Opening scenario game for Year 2021 at the warren. First Saturday of January, the warren game room staged the Clash of Empires (COE) 28mm historical Battle of Dara 530 AD, displaying John’s newly painted Sassanids vs. the Late Romans (Byzantine) collections of David and WR. Seven players came to the game warren, two travelled down from the central valley region of California, two up from Long Beach.
You Tube Battle of Dara 530 AD Part II link. A 14 minute video showing the battle plans and conflict outside the city walls of Dara in530 A.D.. This is a two part video, the first part discusses the ancient political scene, before the battle, between the two empires if interested.
Army Rosters: First the Sassanids with COE 5,665 points in their field army deployed before Dara: Sassanid Roster Dara 530AD (.xls) file with unit data, weapons, morale etc..
Unit of Zhayedan Immortal (12x miniatures) cavalry.
Four units of Savaran (Clibanarii) (12x or 10x) cavalry each.
Parthian horse archers (12x) cavalry.
Three units of Persian / Median infantry (28x) each with half bow / spear formation.
Two units of Paighan spear infantry (24x) each.
Three units of Persian archer skirmishers (15x) each.
Unit of Subject slingers (10x).
Three Indian elephants / howdah and two archer crewmen each.
The Late Roman or Byzantine army fielded a smaller force overall at COE 4,666 points: Late Roman Roster Dara 530AD (.xls) file with unit data, weapons, morale etc..
Unit of Bukellari Bodyguard (12x miniatures) cavalry.
Unit of Bukellari (12x) cavalry.
Unit of Comitatensis (10x) cavalry.
Three more Comitatenses (10x) cavalry each.
Heruli (10x) cavalry (flanking unit).
Hun cavalry skirmishers (10x).
Massagetae cavalry skirmishers (10x).
Three Limitani infantry (22x) each, with spear and bow mixture.
Three Psiloi skirmisher infantry (12x) each; two units w/bow, one w/javelin.
City wall Psiloi archers (20x) manning the Dara walls.
Deployment: Deployments for both sides followed the historical record, just allowing the Late Roman or Sassanid player teams to shift specific units, but not types of units, in their right, central, and left flank zones. Sassanid army had to divide their cavalry units between the two flanks and place all infantry in the center of their battle line. Only the Sassanid elephants had freedom of zonal deployment. For the Late Roman army a similar deployment with two exceptions. The Heruli cavalry is placed in ambush (see ambush rule below) and the Bukallari Bodyguard cavalry, with one other cavalry unit, placed before Dara city walls, behind all the Late Roman infantry likewise placed in the center. The remaining Late Roman cavalry is then equally divided between the two flanks, deployed behind the trench or ditch position. Review the following deployment photographs for more clarity.
Ambush: Historically the Heruli cavalry “popped out” from a hidden position and flanked the Sassanid cavalry advance on their right flank. To represent this action, the Sassanid player team wasn’t told of the Heruli unit hidden off table. Both armies weren’t allowed to deploy any units in the 24″ table flank edge at scenario start or move into that special 24″ wide zone till the Heruli unit appears. Starting with Turn two or later, the late Roman player team can deploy the Heruli cavalry in the small valley on their left flank, at least 40cm from any visible Sassanid unit, or out of sight if closer, and then move the Heruli unit into the scenario battlefield. Normal missile fire permitted on deployment turn.
Terrain: Terrain for the scenario battlefield was open ground with rough hills aligning both table flanks. Palm trees dotted the open ground pass just for show, having no impact on movement or visibility. Belisarius’ “trench or ditch” causes movement loss of 4 cm, and no charge movement or double time pace of march across. Additionally, in COE combat resolution, the trench or ditch adds one to the defender, positioned directly behind the obstacle, only to break any “tie” combat resolution result.
With the deployment set up completed, a quick player briefing provided information about both armies, their strengths and weakness. Quick review of the COE game rules and player army selection. Team Sassanid fielded John (center), Anastasia (left flank), and Tim (holding down the right flank). WR (right flank) lead his player team of Frank (center) and Don (holding the left flank). David today played the umpire for the scenario and helped both sides conduct the game mechanic flow.
