Wednesday 20 June 2012

Gaugamela Two - Special Rules For The Battle

(A Garrison 20mm Philotas leads forward Garrison 20mm Companions, as the phalanx crunches into Darius' Greek mercenaries)


Macedonians move first

Individual command figures add plus one to all charge morale throws and 1D20 to combat dice roles. Alexander adds 2. This may be combined with other Macedonian leaders (for example with Kleitos and Alexander attached the Royal Companions would add 3D20 in melee)

Persian unit movement. All close order cavalry units can move each turn. Other Persian and allied units must throw above the number of hits they have suffered on a D6 in order to move.

Macedonian Baggage

Alexander had to detail some of his force to guard the baggage, this seems to have fallen to the Thracian peltasts who later fought off an incursion by Persian cavalry intent on rescuing the female members of the royal household who had been captured at Issus. Should the Persians get amongst the baggage and remain there for one full turn then all Macedonian units suffer 1 hit (this represents the damage to their morale of seeing all their hard won plunder being ransacked)

(Garrison 20mm figure of Mazaros leads forward some Garrison 20mm Egyptian heavy cavalry, the latter are figures converted and cast by Rob - and very nice they are too)


Alexander was determined to capture or kill the Persian king. If he succeeds the battle ends at the conclusion of any current melees in a Macedonian victory. If Darius flees the table to avoid Alexander then all Persian units suffer 2 hits immediately.

(Chariots breaking through a unit of Pbs Agrianes)

Scythed Chariots

The tactics with these seems to have been for the charioteer to gallop towards the enemy and then jump off at the last minute. To simulate this:

Move charging chariot to within 4cm of the enemy unit it is charging.

Throw a D6

Score 1 = Chariot halts short of enemy lines. Remove model

Score 2, 3 = Chariot turns 90 degrees to the left

Score 4, 5 = Chariot turns 90 degrees to the right

Score 6 = Chariot continues straight ahead

If a chariot does not halt throw 4 x D6 to see how far it moves. If the chariot makes contact with any close order unit, foe or friend, throw a D20 for hit. Light units simply part to let it pass through.

Normal additions apply, i.e. a chariot charging into a units flank will add 2 x D20

A chariot cuts straight through any unit it contacts and carries on for its full move distance throwing for any other units it contacts as before. Once it completes its move the model is removed.

Any unit contacted by a chariot must halt for one turn whether it has suffered casualties or not.

Chariots may be eliminated by missile fire in the usual way. A score of 10 or more is required to hit. If attacked or charged chariots will countercharge as above.

(Scythed - well you have to imagine the scythes - chariots have passed through the PBs Cretans and approach the phalanx, which is menaced on the flank by S range Assyrian lancers. A mix of metal and plastic vehicles painted by Ray McGarry)

Tomorrow - Action!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I have long thought that any army which deploys scythed chariots in a large scale formal battle should automatically lose the game – after all, that seems to be the historical result ! (Although there may be other factors in play …). Their only recorded success was in a small skirmish …

    Some effects to think about if you want to use them again:

    They seem to have been turned back by either effective shooting or the (horses’ ?) fear of charging home against steady troops – which could be covered by an additional factor in the existing morale test to charge ?

    If the chariots were turned back, they could run through their own troops (as at Magnesia, IIRC), causing such disorder that the latter were vulnerable to enemy in subsequent turns – perhaps some sort of Disorder factor (–2 or 3 to Hit, or halved combat dice ?) would be appropriate in addition to the Halt effect ?
    This disorder effect would also be appropriate for enemy troops who have just fought scythed chariots as well !

    Disciplined troops could, at least on occasion, open their ranks to form lanes through which chariots (already harassed by shooting ?) would pass harmlessly. The subsequent mopping up of the chariots (presumably out of formation?) by rear ranks is not described in detail as far as I know. This could all be handled in a abstract way: eg if a unit passes its morale test for being charged by scythed chariots, and the chariots to charge ‘home’, ‘target’ troops of appropriate type (e.g. Legionaries, and some Phalangites and perhaps mercenary hoplites ?) may test to open lanes – perhaps your C&C/movement test mechanism could be used to see if they have done this successfully ? If they fail to open the lanes, fight the melee normally, if they succeed, the chariots could be judged to have passed through and been mopped up somehow, or use your existing rules to continue until they run out of steam or are destroyed.

