Sunday, March 20, 2022

The Deuteros Raid - Battle of Deuteros


Starting set-up - Bulgars nearest the viewer.

"Having flung aside the puny force Pithikos had assembled to oppose them, the raiders, now commanded by the Tarkhan Tiercel, hurried to gather the richer pickings further on.  Next on the raiders' agenda was the large village of Deuteros, a settlement important enough to contain within its precincts sufficient treasures to attract a war band's attention.

Meanwhile, the local Turmarch, Yannis Zimiskes, had gathered the remnants of Pithikos's command, and added to it such reinforcements as to offer hope that the Bulgar raiders' aims might yet be thwarted.  With part of his foot infantry, he garrisoned the town, and, as Pithikos had done at Hapas, stationed his own person and entourage there to supervise the defence.  The bulk of his heavy horse he placed in the right; the skoutatoi, covered by the light horse, to the left of the place."
Michael Psellophanes, Byzantiad
The armies were:

Bulgar Raiders:

  • Command, Tarkhan Tiercel
  • 1 x Heavy Horse Archers, javelins, bow, (elite)
  • 1 x Heavy Horse Archers, javelins, bow, (average)
  • 2 x Light Horse Archers, javelins, bow, (average)
  • 2 x Spearmen, spears (average)
Six units, two each of heavy horse, light horse and spearmen, @2SP; 12 SP.

Byzantine Defenders:

  • Command, Turmarch Yannis Zimiskes, 
  • 2 x Heavy Horse, 1/2 lance, 1/2 bow, (average)
  • 1 x Light horse, 1/2 lance, 1/2 bow, (average)
  • 1 x Heavy infantry, 1/2 spear/pike, 1/2 bow, (average)
  • 1 x loose-order Medium infantry, spear, javelins, (poor)
Five units @2SP; 10 SP.

After the first action, in which the Bulgars opened the ball, in subsequent battles the sides rolled for the initiative. As seemed to be a consistent feature of this whole campaign so far, the Bulgars (green dice in the pictures) emphatically seized the initiative and went boldly into the attack. Part of he heavy horse, backed up by lights, went in on the left against the massed Byzantine heavy cavalry. Spearmen undertook the attack in the centre, with the Tarkhan urging on the charge. 
Bulgars win the initiative...

... and attack

The lines holding firm on the Bulgar left, the situation was more mixed in the centre.  The garrison repulsed the Bulgar spearmen, but, a panic setting in led them to abandon the village themselves.  For a brief moment it seemed that the Bulgars might have secured another quick and easy victory, but he Turmarch, rallying his peltastoi, reoccupied the place.  Just in time, for the Bulgars were soon back.
Bulgars have thrown back by the garrison,
who then evacuate the town.

Soon rallied, both sides were once again battling along the north edge of the town.  On the flanks, neither side seemed able to establish an ascendancy or even to inflict much hurt upon the enemy.

As the fighting grew more protracted, however, the defenders gradually began top edge back their assailants, from the town, and on the Byzantine right as well.

Bulgars driven back from the town.

This reverse seemed to galvanise the raiders to greater efforts. The Tarkhan called up his reserve heavy cavalry to assist his spearmen in front of the town.  As a result, all along the line, both sides began to feel the strain of the fighting, the Byzantines losing three Strength Points and the Bulgars two.  
Bulgars put in an extra effort
to stem the Byzantine advance.

Bulgars take terrible losses, and the Tarkhan
meets his demise.
"For long the two armies struggled, first one side then the other prevailing. Suddenly, the Bulgar left fell back with loss. In the centre, the battle line of spears collapsed altogether. Somewhere in the rout the Tarkhan caught an arrow in the throat that occasioned his immediate decease. This time it seemed that the Imperialists might have won a signal victory, the Bulgars on the brink of defeat.  A local Boyar, hight Edsel, taking over the command, rallied the raiders to a final effort. The battle raged on..."
Michael Psellophanes, Byzantiad
The end of the Tarkhan...

It was certain that the Romans failed to capitalise on their successes, for Edsel seized the initiative and renewed the close assault upon the defenders' lines.  
Bulgars don't give up easily - not when there is 
loot.  Here, they again win the initiative! 

