Friday, November 26, 2010

Battle of Ashkelon - Philistines versus New Kingdom Egyptian

We have started getting a weeknight DBA going here in Sierra Vista - meaning we have had two games now :) - and I thought I would write up the interesting ones. This particular game was against Steve, who is just getting back into DBA and gaming in general. His last DBA game he used my New Kingdom Egyptians (option b, with the Warband) and I used the Philistines (option a, with the Blades). He didn't do that well with them so he decided to try the Philistines this time, so we reversed the armies.

I am going to try and write this battle report up using some of the ideas from my Writing Battle Narratives blog entry. Narrative will be in plain text and game notes in italics. This report is (mostly) written from the Egyptian point of view. Let me know if I succeeded in writing a better, more interesting battle report.

This is a timed game.

The Battle of Ashkelon

"If we do not find these pestilent Philistines and put this rebellion down, the Pharaoh will surely send me to the Fields of Aaru before my time!", the Egpytian general muttered. What was this, twice in as many years that the Pharaoh has had to send an army to punish the tribes around Ashkelon? Nebkare's thoughts were broken when a scout came riding up. "We have found the rebels sir! They are hiding in the next valley."

The Philistines are defending and the New Kingdom Egyptians attacking. My opponent, the Philistine general, sets up a crossroads and has a long woods and a medium-sized Steep Hill flank the crossroads. This makes for a narrow pass between the two terrain features, restricting the battle. I try and approach from the direction that would leave the open area to the Philistines, but the board rotates on me, leaving my troops in the open.

As the Egyptian army approaches the valley where the rebels were spotted, another scout barrels up to General Nebkare shouting, "Sir, the rebels have taken a secret path through the hills and have shifted their army onto our right flank! They are approaching us through a narrow pass on the road to Ashkelon!" Quickly the general orders his troops about and presses forward to the attack, lest these slippery rebels wriggle from his grasp through another "secret path".

The Egyptians are arrayed with their Blades pointed down the road, towards the pass, lest any Philistine chariots charge through the gap suddenly. The archers are to the left, to cover any flanking chariots, and the Gasgan mercenaries (the Warband), are on the right to move through the woods and spring an ambush on any Philistine Blades that pass too close.

I did not want to commit three chariots to the open left flank, so I placed one on the right, in hopes of drawing the enemy towards it. In hindsight that was a stupid idea as I was facing a slow army and he had already deployed his chariots in the center rear. No one was going to chase the lone chariot down.

My typical battle plan calls for me identifying four elements (or two, plus the enemy camp) that I will destroy in order to win. My game then revolves around hunting down those elements. Sometimes the enemy throws me a curveball and races other elements forward, getting them killed, allowing me to stop hunting some of the elements on my list.

This matchup is a tough one, as the NKE army is not really a good match for the Philistines as much as it is for itself. With three Bows facing all of those Blades, the NKE army is almost "outnumbered". The best you can hope for is to use the three Bows to take out the Philistine chariot, then move them to the rear so they are not easy targets for the Philistine Blades. It is a possibility that they could gang up and take out the Auxilia, but that is very hard to pull off given the speed advantage of the Auxilia.

With four chariots to the Philistine two (or, not counting the Generals, three chariots to one), it should be a quick victory for the NKE chariots, leaving them free to attack the enemy camp. With the Bows targeting the chariot and my chariots targeting the camp, that leaves one more element to get to 4 VPs. I decide that the best chance is either the Bows ganging up on an Auxilia or the Warband and my General ganging up on a Blade for the win. We will have to see which develops.

Given my targets the Bows go on the left and the chariots on the far left, the General stays in the center, with the Warband moving up through the woods.

This is not going to be easy...

All of the confusion of shifting the army to the right caused for great distress amongst the Egyptian troops. It takes some time before they get moving. Meanwhile the messengers from the right flank indicates that the whole of the Philistine army is on the move towards the pass.

Suddenly, a plume of dust rises, indicating a fast moving body. "Sir, the rebel chariots have appeared in the pass and are moving rapidly to our open left flank!" "Send forward the chariots of the Reed and Sky Squadrons and destroy them!" The swirling dust from the battle obscures both sides' chariots from the rest of the army, but soon a cheer is heard from the rebel infantry on the hill. Out from the dust come the remnants of the Sky Squadron, with the Philistine chariots not far behind!

The Philistine general opted for a daring move with his chariot unit and force marched them down the road within charge range of the Egyptian chariots. I rose to the bait and charged his chariot, easily getting an overlap in the process. But, Ra was not favoring my Egyptians that day as I promptly rolled a '1' to the Philistine's '6', getting doubled on the first combat. This did not bode well. Philistines 1-0. The chariots continue to press the attack on the remaining chariot, causing it to recoil.

