DASAQ....what?


Does Ancients Stop At Qadesh?


By Mike Tittensor



My original inspiration for the period and kindly reproduced with the author's blessings, here is a most excellent article on wargaming the Sumerian period.


When you talk to wargamers about the Ancients Period, they will normally nod and say yes; they quite like the Ancients Period. They’ll be au fait on the Roman legions and Alexander’s Companions; they’ll be able to comment knowledgeably on hoplites and sparabara as well as those beastly barbarians. Go a little further back and they’ll cautiously agree they know about the Assyrians and, oh yes, those NKE chariots of Ramses II are rather nice aren’t they?  Start going back up the timeline and you’re in the conversational doldrums. A few might have some Cretans/Mycenaeans lurking in a box on a shelf somewhere. Start talking about stuff over a millennium before Qadesh and they’ll finish their pints and wander away saying that they don’t do ‘caveman’ stuff, it’s not historical. You’ll be clearly earmarked as a “fantasy gamer” and those invitations to participate in all day Napoleonic games will dry up (Every cloud…).


OK, folks, listen up. We have some of the best campaigns, the prettiest troops and the mightiest foe-stomping Generals (Rab Amurrim) in history in the Third Millennium BC and you’re missing out. Let me draw you into the web of Pre-Biblical Wargaming. Abram is not even a twinkle in the eye of his ancestors, the pyramids are still considered avant garde modern architecture (or a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a favourite desert) and Gilgamesh is top of the Hit Parades. We have wacky troop types, we have mighty Generals with cunning plans and we have terrifying barbarian hordes sweeping out the deserts intent on destroying civilisation as we know it. Whaddya mean, you never knew? Take my hand, gentle reader and let me taint you with Pre Biblical Wargaming: you’ll never play with those nasty, black-powder bang-sticks again.

  

Wars Among the Gods


The Third Millennium BC was an exciting  time of developing city-states in the region of Mesopotamia, literally the Land between the Two Rivers, Tigris and Euphrates. Population was rising. More land was cultivated and the particular need for co-operation in irrigation and different farming techniques led to increasing specialisation, causing the growth of cities where trade could flourish in those items that Mesopotamia lacked.  This was pretty much everything except food. Decent wood, metals, precious items and luxuries had all to be brought in from elsewhere. Bear in mind that the Epic of Gilgamesh is a glorified tree-rustling expedition in which our heroes behead the park ranger! These cities, however, grew and prospered, expanding into previously untouched land. Naturally they started to compete for land and resources.


To precis brutally, the period started with the sudden, rapid expansion of the Uruk culture across the Middle East. This may or may not have been a military expansion. When Uruk’s network of colonies collapsed you have several centuries of city states vying for power in what is known as the Early Dynastic Period. Semitic peoples appear in the region and slowly seem to take over, not necessarily violently. Finally, Sargon of Agade manages to make his overlordship stick for a century before it all falls apart and you get a few hundred years more with small empires bobbing to the surface. Then, Hammurabi manages to put Babylon in the dominant position in the region, a standing it maintains for another 1500 years despite visiting hordes of Kassites, Hittites, Assyrians, Persians and Macedonians until the Seleucids finally decide it’s time to move house and abandon the site. If this isn’t a period begging for a wargame campaign then what is?


City life centred on the temple of the local god worshipped in his / her holy sanctuary in his temple, often atop the dizzy heights of a great ziggurat (what wargaming table would not be improved by a lovely ziggurat?). Now, flip open a normal, coffee-table book on ancient deities and you’ll find neat little descriptions of who was god of what in the Mesopotamian Pantheon. Little tables can be constructed of who has influence over what aspect of the universe. The God of Storms, the God of the Sun, the Moon, the Sea blah blah blah. Hierarchies of power among the gods will make it all neat and proper and easy for you. OK, pal, here’s what you do: take the book and close it. Put it away. Never read it again. Let’s play with the real world. In the Early Dynastic Period of the Third Millennium BC, your god is the god of your city. Your handle on the divine nature of the universe is based around your comprehension of your local god. Yeah, sure, those squinty-eyed fornicators twenty miles up the river think that they have a nice god that is worth worshipping too but they would say that, wouldn’t they? Your god in your temple receiving your offerings is the one you have to worry about. Your god is the essence of your city. However, as you may have noticed, the world is not always a nice place. The gods can become angry. Sometimes it’s just with you and you get boils on your backside until you sacrifice a few pigeons, a lamb or whatever. That you can cope with. Gods crave respect. Give them respect and they might help you out or, best of all ignore you. Sadly, gods can also fall out among each other about the most mundane of things, such as which city really controls that meadowland down by the river.

Your ruler might receive a vision, a prophetic dream or (if he were particularly thick) a message delivered by one of the temple ecstatics saying that the god would really like this sorting out. That means that you will be rounded up, given a spear and shield and told to get out there and reclaim your deity’s property. Fortunately, you can normally rely on the deity being relatively sensible. The gods of the Third Millennium showed a remarkably practical approach to politics and military operations. No great crusades to annihilate the heretic or infidel. Gods in the Third Millennium BC concerned themselves with fields, meadows and trade routes. Practical Divinity for a Practical People. All the texts for the city state wars record that Deity X defeated Deity Y and took possession of the following territory. There may be a mention of Deity Z acting as witness (normally a sign that one of the two cities concerned was a vassal of someone else). So don’t feel bad about war. War is always sanctioned by the divine. You’re on a Mission from God and any booty you get to keep is a bounty from heaven.


