Thursday, 30 April 2015

House of Sassan –the elephant corps

According to the brief history given in DBA, the first use of elephants used by Sassan are dated at 337 AD, which these are not employed for the rebellion period or during the reign of Shapur I.

Despite their unemployment, these will receive the same treatment as the cataphract; cloth, head piece, the woodwork on the howdah and crew. 

The groundwork will be handled when all the figures have been refurbished. 

Final result

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

House of Sassan –the cataphract

The collection of Sassanid figures come from Old Glory and was a painted ten years ago. My painting skills have since then improved and I thought about enhancing these by adding more colour and details and so started with the nobles.

The cataphract (4Kn) appear initially from 225 AD onwards and as this project goal will carry to mid-3rd century I will here. The cataphract were given a coat of black so I could dry-brush bronze, iron or a mix on each base. Plumes, cloaks and harnesses would also receive a new splash of paint.



Charging my opponent

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

House of Sassan –the research

Gathering a list of opponents for this project, Rome’s eastern frontier saw a change of dynasty in the land of the Tigris and Euphrates from the Arsacids (Parthia) to the House of Sassan (Sassanid). Researching the history I found the rebellion an eventual overthrow of Parthia offered great potential as a campaign.

Most histories and the DBA 3.0 Army List benchmark 220 AD as the start date of Sassan, while I find the rebellion which began in Khir (200 AD), a province of Parthia of far more interest.

To find more about events leading to the turn of century I bought Rawlinson’s Parthia and The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars AD 226 - 363 compiled by M.H. Dodgeon and S.N. Lien. The latter is highly recommended and gives a wealth of detail and avenues for further investigation (Church records), while Parthia is a classic; it does not cover the twilight period as well as the early centuries.

Looking at the army list for Sassan (II/69), this is now divided into three sub-groups; a.) 220 – 224 AD, b.) 225 – 493 AD, and c.) 494 – 631 AD. The reader will note that Parthia (II/37) ends at 225 AD; this covers that portion held by Artabanus V.

List a) would cover the first two decades of rebellion rather well having nobles classed as 3Kn, Asavaran cavalry Cv and an adequate number of nomad horse archers LH.  

Thursday, 16 April 2015

May you be blessed with many allies.

Tonight's theme continued the Sassan rebellion in 220 AD against Parthia. This would offer an opportunity to experiment with allied contingents for both sides and as we would play two commands per side, an allied contingent within each command would give us ample testing.

2 x Command Parthia adjusted to 3 x 4Kn, 6 x 2LH.
1 x City State contingent; 1 x 4Kn, 1 x 3Bw, 1 x 3Bd.
1 x Armenian contingent; 1 x 4Kn, 1 x 2LH, 1 x 3Ax. 

2 x Command Sassan adjusted to 3 x 3Kn, 4 x 3Cv, 2 x 2LH.
1 x City State contingent; 1 x 4Kn, 1 x 3Bw, 1 x 3Bd.
1 x Arab tribe; 1 x 2LH, 1 x 4Bd, 1 x 3Bw. 

The battle was fought on the big table, so there was plenty of room for maneuver around five pieces of terrain, 2 x rocky ground, 2 x difficult hills and 1 x Oasis.

The deployment.
In the foreground, the Parthian CinC deployed the City State forces on the left where their archers and blade would secure the oasis. Directly behind, in a second line, was the light horse with a second reserve formation covering the open flank. On Parthia’s right the heavily armoured horse extended the main battle line and all light horse units covered the army’s open right flank. As this part of the battlefield offered little useful terrain features, the Armenian contingent were held in the second line as a reserve.

Across the battlefield, Sassan redistributed her forces giving Ardashir 14 elements including the City State forces while the young prince with the smaller command formed on the left; the noble cavalry in the second line and all the Sassanian light horse deployed further to the left to meet their Parthian counterpart. The Arab contingent was positioned to move into the area of rough ground and utilize their archery skill against the Parthians.

Opening moves.
Sassan, as aggressor was beleaguered with low pip throws during this phase, so closing with the Parthians would have to be a slow but well timed assault. Therefore, the original plan was scrapped and the main battle would focus on Ardashir’s effort to break the Parthian CinC’s command at the start.

