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Subject: Hydaspes Battle Day rss

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Philip Sabin
United Kingdom
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Yesterday we held another very successful Society of Ancients Battle Day, with no fewer than 16 different refights using different rules systems, as shown in the picture below. This year's focus was Alexander's victory over Porus's Indians at the Hydaspes river in 326 BC. We started the day with a talk and discussion session led by myself and Duncan Head, after which we got on with the refights themselves. Sadly, my usual collaborators Eric and Alan could not make it to this event, but Eric sent his lovely 28mm figures, so we were able to create the set-up shown in the foreground of the picture below and conduct two leisurely Lost Battles games.



In the first refight, both sides advanced in their right and centre, and fighting soon spread along the line, with Alexander reversing the turn order on turn 3. The unengaged Indian right centre pushed forward into the gap in the Macedonian line, masked by Alexander's allied horse archers. Meanwhile the Indian centre ground away at the outnumbered Macedonans and managed to shatter two phalanx units, as shown in the picture below. However, on turns 4 and 5, Alexander and the Hypaspists smashed through their opponents and the Macedonian horsemen curved round behind the Indian line. When Coenus's cavalry finally shattered the Indian horse on the other flank, these multiple blows panicked the remaining Indian forces. The Macedonians won a clear game victory by 101 points to 82, mainly because most of their veteran units remained fresh.



In our second game, the Indians advanced their infantry and elephants. but held back their cavalry and chariots to try to delay the flank defeats which had doomed them in the first battle. Alexander and Coenus nevertheless charged forward with their horsemen, but the Macedonians also had to engage the enemy main line to prevent it turning against their cavalry, as shown in the picture below. On turn 4 it began to rain, hindering the Indian archers, but the elephants still slowly battered their way through, shattering the Macedonian centre and left centre and pushing on to dominate the middle of the battlefield. Meanwhile, Alexander and Coenus broke through and curved round behind the Indian line, breaking its left centre on turn 6 and panicking the remainder on turn 7. This time their losses in the more protracted struggle had been much more severe, and after a tense calculation, the result turned out to be an extremely narrow Indian game victory by 103 points to 102.



Both refights proved very popular, and each one had several players and spectators who soon grasped how the various rules worked. Although there was no repeat of the historical leftward redeployment of the right wing Indian cavalry, pursued by Coenus's horse, the rest of the battle felt very authentic and neatly captured the hard-fought Macedonian victory. The continued swapping back and forth of the Fortunes of War marker from rule 9.5 was an especially popular element to mitigate random variation, and we now use this optional rule routinely in our refights.
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Dave Daffin
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I'd like to say a massive thank you to Professor Sabin for his tutoring and guidance during the Lost Battles Hydaspes refights at the SoA Battle Day.

Lost Battles is a game I've owned for a number of years since it came out, but frustratingly and shamefully, I had only managed to play one game solo, the battle of Marathon, up until the games at the Battle Day.

I was able to play on the side of Alexander the Great's Macedonian army in the first game, supported by Charlie who commanded Coenus's force, and then on the side of Porus's Indian Army in the second game.

I felt the weight of responsibility of playing Alexander in the first game, and may have initially played a little cautiously, protecting Alexander before the big breakthrough on the right. Coenus (Charlie) was a great supporting Commander, and it was great to be able to play the game using Phil's knowledge of the various bonuses and penalties to make the game go smoothly, if not a little slowly (sorry about that!). The first game (ending in turn 5) took about 75 minutes.

In the second refight, after repositioning both flanks to face Alexander's forces, I decided to push the centre forces forward to meet Alexander's infantry units. Charlie (now playing Alexander with the help of Baird) rushed forward with Alexander on the right flank, while Baird did the same with his forces on the left. I felt I'd made a great tactical error, though my plan was to breakthrough in the centre and take Alexander's Key Zone, hoping that splitting Alexander's forces could severely affect Alexander, providing my flank could hold off long enough.

The rain seemed to affect Charlie's rolling, as his infantry in the centre failed to hit Porus's army quite a number of times! Meanwhile, I was managing to cause a few of Alexander's units to become spent, and even shattered a number. The 'Favour of the Gods' was called upon by both sides a number of times during this tense refight. Having left a couple of elephants to absorb Coenus's attacks, Porus's levy archers had a chance to shatter Alexander's veteran light infantry and veteran phalanx in his Key Zone, which I'd been aiming to take. However, the clouds were rolling in but the dice were not rolling kindly, and even the favour of the Gods didn't help on this count. The two elephant units attacked Coenus's force for two hits, thereby requiring two rally rolls. He survived!

With the rain returning again, Alexander punched into the rear of Porus's forces, causing a complete rout of the Indian army, with Porus withdrawing swiftly. The game ended there on turn 7, this one having taken about 130 minutes!

(Although the Indian's had fled the battlefield, Alexander's army was severely battered. He could not raise his army's morale to carry on further into India, and Porus had achieved a significant moral victory.)

I was shocked to discover in the tallying of points that Porus had actually achieved a Narrow Game Victory, by just one point!

What a fantastic game! Both refights felt like 'real' battles, and the way things happened seemed quite feasible.

I was 'spent' at the end of the day, but it was great to be able to play the game face to face, and to learn the rules, modifiers and bonuses correctly and have the feedback you just don't get when playing solo.

I'm so motivated now to get on and play the Empire campaign game, and use Lost Battles to decide the outcome of the major battles.

Thanks again to Phil, and my opponents and collaborators, for a fantastic day out!
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