BBDBA Before-Action Report: Alexander vs. Darius

 JM and I have a BBDBA game tomorrow night. He’ll be playing my triple Later Achaemenid Persian (II/7) army, and I’ll be playing double Alexandrian Imperial (II/15) with Mountain Indian ally (II/2).  He has written up his plans in a blog post, only to be revealed after we play, so I suppose it’s only fair that I should do the same.

My prediction is that my pike block will walk forward slowly while my elephants mill around without enough PIPs to move, and JM’s large cavalry wing will flank me and roll up my line.  What a way to think positively, eh?

I told JM my army selection ahead of time.  Alexander will bring elephants and auxilia, giving a total of: 4xKn (gen), 2xLH, 2xEl, 12xPk, 2xAx, 2xPs.  The Mountain Indians will be led by a light horse general and won’t take any heavy foot, providing: 3xLH (gen), 5xAx, 4xPs.  The choice of armies is based mostly on availability, but I think the Mountain Indians will provide some useful bad-going support.

In response, JM has given me his army composition, which as far as I can tell is what I’ve chosen in the past: 2xLCh, 7x3Cv, 6x2LH, 9x4Sp, 3x3Ax, 9x2Ps.  On one hand, it’s the best choice given the elements available; on the other hand, I painted them all based on what I thought I’d field, so there isn’t a lot of flexibility here.

Other than knowing what I did with the Persians last time I played with them, this is as far as my Deep Thought has gone so far.  Before I play, I need to decide a few things: how to split up my Alexandrian commands, and what the commands’ missions are likely to be (depending on the Persian deployment).  JM will most likely be placing terrain, unless he wastes his 6-1 split on the terrain roll, so I am not going to concern myself with the prospect of deploying terrain, just yet.

Dividing my commands should be a bit easier for me, since I have only two armies that can combine forces with high/low PIP dice, and an ally who must act as a separate 12 element command.  All else being equal, the best divisions give each command a number of elements indivisible by three, so they must lose one additional element before they’re reduced by 1/3 and break.

Since each command needs at least 6 elements, the options are: 7/17, 8/16, 10/14, or 11/13.  Typically, large pike blocks don’t need a large number of PIPs to maneuver, they just need to run really fast.  I expect JM, with more recent Pike experience, might disagree with this assessment, but I’m going to run with it anyway; because in comparison, elephants need many PIPs to move at all and knights need enough PIPs to stay alive after the first round of combat.

Dividing commands and deciding on the strategy to use are tightly coupled.  I’d like to deploy my Pike in three blocks of four with psiloi joining them, for added maneuverability.  There’s basically nothing in JM’s army that can consistently face two ranks of pike in the open over the long haul, but he has plenty of ways to delay them and make them ineffective.  There’s no money in my pike trying to kill off his mounted wing, so if I want to win with them I’ll need to point them at the spears and push hard.  They can do a great job of delaying his mounted wing, but that would be hard to get him to agree to.  I’d also like a Knight general with the pikes, both to fill gaps and to possibly punch a hole somewhere important.

How will he deal with my Elephants?  He can either outmaneuver them, or try to delay or overwhelm them with psiloi or auxilia.  He may need his auxilia to protect the flank of his spears, and a few Psiloi to support the spears and auxilia.  This leaves him with about 5 free psiloi.  The elephants can’t kill psiloi, but knights can.  I’m inclined to face him with a block of Kn-El-Kn-El-Kn so his Psiloi can’t find safe footing against the elephants.  This will also work well against his mounted contingent, since they also don’t want to face elephants or knights.

The main question now is, how should I divide the commands for greatest effect?  I think it would make most sense to put the pikes in the larger command, but give them the low PIP die.  I think I’m leaning towards this option:

  • C-in-C high pip command with 3xKn (gen), 2xEl, 2xLH, 4xPk
  • Low pip command with 1xKn (gen), 8xPk, 2xPs, 2xAx
  • Allied command with 3xLH (gen), 5xAx, 4xPs

Unless I take some pike in the C-in-C command, I’ll drain off all the light support which will suck even more PIPs from the C-in-C.  The downside is, the pike block wants one PIP every turn; but I can maneuver them separately from the rest of the pikes since they can’t group anyway.

The allied command is quite strong against Persians.  The psiloi-backed auxilia can face some Persian mounted in the open if necessary, and can hold bad going.

I feel like Persia’s mounted wing has the potential to overwhelm mine, or occupy it and turn my flank.  He has 15 mounted, and I have only 11.  My elephants and knights are stronger, but I have a higher proportion of light horse, and they can’t coordinate their attack as well.  He’s also more maneuverable.  Overall I’ll have a shorter line with my double-ranked pike, but maybe I can extend it by strategic placement of single ranks.  I can also attempt to take advantage of terrain to funnel him and prevent him from using the full width of his army.

Most likely, JM will deploy terrain and set up 2 commands first.  I’m not going to try to guess JM’s terrain deployment, but I expect he’ll attempt to protect one flank with terrain and leave the other as open as possible for his mounted wing.

I am guessing JM will have to deploy his mounted wing early since it’ll likely contain his C-in-C.  This will somewhat reduce my ability to bluff without being obvious, because if I leave an obvious flank open by his mounted, he’ll either have to go after it or risk a trap.  If it were an option, I’d consider placing my pikes opposite his spears but with a flank open to his mounted.  My Kn/El block would be at the edge of his spears, and the Indians further down the line.  In practice, the pikes would turn to face the flank with a narrower frontage and try not to lose, while the Kn/El pounced on his spears.  The Indians would try to turn his other flank.

This would be a risky attempt to deny his mounted flank.  But he’s much more maneuverable, and his light horse quick kills my pikes while I have no second rank bonus.  So I don’t think that’s such a good idea.

My ideas have run out.  I’m tired, my laptop battery is running low, and tomorrow night I’ll be almost as tired by the time we start.  Hopefully my thought ahead of time will be enough to let me run on intuition once the game actually starts.

I plan to publish this as soon as the game is over or maybe only after it’s started; the after-action report might have to wait a while.