Tuesday 15 May 2012

Korepsis Pass

Well, now that's quite enough about sex and drugs, now back to the important things

“We were as tortoises mocked by crows” Athenian commander.
The first battle Stephen Caddy and I fought against one another was a re-run of Korepsis Pass, the Charles Grant scenario from “Wargame Tactics”. I was the Athenians, Stephen the Aetolians. Sadly no photos of this historic event remain, so you will have to make do with this snap of some nice Garrison 20mm hoplites who took part in the battle. Both sets were bought painted - the figures with the orange shields from Tony "Warwager" Wade, the ones with white hoplons from a toy soldier shop in Rye in Sussex. Intriguingly when I was photographing these the camera kept giving me the "blink detected" message...As if they were alive or something....
Stephen wrote this stirring account of the action, which appeared on the Old School Wargaming message board.

“As promised, Harry Pearson and I, refought today the historic [in
that it was a chapter in Charles Grant's "Wargame Tactics] engagement
at Korepsis Pass in which the weight of Athenian Hoplites was pitted
against the agility of Aetolian Peltasts. We used Harry's splendid
Greeks - virtually all Garrison 20mm figures and the woods were
equally venerable using largely Britain's trees.

The rules used were Harry's own which are to be found in the 1st
issue of "Battlegames" which will surely (passage deleted due to modesty of blogerator).

The Athenians formed their five units of hoplites in the centre; sent
on their right wing the cavalry, archers and a unit of javelins -
these light infantry looking favourably on the two small woods on
West Hill - to take the aforesaid hill; and on their left this left
two units of slingers to contest the Long Hill, the ridge of which
runs at right angles to the battle lines.

The Aetolians formed only the thinnest of skirmish lines across the
pass - consisting of one unit of slingers and three of javelin-armed
Peltasts: even one of these was destined to fight on the left flank.
On the left flank proper, aiming to contest the hill with the
Athenian cavalry and light troops were two more units of Peltasts
supported by a unit of slingers. The rest of the Aetolian army formed
a powerful right flank in two columns. A unit of Peltasts and another
of archers preceded their two units of Hoplites who advanced onto
Long Hill in a long column intending to form on said Long Hill on the
flank of the advancing Athenians: it was hoped that defending the
hill would give them more chance of holding out against the might of
Athens. Further right the remaining troops [five units of Peltasts
and one each of archers and slingers] were intended to go on a long
outflanking move through the large woods east of Long Hill both to
get behind the Athenians and to support the troops on Long Hill. The
basic Aetolian plan being to overwhelm the Athenian light troops by
weight of numbers thus isolating the heavy infantry who could then be
surrounded and whittled down to exhaustion.

The Athenian right seized the two small woods and their side of West
Hill. The cavalry particularly performed well but so did their
opposite numbers. Once the cavalry were driven off the other Athenian
units were ganged up on until the Aetolians menaced the right of the
hoplite phalanx.

In the centre the Athenian hoplites, after allowing the wings to
advance first, stoically moved forwards. The Aetolians having rushed
forward to gain space to trade for time then fell back hurling more
than insults at the advancing wall of shields.

On the Aetolian right some fierce fighting again went the Aetolian
way because of numbers and their extreme right did indeed spend the
day marching right round to the Athenian rear. One unit of Peltasts
was caught by a charging unit of hoplites but not quite destroyed.
This unit and another [that fought the cavalry] on the opposite side
of the field of Mars were reduced almost to destruction but were
withdrawn and so enabled to stand on the skyline looking like
reinforcements and very pleased with themselves they were.

The Athenian battleline by this point was in some disarray. The
centre unit had borne the brunt of fire from the retreating Aetolian
centre. The right hand unit had been diverted towards the threat from
West Hill and suffered the attentions of the victorious Aetolian
lights from that wing. The two left hand units of Hoplites attacked
the Aetolian Hoplites up the steep slope of Long Hill. The hill
negated their advantage in charging. They never quite managed to gain
purchase on the upper slopes and each time they were pushed back the
Aetolian Hoplites refused to follow up which meant that the Athenians
trying to catch their breath were showered by increasingly bold
Aetolian Peltasts with every missile they could lay their hands on.

This left the Athenians with two other bands of hoplites who were
looking after their general - to be fair they had no real reply to
what was happening to them - they were surrounded but could never
quite reach their more nimble opponents.

There was nothing left but to negotiate terms to withdraw.

Each general had taken some risk in the fighting. Alcibiades the
Athenian had tried to rally the first of the hoplites to break and
had, at some risk to his person, to scamper back to his favourite
unit with which he had advanced. Philocles the Aetolian had joined
the fighting with his hardest pressed unit of hoplites which just
tipped things in their favour.

In conclusion the rules used were justified both by the outcome of
the original battle of Korepsis and by our understanding of the
history of heavy versus light troops in the Ancient times e.g.
Iphicrates [general] Crassus [battle] etc.

The question is "Were the Athenians always on a hiding to nothing or
can they win?" To be fair to them some of the Aetolian units had
outstanding luck with the dice.

We discussed how it might have been any different. Charles Grant
spoke of the action as coming about because of a raid but does not
say who was raiding who. If the Athenians were marching home and only
had to brush aside the Aetolians and reach the other side of the
pass; of if the Aetolians were the raiders and were burdened with
looted cattle and slaves so that the Athenians could choose to stand
their ground it might make for a more even contest. Korepsis Pass as
a straightforward encounter seems to be principally a test of the
rules to see if they achieve what one might expect.

In this Harry's rules certainly passed with flying colours. Nearly 30
units fought to a result in about two hours play.

If the test of Charles Grant's book is 'was a good time had by all'
then it too achieved its aim.”

Here, here to that last sentiment


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