Wednesday, November 16, 2022

March of the Elephants - Age of Hannibal AAR

My first game of Saturday was a chance to play Little Wars TV's "Age of Hannibal" rules, which were recently updated to a second edition. 

The scenario was recreating the battle between Alexander the Great and King Porus of India, along the banks of the Jhelum River. 

Carl, who was running the game, had come up with a very clever pre-battle mini campaign to help randomize some of the game's setup. 

The two players commanding the Macedonian forces had to pick an area to cross the swollen Jhelum. Alexander's crossing was one of four king cards, placed at points A, B, C, or D. The Macedonians also had four noise cards, which represented Macedonian forces causing distractions. 

The Indian players (myself included) could use our lighter cavalry to scout Alexander's position. If we found him, the Macedonians would have to deploy first. But the Indian players also lost any units they used to scout the enemy's crossings. 

The Macedonians placed a lot of noise cards at point D, and a few at points A and B. We decided to have three cavalry units scout points A, B, and C, figuring that the noise at D was just a distraction. 

Our guess turned out to be right, and Alexander's crossing was revealed to be at point A (which included King Porus' camp). So the Macedonians set up first, and had limited cavalry reinforcements for the battle. 

The battlefield was wide open with some fields scattered around that didn't impede the armies' movement. 

The Macedonians set up their phalanxes in a long, thin line, with the river anchoring one flank and the Silver Shield hypaspists on the other. Alexander took personal command of his Companion cavalry, and some mercenary light horse ended the Macedonian battleline. 

The Indians had more troops of lower quality than the Greeks. We set up our main force in three lines; the elephants, covered by skirmishers, followed by two lines of archers. A group of Indian nobles took up the center with Porus, while charioteers and mercenary cavalry squared up against Alexanders' cavalry. 

The two lines of infantry (and elephants) slowly ground towards each other, with skirmishers unsuccessfully exchanging javelins at range. 

The cavalry (which I was commanding for the Indians), however, quickly got stuck in, to predicable results. While the chariots had bows and charge bonus, their poor combat modifier meant that the Companion cavalry had a massive advantage in combat, especially with Alexander in command. 

At best, they would act as a roadblock while the mercenary cavalry moved in from the flank. 

Which they needed to do in a hurry as the Companions gave out DMZ tokens like candy on Halloween. 

The elephants continued to surge forward, crushing the Macedonian skirmishers without taking any damage and only slightly losing cohesion. 

And then, pachydermal mayhem!

The phalanxes were much stronger against the elephants than we reckoned, and while the first grey tide forced the Macedonian line to bow, it certainly didn't break. 

As any good ancients rules should, damaged elephants in Age of Hannibal panic and move randomly until they can be rallied. They can go anywhere; back into your lines, into the enemy's lines or, like we had, directly into each other!

And then, a miracle. A lucky die role saw Alexander captured after the Companion cavalry unit he was attached to was routed. 

If King Porus' army could hold out, Alexander's captivity could mean a bright future for his kingdom.

The first wave of elephants had pretty much petered out without much damage on the phalanxes, who could recover fairly easily thanks to their good morale. 

Worryingly, another unit of Companion cavalry seperated from the line of phalanxes and started moving towards Porus' camp with the intent of rescuing Alexander. 

The second wave of elephants charge in, with similar results to the first. Those phalanxes are tough! But at least the rampaging elephants between the two armies kept the Macedonians from advancing, and the Indians could launch arrows in the gaps.

The Indian lines began to shift with the hope of creating a shooting gallery that might stop the Companion cavalry from getting to their commander. 

In the center, the Indian nobles clashed with the Silver Shields. While the Macedonians were better trained (like everything else in their army), the Indians had the numbers advantage. 

Unfortunately, it wasn't going well for my commands. Even surrounding the Companion cavalry couldn't stop them, and I was collecting DMZs left and right. 

The fight between the nobles and Silver Shields was a little more even.

With most of the elephants rampaging, the Indian archers tried to keep clear and sent volleys of arrows into the ranks of the Phalanxes. 

On the riverbank, the last Indian mercenary cavalry unit frantically chased after the Companion cavalry.

In Age of Hannibal, once an army's morale clock (which also determines how many moves their force can make) gets down low enough, they have to give out a number of DMZs to units on their side. 

We had quite a few, and used them to remove the elephants from the table, reasoning that they were as likely to charge into our lines as the Macedonians. 

However, the Macedonians were just as bloodied and also on the verge of collapsing. I managed to knock out another unit of Companion cavalry and brought in a fresh line of nobles into combat with the Silver Shields. The Companions along the far back were also caught by the Indian cavalry and took a hit in combat.

With time running out, Carl decided to call the game here. Both sides were battered, but Alexander's capture had tipped the scales in the Indian's victory. 

This was another great game. ADLG had put me off of non-grid based Ancients rules, but Age of Hannibal has brought me back. I will pick up a copy of the rules for my collection, and I could imagine using these if I wanted to start a Successors campaign with some other willing players. 

No comments:

Post a Comment