Tuesday 31 July 2012

Figment - Some After Thoughts

The Battle of Figment Gap was a brisk affair, lasting just six moves in total. I had based the scenario on one of Charles S Grant's, but suspect I probably overloaded it in favour of the Egyptians. Certainly the Assyrians would have done better if they'd had something approaching parity in missile troops.

 The bite-size units worked effectively, largely because using a dice to record hits instead of removing casulaties means the number of figures in a unit is more or less irrelevant. Certainly they made for a faster game - the whole thing was over in little more than an hour.

The Army Funk Revelator - which I shall from now on refer to by the all-too-sensible name of the Victory Chart, worked pretty well, recording morale simply and easily without the need for repeated testing. The Assyrians disintegrated in a pleasing manner (well to a biased Egyptian general's eyes, anyway) though they were unlucky in suffering the loss of their general so early. Certainly it is something I feel it is worth persisting with.

One point that arises from the use of the Victory Chart:

First turn. This becomes much more important when the VC is in use. I would therefore say that first should be decided at the start of each move. Card draw is the obvious way, but I think using dice might be better, because then you could give the army with greater cohesion/discipline an advantage - Macedonians, for example, might roll a D10 while Persians rolled a D6 and so forth. Had the Assyrian Lancers had first move on the turn in which their destruction irrevocably tilted the battle in the Pharaoh's favour, then they would have created all sorts of havoc in the Egyptian lines and the battle might have ended differently.

I'm all for introducing more tension into games, and crucial dice throws are one obvious means of doing so.

Sunday 29 July 2012

Mind The Gap, Please! - Action in the Hills of Bogi

                                                   Battle of Figment Gap

(Assyrian commander, Sha'ol Shamanisar - S range chariot with Garrison 20mm and S range crew- behind Garrison 20mm Assyrian infantry. S Range Assyrian medium infantry to the left, heavy archers from the same source on the right)

Originally I had been intending to fight this action with Stephen, but he was unable to take part due to work commitments and so I played it as a solo game instead. The Assyrian posture was a defensive one, so that seemed a straightforward enough, especially since my right hand rarely knows what my left is doing in any circumstance.

In my dual role as commander of both armies I set the Assyrians up first, a strong line of heavy infantry, interspersed with the close order archers occupied the centre, the slingers and javelins were placed on both flanks, on the hillsides above the Gap with the Lancers - potentially the Host of Ashur's most potent weapon on the left behind a screen of skirmishers. The Assyrian general attached himself to his central infantry regiment, Margash. It was decsion that was to have dramatic consequences.

(Buzzard cam view of the Assyrian battle lines, heavy troops occupying the Figment gap)

Tuckekhamen meanwhile arranged his battle line much as he had at the Apocryphal Well with chariots and skirmishers on both flanks. The centre was also screened by skirmishers, with the horse archers of Koth in the middle. Close order missile units formed to the left and right of centre. Mindful that his own melee troops were inferior to those of the enemy Tuckekahmen intended to wear them down with missile fire before launching his main assault. The general himself had attached himself to the red-uniformed Set infantry, held in reserve to deal with any breakthrough by the Assyrian cavalry.

(And did these feet in ancient times...The Egyptian battle lines - with Converse Jack Purcell's to the rear)

Since the Assyrians were cast as the defenders, the Egyptians moved first. The entire line advanced,  the horse archers of Koth trotting forward within bow range and letting loose a long range volley of arrows at Shalmaniser and the Margash infantry. Unsurprisingly no damage was done and behind their vast shields and even vaster beards the Assyrians guffawed uproariously at the puny ponies and weedy arrows of their foe.                                                                                                                   

(Egyptian battle lines. S range close order infantry and PB range archers)

In response to the Egyptian move the Arvad archers fired back at the Koth cavalry causing two hits to the novice horsemen.

(The horse archers. Such newbies to the wargames table they didn't even have bases, they were, nevertheless, to play a fateful part in proceedings)

On move two the Egyptian advance continued the horse archers now moving boldly into close range of the Assyrian lines to add an extra dice in their firing roll. With the general attached it required 16 or more to score a hit on the armoured infantry. The dice were cast: 9, 11, 17, 18. Two hits. "Now," I said to myself as I went to draw the card to see if the general had been harmed, "Wouldn't it be unfortunate if he died this early in the battle". The card was flipped. Jack of Hearts. Shalmanisar followed his predecessor in returning to the bosom of Anu, having issued just one order to one unit.

In previous battles the death of the commander would have been unfortunate but only a little debilitating. However, with the Army Funk Revelator in operation the gauge immediately moved 4 places against the Assyrians. With the Egytian chariots now in range and peppering the javelinmen on both flanks, and the Egyptians skirmishing archers also letting ,the rearguard were already wobbling.

