Sunday, 12 October 2014

The Battle of Arbela

Let's try to keep on posting more battles, shall we? :)

As you can see on the map there are two areas which are the 'corridors' between the two opponents, Europos (right between what is today Syria and Iraq) and Armavir (north, between the Black and Caspian seas). After the two battles won by the macedonians, they have occupied both areas. In the meantime, both factions have spent their 'talents' to build infrastructure (walls which make sieges harder, markets which give an extra talent per turn and barracks which allow recruiting any unit in an area). Already, there are two areas with walls for each faction (Herakleia and Antigoneia, and Uruk and Arbela) and one with a market (Athens and Marw). 

How sieges work (never perfect, if sometimes it doesn't make sense during play, go with your gut):  
If there are no enemy units in the city, one can leave two units for one season for the city (or three for a capital) to fall. If there are at least two enemy units in the city, one must wait two seasons (or one more season for every two enemy units) for the city to fall.
A. If there are no enemy units, the attacker takes the city without 'waiting' but rolls for losing 0-3 units. If there are walls, to capture it one must roll 6-(1/every 2 units in the attacking army). If it succeeds he also rolls for 0-3 casualties. If it fails he rolls for casualties 6-(1/every 2 units in the attacking army). Note: 'waiting' applies after a failed storming. 
B. If there are at least two enemy units but no walls the attacker must roll 6-(1/every 2 units more than opponent). If the storming fails casualties are 6-(1/every 1 unit difference). If it succeeds there are casualties 6-(1/every 1/2 unit difference). If there are walls, he must roll 6-1(rounded down)/every 4 units more than opponent’s units. If storm fails, roll for casualties and calculate: 6-(1/every 4 more units of attacker). If it succeeds roll for casualties and calculate: 6-(1/every 2 more units of attacker).  

I hope this doesn't sound too complicated, it's actually simpler than it looks. It can be a nice gaming element if you want to run a complex campaign with many units, where fortifying your cities can be crucial. In simple terms, you may leave some units guarding a city with walls and your opponent will think twice before attacking it. Does he have to wait too long? Can he storm it? Can he take the casualties? etc.

But let's move to the next battle report. After securing the two 'corridors', Europos and Armavir, the macedonians meet the persian army in Arbela. The terrain is arable (we defined the terrain for each area through the actual google earth images, approximating the place where each region is). The macedonians are attacking the persians on a rather open field with a road connecting the two sides and any rough terrain lying mostly away from the centre. Persia is again outnumbered (13vs10) and the battle seems tough for Darius...
Note: the more complex our campaigns turns, the less pretty it becomes. Hence, please forgive the occasionally lacklustre visuals.

Once again, like in Armavir, an open field lies between the two armies. Darius splits his army, deploying his four takabara auxilia on the hills to his left, and places all his mounted troops and a couple of skirmishers on the right. Alexander similarly splits his troops although in two rather balanced halves, both comprising a mix of pikemen and cavalry, and one side with psiloi and the other with ballistas.

The persians waste no time and move forward. Is there a 'darian' tactic developing, like in the battle of Dura-Europos, to rush mounted troops with surgical precision and strike the macedonian weak spots? Such an open field may not favour such audacity but Darius has proved resourceful before.

From Alexander's point of view the battle plan is unraveling smoothly. This time he spread his pikes equally, left, right and at the centre, keeping them ready to join wherever. His troops are moving forward, trying to envelop the smaller persian force. The takabara are still on the hills.

Bird's-eye view of the battle. The lines are drawing near and they are very mixed. Bactrian cavalry, scythed chariots, light scythian horsemen and psiloi are facing phalanxes, cretan archers and prodromoi light horse. 

For one moment all is calm and the next the might of Persia charges! The creaking wheels of the chariots are in everyone's ears, while horses go mad all over the battle lines. A huge wave of dust goes up where the men and beasts meet, and the battle begins.

The first charge is often bloody when macedonians and persians meet, and down go pikemen and chariots. There is a hole now in the centre of Alexander's army, while the left flank of Darius is open.

Battle is quickly rejoined and the macedonians take the initiative. The persian left is in trouble as the prodromoi rush to the bactrian cavalry's flank and there is no way back for them.

Meanwhile Darius' light foot encircle the cretans and his cavalry trample them head on. The bactrians on the left are also routed after a brave, short melee. Two casualties for each army but, despite the chariots being formally inconsequential, their loss counts against the persians as they were already outnumbered.

Despite holding their own, things are turning bad for the persians. The macedonian right is quickly closing in and there is very little time to inflict serious damage to Alexander's left. A unit of brave skirmishers are trying to hold the macedonians on the left a bit longer.

But they do it again! Another phalanx is destroyed and everything is hanging from a thread. If the macedonian light horse is killed the battle may be won by Darius. Behind the macedonian light horse there is a unit of persian psiloi who fled from the oncoming greeks.

It wasn't destined to be one of the most impressive wins after all. The greek right flank arrives in time to sweep the persians and give respite to their battered comrades. The bactrians are slain by the prodromoi while Alexander's companions take care of the audacious skirmishers.

By Ahura Mazda, this turns into a massacre! The macedonians get crazed with desire for vengeance and show no mercy. Two more units of Darius go down and the bodies of dead men and beasts are littering the earth. Alexander lets his men do as they please, after all his frustration is not much less either. His campaign to conquer Persia is progressing, although slowly, and he will stop at nothing, but his hubris of thinking himself divine comes with a huge cost, the countless lives of people murdered on the battlefield.

This was a battle reminiscent of the previous one, although on a bigger scale. This time the macedonians were more prepared and mixed their flanks with both foot and mounted troops. So although persia had the initiative, their advance was not swift or brutal enough to rout the greeks. Despite the persian army getting very close to winning, time and the odds were against them. For almost every unit they routed, they lost one. In the end Alexander's right flank managed to arrive on time, making it very difficult for Darius. What makes it even more difficult for persia is that by being aggressive in the last battles they take higher risks to cover lost ground, and may end up losing the maximum number of units (six in our custom system), like in this battle. 
Interestingly enough, our campaign seems to be progressing with (some) historical accuracy. It was of course rarely the case that the macedonians outnumbered the persians, but overall the alexandrian player is progressing steadily, although not easily. If he can secure a foothold at Arbela, the author will threaten the persian player within his own territory, making it increasingly difficult for persian armies to be sustained and reinforced.

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