Classical & Roman Warfare at the 2017 BHGS Challenge
Sassanid Persian vs Camillan Roman
Game 3 and the terrain gods were not feeling the love from their many fervent worshippers in Iran - two steep hills crushed the spirits and the deployment area of the Persians and another morale-sapping Impassable completed the lineup on the Persian side of the table. The game promised to be hard, against a Ptolemaic army which would be stuffed full of pikemen, with one obvious place for them to deploy as well.
The lists for the Sassanid Persian and Ptolemaic Successors from this game, as well as all the other lists from the games at Challenge can be seen here in the L'Art de la Guerre Wiki.
Ptolemaic - one of the Successor states, and the empire of Cleopatra, Ptolemaic has innumerable Pikemen, including some cheapish Mediocre locally-raised ones to create a solid wall of pointed sticks. All of the usual Successor toys are also in the box, apart from Cataphracts - clearly Egypt is too hot to wear all of that armour.
With nothing else really viable the sons of the Aechemenids sent one command of Clibanarii off on a flank march, and then hid in a corner, hoping to delay fighting the Successor-era warriors of Cleopatran Pikemen as long as possible and blocking the other gap with Cataphacts. Imagine their delight when the Cleo-lites put down some Elephants of their own against them!
The only gaps in the pair of plumply rounded mountains protecting the now-tiny Iranian plateau were on the edges, and the forces of Cleopatra probed there too. With Clibanarii to spare, and hoping to draw the Successor cavalry into the dangerous 'the flank march arrives here' zone of the table the Sassanids at least had this one well covered - which was more than one could usually say of Cleopatra herself.
L'Art de la Guerre hint - LH can interpenetrate Cavalry and Knights with no penalty. So this isn't the nightmare it would be in other rulesets
The Persians and their Almughavars, sorry, Dailami waited patiently as their skirmishing archers attempted to delay the inevitable arrival of the wall of Cleopatra's Pikemen for as long as possible. That flank march needed to arrive soon....
Ptolemy and his girlfriend had clearly been away shopping in Asia Minor, and had done some sort of deal with their mate Eumenes - or so it must have appeared to the Persian Cataphracts, who had been hoping for an unsubtle Companion charge to deal with but now found themselves facing several Elephants and some rogue Thracians! As Cleopatra hereself might have said had the tables been reversed, this was now a real pain in the Asp.
The wall of pikes continued to advance as the Persian skirmishers retreated gingerly. Dailami were polishing their Zupins with some urgency now, and even the Levy were being called up to plan an overlap against the obvious advancing enemy Pikes..
The Ptolemaics were starting to discover the downsides of cramming their opponents into a box - greatly extended command and control lines - and they struggled to extricate their own LH as the Sassanids moved up a veritable machinegun corps of Clibanarii to cut down the Successors Bactrian mercenary LH.
The Pikemen were now in that age old quandary - do they wheel as a vast block and maintain their frontage, or do some of the elements wheel separately and get into combat sooner. The Persians were fiddling around with spare Cataphracts and other diversions, throwing out some seemingly tempting targets and pushing their line ever wider as they to try and tempt the Successors into the fast and piecemeal approach.
The Sassanid Army
Ptolemy finally withdrew his barely surviving LH, allowing the Persian Clibanarii to issue a "come and get us if you dare" call to the Successor lancers. The Ptolemaic terrain reminded many of the men of the last time they had seen Cleopatra bathing in milk, and it also created a natural overlap for the Persians as the pseudo-Greeks could only get 2 units into combat without going onto the steep hill with the third, suffering debilitating terrain penalties in the process. How long would they dare stick around with the flank march surely imminent ?
Ptolemy's' Elephant Corps burst through the pass between the two mountains and soon found that the Persian Cataphracts had not waited around just to be beaten - to get to them the Ptolemaic Death Star would need to expose its flanks to Persian mounted archery, and charges.
Ptolemy & The Diadochi
The pikemen were still in one long line.... but their right flank was starting to hang in the breeze as it rounded the mountain.
Pictures of Successor Troops from my Ancients Photo Directory
(Click any image to see details of the manufacturer, and a larger version of the photo)
Seeing perhaps their best chance as the Pikemen wheeled in, the Persians just about scraped together enough pips to launch a Dailami-only assault on one of the 3-wide blocks of foot spearmen. Using Levy to support one flank and using an elephant as an overlap the Dailami knew they had to roll well as they were the best hope of the whole army. Impact foot prayed their +1 would negate the natural +2 of the Pikes
What's Going on Here Then?
Forced onto the back foot, the Sassanids have used space and time to try to negate the Ptolemaic Pikemen, forcing them to cross the entire table width and also execute a tricky wheel before they will agree to fight them. The same is true for the Ptolemaic Elephant Corps, who are now risking their flanks in roder to try to get into the Sassanid Cataphracts. A flank march has arrived, but with much of the Ptolemaic army already in combat or close to it, it may be too late.
The battle was entering a significant phase as the flank march also arrived with no little fanfare - surprising the Ptolemaics like Cleopatra being shaken out of a tightly rolled carpet. Successor troops fled at the double as the new fresh horsemen of Iran steamed forward into their rear areas.
Cleopatra meets Anthony - documentary
The Ptolemaic Pachyderm Corps had just about found a target, but the commitment of some of their second-string troops who were being called upon to defend its flanks must soon surely be called into question by the rest of the Sassanid cavalry ?
The Dailami were through! However, unsurprisingly perhaps, the Levy hadn't done that well and were gone. Interesting times all round as the Sassanids fed in a handful of additional units, realistically hoping to at best delay and confuse whilst their flank march got into position to influence the game
The Sassanids committed themselves to the battle to outflank the Elephant Corps, driving hard into the softer squishier bits of the Ptolemaic army hoping to be through and over them before their own Cataphracts got inevitably crushed.