The return fire of the Kish slingers did something to restore Assyrian equilibrium - they had a 100% success rate against the Nubian bowmen, inflicting four hits on the leaopardskin-sporting Africans


(Another one bites the dust...The card draw that saw one more Assyrian commander fatally skewered by Egyptian arrows. The horse archers who dealt the blow can be seen at the top of the picture.)

On move three the Egyptian chariots came fully into the action, and along with the fire of the skirmishing archers dealt a fearful revenge pasting to the slingers of Kish who took six hits during the turn. The horse archers of Koth, who had been severely mauled withdrew to the right rear of the line to avoid destruction.

The Assyrian response - driven perhaps by grief and panic - was misjudged. Sensing that the battle was slipping from their grasp the Arbela Lancers charged down from the hill at the Egyptian slingers. A charge morale test saw the slingers taking a hit, but scampering away out of range. Unfortunately for the horsemen, when the tape measure was brought out it revealed that even with their charge bonus they would fall 3cms short of their second target - the close order Hathor archers. This left them isolated and exposed. All around them the Egyptian missile troops flexed their bows and slipped stones into their slings.

On move four hell broke loose for the forces of Pelmaneser. With the horse archers of Koth circling to their flank, the lancers were subjected to a wave of missile attacks. The horse archers fired first. No hits. The slingers fired next. One hit. Next the Amuket archers unleashed a volley. Two hits. The Assyrian horsemen crossed their fingers. There was just one unit left to fire - the bowmen of Hathor. If they could survive then it would be their turn to wreak the sort of  havoc their brethren had inflicted earlier in the campaign. The Egyptians took aim. At close range they were rolling five dice. They needed scores of 16 or more to hit. The D20s rumbled across the desert sand, stopped. 13, 17, 19,17, 19. The lancers were galled beyond endurance. They turned tale and fled. A great cheer went up from the Egyptian ranks, for now the Revelator moved another three places against the Assyrians inflicting a hit on every unit in their army. This proved too much for the slingers of Kish - already on six hits - and they joined the horsemen in running off to the north. The Revelator slid another two places. And the Egyptian fire has not finished yet. On the far right of the Assyrian line the Lullabi javelins took more than they could stand and broke. The Revelator moved up to ten. Another hit inflicted on the Assyrian line. Units all along it were now in a parlous condition. A dramatic response was needed. Brilliant archery from the bowmen of Calah, who struck home with five hits on the Osiris chariot squadron, showed the spirit required, but the other Assyrian units could not repeat their success. The move ended with Egypt ascendant.

(Chariots in operation between the rival battle lines. They have taken a fair hammering, but for the Assyrians it was all too little too late.)

Since it is only move five, Tuckekahmen is aware that all he need do now to ensure victory is withdraw his battered units, and send forward the fresher missile troops to unpick the Assyrian line at leisure. He therefore calls on the enemy to lay down their weapons. A dice is thrown to see how they respond. An unquivocable "No".

Alas the bloodshed that follows is too predictable to be detailed here.

Saturday 28 July 2012

Figment Gap

(S range Assyrian slingers go through their warm-ups)

The Scene

Falling back before the victorious forces of King Horemhabib, the army of Assyria have left a rearguard of heaily armoured infantry at that vital pass in the rocky Hills of Bogi,  Figment Gap. Commanded by King Pelmanesar's trusted lieutenant, Sha'ol Shalmaniser, their mission is a simple one: to delay the enemy from sunrise to sunset.

The Pharaoh's army is commanded by the great and victorious Tuckekahmen and comprises some elements he commanded at the Apocryphal Well. His task is to force the pass by nightfall. To win he must get at least one of his close order infantry or two mounted units off the northern table edge via the Figment Gap by the end of the day.

Based on what happened in the previous battle, and the smaller table, a day will last for 12 turns.

Tuckekahmen's inspiring victory has earned him an upgrade to a "two pip" general. He will add two dice to the combat dice of any unit he is attached to, and two to the dice score needed to hit them. He remains as vulnerable to being killed as any other general, however.

Rule Ammendments

From now on skirmishers in melee will battle with just one dice instead of two.
The Longuelade Army Funk Revelator will be used as per description in the post headed "To Paraphrase Napoleon".

(S Range Assyrian heavy infantry with officer. There's supposed to be a standrad bearer too, but neither I nor anybody I know has ever seen one...)
Assyrian Army

Commander: Sha'ol Shalmaniser

Close Order Infantry
(Bite-size units of ten figures)

More heavily armoured than  the Egyptians they have a "to hit" number of 14 and fight with 5 dice

Nimrud Infantry
Margash Infantry
Karkar Infantry
Sippar Infantry

Close Order Missile Troops
(In fives)

All wearing mail armour they have a "to hit" number of 14 and fight with 4 dice when firing and 2 when in melee.