Victory conditions: Sassanid army wins if they can have units near the city wall gate before the end of scenario turn ten. Late Roman win by preventing the Sassanid control of gateway (nearest unit rule). Otherwise, if either army goes over their army threshold for army morale, then the other side wins.
Turn One: Little action except for the Sassanid army, with John in command, advanced across their entire front. Long range bow fire between the armies. On the Sassanid right under Tim their two Savaran cavalry and Parthian horse archers fired arrows into the foremost Massagetae cavalry skirmishers behind the trench work or ditch. Same on the Sassanid left flank under Anastasia, the cavalry archers dropped arrows around the Hun cavalry trotting about. A couple of miniatures removed on both sides, after the Massagetae and Hun cavalry returned archery fire. Looked impressive, lots of dice rolls, but little effect overall.
Turn Two: The Sassanid cavalry halted on both flanks, aimed, and drew back their bowstrings. This time the effect was a hailstorm of arrows. The foremost Massagetae cavalrymen fell in group piles, then quickly bolting to the rear from heavy losses. Nearly the same with the front line Hun cavalry on right flank, losses taken, but morale held under the barrage of massed arrows. Sassanid cavalry is very expensive points wise, but their archery firepower caught several players unaware it seems, including WR.
Some archery payback. Don edged his two Comitatenses unit alongside each other and fired upon the Parthian horse. Down went many Parthian riders and they, like the Massagetae before them, bolted to the rear. In the center, the Roman Psiloi skirmishers moved forward to pinprick the advancing Persian/Median infantry or skirmishers before them.
Turn Three: After the stationary arrow storm, the Sassanid cavalry wings trot forward into close range before the trench work ditch. Composite bows send arrows into the Roman foremost ranks. Camel teams bring up more arrow bundles to resupply the armored Savaran cavalry. Even the elephant archers atop the walking beasts add in their two arrows worth. More Huns drop from the saddle, even the Bukellari cavalry on the far right see members fail from their horses as WR rides his general up to the unit.
In the center the Sassanid massed infantry continue their advance forward. Skirmish fire increases between both armies, occasional hit drops a miniature.
On the Sassanid right flank the same. Even without the Parthian horse archers, the ranked Savaran cavalry and their composite bows find close range targets in the Comitatensis ranks. Down go the Roman cavalrymen, half a unit entirely wiped out. Still…. they hold barely before the armored cavalry approaching. See the pressure, Frank releases the Bukellari Bodyguard regiment to reinforce the left flank, before the Heruli ambush appearance, and the reserve Comitatensis unit to the right flank. The battle will be won or lost on the flanks thinks WR.
Don sees they are being shot apart just standing in their ranks, the reduced left flank Comtatensis regiment charges home over the trench work ditch, directly into the surprised Savaran cavalry. Defensive archery fire reduces the “valiant or foolhardy” Comitatensis unit to under combative effectiveness, so its all in now or tabletop removal time. Kontos lowered, they crash into the Sassanid ranks. Horses and riders drop to the ground, many not to rise again. Nearby generals shout orders to “control” the mob of riders jabbing and swinging sword or kontos. A “hung” battle astride the trench work ditch as the combat resolution ends for the turn.
Meanwhile in the center, as both sides close to javelin range with their skirmishers, the horn is sounded for a sharp charge. The javelin armed Roman Psiloi charge their opposite number of Persian archers, hoping for a quick win over the bow armed infantry.
Turn Four: The center Sassanid infantry just keeps coming forward. Rallying their shaken Persian archers behind the massed infantry, the Sassanid command orders the central Persian/Median infantry block to charge and chase off the aggressive Psiloi javelin men standing before them. Horns or drums sound, the Persians charge and “catch” the slow footed (no doubt winded) skirmishers for a crushing victory.
