date file, available as a PDF, can be found in the “DBA Resources” section of this site.

Adventures in Sumatra

The Sultan of Malacca had been engaged in intermittent war with the neighbouring Samudera Pasai Sultanate of Sumatra for many years. With a new campaigning season opening the Sultan of Malacca dispatched another army this time under Raja Ibrahim to further enforce his claim on the Sumatran coast. A sizeable army was gathered and then transported to Sumatra in a large fleet. 

The armies that would finally take the field after several weeks of campaigning along the coast were similar. Both consisted of a core of warriors which were supported by archers and skirmishing troops including many armed with blowpipes. Most importantly both armies fielded a number of elephants. The Sultan of Malacca however dispatched a large number of heavy siege guns and great determination these were dragged along the coast where they subjected a number of Sumatran towns to horrific bombardments. Lacking the resources of Malacca, and abhorring the slow and dangerous modern artillery arm in the field, the Sultan of Samudera had recruited a large body of light cavalry. In all each army now field some 100 elephants and 10,000 to 11,000 infantry along with artillery or cavalry.

Eventually the Sultan of Samudera offered battle and deployed his army near the northern coast. Deploying his army on an open plain he awaited the enemy. The Malaccans, under command of the young Raja Ibrahim eventually arrived on the field of battle only to find their deployment was constrained somewhat by a large wood on their right and a rocky hill on their left. Unperturbed Raja Ibrahim deployed with elephants and artillery in the centre and his infantry to each flank. Raja Ibrahim, perhaps due to his youth was confident his artillery would overwhelm and after a hearty lunch ordered his guns forward to engage the enemy. However, this was his first independent command and his mastery of the sometimes fickle elements of his army were not fully known to him.

Below, the view from the Sumatran lines.

Indeed, he was so focussed on his artillery arm that he failed to send our scouts, or observe the strength of the army opposite. Now to his surprise a large group of ships now arrived on his right and from these ships almost 3000 Sumatran warriors poured on to the beach. Worse, they now moved at great speed against the Malaccan right flank.

Simultaneously the Sultan of Samudera Pasai ordered forward his left flank and to the clash of gongs, horns and drums the elephants and infantry advanced to reinforce the attack on the Malaccan right. 

Above the Sumatran troops as they pour onto the beach while below, the Sultan moves forward against the Malaccan right supported with more infantry and pachyderms. The purple parasol marks the Sultans position.

Raja Ibrahim now was in almost panic as he struggled to realign his army. While his artillery belched fire at the advancing Sumatrans, causing a large number of Sumatran elephants to rout, his infantry and his own elephants moved to the left as best they could. Soon any superiority due to artillery was lost in the chaos.

The Sultan however maintained the pressure and pachyderms of both armies were engaged in to the fighting.

Above and below the clash on the Malaccan right flank. The Sultan engages the at the head of 50 elephants (purple parasol) while Raja Ibrahim (blue parasol) commanding 100 elephants counters.

Below, another view of the battle on the left, this time showing with more clarity the infantry struggle in the steaming and dense jungle.

The elephants, being fickle at best, were easily unsettled and in the ensuring engagements Malaccan elephants routed three times. Each time they fled from the advancing Sumatran elephants they risked destroying their own formations. The youthful Raja Ibrahim was learning another valuable lesson in the art of war!

Above the Sultan, having caused half of the Malaccan elephants to flee, engages another group under Raja Ibrahim (blue parasol). These in turn fled only to be engaged in combat with Sumatran skirmishers armed with blowpipes.

Some of the Malaccan elephants were rallied and thrown back in when the beasts had been calmed. However, the Sultan kept up a determined pressure and led his pachyderms ever deeper into the enemy lines. Soon his 50 elephants had broken a large body of Malaccan archers then turned and pressed their attacks on the flank of the enemy artillery.

Below, the Sultan engages the Malaccan artillery by falling on their flank. He is supported valiant Sumatran infantry.

No quarter was given and in the ensuing bloody combat gunners and artillery were trampled mercilessly. No more would these guns belch smoke and iron at his fortresses along the coast, no more would they fire at the elephants and warriors of Sumatra.

In disbelief Raja Ibrahim fled as his army broke in rout. How could the once proud expedition be so soundly beaten? How would Malacca recover from such a tragic blow? But playing on his mind the most was what fate would await him on his return to Malacca?

Seleucid Adventures

Some years ago I purchased a number of figures to allow me to build several Successor armies, including Seleucids. While many of the armies were built the Seleucids remained incomplete. The months soon turned into years, I am sure many of you know the story. However, over the last few weeks I have plugged away at some of the more specialty stands. Finally, my Seleucids, or a least one of the sub-lists, could take the field. Last Friday they had their first outing…

Zeuxis satrap of Lydia and faithful general of Antichos the Great advanced in the Spring of 201 BC against the unruly Kappadokians in Asia Minor. The mounted of Zeuxis’ army comprised several squadrons of agema and cataphracts, some 1200 in total. The infantry were a more an eclectic mix. The main component was of course the heavy infantry of the phalanx, some three taxeis or 6000 men. This was supported by contingents of thureophoroi, Galatian mercenaries and asiatic light infantry. Finally 50 scythed chariots and 25 pachyderms completed Zeuxis invasion force.

