This was our first Chariot era game, something which we had been planning to have for a long time. Both Ravi and Manoj were new to their respective armies which were modified specifically to create a balanced game. We selected the armies from the Piquet-Archon ruleset and handicapped the Assyrians by altering the ratio of fully armoured units in favour of the Egyptians. Creating full fledged statistics for each unit of an army is a bit of a bother in archon, so we used our own method for reducing the intitial workload. In our system, the units are chosen, numbered and their general quality(Guard/Elite/Regular/Militia etc) noted. The "Mood" of each unit which determines their Base Die Value(BDV) is found out only at run time, i.e., when an actual need to use the value occurs like a combat or morale resolution.
Background: The Wastelands of Razia
Ravsur Mohanapal, sole male descendant of the Third Dynasty of Ur , General of the Army of the Imperial Monarchy of Assyria, and currently stationed in a desert tent on the Egyptian border, was smiling despite the heat and the situation in which he found himself in. Before him on the camel skin floor lay stretched the map of the border with Egypt, in which a thin, fading line marked in red demarcated where Egypt ended and Assyria began. He should have at the very moment been enjoying himself at the Imperial summer resort at Ashur spending his hard earned leave with his harem, but for the whims of their Imperial Majesties the Emperor of Assyria and The Pharaoh of Egypt.
A few weeks back, a group of over zealous Imperial relatives(Curse them!!) had suggested building an outpost in this wasteland, to "show the pomp and splendour of Assyria". Curiously enough, the Egyptians had a similar but "taller" idea to build a Pyramid(!!!) to "revere the Pharaoh's clan" in the very area, and had dispatched a party from the nearest town to start the work.These Creators of Grandiosity met in the desert, much to each others surprise and proceeded to argue about the legality of their respective claims. There was a clash, and the parties retreated to their respective courts to plead for military aid, and what should have been a few fools digging in the desert soon escalated into a full fledged war .....
Imho Manhotep Jr., Commander of Western Army, Imperial Egyptian Forces, was in a very bad mood. That he had been recalled from a juicy assignment in the lower Nile was bad enough, but his new "Imperial Sub commanders" were just too much. On receiving an imperial summons to defend the borders of the empire, Manhotep had assembled his forces and made a double march to reach the strip of wasteland of a border. As soon as he had reached the nearest town of Razia, two pompous "Imperial Nephews"(from amongst the several hundreds that the Pharaoh had accumulated, thought Manhotep with a sneer) had materialised and demanded an urgent audience with the Commander. They reminded him of the creations of Fra-Asur, the famed neo-diabolic artist of the Pharaoh's court. Self-entered, pompous with negligible skills and a huge appetitive for food, women and gold, these Gentlemen represented the worst of the court. The only thing that worried Manhotep more than their presence itself was what regard the Pharaoh held him in that he saw it proper to send these colossal idiots to him and ordered them to function as his sub commanders!!!
"By Ra!!" Thought Manhotep, "What will I do with these morons breathing fire on my back?" And to add to his woes, the two gentlemen, Pratazar III and Rafizul IV, had insisted on commanding the Chariots. Manhotep threw a fit when he heard this, for he had procured those light Chariots with great difficulty and after playing a lot of political games at the court. Now here were two land lubbers, with hardly any experience even travelling in a battle chariot who were positively adamant that they would command an entire squadron of chariots. Manhotep fumed, cursed and finally grunted his approval to his sub commanders, who immediately split the force amongst themselves and left the tent. Manhotep stood flabbergasted. "Did these fools not know what they were going to face?" The assyrians had Heavy, Fully Armoured chariots which carried the fiercest of their warriors and the Egyptian chariots stood not a chance in a frontal fight even in full strength. With the squadron out of his immediate command, Manhotep worried about covering his flanks. He shouted after their backs, "Guard my Flanks, you morons! and get those Assyrian chariots away from the infantry!"
The Armies meet
Assyrian Camp, 0800 hrs: The terrain of Razia was flat enough for the desert, broken but by three prominent hills which stood up amidst the barren sand and rock. MohanPal stood atop a dune and surveyed the view. Beside him stood the Shastrapal the Captain of Chariots and Bhujaurus the captain of the spearmen, waiting for orders. Mohanpal turned to him and said: "You see, Shastrapal, your boys are the best bet that I have against the Egyptians. Our chariots have the advantage of strength and experience, while theirs have the advantage o speed. It is imperative that we outmatch their chariot tactics and crush their light chariots before our foot men can engage theirs". Shastrapal understood perfectly. He had seen the Egyptian spearmen, all well armed and disciplined and posed a serious threst to the Assyrian Infantry. " And since we do not know which flank the Egyptians are going to deploy their Chariots, I want your boys to stand just near the mouth of the Guardians. That way we shall be able to divert in any direction as required."
