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Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Kadesh game from 1997

OK this is a really old game back in 1997 when I used real film to take pictures, not a digital camera. So the pics for this have been scanned in from the old photos.
Kadesh Anatomy of a Battle by Justin Taylor
For those who have followed Ian Russell Lowell’s articles on the subject, it is obvious that there is some doubt as to whether the battle of Kadesh actually occurred. Since the Pharaoh was not only the ruler and army commander but also a living god it must be very difficult to admit defeat, with the obvious temptation to resort to propaganda. However I would like to present a scenario which allows for an interesting game and might have some relation to events, even if relying heavily on Egyptian references rather than the Hittite dismissals. It should also be mentioned that I have not actually set up and played this. Experience has shown me that to produce a really good scenario a few trial games are required to fine tune it, so this scenario may be rough at the edges.
At first glance Ramases II outlines an almost impossible feat of arms. An Egyptian of 20,000 all told is outnumbered by a Hittite force yet still manages to fight them to a draw despite losing one quarter of the army at the start and another quarter not making it to the battle. However the Hittites did not make use of the 37,000 infantry said to be available and instead relied on chariots alone. My suggestion would be that if the forces used were as described, both empires would have a substantial proportion of their military might present. Because the Hittites operated on a federated basis, most of their army would be allied rather than under direct command. A battle that resulted in heavy losses to their own side could prompt allies to split from the empire, so that even a victory could be seen as a defeat. However by using a fast moving chariot attack to overwhelm one of the advancing Egyptian army corps, the Pharaoh could be forced to acknowledge the weakness of his position and withdraw, with only minimal losses to the Hittites.
From here it is easy to imagine that elated by an easy victory over the Re corps many chariots pursued to the Pharaohs camp, where although they caused much confusion they got bogged down and disordered. The camp would in fact have acted like artificial rough terrain in which the already tired chariotry could be outclassed by the Egyptian infantry.
A standard Egyptian corps is assumed to be 5,000 fighting men strong, including the crews of about 500 chariots which accounts for 1,000 of the total. The Pharaoh also had two infantry bodyguard units, one of native Egyptians and the other of Sherden slaves/mercenaries. There was also a bodyguard squadron of chariots. I will assume that all bodyguard units were present with the Pharaoh on campaign and that they are in addition to the normal complement of his division. This will make the Pharaohs division (Amun) over strength and with a number of elite troops better able to resist the Hittite attack. In addition to the 3 Egyptian corps (Amun, Re and Ptah) present on the battlefield, the Ne`arin from Amurru are also mentioned. The Ne`arin have confused me, being described as infantry or chariots, I will consider them as a complete corps, probably of allies. At this point it should be mentioned that I am giving the benefit of the doubt to the Egyptians in every case, as in battle enemies numbers tend to be exaggerated. Rather than reduce the Hittite forces by an unknown amount, the easiest way to balance the scenario is to maximise the Egyptians. In summary the total Egyptian force will be 16,000 infantry and 2,000 chariots plus Pharaohs bodyguard, however these forces will arrive on the battlefield in separate groups.
As mentioned the Hittites were a federated force with contingents from various allies. The first wave of chariots is stated as being 2,500 strong with a follow up wave of another 1,000. The infantry which did not take part are described as being in two bodies of 18,000 and 19,000. Should the infantry be represented, as they are not recorded as taking part in the historical text? My view is that they should be so that the option is available to the Hittite high command, as it was on the day, to make use of them. However at least part of the infantry should always be considered as garrisoning the town of Kadesh.
After numbers the other aspect to consider is different combat capabilities. In many cases this is made easy by the army lists available for the rules you are using. The Egyptians are a well documented army using bowmen, spearmen and light chariots with a bow armed crew. The Hittite chariot differed by being heavier and having a spear armed crew rather than bows. To a certain extent the debate about whether the Hittite crew was 2 warriors with spears or 1 fighting crew plus chariot runners, is irrelevant, the difference is that the Hittite chariot had to get in close to do damage where as the Egyptian version could stand off and use their bows at a longer range. However the Hittite forces would include a mix of chariot types as used by the various ally states, some of which would be bow armed like the Egyptians, this should be reflected in the Hittite army list.
This aspect is vitally important. In Charles Grant’s book Ancient Battles for Wargamers he describes a refight of this battle in which the Re corps manages to stop the attacking Hittites without the assistance of the rest of the Egyptian army. However in his refight only 64 Hittite chariots were matched against 200 Egyptian infantry figures and 8 chariots. Using the correct figures scales of the WRG rules of the time, the Hittites should have had 312 chariots and the Egyptians 62. This is because each chariot model or element represents a far smaller number of chariots than an element of infantry. Chariots must have a less dense formation because they are big, cannot manoeuvre easily and do not benefit from supporting ranks. So when the appropriate scales are used, the main troop type for this battle is going to be chariots! I have used elements to describe the armies as most people are using them, even if like myself just for convenience.
Using a scale of 1:150 for a game with 15mm figures on a 12 foot by 6 foot table, the respective armies are as follows:
· 3 corps (Re, Ptah, Ne`arin) each of 4 elements bows, 4 elements spears, 10 elements chariots.
· Amun corps of 4 elements bows, 4 elements spears, 10 elements chariots, 1 element guard spears, 1 element guard swordsmen, + Pharaoh with a guard chariot.
Total 16 elements each of bows and spears, 40 chariots, plus the bodyguard.
· Chariot strike force 50 chariots of mixed types. All chariots have 2 horses and the number of crew is the fighting crew. 30 with 2 spear crew, 10 with 1 spear, 10 with 1 bow.
· Chariot reserve 20. 10 with 1 spear, 10 with 1 bow. CinC Muwatallish here.
· Infantry reserve 20-30 elements infantry
It should be noted that the Hittite infantry should not be grouped under the command of any of the chariot forces. Standing on a hill a mile or so away from their chariots cannot be considered even moral support.
The action of the battle takes place on the usual terrain of Syria, a fairly firm layer of sandy soil. This could be expanded to take account of the Al-Mukadiyah tributary of the river Orontes, the river itself and if you are feeling really busy the town of Kadesh (great for a demo game!). In addition you will need Amun`s camp, a collection of tents, supplies and baggage areas, approximately 18 inches across in 15mm scale.
The only terrain related features of the battle were the difficulty the Hittites had getting across the Orontes and the disrupting effect of Amun’s camp. Mark Healy in the Opsrey campaign book on Qadesh suggests it may have taken the initial strike force 41 hours to cross at a ford. This assumes one vehicle crossing per minute. However if the chariots are assumed to cross at 10 second intervals on a front 4 vehicles wide, it becomes a lot more manageable 1 hour 45 minutes . On these calculations the support force of 1,000 chariots would take about 45 minutes to cross, a substantial delay but not impossible. To come to this conclusion I assume that around the major town of Kadesh regularly used fords of some size would be available. On the layout of the camp the best idea would be to dot tents and stuff about, leaving lanes about 1 element wide. In this way any attackers will not get the benefit of flank support and rules could also be included for the possibility of Hittites stopping attacking to go off and loot!
Scenario Format
In the overall view what I am trying to represent is the initial wave of 2,500 chariots hitting the Re corps as it march’s toward the camp of Amun. Re should break quickly and rout towards the camp. The Hittites then pursue and end up fighting/looting until Ptah and the Ne`arin arrive and break them in turn. Pharaoh will have his hands full trying to hold off the Hittites, organise the Amun corps and rally the fleeing remnants of Re. The Hittite king Muwatallish must decide what to do, reinforce the first wave? If so using what? Or try to recall his chariots before they get bogged down,

