Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Hydaspes 326 BC - The Dining Room Table Version Part 1

The Society of Ancients (SOA) is an organization of history and wargame buffs who enjoy ancient military history. SOA has a yearly Battle Day, where they encourage their membership to re-fight a particular battle from antiquity and report on the results. This year's Battle Day was March 28, and the battle to be re-fought was from 326 BC called Hydaspes; Alexander and his Macedonians versus King Porus and his Indian army.

An account of the battle of Hydaspes can be found at this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Hydaspes

Another very good source of information is the book by General JFC Fuller: "The Generalship of Alexander the Great. "(De Capo PressISBN 978-0-306-80371-0)

A map of the battle is below:

Bob & I decided to celebrate Battle Day with our own version of Hydaspes using DBA 3.0. We would alternate commands after the first game & see which army performed better.

Above is the Macedonian army. From L-R, 2 elements of Companions, Alexander is leading one of them. The element in front of Alex are the Agrianian Light Infantry skirmishers (Psiloi). The Pike Phalanx includes the Hypaspists (elite troops, blue shields) and the Pezeratoi (red & bronze shields), who were the backbone of Alexanders infantry. Thracian Peltasts and Cretan archers are on the right, with Asiatic Light Horse behind. This order of battle is slightly modified from the DBA 3.0 army list, as we replaced the Artillery or Elephant (neither of which fought at Hydaspes) with the Cretan Archers. Upon further review, another element of light horse might have been more appropriate.

Above is the Indian Army of King Porus. From L-R, elements of auxilia & psiloi, heavy chariot & cavalry behind, longbows & war elephants x 3, another heavy chariot and cavalry behind. All miniatures are 15mm by Essex.

Above shows our initial deployment for the first game. The Hydaspes battlefield didn't have much in the way of terrain. Bob & I went with woods on the far edges of both battlefield flanks. Even this may have been too much.

Above shows the situation after turn 2. The Macedonians are angling right as they did historically, the Companions supported by psiloi and the Hypaspists. In the real battle, Alexander massed all his cavalry on the right and attacked the Indian left flank of chariots & cavalry, leaving the infantry behind. Also, the Indians in the actual battle had a line of elephants in front of their infantry, not interspersed as above.

Part of the Companions & a line of psiloi advance towards the enemy.

Another view of the battle.

Alexander has destroyed the left flank Indian cavalry and is battling the heavy chariot. The Indians have deployed their 2 of their longbows into firing positions in front of the elephants. 

Alexander has rallied & brought up a psiloi element to assist the Companions against the heavy chariot. The Indian longbows are maneuvering for a better shot.

The Indians are counterattacking, charging Alexander's unit with a war elephant while the adjacent Companion unit is fighting the Indian heavy chariot, supported by a psiloi. The Indian longbows have destroyed a Hypaspist pike element by bow fire. The right flank Indian cavalry and chariot are attacking the Macedonian left flank. If Alexander is recoiled, he and his unit will be destroyed by the elephant.

The battle continues. Alexander's unit has recoiled the elephant, but must pursue and maintain contact and risk of destruction. At this point, there is no way the Macedonian player can support Alexander's unit. The other Companion unit has recoiled the heavy chariot. A single rank of Macedonian pikes are closing on the Indian longbows, while the second rank holds back. The Asiatic light horse on the Macedonian left are recoiling from the heavy chariot. The Indians are winning 2 elements to 1.

This is the view at the end of the battle. Alexander's element was recoiled & destroyed by the elephant, while the left flank Asiatic light horse was destroyed by the heavy chariot, supported by cavalry.

The main lesson of this battle: don't use Alexander's knight element to fight elephants.


  1. Awesome. Interesting how the game played out. I'd like to see this re-played with BBDBA.

    1. I agree it would be cool. My friend Bob just has to paint more Indians.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Great write up Dave. Love the whole army photos in the intro.
    Interesting when broken down to 12 elements and matched up. Wonder what it would look like totally historically with the elephants in a front line and the pikes in echelon.

  3. Nice write up. Not a particularly good representation of the battle. The river Indus really ought to be down one side, and some muddy/rough terrain on the other (the main effect to narrow he frontage). And of course Alexander was outnumbered which makes his job harder than you suggested here.

    The biggest problem is that the DBA army list for Porus is nonsense. The chariots should be LCh,the Indian horse LH, and there should be no Bw elements at all (no evidence at all of massed shooting for effect) but probably Bd or Aux. As long as you use the DBA army list its really closer to the Alexander movie than the actual battle.