Saturday, 3 December 2011

Incursion into Thrace and second battle of Selinus

Our first night of our DBA Peloponnesian Wars campaign had featured two match ups of Athenians against Spartans. We both agreed we did not want to have 'burn out' by overusing this army combination, so we selected two battles with quite different army combinations, and Steve had painted up some more cavalry and Thracian peltasts, and I'd found some of my own in the cupboard. Unfortunately, I left my cameraphone at home.

The first was what we decided was an incursion from the Athenian colonists of Amphipolis into Thrace, which matched the Athenian phalanx of 'spear' against the fleet-footed Thracian peltasts and their horsemen. As I obviously took the Athenians, Steve captained the Thracians. I'd rolled up as 'invader', so we decided this was an expedition into Thrace to punish the Thracians for raiding the colonists territory. Steve chose to bisect the table with a river, and unsurprisingly maxed out on as much rough terrain as he could with his other choices, including two steep hills and a couple of woods. I looked hard at the board and decided I preferred a side which gave me the river crossing my front on my side of the board, with a wood on my left and the two steep hills and another wood on the other side of the river. My initial plan was to fight a defensive battle, with my hoplite phalanx defending the river. I moved them swiftly forward to take this position. I rested my left flank against the woods, which I covered with my own peltasts and psilioi, left one unit of hoplites behind to cover my camp, and threw my cavalry out on my right flank, with a plan to cross the river. They were the first to try a crossing and found it of normal difficulty, which was good for plan to defend the river bank, as my hoplites would get a +1 bonus.

Steve arranged his peltasts in columns which would allow them to cross difficult terrain with ease, and they quickly scaled the steep hills across the river.

It became quickly apparent that my own single element of cavalry and element of light horse, would not fare well again the superior cavalry force supported by peltasts galloping towards them, so I decided to beat a hasty retreat back across the river.

After a few turns a force of Steve's Thracian peltasts forded the river on my left flank and went for my own peltasts and psiloi defending the wood there. It quickly became obvious that far from the woods being any source of defence for my phalanx's flank, that they were no obstacle against the Thracian light troops. I raced my own light horse from right flank to left flank to support my own peltasts, dropped back my cavalry towards my own camp, and turned some of my hoplites to attempt to form a line to defend my flank at a 90 degree angle to the river.

The fight for the woods on my left went back and forth. I was intially repulsed, but with my light cavalry in support I was able to destroy an element of peltasts and one of psiloi, in exchange for the lost of just one of my psiloi. Steve crossed the river with his cavalry and charged them straight at my own single element, but I rolled well and destroyed a unit of his cavalry. Suddenly I was 3 elements up to one, and if I could destroy another I had won.

My main tactic had been to defend the river bank with my phalanx, but Steve understandably had no appetite for a head-on assault when he would have been attacking with a +3 combat factor and I would be defending with +5. But now he threatened to pour around both flanks. My refused flank on the right, I managed to join up with my cavalry and my defended camp, to present a fairly solid defensive line. On my left flank, however, things were much scrappier. My own light flanking force was outnumbered, and Steve's peltasts surged through the woods and managed to attack the end of my phalanx in thr flank, as he attempted a limited attack across the river to keep them occupied. My brave hoplites were made of stern stuff, and the repelled the attack from across the river and from their flank. This gave them the breathing space they needed, and rolling just enough PIPs, I was able to turn a couple of units of hoplite spear to face the peltasts now out of the cover of the woods. With one light unit mounting a supporting flank attack, the hoplites were just too tough for the peltasts, and I destroyed an element of peltasts. This was the fourth Thracian unit that I'd destroyed, so victory was mine. The Thracian raiding tribesmen no doubt fled back to their mountain strongholds, taught a bloody lesson!

Up until now all our DBA campaign had involved armies with a strong phalanx of 'Spear' and both Steve and I agreed it was a strength of the DBA ruleset to have such a different sort of battle, with the Thracian light troops.

For our second game of the night, we thought we would again go west across the Mediterranean to the island of Sicily and give the Syracusan and Carthaginian armies another outing. This time I'd remembered to bring a few chariots along with me, albeit of the two-horsed type from my 'chariot-period' armies, rather than four-horsed ones, which would have been more correct for the Carthaginian heavy cavalry. Steve rolled up as 'invader' so we decided that he would attempt to relieve the city of Selenius the site of my previous victory.

Unfortunately, my memory of this battle is some what hazy. I seem to remember I put a river down the centre of one side of the board, and a coastline at right angles to it, with a bit of marsh scattered on the other flank. Steve chose to play so my back was to the sea, so the river was on my left flank and the marsh on my right.

I initially deployed my cavalry and chariots on either flank, but advanced them forward and both flanks joined in my centre in front of my spear. The idea was to be able to give me the flexibility to switch this mobile mounted force to either make a concerted attack on one flank, or if they saw a weakness to charge down the middle. I had high hopes for the hitting power of my heavy chariots, which I had 'maxed out' on in my army list choices.

Things didn't go quite to plan. I sent my mounted force to my left and attacked Steve's right flank. Steve though got the better PIP rolls though, and what had looked straighted out as an opportunistic swoop on some slightly exposed cavalry, turned into a charge against a well-formed line of cavalry and infantry. I cannot remember the exact exchange of elements, but I certainly remember losing one of my precious 'heavy chariots' and ending up out-flanked. I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and retreated my mounted troops. My own phalanx of spear had not moved, so I at least had plenty of space to do this. I have to say that the end of the battle is even more hazy, and I can't remember if my second mounted charge proved more successful, the chariots I seem to remember doing better against the warband of Celtic mercenaries, or it needed my spears to get into action. Certainly, having felt I'd played the battle badly in the first instance, I was somewhat relieved to win through to a, not particularly well-deserved victory.

The city of Selinus stayed firmly in Carthaginian hands.

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