Category Archives: DBA

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…

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Paraetacene Refought

Friday evening found three of us play testing an historical scenario for the Successor battle of Paraetacene, fought in 317 BCE. The Wars of the Diadochi are a particular interest of mine and given this battle has been the focus of a Society of Ancients Battle Day in 2018 it has been on my radar for a while. After some research, considering orders of battle, reviewing frontages, pondering of various interpretations and even a little painting, I felt my almost DBA sized scenario was ready for the table.

For the evening I was joined by fellow Society of Ancients member Andrew and by another local, Ben. During the course of the evening we managed to refight Paraetacene three times, with each player taking command of either Antigonus or Eumenes once. Therefore after the miniatures were deployed in their historical positions, and the small number of special rules explained, our refights began.

In the first Eumenes seemed overly concerned for his right flank and as a result dithered somewhat first reinforcing his left and then moving troops back as other threats developed. Further, while concerned for his right he order an advance with his left, in an effort to pin the Antigonid right and neutralise this flank using his pachyderms. Simultaneously he advanced with the centre. Somewhat caught off guard by Eumenes actions on the left Antigonus threw caution to the wind and advanced. However the arguably rash actions by Antigonus against Eumenes left would leave him exposed.

Above, the view from Eumenes lines, though not all of his forces are shown. Below, Antigonus is caught off guard by Eumenes cavalry and is wounded.

Meanwhile, Eumenes was pressing forward with his centre where he hoped to breakthrough with his veteran Silver Shields and Hypaspists. His aspirations were rewarded, below the Silver Shields secure a breakthrough in the centre.

With the breakthrough achieved the Antigonid centre would soon collapse – the valour of the Silver Shields in the centre clearly carried the day for Eumenes, while Antigonus was carried from the field wounded.

In the second game Antigonus focused his attack against Eumenes left and reluctantly pressed his phalanx forward. Eumenes, cunning as always, deployed light troops in the nearby hills which somewhat frustrated Antigonus’ advance. However, undeterred Antigonus pressed forward and with great personal valour encouraged his Xystophoroi onward. His victory was secured when Eumenes’ left broke and his centre became dangerously exposed.

Above and below photos from the second refight. Above the light cavalry of Antigonus’ left flank. While below Eumenes’ Silver Shields advance while Eumenes’ more numerous light troops attempt to delay the Antigonid phalanx.

Another view of the Silver Shields pressing forward. Antigonus’s was reluctant for his mercenaries to clash with these veterans.

In our final refight of the evening a new Antigonus tested his theory of the strength of his own left flank, or Pithon became overly aggressive, when Eumenes pressed forward with his own right. However, in doing so Pithon greatly over stretched himself and soon Antigonus’ left flank was crumbling.

This left Antigonus desperately trying to hold off defeat here, while gaining some form of advantage elsewhere. Calm heads prevailed and eventually Antigonus steadied his left flank and found an opening. Indeed, success seemed possible when the flank of Eumenes’ phalanx became exposed following pursuit in part by the Silver Shields enthusiam and the caution of Greek mercenary infantry. As a portion of Eumenes’ phalanx collapsed the pendulum seemed to swing in Antigonus’ favour.

Above the centre, viewed from behind the Antigonid lines, while below the another view later after a portion of the Antigonid left centre has reoriented to halt Eumenes’ advancing phalanx.

Yet while progress was made by Antigonus, it was insufficient and soon with casualties growing Antigonus’ proud army was forced to retire.

By the end of the evening we had been rewarded with three very successful games. All illustrated the characteristics of Paraetacene which of course was particularly pleasing. Further, each had provided much debate among the players around commander’s options and key elements of the battle. However, now armed with these play tests I will consider a few additional refinements to my Paraetacene scenario.

Galatian Incursions

Friday evening found a selection of armies converging on my temporary gaming room for an evening of DBA. As it turned out a Galatian theme developed.

Our first battle of the evening found the Galatians (Ben) migrating into the provinces of Asia Minor and clashed with the Kappadokians (Andrew). The Kappadokians had suffered a series of defeats recently so were keen to turn the tables on the most recent invader.

The two armies deployed and it was soon apparent the Galatians were advancing in the centre and right. This rapid advance by the Galatian centre was countered by a thrust against the Galatian left flank through various rocky paths over an area of basalt peaks. Below, the Galatians prepare to engage the Kappadokian centre which is already scattered. Visible in the Galatian line is a Scythed Chariot.

