Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Imagineering Bureaucracy

In an early post, I dabbled briefly in the background of my semi-historical Mede army. On the surface it may seem like a bit of a useless exercise but if I progress beyond stray scenarios the information may come in useful and in any event since I don't want to bother with points, it gives me a rationale for what units to deploy and how they should be organized.

One of the sticking points is that one of the few bits of information that comes easily  to hand and to mind is the organization of Persian (and presumably earlier Mede) armies into 10's, 100's and 1,000's, (not to mention 10,000's). As mentioned in earlier posts, this caused me some grief as it does not match convenient 25mm wargame unit sizes. It also does not explain how smaller forces would be selected (for example where one finds say 300 cavalry being deployed). An advantage of semi-historical gaming, especially in a poorly documented era, is that I can use my discretion and imagination to provide solutions with a clear conscience. After a mad minute where I contemplated fielding 50 man wargame units each with 10 x 5 man subunits, I settled on the following theoretical and practical organizations.

The smallest unit, the 10 man file is too small for me to work with on table, so I will begin with the 100 man sub-unit as the basis of my organization. Without worrying about niceties of ground scale, I flatly declare that 3 wargame figures or 1 chariot or elephant and crew constitute a COMPANY of 100 men.   Ten such companies constitute a REGIMENT. A full strength regiment is thus 30 figures. Three men don't look like much on the table (and aren't a legal unit under WHAB) so companies will not normally be fielded on their own, instead the regiment is divided into 5 SQUADRONS each of 2 companies or 6 men. This will be the minimum size of wargame unit. On occasion, a unit of more than squadron size but smaller than regiment size is needed. In these cases, 2 squadrons are formed into an adhoc unit called a WING.

Now, armies are rarely at full paper strength and there are two main ways to deal with this. The most common method is to maintain the number of sub-units but allow their strength to drop. This results in uneven sized subunits and so in some armies the administrative unit was not used as a tactical unit. For example, a battalion of 10 administrative companies might be fallen in and numbered off into 8 equal tactical platoons each morning, resulting in each being composed of men from several different companies.

Another, less common method, was to maintain the subdivisions as close as possible to full strength and reduce the number of sub-divisions when numbers failed. In particular, some later regiments maintained field and depot battalions or squadrons with the field ones being sent to war at, as near as possible, full strength. This is the system my Medes will adopt. Indeed, it now appears that the common practice in my army is to  send 4 squadrons into the field and hold 1 squadron back as a depot.(conveniently giving me my basic 24 man units with a rationale for smaller units).  The depot squadron is responsible for recruitment and training, looking after convalescent men, sending drafts to the front when needed and for rear area security.  
District regiments are normally recruited in one area and armed alike. Auxiliary regiments may be composed of various contingents of mercenaries or tribal levies from the fringes of the empire. One common practice is to brigade 2 squadrons of skirmishers with a wing of light infantry equipped to either skirmish or fight hand to hand.

Skirmishers and cavalry are usually deployed by squadron, but heavier shock cavalry usually deploy in at least wing strength and occasionally as full regiments. Light infantry operating in support of the skirmishers and cavalry normally deploy by wing while massed infantry  normally deploys by regiment.

For the upcoming Lydian campaign, the following troops have been earmarked and are now completing their mobilization: 1 District cavalry regiment, 1 Auxiliary light cavalry regiment, 1 chariot wing, 6 District infantry regiments, 2 Auxilliary light infantry regiments, 1 Sapper squadron. All of these will be under the command of Rosius, Satrap of West Hantsia.  Pictures and details will hopefully be available for posting by next week.

Whether the Lydians conveniently adopt a similar system, as far as possible given their haphazard empire and reliance on seasonal mercenaries,  or go a different route, remains to be seen.


  1. Sounds like a good plan you've got going there. This reminds me somewhat of when I attempted to play Avalon Hill's Alesia, with the vast quantity of Gaulic counters. I finally ended up grouping them into brigades and divisions and organizing them into a carrying case so I could find them quickly. This also enabled me to handle off-board movement with markers labeled with the brigade/division, rather than shuffling 300 counters from square to square on the off-board chart.

