Category Archives: Medieval

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…

An English Crusade

Our second game of the evening was an encounter between my Wars of the Roses English (IV/83a) and Robin’s Ottomans (IV/55a). Clearly the English were on a crusade likely in search of the Kingdom of Prester John.

Prester John as depicted in the chronicles of Hartmann Schedel (1493) – Public Domain.

It has been a long time since I’ve seen the Ottoman host deployed. As with all Robin’s armies they are well painted and based. However, I felt they would suffer badly against the English longbow. I envisaged a short game and one that was one sided. It transpired I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Below, the English left as it reacts to the Ottoman attack.

The Ottomans were to be well served by their aggressive commander and from the first moment seized and then held the initiative. The initial feint by a body of ghazi horse archers against the English right soon was replaced by a series of aggressive attacks on the English left by sipahis and additional ghazi. In support an aggressive pinning movement spearmen and azabs skirmishing archers occupied the English centre.

Above, the general situation just prior to the main attack. Below, a view from the English lines. The English mounted reserve is clearly visible mounted and is under command of Henry himself.

The pinning attacks on the English centre were arguably too aggressive and the Ottoman foot were cut down by English men at arms, billmen and archers. Yet the attack on the English left was being driven home with great determination.

Indeed, the English left was soon encircled and the attacked from the front, flank and rear. The attacks here were relentless. No sooner had one attack was beaten off another would come in.

Above, English gunnes are attacked from the rear and English archers from the flank. Below, Henry’s reserve is engaged by ghazi of the Ottoman centre. Henry is supported here by English billmen and in the distance by archers who have been attempting to drive off a body of ghazi.

Despite a series of complex Ottoman attacks the now isolated English units fought determinedly, their resolve unbroken. Slowly the English defenders reorganised and finally the Ottoman army, having been aggressive throughout, fell back.

No doubt the Sultan would be reforming for another attack on the infidel, but not it would seem tonight. The search for the Kingdom of Prester John could continue…

Edward on Campaign

My regular DBA opponent is accommodating in supporting my preference for historically plausible opponents. As a result over the last couple of weeks my Wars of the Roses English have been campaigning in Europe against historical and historically plausible opponents. My expedition was of course based on Edward IV’s expedition in 1475. They were to face, last night, an historical opponent in the form of French Ordonnance (IV/82a).

As far as army composition there are limited options with the Wars of the Roses English list. However, rather than use the optional Irish (3Ax) I typically select I supplemented the army with additional dismounted men at arms. It seemed a little more appropriate for the invasion.

The English, having landed and set our from Calais, were soon faced by the advancing French. Edward deployed on an open plain with only an enclosure and a scattering of fields to break up the battlefield. He dispersed his men at arms and billmen to support the archers and placed his artillery on the right. A mounted reserve was placed in the rear under his personal command with a further body of curriors on the right rear.

Unlike the English the French were initially somewhat constrained in their deployment by an area of fields divided by high hedges. This resulted in an initially complex deployment.

Edward was concerned with the massed French artillery train opposite his centre and initially advanced his own artillery to engage the French left rather than advancing his centre. The French countered by advancing, on their left, a large number of Francs “free” archers into the nearby enclosures. No doubt the French hoped to use the relative safety of the enclosures to disrupt the English right.

However, the English artillery, and advancing English billmen and men at arms, quickly resulted in a rapid retreat of the French archers.


Above the view from the English right as the Francs “Free” archers have pushed into the enclosures. Already a large number have been routed by English gunnes. The English billmen supporting the artillery would soon advance.

Below, a more general view of the battle with the English on the right and a portion of the French in the distance.

Undeterred the French commander now ordered forward his right, which was comprised mostly of mounted gendarmes and retainers. They had been confusingly deployed but French enthusiasm now found them redeployed quickly. As they pressed forward English archers and men billmen struggled to extend their own line. An initial volley of English longbows had limited success and soon the French surged forward.

In the ensuing melee a significant body of English archers were broken by this initial charge. However, English resolve stiffened and a second charge by French gendarmes was stopped by English resolve. As the French charge faultered archers hacked survivors with knives, swords and axes.

Above, English archers are both outflanked and engaged to their front by gendarmes, yet the French attack was halted.

However, it was in the centre that the focus of both commanders now turned. For some time the the French artillery, comprising a mix of types had been belching smoke and ball at the English centre. Edward had previously repositioned his own artillery to engage the French centre. English billmen, stiffened with dismounted men at arms, advanced on the French guns.

Below, the English centre before it prepares to advance supported by English artillery to its flank.

Unfortunately French artillery fire was unforgiving and the advancing English were broken up and suffered heavy casualties. Finally, a body of French gendarmes, the last fresh French troops, charged forward cutting down the English foot.

Edward, watched helplessly as his centre collapsed. It would seem the French had, this time at least, secured the advantage and with it the field. Despite this his campaign against Louis was far from over…

Castles in Korea

Last night I managed a couple of games which found my Japanese (Post Mongol Samurai IV/59b) engaged against Ben’s Koreans (Yi Dynasty Koreans IV/78). It is an interesting historical engagement, with some challenges for both commanders.

The Korean commander, has been looking for some alternate tactics for his Koreans, which have an interesting and arguably challenging mix of troops. As part of this he was keen to place his recently completed fortress, modelled on the Japanese castle of Ulsan built in Korea. The scratch built, and themed for the period, castle provided an excellent terrain piece for our games.

Above, a period drawing of Ulsan under attack while below a slightly simplified but very similar castle garrisoned by Korean peasant spearmen (7Hd). Note the different levels in both castles.

In the first game the Koreans were defending and the fortress was placed on the Korean right where it provided flank protection for massed Korean artillery and archers of the centre. The army stretched to the left where, on a generally featureless plain, the Korean mounted were massed.

Korean artillery was effective at least until the Japanese foot cut them down, as well as the many of the archers. Below, the Japanese, reduced in numbers by Korean artillery and archery, and Koreans just prior to the desperate Japanese charge of samurai and ashigaru.

Alas, the Japanese were now themselves overwhelmed by the sally by the garrison which was combined with attacks by a hastily assembled cavalry reserve. The Korean victory was complete!

The second battle found the Japanese defending. To ensure the castle was used the Japanese player also placed it. In due course it was determined to be on the Japanese  left. Unlike the Koreans the Japanese intended to attack on the opposite flank using a series of rocky hills to counter the Korean mounted superiority. In this game the threat of artillery fire was deemed too great and the fortress was quickly abandoned. Though for some time Japanese archers threatened to reoccupy it and thus threaten the advancing Korean cavalry.

Above, the more general situation with the Japanese on the left. Below, the situation on the Japanese right flank showing a portion of the sohei warrior monks on a key rocky hill.

Eventually the monks, supported by mounted samurai, overwhelmed the Korean left wing. However, under massed pressure by the Korean pike of the centre, the Japanese army broke just prior to the collapse of the Koreans.

A couple of eventful games between historical opponents set against a superb period themed terrain feature. I must say I’m so impressed with Ben’s castle I’m tempted to try scratch building one myself…