The spears on the right pushing forward against the refused Byzantine left covered the charge of the Bulgar light horse into the flank of the peltastoi, just as the Boyar's heavies thundered into their front.  Even the Bulgar left had arrested their enemy's momentum and began pushing them back. This proved to be a shortlived success, as the Bulgar heavies here suddenly disintegrated.  Only the light horse archers in this sector of the field remained to oppose the Byzantine kavallarioi.
To offset this loss, the Bulgars came for the second time within an ace of victory. At first, the peltastoi spearmen seemed to be holding comfortably enough, inflicting a Strength Point loss upon the Boyar's horse. As suddenly as had the Bulgar left, the Roman centre folded, and the surviving fugitives fled back through the town. With them went the Turmarch himself.  
The Bulgar heavy horse charging...

Hastily bringing across his prokoursatores light horse to defend the town, the Turmarch successfully intercepted the Bulgar, just barely betimes. 

Here I decided that the Built Up Area, though the major feature of its grid square, did not occupy all of it, or even most of it. There is no doubt that troops that could make best tactical use of the feature would certainly do so, but those that could not would defend the place in front of the town, in the open.

In the ensuing fight, both sides incurred heavy losses. Then it was the Bulgar turn to suffer a unit collapse.  By now the Byzantines had lost 5SP, the Bulgars 8 plus their commander. The mention of the Boyar has a narrative purpose only - to keep the Bulgars in the fight, but he is represented by no command figure. Without that command support, the early Bulgar advantage had probably by now been reduced to less than evens.  The issue was still in doubt!

Now was the time for Yannis Zimiskes to take the fight to the enemy. The Bulgar centre having collapsed altogether it remained only for him to complete the breakthrough into the enemy rear.  At the same time, the skoutatoi on the left had driven back the enemy spearmen. Following up, they caught the Bulgar horse archers and flung them back onto the spears.  

But the Bulgars yet retained some resource. Recovering themselves, the spearmen advanced resolutely to meet the foe, whilst the light horse archers flung themselves onto the flank of the pursuing Byzantine centre.  
Turning upon this new enemy, the prokoursatores fought off the enemy light horse, whilst the skoutatoi  fought the Bulgar spearmen to a standstill. There was to be no recovery this time.  
The the Byzantine mounted arm routed the Bulgar light horse in the right and in the centre.  All that remained of a formed body of the raiders were their battered spearmen, making off under cover of the fading daylight. There would be slim pickings this raid...

It was plain at this point that the raid was a complete failure, despite the two earlier Bulgar victories.  Eleven Strength Points the Bulgars lost in this battle; to just five Byzantine. Yet, twice, this battle could have ended in a Bulgar victory, but for the timely recovery of a unit apparently beaten, or the intervention of an unengaged unit. Though it didn't 'go the distance', or yield the raiders much in the way of loot, it might very easily have done.

For the Fast-Play 3x3 Portable Wargame (FP3x3PW), I am thinking of making certain slight modifications to the core rules the better to reflect the 'troop types' that were available to the various peoples in and around Asia Minor at around the end of the First Millenium. There is plenty of variety - from the almost all mounted light horse of the Pechenegs and Seljuk Turks, to the almost all foot of the Rus, to the charging cavalry ('knights') of the Normans and the more balanced army of the Abasgians.

This is an interesting period, full of intrigue, double dealing, treachery and dire battles for survival. Ruled by strong emperors, the Byzantine Empire was going though a phase of expansion. Yet it was beset not only by so many adversaries, but menaced - as the Roman Empire ever had been - by an enemy within. I've begun work on a campaign game, working title Byzantiad, with the idea of building in some of the multiple perils and hazards the empire had to face.


  1. Ion, you create a big narrative from little space. A lot of action packed into your small 3x3 grid. Interesting stuff. Do your sideboards get in the way of play?

    1. By the way, I continue enjoying your cartoon sketches. Brilliant additions.

    2. Gotta have a story, Jonathan. And that was a surprisingly action packed battle, all right. Unlike the previous in which the Byzantines simply got rolled!

  2. Archduke Piccolo,

    What a wonderful narrative … and I loved the illustrations!

    Your recent mini-campaign has been full of action, and by concentrating the fighting into a mere 3 x 3 grid, you have managed to recreate the ebb and flow of battle that is so often missing in much larger wargames.

    I already have plans for a second PW Compendium, and I’d love to include this or your next campaign in it. I’d like to include any amendments you make to the core rules as I think that other users will find them extremely useful.

    All the best,


    1. Cheers, Bob -
      I've been doing a fair bit of thinking about the 'larger picture' campaign, and how it might work. I've also been referring back to the DPW rule set on ancients and mediaeval and the DBA rule set for comparative fighting values. There will of course be a fair bit of fudge, and the Byzantines will overall be qualitatively superior to their enemies (can't be helped, but I hope to mitigate that a little, e.g. as I did in this last campaign, by beginning with smaller, but growing, Byzantine armies.