This was done by positioning the City State allies first before moving forward. Subsequent bounds the line of nobles edged forward to allow Arsavan cavalry to extend the battle line. By the third bound the Arab contingent were in position to support.

With light horse superiority, the Parthians were content to seal both enemy flanks. On the left, between the oasis and difficult hills and on the right, light horse was positioned to take the Sassan light horse in flank if they moved forward. The armoured knights remained in position for several turns while this activity was taking place.

Turn four, Ardashir takes the initiative to attack the Parthian cataphracts. For the next four turns, the area between the oasis and rough ground would be the scene of the most grueling struggles; low pip score for movement, high score for melee with the following turn, high pip score for movement, low score for melee. Both sides were slowly inflicting casualties.

On the Parthian side, the City State contingent were content to hold the oasis and shoot out at passing Sassan cavalry, but this was not the case for the City State nobles (4Kn) who found themselves in the middle of a long struggle. As they could not form up with the Parthians, they found themselves spectators at the main event.

The young Prince.
On the Parthian right both sides were plagued by low scores such that the light horse were the only units to see action during the opening phase. The Parthian cataphract and Sassan Arsavan faced each other without moving.

By turn four, seeing the light cavalry of both sides skirmishing with no conclusive results, the young Prince moved his nobles from his reserve position to swing around the Arsavan line and move toward the junction between the Parthian light horse and the line of cataphracts. The waiting Arsavan cavalry would see this as their cue and move forward, just like in the movies.

Sassan light horse was able to wrest an advantage from the Parthian light horse while the young Prince added a third LH to their total.

End game.
There were a number of bounds that Ardashir found himself alone facing three Parthian elements, yet each melee was successful in recoiling his opponent. The rest of the Sassan nobles were scrambling to emulate their leader, but only the name of Ardashir would be remembered in the poems.

By turn ten, Parthia was down three elements for each command and although Sassan losses were also three, his was the bigger command that would need five to reach demoralization.

The last bound saw three commands lose an element forcing Parthia to leave the field and another loss to the Ardashir’s command. The last was the only knight to recoil against enemy light horse.  

An assessment.
This was a long battle which I believe took 90 minutes to complete about 12 moves. This was very different than other cavalry battles, in fact, this had similarity to a legionnaire engagement; a hard slugging match lacking finesse.

Aside from that, the allied contingent (a double dosage) experiment worked well. Adding the extra City State or Armenian cataphract to the Parthian line did not pose a problem as Jan through high pip scores for his movement.

On the other hand, I found it expedient to place the allies in one position with little need later for movement. The City State forces remained in their position fighting off Parthian LH from turn three until the end of the game. The Arabs never moved from their rough ground position, however, the archers were the only unit engaged during the battle, but they did kill a unit of Parthian cataphract and send other units recoiling back. 

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Armenia - two commands in battle array.

Both commands are now complete. Being nearly identical with regards to colour scheme, the banners do reflect the pre-Christian period of the 2nd/ 3rd century AD.

2 x 4Kn, (including General)
4 x 2LH, 
4 x 3Ax, 
2 x 3Bw

Command One:

Command Two:

Friday, 10 April 2015

Armenia - the miniatures.

These pictured are Old Glory Armenian cataphract and the two packs ordered are enough for two commands (2 x 4Kn ea.). Three of the figures have shields and will make a separate command element for a later period or perhaps another army.

See illustration number 95 of Phil Barker’s The Armies and Enemies of Imperial Rome.

The horse archers are a mix of Old Glory Parthian and Sarmatian figures (4 x 2LH ea.). To add variation, I separated bow from the upper thigh to turn the angle of the bow to a horizontal position or lowered the bow so as to load.

The infantry are Old Glory Armenian javelin and bowmen.

The quantity of Cataphract and horse archers are enough for two commands. In the background are extra Cv and LH elements. In a few days these will be ready for varnishing and later ground work and flocking.

In less than a week, they will be ready for a number of test games against their most likely opponents; Rome and Parthia.


Thursday, 9 April 2015

Armenia in the 2nd/3rd century.

