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Battle Scenarios

The Song of Deborah
(or the Battle of Taanach, 1125 BC)

By Mark Kyriss

This was the battle written about in Judges, Chapters 4 and 5. During the era of The Judges (after Joshua's conquest of the Promised Land and the first King, Saul), the Hebrews were "governed" by "Judges," who were just plain old wise people. In 1125, the main Judge in the north was the woman Deborah. The Canaanites, under General Sisera, invaded the Jezreel valley in about 1125 BC. The Hebrew General Barak went to Deborah for advice on how to overcome this 900-chariot army. Deborah had Barak gather the bulk of his army on the very steep slopes of Mount Tabor, to the northeast of the Jezreel valley. Sisera encamped at the base of the mountain and tried to starve them out.

This battle was significant in that it was one of the last attempts made by the Canaanites on the northern provinces of the Promised Land.

The Armies

Early Hebrew (13): 7x3Ax (one Gen), 2x3Wb, 3x2Ps

Later Canaanite (15b): 3xHCh (one Gen), 4xLCh, 2x3Ax, 3x2Ps

Deployment

As per the map for a historical refight. The Canaanites chariots and Auxilia must start in the northeast corner of the map (marked by #s) on the east side of the Kidron River, facing west. They may start in the marsh at the shoreline. The three Ps elements start touching the northern village (Megiddo) as depicted. The Hebrew (Ephraimite) elements by Taanach are depicted. All other Hebrew elements enter the northeast edge of the board (marked "Hebrew Entry Area") on a successful entry die. They must roll a 6 on GT 1, a 5-6 on GT 2, a 4-6 on GT 3 and so on until they arrive. They may delay their entry after a successful roll is made.

Note that the Hebrew army does not include the Ark of the Covenant WWg (which is at Shiloh in temporary quarters at this time). The Hebrews do not have a baggage element, nor do the Canaanites, although the two "villages" of Taanach and Megiddo each consist of a single camp follower element in an unfortified town (which counts as bad going). They do not get any benefit for defending the "camp" while there, however. Note also that this board is double length (i.e., twice as long but normal width), to replicate the pursuit up the valley.

The Battle

Deborah sent a messenger to the Ephraimites, southwest of the Jezreel valley (east of the Mount Gilboa of Saul's fame) and had them attack up the western shoulder of the Jezreel and take the villages of Taanach and then Megiddo. This diversionary force was unsuccessfully intercepted by the people of Taanach, who were routed by the Ephraimites. Before they could advance on Megiddo and cut Sisera's supply lines, Sisera decided to abandon the siege of Mount Tabor and stop the Ephraimites.

As Sisera attempted to cut across the swollen Kishon River in the Jezreel valley, and wend his way through the swamps to get to the western shoulder and intercept the Hebrew diversionary force, Deborah convinced Barak to attack Sisera's chariotry while they were mired in the river valley.

Barak pursued and attacked Sisera's large chariot force east of Megiddo by a swamp. The Ephraimites, having finished torching the village of Taanach, advanced up and hit Sisera from the south. Sisera himself escaped, only to be found by the Hebrews on the east side of the valley, with a stake driven through his temples by the wife of a Kenite ally.

Game Map (ASCII)


