Saturday, 4 August 2018

Another Start?

His ambitions knowing no bounds, Alexander had decided that, after the subjugation of the entire eastern seaboard, he would head from Syria towards Africa, because of his enmity to the Carthaginians. Then, crossing the Numidian deserts, he would set his course for Gades, where the Pillars of Hercules were rumoured to be; afterwards he would go to Spain (which the Greeks called ‘Hiberia’, after the river Hiberus). Then he would skirt past the Alps and the Italian coastline, from which it was a short passage to Epirus.

Accordingly, Alexander instructed his governors in Mesopotamia to cut timber on Mt. Libanus, transport it down to the Syrian city of Thapasacus, and there lay down kneels for 700 ships. These were septemremes, which were to be transported to Babylon. The kings of Cyprus were instructed to furnish bronze, hemp and sails.

Quintus Curtius Rufus, The History of Alexander (London: Penguin, 2001), 10.1.17-19.

The question of whether Alexander III of Macedon was great or not is one I want to leave aside here; I will probably come back to it in due course. But the interest here is in wargaming, and I note that I do now have a variety of wargame armies for the classical period which are hanging around not doing all that much. This seems to me to be a shame, especially, as I noted a few posts ago, I now have a perfectly adequate table for 20 base armies, even roughly doubled ones and a more recent penchant for narrative campaigns.

By a narrative campaign, I mean one which is basically storytelling with dice. My Armada campaign (which is ongoing, in case you are worrying about Don Pedro and his men) is one such. I have no rules for the campaign – it is all made up as I go along. There are no messengers, logistics, particular anxieties about communications and politics and so on. All of these things, in my experience, slow a wargame campaign down and eventually bring it to a stop.

As examples, I can refer to the various campaigns I have mentioned on this blog. 1618-Something eventually became bogged down in accountancy and communicating with players in a big game. Fuzigore got bogged down because I was trying to keep records of who had fallen out with whom. Greece 360 BC got bogged down because while I was engrossed in a mini-campaign of the Persians trying to clear an island of its piratical inhabitants (who had some Athenian support, but the Athenians were trying very hard to avoid admitting that they were there) I forgot about all the communications, alliances and timetables for raising troops that were going on.

The upshot of all this is that while I very much like the idea of connected wargames, campaigns and so on, the whole Tony Bath is not for me.  I am sure that there are some people who like the idea of spending an afternoon working out the accounts for each state in their game, but it is not for me. I have to cut my wargame coat to match the cloth I have, which is a disinterest in minutiae.

Nevertheless, I do like verisimilitude. Some of the recent posts have tried to indicate that the Abbeys Campaign is a realistic one, in the sense that it was not beyond the boundaries of possibility to have happened. The troops are not entirely fantasy (although the adequate painting of them by yours truly is more a result of hope than reality). The tensions which the activities of the sides uncover are, at least to some extent and with a broad brush-stroke while not examining history too closely, correct for the times. In short, as a story, I can claim ‘It might have happened’.

Now, this is where we switch back to all those classical armies and the opening quote from Curtius Rufus. The words are from book ten, which as I am sure you all know, is towards the end. Alexander III is about to pop his clogs, and we all know what happened then: the successors fell out among themselves. But what if history had taken a marginally different course?

The possibilities are, of course, boundless, but I will take a slightly conservative one. Alexander had ranged across the eastern part of the known world. The quote from Curtius suggests he was about to turn west, first target Carthage. What would have happened if his son, Alexander IV, had been a bit older (at the time of Alexander III’s death he was minus three months)?
The generals looked sternly at the young man. The only woman in the room smiled at him encouragingly ‘Go on Alex,’ she said, ‘tell them’.

Alexander unfolded the square of papyrus. ‘This,’ he said, ‘is my father’s will.’ The older men looked expectantly at him. ‘He says that the empire is to be held together by me as his successor, with your support. And he also says that we, together and in unity, are to carry out his plans, which he sets out under his seal.’

‘What are his plans?’

‘We are to capture Carthage and then establish a port at the Pillars of Hercules. And then we are to capture Spain and the Greek cities of the coast.’

‘What about the barbarian lands?’

‘There is no mention of them, but I suppose that he would expect us to found cities in the regions, as he did in India.’

‘What then? We will have conquered the world.’

‘Only when we can walk from Alexandria to Eprius both ways around the sea may we rest.’

‘You are not your father, lad.’

‘No, Perdiccas, I am not. But I am my father’s son and none may deny it. This is his will, and I intend, with you, to execute it.’

And so there you have another start to a campaign, a fairly simple one, the aim being only world domination. The first action, I imagine, is going to be a naval landing outside Carthage, or maybe a full blown naval battle as the invasion force attempt to land. As with all campaigns, a decisive defeat for the Macedonians will spell the end of it. The only other thing I have to work out is how to include my Indian armies.

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