Monday, August 20, 2012

On the Dark Side of the Silk Road: A Comitatus Game

After playing the 40mm TTTeaser with Comitatus, I wanted to try a more standard game. The problem was what figures to use?  My 25mm Late Roman army is long gone and while it would not have taken a lot of work to resurrect my Arthurian/Romano-British army, I never did get around to building an opposition for it. Scanning the shelves my eye fell on my slowly proceeding organization of a semi-historical (ok vaguely historically inspired might be more honest) campaign set around the fall of Alexandria Eschate some 200 or more years before the period covered by the rules. Didn't take much to fudge something like early Sassanids facing forces from Marakanda or perhaps the fading Kushan Empire.

The campaign is in the midst of a protracted process of experimenting with basing and rules so some units are on 80mm  bases, some on 40s and some, borrowed from the Greek & Persian Wars, on single bases. I was going to go with 80mm as a stand but decided that I would have too few units.  Each of the handful of 80mm bases then became 2 stands and I figured I'd deal with lost stands or formation issues if and when they occurred. 

Both sides fielded somewhere around 700 pts in a dozen or so units with a General and a Wing Commander. The "heavy" infantry levies on both sides were rated C grade for training while all other troops were B grade (experienced). I decided to make my life simpler by giving everyone average morale.  Since the table was all set up, I just removed a few woods and Hadrian's Wall, moved the roads and added a small village and well along the Silk Road. Control of the well was the ostensible objective of each army but destruction of the enemy was the best way to achieve that.
The Sassanid Cavalry wing: 1x2 light javelin cavalry, 1 x 2 heavy horse archer, 2x2 cataphract, 1 x 4 Comitatus including wing commander. Garrison figures in the front rank, RAFM and Minifig in the rear.
The Sassanid Infantry Wing. 2x4 skirmisher, 1 x 4 javelinmen, 1 x 3 archer, 1x2 Spearmen (C), 1x4 Spear& Bow (C), 2 elephants and the General with Heavy Horse Archer Comitatus. The general and Elephants are Hinchliffe, the rest Garrison.

The Marakanda cavalry wing. General with comitatus of 2 stands of armoured shock cavalry, 1 x 2 stands of shock cavalry, 1x2 heavy camelry archers and 3 x 4 horse archers. The Comitatus, which badly needs a touch up, was quickly formed from my second oldest metal wargameing figures, some Minfig Rohirrim bought in 1974 in the Wargame tent at Aldershot, during my not quite "Grand Tour" of Europe (youth hostels, Eurail and hitchhiking). The rest of the  figures are the usual mix of Garrison, Minifig and RAFM with a few Ral Partha. 
The Marakanda Infantry Wing. 1x4 Spearmen (C - Greek militia), 3 x 4 archers, 1 x 4 javelinmen, 1 elephant, Commander with shock cavalry comitatus.Again the same figure sources as above but with a few Rose Prestige, a few Benassi and a few Rospak plastics.
An over view around Turn 4

Both sides deployed with their infantry poised to dispute the village and central hill. The Persians were afraid that the enemy horse archers would envelope their flank so the initial plan was to hold the gap between a small wood and the infantry until the time was ripe for the reserve of cataphracts to shatter the enemy center. The Maracand plan, oddly enough, was to envelop the Persian right while having their infantry not rout and then finish the job by a fierce charge by the noble cavalry.

All started smoothly enough but by turn 2 it was obvious that the Persian light cavalry would be destroyed if it just held its ground, but an attempt to drive off the horse archers and gain a respite ended in their destruction anyway. There was little choice but to deploy the Cataphracts and press forward hoping to reach and destroy the Marakand nobles before the horse archers could wear down the Persian heavies. To reduce the effect of the Persian bow fire, the Maracand heavies spurred forward to meet them. When the factors were totalled, the effect of the commanders, dice that favoured the Persians and the accumulated DP's from movement and missile fire, the result was... a draw!  The two sides bashed each other in melee then pulled back. The camels tried thei luck on the Cataphracts but were thrown back as was a unit of horse archers that had bumped into some cataphracts when chasing the light cavalry. With most of each cavalry wing now out of command, both sides took several turns to rally and regroup.