Calah Archers
Arvad Archers
Gozan Slingers
Kish Slingers

(In threes)

To hit score of 12. Battle with two dice when firing, 1 in melee.

Subartu Javelins
Lullubi Javelins

(In fours)

To hit score of 15, fight with six dice.

Arbela Lancers.

( S range Assyrian heavy cavalry screened by javelinmen)
The Egyptians

Commander: Tuckekahmen

Chariot Squadrons
(one vehicle)/ To hit score of 16, battle with four dice when firing, 2 in melee.


Horse Archers of Koth

Very lightly armoured and mounted on small ponies. A to hit score of 12. They battle with 3 dice when firing, 1 in melee.

Close Order Infantry

To hit figure of 13, battle with 5 dice

Senekht Spearmen
Kuk Infantry
Geb Infantry
Bes Infantry
Mut Infantry
Set Infantry

Close Order Archers

To hit figure of 13. battle with 4 dice when firing and 2 in melee

Sobek Archers
Tetnut Archers
Hathor Archers
Anuket Archers


To hit figure of 12. Battle with 2 dice when firing, 1 in melee

Nubian archers
Ethiopian archers
Kush archers
Damot archers
Malkaht slingers

(S range Egyptian infantry bought from John T Tuckey, flanked by Tuckekahmen the great Egyptian commander).

Friday 27 July 2012

Norden Moment

You know you are old when....

I bought this Rose Miniatures figure off eBay a while back, painted a background and put it in a frame to mount on the wall. When my daughter came home from school she said, "I like the African lady". "It's not a lady," I replied, "It's a Nubian soldier"
"Well," my daughter said, "He's certainly got impressive breasts".

Parum Pugna: Bite-Size

(On the dance floor of the Nile Delta's most fashionable nitespot, Egyptian Troops throw a few shapes to celebrate the victory at the Apocryphal Well)

The Longuelades' new headquarters are small but perfectly formed - the exact opposite of the master of the house, in fact. Alas this means that though visitors may coo at the antique door fittings and the choice of National Trust paint colours used on the woodwork (My mind is clouded but I believe a Farrow & Ball's eggshell oil  Housemaid's Knee White may have been used) there is precious little space for what one might call a "proper wargames table". In my younger days I would happily have crammed something temporarily into the smaller of the two sittings rooms, even if it meant moving all the furniture into the garden and the generals having to crawl underneath the playing surface to get to the lavatory.

Nowadays, however such antics are beneath my dignity, and beyond my knee joints. So, we shall have to make do with pressing a couple of table together to make a surface that is slightly over four feet square. This does not leave much room for the size of units I normally deal in. Luckily the basing means that all are easily chopped into quarters. On Saturday afternoon I propose to fight an action using these smaller units (Close order infantry in 10s, Close order missile troops in 5s, skirmishers in 3s, Cavalry in 4s and chariots in 1 vehicle squadrons). It will be a follow up to the Apocryphal Well in which the now retreating Assyrians attempt to hold up the Pharoah's forces at the narrow defile of Figment Gap.

The battle will also give me a chance to test out the army morale chart outlined last week. I am thinking of taking a leaf out of the great Charles Wesencraft's books and calling it The Longueglade Army Funk Revelator.

 (S range Egyptian Archers currently on the painting table. I'm finishing off a unit of the Tuckey figures. The original is on the right.)

Saturday 21 July 2012

An Assyrian Writes...

The thoughts of the Assyrian commander at the Apocryphal Well:

"I've been following your reflections on Parum Pugna and those who have left comments on our battle. As I've not joined any of the means of leaving a comment on the site I thought I'd share a few thoughts in response which you can post or not as you think.

The issue seems to centre around the total destruction/disintegration of the Assyrian Army and Pyrrhic losses of the Egyptians and whether a halt should have been called before that point perhaps by some form of Army Morale system.

The rules deal with morale, I think successfully, differently to some others.

Let me give some examples:

At the beginning of the battle the Assyrian Horse Archers suffered 3 hits from one round of firing. Knowing that all units cease to exist [as an active unit: they go back into the box but in reality men don't just disappear] on 7 hits this felt to me as commander that they had suffered 50% casualties though this represents effectiveness not deaths. Many rules call for a morale test at this level of casualties while others call for a test for heavy casualties from one round of fire. Parum Pugna rules don't - they don't have to because their commander either uses them more carefully or risks losing them altogether. This key unit wasn't withdrawn from danger successfully and soon was gone.

