Pikes, elephants and cavalry
By smacdowall, Mar 29 2018 12:23AM
With the Society of Ancients Battle Day fast approaching it is time to put the Marlburians off to one side for a moment and get ready. The SoA battle is Paraitakene — the first major battle between the successors of Alexander the Great.
Last weekend I gave it a trial run with 6mm troops scaled at roughly 1:20 to represent the armies of Eumenes and Antigonos. Played out on a 6 foot x 4 foot table we used historical deployment but the players were free to make their own decisions as how to proceed.
Eumenes’ phalanx started out in a solid line behind a screen of light infantry and elephants. Eumenes had twice as many elephants as Antigonos and hordes more light infantry. There were so many light infantry (18,000 of them) that I scaled them down by more than half as there is no record of them doing anything significant in the actual battle.
Although outnumbered in elephants and light infantry, Antigonos had the advantage in cavalry and heavy infantry. His army deployed in echelon with a strong right wing and a refused left.
The game progressed in much the same way as the historical battle. Eumenes’ strong right wing cavalry pushed hard against Antigonos light cavalry. The latter harassed their opponents with javelins and arrows, melting away when threatened. Feeling the need for some light cavalry support on that flank, the Eumenes player transferred some from his left wing just as his historical counterpart had done.
Antigonos delayed his right wing attack, looking for a gap in the enemy line to exploit. This is also what the historical Antigonos did. It was possibly a mistake. Although Antigonos’ superior cavalry inevitably triumphed against those holding Eumenes’ left, they did not clear the flank before Eumenes had done so on the other flank. A sturdy defence by some of Eumenes’ left flank cavalry also served to delay Antigonos’s attempt to turn his opponent’s left flank.
When Eumenes advanced his phalanx he moved off in echelon from the right to match Antigonos’ advance. By doing so the whole of his phalanx would be engaged when the phalanxes met, rather than allowing Antigonos to first hit the weaker part of his line with picked troops.
When the phalanxes clashed the odds were more or less even with success and failure on both sides.
Eumenes’ elite Silver Shields, however, made short work of the hastily raised pantodapoi (Persians equipped as phalngites) opposite them. While the rest of the Antigonid line pushed forwards against the regular Macedonians.
While the centre engaged in a more or less even struggle the silver shields broke the far left of Antigonos' line. At the same time Eumenes' cavalry managed to work its way around the Antigonid left while Antigonos' cavalry on the other flank had yet to break through.
Eumenes won the day. The elephants on both sides had little impact other than causing some disruption to the opposing phalanxes as they passeed through their lines. Eumenes’ victory was down to the fact that he had been able to turn Antigonos’ left flank before Antigonos could do the same to him.
I shall be replaying the game at the Society of Ancients' Battle Day on Saturday 7 April. Please feel free to join in if you wish. You do not need to be a member to take part. There will be plenty of places for walk-ins but if you wish to secure a place feel free to contact me at email@example.com
OK, these little guys are actually pretty impressive. Hope the Day goes well.
Thanks for a great game, Simon. Enough command friction and variability of combat results to make an interesting, yet historically plausible, tabletop battle.
Glad you enjoyed it Spike
Great looking game and wished that I was not 13,000 miles away as I would love to be at the Society of Ancients Battle day . Please let us know how the day goes .I also agree that the little guys do look impressive on mass