Shock waves ripple through the Egyptian army as the men call out "Ra! Ra! Do not abandon us! We beseech you!" The army was paralyzed. Only the chariots on the right obeyed Nebkare's orders, shifting from the right to the left flank. With a roar the Philistine army continued to march towards the pass, ready to deal justice to their oppressors.

General Nebkare comes to his sense and realizes that his army is crumbling before his eyes. He signals his chariot squadron forward and races along the battle lines yelling commands and encouragement, just as the sun pokes out from behind the gray clouds... "A sign! A sign from Ra! Forward!!!"

Both the Egyptians and the Philistine have a brief spell of PIP starvation. With the Philistine chariots on the other side of the hill from the General, they need two PIPs to get moving, so when they roll a '1', things started to look bad. The Egyptians finally broke their long spell of poor PIP rolls with a '6', causing the army to come to life.

The chariots of the Sky Squadron on the left pulls back, allowing the archers to deploy into line. The chariots of the Blood Squadron on the right continue to shift to the left flank as the whole Egyptian battle line lurches forward.

The archers ready themselves for their advance to the Philistine chariot - this is their chance for some glory - when the enemy charges forward and slams into the archers, running down the right wing!

This is the second close combat of the evening and with a light chariot charging my bows with overlap support, I still managed to get beaten and quick killed. The Philistines are still winning, 2-0.

Nebkare barks to his messenger, "Go to the Sky Squadron and tell them that to flank the rebel chariots and destroy them, or prepare for the demon Ammit to eat all of their damned souls! They must not fail!" On the right the Gasgans move into the woods in an attempt to encircle the left flank of the Philistine main battle line, which is already bending  as it enters the narrow pass between the woods and the steep hill.

A great crash resounds on the left as the Sky Squadron encircle the Philistine chariots, with support by the remaining archer units. With a hail of arrows from all directions, the Philistines are destroyed by the combined might of the Egyptian left flank.

The Philistine chariots actually only recoiled, but they hit the Auxilia on the Steep Hill at an angle, so they were destroyed. The Egyptians are finally on the board, with the Philistines ahead 2-1.

Ra continues to smile on the Egyptian army, as the Philistine army takes flight and retreats up the valley, leaving one unit behind to block pursuit. "This seems too suspicious. Surely the rebels have not given up so easily." Nebkare, unsure of the Philistine ploy, halts the battle line as he considers how he will defeat the enemy hiding behind the hill.

One observing the game, without knowing the rolls or the rules, might have interpreted my moves as being stumped on how to proceed, but in fact I rolled a '1' on PIPs again. But it was funny because it looked like the Egyptian general paused, trying to figure out if the Philistine retreat was a trap.

The original plan of hunting down the single light chariot, sacking the camp, and destroying one auxilia still looked good, however, the Philistines had not had enough PIPs to retreat one of their Blades, who was close the Egyptian General and the supporting Warband. So, I decided to try and pick the Blades element off with the General and the Warband while the two light chariots swung around the hill on the left flank and threatened the camp.

Nebkare knew that he had to push out of that gap so he could turn the flank of the main battle line before the enemy reserves swung into action and turned his own left flank. Ordering the soldiers of the Sky Troop to push down the road, Nebkare swung his chariot squadron to the right, and with the Gasgans, advanced to attack the isolated Philistine unit. These promptly retreated towards the Philistine reserves, while the main battle line sprang forward.

The Royal Guard Troop give way as the Weshwesh come screaming down the hill in attack, while General Nebkare swings his chariot squadron back to the left to support the Sky Troop being pressed by the enemy left. Seeing an opening the isolated Philistine unit advanced towards the right flank of the Egyptians, threatening the General. The combat swings wildly back and forth as each side tries to turn the flank of the other.

Again General Nebkare swings his squadron to the right, but this time the Philistines cannot retreat fast enough and the Gasgans catch them in the flank. The Philistines do not give up easily, but they die nonetheless. However, the enemy reserves advance forcefully, ready to take the Gasgans' flank in turn.

Much of these turns was spent recoiling, using PIPs to recover the battle line, and threatening units on the flank, who in turn retreat. Finally the Philistine Blades get too close and the Egyptians get too many PIPs, resulting in the Egyptian General attacking the Philistine Blades, who also get flanked by the Warband. I still lose the combat though - I rolled another '1' - and end up in a very bad position as I recoil into the woods. Fortunately the following turn sees the Philistine Blades follow up and get doubled, resulting in their destruction. The game is tied at 2-2.