In the first stage of the battle the Egyptians were to some extent wrong footed and their left wing became their vanguard and it was crushed by Assyrian cavalry aided by light troops. Many rules would have called for an Army morale test at this point and the Egyptians may well have either withdrawn as a whole or found several units running away. With Parum Pugna the morale effect was on you the Egyptian Commander, I guess it was the low point of your game, some players might have given up at that point without morale rules forcing their hand. You chose to try and pull the game around and reorganise and this you did in effective fashion among other things making it a far better gaming experience..

During the fighting with the Assyrian heavy cavalry the Assyrian commander was killed. Many rules would have called for an Army morale test at that point. Parum Pugna didn't. If I'd had lost a morale test at what was the highwater mark for the Assyrians I could have felt cheated of my success. Instead under Parum Pugna it just made it that harder to win because the general's bonuses which are a key factor in bolstering units aggression and defence were lost while the Egyptian general helped keep the vital chariot formations in being.

Now to the Assyrian fight to the death and whether this is more a wargamery [ugly word] thing or not. The battle was very close and so until the last couple of moves it did seem worth continuing but I think there is a more telling point. The argument seems to be that the surviving Assyrians at some point would have left the field to save their skins. My argument is would they?

First they were armoured infantry so how were they going to run away from light missile troops and more especially the chariots? There are no rules to say the chariot horses were more exhausted than the infantrymen. They faced death or slavery so had little to lose in going forwards rather than backwards.

Second the battle was for a vital water supply. Without access to water how far could they have got through the desert if they had opted to march away and were not pursued?

Third, we are the Assyrians one of the cruelest races of history. If we had returned successfully to the main army and our king and reported our defeat how many of us do you think would have met with welcome smiles and cups of wine and how many of us would have been impaled to encourage the rest of the army to march against the terrifying Egyptians?

Fourth we were Northerners, the Egyptians soft Southerners would we really run away?

So in conclusion, I think you should leave the rules alone. The inclusion of morale in the pips and the morale swings of the players works well enough. It was a cracking game in all respects where both players probably think - I'd like to fight that again only this time I'd do this instead. Parum Pugna is too elegant a system to need an Army morale mechanism superglued onto the side."

Friday 20 July 2012

To Paraphrase Napoleon...

..Morale rules are to wargames rules as ten is to one.

Certainly when it comes to the time we spend debating, tinkering and discarding them there is little in rules that occupies us half as much.

The comments on the Dust Settles post raised a number of interesting and valid points. Ross is right, I think, in saying that as they stand Parum Pugna's wider morale rules are ineffective. In fact for the Apocryphal Well refight Stephen and I ignored them entirely and just used the charge tests. I shall return to this in a moment.

DC calls attention to Peter Young's maxim about decent wargamers knowing when it is time to concede. I believe this is true and since all the chaps I game with are the very souls of decency we have no problem. He is also correct about a certain arbitrariness that attends army morale rules. Simply saying that when a force has lost half its units it must leave the field is clearly not enough. An army may have lost more men than its adversary, but still believe itself to be winning.

One thing I forgot to mention about the Apocryphal Well skirmish was that in Grant's version there is a time element - the game lasts for 12 moves. Whichever side controls the Well at the end of move 12 is the winner. Because I wasn't sure how WRG and PP would tally move wise I dispensed with this. If I'd stuck with Grant's timing, then the game would have ended earlier - more or less at the point when the Assyrian close order infantry launched it's attack. That might have been a solid and logical outcome, the Egyptians in control of the well, the Assyrians gathered on the ridge overlooking it, thirsty and perhaps rallying for one last push at dawn. Though, of course, Stephen's tactics might have been different if he'd been forced to work to a tighter schedule.

With regards wider morale and Ross' point about PP and the effect of routing units on their cohorts, I agree that they are unsatisfactory. One way of producing something more effective might be to introduce the sort of victory points chart commonly used in boardgames. We might award 1 point for eliminating a unit of skirmishers; 2 points for a unit of close order infantry or light cavalry; 3 for a unit of close order cavalry; 4 for any elite unit or general.

If we used one chart with the left representing army one, the right army two and moved the marker backwards and forwards according to results (i.e. if army one destroyed a light cavalry unit the counter would move two places to the left, if on the next turn army two succeeded in killing army one's commander it would slide four places to the right and so on). We could then set points at which the morale of the entire army would be effected. For example, if the counter slid, say,  5 points in favour of army two then all of army one's units would immediately suffer one "morale hit", at 10 points "two morale" hits etc. Any that were already on six would be removed. If on subsequent turns army one did sufficient damage to army two to return the counter to zero then any "morale hits" previously suffered would be taken away from army one's remaining units, and so on and so forth.