Red chips indicate DP's or Death and Disorder markers.

On the other flank, the light troops had been dickering with each other while long range volleys of arrows flew back and forth. Eventually the Persian Satrap, fearful that his cavalry wing might not be as successful as planned, ordered the elephants forward, dragging the levies with them. (Probably not a good idea the elephants and light troops might have been a better combination for an attack.) At first it looked like the plan might work the Persian light troops drove off or routed most of the Marakand lights but then the mercenary javelinmen went haring off  in pursuit and the Marakand commander and his Comitatus surprised everyone by charging into the flanking unit of skirmishers and drove them off. As the lines closed, the disruption by bow fire grew worse on both sides, the Greek militia being backed by native archers firing overhead. At this point, the two commanders found themselves eye to eye and too close to pretend they hadn't seen each other. When the Marakand commander charged there was little option but to counter charge and the 2 leaders indulged in a duel before their respective forces. I'm not sure whether its the pink pants or finely curled beard but Rossius just doesn't do well at this sort of thing. Three rolls of the dice and he was toes up on the field and most of the levies were either running or trying to work up the courage to turn their back on the enemy  to run. The as yet un-named Marakand commander whistled up his elephant and chased the remnants of the Persian left from the field.    

Over on the Persian right the news of the fall of Rossius had not yet spread. The opposing heavy cavalry spurred together and again both sides held and a swirling melee resulted. Finally however, the Horse Archers who had been stubbornly refusing  to  come closer, seized the moment and all three units galloped forward smashing into the flanks and rear of the already tired Persian cavalry locked in combat with their opposite numbers.  It was all over.

So, Marakanda retains its hold on that section of the Silk Road............ for now!


  1. Ross, one thing I've always admired about you is your willingness to just plough on and try something with what you have on hand.

    Keep it up!

    1. Thank you, (I think), I've found that once you get things not quite right often enough, it stops mattering so much.

  2. What a treat to see so many Hinchliffe elephants running amok! By coincidence I was sorting out may own Sassanids at the weekend. Time they had an outing.

  3. Ross

    Great looking game. I guess if there's a dark side of the silk road, then the Marakanda side must be the bright side!



    1. There's a song in there somewhere. Amazing though how thin the evidence thats available to us seems to be.

  4. Looks like a lot of fun - I remember those Rohirim well! Time to resurrect Valdur?

  5. When I look at what little I can find on the polyglot armies fielded by Kushan and various little successor city states that come and go between Alexander and the Huns/Arabs, they sound an awful lot like Valdur, maybe just a few more horse archers. I'm painting up a new Queen now :)

  6. Excellent! Any idea where I can find a good 15mm model to end up as Zenobia?
    I know Donnington make one but she is not overly attractive and if Aurelian fell for her I need someone a little more comely.
    Problem is many fantasy figures would likely work but they are all 28mil

    1. In 15mm how can you tell? Hard to tell from pictures though most Zenobia's are rather over dressed compared to Queen Joanna of old. But maybe Zenobia had sparkling eyes, sense of humour and a good attitude? There are 15mm fantasy ranges but you'd probably have to cruise some stands at a show or buy a lot of samples to find a decent Amazon Queen.

      My Zenobia came from Rob at Garrison, I've been doing a make over, now we'll see how she paints up.

  7. There's something about elephants isn't there? A zillion years ago I looked though the WRG army list book (this was during 5th or 6th edition days) with the idea of building an army that could field the most elephants. Turned out to be Ghaznavid, I think, with about 7. For various reasons I never followed through on the project, but every now and then, I see a game with elephants, and this wistful sort of feeling wafts over me...

    What I am saying is: Nice armies, Ross!

    1. Yes elephants do seem to capture our imaginations. Never seem to win games for me but that's not really the point is it?