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Subject: Cunaxa x 3 rss

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Philip Sabin
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At the Warfare show in Reading yesterday, our usual team of Eric, Alan, Mark and myself ran three successive refights of the classic 401 BC duel for the Persian throne between Cyrus and Artaxerxes, as immortalised in Xenophon's eye-witness account. All three were very close games and attracted a lot of interest, with two visitors taking part on each side.



Artaxerxes' massive army deployed as shown above, far outflanking its opponents on the open flank away from the Euphrates, but hamstrung by the classification of all but two of its units as fragile levies. Cyrus's army, by contrast, had on its right the ten veteran infantry units of the famous '10,000' Greek mercenaries, with Cyrus himself leading his horsemen in the centre to attack his brother directly, as shown below. Cyrus has a fighting value advantage of 66 to 51 in this scenario, so he needs to scatter his opponents without suffering too many losses if he is to secure a handicapped game victory.



Our first refight saw Artaxerxes attacking bitterly in the centre, but being frustrated when Cyrus rallied no fewer than three successive hits. By the river, Tissaphernes failed in his charge against Cyrus' Paphlagonian light horse and pulled back to safety, while the main infantry lines on both sides advanced to engage, with Artaxerxes' right being held back by lack of commands as shown below.



The fearsome impact of the 10,000 soon made itself felt, and on turn 4 the wavering Persian left pulled back as happened historically, pursued by the eager Greeks. Meanwhile Cyrus's centre was gradually outflanked, but he still succeeded in panicking the enemy levies facing him and came within an ace of shattering Artaxerxes' own guard, as shown below. Artaxerxes escaped to the safety of his intact right wing, but Cyrus seized the enemy key zone, and when the 10,000 shattered two of the units facing them on turn 5, a poor morale roll carried away the whole enemy army. Both armies had suffered relatively light losses, and Cyrus achieved 66 victory points to Artaxerxes' 54, enough for a narrow game victory but two short of the margin needed for a clear game victory.



In our second refight, Artaxerxes learnt his lesson and decided to hold back his left to play for time against the Greeks, while advancing his right to outflank the enemy as swiftly as possible. This produced the 'revolving door' pattern shown below. The central contest was drawn out and very touch and go, with Cyrus being saved by three successful rally attempts and with Artaxerxes holding on thanks to good morale rolls and two successful rally attempts of his own.



Tissaphernes paid the price of boldness on turn 5 when he died trying to rally his guard against the Greek onslaught. On turn 6, Artaxerxes managed to panic most of Cyrus's levies, but this was swiftly followed by the panic of his own levies in the left and centre, producing the 'broken backed' contest shown below. Finally on turn 7, Cyrus' guard was shattered and carried him away, just before the same thing happened to Artaxerxes himself, accompanied by the surviving remnants of his army. Both sides scored higher than before in this longer and bitterly fought contest, but thanks to the extra 10 points gained by seeing off Cyrus and his guard before fleeing himself, Artaxerxes managed a narrow game victory by 85 points to 77.



With honours even as our final refight began, Artaxerxes repeated the tactic of advancing on his right while refusing his outclassed left. However, on the very first turn of fighting, he was rocked by a double blow as Tissaphernes again died rallying and as a very successful charge by Cyrus panicked all of Artaxerxes' own accompanying troops except his personal guard. Artaxerxes sought safety with his right wing as shown below (we noticed and rectified the overstacking on the following turn), but it looked to be only a matter of time before the 10,000 methodically reduced his left and then marched across to decide the stand-off on his right, thereby defeating him in detail.



Faced with this danger, Artaxerxes opted for the risky course of using all of his commands to turn his wavering left wing infantry and march them across towards his right on turn 5, as shown below. This exposed them to a flank charge by Cyrus' horsemen which could have ended the battle at a stroke, but they failed to inflict the single hit required. On turn 6, the pursuing Greeks finally caught and routed their elusive opponents, but good morale rolls allowed Artaxerxes' own troops to stand firm, and on turn 7 they inflicted no fewer than 6 hits on Cyrus' men, leaving him alone with his guard in his opponents' key zone. He was lucky that an all-out attack by his Paphlagonians managed to shatter the enemy light horse which had ridden around behind him, and that a low morale roll finally carried away the rest of the enemy army. The victory count was very tense and had to be repeated just to be sure, but it turned out that Cyrus, having seemed so dominant in this refight at first, had achieved only the very narrowest of game victories by 76 points to 74.



One could not ask for a more balanced set of contests, with nothing beyond a narrow game victory being achieved by either side. The game system mirrored well the actual Greek experience (documented by Xenophon) of constantly pursuing and putting to flight a series of elusive opponents. The death of Cyrus, which historically negated the Greek achievement, did not occur in our refights, but one can easily see how it could have done, given that each of the many rally attempts made by the various leaders contained a 1 in 12 chance of disaster (as Tissaphernes learned twice to his cost). All in all, this was a very enjoyable and fulfilling day, and several of the remaining copies of the boardgame rules and charts were snapped up by eager buyers. (For details of postal availability, see http://fifthcolumngames.co.uk.)
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michael connor
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This should certainly put to rest the notion(by some) that LOST BATTLES lacks visual appeal.
 
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Gav DBM
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Thanks for posting.

Any chance of explaining how you make your terrain squares as they look very good. Are they carpet tiles? How do you get rough look and attach your scatter material? I would love to know.
 
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Philip Sabin
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The tiles shown are just 500mm square carpet tiles. I dry brush in green and brown over the original buff colour to get a naturally variegated appearance. I then scatter aquarium gravel bought from a pet shop over the field on each occasion, collecting it afterwards using the dustsheet which we place under the tiles.

I also have a complete set of 300mm square cork tiles for the game. These are lighter, but more fragile than the carpet tiles. A couple of years ago, I started to create a set of 300mm square carpet tiles to get the best of both worlds. You can see the principles of construction at:

https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/992504/issus-refight-new-ti...
 
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