This device would deal with army morale in clearly visible way and keep track of the fluctuating situation on the table, as well as racking up the tension in the manner of C&C's flag system.

Hmm it seems workable. But then I have just drunk some very strong Belgian beer and eaten a vast slice of cheesecake....


Nectanebo Points

Old John from 20mm Nostalgic Revival and Richard from Vintage 20Mil are coming up for a wargames weekend in early September. Hopefully we'll get to fight a couple of large battles. The first will be the clash between Antigonus and Eumenes at Paraetecene in 317BC. Pondering what the second will be has occupied many hours of dog walking.

Initially I had thought of some equivalent of Grant's Mandubian Hills scenario in which Germans were replaced by Galatians, Romans by Seleucids. I imagined the latter force being made up of mercenary hoplites and peltasts, supplemented by Persian cavalry and Syrian archers. Such a scheme would have meant diverting from my attempts to finish the Egyptian Army, however, and turning instead to painting Gaulish chariots. Since one thing tends to lead to another when it comes to painting figures I could foresee that such a step would mean not getting back to the Egyptians until 2022, probably with the Franco-Austrian War in between.

It was fortunate then, that the other day, I picked my copy of HW Parke's Greek Mercenary Soldiers (1933) off the shelf with a view to looking up something else entirely, and found myself reading the details of - or rather lack of them - Artaxerxes Ochus' ill-fated first attempt to reconquer Egypt, a campaign that occurred some time around 350BC. The fighting apprently went on for a year and culminated in a crushing Persian defeat, but - Diodorus being reticent on the topic - not much is known about what actually happened.

Parke surmises the following:-

a) That the Egyptian Army of King Nectanebo II featured a large number of Greek mercenaries, including contingents commanded by Diophantus of Athens, Lamias the Spartan and Mentor of Rhodes

b) That the Persian Army in all likelihood did not include Greeks - Artaxerxes having attempted to secure his position as Emperor by disbanding the Greek mercenary contingents of his satraps to minimise the potential for revolt.

This is not much to go on, which from my point of view is a distinct advantage. I propose a battle in which the Egyptian Army of the 30th Dynasty supplemented by Greek mercenary hoplites, takes on an army of Persians, Medes and assorted satrapies on the banks of the Nile.

Any suggestions for the troop types employed in the Egyptian Army of this period gratefully recived - though only if they are something I already have, obviously.

Thursday 19 July 2012

The Dust Settles - After Thoughts On Apocryphal Well

The Aprocyphal Well was a splendid little battle, played out in about 3 hours. Grant used WRG 3rd with "The Dover Amendments". The result was the same, with the chariots proving in both cases the decisive arm.

As I mentioned earlier, the battle had shades of Korepsis Pass about it, but it differed from most actions we have fought in one aspect at least - only two units of what we might call elite troops featured, and even the chariots were much more vulnerable than hoplites or Companions. Most of the units involved were average. with some minor adjustments made for the armour of some of the Assyrians. The result of this was that few regiments would stand much missile fire - a stark contrast with Alexanders cavalry, or the Athenians at Marathon, who could afford to more or less ignore the efforts of enemy skirmishers.

The consequence of this vulnerability was an encounter in which both sides saw units disappearing at a fairly alarming rate. In fact, by the end the Assyrians had no troops left on the table at all - a situation that called to mind early battles fought on the living room carpet with The Don's rules from War Games.

This has left me wondering whether there shouldn't be some kind of cut-off point for an army. That when, say, it has lost two-thirds of its units it is rendered ineffective and must concede. On the other had if we consider that the vast majority of the Assyrians were "fled not dead", and that Stephen had conceded defeat midway through the final attack of the close order infantry, we might think that no such rule is needed.

Saturday 14 July 2012

Part Two - Apocryphal Now!

Previously on Parum Pugna....

The advanced guards of the armies of King Pelmaneser XXI of Assyria and Horemhabib of Egypt are simultaneously headed for the vital desert watering hole of the Apocryphal Well (What are the chances?)....After six moves of fighting the Egyptians appear to hold the upper hand, but then trouble, in the heavily mailed form of the Assyrian lancers, arrives on the left flank.....

Now read on. Or not.

(The Egyptian left flank. All seems undercontrol, but the Assyrian lancers can just be seen lurking at the bottom of the picture)

On move seven things took a turn for the worse for Tuckekahmen and the Egyptians. The Assyrian heavy cavalry, with their commander Seena-Kadi bolstering them, charged and slaughtered the Amarna javelins, while the close order Assyrian archers rained bronze-tipped death upon their Egyptian counterparts, the Aswan bowmen suffering 4 hits. The return of fire was altogether less damaging, while the red chariot squadron failed to hit anything at all. On a positive note for Horemhabib's forces the blue chariot squadron had now circled north hill and would soon be in position to join the action.