Initially the Re corps should be placed in a column about 6 moves away from the Egyptian camp. Half of the chariot elements should be at the front of the column and the other elements of the corps positioned behind them randomly (to represent the confusion of the attack). I would divide the Hittite strike force into 4 groups placed one behind the other, which gives 10-15 chariots in each group. This is to represent the straggling of the Hittites because of their crossing of the river. The first group should be deployed within charge range of Re but with no element nearer to the Egyptian camp than the first Egyptian element behind their leading chariots. This should allow at least some of Re’s chariots to escape to warn the Pharaoh of the disaster. The other Hittite chariot groups should be placed a move apart, moving up to support the ones in front. If playing with alternate movement rules like DBM the Hittites will move first. Routing Egyptian elements should move toward the camp.
The elements of Amun should be placed randomly within the camp except for the Pharaoh and his guard units who should be placed together. Although the Pharaoh can start moving his troops from turn one, trying to get them in some sense of order, none of Amun`s elements can move outside the camp until the turn after one of Re’s elements has arrived at the camp.
The arrival of Ptah and the Ne`arin is problematic. Should they arrive randomly, so that everyone is confused or should they arrive some fixed time after the first element of Re arrives at the camp? Arguments can be made for the validity of both methods. In any case Ptah will have a long march to get to the action, although mopping up of Hittite chariots may be required along the line of march. The Ne`arin will arrive much closer and will be able to pounce on the Hittites almost immediately. No doubt much to Pharaohs relief.
The remaining Hittite forces should be deployed in front of Pharaohs camp behind the river. If you are representing the river on your table then crossing at the fords can be done using the normal rules. But if not, get round it by imposing a fixed delay to arrive on table, of 2-4 moves from the decision to cross. Remember it takes the same amount of time to get safely back. Perhaps a limit could be imposed that the Hittite reserves cannot make a move until Re is broken but this could be considered over interference in Muwatallish’s actions.
The stage is set, everyone is ready to roll but what constitutes victory? Any victory conditions set must give a chance for both sides to `win`, whilst encouraging an interesting game. I suggest basing it on the number of elements eliminated or routed, whilst further saying that the Hittites must eliminate a number of elements at least equal to the entire strength of Re. If they fail to eliminate this number of elements (rather than just break them) they will automatically lose. This should encourage the Hittite pursuit but at some point it will not be worth their while to continue and they will seek to end the fight, unless the prospect of total victory over the Egyptians appears possible.
Which Rules To Use
The above has been deliberately non-rule specific to be of use to the maximum number of people. However key aspects of the battle would seem to be; the Egyptian chariots use of bows to fight at a distance rather than the spears of Hittite chariotry, the breaking of Re prior to contact and the rallying of Re at the camp.
For this game we used my own ancient rules, The Die is Cast.
Ian Russell Lowell Various articles in Slinghot
Mark Healy Qadesh 1300BC, Osprey campaign series
Charles Grant Ancient Battles for Wargamers 1976
Phil Barker &
Richard Bodley Scott D.B.M Army Lists book 1
The game in pictures
The players

