It's time for an update on our multiplayer PBEM game of Raphia. Much has happened since the first installment here. To quickly recap, the second turn finished with the Seleucids having made an impressive attack on their left through Antipater and having pulled a fast move in turning their central phalanx left to bring as much force to bear as possible on Ephecretes' fragile wing. This made it even more urgent for the Ptolemaic centre under Andromachus to push on with the attack.
Here is the board at the commencement of turn 3 (Seleucids in Black; Ptolemies in Red):
The command roll for the Ptolemies was favourable - a four. This gave enough commands to activate all the command groups for attack and also to remedy some poor initial communication from the commander-in-chief on the subject of keeping a central reserve.
The action began on the right with Ephecretes launching an attack on Themison's wing using four commands. The first attack by the phalangites scored a hit on Indian elephant. The attack by the flanking light cavalry finished off the job and shattered it, but the other units survived unscathed.
In the centre, Andromachus was alloted five commands. One was used to about-face a levy phalanx unit and send it into the rear zone as a reserve; the others were used to mount an attack on Nicarchus' centre, now facing away from the attack. The leading unit prosecuted the with with zest, shattering Nicarchus' lead unit of levies, but despite having things in their favour the rest of the phalangites were reluctant to take the attack to the enemy with vigour and no more hits were scored.
Polycrates commenced his attack on the left by ordering his heavy cavalry to charge at Antiochus' zone, but the assault was not a success. The attack with the centre left was similarly ineffective, with the troops perhaps understandably unwilling to close with the Indian elephants. Nonetheless, with two units shattered this turn the Seleucid fighting value was reduced by 6, taking them into the 50s and reducing the commands available to them by 1.
It came now to the Seleucids to respond and their command roll was also four, giving them a total of nine commands.
Themison began on the left, using two commands and leading off with his heavy cavalry. They were perhaps all a little dismayed by the loss of their (totemic?) elephants because neither the cavalry not the infantry were able to inflict any hits.
Nicarchus in the centre fared a little better, using four commands and managing to displace the lead unit of phalangites. Unfortunately, they were not able to make any further inroads. Ephecretes no doubt heaved a sigh of relief, but Antiochus would surely not have been so pleased had he been aware.
Perhaps happily for Antiochus, he was in the thick of things himself. Antipater's zone again attacked Ptolemy and his men, and again the elephants performed with distinction. The first unit scored a double hit, and Ptolemy, in attempting to rally his men, was killed. The morale of the men held up, but the second elephant unit, determined not to be outdone, also scored a double hit, clearing the zone entirely!
Although morale held up again, Antiochus swept away the remnants of the Ptolemaic left by personally leading a wild charge which immediately shattered the heavy cavalry opposing him.
What seemed only moments before to have been an opportunity lost by the unwillingness of the left and centre to press home their attacks had now become a triumph due to the inspired charge of the elephants and of Antiochus himself. Somehow, the Ptolemies had lost 22 points of fighting value - fully a third of their army (and our gallant Phillip G) - in one turn!
With their fighting value reduced to forty, much gritty work was needed.
"And then there were two..."
Here is the board at the commencement of Turn 4. Observers may notice the absence of a Ptolemaic left!
The command roll for turn four was not a disaster, for which the shaken Ptolemaic commander-in-chief was immensely grateful (I have this on very reliable authority!). Eight command points did not seem too bad a tally given what could have been.
The right led off, with Ephecretes' phalangites launching an attack on Themison's zone. Using 4 commands, they managed three hits, including a double hit which shattered one of the units of levy phalangites. The light cavalry worried the flanks, but did no real damage.
In the centre, and not before time, Andromachus inspired his men to great deeds, with four hits made at a cost of two to themselves. This redressed the balance somewhat, steadied the centre and disordered the enemy phalanx enough that they would not be able to pair their units in attack.
With a command roll of one, the Seleucids did not begin the turn auspiciously, and that was how it remained. Themison's weakened zone again failed failed to make any headway against the enemy, and Nicarchus in the centre (now mostly spent) was unable to coordinate the attacks of the phalangites as well as he would have liked. The elephant was hit, but the anticipated decisive push against an outflanked Ephecretian phalanx did not come.
Antipater's command in the centre left now wheeled about to tear into the flank of Andromachus' phalangites, but turning to the attack reduced the force of the manoeuvre and only one hit was scored. In the meantime, Antiochus and his strike force of picked cavalry raced from the scene of their second triumph on the left into contact with the Ptolemaic reserve.
So, with four turns finished and the Ptolemies in grave difficulties, the the final blow has still not yet fallen. There is a faint glimmer of hope for the Ptolemies: if they can pull out another big turn they might still be able to win the field, but one feels that it's now or never for them.
Here is the board after turn 4:
Stay tuned for the next installment (which can be now be found here).