      I'm very tempted to give the thing the 'matrix' treatment, but as I'm really looking at a solo campaign with potential for multi-player, it will probably be more 'event card'. Some of these will be non-political events that impact upon the narrative:
      Storm at Sea
      Peculation in the Treasury
      Bumper crop ... that kind of thing

      ... but also ...
      Raid - by one of the outer peoples against the Empire
      Invasion - similar, but with conquest the aim
      Revolt - from the provinces
      Palace Coup
      'The Emperor Takes the Field'
      'The Domestic of the Schools Takes the Field'
      ... sort of thing.

      I'm also thinking of three levels of battle - I might have mentioned this another time: the FP3x3PW, 'Memoir '44', and larger board. This is (a) because I have all that kit; and (b) I'm using 15mm figures.

      Best wishes,

  3. Yet another exciting battle report Ion - an interesting & coherent tale that “reads“ well.
    As the Byzantines were eventually successful in their efforts to repel the Bulgar raiders I’m sure the chroniclers will be encouraged to give it a positive spin.
    The battle itself certainly seemed very much a to-and-fro affair, as the Bulgars continued to batter the Byzantines who, in boxing parlance, were “bruised but refused to go down” - and somehow brought it back from the brink time & again until victory was finally achieved.
    As ever, your little lead toys are lovely and your artwork is first rate (being quite reminiscent of Noggin the Nog). Well done sir!!!
    I’m certain we’d all like to hear more tales of the Byzantiad. Please keep us updated as things develop.

    Off at a slight tangent, but how “big” an area do you imagine each “square” represents? I suspect a square for an ancients battle would be smaller than, say, a WW2 battle.
    Are all squares nominally the same size? I might have thought the CENTRE square would be bigger (more important?) than the LEFT and RIGHT squares, whereas the RESERVE or any FLANK areas would merely be an appropriate size for the battlefield itself.



    1. Hi Geoff -
      It looks as though the 'Byzantiad' is taking over my life - for a goodish while to come at any rate. And I'll tell you what: if ever I get my Wars of the Roses Armies into the field, I might well give them the 'Noggin the Nog' treatment! (I recall watching Noggin the Nog after school - I was in about the 5th or 6th form at the time...).

      If you're asking about the 3x3 board, I tend to reckon each square as representing quite a large area - maybe 40 acres (a couple of furlongs, or about 400 metres, square). That could contain I reckon a village, or even a small town.

      In my view an area that size rather obviates any question of passage of lines, as I assume the area can comfortably accommodate the manoeuvring of two 'units' - one forward and the other in reserve. On larger boards - Memoir '44 13x9 hexes, or my 10x10 10-cm square grid or 15x12 hex grids, the areas represented by each grid cell will be smaller.

      A unit of skoutatoi comprised, apart from skirmishers, 400 spearmen and 300 bowmen arranged in close order ranks of 100 men. You're probably looking at a frontage of maybe 100 metres. These units were generally deployed with intervals between sufficient to permit the passage back and forth of horsed units. It is with this in mind, and imagining (in the FP3x3PW game) that one of my skoutatoi stands represents more than one unit, that I allow freedom of movement within a square cell, and 'free' 'passage of lines'.

      I've not really thought about the size represented by the grid squares - you have really opened up a whole new idea I hadn't previously considered. For the moment I regard all nine having equal size. Having a larger centre square has implications that might - might - be better resolved by using a 4x4 grid.


  4. Amazing what can happen in just nine squares! Great report and pics/drawings Archduke.

    1. Thanks, Maudlin Jack -
      You could certainly play a 'campaign in an afternoon' using this system. It IS a bit limiting of course. When you gotta lotta kit, you kinda want to use it. But its main virtues are very quick play, and you don't need a lot of figures. As it is, what I have in mind will probably find my 'Barbarian' guys filling in for several armies.

  5. Another great battle report and it seemed like a fun game. Playing solo I really enjoy it when I don't know who will win. For me the 3x3 games quickly take on a life of their own and are easy to play solo. I love the illustrations and am looking forward to your modifications.

    1. Cheers, Mark -
      Still working out my army lists. ne modification I'm toying with is to give light horse and light foot (psiloi) just 1SP, but allowing them to remain on the board with 0SP. They can still fight, but if at all contacted are automatically eliminated. Sort of like giving them 1.5SP, I guess.

      The main problem with this idea, though, would be to make a Pecheneg Army awfully fragile.
      All the best,