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. . t . . . . s . . . . . . . . . . . . m r m # #HEBREW 
. . t . . . . s . m m m m . . . . . . . m r m # #
. Ps***Ps . . s . m m m m m . . . . . . m r m # #ENTRY
. . *** . . s . m m m m m m m . . . . . m r m # #
. . t Ps. . s . m m m m m m m . . . . . m r m # #AREA
. . t . . . s . m m m m m m . . . . . . m r m # #
. . t . . . s . m m m m m . . . . . . . m r m # #
. . t . . s . . . m m m . . . . . . . . m r r m #
. . t . . s . . . . m . . . . . . . . m r m m r m
. . t . . s . . . . . . . . . . . . . m r m . m r
. . t . . s . . . m m . . . . . . . . m r m . . m
. . t . . s . . . m m . . . . . . . . m r m . . .
. . t . . s . . m m m m . . . . . . m r r m . . .
. . t . . s . . m m m m . . . . . m r m r m . . .
. . t . . s . . m m m m . . . . m r m m r m . . .
. . t . . s . . . m m . . . . m r m . m r m . . .
. . t . . s . . . . . . . . m r m . . m r m . . .
. . t . . s . . . . . . m m r m . . . m r m . . .
. . t . . s . . . . . m r r m . . . . m r m . . .
. . t . . s . . . . m r m m . . . . . m r m . . .
. . t . . s . . . m r m . . . . . . . m r m . . .
. . t . . s . m m r r m . . . . . . . m r m . . .
. . t . . s r r r m r m . . . . . . . m r m . . .
. . t . . s . m m m r m . . . . . . m r m . . . .
. . t . . . s . m r m . . . . . . . m r m . . . .
. . t . . . . s r m . . . . . . . . m r m . . . .
. . t . . . . . s . . . . . . . . . m r m . . . .
. . t . . . . . . s . . . . . . . m r m . . . . .
. . t . . . . . s . . . . . . . . m r m . . . . .
. . t . . . . s . . . . . . . . . m r m . . . . .
. . t . . . s . . . . . . . . . m r m . . . . . .
. . t . . s . . . . . . . . . m r r m . . . . . .
. . t . . s . . . . . . . . m r m r m . . . . . .
. . t . . s . . . . . . m m r m m r m . . . . . .
. . t . . . s . . . . m r r m . m r m . . . . . .
. . t . . . . s . . m r m m . m r m . . . . . . .
. . t . . . . . s m r m . . m r m . . . . . . . .
. . t . . . . . . s m . . . m r m . . . . . . . .
. . t . . . . . s . . . . m r m . . . . . . . . .
. . *** . . . s . . . . m r m . . . . . . . . . .
. . *** . s s . . . . m r m . . . . . . . . . . .
. . t . s . . . . . m r m . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . t . s . . . . . m r m . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . t . s . . . . m r m . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . t . . s . m m r m . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . t . . . s r r m . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. Wb.Wb Ps. . . s m . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . t . . . . s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
=================================================

SCALE: The space between each dot/letter is one inch.

TERRAIN KEY:

.=Good Going
s=slope (Good Going)
r=river
m=marsh (Bad Going)
*=village (Bad Going)
t=road
#=Canaanite starting area.

Terrain Notes

Per DBA.

Special Rules

Again, note the special general element for the Hebrews to replace the Wwg. For the truly historical, this stand of Auxilia could be modeled with Deborah on it next to Barak, as she accompanied him into battle!

The Ephraimite contingent at the bottom had its own "captain" and as such does not suffer from being out of normal command radius. It still must use the Hebrew pips to move (as if in command) as normal.

For those who wish to more closely emulate the Bible, the River Kidron was prone to flash-flooding (which only affected the "iron chariots" of the Canaanites for some reason!). Whenever a Canaanite chariot element attempts to cross the river, roll a d6. On a roll of 6, roll again. If a 1-3 is rolled, the unit is immobilized for that turn. On a 4-5, it is moved d6 inches downstream (toward the bottom of the map). On a 6 it is destroyed (alot of 6's were rolled according to Judges Chapter 5!!). If the unit cannot move downstream (it is blocked by another element, for example), it is destroyed. I recommend this as an optional rule for those with a biblical bent.

Victory Conditions

The Hebrews win an marginal victory if they sack both villages (kill both camp follower elements), or kill Sisera's HCh element, and a decisive victory for both. The Canaanites win by preventing both.

Background Resources

The basics come from the Book of Judges, Chapters 4 and 5, but the best analysis, including archaeological backup is in Chaim Herzog and Mordechai Gichonšs Battles of the Bible.

Notes

This is a tough scenario. The Canaanites seriously outgun the Hebrews in combat power, but the terrain works to the advantage of the Hebrews in most cases. Key to this fight is for the Canaanites to get through the valley and up onto the high ground to block the Hebrews without losing both towns. Key for the Hebrews is a rapid pursuit, in order to strike at the chariotry while still in the valley.


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Last Updated: April 30, 1999

My thanks to Mark Kyriss for developing this battle scenario for DBA. Questions, comments, and feedback are welcome. Sent them to my attention at IamFanaticus@gmail.com.