Saturday, 22 April 2017

Historical Matches - Sassan vs. Parthia

In this series there are several all cavalry battles. Of these the Parthians field three cataphract elements and nine light horse giving them an equal number of knight class troops and nearly double the number of light horse. Only the Asavaran cavalry might prove troublesome.

II/69a Sassanid vs. II/37 Parthia.

Arable which included two gentle hills and two fields.

Game 1
Parthia as defender deploys between a low hill and the corn fields and facing them in an extended line are the Sassanid with their heavy cavalry deployed in centre with near even number of light horse on both flanks.

Taking care not to lose their alignment, the Parthians advance. The Sassanid launch both flanks first with the centre formation moving slowly forward.

In two turns the Sassanid have destroyed the entire Parthian right and ruptured enough of the left to send the enemy army in flight. Score 0 – 4 for Sassan.

Game 2
In this battle, the Parthians found themselves in similar terrain but this time kept made good use of a low hill whereas the Sassanid formed up in the same manner as before (three divisions).

The Parthians, thirsting for revenge noted the reluctance of the Sassanid to advance and by the second turn struck first sending a number of Sassanid units back on their heels. By the following turn, the score was even at 2 – 2.

Seeing the prowess of their King, the Sassanid redoubled their effort sending the Parthian leader off the field and with that, the rest of the army fled off the field. Score 3 – 4g for Sassan.

Game 3
The final battle was fought in a clearing of less than 800 paces between corn fields and low hills which would quickly become a killing ground.

In the thick of action, this time it was Ardashir who was sent off the field. Despite the loss of their commander, the Sassanid were resilient in bringing the battle to an even 4 – 4 score.

Unfortunately, the next turn brought a tie breaker and a victory for Parthia. Score 4 – 5g for Parthia.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Historical Matches - Sassanid vs. Nomad Arab.

Historically, the Sassanid did deal with a number of Arab tribes that supported Parthia. For this series I selected the Camel mounted troops and not the blade option. There are two elements of blade supported by two of bow and these should be sufficient to hold off cavalry, but camel mounted will destroy knights on a recoil outcome which should keep the Sassanid on their toes.

II/69a Sassanid vs. II/23a Nomadic Arab  

Dry terrain which included two difficult hills, two rough ground and a dune.

Game 1
The Sassanid deployment avoided the rough ground and dunes by forming up to the right of these. The difficult hill ahead would certainly be filled with archers so a plan was devised to ‘pull’ the Nomad centre away from their supporting archers.

The Nomads had anticipated this and anchored their left flank and wheeled their line to face the Sassanid attack. The Nomads were able to counter the Sassanid effort moving around the hill but were less successful on the right.

The area between the hill and rough ground became a slaughter house with both commanders joining the battle. Despite the advantage of numbers the Sassanid were able to turn the battle in their favour. Score 2 – 4 for Sassan.

Game 2
For the second battle the Sassanid changed their deployment and formed two groups in place of the usual three as this would bring the light horse in close support of the heavy cavalry. The Nomad adjusted their own deployment by placing all their camel mounted troops on the left while the infantry would make good use of the rocky ground and hill.

Nomad skirmishers quickly seized a flanking position on the slopes threatening the Sassanid light horse. Nomad light horse moved in support to attack on the following turn. Elsewhere, signals were mixed (low pip score) and the Sassanid advance did not move as planned.

When the Sassanid attack on the right was finally delivered the Nomad infantry had steadily advanced to cut gaps in the left wing with their effective archery. With no means to turn the tide, Ardashir called a general retreat. Score 2 – 4 for Nomad Arabs.

Game 3
In the final battle the Sassanid were fortunate to deny the Nomad use of the favourable terrain. The Nomads did anchor their left on the rough ground, but their right was fully exposed on the open plain. To remedy this, a reserve of light horse and camel scouts formed a second line.

This time the Sassanid effort between wings and centre was better coordinated. On the left, the majority of light horse was able to flank the Nomad position drawing the reserve units away from the main battle. The Asavaran were able to contend with the camel mounted Nomad while the nobles led by Ardashir broke up the Nomad centre. Score 3 – 5 for Sassan.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Historical Matches - the Sassanid vs. Adiabene

This new series will match the Sassanid sub-lists versus each of their enemies. Some matches will have been done earlier, but there are always new cunning plans and ideas for terrain placement that need experimenting.

