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.

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…