Chariots at War

There is something about chariots, perhaps it is the models or perhaps the stirring images they create on the battlefield. Either way when one of my regular opponents suggested a preference for earlier armies, and the opportunity to use his chariot centred armies, who was I to disagree. Therefore last Tuesday the scene was set for two DBA games using armies from the Chariot Period. Unfortunately my armies are limited in this period so the battles would not between historical opponents. Despite this with both sides using chariots they were both visually interesting. First to take the field would be Early Carthaginians who would clash with my opponent’s Mycenaeans.

The Carthaginian commander, advancing along the coast deployed his army opposite the enemy who blocked his advance. The Punic commander now deployed his outnumbered heavy chariots in the centre and extended his line with his heavy foot. A proportion of his lighter troops and a small contingent of citizens were retained on aboard ships to his left as a reserve.

As the enemy advanced, complete with a great number of heavy chariots and dense ranks of infantry with long spears, a prearranged signal was given and the naval contingent disembarked its landing force behind the enemy flank. While light troops advanced boldly on to a rocky hill, from where they threatened the Mycenaean right, a body of 1000 citizens began a slow advance towards the enemy camp.

The battle was however to be decided in the open plains. The Punic commander focused his attacks on the Mycenaean flanks. On the left, in a surprise situation his heavy foot where driven back. While on the right light troops and cavalry, after at first being thrown back, finally gained some success. Yet the Mycenaean host continued to advance.

Above the battle on the Carthaginian left flank where the heavy Punic foot were pushed back by the Mycenaeans. Below, the Carthaginian right where finally the Punic horse drove in the Mycenaean flank, despite heavy losses to the supporting Carthaginian light troops.

The Mycenaean chariots and massed foot achieved several breakthroughs but Punic resolve stiffened and on the Mycenaean left casualties mounted. A final Mycenaean push looked likely to succeed. That was until the Mycenaean troops began to falter, which soon turned to rout. Their resolve was shattered when they learnt their camp had been sacked by the enemy, curtesy of the 1000 Punic foot who had pushed every inward after their landing. The Carthaginians had it seemed achieved victory by the narrowness of margins.

Now to our second game which involved Hittites and Later Hebrew. Again not historical opponents, but somewhat closer.

The Hebrew found themselves defending against a Hittite invasion. Aware of the large number of Hittite chariots and a preponderance of Hittite heavy infantry the Hebrew commander opted to offer battle on a field broken up by a series of steep rocky hills. Here he hoped his lightly equipped warriors would be able to dominate the terrain and then strike at the slower enemy.

The Hittites deployment was weighted to their right where the hills provided less of a hinderance to their heavy chariots and infantry armed with long spears. The infantry and chariots were generally drawn up interspersed with the chariots forward. The Hebrew in contrast had their own chariots to the rear of the infantry.

Then with the armies deployed the Hebrew centre almost immediately moved forward with skirmishers thrown dangerously forward on to a hill near the Hittite centre left which was progressively reinforced.

Above the battle is underway with the Hebrew infantry securing a hill and reinforcing it. Below a view of the Hittite centre and right. The Hittite light chariots are formed on a road.

Frustrated with this aggression the Hittite commander ordered the advance of his levy to begin the process of securing the hill. Simultaneously his light chariots began their flanking manouvre against the Hebrew left. If successful the chariots would eventually be well placed to overrun the Hebrew camp.

The fighting in the centre was however the focus. With the Hittite levies and Hebrew skirmishers locked in combat the fighting would slowly draw in additional forces to left and right, as can be seen below.

Soon a breakthrough by the Hebrew skirmishers, whose motivation and abilities in the rocky terrain was achieved, as can be seen below. However, this situation was neutralised by a cunning Hittite redeployment.

Now, attempting to prevent the Hebrew left from reinforcing the fighting in the centre several Hittite chariots advanced forward. Isolated they were overwhelmed by Yahweh’s warriors who now poured down from the rocky hills on the left. With the situation deteriorating the last hope for the Hittites was a final push against the relatively undefended Hebrew camp. Alas, again the Hittite chariots were meet by more Hebrew warriors who again poured down from the hills overwhelming the last light chariots and demoralising the Hittites.

In the end two very challenging and extremely enjoyable games. It was great to get the chariots out. What’s not to like about these earlier armies.

Te Kawau Strikes North

The following summary outlines a recent engagement between two Māori iwi (tribes) using DBA and my 15mm miniatures. Both armies are of course defined under list IV/12e.

Tension had been building for many years between the rival iwi the Ngāti Whātua and their northern neighbour the Ngā Puhi. In the summer finally tensions reached breaking point following a raid on a one of the hapū (sub tribe) of Ngāti Whātua. Te Kawau seeking utu (revenge) assembled a large taua (war party) of some 1200 toa (warriors) with which he would seek revenge on the Ngā Puhi. The advance north was initially uneventful. The majority of the taua moved north on foot but one hapū moved by sea in a number of waka taua and the double hulled waka hunua.

As the sun reached its highest point in the day Te Kawau ordered his warriors to deploy. Opposite him the rangatira (chief) Murupaenga had deployed the Ngā Puhi warriors. Constrained by a large wood on his left and a swamp on his right Murupaenga dispositions were both complex and deep. Te Kawau’s dispositions were less complex. His extreme left was marked by the 200 warriors at sea who were now poised to land. The majority however formed from near the sea, marked by an abandoned Ngā Puhi unfortified village, and stretched out towards the right. Te Kawau held back selected groups to act as reserves.