The table as it was set-up before we placed the figures. You can see the tents of the camp of Amun at the back. Scattered over the table were flocks of goats, haystacks and traders.

The initial deployment. The strike force of Hittite chariots on the right, with the column of the division Re on the left

In this picture the Hittites have charged and broken Re (top left) and the rest of the strike force is advancing against the newly arrived Ptah (bottom left). This was a mistake in the game, as the Hitites knew where Ptah was arriving and in effect ambushed it, unlike the historical battle. In a future game I would have a range of places that Ptah could arrive.

View of the whole battle. The Amun division is forming outside the camp (top left) to meet the pursuing Hittites

Close-up on the Hittite reserve force which in real life was not used. In the game if the Hittites chose to use their reserve force then they had to win a decisive victory or instead they were ruled to have lost - committing the reserve either being a stroke of genius or a huge mistake.

At the bottom of the picture is the remains of the Re division. The chariots have been mostly destroyed but 2 groups of infantry are getting close to the safety of the advancing Amun division (on the left)

The Hittite reserve has been committed (top of picture) and the Egyptian division Ne`arin is arriving at the bottom of the picture

The Pharaoh takes command. The remnants of Re get safely behind Amun where the Pharaoh rallies them and with the Ne`arin division, are able to beat the Hittites off. Since the Hittites committed their reserve force but failed to achieve decisive  victory, then the game is ruled a decisive Egyptian victory, which is how the Egyptians portrayed it of course!


  1. As always Mr Taylor,good AAR :-)


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