The Eshura cavalry continued its devastating advance on the next turn, sweeping through the Malkana slingers and destroying them, while some more accurate archery from the Hassuna bowmen, saw the Aswan skirmishers break and flee. The return fire of the Egyptians was again ineffective.

(The fateful melee. Lancers crash into the flank of the Ra regiment while javelinmen menace their front. Seena-Kadi is in the chariot)

Chaos now reigned on the Egyptian left, as the Eshura charged again, this time into the exposed flank of the Ra Infantry. The odds were heavily stacked in the cavalrymen’s favour. They threw nine dice, the infantry three. The Assyrians registered five hits,  Ra two.  Since Seena-Kadi was attached to the Eshura (which gave them a bonus dice in melee and added one to their “to hit” number) a card was turned over to see if he was struck. A red picture card would see the Assyrian officer fatally wounded. The deck was cut.... Queen of Hearts. The Ashur commander died nobly, croaking for his troops to fight on and gain victory in his memory, perhaps build a ziggurat or two in his honour, carve some handsome bas-reliefs of his demise on the walls of Babylon and ensure that none of his wives marry that bloke with the greasy beard and the flashy four-horse chariot who always hangs around the health club on Sunday mornings.

The Ra infantry lost the melee but only by three hits. A four hit advantage would have seen them instantly flee. Instead they stoodfor a second round of fighting. Predictably the Assyrians - maddened by grief no doubt - finished them off, but their advance had been held up.

(Lancers make light work of the Nuba archers, but they have already suffered five hits themselves)

As all this is going on the red and blue chariot squadrons had joined forces and put an end to the activities of the Hassuna archers. It came at a cost, however - Tuckekahmen's personal squadron had taken four hits (Tuckekahmen was more fortunate with the card draw than his adversary). The Egyptians still held the oasis, but as the Assyrian heavy infantry rumbled down from Coptic Hill, there was little room for complacency amongst the men from the Nile.

(The Royal Chariot Squadrons in action against the Assyrian javelins)

Having despatched Ra, the Eshura lancers galloped gamely on determined to revenge their fallen hero. They crashed into the Nuba archers and sent them scuttling from the field. The horseman were far ahead of theri infantry now and found themselves isolated and surrounded. Both chariot squadrons cantered across their rear, while the Kushite and Ethiopian archers peppered them from the ridge of No Name Hill. Flight after flight of arrows plunged into their backs and flank and eventually, porcupined by missiles, they broke and ran.

(The Tarbisa Infantry. Garrison 20mm figures. The Tutub Regiment (S Range) can be glimpsed to their front)

There now came is a brief hiatus in the action as the battle moved into its final phase. The Assyrian heavy infantry was crunching across the plain towards south and north hill, but by now they had few missile troops and no cavalry to support them. Kushite and Ethiopian archers and the two chariot squadrons skewered them with arrows. Gamely the armoured Tutub infantry closed with the Ptah regiment, while on their left the Tarbisa - galled by archery - threw down their weapons and fled. A final melee saw the Assyrians and their Egyptian foes locked in a grim death struggle that left them both broken. The final remnants of the Assyrian host scatter across the windswept desert. 

(The Egyptian commander - Garrison 25mm - celebrates his triumph)

The day belonged to Tuckekahmen. The forces of King Pelmaneser XXI had been swept from the field. The Apocryphal Well was claimed for Horemhabib – occupied by the Senekht infantry, the only unit from either side that has not seen action.

Of the war that followed and the fate of the Egyptians who fought that day all records have been lost.

And so ends this account of the Battle of the Apocryphal Well.


Friday 13 July 2012

Action at the Apocryphal Well - Part One

(The Eshura cavalry accompanied by their chariot-born commander. Minifigs S range Assyrians)

As his great Arriva chariot rattled across the deserted lands towards the battle site, the great Egyptian general Tuckekahmen - undisturbed by the two old women in front of him complaining about the fact the driver wouldn’t let them use their OAP passes because it was before 9am – pondered his tactics for the coming day.

Reading the composition of the two advanced guards, he had been struck by the fact that in many ways this resembled the Korepsis Pass skirmish of many moons before. A force of swift but lightweight troops was about to come up against one that was ponderous yet powerful. With this in mind, Pharaoh Horemhabib’s experienced commander seized upon the notion that to gain victory he must do away with the Assyrian light javelins and cavalry, allowing his own units to peck the enemy’s armoured troops to death at their leisure. However, his own lack of cavalry left him vulnerable on the flanks. His chariots could not be trusted to take up a steady defensive posture anymore than could a swarm of bees. He would have to rely on his skirmishing infantry to guard the exposed sides of his close-order regiments. The chariots and African archers would be set loose, to torment and wrong- foot their lumbering foe.