The Sassanid left flank cavalry now canters over the trench work ditch with kontos lowered, into the waiting kontos tips ranks of the Comitatensis and Bukellari cavalry ranks. The Huns give ground quickly to rally further towards the rear, having no part of the massed ranks of engaged cavalry. Riders fall on both sides, shear numbers forcing the Roman cavalry slowly backwards. In the rear the Comitatensis reinforcement from Frank arrives, ready to wheel left 90′ and support the growing right flank struggles.
The center infantry lines slowly close the gap between the armies. Arriving in composite bow long range, the massed ranks on both sides start to fire flights of arrows towards the opposite enemy. Here the Sassanids have advantage, their archers form half the infantry unit of 28 miniatures or 14 in number, while the Limitani have only 7 archers per unit.
Note: At this time WR should have remembered to stand up the Dara city wall Psiloi archers (20 in number). But in the heat of battle totally forget them for the scenario.To be complete, the Sassanids left off a small Subject slinger unit from their OOB.
But the big surprise occurred on the Sassanid right flank. In the next combat round the valiant “band of brothers” Comitatensis warriors pushed back the massed Sassanid Savaran unit before then. They even reduced the Sassanid ranks to one… while defeating every wound roll (armor save) against them.
Late Roman half of the scenario turn four…. The fighting on the Roman right flank continues with broken kontos, swords, fists, or rider grabbing rider. The Comitatensis unit breaks from fighting the massed Sassanid Savaran regiment. There are just too many of them and they have rank bonus. Sassanid Savaran cavalry give chase but the Roman cavalry out-distances their feeble pursuit. This leaves the reduced Bukellari regiment to hold back the Sassanid Immortals and another Savaran armored cavalry unit. WR’s general is in the thick of the fighting. Hold!…Hold!… push!… as the Bukellari line buckles under the increasing strain of combat. Anastasia’s general joins in the fighting, shouting to her Immortals. The hills nearby echo the sounds of combat.
As the Roman right flanks is hard pressed or routing to rally in the rear, the left flank miracle keep giving hope for the Late Roman players. Don keeps hacking down Tim’s armored warriors while defecting the Sassanid efforts the strike back. Cracking from the terror or stress of combat, the Savaran regiment has enough of Comitatensis deadly swords and breaks ranks. The free hack chase is on…
The flanking Heruli Huns arrive riding up their entrance valley and burst upon the open battlefield. Surprise in the Sassanid player team. Where did they come from?
Turn Five: Both right flanks, for both sides, look battered and in danger of collapse. WR losing too many in his Bukellari regiment and Tim has fleeing units to rally. Sassanid pressure and new charges crash into the Roman right. A ugly turn for team Roman leads to the rout of the Bukellari.
Revenge approaches. The former Comitatensis and Bukellari regiments are no more, fleeing from the tabletop. WR’s leader lost in the fleeing ranks. But the newly arrived reserve Comitatensis, armed with kontos and shield, prepare to charge into the advancing Sassanid cavalry. The trumpeters sounds, the trot changes to canter, then full charge. Impact! Down goes the leading Savaran regiment front rank, kontos broken with the fallen. Little reply given, the Savaran regiment bolts quicker to the rear than the pursuit. Seeing the disaster, the Immortals halt, then fall back from the blood howling Roman cavalry. Flank stabilized for the moment thinks the ghost of WR but there are still two Sassanid cavalry unit to contend with.
Tim’s Sassanid right flank slowly rallies up to confront the Roman advancing cavalry. Parthian horse archers shake into order as Heruli approach. Taunted about losing to so few Comitatensis chasing them, the battered Savaran wheel about to confront the Roman pursuit. Meanwhile the elephant crosses the trench work ditch slowly to face the Roman wing cavalry, as the remaining Savaran regiment advances under barrages of arrows, with a moving pin-cushion look. For Don, slightly shifting his cavalry, he hopes to anchor his flank and chase away the remaining weak Sassanid cavalry, thereby threaten the main Sassanid infantry line later.