Lugals and Patesis


So who’s the boss? Well, your city will be probably governed by a patesi, your god’s vicar. Not the high priest necessarily, although sometimes the jobs could combine. He’s the chap given the task of making sure that the crops are in, taxes are raised (particularly on passing merchants with all those wonderful foreign luxuries Mesopotamia is lacking), the city is defended and everything runs smoothly.  He rules by divine right, as god’s agent on earth. One of his children is assumed to get the job after his death, although if he slips on the stairs and falls repeatedly on the dagger of his chief advisor/ successor then that is clearly the will of the god too. He lives in a palace and, unlike most of the population, is not covered in filth. He drinks wine and good beer, eats decent food and buys all those lovely trinkets the merchants bring in. He maintains the Palace Household. This is more than just flunkies wandering around with trays of sweetmeats and performing dwarfs. The Palace Household has workshops producing metal goods, textiles, pottery and anything else the king thinks the city needs. Its staff get food and board and probably rewards and gifts as “befits a king’s remembrance”. Being part of the Royal Household was a secure, safe job. Think of the Household as being a combination of law court, manor house and industrial estate rolled into one.


Now, if your king has aspirations and has knocked around a bit, bringing tribute from other cities and the like, then he might start styling himself as Lugal, the king (literally LU.GAL: ‘great man’). Now, the trick is to get other cities to recognise you as Lugal (otherwise what’s the point?), so you need to go and raid them a bit….sorry….you need your god to have a domestic argument with their gods. Then you march your army into their territory and start building your own empire. Simple.


The highest honour, however, is to become the acclaimed Nam Lugal (Chief Great Man) and theoretical King of Kish, recorded in the Sumerian King Lists as the overlord of Ki-en-gi, "place of the civilised lords". That’s what the game is about. Follow your god’s orders, smite the foe and maybe, just maybe, on a stele after your death, they’ll depict you as wearing the horned helmet of the divine as you crush your foes beneath your feet.


Troop Types.


So what do we have for your delights? Well, no elephants, sadly (elephants being almost as wonderful on a table as a nice ziggurat) and no camels and no cavalry, well maybe the odd messenger or scout but nothing in the way of a cavalry unit as such. So what DO we have?



War Donkeys!

Yes, huge, unstoppable wardonkeys sweeping across the plain crushing all before them. Well, sort of. The donkey-onager cross is shown clearly in various steles pulling those cute four wheeled carts that are sometimes shoehorned by some rules systems into the term “chariot” with a blokey on top with a load of javelins (or badly drawn arrows). Certain rules systems see them as early tanks capable of bursting through enemy units. They are given charge bonuses and the ability to sweep away enemy foot formations with scary onslaughts…one can only assume that at this point the rules writers were exercising their legendary sense of humour. It’s a donkey cart, for heaven's sake! A goddamned donkey cart, guys! Look at the pictures! These things are no larger than the beasts you stick your kids on at the beach. These are things that small boys in Mediterranean countries chase with a stick. Yeah, so they’re onager crossed perhaps? That makes them no larger just worse behaved. Not that they’re particularly well behaved anyway. All these things are controlled by is a nose ring and a couple of straps. The bit hasn’t been invented yet.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve worked with horses; I’ve been charged by police horses; I’ve watched the Household Cavalry bear down on me and been scared to the point of bowel release. I respect horses. I respect donkeys too. I’ve known some nasty Jacks in my time that could get very frisky and quite unpleasant if denied their druthers. However, a bloke with a big stick and loud voice is normally enough to deter them from further aggression, let alone a wall of tightly packed spearmen. The concept of the enemy donkey carts terrorising your footmen as they hurtle forward….well, it doesn’t really work does it? Come on, be reasonable. To put the icing on the cake, these things don’t appear to have flexible axles. The wheels are different (presumably front and back) but fixed. They corner like a whale. So what are these things doing on the battlefield?


I’m not completely sure they are on the battlefield all that much. The Stele of the Vultures shows the cart with the troops on the march not when they are in close formation for battle. The Standard of Ur shows the carts rolling over dead bodies not thumping into live people who might object to being stamped on by a donkey. One letter records a state official bitterly complaining that the cart he had been given to travel around the countryside had broken and he wanted a new one otherwise he had to walk. They’re referred to as transportation devices not weapons of mass destruction. They have minimal combat effectiveness  (can’t charge, can’t turn, contains one bowman/javelin chucker). However, they do have some uses:


Height 1. Standing in the back of your donkey cart, a general can see. He is standing above the heads of the unwashed hordes around him. He has a fighting chance of reacting to events in a battle. The donkey chariot gives him battlefield visibility.

Height 2. Standing in the back of your donkey cart, a general can be seen. “Ere, sergeant, who’s that bloke sitting in a chariot not covered in filth?” “He’s the patesi, son. He is the god’s vicar and he tells us what to do. He tells us not to run away”. The cart gives the general visibility to his troops. They can rally around him and follow his orders. The cart gives him battlefield command.

Comfort. As the patesi of the city, you don’t expect His Lordship to trudge through the filth with the rest of the troops do you? This way, the guy in charge reaches the battlefield not footsore and weary. From his point of view, a good thing.

