Friday, 13 December 2013

Setting up Hydaspes



Hydaspes, - Alexander’s last battle, fought in the mystical east, and, according to Oliver Stone also fought in a forest.

Fortunately, according to Professor Phil Sabin, it was actually fought on a fairly open plain, so a massive saving in scenery costs right there. Hydaspes has a number of interesting features and was the only battle which was actually determined by the strength of Alexander’s infantry as he struggled to subdue Porus’ elephants. The accounts in Arrian and Curtius and interestingly anecdotal, dominated as they are by the presence of the elephants. The reader is left speculating that the very obvious “elephant in the room” stopped any observers from noting other significant factors in the battle.

For this refight I again combined Sabin’s research with Neil Thomas’ AMW, a combination that has served me well enough on previous occasions. Sabin as ever does an excellent job of sifting out the accumulated crud on our understanding provided by the numerous modern historians and so providing us with what we actually know.

For convenience I again replaced Sabin’s units on a 1:1 basis with their closest equivalents in AMW, and modified the AMW unit classifications where needed.

This battle features probably Alexander’s smallest army so the numbers for them was never going to be a problem (although I did need to plunder my “Successor” cavalry box, so a few of the units of Companions have anachronistic shields). Porus’ army is much bigger and looked like testing my newly painted Indians to the limit.

The armies stacked up like this:

Porus:
9 x Levy Heavy Archers (144 figures)
2 x Average Heavy chariots (8 models)
4 x Average Heavy cavalry (48 figures)
6 x Elephants (12 models plus 24 light infantry)
Total: 21 units, 168 foot, 48 horse, 8 chariots and 12 elephants. Quite an impressive set up.

This actually left me short of 12 cavalry so some of my gauls made it into the back ranks of a couple of units. That just left me with a unit of light infantry in the box together with the lady Royal Guards. Sorry girls, Prof Sabin doesn’t mention you.

Alexander:
5 x Veteran heavy cavalry (60 figures)
2 x Average horse bows (16 figures
2 x Average light horse with javelins (16 figures)
1 x Veteran light infantry with javelins (8 figures)
1 x Average light infantry with bows (8 figures)
2 x Average phalangites (32 figures)
4 x Veteran phalanx (64 figures)

Total: 17 units, 112 infantry 92 cavalry.

Plus each side had some commanders. The Indians got Porus in a chariot, Alexander got himself and Coenus on the left wing.

I made a few changes to the rules for the game. Firstly I added in my now standard fix for commanders. Once a turn they get to re-roll the dice for one unit they are attached to. In Alexander’s case he can pick and choose individual dice. For the other two they have to re-roll the complete set or not at all.

Elephants are the next issue. With Alexander having a smaller army this battle would be a complete walkover if the six elephants were operated under the standard rules.

If you have followed my previous games with elephants in them you’ll know I’ve experimented with  a few ideas. I think I may have about perfected them.

Elephants units are now represented by four bases, two elephants and two light infantry. The whole unit still has the standard saving roll of 3-6, but each base is removed with a single hit. The standard dice are reduced in proportion to the number of bases left.

Porus between two new style elephant units

 To compensate for their reduced manoeuvrability due to the increase in size I let them turn like like infantry. They also don’t count as having any flanks. When the last base is removed (and do take off the light infantry first) do a berserk move at full strength.

I also allowed phalangites to have a saving roll if attacked from the front, although I may have forgotten to tell Phil this during the game.

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