Wednesday 10 February 2010

The Persians hold on

This is the battle plan of our latest campaign battle. The Macedonians have ignored the Persian rebel satrap in Syria, and instead proceeded along the Black Sea coast. They meet the forces of the local satrap, augmented by Greek colonist hoplites. If the Macedonians break through here, they will be encroaching upon the Persian heartlands, and will also deprive the Great King of access to his best troops: the Greek hoplites. A great deal is at stake.

The Persians are in red at the top of the map. Their right flank is refused, with a unit of levy angled to die at the end of the line. Such is the trust of the Persian commander. They have a forlorn hope of skirmish archers out in front. In the centre, the hoplites occupy a long low ridge, with the satrap's guard infantry in the position of honour on the right of their line. Another unit of levy is at the main line's extreme left, with a large unit of scythed chariots to their front. On the Persian left is a mass of cavalry: skirmishing Skythians, followed by a line of light horse, then the columns of Colonists and, finally, the best of the cavalry at the rear (Armenians and the Satrap's Guard). William played the Persian right, Simon their left; they divided the centre between them.

I set up the Macedonians, trying to second guess the Persians and getting it wrong. I had thought they would try to use the area of rough ground to their right to anchor their line, and I massed the Thracians to take it, with the Companions and Hypaspists right beside them. The phalanxes were as usual in the centre, with another unit of Hypaspists to their right along with the Thessalians. The right wing was composed of a mixture of Peltasts, good quality light horse and some Greek mercenary cavalry. We had a goodly number of excellent skirmishers spread across our front. Billy commanded the left hook; I took the right. We shared the centre.

The Persians charged their cavalry mass forward, but held their centre. I countercharged with our smaller but better quality force, in the hopes of cramping their style. This worked, as their best cavalry got stuck behind the melee, but it would be touch and go on this flank. In the meantime our centre and left ground forward. The Persians launched their scythed chariots into the phalanxes, doing quite a bit of damage before being destroyed. There were three potential decision points in this game as it developed:
  • Would our left punch crush the levy, flank the guard infantry and roll up the hoplites
  • Would their left punch break through, flank the Hypaspists and roll up the phalanx
  • Or would something give in the centre

In the event, the Persian guard infantry managed to hold on after the levy beside them were crushed. We lost the cavalry melee, but held the Persians just long enough to stop them intervening in the centre. The honours were even; the hoplites started to buckle on the ridge; but the punishment was too much for one of our phalanxes. The Macedonians lost by six figures. Another very close campaign battle.

Next week: the Macedonian home army attacks the Greeks. The rising power of Rome has engulfed the city-states of Magna Graecia and the Macedonians want to conquer Greece proper before the Romans make their way eastwards. The Carthaginians have had a lacklustre performance so far, and are not proving to be as great an enemy of Rome as was hoped in the planning circles of the Macedonian court. Better to pre-empt the western upstarts before they start to stomp all over the sacred grounds of Hellas with their caligae. In the meantime, the eastern armies can regroup for another, final assault on the hard hoplite carapace in the Pontus region.

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