Sassanid sub-list ‘a’ represents the revolt led by Ardashir I and his initial conquests deposing first the Parthian overlord in the west, then marching north to subdue a number of realms, clash briefly with Rome before ending his first major campaign in Armenia.

The Adiabene were a number of city states supported Parthia during the final years. Their strength lay with a goodly number of archers supported by blade and javelinmen while the mounted troops are a mix of cataphract, horse archers and caravan guard.

II/69a Sassanid vs. II/22e Adiabene 

Hilly which included two difficult hills and two rough ground.

Game 1
Difficult hills cover one side of the battlefield leaving perfect cavalry ground for this battle. The Sassanid formed up in their standard formation of heavies in the centre with horse archers extending both flanks. Having fewer cavalry, the Adiabene make use of the rough ground and difficult hills to deploy their foot troops in and what light horse are available, these deploy to the open flank.

The Sassanid seized the initiative to switch their effort and envelop the open flank while the remainder of the cavalry move slowly forward. Adiabene infantry now hold both hills with archers and skirmishers and are making their presence felt.

The Adiabene archers cause no casualties but do send cavalry formations back. To compensate for the increase range, the Adiabene line moves slowly forward while firing their bows. The Sassanid effort on the left flank proved effective and soon they will sweep down on the Adiabene right flank.

Losing the right flank and more troops from the centre, the Adiabene commander signalled for a general retreat. Score 2 – 5 for Sassan.

Game 2
The Sassanid was fortunate to catch the Adiabene forces in the open as the terrain to their rear would have been a nightmare for a cavalry force to fight in.

At the outset of the battle, the Sassanid placed their main effort on both flanks and refuse the centre. This left the Adiabene no option but to close the distance if they were to benefit from their archery advantage.

The tactic worked well as the Sassanid right flank were now free to roll up the open left flank of the Adiabene infantry and help score a second victory. Score 2 – 5 for Sassan.

Game 3
For the third battle, the relative positions were nearly the same, that is the Adiabene army were again caught in the open , however, the Sassanid were slightly inconvenienced by the rough ground and hills.

 The Sassanid modified their battle plan to concentrate their effort on their right flank and entice the Adiabene army forward in the same manner as the previous engagement.

This time the Adiabene archers improved their skills and were rapidly cutting down troops and joining in close combat against the Sassanid. The emboldened Adiabene were quickly the masters of the field. Score 4 – 1 for Adiabene.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Difficult Hills – completed project.

The mountain tops are painted in two styles, one for greener areas and the second for dry regions. Adding trees to the hilltops would be the final step and for these I purchased a bag of fir trees from my local supplier. The twenty pieces varied in scale such that half were not really usable (11cm) and there were not enough of the smaller types to use.

The problem was solved by clipping the tops off the larger trees as seen in the second photo. The ‘trunk’ was simply the wire centre and bristles tightly rolled up. The lower piece was re-shaped and will be based with others for my ‘forests’.

As you will note from the previous photo, the fir trees have a shiny dark green colour. This was changed to a light green shade by brushing white glue on the bristle tips and dipping the tree in a bag of Woodland Scenic turf (light green). The trees are glued to the mountain tops and I applied sparingly some electrostatic grass to add contrast.

 Investigating photos of ‘arid’ landscapes actually showed very little vegetation so I sprinkled some electrostatic grass to finish the pieces. The hill pieces were done a year ago and I had not realised my colour preference for flocking had change, so that will need some attention to bring consistency to the feature.

Next project is a new DBA game mat.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Difficult Hills

At the moment I am refurbishing a number of collections to bring them up to a current standard and with the large number of historical games much of my terrain collection is experiencing the same process. Difficult hills are currently progressing through a third generation;

...from a ‘layer cake’ style, a sculpted style.

 Since DBA 3.0 I have discovered the effectiveness of medium and smaller terrain features over the larger pieces; fields (plough) and hamlet (BUA) are now 2BW x 3BW on average or slightly larger.