Turn Six: So far from Team Roman viewpoint the left flank is holding, the center prepares for a fight, and the right, with a single cavalry unit, has to face down two Sassanid cavalry units. From the Sassanid viewpoint, their right flank is in shambles, the center is pressing into the Roman line soon, and their left flank needs a little reorganization to defeat the last Roman cavalry unit. That sums up the scenario so far, with more dramatic action to follow.
First up, Tim charged his rallied Savaran cavalry into the remains of the pursuing Comitatensis cavalry. Nope, they weakly charge in and the enraged Comitatensis rub out two more miniatures, routing the Savaran once again… for good this time. Parthians nearby only see the closing Heruli cavalry, bows out ready to shoot arrows. Except for one last Savaran cavalry alongside the advancing Persian/Median infantry, the Sassanid right flank is soon cleared from the battlefield. Tim might beat WR to the unemployed general office.
In the Sassanid left center, the nearby Savaran cavalry wheels right to face the open flank of the Limitari line behind the trench work. Only routing Psiloi archers run before them and the exposed Roman infantry. As the cavalry wheels into place, the Persian/Median infantry masses approach the Limitari standing behind their trench work ditch. Elephants and Paighan infantry spear hold the exposed flanks at each end.
Seeing the looming disaster if the Savaran cavalry charge home on the Limitari flank, the Roman reaction is calculated. The Limitari pivot to face the Savaran and open fire with their archers in front. meanwhile WR rode the last Comitatensis cavalry behind the Savaran as the Zhayedian Immortals are still two turns away (rallying in place) from engagement. Flanking archery into the rear, the Savaran cavalry lose three miniatures from direct bow fire, then fail morale test (25%+ loss in turn) and rout away. Roman luck still holds.
By wheeling the right Limitari unit to face the threating Savaran cavalry, the Roman center position is weaken. Three Persian/Median blocks of infantry vs. two Limitari, plus two Paighan spear units to add further support and elephants. Frank will have his work cut out to stop this Sassanid mass from reaching the city gate and scenario win. Would have been a bit easer if WR remembered to deploy the Dara Psiloi garrison archers on the ramparts.
Don has no mercy for the Parthian horse archers. They break from the Heruli arrow barrage and rout from the tabletop. As for the last of the Comitatensis warriors…. they just rally in place and look about, thanking any God that comes to mind for their survival.
Turn Seven: Back to the Sassanid left flank. The shaken Savaran cavalry rally up after routing from the sudden arrow storm. The left flank elephant continues to waddle forward, archers peppering the Comitatensis cavalry as the Zhayedian Immortals (and Anastasia’s general) get their act together and advance behind the Comitatensis.
In the center the Sassanid Persian/Median infantry arrive outside the trench work ditch, one unit even starts crossing the defensive position since the nearest Limitari unit is busy trying to hold the open flank. Paighan spear infantry advance to directly threaten the right hand Limitari with destruction. It looks even worse then before the Savaran cavalry approach earlier.
On the Sassanid “right flank” the sole elephant holds against the gathering Roman cavalry. But horses will not attack the lumbering beast. The last Savaran cavalry slowly advances to secure the infantry flank but slowly taking losses from the nearby Roman horsemen archers. Their job… be arrow magnet it seems.
Seeing the Zhayedian Immortal approach to their rear, WR has to charge to clear away the Savaran cavalry which just rallied up nearby. The Comitatensis charge home, meeting the countercharging Savaran cavalry once again in combat with Kontos. Meanwhile, the right hand Limitari again successfully perform a sharp turn back to facing the advancing Paighan spear infantry across the trench work ditch.
Turn Eight: Anastasia sees the opportunity. Her elephant charges the exposed flank of the WR’s Roman right flank Comitatensis unit. Morale totally falls to receive the flank charge, the Comitatensis break and the surviving Savaran cavalry give pursuit. Quickly overtaking the fleeing Comitatensis troopers, the quick removal of another WR’s cavalry units is complete. WR has no units left under his trampled general’s control. Unemployed general office awaits.