Shastrapal made a quick salute and rushed to give the necessary orders. Mohanpal now turned his attention to Bhujaurus, who waited in anticipation. "Our heavy weight infantry will have to be on alert and ready to strike in case the heavies of Shastrapal are drawn elsewhere." "For this purpose, you will occupy the plains to the right of the chariots and force your away south." As he turned to comply, Mohanpal called after him "And put those archers on the Guardian Hills. we don't need any pesky intrusions coming up through the road".
Egyptian Lines, 0830 hrs: Imho Manhotep was in a fix. His squadron of chariots had been forcefully taken off him and split in two by the Imperial Nephews, his subcommanders(Manhotep wondered who was comamnding who). With his flank protection in mind, he ordered hte Imperial nephews to take position on either side of the main deployment, which would come in between the two hills in the Egyptian side. Manhotep had witnessed the fierceness of the Assyrian chariots before, and intended t give them a wide berth. He would pursue the Assyrian Infantry instead. Having had a good look at the terrain, Manhotep was convinced that he would find the assyrian Infantry in the plains to his right just on top of the Guardian which stood near the Assyrian end. His infantry was his best bet, and these he would deploy in the gap between the Ra's Top and the Guardian.
As further protection to his flanks, Manhotep ordered his archers on top of the Ra's Top, and the Javelin men atop the Southern Guardian. Doubts still nagged his mind. If the Imperial Nephews goofed up, he would be in trouble, and if their earlier behaviour was anything to go by, this could very much happen. Manhotep decided that he would perform a ask-for-blessings ritual for Ra the Sun God before he went into battle. With this thought, he turned to his aide and called for his private wagon to be bought to his tent.
Manhotep's Command Tent, 0845 hrs: "Thou who art Ra, I salute thee..." Manhotep chanted the verses praising Ra and bowed towards the East, where the Holy One was. He was almost halfway through the ritual and things looked promising so far. Calmed by the chanting, Manhotep lifted the cup of offering towards the Altar...
Pratazar III was riding a battle Chariot for the first time in his life. He enjoyed the speed and found the sensation of the wind across his face very exciting. The two other occupants of the chariot were his bodyguard and the Squadron guide who was controlling the Chariot. The actions of the guide looked so easy and light to Pratazar that His Imperial Self was tempted to try it out himself. And once he had decided on it, there was no stopping him. The unlucky guide made the mistake of protesting and found himself first in the strong arms of the Bodyguard and a split second later, lying bruised and shaken in the sand. Pratazar was whooping as the Chariot speeded up and continued to cheer as it left the path and veered into the sand.
Pratazar could but watch as the chariot went out of his control and lurched from side to side as it raced forward through the hard sand. The smile had gone out of his face. And all of a sudden, the the Command Tent of Manhotep appeared directly in the Chariots path....
Manhotep lifted the cup of offering towards the Altar...and was lifted clean out of the tent as what seemed like a moving Earth quake hit the tent and tore it apart. He was able to catch visions of horses snorting and Pratazar crying out in terror and wood and fabric debris flying in every direction. Then he blacked out.
When the CinC came to, his first action was to go for his sword and race towards Pratazar. Fortunately for the Imperial Nephew, Manhotep's well wishers were around and stopped him in time. The angry CinC continued to shout curses and yell at the disappering back of the Imperial Nephew. It was not until a messenger announced the sighting of the Assyrian Army that he subsided.
Mohanpal stood on his command Chariot at stared at the Egyptian lines through the dust and sand. If he was surprised, he did not show it. He could see the Egyptian chariots on the left flank and the right flank, meaning that the Chariots had been split in two. And unbelievably, the whole of the Egyptian Infantry was deployed in a Canyon!! Mohanpal made some quick calculations and made a change of orders. Soon, fast runners were running out hither and thither to despatch the orders as required.