(The Hassuna Regiment. Minifigs S range medium Assyrian archers painted by John Tuckey)

Meanwhile, the leader of King Pelmaneser’s force, Seena-Kadi was also weighing up his options. Rejecting his initial thought of simply launching an all out frontal assault on the site of the well, he elected instead to approach the battle site from the west, turning the flank of the Egyptians with his cavalry, while keeping his heavy troops safely out of harms way on the high ground of Coptic Hill.

(Assyrian opening position)

(Egyptian starting positions)

Initially then the two armies barely faced one another. The Egyptians had their three close order infantry units in the centre, flanked on either side by a unit of javelins. In front of them were the two chariot squadrons, and in front of them the archers. The Malkata slingers were on the extreme left of this front line, the Kushite archers on the extreme right.

The first two moves saw both sides advancing on their respective fronts. Assyrian javelins scampered across the top of Coptic Hill while there heavier colleagues laboured up its slope and the cavalry advanced onto the plain to the west of North Hill. Seena-Kadi in his chariot had attached himself to the formidable Eshura heavy lancers, a unit that it appeared had been tasked with dealing the Egyptians the knock out blow.

(The Kushite Archers - actually PBs range Blemye)

On the Egyptian side, the Nubian archers crowned the heights of South Hill, while the blue chariot squadron galloped through the gap between that ridge and Manak Hill. The red squadron, accompanied by Tuckekahmen, meanwhile made for the gap between the Coptic and No Name hills.

(From the vulture-cam. Egyptians advance on the Well. Chariot squadrons are to the fore)

Move three saw the first action as the red chariot squadron, inspired perhaps by the presence of their commander let loose a volley of arrows at the Zarzi Horse archers. Throwing 4 dice and requiring 15 or more to hit, they struck their target a remarkable three times. On the Assyrian turn the men of Zarzi returned fire, but with no effect.

Emboldened by their success, the red chariots cantered forward and fired again, this time from close range (5 dice). Another two hits. The Egyptian slingers also targeted the unfortunate horsemen, but the range was extreme and both dice failed to register. With five hits, however, Zarzi were already in trouble.

Move five saw the Eshura cavalry advancing dangerously, while the Assyrian light infantry came into range, inflicting casualties on the slingers and Amarna javelins. Unfortunately this success was more than outweighed by the arrival of the Aswan archers whose first flight of close range arrows (3 dice) saw the Zarzi turn tail and gallop north, never to return.

(The Zarzi horse archers peppered by the red chariot squadron and about to break. Nubian archers have crested No Name Hill, while the Aswan bowmen are coming up alongside. All figures are S range)

The red chariot squadron was also heading in that direction, mindful of the danger of getting embroiled with the Assyrian heavy cavalry. It failed to keep out of range of the close order enemy archers however and took its first hits in an exchange of fire with the Hassuna regiment. The Egyptians opening luck with the dice was now off set by some extraordinarily poor rolling – four units of light troops throwing 12 dice between them and not registering a single hit, in fact barely making double figures with any of them. Truly is the great crocodile god of the Nile a mischievous fellow.

Despite that, at this stage Tuckekahmen was feeling rather pleased with himself. His troops had occupied the site of the Apocryphal Well, he had driven off the horse archers, and had hardly suffered a scratch. It was all going rather well, perhaps a little too well…. The final epic installment towmorrow.

(A view from behind the Ra Regiment, The slingers and Aswan archers can be seen to the front, along with the red chariot squadron. Figures are Minifigs S.

Thursday 12 July 2012

The Thunder of 6000 Sandals...

The forces of Assyria and Egypt have now assembled on the battlefield and await the arrival of the dawn (well, the 9.02 bus, anyhow) for their orders.

Thanks to Stephen for the snaps.

At the Apocryphal Well A Strange Mirage...

The forces of Ashur and the Pharoah are momentarily halted by a peculiar vision...

Later great thinkers such as Eric Von Daniken would claim that accounts of Ancient Assyrian and Egyptian troops present that day gave clear evidence that thousands of years ago the Earth was visited by wargamers from outer space.

Saturday 7 July 2012

See yonder! The dust clouds of an approaching army!

Not long now to the long promised refight of Grant's Apocryphal Well scenario. Due to the difference in unit sizes I have had to tinker about a bit with the armies the Great Man deployed, but it's worked out more or less the same in the figure totals. Hopefully the slight drop in Assyrian cavalry numbers will be balanced by the fact that they have a unit of horse archers instead of the javelin armed lights in the original.

