“Are we there yet?” And I think the answer to that question is yes or certainly yes enough to be able to field full armies representing the various forces of the Diadochi to a set of rules that gives us what we want.
This week we took our time to play the rules complete, ie, choose two armies from the lists to the proposed minimum points value, choose the terrain from the listed items, work out scouting and deploy for battle. The two armies were Ptolemaic Successor (under Ptolemy I)and Eastern Satrapal (under Peithon), they didn’t met historically but certainly could have. The points gave the Ptolemaic a strong infantry core of, 1 x Agema pike, 3 x Pezhetairoi pike & 2 x mercenary Hoplites covered by Cretan archers, Rhodian slingers and Greek javelinmen; the cavalry wings were made up of 3 x Kleruchoi horse on the left and 2 x Hetairoi on the right. The Satrapal force was much more varied; their infantry centre was, 2 x Pantodapoi pike, 2 x Macedonian pike, 1 x Thracian peltasts & 2 x mercenary Hoplites covered by Cretan archers and Greek slingers & javelinmen all supported by 2 x elephants; the left wing horse comprised 1 x satrapal horse supported by 2 x horse archers and the right comprised 2 x satrapal horse, 1 x Xystophoroi and 1 x light horse javelineers.
A blow by blow account isn’t required here but how well the game reflected what we know of Successor’s battles is worth a look.
Traditionally the left wing cavalry would be lighter and would have a holding role while the right wing would be the stronger strike cavalry; the centre would be the infantry and here would be where the battle would be decided. On the face of it that was what we had although it didn’t quite develop that way….
The opening action was obviously on the cavalry wings – they moved twice as fast 😄 On the Ptolemaic right the strong strike force thing just didn’t work, the elephant was a worry, the enemy horse archers were annoying and the satrapal horse got the drop on one of them and it all went to hell in a hand cart when the commander got himself killed in a melee – lesson, don’t add your leader to a small unit, the percentage chance of dying is rather high 😭 On the Satrapal right their strike force was evenly matched against the Kleruchoi but eventually prevailed and by the end of the game were pursuing the enemy to their camp.
Rules note; as a generalisation, elite cavalry, the Companions in all their various descriptions, are 6 figure units and the rest either 8 or 10 and no it’s not too small, go away and research just how many cavalry as a whole there were (it’s not a lot) and how many of them were Companions. For scale purposes 1 cavalry figure = 128 men, so a base of two figures is a squadron.
While all the cavalry shenanigans was going on the phalanx’s ground their way across the table with their respective skirmishers potting away at each other – the satrapal skirmishers had the best of it and drove off their opposite numbers. This worked as we wanted, a few casualties then the psiloi end up behind the pikes where they can protect the rear from any nasty cavalry that come sniffing around 😀
The main event soon followed and we were into the clash of pikes. From a rules perspective it’s all down to who gets the initiative and uses it well, as experience has shown that he who gets stuck in first will just keep on rolling, barring a stroke of real bad luck. In this clash the Ptolemaics got the initiative and ordered all six units in, huzzah! Err, no. Three units refused to charge 😪 and so when the initiative moved to the enemy there was a real sense of tension as they tried to rescue the moment but two of them refused to charge! and so instead of the nice neat straight line, so beloved by wargamers, we had a more staggered look as different merarchia advanced and gave ground independently of each other, which was rather the effect I was after.
Ultimately the Ptolemaics got their act together and superior class saw them through the initial wobble and crushed the enemy centre – both hoplite units and two of the pike units routed and Peithon was killed whilst steadying one of the pike units. In the units that routed the highest loss was at 30% and the lowest around 12%. Much like the real thing this was the end; one side had lost the bulk of its infantry and with the army general dead had no mechanism by which they could rally them until they reached the camp where they would have a single shot at redemption. On the subject of camps, neither side had lost control of theirs, the Ptolemaic camp was the more at risk due to the victorious cavalry heading its way (a Eumenes moment in the making) but it did have two cavalry units about to rally there (or not) but that was all a bit ‘if, but or maybe’, the reality was that some 13,000 men (scale wise) from the satrap army were leaving the field.
But what of those troop types not mentioned so far? Well the elephants were a worry for a while but not for long, the left wing elephant panicked when it’s mahout died (actually it’s a squadron but as a mechanism it works 🤨) and ended up in the way of the Agema pike who charged into it and finished it, the right wing elephant provided able support to the cavalry wing (and managed to stay out of ‘scaring the children’ range) but was ranged in on by the Cretans who shot it down. The Thracians did nothing, spending most of their time lurking behind the right wing elephant.
Once we were done we had a detailed discussion about how the game had played and where we thought we were in the project. First off, the rules; they play well, enough detail to make you think about what you are doing but swift mechanisms to resolve the contest of arms, the overall look seems right and the resolution feels right; we did have a couple of ‘oh shit this isn’t going to work’ moments, such as the failure to charge in the centre but in fact this resolved perfectly well and added a bit of suspense to the game. Secondly, the collection; it’s been quite a journey, it’s taken longer than we thought and even using the plastic figures it’s still been quite expensive which has caused a bit of tension, we’ve side tracked a couple of times – the Galatians are an obvious example, but taking a step back and taking a look at the whole we’ve got a collection to be proud of 🥰 and we agreed that essentially it’s done.
What next? A display game seems the next logical step so our Partizan entry next year will be a Successors refight, either Paraitakene or Gabiene, we reckon we could put on a reasonable version of either with what we’ve got, maybe a few more elephants would be nice 😏
Anyway, thank you for reading along as we’ve developed the project, all polite and useful comments gratefully received, in the meantime, enjoy your gaming, however you do it.