General Nebkare says a quick prayer of thanks to Ra as he quickly moves his squadron out of the entanglement of the woods he was forced into and rejoins the battle line. His archers on the left are still entangled with the Sky Troop soldiers and cannot effectively bring all of their bows to bear, but they are nonetheless effective at forcing the Weshwesh back up the hill. The chariots squadrons have disappeared from view, so Nebkare suspects they are rounding the hill and on their way to attacking the enemy camp. On his right the Gasgans are threatened by several thousand rebel warriors, but no panic is ensuing.

Slowly, as the Weshwesh are driven back by the archers, a gap starts to appear in the rebel line between the hill and the right of the rebel heavy infantry. With a roar the Green Troop soldiers charge forward into the flank of the enemy heavy infantry, destroying them. This sends a convulsive wave through the rebel line.

To the rear of the rebel army the Sky Squadron has finally charged into battle against the chariot squadron of the Philistine general. Although initially repulsed, the Blood Squadron begins to maneuver to support the Sky Squadron in another charge against the enemy general. It is only a matter of time...

Unfortunately, the curtain draws to a close on this game as two frowning librarians kick us out of the library before we can complete the game. This, of course, will lead to much speculation about why each of us would have won the game had we been able to complete it. :)

The game ended with the Egyptians in the lead 3-2 as they had destroyed a Philistine Blades element in a flank attack. I rolled my PIPs for the following turn and it was a 5. My move would have been to hit the Psiloi from the front and flank with two Blades elements. The question would have been whether to take the overlap (making the combat 4 to 1) or to risk the General in an overlapped combat with Blades  supported by Psiloi. Probably not...


So, my plan was to take out one light chariot (check), one auxilia element (not even close to happening, especially once I lost a Bows element), and the camp (getting there, but it would have been three to four turns before that happened). Instead I got one light chariot and two Blades. I honestly cannot remember if I got the first Blades element by doubling with the General or by quick killing it with the Warband.

As I said in the beginning, the New Kingdom Egyptian army is not designed to take on an army like the early Philistines with six Blades (or the Sea Peoples, with their eight Blades). The NKE have too many Bows, making them vulnerable to easy destruction by the Blades.

What I notice with my play is a bad tendency to not use PIPs when I have high rolls; there is this "pull" to use them all as they are such precious commodities. However, sometimes using a PIP causes you to commit an element that should not be committed. In fact, this is what happened to my opponent when he played the NKE and I the Philistines; he used PIPs to move the Bows closer to my Blades so he could shoot. It is this desire to "do something" with everything every turn that is so hard to resist.

In this game I was fortunate in that I kept some discipline and kept the Bows away from the enemy Blades, putting a steep hill between us. This allowed me to stand off 2" and shoot into the enemy Auxilia on the end of the line, in an attempt to keep my Blades from being overlapped or flanked. For the most part it worked.

As for the chariots, my play with them was horrible. My choices were to drive up the right flank and try and go through three Psiloi-backed Blades - not too probable - attack the right flank of the Philistine line, which happened to be Auxilia in Bad Going - also not too probable - or swing wide around the left and try to attack the Philistine camp or rear. The last course still looks like the best course, but that is such a PIP drain that it is unlikely to succeed. Upon reflection one other choice is available, and that is to serve as a second line reserve and plug any gaps or exploit any breakthroughs. But that is not very sexy... :)

All in all this was a very good game. We played slow because it was tense, swinging back and forth, but that proved our undoing as we did not get to finish. Next time then!

By the way, let me know whether you like the use of Battle Chronicler for mapping out the game. There is a sharp learning curve and time spent developing the core components, but once that is done, future battle reports can be generated faster and with less effort, so I just might keep investing time in this tool.


  1. Excellent - my regular opponent DG and I have been using Battle Chronicler for some time now... a brilliant little application that I'm amazed more wargamers don't use...

    Couple of further thoughts... have you used the playback option at the end of the game? Great fun watching your units move about the tabletop on their own! Also, Battle Chronicler is brilliant for play be email games - DG and I live hundreds of miles apart but play games using BC - all you do is save the game at the end of your move and then email the file to your opponent who does the same, and so forth...

  2. Dale,

    Excellent writeup. Note that for me personally, I don't care one way or the other for the personalisation of the game (the bit not in italics), it could have just been shortened to a more general description. However, naming units is always good - I do think it is a good idea, even if I don't do it in my writeups. I must stress this is just me, and I see from other discussion groups that they prefer the personalisation of the battle. It did not detract from the report at all, so keep it up as those that do want it will not be disappointed!

    On Battle Chonicler, I tried to use it for my writeup but the negatives on using it (you mention them on your other blog) outweighed it for me. It does produce great looking reports and if it had snap to grid and default to move with facing changes (not having to use control key) and no arrows on units, I would use it.
    But I would like to see some pictures with minis too!