Now Te Kawau, tall and cutting a striking figure in his parrot feathered clock, stepped forward and in a loud voice chanted his battle song. The opposing armies listened in profound silence to this bold and commanding oratory.

His warriors suitably motivated Te Kawau decided to act quickly. At the arranged signal the waka beached on his left, allowing the warriors to disembark and from where they threatened the Ngā Puhi right. Elsewhere Te Kawau’s warriors advanced. Equipped with a range of weapons including the taiaha (long-handled fighting staff) and short weapons such as a patu (club) tucked into a belt, the advancing warriors cut a chilling site.

The first clash occurred on the Ngāti Whātua left where the recently landed warriors attacked with great boldness, despite being outnumbered. Te Kawau planned to pin the enemy in or near to the swamps where his enemy would be at a disadvantaged. Soon more Ngāti Whātua toa extended the line attempting to drive the enemy back at 45 degrees causing confusion in the Ngā Puhi ranks.

Above, the Ngāti Whātua warriors who have landed from their waka press their enemy, while below more Ngāti Whātua to advance to press the Ngā Puhi centre.

Increasingly the battle become general as further Ngāti Whātua warriors were committed. Below, the Ngāti Whātua centre and right. The stands with four figures per base represent a major chief and his bodyguard. They are still treated as 3Bd.

The fighting swirled back and forth with individual toa welding their longer taiaha or their patu to gain every advantage possible. Increasingly groups of warriors became isolated and were pushed back. In so doing the victors pressed forward exposing their own flanks.

Above, a view from the sea illustrating the confusing battle near the sea. On the left is a large swamp while on the right the abandoned village.

Despite initial success Ngāti Whātua casualties were mounting. Te Kawau undeterred pressed forward with his right. Again the fighting surged back and forth as one group gained an advantage. The enemy line began to crack and sensing victory a final push was launched in the centre.

Above, Te Kawau (centre and in the distance) has pressed forward and created a hole in the Ngā Puhi line which threatens to expose the Ngā Puhi rangatira Murupaenga (left).

Yet, it was Te Kawau who would be robbed of victory. His left, which you will recall has been fighting outnumbered for some time (above), was beginning to be overcome. Finally, it was overwhelmed. The courageous warriors of Ngāti Whātua were forced back, until they broke. As they broke all hope of utu was lost.

It has been a while since I’ve deployed my Māori on the table, and then usually using the later DBR rules. Many readers would expect a relatively linear battle given that each army comprises 12 stands of 3Bd. This is in fact not the case. Our battle swung back and forth continually in what can only be described as a very confusing engagement. The final result was a narrow 4-3 win to the Ngā Puhi iwi.

Gracchus, Flaccus & Maximus

Like much of the world here in New Zealand we are under a lockdown in an effort to control the spread of Covid-19. For many weeks now all wargaming, at least face to face, has been on hold. However, my son and I decided to attempt some virtual DBA games using Skype. In the ensuing weeks we have played around five games. In the end the majority of engagements comprised battles involving Rome, so these are presented here in something of a campaign, though at the time we had no such plan.

Frustrated by the ever growing restlessness of the Gallic peoples north of Rome the Senate determined to move against the Cisalpine tribes despite the ongoing threat Hannibal posed to Rome. The Consul Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus was dispatched and pressed north engaging a large Gallic army in the Spring of 215 BC.

Above and below the view of the engagement with the Gallic cavalry and chariots massed on the Gallic left.

Gracchus was particularly aggressive and exploited ruthlessly the gaps in the Gallic lines.

However, the Punic threat could not be ignored and in 212 BC Rome moved against the Carthaginians in the south. Having assembled a large army the Consul Quintus Fulvius Flaccus marched south.

The Carthaginians, commanded by Hanno the Younger, deployed along the coast their flank resting on an occupied Italian city. Reinforced with a number of pachyderms Hanno hoped to break up the Roman lines with these beasts. Soon a dramatic battle developed with the elephants repeatedly pressing the Roman centre.

Above and below the Carthaginians are engaged against the Romans.

However, Roman determination was unwavering and slowly the Roman infantry gained the advantage until finally the Punic veterans were overwhelmed. 

Yet before the Punic threat could be overcome events in the north required attention. Therefore in the Spring of 211 BC a new Consul, Gnaeus Fulvius Centumalus Maximus, marched north to confront the Gauls.

Maximus hoped the campaign would be short and therefore planned to suppress the tribal alliance before moving south again. However, the old Gallic commander undertook a series of complex manoeuvres and fell on the overextended Roman right.

Above, the move against the Roman right, while below the Gallic main effort seen from the Gallic right.

The Gallic attack against the Roman right had clearly surprised Maximus whose attack temporarily stalled. This now allowed the Gallic centre to decimated the Romans opposite and secure a clear Gallic victory. 

Yet undeterred Maximus reinforced his army and by autumn was prepared to again move on to the offensive. In due course the Gauls offered battle and again the Gallic commander attempted a series of complex manoeuvres.

However, this time his cunning only created a series of gaps in his own line which he was unable to plug.

Maximus struck with deadly determination, shattering the Gauls and handing them their worst defeat since Telmon.

In the course of three years the Consuls Gracchus, Flaccus & Maximus had inflicted three defeats on the enemies of Rome. Now Rome, emboldened with confidence, could focus on the final defeat of Hannibal…

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.