At dawn, the Sakas moved out of camp. Led by their general Vardhana and the armored nobles , a long column of lightly armed horse archers trotted quietly through the gates, with the Greek sentries looking on from their towers.As they passed the huge enclosure where the elephants were stabled the horses snorted and fidgeted , but were gentled into obedience by the riders. Vardhana threw a backward glance at the lumbering beasts and shivered in dread. He fingered the charm around his neck and prayed that the Seleucid elephants would be on the other side of the battle field, as far away from them as possible....
With the Wily Mohander
A Greek officer ran to the General's tent and was admitted.He saluted"Sir, the Sakas have moved out. You had asked to be informed " .
"Yes Indeed, Appolonius and I thank you for your trouble.So how is your son doing?" Appolonius beamed and replied " Very well, general . He is recovering and the doctors say he will be fine sir. all thanks to you sir. if it were not for your influence..."
General Mohander waved away his gratitude .. " He is a fine boy, Appolonius. I am sure he will make us proud, like his father has. Now here are your orders for the day. You will take a battalion of Bactrian cavalry and the Cretan archers. two battalions of the horse archers as well.Not enough i know but that's all i can spare . You will command on the right. You have to hold the right. I do not expect to see much action there but even if there is, you *must* hold. If the right flank collapses we are done for. As you know we lack heavy infantry , and if i know Manojos, he will load up on it.We can't afford to get into a slugging match."
Mohander smiled wickedly.
"Manojos still thinks a battle is won by whoever has the most men. But as always, he is wrong . The general with the best men wins! and with subordinates like you, Appolonius " Mohander laid an arm over Appolonius' shoulders and led him out of the tent "how can I lose ? "
Well, not thish time Mohander.. I out number you in infantry and elephantsh. And my companionsh will shweep your shaka mercenariesh away. Thish time you lose....
In the Seleucid camp Manojos , was drunk. He had stayed up all night, planning and re planning his dispositions and had called for some wine to "sharpen my thinking". As the hours passed and the amphorae emptied, Manojos got gloomier and gloomier "Why can't i ever win against that old man ?" he screamed into the darkness "Every time , he crushes my armies and sends me home in disgrace. Well, not thish time Mohander.. I out number you in infantry and elephantsh. And my companionsh will shweep your shaka mercenariesh away. Thish time you lose...."
His subordinates waiting to receive their orders looked at each other resignedly. Before every battle with Mohander, Manojos would have a tantrum like this and he would make some good plans. But on the field, it was as if Mohander cast a spell on Manojos . Where quick and decisive action was required Manojos would change plans on the fly, move his army hither and thither and then Mohander would fall like a thunderbolt on their armies and one more battle would be lost....Then they would be captured and presented to Mohander who would give them some advice on strategy and tactics and let them go... till the next time....
Manojos staggered out of his Command tent and pointed at the map. You Atticus will command the cavalry on our right . I will command everything else, on the left.You are to hold the right and I will advance on the left with the elephants and the pike men and crush Mohander's pitifully few phalangites. I will lead the Shilver Shields in pershon. That's all... now go away and get ready... and ask the camp surgeon to send me something for this headache..."
Atticus coughed politely.."Maybe the elephants should be on the far right, sir.They will be useless on the left, facing a forest , which will be swarming with archers.The right is far better sir. It is open ground and I expect Vardhana's Sakas to try to force a flank. Or even in the center sir where they can support the pikes .. ..."
Manojos exploded "NOw who commands here Atticus, you or me? You will do exactly as i tell you. No more and no less. The elephants will deploy on the *left*. *I* am in command and remember my lad, I have won more battles than you have fought in !..."
"Not against Mohander, you haven't " Atticus thought grimly " And i personally don't think a few puny "victories" against outnumbered Celtic tribes are anything to boast of. But you are right Manojos, You are indeed our commander , more is the pity ... Atticus kept his face impassive ,snapped to attention and saluted "yes sir . You are the commander. I beg pardon for my obviously stupid suggestions "
As Atticus walked out glumly to get the cavalry ready, his aide hesitantly ventured..."well sir. it looks like a good enough plan..if not brilliant.. may be it will work and maybe we will win this time .... "
Atticus sighed .."This is your first battle with Manojos isn't it? I have seen all this before my friend.Our armies are always superior.Yet we always lose. If we lose today, I think we should do something about our commander ..."