I've also done a bit of fiddling with the "to hit" numbers to reflect the superior Assyrian armour of some of Ashur's troops, and done something similar with the Egyptian chariots to reflect their elite status.

 (S range Chariot and crew. I'm recycling photos a bit at the moment. My daughter took my camera to the High School prom and as yet I haven't been able to locate which of the myriad handbags she has hidden it in. Still, only another 17 to search...)

The Battle of the Apocryphal Well.


Under the command of  Seena-Kadi

Unit                                                      Size       Combat Dice    To Hit

Eshura Heavy Cavalry                        16                6                       15

Zarzi Horse Archers                           16                3                        15

Tutub Heavy Infantry                         40                6                        14

Tarbissa Medium Infantry                  40                5                        13

Akulate heavy archers                         20               4/2*                   13

Hassuna medium archers                    20                4/2*                   13

Repiquum Light javelins (A)              12                2                        12

Nimrud Light Javelins (B)                  12                2                        12

144 foot

32 cavalry


Under the command of Tuckekahmen

Royal Chariot Squadron (A)               4 v                 4                           16

Royal Chariot Squadron (B)               4 v                 4                           16

Ptah Infantry                                       40                  5                            13

Ra Infantry                                          40                  5                            13

Senekht Infantry                                  40                  5                            13

Kushite archers                                    12                   2                            12

Nubian archers                                     12                   2                            12

Ethiopian archers                                 12                   2                            12

Aswan archers                                     12                   2                            12

Malkata slingers                                  12                   2                            12

Lacish javelins                                     12                    2                            12

Amarna javelins                                   12                    2                            12

Foot: 204

Chariots: 8

* When firing bow/When in melee

Friday 6 July 2012

Borg Again - More Quasi-Philosophical Ramblings

(Samurai Battles - Photo by Dan Eleden posted on Boardgamegeek)

Are Samurai ancient? I'm not really sure myself, but they feature in the original WRG ancient armies list, so I'm taking it that they must be.

Whatever, I am rather excited about the new Samurai Battles game by Zvedza. It features the latest outing for Richard Borg's Commands and Colors system, and unlike the GMT Napoleonic and Ancient versions comes with figures not wooden blocks.

Memoir '44 - C&C's WW2 incarnation - was one of the major influences behind Parum Pugna, not in terms of mechanisms, but in the matter of style. Borg's system is elegant, simple and streamlined. He has integrated, rather than bolted on, and never made the mistake of confusing complexity with depth. M'44 is easy to learn and fun to play. You make decisions, you gamble on the dice, you curse the fact you have no command cards for the right flank, but try not to let your opponent find that out.

Recently a couple of  trendy rules designers dismissed Memoir '44 as " a game". This was apparently meant as an insult. I'm not sure why. Memoir '44 is a game - and a very good one. Chess is also "a game", so is poker. Both enjoy a popularity no figure wargame will ever match. Chess and poker are deep games with simple rules.

In a PS at the bottom of a letter to a friend, George Bernard Shaw wrote: "I am sorry this letter is so long. I did not have the time to make it shorter". Lucidity and concision require work.

Time to shut up, then.

Thursday 5 July 2012

From Bauhaus to My House

A major UK retrospective on the didactic European art group that coagulated around Walter Gropius in Berlin at the end of the Great War may at first sight seem to have little to do with Ancient wargaming. However, one of the major figures in the group was painter and instructor Johannes Itten, an eccentric Swiss who as well as forcing his students to eat vast quantities of raw garlic also lectured them on the importance of play, insisting that at least a month each year be spent designing games (Paul Klee spent his time making puppets out of beef bones and old electrical plugs - a system later copied by Dixon Miniatures for their ACW range. Allegedly).

Itten believed that all creative activity stemmed from play and that when adults lost sight of that they stopped producing original or interesting work. We might apply that to our hobby too. It seems to me that too many people shy away from the game element of wargaming - fearful no doubt of being accused of "playing with toy soldiers" - and that when they do stagnation inevitably follows.

Revenge of the Stove Pipe Musket

Well, that all took rather longer than predicted. BT however cannot be held responsible, having connected my Internet service with a ruthless efficiency that, to be honest, I find distinctly unnerving.
No, the culprits on this occasion came from further afield. On Thursday received an alert from my IP - "Recently you have accessed the Internet from the following locations: Northumberland, Northumberland, Northumberland, Northumberland, Lagos, Northumberland, Northumberland...."
48 Hours later and my computer refused to start. I can only conclude that had the West Africans of yesteryear had been quite as technologically crafty as the current generation, the Ashanti Expedition would have ended in darkness for Sir Garnet.