Speed. Not much speed to be sure but when the battle’s lost and it’s time to bug out to tell the Divine One that he was wrong and that the fields REALLY did belong to the neighbour’s god, well it’s better to rely on four donkeys with sixteen legs rather than your own tired legs, exhausted after a day’s battle.


These reasons alone seem enough to me to justify the use of the carts on the battlefield. I can also believe that you would gather around you the best bodyguard troops you could afford. For this latter reason, I have assumed that the patesi donkey cart had a combat value inasmuch as there are some hefty lads with axes surrounding it, long before those pesky Hurrians tried to convince people that horses are the military way forward.


Royal Guard.

There are lots of delightfully brutal axe and maceheads in various museums around the world. Some of the curators have squeamishly put the words “ceremonial” on the descriptions of artefacts that were clearly capable of braining an Akkadian with one good blow. . In some cases you can still imagine the blood and matted hair sticking to these items. Such curators need to have a stroll round their local ironmongers and see what you get in the way of sledgehammers and mallets these days. Warfare in the Third Millennium is not a polite sport. It involves smiting your opponent good and hard in the sure and certain knowledge that you are doing it for a good cause. That’s why you have some good old boys around you to keep your donkey cart safe and to finish your opponents off at the crucial moment. These types I classify as Royal Guard, although there is no reason for them not to be temple guardsmen or some other elite that you feel you can justify.


Spearmen

Men of the Household or the City would be expected to form up in close order for battle. In some depictions they are shieldless, in others, shield bearers carry large oblong shields (sometimes studded with what appear to be metal disks) to form the front rank while other spearmen fight behind them. The much-studied Stele of the Vultures implies a regular tight formation. The Ur Standard shows shieldless spearmen. The Victory Stele of Naram Sin shows troops with axe, spear and bow. One cannot help but draw parallels with the Greek city state hoplites who formed up in close order shield walls to settle things with their neighbours a couple of millennia later. The records I’ve seen refer to troops and garrisons being controlled in multiples of fifty or a hundred. I would suggest from a purely population point of view that any formations larger than this would be exceptional.

Armour seems in short supply with copper or leather helmets, felt cloaks and rather outrageous sheepskin skirts. 

Archers

We don’t know all that much about archery apart from the fact that there was no stigma attached to it. Gilgamesh had a bow; the Akkadian kings don’t mind being portrayed as carrying bows. The palace workshops are recorded turning out arrowheads of differing weights. Archery appears to have played a significant part in warfare in this period. Bodies of archers would also encourage the adoption of the large wall-shields carried by the spearmen.


Slingers

Again, we know that slings (waspum) were used and manufactured by the palace workshops. Anyone who’s been there can confirm that there are plenty of rocks in the Middle East, big juicy ones with nasty edges. Ask any Israeli doing National Service what sort of rocks the Palestinian kids can throw….we’re not talking pebbles here. Slingers get a bum deal in most rules being the poor relation of the bowmen. However, a good sling can take a fully-grown man off his feet at about 100 paces. I have personally witnessed this when the slinger was loading only fine Irish potatoes.


Nomad Levies

There is a bad habit among historians and archaeologists to assume that just because the folk who are most visible in the archaeological strata and historical record are living in cities, that everyone else is doing the same. However, it is clear that there are still large numbers of non-urban peoples living on the periphery in a semi nomadic and pastoral lifestyle. They are viewed with suspicion by their urban cousins, accused of banditry and theft but still considered very useful for projects that require a lot of labour, such as war. They are included in the city census, so that they can be taxed and required to provide manpower. One record we have from Northern Mesopotamia records their resentment at this. Now no wargame should be without poor quality troops. Where is the challenge of commanding elite troops who always hold their ground, do what their general tells them and defeat their foe with monotonous regularity? Where’s the fun in that? A chimp could win a game with troops like that. These semi nomadic troops, such as the Suteans, Martu or Benjaminites (Yaminites to the purest, I know but Benjaminites sounds more fun), could provide levy quality spearmen and archers as well as some useful skirmishing javelinmen. They could also provide wild, swirling raiders from the mountains such as the Kassites rushing down to eliminate the soft city dwellers. A gamer could exercise his imagination here with exotic levies lurking on the flanks.


Mercenaries

When war is common and profitable then business will adapt to provide troops. Whether one is hiring an entire tribe of Suteans for a season or recruiting those sailors from far distant Dilmun, a troop of regular mercenaries could be useful to hold the line together.



The Rules


The campaign system that I have used below is geared towards the excellent Peter Pig Rules “Bloody Barons”. I know that it was originally written for the War of the Roses but it works perfectly well for this period and the pre-battle sequences make for an exciting and different game every time. However, given the extraordinary talents of our gentle readers, I have no doubts that this could be adapted to most rules systems. I would merely suggest that the donkey carts be treated as donkey carts not Tiger Tanks in the set-up.



Army Organisation and classification


Each side is allowed between 650 to 900 points of troops.

Units are formed from between 6 to 10 bases. One of those bases must be a captain figure but the rest may be of different types: bowmen, shielded spearmen, or unshielded spearmen. All bases must, however, be of the same quality in a unit.


