Scenarios: Medieval

Callinicum 531 CE

Sasanian Army - Blue

Right Wing
  • Subjects: four units of 12 Veteran Light Cavalry with bows (three ranks)
  • Persians: two units of 12 Veteran Superior Light Cavalry with bows (two ranks)
Right Centre
  • Clibanarii: three units of 18 Veteran Massed Cavalry with lances and bows (three ranks)
  • Asvaran: two units of 12 Elite Heavy Massed Cavalry with lances and bows (two ranks)
Left Centre
  • Clibanarii: three units of 18 Veteran Massed Cavalry with lances and bows (three ranks)
  • Asvaran: two units of 12 Elite Heavy Massed Cavalry with lances and bows (two ranks)
Left Wing: Lakhmids under Al Mundhir
  • Nobles: two units of 18 Elite Superior Light Cavalry with javelins (three ranks)
  • Lakhmids: two units of 16 Veteran Light Cavalry with javelins (four ranks)
  • Camels: 16 Veterans with javelins (four ranks)
Eastern Roman Army

Infantry: Peter
  • Formed Foot: three units of 36 Veteran Massed Infantry with spears and bows (three ranks)
  • Psiloi: 8 Veteran Skirmish Infantry with javelins
Left Limitanei: Sunicas/Simmias
  • Kataphraktoi: three units of 18 Veteran Massed Cavalry with lances and bows (three ranks)
  • Sagitarii: 12 Veteran Skirmish Light Cavalry with bows
Comitatenses: Belisarius/Hermogenes
  • Kataphraktoi: three units of 18 Veteran Massed Cavalry with lances and bows (three ranks)
  • Bukellarii: 12 Elite Massed Heavy Cavalry with lances and bows (two ranks)
Right Limitanei: Ascan
  • Kataphraktoi: three units of 18 Veteran Massed Cavalry with lances and bows (three ranks)
  • Sagitarii: 12 Veteran Skirmish Light Cavalry with bows
Two units of 18 Militia Grade Light Infantry with javelins (three ranks)

Ghassanian Arab Allies: Al-Hadith
  • Nobles: two units of 18 Veteran Superior Light Cavalry with javelins (three ranks)
  • Arabs: three units of 16 Veteran Light Cavalry with javelins (four ranks)
Scenario Notes

Before the Battle
An all-cavalry Sasanian raiding army was retiring before the larger Eastern Roman army and then suddenly turned to fight just as the Romans had completed their crossing of the Euphrates at the town of Callinicum.  The Roman army was strung out in column of march, headed by their lighter Ghassanian Arab allies.  This explains why the Roman infantry is in such a strange position on the left wing of the army; they were at the rear of the column.   The Romans hastily deployed to form up ranks when confronted by the Persians.  The route of march roughly follows the positions of the various commands just as the attack commenced.  The Ghassanians had already moved up the slopes furthest from the river.  Interestingly, Procopius says that Belisarius was pressured into following up by the army and its commanders against his own better judgement - sounds like special pleading to me!  The Christians were fasting due to the season of Lent, which is not a good idea when marching across Mesopotamia in the springtime, so not having any breakfast probably didn't help matters either.

The Sasanian Deployment
I have assumed that the Sasanians set up their army in a reasonably standard formation, with a heavy centre and light troops on both wings.  We know that the Lakhmids were on the heights and sprung the trap by hitting their hated Ghassanian enemies early in the battle, so I have placed a large command of subject and Persian light horse resting on the banks of the Euphrates.  The name of the Sasanian general is given as Azarethes, which may be a Greek transliteration of a Persian army commander's title, rather than a name as such.  I suggest splitting the Persian army into a light cavalry command; two central heavy commands; and the Lakhmids on the left.

Sasanian Troop Types
In a sense, all of the Persian central cavalry should be classed as heavy, and all of them should have at least partial horse armour.  I have called these Clibanarii, because that term is familiar to most wargamers.  However, I have specifically described the Asvaran elite as heavier, since they should have the best of the personal and horse armour.  However your rules manage it, some penalty should consequently be applied to Roman missile fire, especially so in the case of the Asvaran.  I have also made the Persian light cavalry superior in melee to the other light horse.  I used some licence with the Lakhmids, since their initial performance against the same numbers of Ghassanians was so good.  Partly this can be explained by the element of surprise, but I also thought that they should have a tabletop advantage.  So the Lakhmid nobles are more highly rated in terms of morale than their Ghassanian counterparts, although they both have the same superior melee quality when compared with other light horse.  The Battle Pack on the Society of Ancients website is pretty adamant that they should not be rated as heavies.  I also gave them some camels so as to vary the flavour between the two Arab contingents, these should not adversely affect the Ghassanians.

