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…

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…