Out on the Sassanid “in name only right flank”, they have minor or revenge success. Finally some low life Persian archer skirmishers shoot arrows at the battered Comitatensis cavalry, two miniature fall, and the rest disappear from the tabletop. The Paighan spear set up position to guard the Sassanid right flank from approaching Heruli cavalry.
Seeing the Paighan holding ground, the Heruli approach to point blank range and let loose arrows into the massed spearmen ranks. Even with large shields, losses are taken from the archery. Massagetae edge forward to pepper the sole Sassanid elephant. More arrow wounds but mahout control is tight. Bukellari Bodyguard keep up the arrow storm on the Savaran cavalry, occasionally a rider falls in the Sassanid ranks. In the center, Frank thinks sudden attack to test Sassanid morale is needed. Charging his right flank Limitari over the trench work ditch at the Paighan massed infantry maybe cause other morale tests if broken. John sees the threat and flees before the charge with his Paighan unit then brings his flanking elephant into range for a charge next turn. Unfortunately, the rest of the Sassanid infantry holds firm across the trench work ditch facing Frank’s remaining Limitari.
Turn Nine: Looks a bit bleak on the Roman missing right flank. Only going to get worse as John charges the elephant into the right hand Limitari flank. The much reduced Savaran cavalry, along with the Zhayedian Immortals follows Anastasia’s general, move into charge range. Only a routing Psiloi archer unit will create a speed bump. A Sassanid Persian/Median infantry block crosses the trench work ditch between the Limitari units. They cannot control or contest the entire trench work ditch. The end is near…..
On the Sassanid right, Don decides to hold ground and let the Paighan spear charge him. Heruli have good weapon skill and the Paighan are just glorified levy spear. The Heruli kill more but the weight of numbers (ranks) wins the combat fight for this round.
Scenario end: With the Roman center line slowly being rolled up, the city gate almost in the control of Persian/Median infantry, there is little the Romans can do to reverse the flow of the battle before Dara. The game is called for a Sassanid victory. Congratulation to Team Sassanid: John, Tim, and Anastasia.
Summary: For the Romans only Don’s left flank was somewhat intact. Some losses taken, One Comitatensis unit wiped out and the Massagetae reduced to half strength. In Frank’s center two Limitari remained at scenario end, but their outlook wasn’t good. Routing Psiloi archers just added to the confusion. As for the Roman right flank…. nothing left. Two Comitatenses units wiped out, the Hun skirmisher routed, and WR’s general left on the ground after the Bukellari scattered or dead besides him.
Sassanid victory didn’t come cheap. Cavalry losses come to attention from both flanks. Tim saw his Parthian horse archers leave the battlefield, one Savaran cavalry wiped out, and the other just half strength in the end. John’s infantry center was intact but the Persian/Median infantry had losses from the Limitari archery. Anastasia lost one Savaran unit, another reduced to half, and the Zhayedian Immortals a bit more mortal from losses.
The scenario highlight…. the insane charge by the Comitatensis regiment and beating up one of Tim’s fresh Savaran cavalry units. Don rolled more armor save rolls to pull out that victory. A final look of the battlefield and where the units finished play.
Special thank you for David who acted as game umpire during play. Thanks also for Tim, John, Frank, Don, and Anastasia to drive to the game warren and play the Battle of Dara 530 AD scenario. Next ancient game in April (second weekend is scheduled), early pre-planning has the Successor armies taken the field for a historical battle.
Cheers from the Northridge game warren.
P.S. Some additional Dara material for the reader:
Article on the ruined city of Dara: Dara – Turkish Archaeological News
Background material on battle narrative: Byzantine Military – Battle of Dara
COE Sassanid Army list: Later_Sassanid_Sept_20th_2011 .pdf
COE Justinian Army list: Justinian_Byzantine_April_2011 .pdf