The Roman Deployment
The hurried turn from march column explains the troop deployment, but the large number of relatively small commands (and multiple commanders for some of them!) deserves some explanation.  Belisarius' erstwhile biographer Procopius makes much of discord amongst the various Roman commanders.  Of course, according to him, none of this was Belisarius' fault.  Reading between the lines, it is possible to see some understandable resentment.  Sunicas, Simmias and Peter were seasoned commanders and had largely managed to contain the Persians, so they were probably not very happy at the imposition of Belisarius in the current crisis.  He, in turn, would not have been happy at the presence of Justinian's political appointee Hermogenes.  In the event, non-cooperation between the various Roman elements as they were caught by the Persian surprise attack can be put down to a combination of these factors.  See Stuart Hey's excellent article on the battle in Slingshot 263, on which these scenario suggestions are based.

Roman Troop Types
I think that there is really little difference in performance between the Limitanei and Comitatenses, which by this period are outdated terms.  They refer to the location in which the troops operate, as opposed to any qualitative differences.  Thus, the two commands of Limitanei are units that happen to be stationed in this area, while the Comitatenses are reinforcements from the centre.  The former are just as competent as the latter, hardened as they are by years of fighting against the Sasanians.  I have made one exception to this general rule, which is the Bukellarii.  These are Belisarius' personal bodyguard force, and so I have rated them as elite heavies in order to distinguish them.  None of the Roman cavalry has horse armour in this period.  The Lycaonians represent a recently raised contingent of local infantry, and so are rated as poorly armed, armoured and trained.  Their morale suffers as a result.  The Ghassanians are composed of two quality levels of average morale light horse; the nobles are rated as superior to reflect better equipment, such as personal body armour.  They still fight as light cavalry, though.

The Archery Duel
According to Procopius, this lasted a while, but the superior numbers of Romans didn't seem to do them much good.  This could partly be because of the surprise element, but there was probably another factor; the wind.  Persian doctrine called for them to deploy with a strong wind at their backs, if possible.  This would help their arrows and hinder those of their enemies, and it is likely that they were able to do so in this situation, further enhancing the surprise attack.  This should be worth a decrement applied against the Romans and the combination of wind and Persian horse armour should severely hamper Roman missile fire.

The Table-top
The battlefield is very simple.  The River Euphrates runs down one side, and there is a large continuous rising ridge filling up the other.  This should not count as particularly hard going or anything like that, it really represents a gentle slope shelving upwards from the alluvial plains.  The Arabs seem to have fought one another quite happily there, so there is no penalty.  There would be a height advantage for troops facing inwards towards the river.

Army Morale
In terms of points values under most systems, the Romans will come out way ahead, perhaps by even as much as one-third.  However, much of their value is tied up in the infantry, which is in no position to play a great part in the battle.  The problem is made worse for the Romans because the bulk of the Persian army is elsewhere, so their light horse should have a good old Carrhae time shooting at infantry who can't catch them.  Of course, unlike at Carrhae, the Roman foot has bows of its own, but the wind will help to keep casualties down amongst the cavalry.  I would suggest that the Persian army loses when it has had five of its main massed cavalry units destroyed and the same goes for the Romans.

Historical Constraints and Other Possibilities
One could apply some command restrictions on the Romans, to reflect their hesitancy and confusion when the Persian army arrived in full force.  Something like an activation roll might be needed for any of the Roman commands to move of their own accord, say a 7+ on 2D6.  They should, however, be allowed to activate as normal when any of the enemy arrives within charge reach.  This might give the Persians the opportunity to get in some shooting before the Romans get in gear.  The chance for the Ghassanians to activate should be slightly less, to represent their unfortunate position at the head of the column when the Lakhmid assault went in.  On the day itself, the Ghassanians were routed, as were the unfortunate Lycaonians, and the rest of the Roman army found itself being bent backwards in an arc against the Euphrates.  Fortunately for them, though, they were able to use the infantry as a rallying point to stabilise the situation somewhat.  Casualties were heavy on both sides, so much so in fact that even though Azarethes (or whoever he was) caught a superior army by surprise and gave as much as he took, he was cashiered on his return to Persia.  The Sasanians were always sensitive to unnecessary losses to their prized heavy cavalry.

