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Battle of Hydaspes (326 BC) - Alexander vs. Porus at the War Room

Alex umpired an enjoyable refight of Alexander the Great's victory over Indian King Porus at the War Room on Sunday, using his 15mm figure collection and Armati rules.

Rob, Alex (Pritchard), Philip, and Mal were on the Macedonian Greek side, facing Brian, Richard and Trevor on the Indian side, in the first major Ancients game at the War Room for quite some time.

The game consisted of two separate encounters. The first was a crossing of the expansive Hydaspes river by the Macedonians, who had to land in four waves of boats. The second was the main battle itself, with both armies (including any surviving units from the first encounter).

I: The River Crossing

In four waves, the Greeks decided to land mainly light infantry and light cavalry. The Indians responded, in a bid to stem the crossing, with their cavalry and skirmishers.

The first wave saw Greek cavalry cross over, which the Indians countered by deploying heavy cavalry.

Greek skirmishers joined their cavalry, as both moved inland. Richard responded by manouevring his heavy cavalry in three segments and advancing on the Greek pickets.

More Greek cavalry came over in the third wave.

While they initially made a stand, both Alex and Rob ultimately had to evade the heavier Indian horsemen. Even so, more Greek infantry (Hypaspists) arrived to bolster the line.

The Indians brought on more units too: light infantry and more cavalry on their right.

Although the Macedonians had now been hemmed in with backs to the river, they formed a U-shape which potentially threatened Richard's heavy Indian cavalry, which was now on the horns of a dilemma.

Finally, the Macedonian phalangites crossed over on the Greek left. The Indian heavy cavalry was now largely confined between two marshy areas and at risk of a double envelopment or blow from the rear.

On the far Greek right, Philip duly charged the Indian heavy cavalry held back as a rearguard by Richard, and these were pushed back, and eventually destroyed.

Philip then advanced with the Hypaspists on the remaining Indian heavies, while Rob moved up with the phalanx (under Alexander) on the Greek left.

While Indian light infantry belatedly occupied a marsh in the centre, the increasingly isolated Indian heavy cavalry was taking casualties from Greek light infantry and light cavalry.

The Indian light cavalry inflicted some casualties on the phalanx - which also faced a portion of the Indian heavies that broke away from the main fight - but it could not stop its advance.

Philip destroyed the main body of the Indian heavy cavalry by the end of the game.

A general advance by the Greeks on both flanks was now matched by Trevor pulling out the Indian right and centre (the Indian left had ceased to exist).

Overall, the Indians had lost the encounter, but had not been decisively defeated.

II: The Battle of Hydaspes

Before lunch, both sides deployed their full armies on the larger portion of the table, which was open apart from some woods on the far Greek left, and some small hills nearby.

The Indian battle line had elephants on the far left, with heavy archers and javelinmen to their right (making up the centre), and after a gap and further right: elephants, chariots, and cavalry.

The Greeks deployed by cleverly extending their line to their left, thus evading the strong Indian left. Facing Brian's Indian archers was a small command of heavy and light cavalry under Alex. A block of phalangites was to their left, then light infantry and one phalanx under Mal, and finally the cavalry on the left flank controlled by Philip.

The game began after lunch.

The Greek cavalry on both flanks advanced, as did the phalanxes and the light infantry in the centre.

The Indian left, consisting of elephants and protective light infantry under Trevor, pivoted right to flank the weakly held Greek right.

Meanwhile, Richard moved his elephants and chariots up on the Indian right.

Things seemed to be going quite well for the Indians. Brian inflicted three casualties on the Greeks' Scythian cavalry (Alex) facing him.

Richard attacked on his centre-right with his chariots and cavalry. Alex and Philip had to evade the archers and chariots facing their cavalry on each flank respectively.

However, Alex's cavalry went in and destroyed some Indian light infantry.

And Philip began to turn his cavalry to outflank Richard's advancing cavalry on the Indian right.

While Philip subsequently bore down on the Indian right with masses of cavalry...

...Alex's heavy cavalry charged the Indian javelinmen and pushed them back, deforming the centre-left of the Indian battle line, which had already been wheeling in support of its elephants.

Constrained from the right, Richard was forced to commit to a charge in the centre with elephants, chariots and cavalry, against Mal's light infantry and phalanxes.

The game was decided by a series of melees fought in the centre and on the Indian right.

Philip mullered most of the Indian cavalry making up the Indian right, with a powerful mounted flank attack.

Mal then attacked the Indian chariots, even as the Macedonian phalanxes were moving inexorably in the centre.

Richard committed his elephants, but could not stop the entire Indian right and centre being encircled, including by some of Alex's cavalry from the Greek right wing.

To add insult to injury: King Porus (brown elephant cloth) was killed while leading the Indian elephant charge up the hill!


The end result was a decisive Greek victory. On the Indian right, four of six units were lost, and the division of cavalry there was broken. The loss of some light infantry and Porus were the other main blows.

The Greeks lost some men, but had superior troops, +2 on initiative rolls, and could thus choose how to proceed with resolving melees.

The Indian left wing (masses of heavy archers and elephants which made up at least half of their army) was held up by Alex's cavalry, effectively isolated, and never managed to influence the centre and right, where the battle was decided.

While there was minor quibbling about the rules (relating to the flexibility or otherwise of divisions), the game was smoothly umpired by Alex, and really won by the Greek deployment and control of the flanks.

Congratulations to Alex for devising, organizing, and hosting this classic battle. The figures looked great on Rob's table, and after the conclusion of the main refight, some of us stayed behind to play it again on opposite sides. Thanks to Rob for lunch and organizing, and hopefully there will be more exotic ancients action to come!


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