As both armies manoeuvred they slowly became more disjointed with the likely result the struggle would be prolonged. However, a sudden series of attacks were launched by the Kappadokians with great elan and surprisingly the Galatian morale shattered as each attack was driven home with devastating results. The Galatians fled suffering a devastating 4-1 loss for their invasion.

Discouraged but desperate for loot the Galatians (Ben) moved west towards Greece. From here they moved south along the coast towards an army assembled by Ptolemy Keraunos (Keith). Keraunos, deploying first, placed himself in the centre of the phalanx astride one of his several elephants with the intention of smashing his way through the Galatian line. However, as the Galatans deployed he became increasingly concerned about his right flank. Seemingly oblivious to potential threats he undertook to expand his right by a series of complex manoeuvres. The Galatian left, comprising mounted, surged forward. Macedonian casualties were immediate with a portion of the phalanx breaking at first contact under the Galatian mounted onslaught. However, slowly Keraunos gained the advantage and the Galatian left was driven back.

Above an below the armies engaged. The Greek left is held by Greek mercenary peltasts (3Ax) who would fight valiantly for some time against Galatian armoured warriors (4Bd) and naked warriors (4Wb). Below, the Greek right and a portion of the centre driving back the Galatian left and centre.

Elsewhere the fighting was both intense and certainly confusing with Greek sources unclear of all events. However, slowly the Galatians gained the advantage. Keraunos himself meanwhile, at the head of his pachyderms, pressed forward driving the Galatians to his front back. Though Keraunos fought valiantly his army finally collapsed with a 4-2 victory to the Galatians.

While the Galatians focused on their plunder Ptolemy Keraunos (Keith) reformed his army and move to counter another threat, this time by Antigonus Gonatas (Andrew). Gonatas had taken the opportunity to bolster his smaller phalanx with a number of Galatians, Greece was flush with mercenaries after all! Now both commanders deployed with their phalangites in the centre. Keraunos again deployed his elephants between the taxis in a commanding position on one beast. Gonatas meanwhile deployed on his left wing with his cavalry opposite Ptolemy’s mounted. On the opposite flank both commanders deployed their thureophoroi and other mercenaries, Ptolemy’s left flank resting on an small village.

Above, Ptolemy Keraunos army on the right foreground while in the distance Gonatas’s army can be seen. In the top right a Greek fleet is visible, this fleet failed to intervene in the battle, no doubt more focussed on supplying the army, or providing morale support!

Gonatas advanced with his right leading. But it was here that he miscalculated and found his thureophoroi engaged by a portion of Keraunos phalanx. Now both commanders rushed to reinforce the battle with reserves and eventually portions of their centre.

Above and below views of the centre and Ptolemy’s left where portions of the centre of both armies are being committed, creating a gap. Below, heavy casualties have befallen the Ptolemy left taxis visible here. Yet the survivors repeatedly drove back the Galatians who themselves had suffered heavy casualties. Likewise Ptolemy’s peltasts (3Ax) fought the Gonatas taxi to a standstill – amazingly.

Meanwhile on Keraunos right flank the cavalry of both armies were now involved in deadly combat, with Keraunos reinforcing his mounted with phalangites deployed in open order. Simultaneously Ptolemy engaged Gonatas’ centre with phalanx and his elephants who desperately attempted to secure the breakthrough.

The battle was particularly confusing with first one commander then the other commander securing a small but fragile advantage, only to watch as these hard earned gains slip away.

Above, Ptolemy in the forefront of the fighting tries to turn a portion of Gonatas’ line.

Finally Gonatas, his own army near exhaustion, gained a final advantage and Keraunos’ army broke. Yet, too exhausted to seize any real advantage, the price of a 4-3 victory, Gonatas breathed easy realising that his own army had only just survived this desperate battle for domination of Greece and Macedonia.

Another outstanding evening of gaming and one that drew in the Galatians in some form into each battle. No doubt they will return as will their Greek opponents…

Celtiberian Intrigues

The intrigues of the Celtiberians were of course at the root of the Second Celtiberian War. In particular the powerful city of Segeda which was intent on building a circuit of walls seven kilometres long. The Celtiberian tribe of Belli had agreed previously to the treaties at the end of the First Celtiberian Wars and clearly was now in breach. Rome forbade the building of the wall, demanded tribute and the provision of a contingent for the Roman army in accordance with the stipulations of treaty. The Segedans replied that the treaty forbade the construction of new towns, but did not forbid the fortification of existing ones. The situation was clearly unacceptable to Rome.

Early in 153 BC Quintus Fabius Nobilitor arrived in Hispania and began his campaign against the Celtiberians who were now in full revolt. As Nobilitor advanced on the city of Segeda, the people fled taking refuge with the surrounding tribes who tried to mediate in the dispute. Nobilitor however required complete surrender and therefore battle seemed inescapable.