    Throw in labeling the board with 4-digit codes, and I was all set for record keeping.

  2. Hi Ross,

    In researching the Lydia Empire of which you write, I discovered the following military organization.

    I will use your 3 figures = 100 men to illustrate.

    6 figures = 1 Zag whose closest modern equivalent is a Company.
    This was usually the minimum force allowed for detached duty. The known exception is, of course, the well documented use of sending a Zag of light cavalry or light infantry on a reconnaissance mission during which its leader would send out detachments of in determinant size to accomplish his mission as he saw fit.

    The men in Zag were recruited together from a town, city, or area in a rural province. They might also be a hired professional mercenary unit.

    Leader equivalent modern rank = Captain

    4 Zags = 1 Zeg whose closest modern equivalent is a Battalion or Regiment.

    Typically Zegs were formed from homogeneous Zags from one particular province and were usually named after their point of origin. If composed of mercenary Zags, the Zeg was named after the leader assigned to ride herd on this cutthroat unit.

    Leader equivalent modern rank = Major

    As a side note, mercenaries were not usually mixed with non-mercenaries in Lydian units. This was a political, financial, and morale issue. The mercenaries were usually loyal to their paymaster, but Lydian Kings did not want these warriors spreading "foreign" ideas throughout their army. Therefore, the mercenaries were keep segregated in their own units. This also meant the units could be more closely watched and dealt with by loyal "citizen" units if necessary.

    Occasionally multiple Zegs would place under one commander for a specific mission. This formation was called a Zig which is similar to a modern Brigade. Though used on numerous occasions, these were ad hoc formations, lasting until a specific mission was accomplished.

    Leader equivalent modern rank = General

    Zigs were usually temporary formations, though fragmented records have indicated that some Zigs stayed together for long periods and came to be regarded as fix formations. The most famous is, of course, the King's Mounted Guard and the King's Foot Guard. Non-royal Zigs were typically named after their commander which makes tracking their activities sometimes very frustrating as the leaders led from the front once the fighting started and among such leader casualties were high. This caused the name of Zigs to change more often than a researcher would like.

    Typically 4 Zags were organized into a Zog in a more or less permanent arrangement. A Zog is similar to a modern division.

    Leader equivalent modern rank = General

    Two or more Zogs form an Army which was call a Zug. Usually, but not always, the King led the Zug. If the war effort required multiple Zugs, they were commanded by loyal Princes from the royal family seconded by an equally loyal seasoned General. Though a Prince might command the Zug, he would be a foolish Prince indeed, not to listen carefully to his attached General's advice. Both Prince and General reported separately to the King on each other and on the army's operations. There were occasions where militarily talented Princes commanded alone, but this was certainly a rare exception.

    I found the following works helpful in my research. Sadly most are out of print or exceedingly difficult to obtain.

    Brown, Lawrence, "Kingship in Ancient Lydia," 1895.
    DeVille, Antoine, "Ancient Campaigns in Western Turkey", 1928.
    Medlin, George David, "Lydian Warfare in the 5th Century BC," 1921.
    Opelstein, Heinz, "Its Good To King," 1938.
    Taylor, Bernice, "Ancient Lydia," 1899.
    Taylor, Bernice, "Lydia, Wilted Blossom" 1933.

  3. Hi Ross,

    I forgot to append this note to my last comment.

    Lydian military organization was usually based on 4 units and a leader.

    Lydian philosophers likened this arrangement to the human hand. The hand has four fingers and one thumb. The finger, the four units, are useless without the thumb. The thumb, the leader, is useless without the finger. Together the fingers and thumb "make up a mighty hand to smite the enemies of the Kings of Lydia."

    Medlin, George David, "Lydian Warfare in the 5th Century BC," 1921.


  4. Thanks Jim, wouldn't I love to have a couple of such books! or a free download from Gutenburg or similar! Nice work though, I esp like the fist thing. When I get to the Lydians I'll keep your comment in mind.

    As for Alesia, one does wonder at times how chaps like Vercingetorix managed but I suspect it mostly a question of delegation, he talks to his 10 commanders, they talk to their subordinates etc