Regarding hills, I found it expedient to leave the larger pieces in their boxes and used the smaller low hills and add ‘rock’ to symbolise these as difficult. This worked fine until we started using armies that could use both difficult hills and rough ground. This hit a snag as there was not enough of the rock scatter material for both terrain features. Hence the third and hopefully last generation of hill type.  

The symbolic pieces are now larger which will nicely define the type of hill. The pieces will be finished as two types to serve in arid climes and the greener zones of Europe. A few small scale trees will be fixed to the pieces to avoid a bald rock feature.

These should be finished this weekend and ready for use in our next games. 

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Armenia - Between Two Empires (part 2)

Armenia - A Timeline
From 500 - 627 AD

More than sixty years had passed since the last major conflict between Persia and Eastern Rome, but the Anastasian War (502 – 506) was to become the first of many. From her major staging point (Nisibis) Persia had seized a number of key fortresses which were eventually re-taken during the long struggle.

A brief armistice was made to counter the Hunnic invasion of Armenia. Two years later a negotiated peace treaty was signed and Rome sought to correct the military shortcoming on the frontier by building a major base at Dara to counter Nisibis.

The duration of the peace treaty ending the Anastasian War was set for seven years, in reality it lasted for twenty. A question of Persian royal succession and the defection of the Iberian King Gourgen broke the peace. At the opening of the Iberian War, little fighting was done between Byzantine and Persian troops as allies were recruited to serve both sides; Huns fought on both sides in the north and Arabs in the south. 

Justinian succeeds to the throne and to effectively defend the eastern borders Western Armenia was reorganized as a military zone which included First, Second and Inner Armenia. The former Armenian regiments now became part of the Imperial military thereby eliminating the civil administrative functions held by Greek and Armenian nakharars.

To counter the Persian threat in the north (Armenia) and south (Mesopotamia), Justinian divided the magister militum of the East in two a creating a separate magister militum of Armenia. The victory at Dara (530) followed by a defeat at Callinicum (531) forced Justinian to re-open negotiations.

The Persian King Khavad dies and is succeeded by his son Khosrow I who concludes a treaty with Justinian. Justinian returned to the reorganization of Western Armenia intent on making it a province within the Empire. No longer sub-divided, Armenia now became one province and the institution of new laws were clearly designed to integrate Western Armenia into Byzantine authority.

The reduction of nakharar authority and increased taxes stirred discontent in Western Armenia. Key figures among the Armenian royal houses combined their forces to begin an insurrection. They managed to sweep the Byzantines out of Western Armenia, destroying a number of Imperial regiments. The revolt was crushed by the arrival of a large Byzantine force capturing many Armenian nakharars to be either executed or exiled.

In Persian Armenia, similar changes were taking place; heavier taxes and economic and political exemptions for the nakharars were greatly reduced. The Persian Marzban Souren provoked the masses by erecting religious shrines. In response, the Armenian chiefs sought the assistance of Byzantium to liberate Eastern Armenia if they rose in revolt.  

At the outbreak of the rebellion, the Marzban Souren was slain sending other Persian officials and soldiers to flee. Resistance continued for two years against Persian forces without Byzantine aid forcing key Armenian to Constantinople to renew their plea.

 With the Huns renewing their activity on Persia’s eastern frontier, Byzantium declared war against Persia.
After seven years, the Byzantine were less than successful forcing them to seek peace with Ormuzd IV. The terms of the treaty did not satisfy Ormuzd IV, so hostilities were renewed.

Byzantine fortunes turned for the better with the new emperor Maurice. Invading Persia, the war was brought to a successful conclusion and supporting the claim of Khosrov II restored him to the throne in 591.

In return for Byzantine aid, the new Persian King gave a major part of Armenia extending its eastern border from Lake Van to Nissibin. As part of the agreement Armenian soldiers would be relocated to other parts of their respective empires in an attempt to diffuse any future friction.

Maurice is assassinated by the usurper Phocas, which gave the Persians an opportunity to denounce the treaty of 591 and reclaim lost territories. Persia successfully occupied Syria and Egypt but Byzantine fortunes returned when Heraclius seized the throne in 610.

