Monday, 16 December 2013

Hydaspes here we come

One of my protagonists got in first and blogged this game already. You can find his thoughts here: Phil's FoG blog even thought we weren't using FoG. However if you want the full-on version, carry on reading.

This was the morning game of a three game day. We planned a 10am start but were delayed as one of the players got held up on the M11 by bad weather. Who'd have thought it. Ancient wargame runs late due to fog. For this game Alexander was played by MNG regular Phil, whilst Porus was played by Richard Lockwood.

The forces were listed on the previous blog Setting Up Hydaspes together with the rule tweaks. The set up looked like this:

The game started with a strong right wing push by Alexander. His aim was to get amongst the Indian cavalry before the elephants could rough up his infantry too badly.

In order not to create a gap in his line this meant also advancing his infantry in echelon. Richard responded by angling his infantry and elephants forwards to address the possibility of a double envelopment.

I think it is important to state clearly here that Richard's heart didn't really seem to be in his dice rolling. Regardless of the colour of dice he chose he was consistently out-gunned by Phil throughout the game.

Anyway, Richard's aim in angling his centre left and right was to place the squeeze on Alexander's left wing, where he had a numeric advantage and could also support the position with elephants. He chose not to follow Porus' original tactic of transferring his cavalry from his right to left by moving behind his own line. I can't see many other wargamers doing it either and as a tactic it doesn't seen to stack up well. All it seems to achieve is to put all of the Indian horse in a vice with no way out.

The generals survey the situation
You can see in the picture above how the game is shaping up generally. The decisive action is over on the far side. Richard is pressing hard with his elephants, although he is taking a lot of damage.

The rules revisions had enabled the light troops to work effectively against the elephant threat. As you can see above they have reduced an elephant unit to a single base, as Porus (in his chariot) presses forward to try to engage the phalanx. It was at this point that Richard's dice rolling was particularly reprehensible, failing to save virtually any hits on this elephant unit. This unit of elephants was destroyed in the next round of combat, and of course went berserk straight into its colleagues and commanding officer, as you can see below.

On the other flank Phil was trying to avoid getting caught in an elephant/chariot nutcracker, and so was pulling away with one of his Companion units to create a deeper battle, whilst working his light horse around to the flanks (you can just see the edge of the base, bottom left). Richard meanwhile has spotted a chance to open up Phil's centre with one of his cavalry units which he is going to pass behind his extreme right hand elephant unit.

At the other end  of the table Alexander has broken one of the heavy cavalry units (that's his unit with the bronze shields and no opponents) and although the chariots are proving hard work, he has the upper hand and is looking to develop this flank to roll up the Indian infantry.

The battle is starting to pivot, with each armies right wing gaining the advantage, or at least seeming to. In fact what Phil has succeeded in doing is delaying the combat on his left wing until he thinks he can win the battle elsewhere, principally on his right.

However it starts to unravel for the Indians anyway. A flank attack and a judicious intervention by Coenus breaks one of the Indian cavalry units quickly on Alexander's left. Again, Richard has some poor dice and also fails morale checks.

In the middle Porus is dashing to and fro between his elephant units to keep them in the game with re-rolls. He is getting a bit luckier, but only to the extent that at least berserk elephant units are ploughing into Macedonians. He's also starting to grind down the phalanxes, but probably at too high a cost to his elephants.

On the Indian right  the elephants make a telling intervention on some Companions, but it leaves a chariot unit badly exposed and it is taken in the rear.

Meanwhile in the centre more elephants go berserk and rough up a couple of phalanxes. Alexander's veteran infantry are finding it tough going, but they are gaining the upper hand.

Even Porus in his chariot can't save the last elephant unit in the centre, although that does smash into and destroy a phalanx.

At which point the Indian Army reached its break point for the game. The real final damage was done on the Indian left as Alexander managed to turn his horse into the flanks of the Indian levy foot, trapping them up against on-rushing phalangites.

The game ended with everyone all smiles. It probably tipped against Richard and the Indians quite early on, but there was always the faint hope he might get lucky and break through with some elephants.

I was very pleased with how it went, - about three hours in total without pushing it at all - and the rule modifications worked very well.

The way the rules are working having the elephants out front, as they were historically, masks the archers and exposes them to light infantry. Given a free hand I'd have embedded them in the infantry line and then advanced to within bow shot, softened up the phalangites before launching a co-ordinated elephant charge.

Of course, that all assumes that Alexander's superior horse don't crush both flanks in the meantime.

Another very satisfactory game.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks. I sometimes wonder about the plain green aesthetic for the basing, but I think that in the pictures the troop bases blend in quite nicely.

  2. A very nice report for a great battle, beautiful figures!

    1. Thank you. I kep being really impressed with how the Indians came out seeing as they are at the "budget" end of the hobby.

  3. That is a large battle for only two players. Interesting battle across a featureless landscape. Figures are really nice with a good retelling of the battle. Always good to see combatants part on friendly terms.

    Nice job!

    1. I agree that it is a large battle for two players. Worked well though. The "£featurelss landscape" isn't as uncommon in ancient battles as wargamers think. Armies often fought where it was convenient for them to fight. Zama & Guagamela are likewise fought on flat, open planes. Most common feature of ancient battles is a river....