Hastings: 1066 and all that
Saxon Army - Red

Right Wing
  • Great Fyrd: three units of 48 Medium Infantry deployed in six ranks
  • Huscarls: 24 Elite Heavy Infantry deployed in three ranks
  • Fyrd/Huscarls: four units of 32 Heavy Infantry deployed in four ranks
Left Wing
  • Great Fyrd: three units of 48 Medium Infantry deployed in six ranks
  • Javelinmen: five units of 8 deployed across the front of the army

Norman Army (Blue)

Left Wing
  • Bretons: four units of 24 Heavy Cavalry with Impetus deployed in four ranks and one unit of 18 deployed in two ranks.
  • Norman Foot: three units of 40 Medium Infantry deployed in five ranks
  • 12 Norman Heavy Cavalry with Impetus deployed with Duke William in person
Right Wing
  • Normans:   four units of 24 Elite Heavy Cavalry with Impetus deployed in four ranks and one unit of 18 deployed in two ranks.
  • Archers: seven units of 8 deployed across the front of the army

Scenario Notes

The Saxon Deployment
The Saxons start the battle in shieldwall on Senlac Hill right across the road that leads to London.  The Huscarls with Harold are deployed right in the middle of the line, with two units of Fyrd to either side of them.  These four units have Huscarls deployed across their front, to stiffen them; this is why they count as Heavy Infantry.  There are then half a dozen standard Fyrd units of medium foot deployed deep on either side, resting on the woods at the flanks.  I would suggest that Harold commands the centre directly, while his two brothers are in charge of the three Fyrd units at the edges of the line.  I have given the Saxons a smattering of javelin-armed skirmishers as well.  Harold must remain with the central Huscarls, but gives them extra dice and a morale bonus; adjust these to suit your ruleset.  His brothers must likewise remain with their chosen units, and add some bonus dice to them in melee.

The Norman Deployment
This is quite straightforward: Bretons on the left; infantry columns in the centre; and Normans on the right.  Archers lead the way.  Duke William is in direct command of a reserve unit of Norman Milites.  I have made the Norman cavalry slightly better in morale than the Breton mercenaries.  Use the same rules as the Saxons for sub-generals, except that the Normans have three of these.  Also use the same rules as Harold for Duke William and his unit of milites.

Assaulting the Hill
This should be a real grudge match, as it was historically.  Any Saxon unit that routs its opponents must make a control test, or follow off the ridge in compulsory pursuit.  In our rules, this means that they must roll 7 or better on 2D6, with appropriate bonuses for elite troops and accompanying generals.  Additionally, shieldwall plus the height of the hill denies enemy Impetus, as well as either reducing the attackers' fighting power or adding to that of the Saxons (depending on how your rules handle hills).  The attacking cavalry may, however, roll to pass a control test to retire and reform for another go if they inflict fewer casualties than they receive.  If successful, the manoeuvre triggers a Saxon test in turn, to see if they follow off the hill onto the level ground below.  Here the opposition will have full Impetus, plus possibly flanking attacks, which is what seems to have happened on the day itself.

The Table-top
The battlefield is very simple: a nice long hill for the Saxons, with their flanks protected by woods.  The combination of the hill and woods make these parts of the field impassable to cavalry.  There is a stream in front of the Norman army, which will slow them down a bit initially.  I've placed a small marsh at one end because it will look pretty.  To the Norman front left is the famous hillock where Duke William took off his helmet to show the men he was still alive.  The game can easily be scaled down (or up!) to suit different sizes of collections; I have sized it at 8' wide by 5' deep for 25mm figures.

Army Morale
The Saxon army has 20 Morale Points.  Harold is worth two points, as are the mixed Huscarl/Fyrd units.  Each of the Great Fyrd is worth one point.  The central Huscarls are worth three points.  Harold's brothers are each worth a point as well.  The army breaks when it loses half its points. For the Normans, each unit of foot and Breton cavalry is worth a point, while the elite Norman milites are worth two.  Each sub-general is worth a point, and William is worth two.  This gives the Normans 24 points in total; their army breaks at 12. I would suggest that if either William or Harold is killed, then it is game over anyway; this is, after all, a fight a l'outrance for the throne of England.  The game should last 15 turns; if by then the Saxons are still holding, they win the battle, and the war.

Historical Constraints
This is an edited version of my first attempt at the battle.  I posted it on The Miniatures Page and the Society of Ancients fora, and due to feedback there I have reduced the contingent of Norman infantry.  I still think some should be present, to represent dismounted milites, sailors etc.  The units that are deployed wide on either flank are the ones that are hoping to roll up the Saxons flanks.  regardless, this should be a close struggle.

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