Troop Type
Veteran
Regular
Levy
Combat Value in APs
Range short/ long






General
50
50
50
5
No
Captain
25
20
15
5
No
Royal Guard
16
N/A
N/A
4
No
Shielded Spearmen
13
8
4
3
No
Unshielded Spearmen
10
5
3
3
No
Archers
9
6
5
2
6/12
Slingers
6
4
3
2
4/8
Skirmishers
N/A
4
N/A
N/A
4
Wild Tribesmen
9
6
4
Special
2/4


Wild Tribesmen roll 1D6+1 in their first turn of close combat in each melee to determine their Combat Value as long as they have not suffered any casualties. However, should they fail to break their foe or have taken losses, they are more likely to lose heart and only roll 1D6-1 for the second and subsequent rounds.

Skirmishers use the handgunner rules per Bloody Barons and represent small bands of annoying desert javelinmen, kids chucking stones and itinerant carpet sellers intent on making a quick shekel (does anyone do a miniature for this?).

Archers, slingers and javelinmen may only choose casualties from the front rank of their targets.

Unshielded spearmen count as unarmoured for saving throw purposes.


So, for example, a typical citizen spear regiment might consist of one captain base, 3 shielded spearmen bases and 4 shieldless spearmen drawn up behind them for a total cost of (20+8x3 + 5x4) 64. Another unit might be made up of a captain, 3 shielded spearmen and 4 bowmen behind them for a total of (20+ 8x3 + 6x4) 68.


There is little in the way of orders of battle for Mesopotamian armies in the way one would hope for from the later period. At best the documents reveal the total number of troops raised for a campaign, with most armies being well under 10,000 strong. However, I would suggest the following should give a balanced game and not look too outrageous.

Generals (Rab Amurrim) 3

Royal Guard or Veteran Units 0-2

Citizen Regular Units 2-6

Levy Units 2-6

Skirmishers 0-2

Wild Tribesmen 0-4

 

Scenery

Mesopotamia has a remarkable range of terrain types ranging from the open steppe between the two rivers to the marshes of the South to the heavily irrigated field systems around the cities. There are no decently dense woods in Mesopotamia hence the trade in timber but there are orchards.

Given that many of the city-state wars revolved around the capture of agricultural land, each player should take at least one field system as part of their initial selection. Each player may decide whether irrigation ditches surround it or not. The defender may place Fields wherever he wishes on the table. The attacker may attempt to move fields but may not move them towards his own side closer than the half way line. Fields are treated as worth 4 victory points for either the attacker or defender at the end of the battle. A field without irrigation ditches is treated as open ground. A field with irrigation ditches does not provide cover from missiles, costs 1AP for a front rank to move across it, does not slow but does provide a risk of disorder after crossing it. We will assume that a general’s bodyguard will manhandle the donkey carts across the ditch for the boss.

An army may also choose one of the Great Rivers (Tigris and Euphrates) as a terrain piece. This effectively closes one flank and is impassable to all units, unless someone invents some boat rules. A second river may also be chosen as a terrain piece in the normal manner.

Hills do not give victory points to the defender.

Shrines were commonly set up at the edge of one’s territory to commemorate previous treaties, great battles and generally act as good PR. Either side may choose a shrine. The defender initially places it. However it cannot be set up further than 6” from the centreline of the table between the two forces. In his scenery phase, the attacker may move it but again it must remain within that central 12” on the table. It is worth 5 VPs for whoever owns it at the end of the day.

The Palace Treasury

Instead of the purses spent in Bloody Barons, the patesi of a city spends silver rings on securing a pre-battle advantage in a similar manner. Each army has 70 rings to spend on the following areas.


Event Title
Number of rings (dice) allotted to the event
1. The Attacker
10-25 (with normal –1 for higher bidder)
2. Men of Tongues: spies
0-9
3. Bazahatum: provosts and police
0-9
4. The Temple
0-9
5. Scouting
0-9
6. The Palace
0-9
7. Loyalty
0-9
8. Weather
0-9
9. Route of March
0-9
10. Strong Leadership
0-9
11. Quest for the Nam.Lu.Gal
0-9

Total Number of rings (dice) must equal 70

Roll for each ring spent on an Event. Every 5-6 on a D6 is a success. Check the net number of successes on the tables below. Attacker/Defender choice is as per the rules.
 

Men of Tongues: spies


Number of successes
Result
1
Zimri Lim has come with information of great import.
Troublesome and greedy peasants with spurious information of little value beset you. You put them to work building irrigation channels and curse them for wasting your time.
2
I know that Eannatum has drunk strong himrum this day!
You may force an enemy to reroll any one successful arrival roll for a late unit. Himrum is an aniseed-flavoured ale.
3
I have stolen the enemy Rab Amur’s Anunitum! Even now he runs around in panic lest the gods desert him!
The enemy must deduct five rings off one event that has five or more rings. If no 5-ring events are available then a four-ring event is chosen. The anunitum is the personal statuette placed by a nobleman in front of the god in the temple to act as his proxy worshipper.
4+
Thus spoke the Temple Ecstatic!
Any two pairs of enemy units can be swapped (not Rab Amurrim or Veterans). This includes on/off table units. Thus a flank citizen unit could be swapped with an off table levy unit of tribesmen. Then a second swap can be carried out.


Whaddya mean, your current rules system doesn’t have Temple Ecstatics? An oversight by the designers I’m sure.


