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SOA Battle Day - Hydaspes

Posted by Adam on March 28, 2015 at 4:35 PM

Another Excellent day today at Bletchley at the Society of Ancients Battle Day. This year the battle being examined was Alexander the Great's victory at the Hydaspes river in India and there were 16 games, a new record!  The Essex Home Guard were participating again with a Piquet game in 25mm.


The 6.0 am start after finishing bases for some of the figures at 1.0 in the morning was rewarded by clear roads and getting to the venue in time to set up and get the figures organised. At 9.30 there was the traditional talk from a guest speaker. This year it was the Society's own Phil Sabin, who gave a facinating presentation about the way that academic historians can draw inferences about poorly documented (or contrarily documented) anciemt battles using comparisons and dynamic modelling from other battles. There was also plenty of time for questions for Professor Sabin and Duncan Head (another expert in the military history of the period.) Great stuff.


Next it was back to the tables and a fortifying cup of tea (laid on all day.) Final positioning of the starting positions of the armies was completed. (Our reconstruction we had learned leaned towards J.R. Hamilton with Aleander's army concentrating its attack on the left wing of the Indian army.)


The view from behind the Indian left wing.


The view from behind the starting position of the Macedonian army.

Due to the large distances  covered by all the forces involved inthe fighting, or potemtially involved, we decided that we must focus on the main crucible of the action and bring in other forces as reinforcements during the game. The earliest of these would be the pike phalanx of  Coenus, lagging behind the main attack force of the Macedonians and the right wing cavalry of the Indian army. Poros had seemed to be quite quick off the mark in summoning them to the left where the threat was was more immediate. Our reinforcement system was quite simple; a slip was revealed every time an infantry move card was turned. The slip would either be no reinforcement or name the reinforcement and the possible places they could arrive (rolled for randomly.) It seemed to work okay, sufficient uncertainty and variation but the forces that fought in the battle historically would definitely arrive at some point.



The Indian left wing cavalry and magnificent chariots.



The Indian elephant line, the strength of the army.


The decisive arm of the Macedonian army, the fearsome Companion cavalry, led by their Heroic Commander Alexander himself.



The Indian army draw inspiration from their statue of "Hercules" (actually it's Shiva...)


The battle ran fairly close to history. The Indian cavalry had an early success driving off the Bactrian skirmishers but were then routed and cut to pieces by the fearsome and Elite Companions. The great looking chariots extracted themselves from a patch of soft sand only to be wiped out by Alexander's Agema squadron. The Indian elephants pushed forward aggressively and as much use as possible was made of their ability to cause morale checks. This did disrupt the screen of light troops on the Macedonian left but was less successful against the Hypaspists and pikemen.


Part of the elephant line did however get behind the flank of the Macedonian phalanx but this was the Indian high water mark. The opportunity never came to swing them around against the flank and rear of the phalanx. Coenus' laggardly phalnx force marched towards the breakthrough to avert the danger but the Indian assault had run out of steam.  The other end of the Indian line of infantry also had its moment of glory, when it  showered an approaching squadron of Companions with arrows with enough accuracy to cause them to break. Their jubilation was short-lived however as Alexander himself gallopped across the battlefield to raklly the Companions, bring them back into order and lead the countercharge which exterminated the Indians.



Companions rout!


Alexander leads the cavalry in pursuit.


The Indian pile of morale chips could not stand the strain for long, rallying units shaken by the Companions, causing elephant checks and the destruction of several complete units evetually exhausted them. Now the army would rapidly start to crumble with no way of rallying units. The right wing cavalry had arrived as reinforcements but their options were limited. Hard on their heels were the Cavalry contingent of Coenus. His arrival location was directly in the rear of the Indian army, so as in history they were surrounded and doomed to defeat.


Indian high-water mark as they break through past the end of the Macedonian phalanx.


Too little too late. Indian reinforcements march past the crumbling ruins or a temple to Ganesha (a bad omen?)


Elsewhere fleeing Indian elephants crash through their own supporting infantry.


An enjoyable game. The Indian army was ill-served by us Indian generals as we just could not win any initiative. So the small sparks of opportunity could not be capitalized on. The Macedonains went about theiir task in a businesslike manner and it was satisfying that the course ofthe battle ran generally with the historical record (maybe Hamilton was on to something!)  On a morale chip level it was a close run thing. The twoo armies started the day with the same number and when the Indians ran out they had reduced the Macedonian total to just 7. With a bit more luck on their side the Indians could have seen those numbers reversed.


Next year, the Horns of Hattin?


Categories: SOA Battle Day

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84 Comments

Reply Hanni
5:14 AM on April 1, 2015 
Excellent stuff.
Reply nick
2:40 AM on April 2, 2015 
interested to see that next year the game might beHorns of Hattin. I was going to sell on my arabs but perhaps this will be deferred for a year.
Reply Adam
9:09 AM on April 2, 2015 
nick says...
interested to see that next year the game might beHorns of Hattin. I was going to stamp on my arabs but perhaps this will be deferred for a year.


Good point, between us we have most of the Saracen army already.
Reply hendredm
1:38 AM on January 31, 2022