"But that is treason sir!" his aide gasped.
"Maybe. But there is a time for truth and if we lose today, I swear I'll personally impale our esteemed Commander on my lance...."
"Maybe. But there is a time for truth and if we lose today, I swear I'll personally impale our esteemed Commander on my lance...."
The Armies deploy
Mohander had the Sakas on the left flank with orders to sweep forward and harass Manojos' right. In the center he personally commanded his scant units of phalangites and peltasts supported by the elephants , screened by a massive contingent of Asian archers . On the right, Appolonius deployed the Bactrian cavalry, some horse archers and a single contingent of Cretan archers.
Manojos deployed with his elephants on his left ,supported by his slingers " When Mohander's flanking troops arrive they will run straight into my elephants he hee ..." he sniggered. In the center, on a gentle hill he deployed his two massive phalanxes ,w with the elite SilverShields on the left and the Phalangites on the right.On the Seleucid right flank Atticus deployed the elite companions screened by a single unit of Scythian horse archers.
Manojos' eagerness to seize the high ground had affected his deployment.His second in command Atticus found himself, on the extreme right of the Seleucid army, facing the center of Mohander's deployment, with the Sakas overlapping him to the right . Alarmed, Atticus ,turned in his saddle and ordered the Scythians to his right to delay the Saka onslaught.
On the other side of the battle field, Vardhana, the Saka commander , had spotted the mistake too. With a wild yell he ordered his whole wing forward, thanking the gods the Seleucid elephants were on the other flank. The Saka horse archers surged forward , wheeling to the right to face the Scythians. In the confusion, a unit of Saka nobles were left behind and instead of waiting for orders they too galloped forward as fast as they could.
Mohander had just finished ordering the Asian archers forward, when the Sakas took off.He jumped on top of the nearest elephant and watched calmly as the Sakas deployed into skirmish line on the right flank of the Seleucid army. Smiling , he signaled his phalangites and peltasts to wheel left and advance, and then ordered the elephants to advance in support . Soon the whole of the Bactrian center was moving forward .On the Bactrian left, Appolonius saw a chance to delay and harass the Seleucid elephants , who were looking a little lost on the Seleucid right. He was a cautious general so he confined himself to ordering the Cretans to skirmish in the woods and sending the Scythian horse archers forward.
As the Bactrians surged forward Manojos panicked. Yelling incoherently at the top of his lungs he ordered his slinger and archers forward, and personally led the two phalanxes forward as fast as they could march.
The Seleucids had only two generals , in contrast to the Bactrians who had three.With Manojos occupied in the center, the elephant units were left without orders and the pachyderms stayed where they were and began to munch contentedly on their breakfast - large clumps of Indian sugarcane. the mahouts also relaxed and sought shelter from the sun under the bodies of the elephants.
The Battle Begins
The battle Begins Atticus, the Seleucid cavalry commander was in a fix. He could see the Bactrian pikes and elephants bearing down on him from the front and the Sakas were beginning to look dangerous on the right.He knew he didn't have enough men to engage all the Bactrians and prepared to fight defensively, giving Manojos' phalanxes time to crush the Bactrian center. "It could be worse than this" he thought glumly .."at least my flanks are protected by terrain and the Companions are in fine fettle. we should be able to hold for an hour or so...." . he sent a terse message to Manojos "heavily outnumbered . can hold but only till the Bactrian elephants arrive. Have no infantry support Vital you advance on the center."
Alas for Atticus. Manojos had other ideas. When he saw Appolonius' Scythian horse archers galloping towards him he put both his pike units into a defensive formation and prepared to face a charge. He moved his archer to cover the front of his pikes and waited for the Scythians to charge home. The lightly armored Scythians. however took one look at the pikes and archers and screeched to a stop. They had orders only to delay the enemy advance and look dangerous.At this point, the Seleucid archers inexplicably fled, bursting through the pike units advancing behind them! Manojos managed to get the pikemen back into formation but the archers were out of the battle.
Taking advantage of Manojos' preoccupation, Appolonius pushed his archers further into the woods. effectively blocking the Seleucid elephant unit .he sent off a message to Mohander ."I cannot hold the Phalanxes with my troops. If they attack I will fall back and harass them as much as possible" .Soon a reply arrived "Excellent. But have no fear Manojos will not advance till it is too late".
