Sunday, 19 November 2017

L'Art de la Guerre 145 BC - Seleukid Dissolution

The year is 145 BC. Alexander Balas sits uneasily on the Seleukid throne in Antioch. The issue of his bastardy had been resolved through a marriage alliance with Ptolemaic Egypt, but now, as he grew tired of Ptolemaic interference, the court at Alexandria turns its eyes to his young cousin Demetrios Nikator. 

Demetrios, with Egyptian money, experienced Cretan mercenary generals and a large body of soldiers for hire, has landed in Kilikia. Alexander sends word to his Arab allies, and prepares for war.

The forces deploy somewhere along the north Syrian coast. Demetrios' mercenaries come down from the north (on the right). Leading the massed heavy infantry himself, Demetrios anchors the western flank on the coastline. One of his mercenary commanders brings the light infantry and elephants up behind, while to the other commander leads the cavalry to the east. The far east flank is protected by a steep hill.

Alexander's forces have marched up the coast from the south (on the left). The eastern flank is made up of Arab auxiliaries, the west flank is the small but able Seleukid royal army. An ambush is located in the woods in front of the Arab line, and the third command is curious absent.

Both lists are 100% legal, but some unit names have been changed to allow for the historic situation - Late Seleukid civic militia foot and horse are used to represent the less than reliable Arab tribesmen that fought for and against multiple Seleukid kings. Ultimately, Alexander would lose his head to one of his allied sheiks. But not on this day.
Alexander's regular forces. The Agema heavy cavalry are in reserve - just in case the small horde of yibbering Galatians don't live up to their fierce reputation.

Demetrios' infantry commands a low hill by the coast while hillmen make sand castles on the beach.

 Alexander's Arab allies prepare to hold the town and the woods in front of the camp.

Both sets of lines advance. Despite some marvelous CP rolling, the ambush in the woods prevents Demetrios from throwing his infantry forward too quickly. The Arabs are able to advance and fill the gap - exposing the fact that the ambush marker was a bit ephemeral to start with.

Alexander's horse archers start to outflank Demetrios' mounted division. In the centre, Demetrios' elephant corp pushes on towards the Arab camelry. Some of the Cretan skirmishers are able to move forward in support, but others get mired in among the heavy infantry.

Arab tribesmen take up a rather awkward position in the town while their bow-armed brethren make there way through the woods.

In the west, the Arabs hold the town and the woods. Arab skirmishing archers and camelry unleash volley after volley of arrows at Demetrios' elephants. Despite trying to hold back Alexander's horse archers with their own, Demetrios's mounted wing charges forward with wide open flanks.

 The disordered elephants charge home into the Arab camelry ...

... while Demetrios' Thracian mercenaries turn around and start heading back the way they camp. To form a camp guard, so they said.
At the same time, Demetrios' cataphracts plow forward into Alexander's infantry. Everyone watching that clash expected the horsemen to drop dead on the pikes, but to cleave straight through the Galatian warband. Surprisingly, none of the melee rolls proved decisive.

Demetrios' elephants destroyed one unit of camelry, but there then both routed by the remaining camelry and skirmishing archers. Demetrios' skilled Cretan mercenary general was killed by the routing elephants. The camelry then turned and took one unit of Demetrios' cataphacts in the flank. At the other end of the cataphract line, Alexander's imitation legionaries marched around to engage the other flank. 

Alexander's horse archers eliminated their opposites and started making eyes towards Demetrios' camp. At the same time, the Arab cavalry made their way through the elephant shaped hole in Demetrios' line and wiped out the elite Cretan archers.

While the inland - eastern - half of the battle was going the way of Alexander, along the coast, Demetrios' hillmen and imitation legionaries attacked the town. In the distance, the Arab cavalry ride over the Cretan archers and start forward towards the Thracian mercenaries who had turned to face Alexander's horse archers.

Demetrios' remaining mercenary general manages to keep his remaining cataphracts in decent shape, but his line is gradually worn down.

Back along the coast, Demetrios' forces sweep into the town and drive off the Arab tribesmen. One unit of Hillmen start approaching Alexander's camp.

With nothing better to do, Alexander's allied commander joins a unit of Arab skirmishers and leads them forward into some Cretan slingers. A camera with better zoom would have revealed the slingers' look of surprise, but unfortunately, none was at hand.

And just when it looked like everything was going his way anyway, Alexander's third commander with his glorious flank march decided to turn up! Exhausted, the Galatian cavalry would really play no further part in the battle.

So close! part 1: Demetrios' Hillmen can almost smell Alexander's camp. In the background, the Arab cavalry can be seen hitting the Thracians in the flank.

 So close! part 2: Alexander's horse archers can almost smell Demetrios' camp. 

And that was when Demetrios' army lost its nerve and started to pull back to the north. Demetrios lost all 23 morale/break points, while Alexander lost 19 of his 23. It was a fairly touch and go situation once Demetrios' infantry made it to the village, but at the end of the day, they were too slow in getting there. His pikemen - the core of Demetrios' army and his real strength over Alexander's forces, failed to meet any enemy head on. Demetrios' cavalry was too eager to charge whatever foe were to their front and suffered the consequences. 

Meanwhile, Alexander's elite Agema heavy cavalry just sat in reserve and did nothing, and his Galatian cavalry on the flank march was so late to the battle that it also had no real impact. The mediocre Arab medium swordsmen reinforced my existing poor opinion of medium swordsmen. If a 'man of the match' prize were awarded, I would give it to either the non-existent ambush marker in the woods, or failing that, the Arab camelry who managed to take on elephants and win!


  1. Nice looking game, and a fun batrep. What rules were used?

    1. Cheers! It's L'Art de la Guerre. I'll amend the text to say so! :)

  2. That was an excellent looking game. The terrain looked outstanding, using 10mm made the LADG double deep stands look dense. You descriptions and photography are excellent. Very well done.

  3. Great report, and lovely terrain and figures.


  4. Very nice indeed

    Take care