Sunday, 6 February 2011

Kadesh Katchup

I've been away from the blogfront for over a week since the last posting which was made from a train on the way to London. Since then I've hardly been in the office and away from home for a few nights. My spare time has been spent on the SoA game which, hopefully, is now complete except for the last set of playing pieces.

Anyway, last Thursday I managed to make a meeting of the Monday Night Group. We're working on doing the Battle of Kadesh using Armati in preparation for the SoA Battle Day this year (for those of you not familiar with this event it involves the same battle being refought using as many different rules sets as possible. The battles are then written up for Slingshot).

Well I say we're working on it. What I mean is that one of our number is going to do the game and the rest of us are doing our best to make sure he gets it right. As you might expect for a group called the Monday Night Group that meets on a Thursday this week the person putting the game on couldn't make it, so the rest of us (well, me, Phil & Ian) just carried on anyway. After all we had Ian's 6mm Egyptians and Hittites, Phil's adaptations the last time he did Kadesh with Armati and me, who is never short of an opinion. Plus Ian knows as much about the sources for Kadesh as anyone and is currently writing them up for Slingshot.

I always learn a lot from these sessions. Ian is very knowledgeable and he's quick with the support or challenge to any hypothesis we might make. And he draws nice maps. I just wish he'd make up his mind how to spell the name of the battle. Okay, I know we are transliterating hieroglyphs and so on, but the spelling is variously Kadesh, Qadesh, Qidsu and Qids (together with various diphthongs and other clues to pronunciation). I was looking at one map for ages trying to work out where Kadesh was without realising the spelling had changed.

Quite a few years ago I did Kadesh as a matrix game so I was well up to speed with the armies and the various interpretations of them and the battle. At that time Armati II was being republished and I remember having long arguments over the Egyptian and Hittite army lists and the relative troop types. I looked back at the final lists recently to remind myself how badly I lost the battle.

The primary difference between the two armies (to quote Molesworth) "as ane fule kno" is that Egyptians used light skirmishing chariots whilst the Hittites had three man medium chariots that were used as a physical shock weapon. Alas whilst that makes a nice differentiation between the armies for wargaming purposes it isn't really that black and white. The other thing that "ane fule kno" is that Ramasses won. Except if he did win, why did he retreat to the south and cede Kadesh and the surrounding area to the Hittite king?

The three man chariots come from Egyptian accounts of the battle and are depicted in various wall reliefs. But of course just because a chariot has three men in it doesn't make it a chariot from which three men fight. We know that Hittites practiced archery from moving chariots and also used chariot runners. It isn't an enormous leap to suggest that standard chariots were carrying a runner to enable a fast attack on Ramasses' camp. (yes i know the Egyptian wall reliefs show what look like carts with three people in them and a middle axle, but that can be explained).

Anyhow, I digress. On Thursday we worked through the mechanisms you'd need to deal with the opening phase of the battle, where the Hittite chariots ambush the Ra division crossing the ford. We came up with a few changes to the core Armati mechanisms that enable us to still see that Armati is being played, without throwing the whole battle completely open. One of the key issues is the timing of the attack and the Armati army initiative roll. We think by giving the Egyptians a minus on the intiative roll whilst in march column and only allowing them to react if they win the roll or are actually attacked we have a good solution. That leaves us with the Hittite player having to decide how many moves he's going to give the Egyptian Army to cross the ford, - ideally he wants it all over so he can destroy it all. However the longer he leaves it the more chance that he'll be spotted. Also, if he launches an archery volley from his chariots before he charges in the Egyptians will know he's there and be able to turn to flank.

Yes, shaping up nicely.

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