Sunday, 4 April 2010

Kadesh refight

About time we started using the blog again.
Last Friday we did a trial refight of Kadesh using FoG rules. It was intended as a study to work out the possibility of a definitive game, possibly as a long game with many units per side.
Kadesh is one of the best known ancient battles and many wargamers want to try it on the table. There have been several books and many articles written about this battle and it is widely regarded as the best recorded battle of the bronze age.
Troy could perhaps make such a claim but has long been regarded by scholars as mostly mythical, yet evidence is currently hardening that the city known to archaeology as Troy VI could be Homer's 'strong towered Ilios'. This is much disputed and others prefer Troy VII as the candidate but at least the assumption that the 'Illiad' was a novel is being overturned.

Back to Kadesh.
The history of the campaign is well known and the Osprey Campaign book Kadesh offers an interpretation. Pharaoh Ramses II marched his army in 4 divisions as far as the environs of Kadesh. The lead division Amun encamped on the plain south of the city. The following division P'Re was marching to join Amun and the other divisions were out of touch to the rear. On the Egyptian right flank the river Orontes must have seemed to offer flank protection (so it seems to me).

The Hittites were massed beyond the Orontes apparently unknown to the Egyptians. Such a monumental failure of reconnaissance is very hard to account for so perhaps the Egyptians had an idea that the Hittites were there but assumed the Orontes was unfordable. The story of spies being questioned may be true but does not really explain the lack of scouting by the Egyptians.

Our game began with Amun encamped and P'Re marching towards them. At this point slightly over half the Hittites thundered across the plain trying to catch P'Re at a disadvantage. P'Re managed to deploy in line and awaited the thundering herd of Hittite heavy chariotry. They were over-matched by the Hittites and started to loose cohesion although one of the Hittite chariot units was turned back by archery. The Egyptian light chariots were broken by superior numbers of Hittite light chariots after a stubborn fight. As Hittite numbers started to pile in it became obvious that P'Re would be overwhelmed. The survivors began fleeing towards the camp of Amun and it was only now that units from Amun advanced to aid P'Re.
Meanwhile a counter had been running down to the arrival of an Egyptian force known as the Ne'arin. These appeared in the rear of the Egyptian camp and began to flow around forming a very strong right wing for Ramses. The arrival of the Ne'arin was the signal for the remainder of the Hittites to thunder across the plain with the intention of taking the camp. These Hittites made no attempt to keep infantry together with the chariots and the foot soldiers were soon left behind to take no part in the battle.
The second wave of Hittites was met by Pharaoh himself commanding an elite Royal Guard of chariots and some medium troops alongside Sherdan heavy infantry. The medium troops found trouble standing against the heavy chariots but the Sherdans held their ground. Ramses inspired his squadron and they held out against the heavier Hittite chariots. I had assumed that the elite chariots lead by Pharaoh would win easily but the melee went back and forth.
This is how we finished the evening with Pharaoh playing a hero's role fighting in the front rank of his Guard. The Hittite king Muwatallish observed the battle from beyond the Orontes.
The Egyptians had done enough to justify carving a relief on the club house, I assume they can afford a stone mason.

The refight was entertaining but the scenario broke down into a sequential type game that resulted in players being unengaged for quite long periods. We shall make some fine tuning adjustments to any subsequent game.
Each Egyptian division should have 2 generals to help command and assist in the fighting. The Hittites should probably have 3 generals per wave.
This makes slightly larger divisions practical so the unit count should increase by about 50% and this may be an improvement.
The Hittite second wave should enter the fight before the Ne'arin. It's a close call but may just be more authentic and allow the Hittites to contact the camp of Amun.
The division of P'Re may do better by fleeing towards the camp of Amun before contact rather than standing to fight. It seemed to me that an outnumbered force could chose this option of trying to concentrate with friends before facing the Hittites. Within the existing scenario this manoeuvre might just come off, again a very close call though. I wonder if this was what P'Re were trying to do historically.

In total the Hittites deployed 46 chariots and the Egyptians 24. So far so good.