Thursday, 21 August 2014

Second Outing for the Parthians

Tuesday evening saw the second battle involving the new power of Parthia in the campaign. I constructed the armies and supplied most of the Parthians.  Simon brought along some Thureophoroi and the Ptolemaic invaders.  All photos are taken from the Parthian perspective.
This is the right wing of the Egyptian army, ably commanded by Gordon, as it faces the Parthian left: a load of medium and light horse with skirmishers out front, to protect the flank of the phalanx.
On a slight variation from normal practice, one division of the phalanx is offset to the enemy's right, with a reserve unit of heavy horse at the back.  Presumably this is to give the infantry a bit more flexibility to watch their own flank, as well as to keep the heavies for the right moment.  You can see the rest of the phalanx into the centre of the deployment, screened by many sacrificial javelinmen - someone has to soak up all those arrows.  Billy is in command here.
The far left of the Ptolemaic army, as it faces our right.  Here the flank of the phalanx is covered by Simon's command comprising some camelry and a large unit of Peltasts near a handy wooded area. Gordon and Simon between them deployed the army, taking full advantage of the army composition and the terrain, such as it was.
Graham deployed our army.  Here is the left, commanded by Malcolm: Some horse archers at the extreme left, then a formidable force of cataphracts, plus some Greek city Thureophoroi for good measure.  A few javelinmen screen the Greeks.
I have masses of horse archers in the centre.
Graham has the weight on our right:: Thureophoroi, cataphracts and some horse archers. he has deployed all of the heavy stuff towards the wings, with a lightweight centre.
The battle begins on our left with the enemy horse advancing to try to cramp the style of our heavy guys here. Malcolm spreads the weight a little.
In the centre, the endmost enemy phalanx angles to protect the rest of the line, while their heavy horse remains in reserve. My first arrow storm peters out harmlessly.
Graham's moves on our right.
Back over to our left: the forces align.
Some space is opening up just to Malcolm's right as the enemy advance continues. I manage to press some horse archers forward into the gap.
Frustrated, my horse archers disperse into skirmish formation to ride down the pesky enemy javelinmen. If I can get rid of those, I can start to ping away at the phalanxes.  I am, though, under no illusion here - the enemy weight is too great, and I know that I will simply have to skirmish away in front of them.
On our right, Simon charges recklessly forward with his camels, in order to stop Graham's Cataphracts shaking out into line.  Combined with the peltasts in the woods, this frustrates Graham mightily.
The situation at the join between my forces and Malcolm's.  I have had to retreat my advanced unit of lights, but their threat has forced Gordon to commit his heavy horse.
Meanwhile, a traffic jam is causing Graham more problems on our right.
Malcolm's cataphracts attack at our extreme left.
He is also able to gang up on the lone phalanx with a combination of cataphracts and thureophoroi.
Meanwhile, as predicted, the relentless advance of the central phalanx presses back my horse archers.
Graham's right hook comtinues to struggle, but at least he has forced the enemy to commit a phalanx in this direction.
Success for us - Malcolm's combined arms assault has destroyed a phalanx.
The end of the battle in the centre and right, just before my guys ride off the field and concede a tactical defeat to the enemy.

Having said that, the destruction of part of the phalanx means that although the Ptolemies won the battle, they have lost the war.  They have taken too much attritional damage to be able to hold, never mind continue, and will have to retire gracefully.  The combination of the campaign rules and battlefield flexibility is making the Parthians an interesting army to play, and a tough nut to crack.


  1. Paul are those Corvus companions in the first photo .
    As usual lovely collection of minis.


    1. Hi Joe, I think they might be Naismith Designs 25mm Companions, now sadly out of production.

  2. Lights in the middle, heavies on the wings. What a strange deployment. Sounds like the Parthians came out of it ok. Nice report as always.

    1. Hi Mitch, that's what I thought at the time - the commander seemed to want to envelop the flanks, but a combination of terrain and tenacity stopped that happening. Not to mention the fact that the centre could only skirmish. Having said that, as a campaign result it was fine for Parthia.

    2. As the Parthian commander it was my plan not to lose, rather than win. If I had deployed our heavy troops in front of the phalanx they would not have been strong enough to beat it. I decided to put the lights there to bob and weave and cause as much attrition as they could, and try to at least match the Ptolemaics on the wings. This was working on our left flank, but due to the terrain and the camels I could not establish an advantage on the right. Strategically I achieved my aim, although tactically I did not, but the Parthian Army remained in existence.

    3. Hi Graham, is that you? I think you're right, although I have to say it was tough going for me in the first half of the battle, being unable to do much except fall back. I was really worried that neither heavy wing would make any headway, leading to a major defeat, but when one phalanx went down I realised that the campaign aims were going to work. So you're right - a tactical defeat, but a major strategic victory. To be honest, I'm quite pleased, because the combination of attritional damage at the campaign level followed by a game like this gives the Parthians the capabilities they had historically. It also works better as a tabletop representation - in effect, the Parthians traded several provinces while wearing down the opposition, and then struck. Besides, being a massively successful Parthian leader can be bad for your health when the Great King becomes jealous...

  3. Massed phalanx and horse archers with cataphracts and camels thrown in; what a visual feast! A most engrossing report of a close-run thing, thanks Paul. The 'push of pike' was too much in the end, but they did not have it all their own way. A Pyrrhic victory then?

    1. Hi James, thanks for looking - definitely a Pyrrhic victory. I've always found armies like the Parthians difficult to represent on the tabletop. I'm hoping that their ability to inflict attrition at the campaign level, followed up by a tabletop engagement, will simulate they way they worked historically. That's the plan anyway!