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Subject: A tense refight of Raphia rss

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Philip Sabin
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Having now learnt how to post pictures, here is a picture of the tipping point of my recent solo refight of Raphia. This is a classic 'revolving door' battle, with both sides stronger on their right than their left. Just as happened historically, Ptolemy had abandoned his collapsing left centre and relocated to his strong central phalanx. However, both sides were having problems prevailing even where they were strong. Antiochus on his right flank could not break through the reinforced enemy horsemen, and was forced to make a number of rally attempts. Meanwhile, Ptolemy's centre and right became almost entirely spent despite their numerical superiority.

On turn 5, Antiochus's men finally broke through in his right centre, but he had failed to remove all the enemy horsemen facing his own isolated and spent guard on the flank, and so faced the likelihood of being carried off the field by the enemy counterattack next turn. Despite this, he took the risk of advancing three units into the vacated Ptolemaic left centre zone, even though they would have enemies on both sides and so might well panic and flee if his own guard was shattered (as seemed likely).

On turn 6, Ptolemy's own troops on his right at long last saw off the refused enemy left, and stood poised to sweep round into the Seleucid camp and also to turn for a devastating flank attack on the wavering enemy phalanx. The Ptolemaic left flank horse duly hit Antiochus's guard, and it looked as if the resulting morale test would cripple the Seleucid right and decide the battle. However, Antiochus at this moment of supreme crisis succeeded in rallying his cavalry guard and so remaining on the field! The picture shows the situation at this key point half way through turn 6.



There now came a sweeping reversal of fortunes. Antiochus charged and easily shattered the remaining enemy horsemen. The resulting morale die roll of 2 would not have been catastrophic had Ptolemy not taken a risk the previous turn by accepting an all-out attack with one of his levy Egyptian phalanx units, so impatient was he to defeat the enemy phalanx as quickly as possible. That single spent levy unit panicked with a morale of -1, carrying away no fewer than six other phalanx units with a morale of 0 from the centre zone. Only the single fresh average phalanx unit remained in the zone, and as this sustained attack after attack from front and flank, even a successful rally by Ptolemy could not prevent it being shattered, sealing the doom of the army as a whole.

The Seleucids themselves had suffered heavily, with 4 units shattered and all but one of the rest spent, but thanks to their handicap bonus for their slightly inferior fighting value and also to their success in shattering no fewer than 8 Ptolemaic units, they achieved a victory margin of 115 to 69, comfortably in excess of the threshold of 34 needed for a major game victory. Had Antiochus failed that crucial rally roll, it could all have been very different...

The refight showed that, even when using historical deployments which channel tactics along historical lines, there is still plenty of room for key decisions such as how to manoeuvre individual units and where to focus precious commands. As shown by the dilemmas over advancing the Seleucid right centre or accepting that fateful Egyptian all-out attack, there are no sure things, and every decision carries an element of risk. It is this balance of skill and fortune which makes Lost Battles such an engaging system, and since the board game version is so quick to set up and play, you can always have just one more go to explore the 'might have beens'.
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