 Bazahatum: Police/ Provosts


Number of successes
Result
1
“The Beacons are lit! Nina asks for aid!”
“And Larsa will answer!”
Torch signals go up summoning allies and outer garrisons. You may reroll any one unsuccessful lateness roll. Cue stirring music and heroic poses by all players.
2
Bazahatum discover shirking nomads and thrash them, driving them forward to the glorious battle.
You may reroll any two unsuccessful lateness rolls. Bubba the Sutean scratches his belly and strolls down the road to victory.
3
We have made them take the assakum oath! Their hearts are ours!
Raise one levy unit to the rank of regulars. Breaking the assakum oath in which one ritually ate certain foods would guarantee the food would rise in your stomach against one’s wickedness.
4+
Tell them that Babbar the sun god marches on our right!
Raise one unit to the rank of veteran. Best used on a levy unit. Troops always like to know that the gods are getting directly involved. It makes it more personal.



The Temple


Number of successes
Result

1
The enemy has neglected his kispum. See how his men tremble!
Move one enemy flank Rab Amur to the baseline as he wonders about the piety of his master. The kispum was the ritual meal in honour of the ancestors that a patesi was meant to stage.
2
Our barum priest has spoken most cryptically.
Win or lose, you can interpret the reading of the sacrifice’s liver in a favourable manner. Gain 1VP.
3
Our troops have sworn the tebibtum oath of purification.
You may reroll any one morale test during the battle, since the troops fear to break their oath of loyalty.
4+
The Devouring of the God
Disease strikes your foe. The enemy picks any one flank unit. Roll 1d6 (+1 if levy –2 if veteran). That number of bases is removed.



Scouting


Number of successes
Result
1
The god guided our troops through the darkness of the night!
Move one unit into an orchard, building, shrine or behind a hill anywhere on the table not in the Enemy’s deployment zone.
2
The Mari carts have swiftly conveyed our men to the enemy’s flank!
Move 1 or 2 units (plus a general if desired) off table. They roll for arrivals as if late units on a 4,5,6 and they will arrive all together on a flank edge not the baseline.
3,4
Hah! Our horseman has noticed a flaw in the enemy’s plan.
This new-fangled horse technology has its uses. Move any one piece of terrain to a flank sector. This can be used to move both shrines and fields out of the defender’s half of the table to near one of your own flank sector baselines.
5+
The ancient shrine has been rediscovered. Let us rejoice that the enemy has not defiled it.
Place a shrine dedicated to your god by a previous patesi anywhere on the table. This is worth 3VP if you keep it uncaptured by the enemy by the end of the battle but it is worth 5VP to him if he captures it.


The Palace


Number of successes
Result
1
The Queen has sent a wondrous garment wrought by her own hand.
How nice. You may rest assured that your commander is the best-dressed warrior on the field.
2
Well fed donkeys
Kikkuli the Donkey Master has produced tip top, spanky new donkeys to pull your donkey cart. One of your generals gets +1 on his movement rolls.
3
The Palace Workshop staff has laboured through the night. These six shekel samrutum arrows are honeys. 
Gain five extra arrows markers allowing a 1AP volley. Let’s be generous, waspum (sling) users can also use these. Nice rocks?
4+
Enki, Lord of the Deep has turned the enemy ale supply to a vile brew!
Select a flank. Roll for each unit: on a 5 or a 6 it is late as the troops grunt behind a nearby orchard and look for broad leaves and smooth stones.



Loyalty


Number of successes
Result
1
Your loyal subjects present you with a fine humbaba head brooch to drive away evil spirits.
How nice.
2
We have heard that Shamri –Adad was insulted by the enemy patesi.
Select one enemy flank general. He now suffers a 1-point penalty from any motivation rolls until another enemy general successfully motivates him.
3
Men of Dilmun have provided me with luxuries to open men’s hearts to your words.
Select one enemy flank general. Move him to the base line. Treat him as being late. Roll for his arrival as normal. Dilmun was a fabled Gulf trading centre possibly in the vicinity of Bahrain. The Mesopotamians always wanted foreign luxuries.
4+
Your son has married the sugagum’s daughter. Huzzah!
Raise any one unit in the centre to veteran status as the wine sozzled troops celebrate the nuptials with weird ululations and a frenzy of violence (these days they just discharge AK47s into the sky). The sugagum was the sheikh of the non-urban troops on the periphery of civilisation.



Weather


Number of successes
Result
1
Dagan has allied with us! The sun shines again.
One unit must shuffle.
2
Dark mists linger on the lands.
Player rolls d6-2 shuffles.
3
Tears fall from the Tin Vaults of Heaven
Bad Weather. D6-1 shuffles. Any irrigation ditches count as swollen and cost double APs to cross. Roll twice for disorder. Arrow and sling range decreases by 2”. At the end of each turn, roll a D6: on a 1-2 the storm clears. No, I’ll be honest, I don’t know why they thought the vault of Heaven was made of tin. Any comments?
4+
The Storm Bull of Ishkar strikes! What madness reigns?
Very bad weather. All rivers impassable. All irrigation ditches impassable. Arrow and sling range decrease by 4 inches. As the lightning bursts from the black vault and the Storm Bull roars, add +1D6 to any morale checks. Your opponent suffers a 2-point penalty on motivations and you suffer a 1-point penalty. Roll a D6 at the end of each turn. On a 1-2 the storm ends and drops to level 3.



