Late in the summer, in some unimaginable tide of events, travelling through space and time, armies of Middle Republican Romans and Middle Sassanid Persians met on the unnamed plains between a river and some fields. Nobody knew the reasons for this battle but nobody cared. The sight of their vicious enemies from another time was enough to make the soldiers’ blood boiling.
Persians outscouted the Romans by a massive 60%, which forced the latter to spread the legions along the whole front in order to be able to act on all possible directions.
Location of elephants was a bit of surprise to the Persians, but these had to be deployed before the last pair of superior Kushan cataphracts which – I guess – were even more surprising to the Romans.
Roman army pushed forward across the table, legions allowing elephants to jump from behind with clever moves.
Scutarii were left behind as they had little chance against a large cataphract unit.
Persians also marched forward. Right flank just enough to be in the charge range, centre with their bows and arrows ready, only the left flank was a bit hesitant seeing the elephants stampeding towards them.
It is not super common to see charges this early, but aggressive attitude of the Romans allowed Kushan allies to attempt some. Due to slowing by leves’ javelins only one cataphract unit managed to hit the enemy. Also the light horse rushed to meet the Numidians, who cautiously skirmished back.
One Roman cavalry charged in order to chase away Persian horse archers and Asvaran horsebowmen who felt not ready to commit to melee at this stage of battle.
Right Roman flank made full forward again to get to Persian cataphracts as soon as possible. A bit to the right Persian elephants were threatened by superior legionnaires, who potentially could cause them a lot of trouble, especially that archer screen could not cause significant damage. So the whole block stepped a bit back.
Persians could not make any fancy maneuvers, mostly due to the lack of colour cards, being in melee or simply hesitating to rush towards the stronger enemy units. Fighting on the right was hard with Kushans losing a base and Romans two. Shooting was not very impressive – but what to expect if you don’t take any skilled shooters to battle… Luckily, skilled Numidian horsejavelinmen were not in position to even attempt to shoot.
Turn three saw one Roman legion crushed by Kushans. Legionnaires routed and nearby Numidians followed to the relief of Kushan light horsemen who already felt the weight and precision of the Numidian javelins.
Left Roman flank was in big trouble so their general decided to push right and center even further.
Elephants were so bloodthirsty that they made one step too far, so cataphracts could position on their flank. However, with the incoming legion they were still not in very good mood, but at least they might hurt the elephants badly and then count on their own large numbers, their long spears and heavy armour to withstand a prolonged fight with the legionnaires, which would earn time for the rest of the army. As Persians were active the next turn, royal cataphracts eagerly presented their flank to the Roman elephants, knowing that they will move before the rampaging beasts and charge the legionnaires who rushed to catch the Persian elephants that were still on their rear gear, with the archer screen in front of them trying their best in finding gaps between the large Roman shields (actually they performed rather poor).
Meanwhile Roman cavalry in the center penetrated deeper into the Persian line and became the third possible victim of flank charges. Would the famous Asvaran finally decide to give them some serious beating?
Things were getting interesting!
The beginning showed several charges with rightmost cataphracts hitting Roman elephants in the flank while simultaneously being charged by the legion in the front, unfortunately they only managed to cause one wound on the elephants during the charge. The following melee was not a pleasant experience for them.
Royal cataphracts made a pulp of the legion which they managed to charge in the flank. Roman cavalry in the centre ran away, which put the not-so-corageous Asvaran in a very troubled position.
Another Roman cavalry got mad and made their run straight for the Persian elephants. Was that the thing that bards would sing about? Or rather a suicide move? Or maybe they just wanted to catch a flank of the royal cataphracts but forgot that these tanks don’t stop in place due to the enormous momentum?
Left Roman flank was no more as the Kushans trampled the remaining legionnaires who ran for their lives together with accompanying leves.
This turn saw some serious blows to the Persian army, as not everything went “as expected”.
Unfortunate Asvaran tried to run away from one charging legion but were too slow to evade the next one and got them in the flank – what a disaster! They managed to survive the impact and even turned towards the Romans for the melee but it did not help much. After sustaining heavy losses they fled the battlefield taking the nearby horse archers with them.
Persian elephants boldly took on the charging Roman cavalry only to get wounded by shoot&charge and then finished in the charge and melee combat… Consecutive KaB took out one base of the second elephant unit. Definitely a thing to remember.
On the left cataphracts could not stand against the combined force of legionnaires and elephants and routed, however they managed to reduce the pachyderms to a single base, which proved decisive later.
Romans had now free way to the poor Persian camp. Only a unit of Persian archers turned left in an attempt to intercept the elephants, but it was rather obvious that they wouldn’t make it in time.
Everything looked bad – three TuGs lost with a perspective for quick sacking of the Persian camp (counting as 4th TuG) and an elephant unit one wound from routing against a healthy unit of Roman cavalry preparing to charge them, not to mention the KaBs on the whole army!
On the Roman side, who already lost three legions – elephants and cavalry were one wound from breaking (but relatively far from serious danger), and one legion struggling against royal cataphracts.
I guess not many people would bet on the Persians after this turn.
Ahh – and for the less important things – the shooting duel between Kushan light horsemen and Roman leves resolved in mutual destruction…
Romans made everything to finish the battle in this turn, but sometimes even “everything” is not enough.
Elephants, threatened by Persian archers, charged the camp and caused one wound in charge combat. Not good not terrible…
But then, poor camp servants gathered their strength and managed to fight off the beasts in melee! They did not however have time to celebrate much as a Roman legion was closing in.
Roman cavalry charged the last base of Persian elephants and did nothing, while losing a base themselves – now you’re talking Jumbo!
Royal cataphracts finished their job with the legion in the middle.
The fate of the battle hung in the balance.
On the other side Kushans tried to exploit their advantage but were a bit slow in their efforts, especially that Gauls aggressively ran towards lighter units, chasing away Persian horse archers who ran through their Kushan counterpart killing a base…
The second of the two surviving Roman legions tried to push the asvaran towards the edge of battleground, and the latter had no other possibility than turning 90 degrees so their flight would take them in another direction, unfortunately on the collision course with the horse archers.
Roman legionnaires rushed in between the Persian camp tents, looting and killing. If this news reached the fighting Persian units, some would probably break, which would mean the Persian defeat.
Something had to be done quickly!
Kushan cataphracts managed to catch the Gauls in the rear and their devastating charge was truly devastating, but the infantry unit held their ground only thanks to their sheer numbers.
Archers had one job… to end the battle by dealing a single wound to Roman cavalry. And guess what – they missed.
Everything depended on the incoming melee phase.
Kushans did what they had to do – trampled the Gauls into the ground, while the last elephant on the battlefield finally smashed through the Roman cavalry.
That was more than enough to break the Roman fighting spirit and save the day for Persians.
Artworks by Johnny Shumate.
More reports to come!
Errata: the skirmishing horsemen on the right side of the Roman line were Spanish cavalry in cantabrian (not Numidians).