Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Second battle of Arbela

Next on our campaign 'A time of Empires' is another battle between Alexander's greeks and Darius' persians. In the map above you can see that the macedonians have reached deep into persian territory. This is how our campaign looked after the 3rd year, when things were clearly not going well for the persians. The following battle is indicative of the complexity of the campaign mechanics, hence some units were quickly assembled as simply the image of a soldier on an element base, due to many same units being present (i.e. 3 Sch for persia).

The armies are deploying on a complex terrain. Forests, hills and roads have all entered the generals' strategy. The macedonians deploy in three parts, a column of light troops in the centre, already inside the woods, while the general's companions are following behind. On both right and left flanks there are two units of pikemen with cavalry screening them in the front.

While the greek skirmishers enter the woods, across the battlefield the persians are moving forward: on their right, four mounted units and on their left the three scythed chariots in front of their general. The persian skirmishers are just leaving the hills behind them on the centre.

The persian view from the top of the hills. The left persian flank has not moved much yet but the right is approaching the greeks fast. The bactrians are itching for a charge.

Alexander manages to organise his troops into a line, the weaker hypaspists and psiloi at the centre inside the woods, his companions and prodromoi on the right and a mix of phalanxes and horsemen on the left. Darius' chariots are slowly moving forward while his cavalry on the right flank is within attacking range.The persian centre is equally weak, comprising two psiloi and one auxilia takabara.

The persian chariots rush forward and the grinding of the horrific scythes is echoing around the battlefield. The macedonian cavalry find themselves on the defensive as panic sets in.

It was quick and painful for both sides... Chariots scatter and companions are butchered. The battle is started gruesomely and the victorious chariots keep going deeper into enemy lines.

The greek horsemen stay disciplined and manage to route another scythed nightmare. The last chariots are pushed back by greek slingers. Darius' first attack is slowing down.

The persian general and his bodyguards join the fight, and take down the slingers on the left. The persian line is slowly forming while a lone unit of light horsemen has moved far to the left, threatening the macedonian flank.

While the macedonian right is moving back, a unit of prodromoi light horse on their left charges the bactrian cavalry and cuts of its retreat. It's risky but the macedonians are getting desperate...

But it works! Without space to retreat, the persians are cut down. The right flank of persian horsemen though is still looming and now they are angry!

An eye for an eye, the greek prodromoi are immediately taken care of and Alexander can sense his pending defeat.

Alexander has had enough. His troops could not withstand the might of persia this time and they turn and fall back. 

The persian troops are celebrating their much needed victory and Darius is pointing to his mighty empire, exclaiming that right here is where the tide turns. This is where Alexander's onslaught stops!


This is probably among the most intense (and least good-looking) battles we have ever played. The fear and excitement of the approaching scythed death-dealers were fierce. The woods in the middle and placing the light troops at the centre felt very counter-intuitive for macedon, while the superiority of the persian cavalry was clear. The plan for macedon was weak and reactive while persia constantly had the initiative. The author's usual lucky dice rolls ran out and victory went to Darius with relative ease. 

Do you think if 1/4 of Darius' actual armies comprised scythed chariots (hopefully automated :), history would be different?

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