I was inspired from someone else's webmag tactica (Historical Tactics: The Battle of Marathon) and decided to write on by myself. It's purposes were to be published in our second issue, but since the Sigil is dead, it's going here. If you spot any historical inaccuracies, feel free to start a new topic to discuss (In the Off Topic Section probably. Game related material can be discussed in the Tactics forum).
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Historical Tactics: Battle of Gaugamela
Written By Dori
On the first of October 331 BC, Alexander marched his army across the Tigris and Euphrates without opposition, seeking to defeat Darius and the Persians. His army compiled of roughly 7,250 Cavalry and 40,000 infantry was well outnumbered by the waiting war host of Darius. His army nearly outnumbered Alexander’s force 5:1 containing 34,000 specialized cavalry, 200,000 Persian infantry, and 200 Indian scythed chariots. Although the chariots had played nearly no role in the battle whatsoever Darius had prepared the battlefield to maximize the charioteer’s effectiveness.
Darius’s army included many kinds of cavalry including Persian cavalry, Dahae cavalry, Arachrosian cavalry, Suisan cavalry, Cadusian cavalry, the Scythians, and the Bactrians. These were commanded by Bessus on the left flank. The Indian chariots were in a group in front with the Bactrians. On the right flank there was Syrian, Median, Mesopatamian, Parthian, Sacian, Tapurian, Hyrcanian, Albanian, Sacesinian, Cappadocian, and Armenian cavalry all commanded by Mazaeus. In the centre with Darius, was a host of Carian cavalry, Persian Horse Guard, and Greek Mercenaries. To his right were the Indian cavalry, Mardian Archers, and Persian Foot Guard.
On the opposite side of the field the Macedonians stood, split into two sections, the right flank commanded by Alexander himself while the left flank was commanded by Parmenio. The Paeonian cavalry and Macedonian light cavalry made up the companion cavalry in which was directed by Alexander. Along side this was the Macedonian Archers and the Agrians while the Mercenary cavalry was split into 2 sections, one placed on to the right, the other in front of the Agrians. These were stationed next to a phalanx of infantry. Parmenio was left with the Thesselin, Greek Mercenary, and Thracian Cavalry units. He was also assisted by another allied Greek Cavalry along with a double-lined phalanx. Parmenio’s force was meant to be as a holding force and Alexander’s would launch a decisive attack into the right flank of the enemy.
Since Darius’s army greatly outnumbered the Macedonians, their line stretched nearly a mile further than them. This would inevitably allow the Persians to outflank Alexander’s army. But Alexander had a plan. He planned to draw out as many enemy cavalry as possible to the flanks therefore opening a gap into the Persian line. This would allow them to attack Darius in the centre.
To lure the Persian cavalry the Macedonians advanced with their lines forming a step like formation. They moved right to lure the cavalry and this worked because they were soon to come off the ground Darius had prepared. Darius was forced to attack.
Darius ordered his chariots to charge in first, but luckily the Macedonians could counter this. They split the first Phalanx leaving a gap into the Macedonian line. The horse would refuse to charge a wall of spears and shields so it would enter the gap. This allowed the phalanxes to pick off and kill the Persians with ease.
The Persians then advanced their multiple cavalry units upon the Macedonians flank. This opened a further gap in between Bessus and Darius, and Alexander prepared for a final attack into the centre of the Persian Forces at Darius. He sent his last reserves of cavalry followed by his phalanxes and then his remaining light troops. He formed his unit into a wedged shaped formation, which would be useful against the many ranks of the remaining Persians. With a final blow Alexander struck Darius’ already weakened forces, taking out the royal guard and some Greek mercenaries. Bessus was afraid of this “wedged shaped” formation and so he began to pull back his forces. The remaining Persian cavalry charged, but not against Alexander. They charged in hopes of looting their camps only to find Alexander waiting for them when they came back.
Darius then broke and ran, followed by Mazaeus which was caught by the Thessalian Cavalry. Alexander pursued them, hoping to catch them but they did not. The day ended with 100-1,200 Macedonians killed and 53,000 Persians killed resulting in a stunning victory for Alexander.
The Warhammer Application:
Applying this to the tabletop may be hard, as you can’t form your troops into a wedge formation, etc. but it can be done. Now let’s examine how to use this tactic in detail including what Elven units to use and how to perform it.
WHEN TO APPLY THIS TACTIC
Like the double enveloping flank maneuver, this tactic would best be performed when you are either outnumbered in troops or army size. Some examples may be an elven army of elite troops vs. a Skaven or Greenskin horde, or playing a scenario that limits your army to fewer points than the opposing player.
Right/Left Flanking Forces:
The best choice for your Flanking force is cavalry. Cavalry can not only speed along the flanks and marchblock, but they can also draw out opposing cavalry from the central troops of the opposing army, and this will leave the centre unassisted, perhaps allowing it to be taken on with overwhelming numbers. The ideal unit for this job would be fast cavalry as they can bait units, such as Ellyrian Reavers, Dark Riders, and Glade Riders in the case of an elven force.
