Thursday, 9 February 2012

“I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion. “

Impetus Ancients game prepared by Bob and loosely based on the Battle of Hydaspes between Alexander the Great and Porus the Indian King of Hydaspes.

Bob did not have a true Alexandrian Macedonian army so made some slight changes so that the game was effectively an Alexandrian Successor, Bactrean Greek army trying to emulate Alexander’s achievements.

It was an interesting set up as the battle was played between 4 players on two tables.

There was a larger battle where the Bactrio-Greeks were attempting to force a crossing of the river and then on the other table a predominantly cavalry action set up to represent an crossing further upstream and attempted flank march by the Greeks.

I played Porus and Andy played Porus’ son who had been sent upstream to shadow the Bactian flanking force. Craig and Mick played the Bactrian King and their flank march force respectively.

Each player was given a separate briefing and though we all were aware of the other game we had no idea if and when reinforcements or a flank march would occur.

I had a relatively simple brief. I was to stop the Bactrian King affecting a crossing of the river. I knew that I had sent a force of cavalry and chariots to shadow an enemy force that had marched upstream but I did not know the outcome of this. As such I may receive some cavalry reinforcements but by the same token I may be attacked in the flank by enemy forces.

I also had a problem in that the majority of my army were bowmen but I had to keep them well back from the rivers edge as the humid conditions affected their ability to shoot.

The game began and Craig quickly identified the ford. This was three units wide. He then had a juggle his forces round to try and reorganise his forces in to what was effectively an attack column in order to cross. He led with some light troops, elephants and skirmishers with two large pike phalanx’s following up behind.

I simply formed my mostly bow armed troops in to a crescent shape facing the ford ready to unleash on the enemy as they emerged from the river.

A glance over at the other table told me that the two cavalry forces had smashed straight in to each other and were slugging it out.

Craig’s tactics were sound in that he clearly knew that he would be advancing in to a storm of arrows and the priority was to protect the two pike phalanx’s and allow the other units to absorb this. Once the phallangites were safely on the other side they would hopefully be fresh and be therefore could be unleashed on the Indians.

The Bactrians started taking casualties the minute they entered the water and though my shooting wasn’t devastating it had sufficient effect that upon exiting the river none of the Bactrian units were fresh and all had lost their impetus bonus ( a melee bonus for troops that charge in to combat and only given if units have not suffered casualties).

However Craig was now in a position to close with my bow armed troops and start serving up some pay-back. Unfortunately things did not quite work out that way. Some rather lucky rolling on my part (3 hits from 4 dice!) and some poor rolling by Craig (2 hits from 11 dice) meant that my bow armed troops opened what can only be described as a “can of whoopass” on a Bactrian Elephant unit. The Elephant hung on and a few turns later swept the Indians away but they had suffered significant damage and were no longer much of a threat.

Unfortunately for me my Indians in the act of being destroyed fell amongst my elephant unit disordering and weakening it.

At this point my left wing remained unengaged and they angled in towards the centre ready for the advance of the Bactrian phalanx.

These emerged from the steaming waters of the River and surged up the bank in to my centre. Here they started to do some damage but with very little flank support I was able to start pouring Javelins and Arrows in to their flanks.

At this point the news came that the battle on the other table (upstream of us) had ended with both sides fighting each other to a standstill. There would be no flank attack but also no reinforcements.

This actually suited me as I was in the stronger position. A flank attack would have caused me serious problems but there was little I could do with reinforcements now the Bactrians were across the river.

My left wing and centre was in tatters but I still had an uncommitted right wing. These were well positioned to disengage and withdraw which seemed to me to the be right idea. Craig had crossed the river but had suffered heavy losses and was not in a position to pursue or indeed do anything but lick his wounds.

The ultimate result was a pyrrhic victory for Craig in that he did manage to cross the river.

I would have used exactly the same tactics as Craig but on reflection I wonder if he would have been better leading with the Phallangites who with their large units may have been able to absorb more damage than his auxiliaries and Elephants and therefore the army as a whole may have emerged more intact on the other side of the river.

Historically the battle is seen as one of Alexander’s masterpieces however as in this game the Greeks suffered high casualties and were seriously freaked out by the elephants. Alexander was so impressed with King Porus and his soldiers that he allowed him to remain king of Hydaspes as his Satrap. Alexander’s army took such a hammering by the Indians that ultimately they refused to fight them again and Alexander could not persuade them to advance and to attempt a crossing of the Ganges.

The good news for me is I did not have to resort to my game winning dice. Two large dice purchased which I bought on entry to Vapnartak this year (the excellent wargames show at York Race Course). All proceeds for these dice went to Help for Heroes. As such these dice must be brimming with positive Karma and so I am holding them in reserve for the crucial moment.