Soon a great Celtiberian host, some 20,000 strong, was assembled and deployed across a series of steep and rocky hills overlooking an open plain. The commander of the Celtiberian army was a Segedan called Carus. But Nobilitor was alerted to his past military skills and knew only too well that Carus was a enemy not to be underestimated. Carus’ dispositions were simple but effective. His centre comprised warriors with renowned fighting capabilities. Half would be positioned on the narrow flat plain between two ridges while others extending into the larger of two advanced rocky hills bordering the open plain where the Romans and their allied legions were formed. On each flank, and within the confines of the hills were massed formations of Celtiberian light infantry. Finally, a small body of Iberian light cavalry were positioned on the right while a reserve of heavy cavalry under the direct control of Carus were positioned in the centre.

Above, the general situation. In the right distance the Celtiberians have yet to secure the second hill overlooking the plain. Below, a view of a portion of the Celtiberian line.

Quintus Fabius Nobilitor for his part formed up in a reasonably traditional deployment with his hastati and principes in the centre with his triarii in reserve. His allied legions were on the left but they were now all fighting in the same style as the Romans themselves, so were all but indistinguishable. Each flank was protected by cavalry as well as velites. Numerically Nobilitor had a small advantage, in numbers as the Celtiberians fought in more open formations, which enabled them to move more quickly especially across difficult ground. Nobilitor was confident that if the Celtiberians could be lured from the high ground his troops would have the advantage.

However, it was soon apparent to Nobilitor that his deployment was flawed and with the barbarian line extending past his own he moved to extend his line by moving triarii towards each wing. This significantly reduced his reserves.

Simultaneously, he ordered elements of his left wing to advance against the extreme Celtiberian right. Soon battle was joined here and the Celtiberian light horse were quickly overwhelmed by the Italian mounted cavalry fighting in denser formations.

Below, battle is joined against the Celtiberian left by the Roman left. From left to right are Italian cavalry, velites and triarii.

Now aware that his Roman opponent was unlikely to foolishly advance into the steep rocky hills, and alarmed by the events on his right wing, Carus now ordered a general advance of his centre and left. The Celtiberian foot moved rapidly forward and fell upon the ranks of the hastati and principes. Desperate fighting developed along the lines as the Celtiberians gaining ground in parts while being pushed back in others.

Above and below the Celtiberians abandon their positions on the hills to attack the Roman lines.

It is worth noting that the Celtiberian left flank extended some distance left of the Roman right flank but throughout the battle this apparent advantage was not pressed, in part by the echeloned triarii and velites.

However, while the Roman right was not assailed disaster was soon to unfold in the centre where a section of hastati broke after a determined attack by Celtiberian infantry. Quintus Fabius Nobilitor acted quickly and ordered his cavalry forward to bolster the line and break the now isolated Celtiberian infantry. Clearly, they were at his mercy. Despite his personal bravery and his determined Roman cavalry the Celtiberians held, repulsing his attacks twice. Yet no sooner had he halted one breakthrough another section, just to his left, also broke.

Meanwhile on the Roman centre left a determined attack by hastati and principes was gaining ground and here the Celtiberians were quickly losing the advantage. With disaster likely the Celtiberian commander now committed his own reserve and moved his mounted to plug the failing line. Yet it was it was Carus who was to collapse, outflanked by advancing Italian troops Celtiberian cavalry collapsed and Carus was killed in the headlong rout. Nobilitor, now sensing victory, prepared to destroy the now leaderless Celtiberian host.

Yet, for some strange reason Celtiberian resolve stiffened and in several places their warriors surged forward. Most dramatically was in the centre where Nobilitor, defender of Rome, was attacked from front and flank by warriors. Despite displaying great bravery Quintus Fabius Nobilitor was cut down and with his loss Roman resolve collapsed. Yet, Celtiberian casualties had been great and without the their commander the Celtiberians failed to pursue. The Roman province was therefore not immediately impacted. Indeed, it would be only matter of time before another Roman army would be dispatched to put an end to the Celtiberian intrigues…

It had been some time since my Romans had faced Robin’s Celtiberians and as I suspected the game was well balanced. The interactions of 3Bd and 4Bd were especially intriguing and created some opportunities for both players, though not all could be exploited.

Finally for those considering the generals, cities and situation mentioned here – they are historical. The battle itself is fictional though historically Quintus Fabius Nobilitor did suffer a major defeat by Carus.