Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Battle of Dura-Europos

Here we are again, the second battle in the epic conflict between Macedonia and Persia.

Alexander's troops won the day during the previous bout in Armavir, and now Darius is at a disadvantage. His troops are amassed at the dry plains of around Dura-Europos, numerically inferior to Alexander's full array of units, reinforced so that they reach 13 vs Darius' 9. This is the "Europos" south of Armavir in our map (not to be confused with the other Europos south of the Caspian Sea). Armavir and Dura-Europos are the two corridors that are critical for the campaign as only they provide passage to the opponent's provinces. Last time the opponents met in Armavir and now it's time for the battle at the other pole of the two passages, Dura-Europos...

The river Eurphrates separates the battlefield in two. Darius' troops are split in two main groups, a small contingent of mounted units left of the river, in front of the persian camp, consisting of bactrian cavalry, scythed chariots and a unit of light scythian horsemen. On the other side, deployed in a defensive square on the dry hills, there are four units of takabara (Ax) and two psiloi.

This is Alexander's view of the persians. The strategy of Darius seems risky but one cannot win without risk. Besides, 'only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.' TS Eliot

The macedonians seem not to have moved since the start of the battle. Their strength is divided in two parts on both sides of the river. Both sides are a mix of phalanxes, companions, hypaspists and peltasts. Alexander's arrogance and lack of imagination for this battle made his plan nothing like his enemy's, and it will cost him.

Meanwhile, the persian mounted units have crossed to the right side of the river and are preparing to charge the weakest flank of the macedonians.

Things get messy quickly! The scythed chariot rushes forward, flanked by scythian light cavalry, and attacks a lone unit of peltasts. The rest of Alexander's army is helplessly watching from afar.

The peltasts are summarily slain and Darius is rubbing his hands. If he can snatch victory in this battle with his three mounted units it will be an unprecedented triumph!

Ever so slowly the macedonians are trying to deploy a semblance of a battle line.

The bactrians turn quickly to face a unit of hypaspists (Ax) while the companion cavalry of macedon is rushing forward. Darius' scythed chariots rushed to the macedonian camp but were repelled and routed. A sigh of relief for the greeks...

More macedonian units are closing in and the persian lightning attack is seriously losing momentum.

The companions charge the bactrians and they rout them!

The scythian light horse falls back, close to the persian camp. The companions approach the persian left, and Alexander's light units with his ballistas approach the dry hills where the takabara and other skirmishers are waiting.

Hooves are splashing on the river at the left persian flank as the scythians meet head-on a unit of companions. On the right the takabara charge down the hill and attack the hypaspists who rush to protect the ballistas. Was Alexander too rash approaching the hills?

After a brave fight the scythian light horse are cut down and the blood of men and horse mixes with the water of the river.

On the right Darius' army is doing better as his takabara slay a unit of slingers. Another unit of companions and thessalian cavalry hurry forth for support.

Things are dire for the persians. A lone unit of takabara, flanked by macedonian cavalry, is slugging it out with the hypaspists.

Darius' auxilia are stubborn and holding firm. The battle seems decided and even now the macedonians are having a hard time believing it.

It's done! The persians return to the hills where the greek cavalry cannot follow, and they move to leave the field. In good order from beginning to end, the persian infantry managed to hold their own and did not lose a single unit. They live to fight another day. Although winning the battle, Alexander does not feel so heroic today.

Wow! We will always remember this one. The author felt particularly confident at the start; after all, the persians were outnumbered and divided. Things quickly turned sour for macedon though. The persian player deployed brilliant tactics and exploited the maneuverability of light horse and scythed chariots. From the macedonian side having pikes, and a river splitting the army in two was almost disastrous. The pikemen were quickly made redundant and the macedonian flank was in danger of collapsing.

The author's die rolls helped keep the casualties low, considering that the camp did not become occupied by the chariots (which would have brought casualties to 3, endangering the macedonians to flee according to our custom casualty system - explained in the post of september 2012, at the beginning of the vikings vs scots campaign). After the initial onslaught was avoided, it seemed like a matter of time. Yet, when the author approached the hills, persia took again the initiative, attacked and took out a unit! This was a battle showing how well DBA mechanics can play out: taking the initiative with the 'right' units (e.g. mounted) against the 'right' units (light foot), while keeping away from the 'wrong' units (e.g. pikes and cavalry), simple isnt' it?

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