Route of March


Number of successes
Result
1
Lazy Nomads. They lie like dogs and snore like pigs!
Choose one enemy levy unit and move it back to the baseline.
2
What does one torch beacon mean? Two beacons means ‘Come and help’. Maybe one beacon means ‘Everything’s fine, continue with breakfast’, yes, that’ll be it.
Confusion over the exact nature of beacon signals delays some of the enemy’s troops. Enemy chooses one unit to be taken off table as late.
3
Efficient Kigamlum administrator.
Buniya gets your troops on the right route with breakfast in their bellies and rations in their sacks. Roll for upto 3 units, which are classed as ‘late’ and on a roll of 5-6 restore them to the table. The kigamlum was the donkey park attached to every trading station.
4+
No you idiot! I need a hallu wheel not a mallalu wheel! Are you stupid?
A broken wheel on a general’s battlewagon holds up the entire column. Pick an enemy general. The general’s quality decreases by one and his movement is penalised 2” per turn. 



Strong Leadership


Number of successes
Result
1
He would be Nam Lu.Gal before he has struck a blow.
All enemy generals are moved to the baseline after bickering about incautious comments by the patesi.
2
Oh Zimri Lim, swear that you will not neglect me and I will hover over you and deliver your enemies into your power.
Inspired by your piety all your generals can ignore one failed motivation roll in the first turn.
3
His weapons in the sea he washed. With the men of Umma he fought, all the fields he devastated, their city he subjugated and its wall he destroyed.
Pick one of your generals. Instead of a combat value of 5AP, this mighty man adds 7APs to any combat he joins.
4+
Loyal Ensi comes to the rescue.
Any one routed unit returns to the table as reinforcements on the roll of 3-6. The unit is treated as a late unit and placed in either the centre or either flank. An ensi is a provincial governor installed in a subjugated city.



Quest for the Nam.Lu.Gal


Number of successes
Result
1
King of Kish: let it be written in the lists.
Reroll one general’s quality. You must abide by the second roll.
2
Sargon, king of Agade, overseer of Ishtar, king of Kish, pashishu-priest of Anu, king of the land, the great vice-regent of Enlil.
Improve one general’s quality by 1.
3
The Hand of Enlil a rival did not permit. 54,000 men ate in his presence.
Improve one general’s quality by 1 and add one base of Veteran Royal Guard (bodyguard base)

4+
Enlil has given unto him the kingdom, Agade, exalted of the gods.
 You are the one, true NAM.LU.GAL. Gain 3 VPs win or lose. Your deeds shall be written in clay for the generations to come to look upon and wonder. When your Gidim wanders the underworld, men will still remember with awe your deeds.



Victory Points


As normal except as modified for terrain and events above. An extra 2VP should be given to anyone prepared to shave their heads and wear a sheepskin.



Figures


There are two main manufacturers of 15mm Mesopotamians in the UK: Essex and Magister Militum. Both are good. For generic Ancient Near East hordes, Lancashire does a good “horde” battlepack.

Irregular Miniatures does 6mm Sumerians but I have not seen these personally. There is a good review on TMP.

Interestingly, H├Ąt are about to release some rather nice looking Sumerians in 20mm plastic. For those who have not seen the new wave of good, detailed, 20mm-25mm plastics coming from these people (and similar manufacturers), these are ones to watch for. Don’t be put off by the term plastic. They hold acrylic paint fine and have oodles of detail. I understand that these figures are slated for release by the end of 2005.

In 25-28mm I have experience only with the Foundry figures which are very nice.



Campaigns


We’re dealing with over a thousand years of history here filled with small time city deities ganging up on each other. Empires rise and fall and most leave little record in the soil. However the following might make for a good start:

Rise of Uruk: there is much debate as to how the culture of Uruk suddenly burst upon Mesopotamia towards the end of the Fourth Millennium BC, reaching out possibly as far as parts of Egypt with those dopey little bevel rimmed bowls. It has been suggested that Uruk seeded cultural colonies around the periphery of Mesopotamia to generate a trade web. Possibly. Personally, I don’t think you suddenly dominate the international trade routes by knocking on the city gates and trying to sell cookies. Give the Uruk player a morale bonus of –1D6 and see how many battles he can win. Deduct a VP if he shows any sign of knowing what a bevel rimmed bowl is: the city gods love smart people not smart Alecs.

Early Dynastic Wars: each player picks a city, names it, names his deity and his patesi and then fights battles among each other. First city to 100VPs claims to be King of Kish and can call himself Lu.Gal. If he likes, the winner can create amusing fictional pantheons of how the other city gods are merely the servants in his god’s palatial household. This is pretty much Mesopotamian history from about 2800BC to 2400BC.

Rise of Akkad: the King of Agade gets a zero rank general and two level one generals plus double the allowance of veteran quality units plus about 200 points more than his opponent. The Agade player gets +2 successes on the Attacker roll for each battle. With all this in mind, he must defeat numerous armies to recreate Sargon’s meteoric rise in the 24th Century BC. However, the empire is fragile. At the end of each battle he only recovers 50% of his casualties. His opponent’s army is fully restored. The Agade Player wins if he can get to 150 points (or some other preset figure with experienced players handicapped).

Terror from the Sand: a good one for several players when a vast horde of nomadic wildmen appears from nowhere and sweep down on civilisation. One player gets double the points in barbarians against two city-states. Who will be the eventual winner? Will the civilised states ally against the common foe?