Heraclius’ first attempt to regain a foothold in Armenia was less than successful, but a second campaign two years later swept the Persian army from the Armenian highlands to the Tigris winning a decisive victory. The reverses in the field generated disorder among the Persian elite prompting the assignation of Khosrov II. His son, Kavad concluded a new treaty and with it a greater part of Armenia passed into the Byzantine Empire in 627.

Map: Armenia maior, Colchis, Iberia, Albania source


Procopius; Dewing, H. B. (trans.). History of the Wars.  Books I–II.
Armenian Military in the Byzantine Empire by Armen Ayvazyan
Belisarius the Last Roman General by Ian Hughes.
History of Armenia by Vahan M. Kurkijan.
Iranica Online various articles
Byzantine Military blog, various articles on Byzantine and Armenian topics.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Armenia - Between Two Empires (part 1).

Armenia - A Timeline
From 361 - 499 AD

Shapur II claims Mesopotamia and Armenia forcing Arshak, King of Armenia to flee. Loyalties of the Armenian nobles are split between accepting Persian dominance or remain with the West. King Arshak meets with Constantius, but the emperor dies before the conclusion of any agreement.

 Julian, now emperor, launches a campaign against Persia but dies during the campaign leaving his successor Jovianus to concede a humiliating treaty giving up gains made during the campaign and the cessation of support to Armenia.   

The Roman Empire now split in two spheres, the Armenians renewed their appeal for assistance with eastern Rome. Negotiations stumbled over a number of issues including religious ones prompting Rome to conclude a treaty with Persia essentially leaving Armenia to her own devices.

Vassak Mamikonian continues the struggle against Persia devastating the districts of Sophene and Akilisene. The Persians pin Vassak in the province of Ararat and King Arshak makes an appeal to Shahpur for a reconciliation to which the King of Persia accepts. During the royal welcome and feast, King Arshak was seized and sent to the fortress of Oblivion (Anhoush berd) were he met his end.

 The son of the slain king and exiled in Constantinople, Pap returned to Armenia escorted by an Imperial legion. The Jovianus treaty, which had left Armenia to the mercy of Persia, was now revoked by Valens.

Under Roman suzerainty the young king had to overcome conflicts with unruly nobles and the recurring friction between Church and state. To resolve the issue, Theodosius the Great and Shahpur III concluded the partition of Armenia with the larger portion becoming a vassal state under Persian suzerainty and the smaller portion formed a Roman province.

Khosrov appointed King of Armenia by Shapur III exceeds his authority during his six year period and is replaced by his brother Vramshapouh. Vramshapouh won the confidence of Shapur III as well as of the pro-Roman party of his country. With the accession of Yazdegert I, Vramshapouh’s reign would confront new trials.

Abda, a fanatical Assyrian bishop, set fire to a Mazdeian temple in Susa. Overnight, the tolerance shown toward Christians is irreparably damaged.   

The new Persian king, Bahram V is confronted by Rome for the persecution of Christians in Armenia. His first expedition into Armenia under Mihr-Nerseh meets with defeat and Bahram V is forced to suspend operations. A peace treaty ensuring tolerance to both parties in each Armenia was signed.

Bahram V placed Artashir, the son of Vramshapouh, as the King of Armenia. Artashir proved incapable of coping with the intractable aristocracy and was summoned to Ctesiphon and later deprived of his title and power. Armenia was now reduced in status to a Persian province ending the 376 rule of the Armenian-Arshakid dynasty.

The Marzbanate
Armenia was now governed by Marzbans. Nominated by the Persian King, a Marzban was invested with supreme power, but he could not interfere with the age-long privileges of the Armenian nakharars which included the retaining an army to protect their domains. To an extent, the province of Armenia enjoyed certain autonomy; maintaining its own courts, schools and maintaining a military force. The question of religious freedom became a source of friction during a number of periods as Christianity was seen to bring Armenia closer to Byzantium. On three occasions this escalated to a situation requiring excessive methods to control.

King Yazdegert II (438‑457) was set on a path to revive the empire of Cyrus and to place all Asia under Persian influence. He began with repudiating the Hundred Years' Treaty of 420 and invaded the Byzantine territories of Mesopotamia destroying a number of cities, burning churches and seizing captives.

Unable to counter the Persian threat, the Emperor Theodosius II concluded a peace treaty which included the surrender of Persian Christians who had taken refuge in the Byzantine domain.