    Ruling for successful scythed chariots is more difficult, given the single example, not from a pitched battle. Perhaps they fight one round and are immediately removed from the table, and if their opponents are not destroyed/routed, they are disordered as above ? How effective to make them is tricky, but like elephants much of their effectiveness seems to be in the chance of a unit breaking on being charged (and then being cut down as they flee), or from the disorder which allows supporting units to rout the victims afterwards. The latter may have been the effect in the small action where they are recorded as being successful.

    As usual, more reading is needed !

    Best wishes, Nick

    1. Thanks Nick.

      Plenty to ponder, as ever.

      I confess that these rules were put together specifically for Gaugamela, and give the chariots little chance of success (based perehaps on your "any army that deploys them should loose idea!). It strikes me - from a mispent youth watching horse racing and observing the many horses round these parts over the past twenty years - that a riderless (or driverless) horse would rarely try and force its way through what appears to them a solid obstacle (hedges, for example), if there was the slightest alternative. To the horse the phalanx would appear solid. It seems extremely unlikely to me therefore that they would run head first into it. The horses must have been trained to pull chariots, so the noise of the vehicle behind them wouldn't have frightened them. I would imagine that the scythed chariot was a weapon designed to succeed by frightening the enemy (as the British hoped the rocket would against the Zulus). That would work against untrained, undisciplined troops or those that were unused to horses. None of these apply to Alexander's troops.

      One thing worth considering comes from the redoubtable Alfred Burn who notes in his account of the battle (based on Arrian, I think): ""These great vehicles were, in fact, fearfully vulnerable to STEADY light troops. Most skrimishers of the day were anything but steady; but Alexander's were. They waited coolly, dodged, and slammed in their javelins. Chariot after chariot crashed with a horse down, or swerved and lost its way, while the Agrianes and Balakros javelinmen, not without loss to themselves, grabbed at the traces and tore down the charioteers".

      Burn makes mention of the scythed chariots having previously "broken Greek pikemen in Asia minor" though does not elaborate.

      As we've discussed previously the use of chariots in wargames generally is a vexed area. I am currently considering the adaption of the fearsome home-made Assyrian warwagons into 4-horse chariots. Would these be simply a fire platform (a kind of equine-powered gunship?) or more like a tank? I tend towards the latter, though clearly the tank idea has a good deal more appeal.

      Thanks as ever for your input


    2. In th final para I menat of course that I tend towards the former

  3. I think we are forgetting 2 other successful attacks by Scythed chariots, bith by Pontic armies. One by Mithradites vs a Bythnian phalanx, possible the incident referred to above? Apparantky causing sufficient disorder to allow a supporting attack to succeed.

    The other was against Caesar himself, the chariots disordering his legions, the supporting Pontic infantry being, alas, too far back and the line recovered before they hit.

    (of course there is the possibility that Cyrus's chariots used against the Lydians actually were scythed chariots.

    This plus the use against Agesilaus, suggests to me that the chariots main raison d'etre was to cause momentary confusion in the enemy ranks. The loss of hots in PP could be said to represent just this but I think treating an encounter with scythed chariots as equivalent to have had Birnham Wood pass through their ranks would be more apt. ie on the next turn the phalanx is treated as if it were in woods with the 2 die + no impetus penalty but on the turn after it recovers, good as new.


    1. Thanks for this, Ross. My generally feeling - like yours - is the effect of the chariot on disciplined troops would be more disruptive than fatal.

  4. Depends on the horse. Long ago, in my youth, milk was delivered via horse drawn carts. I recall one horse getting spooked, going full pelt down the street, across Rose Street (in Gateshead)at the bottom and smashing full pelt into someones garden fence.

    1. Thanks Rob. I will spare you the tale of the time my grandfather and his brothers fired the steamhose up the dray horse's backside. Suffice it to say here that by some stroke of luck nobody was injured. Or at least so my Grandad claimed.

  5. Deep apologies to Harry for dumping my whole lunchtime stream of initial ideas on his blog. This was in no way meant as criticism of Harry’s splendidly streamlined scenario-specific rules, and my ideas probably have too much detail unnecessary and undesirable for Harry’s wonderfully big battles.

    Thanks to Ross for pointing out the Pontic examples – I always forget them, no doubt because of the structure of the WRG reference books, where they fall out of the Macedonian and Punic Wars volume into the Armies and Enemies of Imperial Rome.

    Best wishes, Nick

    1. Absolutely no need for apologies, Nick. Your comments are always very welcome. Both you and Ross - and no doubt many others who post here - have a far deeper and broader knowledge of the ancient world than I do. As a journalist I spend my days attempting to assimilate information rapidly and summarise it succinctly. A lot of the time however I end up scanning things hurriedly and generalising wildly!
      All the very best