Rise of Hammurabi: the bearded Semites finally take over and you get a slightly better dress sense among the troops (having had “This season I am mostly wearing sheepskins” jokes for the last millennium). The city states grumblingly fall under the control of an Empire that is destined to last longer than a mayfly (barring occasional Hittite tourist buses dropping by now and then and the odd Kassite swarm coming down out of the mountains). Give the Babylonian player an extra 100 points in his army but give the defender two extra marsh terrain features to play with to reflect the battles in the South against the Sealanders. 


Suggested Reading


The Sumerians, Leonard Woolley: the guy who did the digging. The articles in the contemporary newspapers are a must: check your library microfiche.

Royal Inscriptions of Sumer and Akkad, GA Barton: inspiring. Personally, I think any player who can talk this way during the battle ought to get a VP.

The Reports of Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon, R Campbell Thompson: fun for inspiration on what your iggerum omen priests can say mid battle.

Wheeled Vehicles and Ridden Animals in the ANE, Littauer and Crowell: dull but essential

Mari and Karana, Stephanie Dalley: best general feeling for the period guide albeit to the Old Babylonian period later than the Early Dynastic Era.

A Handbook of the Ancient Near East, Van der Mierop: good starting point for wrapping your head around the length of the period.

The First Armies, D Dawson: although a supporter of Robert Drews (stop grimacing!), some good stuff in here, particularly on the anthropology of war.

Babylon, Joan Oates: although nominally about the later period of Babylon there is an excellent section on the Early Dynastic Period and Mesopotamia in general.

Cambridge Ancient History: solid.

Heck, there’s a shedload of stuff out there…go read. My only caution is that any date you see treat with caution. It should probably have a +/-100 years at least. I am too old and too weary to believe that what is currently touted as the current chronology will last any longer that its predecessors.



Disclaimer


My ability with Akkadian is lousy. My apologies to those learned gentlemen who pick up any grammatical mistakes or deviations from accepted spelling. Also I recognise that I have gathered over a millennium’s worth of linguistic development and ridden roughshod over them in my literary donkey cart. Sorry.



Acknowledgements


I would like to warmly thank the staff of the British Museum and the Istanbul Museum of the Ancient Orient for their kindness and patience in indulging a clearly insane “enthusiast” in a brown felt hat.




Battle Report:Setting:


Early DynasticForces:         600

AP: Chubu, God of the River City vs Sheemish, God of the Coast City

Chubu

Sheemish

3 Generals
150
3 Generals
150
Centre



1 x 8 base Royal Guard (inc. Capt.)
137
1 x 6 Base Royal Guard (inc. Capt.)
105
2 x 8 base Regular Citizen Regiments (Capt. + 3 shielded + 4 archers)
136
3 x 8 base Regular Citizen Regiments (Capt. + 3 shielded + 4 unshielded )
192
Left

Right

2 x 8 base shieldless levy (inc. Capt.)
  72
2 x 6 base shielded levy (inc. Capt.)
  70
Right

Left

2 x 6 base Regular Citizen Regiments (Capt.+ 2 shielded + 3 unshielded spear)
102

2 x 6 base shielded levy (inc. Capt.)
 70

597

587



As everyone in the Northern River City knew “There is only Chubu” and the nagging doubts of the naysayers of the Southern Coast City who kept muttering “There is also Sheemish” necessitated action. Chubu stirred his lazy patesi to action and told him: “Go, smite the city of Sheemish and take that fine barley field near the river so that all might know “There is only Chubu””. Wearily the patesi of Chubu put away his minstrels and dancers and summoned his army. Telling them the words of Chubu he marched them towards the fine barley field near the river so that all might indeed know “There is only Chubu”. The grovelling slaves of Sheemish saw a cloud on the horizon and groaned, knowing that Sheemish would wish them to defend his honour. Scrambling together their armour and weapons they lit the alarm beacons and marched out.

The Battle opened with the pre-events phase which saw the Chubuites declared the attackers and in the confusion, the Sheemishites found that one of their central regiments was late along with the Royal Guard. Disaster! In the scenery phase, the attackers chose a field, an orchard and a gentle hill. The defenders chose 2 fields with irrigation ditches and a river. The Chubuite attackers received four terrain rolls and managed to move the river over to the far-left flank. The irrigated fields were placed one in each flank, the hill and field in the centre base line and the orchard peevishly dumped right in the middle of the Chubuite line of march. Naturally, the Sheemishites occupied the fields and hill while the Chubuites in the centre tried to work out how to get round the annoying orchard.

In the pre-battle events, the men of Chubu scored a massive 4 successes in Men of Tongues and swapped out the two remaining central Sheemishite citizen regiments and replaced them with the 2 left flank levy regiments. The Sheemishite centre was now looking very soft indeed. In the Bazahatum phase the Sheemishites’ beacons gave them one reinforcement reroll. In the Temple phase, Chubu inspired his people with 3 successes giving one morale reroll. The events were then even until the patesi of Chubu was presented with a pretty brooch. This signalled the end of the Northerners’ successes. The Sheemishite patesi had spent most of his rings on the later events causing enough mist to shuffle one of the Chubuite citizens in the centre back almost to the base line. Fine fruit orchards encouraged one of the River levy units on their left to be removed as late and the patesi of Sheemish’s strong leadership earned him a motivation reroll.