Yazdegert II now campaigned against the Kushans. The long struggle ended after dealing the Kushans a severe defeat at Marvroud, near the River Murghab.  Next, Yazdegert II blocked the passages through the Caucasian Mountains to stop the incursions by the Mazkouts or Black Huns. To do this, the great wall called the Jora Bahag or Gate of Jor-Derbend was re-built.  

Returning to internal issues, Yazdegert II viewed the Christians of Armenia as a problem as their ties with Eastern Rome exerted an influence over the northern territories including the mountain Kingdoms of Iberia and Albania.

Against the advice of counselors, Yazdegert II imposed heavy taxes and appointing Mazdeian mages to key judicial posts. This did not hasten the result expected so an edict was made forcing Armenians to ‘give up’ Christianity. An assembly of bishops and nakharars rejected the edict forcing Yazdegert II to call the chief dignitaries of Armenia to Ctesiphon. Threatened with imprisonment the delegation returned to Armenia accompanied by 700 magi who were given the task of converting the entire country in twelve months. The experiment proved unworkable and in July the peasants of Douin rose in revolt driving the Mages off.

Yazdegert II had rushed an army to Trans-Caucasia to block any assistance from those parts. The Armenians gathered forces to defend key locations and sent a delegation to Constantinople for aid. Not wanting to antagonize the King of Persia, Constantinople refused aid as it was too occupied with a major threat coming from the Huns.

A civil war ensued with pro-Persia followers from central Armenia faced a pro-West faction lead by Vardan. The conflict turned against Vardan who sent a last appeal to Yazdegert II pledging Armenian loyalty if religious freedom could be observed. Returning from a less than successful campaign against the Kushans, Yazdegert accepted the reconciliation from Vardan and declared a general amnesty.

The reconciliation was received with mixed feeling by the Nationalists and their suspicions proved correct as hostilities resumed in the spring with Imperial troops under Mihr-Nerseh crossing the Arax River to seize the Caucasus defiles blocking any assistance by the tribal allies of the Armenians.  

Now isolated, the Armenians faced their greatest crisis as the Persian King had been assured of the absolute neutrality of the Byzantine government. Despite the bleak outlook, Vardan and his colleagues assemble all their forces for a final confrontation in the vicinity of Artaz. 

On the plain of Avarair an outnumbered Armenian army met the Sassanid host. The result was a Pyrrhic victory for the Sassanid as the Armenians remained defiant and continued the war. Confronted by pressing issues elsewhere, Yazdegert II ordered the Marzban Muskhan to cease hostilities and declare a general amnesty. Unconvinced of its sincerity, the war continued with much guerilla activity with the Persians suffering a number of setbacks. Another solution was needed.

To resolve the conflict a number of pro-Persian Armenian leaders responsible by starting the conflict through their treacherous actions, they were summoned to Ctesiphon for trial. Those found guilty were stripped of their offices and imprisoned.

During this period, the Kushans made another incursion into Persia prompting Yazdegert II to ready a third expedition. This met with a number of reverses including friction within the army and the King being chastised by the Magi for the offenses committed in Armenia.

Peroz, the eldest son of Yazdegert II ascended the throne in 459 and used persuasive means to bring the Armenians into the state religion. Showered with gifts and promotions King Perez lured new followers that many Armenians viewed the rise of a pro-Persian party as a serious threat.

King Vakhtank of Iberia (Georgia) revolted against Persia which moved Armenian nakharars (nobles) to urge Vahan to join the Iberians which he did. Hearing of the revolt, the Persian Marzban eluded capture but lost possession of the treasury. In the four years following, the Armenians were victorious in a number of engagements; Agori, Nersehapat, Erez and Shdev and guerilla warfare continued in not only Armenia but also in Iberia.

 King Peroz dies during his final campaign against the Hephtalites. Succeeding to the throne of his brother,

Valash resolved the Armenian question leading to the Treaty of Nuvarsak. This set a compromise between the court of Ctesiphon and the Armenian clergy and nobility. Vahan was appointed Marzban (485 – 505) affording Armenia a period of peace and prosperity. In contrast, Persia was occupied with pressing issues; internal unrest and conflict against Byzantium. 

Map: By Cplakidas - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,