And so it proved. Now Manojos dashed hither and thither on his horse , trying to move his massive right and center wings forward. However the concentration of his troops in such a small area made a maneuver very difficult.
As Vardhana galloped up, he saw that his Saka horse archers outnumbered the lone Scythian unit by 3 to 1. He wanted to charge immediately but held on and waited till his armored nobles came up and formed a second line behind the horse archers.In the center he could see the Bactrian elephants and pikemen creeping forward. Soon enough the Scythian horsemen began to get nervous, and darted glances over their shoulders at the Bactrians who were advancing steadily. Noting their nervousness Atticus pulled the Scythians back and pushed a Companion unit forward to bolster morale.In the middle of this maneuver the Sakas charged. The horse archers galloped up to the advancing Companions , fired a deadly volley and fled backwards in feigned retreat.
The Companions took some casualties and went berserk, and furiously charged the retreating Sakas who danced away on their faster horses. By the time Appolonius galloped up , the Companions were far away, beyond command range .Unable to catch the fleeing Sakas, the Companions' formation disintegrated. One of the more enterprising officers had just managed to halt the futile charge when a second Saka horse archer unit came in from the right and inflicted more casualties. Ignoring the officer's despairing cries, the Companions charged the newcomers who also fled before them, laughing at the frenzied efforts of the Companions. Now the first horse archer unit came back into the fray, fully reloaded and fired volley after volley into the Companion cavalry which , unable to stand the arrows and unable to close with their enemies, broke and routed.
The stragglers were hunted down by the Saka horse archers and not a single Seleucid cavalryman survived.Appolonius watched from a distance as his precious Companions were slaughtered. He felt the bitter taste of defeat and turned in his saddle to order a retreat when suddenly his horse reared and plunged throwing him violently to the ground. The Bactrian elephant units had finally arrived.They charged through their skirmisher screen , the bowmen firing from their howdahs , and the whole of the Seleucid right flank (all cavalry) broke in disarray. Seizing the moment Mohander sent his pikes forward in support of the elephants.
Vardhana pulled his horsemen back to avoid the elephants. His part of the battle was done.
In the Seleucid center Manojos seemed to finally realize that no one was going to charge his pikemen. He shook off his stupor and ordered his pikemen forward as the Bactrians fell back.
The End is Near
But, in his hurry , he ignored the fact that the flank of the phalanx was exposed . And Mohander pounced, wheeling the Asian archers (who had provided a skirmish screen for his advancing elephants ) sharply to the right and at point blank range they poured a volley of death into the exposed right flank of the advancing phalanx.Into the resulting mayhem Appolonius loosed the Scythians who inflicted even more casualties. The Phalanx shuddered to a stop, wavered for a moment, and broke in rout as their morale collapsed. The Phalangites crashed into the Silver shields disordering them and amazingly enough they routed too, ignoring the frantic appeals of Manojos.
Now the whole of the Seleucid army was in rout and amazingly the Bactrians didn't have a single casualty (except the Holy Man who had fallen of an elephant and broke his leg).
As Manojos frantically tried to restore some control, Mohander ordered an all out chare and every unit of the exulting Bactrians flung themselves on the routing Seleucids.The Seleucids tried to run, but by this time , the Bactrian elephant and phalngite units were rampaging in the Seleucid rear and there was simply no place to go.
In a storm of blood and steel, the Seleucid were cut down, slaughtered as they fled.The Battle for Bactria was over.
Manojos fled back over the mountains and managed to escape the Bactrian cavalry who were sent after him. Atticus was captured and taken to Mohander where he was given a warm welcome and offered the chance to join the Bactrians. Sick of a series of defeats and given the chance to work for a general he admired, Atticus accepted gladly.
Both Vardhana and Appolonius were decorated. Appolonius was given temporary command of the Bactrians while Mohander travelled alone to India to further his studies in Indian Mysticism.
We used Terry Gore's "Ancient Warfare" rule set to play this battle (We normally play Piquet Archon). We are impressed by the quality of the rules and have decided to order his "Medieval Warfare "rules. An older but still excellent version of Ancient Warfare is available free from the GoreAMWar mailing list. We would *strongly* urge readers to give it a try. AW is MUCH better than DBM.
We at India wargamers are trying to marry the excellent combat mechanics of AW/MW to the more randomized command and control sequence of PK (If anyone is interested in our progress do send us mail).