Category Archives: Armies

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.

Malaccan Mayhem

The last couple of weeks has seen some progress on painting, basing and rebasing stands for DBA. One of the projects has seen a portion of my larger Sumatran DBR army finally rebased from 3Wb to 4Wb. As a result they can now be used for Malay, Sumatran and Javanese for both DBA or BBDBA, as well as Malay or Sumatran with DBR. As Friday was designated as a DBA evening it seemed fitting to give the rebased Indonesians an outing.

The engagement would find the Sultanate of Malacca engaged against the Samudera Pasai Sultanate of north Sumatra. The armies recruited by the players were almost identical, though a degree of variety is possible despite using the same base list. Both consisted of a core of warriors (4Wb) which was supported by archers (3Bw) and skirmishing troops including troops armed with blowpipes (Ps). Most importantly both armies fielded a number of elephants. However, lacking the resources of Malacca, and abhorring the slow and dangerous modern artillery arm in the field, the Sultan of Samudera opted for a number of light cavalry. In all each army would field some 100 elephants and 10,000 to 11,000 infantry along with artillery or cavalry.

The Sultan of Malacca had dispatched a sizeable army to Sumatra under one of his trusted generals Muda Perdana who advanced into the Samudera Pasai Sultanate with the coast to his flank. Having control of the sea he could be assured of a supplies being provided by the large Malaccan fleet. The Sultan of Samudera determined to block his advance on his capital of Pasai and selected an open plain bounded by woods and steep hills near the coast to oppose the invader.

Perdana positioned his artillery park opposite the enemies centre where he could soon bring the enemy, including his elephants, under bombardment. He hoped that this would either force the enemy to advance or disrupt them as they tried complex manouvres to reposition their centre. Alas, the Sultan of Samudera failed to understand the risk imposed to his centre, or opted to ignore it. Instead, he advanced rapidly on his left with archers and reinforced this attack with his light cavalry who conducted a series of marches to the left from his extreme right.

Above, the forces of Malacca on the left and those of Samudera Pasai Sultanate on the right. The Sultan’s light cavalry can be seen moving across the front in their move to their left flank. A very dangerous move!

Below, a view from the Malaccan lines showing the centre and left.

The attack against the Malaccan right was in many ways fragmented and Muda Perdana was confident it could be held with his own archers and light troops. However, the early loss of a portion of his archers unhinged his flank. For the rest of the battle the soldiers of Malacca would fight a desperate delaying action on their right, saved only by the Sultan’s inability to push the advancing troops forward once they were in the wooded area that anchored the Malaccan right flank.

Above, the Malaccan forces give ground on the right while the left move forward. The artillery continue to engage the enemy at long range.

As the fighting on the flank slowed the centre began to engage. Warriors and elephants were slowly pushed forward with each commander progressively advancing. On a number of occasions elephants came face to face as their crews engaged both man and beast with arrows and spears. Warriors who advanced too far were trampled mercilessly under foot and on occasions numbers of elephants fled from the line. Throughout this the artillery of Muda Perdana maintained an almost constant fire, which unfortunately was woefully ineffective.

Above Muda Perdana attacks enemy foot whose flank has been left exposed. Commanders in elephants are identified by parasols. Below, Muda Perdana prepares to engaged enemy elephants.

Below the fighting in the centre, viewed from behind the Malaccan lines. In the distance Malaccan elephants have advanced too far forward and are now engaged from front and flank by enemy troops. The outcome was as expected.

Muda Perdana was frequently in the forefront of the fighting. With the situation so delicate and critical it was only late in the day that he was able to order his foot massed on the left forward. They advanced and secured a steep hill but were unable to press forward against the enemy right flank. The other flank was now deadlocked.

In the centre particularly casualties for both sides were mounting. As dusk closed in both Muda Perdana at the head of 50 elephants and Sultan of Samudera, also leading 50 elephants, engaged each other. Both were flanked by various infantry units and for some time the outcome was uncertain. However, it was Muda Perdana who was finally to fall. Outflanked the great general, as well as many elephants, were destroyed. The loss was too great and the Malaccan army dissolved. The Sultan of Samudera had secured a victory, a 4-3 victory in DBA terms.

The game was fascinating with several very interactions, understandable given the troops comprising both armies. On several occasions elephants were found fleeing and on a couple of occasions a fleeing elephant could have carried it through a camp. Command and control for both commanders were restricted, partly by terrain and partly as both ended up operating elephants separately. I am looking forward to the next encounter…