Thursday, 6 August 2015

Hydaspes at Claymore

A little belatedly, perhaps, but then I've just come back from another trip to England. Cheltenham, to be precise - a bit more on that another time...
First up is the Macedonian right wing, taken from the Indian side. Companions. Lots of Companions, led in person by that nasty wee man from somewhere to the north of Greece proper. I bet the Indians were hoping he would have drunk himself to death before getting this far. Oh, and some of the supporting cast: light cavalry and Hypaspists, led by one Seleukos.
The start of the pikemen, with many skirmishers out front. The eagle-eyed will spot a little counter in front of the heavies in this command. This is to denote that they cannot move on Turn One.
The second pike command. This lot can't move for two turns.
The final command: Thracians, Hoplites, and Greek heavy horse. These won't move until Turn Three. I have found by experience that putting troops onto a table in a game this size interrupts the flow, so rather than do that, I've paced them all on to start with, but with specified delays to simulate the command arrivals in the Macedonian army. This will also help to show the echelon advance.
Now for the opposition. This is the right wing of the Indian army, facing the guys in the previous photo. Skirmishers, elephants and massed foot.
More of the same in the Indian centre.
Their left: massed chariots backed up by mediocre cavalry.

We didn't have enough cars to cart everything we would need for the portable sand table as well as the figures, so Willy provided some distressed polystyrene tiles and used some sand to fill in the gaps.  The scenario is the one we used at Carronade, with all 21 elephants on the table this time. It looked rather splendid - 25mm, of course, almost all painted by Simon.
This is how it all looks from the one flank. Indians to the left, Macedonians at the right, with the commands in echelon. We were hoping to put the large ridges I made previously here to denote rising ground and give a sensible boundary to the action, but again lack of space was an issue. Not that it really matters - it's just for aesthetics. The goos thing about the light-coloured boards is that they really helped with the photography.
A gratuitous close-up from Porus' position.
A table-level shot from the extreme right of the Indian army.
I sort of ran the Indian army, with Alan in charge of Porus and the left wing. Alexander's deployment is the perfect way to destroy a ponderous Indian army: load up one flank with the cream of the strike force, crush the enemy there, then turn in and roll up the rest. Having played the game a couple of times previously, I thought that the best thing the Indians could do was hold as long as possible on the left, and charge forwards with everything else in the hope that weight would prevail somewhere else on the field. The photo above shows the left wing after the first move or so.
The elephants charge forward, with the infantry keeping a respectable distance. I am hoping to catch the leftmost of the currently advancing phalanxes with two elephant units. If I get lucky with Impetus here, the foot should be able to finish off what the elephants begin.
The rightmost portion of the Indian army also advances as fast as possible. It is unlikely that these will have the time to be able to do much, due to the Macedonian echelon, but it's worth a try.
How it all looks at this point from the open flank.
The Macedonians start to grind their way through the forces on the Indian left. Ports waits patiently on his large nellie, purchased from a prime dealer with the barbarous-sounding name of Aventine. Apparently they are from off to the west somewhere.
A very successful elephant charge in the centre. The puffs of smoke denote successful Impetus attacks, or copious amounts of elephant gas...
The centre right of the Indian army approaches the rest of the Macedonians as quickly as possible.
Another sideview of the whole field.
The photo above clearly shows how far the Indian centre has advanced, while the left remains engaged.
The elephants continue to do lots of damage as the remainder of the phalanx advances.
At the far right of the Indian army, the Greek cavalry threaten a wide sweeping move while the Thracians try to hold up more of the elephants.
The usual side shot.
The left wing is cracking.
The centre at the same time. It looks as though even the hoplites are going to get into action in this refight.
The viewpoint of Porus. The Macedonians are inevitably making headway, but the reserve elephants under the direct command of Porus are in a good position to stop their advance, at least for a while. Porus starts chucking javelins, to great effect.
In the centre, the elephants are running out of steam as both sides deal out the damage.
At the far right of the Indian army, the Thracians are having a bad time against elephants.
The Greeks continue to sweep around the far right flank with their cavalry.
More initial success for the elephants as they crash into the hoplites. This battle has been the most successful I've seen for elephant Impetus - almost every Macedonian unit failed to hold firm.
However, it can't last, and gaps begin to appear as the massed pikes finally take their toll - but not without grievous cost to themselves. One of the victorious units above has only one hit left out of a possible 21.
On the left, Porus leads the reserve into combat in person. And promptly dies. A great roar goes up from the opposition, which leads to an embarrassing moment as everyone else in the hall turns round to see what on earth is going on. And, totally by chance, a ray of light beams down directly onto his spot on the table. Zeus obviously approves.
Elsewhere, the elephants have finally been cleared out of the way.
One lone unit does manage to break through after stomping the Thracians, only to succumb to a hail of arrows from the Macedonian skirmishers. They had retired behind the main lines to wait for just such an opportunity.

And so, purely by chance, we achieved a historically accurate replay. The elephants did vast amounts of damage before being destroyed; the Macedonians crushed the Indian left wing; and Porus was carried from the field before the Indian foot engaged. Some unnamed Companion got lucky with his sarissa; if that hadn't happened, the Macedonians would probably still have won, but at least one phalanx would have gone down.


  1. I knew I had missed a few good games while I was tied to my one-man charity trade stand at Claymore.

    This is one game I would have watched an awful lot of.

    I can't tell from the pictures whether these are 25s or 28s.

    1. Hi Jim, that was quick! I missed quite a bit of the show too - always happens when you're running something. Both armies are almost entirely 25mm rather than 28mm. The Indians are mostly Irregular Miniatures with some 1st Corps infantry added into the mix. The Macedonians are from all sorts of manufacturers, including some old Naismith Companions. Porus really stood out on his Aventine monster...

    2. For Jim; The Indians are mostly Irregular with a few !st Corps and (former) QT archers The Macedonian phalanx is a mix of Foundry and 1st Corps .with Naismith skirmishers and Greek cavalry and a mix of 1st Corps and (older)Corvus Companions. Alexander is Foundry.

  2. I have buckets of 25mm Ancients, mostly Greek, quite a few elephants, all waiting for their big chance. One day!

  3. Who is to say that the historical outcome was not also an act of chance?

    The large units look menacing and the impromptu table is quite effective.

    1. HI Jonathan, I know what you mean. Presumably the hallmark of a successful general like Alexander is how he stacksthe odds in his favour.

  4. A great report and Battle. Was really impressive with all those Elephants. I might just have to do some Successor battles. I've tinkered around with giving Automatic Impetus for 1st turn of melee as the (I) troops seem rarely to get it otherwise. As you can see, even when they get it, they usually loose anyway.

    1. Hi Mitch, we thought of doing something similar. In terms of the points values, we just reduced WB figures' cost by half a point each. It's always going to be something that's hard to get right.

  5. Superb looking Hydaspes Paul!

  6. What a marvellous looking game. Must have been a joy to be part of.
    Impetus seems to replicate historical outcomes most often, which is a bit tick in my book. I don't know it in detail but seem to recall that Hydaspes was one of Alexander's many 'close run things', relying greatly on his own courage/presence to inspire the troops?

  7. Hi James, I think you're probably right; reading between the lines, and also going by the rebellion of the army afterwards, it would seem to have been very close on the day.