Sunday 5 January 2020

Chariots of Fire - revisiting Minoans and Egyptians in 6mm l'Art de la Guerre

Andrew joined me for my first game of the year – a much anticipated and terrifically enjoyable return to the Bronze Age with some more 6mm l'Art de la Guerre. We reprised out traditional roles, he as Pharaoh of the New Kingdom Egyptians, me as the Priest-king of Crete.

Andrew won the toss and decided to be the attacker, choosing to take on the bullish Minoan war machine on the plains (obviously in some third-party location, not in mountainous Crete...). Initially we had a plantation to the Cretan left, a village and field in the Cretan centre, and another field to the right. The Egyptians had a field behind their lines in the centre and a gentle hill to their left (the Minoan right). Unfortunately, while the Minoans were carousing and jumping bulls, the Egyptians rolled two sixes when attempting to modify terrain and managed to cut down the plantation on the Minoan left and plough up the field on Minoan right. Apparently, they didn't like the idea of the Cretans having flanks secured by terrain.

As has become customary, Pharaoh drew his army up in a long line. In the accurate historical photograph above, the Egyptian right (top left) consisted of a wall of impetuous Sea Peoples warriors – two units of heavy swordsmen and four units of medium swordsmen – screened by skirmishing archers and slingers. The Egyptian centre was all medium infantry: from left to right, two units of Egyptian axemen, four units of spearmen, and then four units of mediocre levy archers. On the Egyptian left flank were four units of elite light chariots – one led by Pharaoh himself. The only unit not part of the great line was a clutch of donkey-riding scouts who deployed forward, and to the far left of the main line, on the gentle hill.

The Minoans deployed with their Lukka ally general on the left. They were placed in front of the camp as a precaution. If the allied general turned out to be hesitant, at least the Lukka would serve a purpose just sitting there as barrier of tanned and well-oiled flesh to protect the camp. The command consisted of mediocre cavalry, an elite heavy chariot with embedded commander, two medium swordsmen with impact and two javelinmen units in the field. There were also two units of light archers in ambush in the village. In the centre – separated from the Lukka by the field, the central command consisted of five units of heavy spear with pavises and missile support, screened by five archers and slingers, as well as the elite heavy chariot general. The Minoan right had four heavy chariot units, one of them elite and led by Minos, supported by two medium spearmen and two Libyan javelin-armed skirmishing units.

The view across the plain from the Minoan camp showing the Lukka allies in front and the Minoan heavy infantry to the right. In the distance, the Egyptians begin their advance.

Pharaoh’s messengers flew like falcons and his commands were well heeded as the Egyptian line advanced at a run. The miscalculation of deploying impetuous heavy and medium infantry in the same command became immediately apparent (again), as the line of Sea Peoples advanced at different rates. In the centre, the Egyptian melee troops marched on, while the mediocre archers held back. The ass-riders and the elite chariotry also sped forward, the scouts performing a grand circling manoeuvre with the chariots angled to take advantage of their speed and flanking position.

Taking note of how buff the Sea Peoples were looking (they must work out), the Lukka ally general was not hesitant as such, but was certainly unwilling to throw his men forward and give the Egyptians some early kills. As such, the Minoan infantry centre was compelled to maintain a defensive line so as to not expose their flanks. Only the skirmishers moved forward to begin peppering the Egyptian centre with arrows and sling stones. On the Minoan right, the medium spearmen and the heavy chariots wheeled to the right in the hope of catching the Egyptian chariotry before they were ready. In return, the Egyptians advanced their chariots and fired off a volley of arrows – completely ineffective against the Minoan armour.

Three of the Minoan chariot units charged at the Egyptian lines, but the lighter chariots evaded them easily. The right-most Minoan chariot did turn and charge the flank of the donkey scouts who were trying to sneak past however. Faced with the prospect of evading off the table (on any roll but a 1-2), the Egyptians chose to take the charge in the flank.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian centre, having received several cohesion losses from the Minoan skirmishers, charged forward, forcing them to evade through the main lines. They also brought up a couple of bow-armed levy to support the spearmen, while tow more remained behind to confront the Minoan spearmen who were supposed to be helping in the chariot battle.

And battle the chariots did. Pharaoh himself charged into the flank of the Minoans attacking the ass-riders, while his other three chariot units decided that they’d rather go toe-to-toe with the Minoan heavies. After all, the Egyptians were elite, and the Minoans didn’t have impact.

Over on the Minoan left, the Lukka commander took a chance and pushed his chariots forward, supported by the mediocre horsemen. Rather than threaten the Sea Peoples heavy swordsmen, the horsemen then started a dash for the Egyptian camp (they are the only unit in the Minoan army which can move faster than 3 base widths a turn). The Lukka skirmishers also emerged from their ambush in the village to add numbers to the very uneven fight that was looming on that front.

All down the line, a comprehensive melee began in earnest and the lines closed. On the Minoan right, the chariot lines crashed into each other. In an amazing sequence of 6/1 splits, the Egyptian command broke and fled the field in a matter of moments. Even their elite status could not counter Minoan onslaught. The chariot-donkey battle also ended in the donkey scouts fleeing, but not before the Minoan chariots were badly bloodied by Pharaoh’s flank attack.

In the centre, the heavy Minoan spearmen generally were getting the better of their medium counterparts, many of whom were already disordered from the earlier shooting. The chariot-mounted commander in the centre managed a flank attack into the Egyptian mediocre bowmen in one of the many quick melees of the battle.

On the left, the Luka general pulled his chariot back through his own skirmishers as the heavy Sea Peoples units finally came near. All four Lukka infantry units – two swordsmen and two javelinmen – broke as soon as the Sea People medium swordsmen made contact.

In the next turn, one unit of Sea People advanced straight ahead – aiming for the Minoan camp – while the other mediums made moved to roll up the left flank of the Minoan spear line. The battle hung in the balance. While the Minoans had scored a massive victory against the Egyptian chariot corps, and were holding in the centre, the Lukka command was effectively destroyed. The Egyptians were mauled, but angry, and the un-defended camp was only a single move away.

In a burst of activity, the Lukka general threw his elite heavy chariot into the heavy swordsmen, while his mediocre cavalry turned back from the Egyptian camp the charge the skirmishers supporting the Sea Peoples – managing to catch one unit and driving another away. In the centre, the Egyptian commander fell in the melee, and on the right, the Minoan chariots managed to chase down and kill Pharaoh himself – as well as his last elite chariot unit.

The battle was brutal. It was messy. And it went to the Minoans; the Great Bull from the Sea was once more victorious – but not without an amazing run of luck on the dice. Lessons were learned, the arrow-proof shields of the Minoans much praised, and the dead buried. At least the Minoan dead. The Egyptian dead were left to sort themselves out, or not, as it suited them…

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful looking armies...and camp, what a splendid game!