The Egyptian javelin holders on the hill who first heard it thought it was thunder. But it was a hot day and summer was full on, so it could not have possibly been thunder. The brave men of the lot raised their head from among the rocks where they were hiding and stared hard North. And then they saw it. Glittering in gold and steel, drawn by heavy Assyrian horses and driven by fierce Warriors donning gold ornaments and and steel armour, the assyrian Heavy chariots were on the move. And, and, they appeared to come staright for the Javelinmen!! The rest of the group dived for cover and those caught in the open scrambled up the hill. But they need not have worried. The Chariots made staright past the hill where the Javelinmen were stationed and advanced to the light chariots.
The commander in charge of the Egyptian left flank was Pratazar III. He was stunned by the way the chariots arrived on the scene with an unbelievable speed. Soon, the Heavy chariot line was splitting in two, one half facing his troops while the other wheeled smartly and stood on their flanks. And while all this went on in front of his very eyes, Pratazar III sweated and stood still, doing not a thing to counter this immediate and very visible threat ...
The shouts of the CinC's messenger bought his stupor to an end. A still terrified Pratazar tried to remember what he had read in the military books at the Pharaoh's palace. He ordered the Light chariots to manoeuvre in place and offer their front to the Heavies. But it was a useless move. Bereft of open space and confronted by heavy horse, the light chariots could but wait and watch.
The other Imperial Nephew, Rafizul IV was not doing well either. From atop his perch high on Ra's Top he could just see the menacing shapes of the Assyrian heavy chariots standing dangerously close to the light chariots commanded by Pratazar. Rafizul's first thought was to rush to the aide of his cousin. "How dare those Assyrians threaten my cousin, the divine Nephew of the Holy Pharaoh??" With anger clouding his eyes, Rafizul roared out orders to the Charioteers standing on the right side of the Ra's top.
In a very short time, the Light chariots were surging forward towards the road, with the intention of getting to the Assyrian rear through the gap between the Guardians. They raced forward past the Ra's Top, gained the road very quickly...and stopped! As Manhotep watched in despair form his position in the Egyptian centre, Rafizul was standing and waving...at the Assyrian archers who stood on the first Guardian, and had moved to gain a foot hold on the other Guardian as well. Manhotep went mad. This guy was scared of those Archers! And despite his best orders and threats Manhotep could not make Rafizul go an inch further than where he had stopped. In despair, Manhotep turned his attention to his left flank, and witnessed some very interesting if not pleasant incidents...
The Assyrian Charioteers were moving in circles, their bows and arrows at the ready. Apparently, they were waiting for orders. It was not late in coming. A terrible cry of "Fire" was heard through all the ruckus and an instant later, hundreds of arrows were launched towards the trembling Egyptian Chariots. A series of thuds rang out as arrow after arrow hit home. the Egyptian Chariots were thrown into confusion and the NCOs were having a hard time trying to regain order. And the worst part of it was yet to come. Even as the Assyrian chariot-archers prepared for their second round of fire, an enraged Pratazar III steered to the NCOs to demand an explanation on why the chariots had broken ranks. Before the NCOs could answer, an urgent shout was heard: "Duck!!Arrows incoming!!". The NCOs instinctively ducked for cover, but a still angry Pratazar was caught unwary. An Assyrian arrow flashed past the first rows of chariots and over the groveling NCOs and separated the Royal head of Pratazar III from the rest of his equally Royal body! The NCOs stood dazed, and had not yet recovered from their shock when another roar was heard at very close quarters:"Chaaaaargeee..!!". As they watched in despair, the Assyrian chariots leapt forward, the helms of their riders glittering in the sunlight. As a survivor later put it, the spectacle resembled a lighting from the heavens...
With an impact which jarred the bones of the Egyptians, the charge hit home. To the untrained eye, the charge looked like a tangled mess of horse, men, wood and steel. But the reality was far different. The Assyrians rode with deadly effect through the Egyptian middle ranks, their flank and rear, chopping everything that came into their path with deadly ferocity. They cut, sheared, kicked and wrecked their opponents chariots. Wood splintered and blood flew in all directions as the hapless Egyptians tried to fight back with little luck. In a few moments, everything was over. What remained of the Egyptians routed out of control and some crashed into and burst through some units of Axe men who were unlucky enough to stand in there way. Manhotep stood shocked. His flank was now wode open, and Assyrian chariots were pouring into the gap.