The battle opened with the Chubuites managing to motivate all their units in all sectors of the battlefield forward at least three inches intent on getting stuck in as fast as possible. This left the single Chubuite levy unit on the left looking brave but isolated as it advanced on the two units of shielded levy defending that flank. The plan was to pin these two units to prevent them reinforcing the centre. The Southerners responded by advancing their right flank to mug the lonely enemy levy. On the left near the river the two citizen regiments chased forward thinking that they could overwhelm the smaller Chubuite regiments before them. Sadly one of them became disordered crossing their own irrigation ditch and slowed down allowing their colleagues to go before them getting within 3” of the enemy. Turn 1 favoured the Sheemishites in that they were able to bring on the Royal Guard with their additional reinforcement roll. The Levy in the centre breathed a sigh of relief and hoped that the Guard would get to them before the Chubuite onslaught arrived.

The second turn for both sides saw the River City forces advancing rapidly while the Sheemishites were gutted to find their Coastal Royal Guard only able to advance 3” in the centre. Both sides were on the point of being able to engage in close combat. Due to poor dice rolling the Northerners were unable to use their bows.

The third Chubuite turn saw the River Royal Guard and one of the Citizen Regiments thunder into the two levy units after exceptionally fortunate motivation rolls. The Royal Guard of Chubu swept away their hilltop opponents inflicting 2 casualties without loss leaving the Sheemishite captain looking very lonely. The levy unit failed its morale test and fled at high speed. The other levy unit in the field, were also defeated 2-1 but the casualty they inflicted was the enemy captain, paralysing the citizens until they chose a new captain. The Southern levy unit then passed its morale test but was looking shaky. On the Chubuite left the lone levy unit stopped and looked nervously at the two oncoming Sheemishites. On the right the citizen infantry decided to get stuck in and one charged the enemy phalanx.  They suffered three casualties due to lousy saving dice rolls but inflicted two of their own. The second unit then planned to attack the battered Sheemishites but a motivation roll failed leaving it to stumble forward. In the morale test, the Chubuites looked as if they would break but used their morale reroll to hold the line. At last the second left flank levy unit emerged onto the baseline intent on racing off to support its friends...sadly they were too late.

The third Sheemishite turn saw the two levy units do to the lone Northern levy what the barum priests did to the sacrificial sheep. The first attack saw a 1-1 draw but the successful (well successful after the use of the reroll) second wave attack saw a 2-0 blow that broke the Chubuites and sent them running. In the centre the Sheemishite Royal Guard charged uphill into their Chubuite counterparts and managed to inflict a 2-1 victory. The Chubuites passed their morale easily. The heroic citizen spearmen in the field somehow managed to pull off a 0-0 draw against their foes and both passed morale. On the Sheemishite left by the river the second citizen regiment rallied from disorder and with its general attached crashed into the unengaged enemy unit inflicting a staggering 3-0 defeat including the death of the enemy captain. The Chubuites fled the field. With a “huzzah!” the final Citizen regiment that had been late arrived on the baseline.

The fourth turn saw the remaining Chubuite levy on the left turn right and head for the centre hoping to take cover with the main elements of the army. The rearmost citizen regiment decided to wheel left to present a menacing aspect to the victorious Sheemishites and managed to let fly with a volley of arrows that killed one of the levy bases (their morale test left them unable to move forward next turn). In the centre the Chubuite Royal Guard managed a 3-2 victory against the Sheemishite Royal Guard who finally broke as did the levy in the field. Behind them the late citizen regiment passed its morale test. By the river, the Chubuite infantry broke and ran, its commander still muttering about the perfidy of the second citizen regiment.

In the Sheemishite turn, the left flank units rallied from disorder and managed to wheel, hoping to restore order in the centre where their remaining regiment managed to drive out the battered regulars in the field. On the right, one of the two Sheemishite levy units ran into the Chubu levy and broke it. By the end of the fourth turn the countdown clock was down to five, the Chubuites had lost on the left and right but clearly were doing better in the centre.

On the fifth turn the Chubu Royal Guard swept down the hill into the flank or the remaining Sheemishite infantry scattering them. The citizen regiment in the centre fired two volleys of arrows at the Sheemishite levies causing them to withdraw. In their turn the Southerners near the river advanced towards the rear of the Chubu citizens but with a high countdown roll, the battle ended and night fell. Tallying up the VPs it was felt that this was a very narrow victory for the sons of Sheemish and the Chubu patesi retreated not quite sure where he’d gone wrong.  It was felt that the suicidal attack on the left had failed horribly. Bad luck on the right was conceded by the gracious Sheemishites who felt proud of their central levies who had held far longer than anticipated.

Thus as the desert sands shifted in the temple of the River City, the priests still sang “There is only Chubu” but far away on the coastal breeze the winds still replied “There is also Sheemish”. Only slightly louder. (My apologies to Lord Dunsany).


So there you have it. Hardly a comprehensive guide to a millennium’s military history but hopefully enough to tease and tempt you to abandon your pernicious modern habits, don your sheepskin kilt (your grandmother’s sheepskin rug will do nicely) and strut your stuff as a god’s enforcer. May you wash your weapons in the ocean.



Mike


download the file here

2 comments:

  1. I totally agree with you that onager carts were not for charging enemies. They seem like a form of transportation.

    ReplyDelete
  2. HI Ronald,

    Sorry I missed your reply - apologies.

    I think on balance the Onager carts were used as a missile platform that could, given the opportunity, charge home and break a weakened foe. I'm less inclined to think of them as some form of charging knight or scythed chariot or anything like that...

    Hope you enjoy the blog.

    Cheers

    Happy W

    ReplyDelete