The onrushing wall of pikemen had been well and truly halted, and suddenly they began to realise that they needed a reserve if they were to sensibly deal with the stout defence of the resilient Persians. With Dailami and Elephants it was just about possible to commit the right troops to the right places in the line if the pips held out.
What's Going on Here Then?
The defensive stance adopted by the Sassanids is just about working, with the flank march now on table. This however is going to be very tight, as the crushing Pike phalanx has numbers and quality to take down everything in it's path - and even the Ptolemaic elephants have the abillity to cause havoc before their flanks fall to the swarms of Asarvan and Persian Cataphracts. A massive table and the combat is still concentrated in just 2 small areas.
The Successor Death Star had a mixed result - the Thracians were eliminated at contact, but so was an Elite Cataphract unit. On the flanks the Ptolemaic horse were looking at critical losses.
Cleopatra - documentary
And the Ptolemaic cavalry collapsed, opening up the flanks of the Elephant corps for a series of devastating charges by the crème of Persian chivalry! The Ptolemaic hammer needed a new head as one of the two Elephants exploded under the power of the flank attack
The Ptolemaic army committed more and more men into the struggle against the Dailami and Persian Elephants. Pikes, swords, legions and phalangites were all pressed into service against the seemingly resilient Persian line in the dark green desert sand.
But, slowly and steadily the 3-hit Persians were being whittled down by the 4-hit Ptolemaic Heavy Foot. One Dailami was now gone, and the fate of the cataphracts looked soon to be sealed also. This was a valiant holding action, but surely not even Mick Hucknall in his mid-80's ginger-haired prime would be able to keep holding on much longer than the Persians had already managed.
But, perhaps the HUcknall-meister had been a mahout in a previous life? The Persians roused themselves for a last herculanean effort and smashed through another wave of Pikemen and Imitation Legionaries! The Dailami were aging visibly as combat took its toll, but even if they weren't holding back the years they were holding back the Ptolemaic advance!
As the battered Successors staggered forward even while the Dailami and elephants rampaged trough their rear echelons they now found themselves facing a fresh wave of Clibanarii, ready for a fight after destroying the Ptolemaic Pachyderms. This was very much still in the balance!
What's Going on Here Then?
The Death Star has suddenly pulled a staggering success out of the pike-infested jaws of disaster and in so doing has probably tipped the entire battle back in Persia's favour. The Ptolemanic elephant Corps is now totally neutralized and the Persian flank march is - unseen - conducting hit-and-run operations on the rear echelon Successor troops, who are unable to escape with their command and control infrastructure badly overstretched as their generals press the front line forward.
The Dailami/Elephants combo finally were going down fighting to the last. They had lost half a dozen units, but done potentially irreparable damage to the Ptolemaic cause.
Amazingly, outrageously, the Persian Elephant, bolstered by the participation of their commander, managed to survive a ridiculously uneven combat, and at the same time the largely forgotten flank march mopped up some unwary Successor pedestrians and horsemen in the centre of the table. A marvellous victory, forged out of the necessity to salvage a terrible terrain setup by thinking and innovative bold tactics!
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition, or read on for the post match summaries from the Generals involved, as well as another episode of legendary expert analysis from Hannibal
Post Match Summary from the Sassanid Persian Commander
This was a spectacular victory for the power of The Force of Zorostrarianism, or however it is spelt. Anyway, it is no more ridiculous that Dichloromidians. Being forced by appalling terrain to actually have to think and work for this victory makes it even sweeeter. Almost as swet as pasta with peas! Yes, ideally penne. You need of course to push 'em up the penne tubes, which is a bit weird, but hey, back to the game...
A bold flank march, even though it rarely featured in the photography (for which someone will lose their head for sure) was decisive in this game, and if it had arrived earlier it would have been even more decisive, turning a win into a win. But sooner. In fact, flanks all round were very key, as my very negative, sorry, sensibly cautious cataphract deployment forced the enemy to come to me between the cleavage of the hills and expose their flanks. It is rare for me to remember that the full depth of the table is there to be played on, not just the opponents half so this is a welcome reminder of my own brilliance
And just how tough were those Dailami then? Amazing - they didn't really need the Elephants, they were practically Death Stars in their own lunchtimes and in their own right. It just goes to show that whilst Pikemen have a scary factor, getting in with Impact Foot and nicking a first round win due to better quality is still a very interesting and viable option for taking them down. Right down.
Having come out of the right end of this result, I am now wildly confident that we will find a great local curry house next to a Weatherspoons this fine evening, and the rumours of this being expensive will be soundly disproved.
Hannibal's Post Match Analysis
Never has someone been so fortunage in one game as you here today. The terrain game you played abysmally, and the battle was as close to lost then as I think I have ever seen - apart from knowing with some of your list choices that there was little point you even turning up.
Not expecting Elephants in the gap between the two hills was just insane - the pachyderm attractiveness index runs through this theme like a dark grey stream, and so any Successor worth his salt will pack some in his trunk. The Cataphracts nearly came to a very sticky end, and there is not even any effort on your part to pretend that this was a lure to tempt the enemy into a position where you could oppose his flanks - no, you expected Companions to charge home like they were on rails.
This was truly a grind, and you won by the very skin of your teeth. They surely must run out of tooth-skin soon, and the more normal service will be resumed no doubt.
Perhaps you can lose on proper terrain rather than win in a cluttered terrain drawer in the next game?
Click here for the report of the next game in this competition