One of the appeals of Lost Battles for me is the ability to refight Ancient battles in an evening and feel as if you have actually fought the “battle” while gaining an appreciation for the flow of the engagement. So with little preparation we deployed our figures and set about refighting the Successor battle of Gaza in 312BC recently.
As way of background Gaza, fought in 312BC between Demetrius, son of Antigonus and aged around 24, and Ptolemy. As with most ancient battles there is some debate on numbers, however for our refight we used the numbers defined in the scenario. This means that Ptolemy and his Egyptians have some 21,000 foot and 4,000 horse. In contrast Demetrius fielded fewer foot, perhaps around 13,000, along with 4,400 horse and some 43 elephants.
We also used the historical deployment as given in the Lost Battles scenario, rather than deploying freely as you are of course free to do. A review of this map will highlight the deployments of the various Hellenic foot, heavy cavalry and of course Greek elephants under Demetrius. Of particular interest is the position of the two commanders, stuck out as they were on the flank opposite each other. Demetrius is defined as an “Avergae Leader” (AL), while Ptolemy is rated as an “Inspired Leader” (IL) for this scenario. This gains Ptolemy some advantage particularly for command purposes on top of his already larger army. Certainly Gaza is not a “equal points” based battle!
Demetrius also order the attack from his own key zone, where mush of his cavalry and elephants were located, against the Egyptian key zone opposite. Here his elephants caused some significant disruption to the Egyptians opposite which in turn was exploited by more Greek Companions. One of the aspects of Lost Battles I particular like is the use of light troops and elephants which I believe models Hellenic Successor battles particularly well. As the battle continued here increasing numbers of Egyptian light infantry and cavalry were disrupted by the Greek attacks and became “spent”. Indeed, it looked increasingly likely that here the Egyptians would crack under the constant pressure.
Elsewhere the main phalanx of both armies pressed forward in the central sectors. Here again the initial Greek attacks, led by elephants, drove in the Egyptian light infantry, which in this case were Egyptian levies. Soon the elephant attacks were supported by the Greek phalanx attacking in dense formations. However casualties on both phalanxes were more even and no clear gain was achieved.
On the Greek extreme right Demetrius moved his wing forward, despite being outnumbered by an extended Egyptian phalanx. This advance was poorly considered. Soon Egyptian light horse attempted to harass the extreme Greek right, though with little result. However, the threat was considerable and Greek light cavalry were withdrawn and extended in a desperate attempt to protect this wing.
Meanwhile, back in Demetrius own sector a series of strong and bold attacks soon cleared much of Ptolemic supporting cavalry from the field. Now Ptolemy himself looked likely to succumb to further attacks which would surely mean the Ptolemaic right would have collapsed. Ptolemy clearly considered withdrawal to the saftety of his cavalry in his own right centre, where he could bolster the now wavering troops for a last push. Instead he opted for a final charge on his own right. Charging the exposed Demtrius all was risked. The gods were clearly with Ptolemy and this charge caught the exposed Demetrius, a result of him being the lead unit, and he fell mortally wounded while his bodyguard was shattered. The pendulum of battle now looked to be swinging to favour Ptolemy.
Yet despite the loss of Demetrius, and the exposed Greek left wing, the Greek left centre continued to press their advantage. However, while the battle continued to rage and victory was possible, defeat was fast approaching. Indeed, when it came it was sudden. The Greek elephant corps, still leading the attacks was shattered under a final Egyptian counter-attack. In an instant potential victory here was replaced by panic. Stampeding elephants disrupted the already spent Greek units and chaos and confusion engulfed what was left of the Greek left. With the Greek left in rout the phalanx of the centre, also aware that Demetrius had fallen, determined to withdraw. Clearly they hoped Antigonus could restore their fortunes, even if his son was dead.
Historically Gaza was a defeat for Demetrius and despite a glimmer of victory at one point, our refight had a similar result. Now however we consulted the victory conditions and handicap system included in Lost Battles to see if Demetrius had achieved more in our refight than he had historically, specifically a “game victory”. Alas it was not to be. Ptolemy had secured an even greater victory than he had historically. No doubt he now retired to Egypt to strengthen his hold on his corner of the Hellenic World, at least for now…