Friday, May 7, 2010

Shields up

The Raffum Cavalry Regiment

The first full regiment of Mede cavalry has now been refurbished, reorganized and rebased. If memory serves, they were originally raised in the mid-80's as three 10 man units for WRG 6th ed (2 heavy, 1 light) and have since fought under WRG 7th, Hoplite, DBA, Armati and WHAB. Most of the figures are converted RAFM Hellenistic cavalry but there are a few converted Ral Partha Scythians and a new Garrison standard bearer. Roughly half wear visible armour, the rest might have armour under their tunics, or not. The new individual bases have been lightly coated in sawdust to soften the edges of the figures' bases and then painted to match my tabletop. This treatment helps the troops to blend into their surroundings.

Their original equipment did not include shields. The use of shields use by Mede cavalry is moot and possibly the figures look better without them but it was late, the new standard bearer had a round shield and there was this pile of painted shields recently removed from a unit of slingers and they will come in useful against some of the enemies that I might ask them to fight. The shields I have used are probably not the most likely shape and design, rather they were what I had available.

There are two main reasons for wargame cavalry to carry shields, the first is that the historical troops definitely carried them, the second is that the troops might have used them and the chosen rules reward their use. A Persian wargame army using WHAB falls under the later category, especially if it might be used as a stand-in for later armies. Since WHAB is old fashioned enough to give saving throws based on how much armour a unit is carrying, more is better as long as it isn't heavy enough to slow the unit down. The points assigned can be skewed though. A shield or a light armour will double the save chances for a cavlryman but a shield is only 1/2 the price of the armour. This of of course encourages players to choose Persian cavalry with shield and no armour rather than the more probable armour and no shield. Having both is better yet. Now this is all pretty much irrelevant  for my solo mini-campaign since I won't be counting points anyway but it bugs me none the less.

Did the Medes carry shields? Without getting too tedious, the evidence both written and pictorial would seem to indicate that at least some did at least some of the time. Why would they choose to use or not use shields in real life? The answer may be that a light shield is most useful to a horsemen engaged in hand to hand combat with other cavalry and to defend himself and his mount against missile fire but is an encumbrance to the bridal arm and makes control of the mount more difficult. When facing a Greek army, the opposing missile fire would not be a major issue and a shield would be insufficient protection to allow a frontal charge on a phalanx and wouldn't be needed if they were pursuing a broken one or attacking the flank or rear. When fighting an enemy with shock cavalry or one who relied on massed missile fire, a shield might have been more useful. The main armies that my Medes expect to face are: Lydians, Assyrians, Egyptians, fictional Alexandrian Successor, Romans and "barbarians". In all these cases, the shields will be useful if questionable.

Reviewing how my Mede cavalry works under the rules, I became aware of a problem. They don't have the oomph to be shock cavalry but if they ride up to opposing infantry to throw their javelins, they will be unable to avoid being charged except by fleeing with the possibility of causing panics and of never rallying. I have decided to deal with this in 2 ways. I intend to grant them the Parthian shot special rule which will allow them to ride up to infantry, shoot, then pull back out of charge reach. Against cavalry, they will still have to brace for impact or flee. Secondly, I have taken the step of deploying them as 6 man squadrons. These will be little threat by themselves and can be driven off by enemy missile fire but they will be very maneuverable (deployed 3 wide and 2 deep they will be able to "fast march" 24 inches per turn if they don't shoot and aren't embroiled with the enemy) and with several used together or if they can penetrate gaps in the enemy  to hit his flank or rear, they are a force to be reckoned with. On the other hand, if routed, they will be too small to bother my main combat units. The rules make standards useful, but only 1 per combat is needed so I have decided  to stay with 1 for each 2 units. This will allow me to field 4x 6 man units or 2x 12 man units.

So, without further ado we have:

1 comment:

  1. There is evidence for some Medes/Persians carrying shields up to about 420BC, certainly there is evidence for Scythians carrying shields and they would have been a major influence on earlier Medes and Persians, so I would be happy with the idea.Some certainly have shields in my armies.