My series of articles describing the story of General Belisarius continues. The greatest general of early Byzantine era – by many regarded as the greatest Byzantine general ever – and its feats against Sassanid Empire are neatly formulated in multiple scenarios of Commands and Colors Medieval game. That is definitely an add-on bonus to the already good game – we have possibility not only to play interesting tactically scenarios but also see and feel the historical flow and developments of the Justinian and Belisarius era.
Belisarius Campaign: Thannuris (528 SD) => Melebasa (528 AD) => Dara (530 AD)
The Scenario – 005 Melebasa – 528 AD
The battle of Melebasa occurred in 528 AD and, as the engagement at Thannuris, was part of Iberian War – a conflict raging between Byzantine Empire and Sassanid Empire from 526 AD to 532 AD over the eastern Georgian kingdom of Iberia. All action happens in vicinity of the great Roman city / fortress – Dara – located on the border of both empires and provinces of Syria and Mesopotamia. The setback of Belisarius at Thannuris was met by Justinian with another order to build a frontier fort. Of course, once Sassanids learned about it, they sent their army to prevent Byzantines from completing the task. Belisarius forces were fatigued and weakened – both by previous skirmishes as well as labor on the fort – and were again defeated. Still, the faith of emperor in the able general did not diminish and the latter was made the Magister Militum a year later, with an order to invade Persia.
The scenario itself features pretty well-known in C&C world Special Rule, allowing Byzantines when playing Scout car, to get victory a banner instead of drawing two cards. That definitely puts a time pressure on Sassanid forces.
Again, in my first game I took command of Byzantines. My opponent led Sassanids, who were supposed to – historically – win. Both armies are pretty close to one another – big chunk of board is not used at all. Proximity of enemies naturally will result in a pretty quick and bloody battle, as an opponent is within 1-2 cards play. The hills in the middle will be important terrain feature, around which the battle will be fought.
Being so close makes you wish to have an appropriate Leadership Card and charge. Having mostly foot units in front of him on right wing, that is what my opponent did, activating three Sassanid Cavalry Units – and with good results, killing one unit outright and mauling the other.
The best way to defend is to attack, thus Belisarius – yes, he finally gets into action in our 3rd game-play – attacks, alongside with Heavy Infantry, the lightly protected Sassanid left. All this, while Sassanid light infantry observes the cavalry struggles from nearby hills.
The situation mid-game. Hills tend to be a focal point around which all the action happens – on one side Sassanids push, on the other Byzantine counter-attacks.
Play of a very powerful card Cry Havoc – allowing player to roll an amount of dice equal to their command, and order appropriate units with +1d in battle – is often very deadly. It was also this time but unfortunately to the attacker, Sassanid Empire losses its Cataphract as well as a leader, which will have a disastrous effects on their left wing.
The eastern kingdom attack on Byzantine left comes finally to a halt – not surprising, having such great archers who are able to outright kill a half of a Super Heavy Cavalry unit!
All the game action in one picture with marked army maneuvers as well as final disposition of the forces. The game was won mainly by two factors – Byzantine break-through on the right, which killed enemy leader, and the ability of Romans to prevent similar encirclement by Sassanid on the other flank. The hills were important as a basis for all operations but saw no major struggle. Still, the result was a bit harsh on Persians.
As you probably already know, I prefer to play the Commands & Colors scenarios by switching sides and thus comparing the results to see how good the score was. So that’s what we just did, and it was my turn to command the mighty Persian forces.
Surprise, surprise! – the second game starts in a pretty same way as the first one – both sides move closer to each other and then Sassanid Cavalry use Mounted Charge to hit Byzantine left.
The initial attack by Persian Super Heavy Cavalry is more than successful, killing the Auxilia outright, but my opponent’s skillful play Ambush card leaves my forces greatly depleted.
Things were pretty bad already, but when Romans on top of it also use Mounted Charge card – much better and more flexible than Mounted Charge from Inspired Actions board, allowing to move units without Inspired Leadership Token and they do not need to be adjacent – I know it will hurt. And it does – pretty quickly I am losing two victory points.
A small consolation is the fact that my archers – regardless if I lead Sassanids or Byzantines – are superb. This time they decimate Belisarius Super Heavy Cavalry, killing half of the unit outright.
Again, above I present all the game action in one picture with marked army maneuvers as well as the final disposition of the forces. Yet one more time hills were pivotal point around which all the maneuvers took place. Surprisingly, Byzantines again were superior, breaking completely Persians on their left wing while draw was achieved on the second edge of battlefield.
Melebasa is a relatively quick and bloody scenario, without much tactical or operational finesse. Both sides are too close for complex maneuvers and often better cards can decided who attacks first. Infantry can withstand cavalry only when protected by an appropriate terrain –Auxilia without such protection (left wing of Byzantine army) – is an easy picking for charging enemy cavalry.
I treat Melebasa as a good introductory scenario – just as Thannuris. Not too many units, quick and bloody action and only one terrain feature. The next encounter will be much more complex – the Battle of Data features city walls, city gates as well as an ambush force. But more of this in next episode of Belisarius Campaign!