After having a number of cities layed waste by the advancing Seleucids the Kappadokians finally offered battle. The Kappadokian commander deployed his army amongst a series of rocky hills and wooded areas, an area well suited to his army and not at all Seleucids. While his infantry were clearly set to dominate selected areas of rocky slopes the Kappadokian heavy lancers were massed on the right centre and the cavalry, a mix of light and heavy, deployed on the right flank.

Zeuxis deployed in the open plain. His left comprising the phalanx and his heavy cavalry opposite the Kappadokian lancers while the remaining portions of his army, his centre right and right wing, deployed in front of a long ridge that separated much of the two armies.

Details of the resulting battle are unfortunately lost to history, our historian providing just a handful of words on which we can base our record. We do know however that the Seleucid right rapidly advanced to pin the Kappadokian warriors who were relatively quickly ensconced on the long rocky high ground. Here both contingents faced each other for the duration of the battle with minimal manoeuvring.

On the Seleucid left the combatants was far more active. Zeuxis aimed to lure the Kappadokians from their withdrawn position by advancing then, almost at the time of contact, retiring drawing the Kappadokians back into the open plain.

Above and below the Seleucids advance into a narrow gap against a very thin Kappadokian force. The Kappadokian light horse on the left have moved rapidly from the Kappadokian left flank to a central position.

Below, the general situation.

After advancing and just prior to the expected clash, Zeuxis issued the order and his heavy cavalry and a portion of his phalanx retired. The site was too much for the Kappadokians who now charged. Below, the Kappadokian cavalry surge forward.

The battle then became confusing and our sources quiet on the detail. Certainly neither army gained a clear immediate advantage. Kappadokian lancers tried repeatedly to break the Seleucid lines but were repeatedly thrown back. Seleucid cunning resulted in several overly enthusiastic Kappadokian units being cut down. A Kappadokian flanking movement against the extrem Seleucid left was neutralised by Seleucid cataphracts and came to nothing. Instead the fighting continued in the narrow area of good going bordered by a wooded area on one side and the long rocky hill on the other.

Yet casualties slowly mounted and after an epic struggle Zeuxis was forced to retire his phalanx in particular eventually suffering crippling casualties. Yet the Kappadokians were little better exhausted watched the Seleucids retire from the field. No doubt they would return.

Another excellent game and for me a great opportunity to field a new army, even if the outcome was not as Antichos the Great would have wanted…

Rise of the Celts

It was several years ago I purchased some Corvus Belli Gauls but unfortunately they have sat in the lead mountain for far too long. However, over recent weeks I have finally progressed their painting and last Friday evening they their first outing. Deployed against them were my opponent’s equally new Kappadokians.

The Gallic host comprised both horse and chariots in limited numbers. Instead the bulk of the army comprised warriors on foot (4Wb) who were supported by a number of Gaesati (3Wb). After trekking long distances the Gauls found their enemy in the wilds of Asia Minor in a land famous for its horses, its fruit orchards and its worship of the mother goddess Ma, or so the histories would tell us. The armies deployed, the Gauls on an open plain the Kappadokians restricted somewhat by steep and rocky hills.

An initial advance along a road by over zealous Kappadokian cavalry against the Gallic right inspired a dramatic counter by the Gauls. The Gaesati moved swiftly towards the enemy horse while Celtic chariots and horse swarmed forward on the flanks of the Celtic mercenaries. The Kappadokian horse seemed likely to be overwhelmed.

Above and below the battle on the Gallic right.

Yet the gods of war turned and soon the Gauls were fighting for their own survival many cut down. Yet here the fickle gods intervened again, the remaining Celtic horse on the right now throwing back attackers repeatedly despite being outnumbered three to one.

Below, the Gallic horse on the right hotly engaged by overwhelming numbers. The battle is about to involve more troops as the centres are progressively engaged.

As the main battle lines clashed the Kappadokian general at the head of 1000 lancers pressed the Celtic chariots opposite opening eventually a hole in the Gallic line.

Yet the determined Celtic charioteers, under the Gallic commander, harried their advance at every turn darting forward and back their warriors fighting with great expertise from their chariots. Each side of the now fully engaged commanders, the armies were progressively to be engaged in deadly combat. Slowly in a series of progressive combats the Gallic foot, beating their shields with swords and spears, moved forward.

The pendulum of battle swung back & forth for some time with casualties mounting in both armies. The melee was both general and confusing. But slowly the Gallic heavy infantry were gaining the advantage.

Desperately seeking a breakthrough a further body of by Kappadokian lancers, riding partly armoured horses, crashed into another body of naked Gaesati. Determined to stand these mercenaries from Transalpine Gaul braced for the charge. When it came the Gaesati repulsed their attackers. Reforming the Kappadokian lancers charged again. Now broken up their formation disordered the Galatians cut them down without quarter.

Above, the general situation in the final moments of the battle. Below, the Gaesati repulse the enemy lancers.

The loss of the lancers was too great and demoralised from heavy losses the Kappadokians broke, their warriors fleeing for the hills. As they broke the Gallic warriors themselves exhausted focus on looting the dead and dying. The Gaesati, heroes of the battle, could be seen gathering Kappadokian heads to impale on stakes in celebration of their victory.

Some Kappadokian sources may well report that the Gauls only achieved a narrow victory. However, undisputed by all, was it had been an extremely enjoyable encounter and a fine game using two well presented armies. For the Gauls it was a great introduction to the DBA battlefield.