Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Battle of Kalinga vs Big Dave Stud

This weekend was Madicon and Big Dave Stud and I had been planing a clash of our Indian armies for weeks prior. BDS is relatively new to both Hail Caesar and army painting. but his minis looked good and his generalship was solid. What was to ensue would be a grueling match under the broiling East India sun (imaginary).

Fought in 261 BC, the historical battle was fought when Asoka, who had recently inherited the impressive Mauryan empire, fought Ananta Padmanabha to subjugate the smaller, but potent, kingdom of Kalinga. Asoka won, but the casualties on both sides were terrible. This caused Asoka to renounce violence, embrace Buddhism, and declare sweeping progressive political reforms throughout his empire.

We never exactly counted points for this match. Our armies were pretty similar in terms of melee fighters and foot archers. I, as the Mauryans, had three elephants to Dave's two and two small units of light cav with bows in place of Dave's regular sized unit of light chariots. Dave also added a last minute small unit of javelin throwing skirmishers. I think that means that I fielded a few more points than Dave. To compensate for that, I gave the Kalingans a home field advantage -- a hill and a dangerous river on his side of the board.
In this picture you can see the Kalinga army on the hill (gray tiles, not actually elevated) which they have deployed upon and, in the upper right corner, the blue of the river. I offered Dave the choice of playing to stop my army from crossing the board (I would have to run the gauntlet between his hill and his river -- instant death if he pushed my guys in) or simply fighting until somebody's army broke. Dave had already played a "you shall not pass" game earlier that day and he opted for the pure bloodshed option -- which goes better with this battle's historical outcome anyway.

In this picture, my Mauryans head into battle, with elephants on the strong wing and light cavalry on the swift wing.

My newest, best looking Mauryans -- and that's Asoka with the green base. OK, technically it is a Reaper Fantasy figure, but not a lot of companies sell an Iron Age Indian king so I improvised. I'm happy with him. Yes, some of the spearmen have swastikas on their shields. No, they are not Nazis. A number of ancient cultures including Indians used this symbol -- a very basic and lovely geometric design until Hitler ruined it for everybody.

I approach Dave's army.
As we draw near, I manage to put a few casualty markers on Dave with my archery.

view from the battle over the shoulders of my men
Ananda's warriors come charging off the hill to smash into my line and break a unit of swordsmen -- first blood to Dave, but he gives up his elevation advantage (except the archers who stayed up there)
Brave Mauryans have charged the Kalingan elephantry. 
The gap BDS created in my front line. From this point on in the battle, I would not have one cohesive front.


A white ring means disorder -- my swordsmen and two units of light cavalry have been flung back, probably by those damned red elephant shields.

Those red shield Kalinga spearmen -- you can't really see the cute elephants that adorn them in this picture -- were Dave's MVPs. Several times they clashed with my troops and forced them to withdraw even when the odds of the die rolls were against Kalinga.
My round shield swordsmen try --and fail-- to break the red elephant shields (in blue loincloths). Finally, though, I did manage to break them. I brought my elephants, who up until that point had merely been archery platforms, up to strike those yellow-clad swordsmen in the flank so that they could no longer provide support while simultaneously engaging the elephant shields to their front with my swords.

Overall: I'm a more experienced Hail Caesar player than Dave, and I had an army worth slightly more points and one that contained a larger number of units (which makes it more difficult to break). His terrain advantage would have been more significant had he selected the run the gauntlet scenario rather than fighting to the death, and once he moved his infantry off the hill, he had abandoned his terrain advantage altogether (although his archers did benefit from shooting over friendly troops' heads because they retained their elevation). Given those tough odds, Dave gave me a fierce fight. For several rounds it seemed that the end of Dave's infantry was drawing near but I just couldn't get the dice rolls I needed to usher them into their next incarnations. But the end was inevitable. Each little red heart in the photos represents casualties -- it was a bloody day, just like the real Kalinga.

Hail Caesar continues to be my go-to system for large battles. The only rules issue we couldn't quite resolve dealt with lining up troops who are charged, and whether an infantry unit can charge at a quarter of the frontage (unable to line up frontage-to-frontage) of another infantry unit that is already engaged with an elephant in the middle. This was a bit more than 3 hours' entertainment.

"Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Priyadarsi, conquered the Kalingas eight years after his coronation. One hundred and fifty thousand were deported, one hundred thousand were killed and many more died (from other causes). After the Kalingas had been conquered, Beloved-of-the-Gods came to feel a strong inclination towards the Dharma, a love for the Dharma and for instruction in Dharma. Now Beloved-of-the-Gods feels deep remorse for having conquered the Kalingas"
-- the Edicts of Asoka