Back on the Guardians, another strange drama unfolded. The Assyrian archers were holding on prcariously to their foot hold in the hill, and the best of the Egyptian infantry was not very far away. Mohanpal stood poised, expecting his archers to be thrown out any moment. He had got his runners in place, so that in the event of his archers being overwhelmed, he could turn some of his own foot soldiers to protect the rear. But the minutes ticked by and yet, nothing happened. The Egyptian Spearmen watched the Archers watching them, and when they grew tired of watching, they looked elsewhere... All the Assyrians were puzzled, but none more than the CinC, Mohanpal. He could see best of the Egyptian infantry in a good position to assault the Archers and yet... Mohanpal could only shake his head in disbelief. Apparently the Egyptian CinC hadn't noticed, or had failed to grasp the significance of what he saw. In either case, Mohanpal found the situation useful to the Assyrians...
Fear, the mind killer
As Mohanpal had once put it, Heavy chariots were like a storm unleashed. Tough, deadly and difficult to control. And the ones he had sent forth to charge the egyptian flank were proving him right to the last word. The moment he saw the Egyptian light horse rout, the squadron commander of the Heavy chariots had sent out orders to halt. But the Assyrian chariots had tated blood and would not be stopped so easily from what was going to be a feast of blood and gore. Despite the best efforts of the NCO's, the whole squadron surged forward, striking forth like a lightning through the remnants of the scattered and fleeing Egyptian light chariots to the rear of the hapless axemen who had been standing beyond the light chariots. The Assyrians in a battle lust were a chilling sight to behold, and the deadly melee had done little to improve their appearance. Endowed with their fearsome reputation among the Egyptians as "blood drinkers", the Assyrian charge had a mental rather than physical effect on the scantily clad levy axemen.
The first of the Axemen to catch sight of the Assyrians appear was one Suderlaf son of Sudhotep, whose father was a farmer from the Nile delta. Suderlaf claimed that he had been drawn to the Army by promises of gold and women, something which had remained unfulfilled several minor campaigns later. He garb was typical of the Egyptian levy: coarse loin cloth and string belt to hold it in place. In his hand was a hefty wood cutters axe, something that he had inherited from his father. Suderlaf still held the view that the axe would be better used in cutting the trees rather than fighting armoured Assyrians. Apparently the Pharaoh did not concur, and he found himself standing in the last line of a full battlaion of similar men. He was thinking of his farm and the trees to cut when he heard a noise erupt behind him. Turning back, he saw something out his worst nightmares. The Hell Wraiths of Ra, the killer of humans, the Demi Gods who ruled the nether world were coming straight at him in chariots dripping blood and gore. Suderlaf did not waste an instant in thinking about any of the NCO's lessons whch had been taught when he joined the army. He simply dropped his axe and fled for his dear life.
From his command point, Manhotep watched open mouthed as his axemen turned tail and fled without offering the least resistance. He was not sure if the Assyrian charioteers had noticed it or not, for they continued to surge forward as if there were no one in their path. In any case, the flight of the Axemen had a ripple effect on the other foot waiting beyond. It is not sure if any of the Spearmen shared the views and religious beliefs of Suderlaf son of Sudhotep, but their actions certainly matched his. Spears flew in the air, but in every direction as the Spearmen abandoned their waepons, turned tail and fled for their lives. The "Hell Wraiths", for their part, remained oblivious to the moral, mortal and religious reasons behind the eenmy's flight. They continued to do what they did best: charge and kill. Imho Manhotep could only wail and dash his head against his horse when he saw his spearmen being cut down like reeds, and blood flow like the Nile in flood. The charioteers hacked and tore through the ranks of the fleeing Egyptian foot, their armour weapons and chariots dripping blood and gore. Roar after roar went up as they charged; yell after yell was heard as the charge took effect; wail after wail sounded as unit after unit fell and routed. And finally, amidst the din of arms, a single horn was heard: Manhotep had sounded the retreat.
What remined of his army was in tatters, and the Assyrians were every where. Manhotep's head sagged, likewise did his spirit. The battle was over for him and he knew it.
Ravi thinks that:
- Strategy is more psychology than technical;
- Fearsome chariots ARE deadly !! (Especially so in the absence of cavalry...)
Manoj thinks that:
- Deployment becomes very critical when your opponent has a superior mounted force: wrong deployment means that your weakest may end up fighting his strongest.
- NEVER use mixed commands; especially when you have poor commanders.
- Light chariots/cavalry is best used as a harassing tool, and not as a main figthing arm.