After a period of independence, followed by Roman rule, Parthia regained control over the province of Armenia by the late 2nd century. The situation was helped by an epidemic among the Roman forces which Parthia seized the opportunity to retake much of their lost territory in Armenia. This forced, the then client king Sohaemus to flee the country to Syria.

In 198 Vologases II assumed the Parthian throne and named his son Khosrov I as successor. Septimius Severus’ invasion of Parthia was delayed briefly to campaign in Armenia. Khosrov I was subsequently captured by the Romans, who installed one of their own to take charge of kingdom. However the Armenians themselves revolted against their Roman overlords, and in accordance to new Rome-Parthia compromise, Khosrov I's son, Tiridates II (217–252) was made king of Armenia.

After the collapse of the Arsacid Dynasty (221-227) in Persia, the conquest of Armenia became an objective for Ardeshir I. As part of reestablishing Persia’s former glory, Zoroastrianism was proclaimed the state religion which would become a source of friction in Armenia. In 252, Shapur I occupied Armenia forcing Tiridates II to flee; the immediate presence of the magi followed by fire temples would make it clear that Armenia was now part of the Sassanid Empire.

Shapur I installed his own son Hurmazd on the Armenian throne. When Shapur I died in 270, Hurmazd took the Persian throne and his brother Narseh ruled Armenia in his name.

In 285, Diocletian would wage a successful campaign against Persia and as one of the conditions for a peace settlement was the establishment of independent Armenia. This was conceded and in 287, Tiridates III was set as King of Armenia.

Tiridates III as ruler, was in possession of the western parts of Armenian territory. The Sassanids stirred some nobles to revolt when Narseh left to take the Persian throne in 293. Rome nevertheless defeated Narseh in 298, and Khosrov II's son Tiridates III regained control over Armenia with the support of Roman soldiers.

Compiled from a number of sites and Wiki.

I have found the capsule overviews, such as this one for Armenia a useful reference tool for devising scenarios our games centred on the 3rd century. Rome had a number of campaigns as well as Parthia and later Sassan Persia; these will offer some interesting introduction games. Of further interest are the kingdoms on the periphery of Armenia.

Useful reading:

Sasanian Persia, The Rise and Fall of an Empire by Touraj Daryaee offered some useful direction and prompted me to look to the smaller kingdoms of Kolkhis, Iberia, and Albania.

I had not realised how great a threat the nomadic tribes north of the Caucasus were until I read about the defensive measures that were set in place. Aside from the forts, some villages had no need of walls as each house was fortified. Somewhat reminiscent of the fortified manors of Roman Africa.


Friday, 3 April 2015

Pre-Islamic Arabs, part three - completed.

Both commands are now complete and ready for mayhem and empty promises.

Camel riders are the Colonial Ansar from Old Glory, dressed in similar colours as the foot and carrying shield. The standard is a simple circular emblem with coloured streamers tied underneath.
The two commands are slightly different, one have more reds and the other more beige tones.

Command One

Command Two

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Pre-Islamic Arabs, part two, the figures.

I have added the Arabs to this project to serve as allies for the major powers of the period. Again, the Internet has proven a useful source for information on the major participants, but offers little covering the Pre-Islamic Arabs.

What proved a useful guide was the BBC program In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg, the Great Arab Conquest. As a foundation for discussion of the conquests, the Pre-Islamic Period is described well enough to offer a good general direction.

This program can be found at YouTube:

(Oops. No longer available)

Most armies seen on the internet have an appearance fitting the Biblical period. By the 3rd century AD, interaction with Rome and Parthia certainly would have an influence on Arab dress.

For my taste, I found the Lurkio Later Moors fit the bill and have ordered enough for two commands. Now both sides can enjoy the headaches of having “friends”.

These have a mix of headdress, shield and clothing for both foot and mounted. None are mounted on camels, so I will use the camel mounted Ansar (Sudan range) and add necessary items to make their appearance similar.

Pictured above are the Lurkio Later Moors which I am using as Pre-Islamic Arabs. I actually need 2 x LH (including General) per command and these now have poles fixed to their bases.

Extra LH will certainly be handy for special scenarios or fill the ranks for an actual Later Moorish army. You never know.

The Arab foot figures, also from Lurkio, are a mix of bow, slingers and lastly javelin types, who will double as blade.