Along with the fast cavalry needed to bait units, you must have another unit to back them up and destroy the baited units, such as Heavy cavalry. These units need enough killing power to destroy enemy cavalry while still leaving some left over for the central attack on the enemy forces. An elven army might use Silver Helms, Dragon Princes, Cold One Knights, or Wild Riders for this job. The only problem is that Wild Riders can’t get a beneficial rank to add on to the first one which reduces their combat abilities. The best places to deploy these are on the inside of your fast cavalry units, but you must leave enough points for the rest of your army after taking some cavalry to spend an ideal amount on the centre of your force.
Characters deployed in these units will also have a big impact on how they perform their intended jobs. Characters are recommended to be placed in the Heavy cavalry units to give them more hitting power. Putting them in fast cavalry units may make them stronger but their role in the battle is to bait and you don’t want your general in a baiting unit. Characters in Heavy cavalry units should be supporting characters only meant to increase the overall effectiveness on the flanks.
Another approach to where to put characters in a flanking force could be in a chariot. They have a decent amount of speed with a lot of hitting power to take out cavalry units, and they could be put alone on a Great Eagle/Dark Pegasus so that they can assist either the flank or the centre of your army. This choice will give you the most flexibility and tactical options out of the three choices described.
The central troops of the army must be able to take a charge and also be able to give a charge. These units may include anything from Heavy cavalry to spearmen. Archers and warmachines could be added to the centre part of your line, but it is not recommended. The point of the central troops is to march slowly towards the enemy line and survive any shooting/magic and then charge their opponents after the flanks have done their job. Although Wood Elves don’t have many rank-and-file units they can still use units that would be well protected and able to take some damage from shooting and magic. Units like Dryads and Tree Kin would perform this job well. Along with Treekin and Dryads, who are able to hold reasonably well against a variety of foes, comes the Eternal Guard. They will provide static combat resolution along with a good number of attacks to win combat. When accompanied by a Battle Standard Bearer and an Eternal Highborn they can be nearly unbreakable, and this is not to mention the staying power of a Treeman Ancient.
Suitable units for other Elven armies may include High and Dark Elf Spearelves, and perhaps even Corsairs. All of these units are capable of holding their ground and advancing towards the enemy while the flanking force rides down the flank of the opposing army.
Characters in the centre of your army can have a great effect on how your army performs. A Battle Standard Bearer would give your army a better chance of surviving panic tests and minimal chances of being routed. An army general placed here would help your army with leadership too, as your units can use their leadership when taking break tests and panic tests.
Although your army may not be the same as that of Alexander, much variation can be applied to obtain the same results as he did. Scouts could be used to help draw out cavalry. Chariots could also be used in the flanking force or in the centre to provide a more devastating strike on the opponent’s army. Flying units could be of great assistance to your flanking forces as they can move faster than your cavalry, while fast cavalry in the centre of your army could be used to bait and disorient the opponent’s line and leave him confused and indecisive.
Deployment for this tactic should be obvious by now with your fast cavalry on the outer flanks; heavy cavalry beside them followed by the central part of your army. Figure X below shows a typical deployment for such an army.
When using this tactic deployment is a vital step to victory. Deploying units in a random order will mislead the opponent toward your overall battle plan, while another alternative to this would be to deploy a different way each time to further mislead your opponent. A final approach could be to have one flanking force on the right/left side, which would probably make your opponent deploy his/her cavalry on the opposing flank and leaving your infantry free to march towards the enemy line without hassle. Remember to leave enough space to deploy units where they need to go when deploying randomly because you probably don’t want to spend the first and second turn realigning and positioning your troops.
DURING THE BATTLE:
During the battle your moves should go along with your opponent’s moves. In saying this I mean that if your enemy’s cavalry charges for your centre then move your cavalry to threaten their flanks, or if your opponent maneuvers his/her infantry towards your cavalry then move your infantry to threaten their flanks.
Also beware of Scouts and fast cavalry that will bait and marchblock your line. When someone baits you it would be best to just carry on with the original plan or just hold your position. Holding your ground might just bait the opponent’s unit itself, but if not just take them out quickly with shooting/magic.
Another thing to consider is terrain. If terrain gets in your way then it could possibly screw up your army coherency and even your overall battle plan. So if terrain is a pain, then just try to adapt to it. This means to maneuver around it to achieve your desired result. However, terrain can also be used to your advantage. When baiting chariots, for example, bait them into a wood which will take care of that threat and allow you to also trap other units in difficult terrain. Once you have them trapped you can then prepare your final assault.
Overall the tactics used at Gaugamela allowed Alexander to rout Darius in his final attempts to defeat him. Although he was against great odds he still showed his brilliant tactical knowledge on the battlefield. Warhammer Fantasy Battles may be a little more balanced but that’s no reason to stop you from using tactics such as this.