In an article on "The Tactical Use of Chariots in the Ancient Near East" in the Society of Ancient's Slingshot (201 15/9), Martin Charlesworth (a middle eastern archaelogist and DBA gamer) makes an interesting good case that ancient chariots (including Sumerian war carts) were not really shock troops, but were tactically mobile missile troops who occasionally got to mix it up in pursuits. He relies primarily on the weaponry used by charioteers as well as reenactments.
From these sources, Charlesworth suggests that Chariot's primary tactic on the battlefield after clearing away opposing Chariots was to ride parallel to the enemies line of infantry, peppering it with javelins and/or arrows, until the foot became unsteady or broke ranks. Chariots might also mix-it-up in missile skirmishes with other Chariots and engage in speedy pursuit once the infantry battle line broke.
He also argues that DBA's system of equating Chariots to Cavalry is incorrect, since Cavalry historically got the better of Chariots whenever they came together, which effectively spelled their demise.
To reflect these interpretations, Charlesworth proposed the following DBA variant rule for Chariots:
1. Two types: Light (all chariots before 800 BC) and Heavy (all chariots after 800 BC).
2. Distance Shooting: All chariots not in close combat have distance shooting capability and may shoot at any enemy element within 200p if the target is not in close combat. The ability to shoot in any direction reflects the dispersion of chariots as a swarm, not a line, within the area of the element). Chariots can provide supporting fire.
3. Close combat:
LCh: +3 vs. foot/+1 vs. horse
Charlesworth notes "originally, we had used a +2 modifer for shooting and veruss Infantry, but found that this had almost no effect against spears and blades. Hence the increase here to +3."
4. Combat results:
David Kuijt: The "rethink" is very interesting, but there are some serious problems with the values proposed.
Stan Olson: Now All in favour of turning DBA chariots into crappy War Wagons say "Aye !"
Geoffrey: I think chariots are a little overrated, both in DBA and DBM, when used in non-historical games. Really chariots did not perform well against cavalry, light horse etc. that later sobstituted them. On the other hand chariots were effective against foot, during the so called "biblical period", but not so during later periods. I do not think give chariots ranged capacity is a good idea: their shooting was mainly at close range,so it is included in their combat factor. In DBA games, however we could give a +1 tactical factor for LH, Cv or Kn fighting chariots of the same type (eg. LH, Cv or Kn). This bonus was allowed in the original DBA version. For DBM games the chariot problem is more difficult to solve, I can only suggest to restrict chariot use outside their historical period.
David Kuijt: Geoffrey suggests a technological adjustment +1 factor for playing chariots versus the mounted troops that replaced them.
I think that the purported improvement from chariots to mounted warriors is insufficient justification for this sort of rule change. For one thing, the level of this "improvement" is highly debated in the academic community. Some scholars believe that economic factors were much more important than military effectiveness in causing the gradual abandonment of chariots for warfare. (In other words, chariots were VERY expensive). The military role of chariots is also a topic of intensive debate; recent scholarship has shown that chariots were quite a bit more effective than previously thought.
But the most important reason not to adopt the sort of rule proposed is that there are literally dozens of such technological advancements through the period being examined, and chariot vs. mounted is only one of them. How effective were bronze weapons and bronze armour against iron weapons and iron armour? Very poor! Shall we give every unit of bronze-age Blades a -1 CF against any element wearing iron armour? Or maybe just make bronze-age troops a -1 across the board against all later troops? Similarly, the donkey-drawn Sumerian Battlecarts would be bloody silly fighting against Hittite chariots from a thousand years later -- for one thing, the horses were WAY bigger by then! Aztec troops use hardwood clubs with inset shards of obsidian for swords -- are those worse than bronze swords?
Many of these technological advancements are still hotly debated. Up until fairly recently, it was thought that the stirrup was a tremendous advancement in mounted-combat technology. Recent experiments with Roman horned saddles, however, have shown that a trained Roman rider could fight much more effectively than was previously thought, and that stirrups may have been a minor advance, rather than a revolutionary one.
My point is this: the troops in DBA armies are assigned to element types based upon their role and effectiveness against their historical enemies. No claims of accuracy are made when interacting armies out-of-period. If you are very concerned about the inaccuracy of out-of-period matchups, the answer is quite simple: don't play any such matchups. DBA armies are small enough that you can build yourself an army or two from most periods that interest you.
As for tournaments, why discourage people from playing chariot-period armies? If you're concerned about "inaccuracy" in portraying the effectiveness of New Kingdom Egyptian troops against Medieval French, then I suggest you only organize/participate in "theme" tournies (from a single period) or in the sort of tournament that Bob Beattie sets up (matched enemies).
Phil Halewood: The description and comments on Martins' article are confined to first part and fail to take account of Phil Barker's response and Martins' subsequent rebuttal. The tone of comments is unnecessarily dismissive and fails to take onboard the views that chariot armies did not fight cavalry very often as one arm supplanted the other. Cavalry invariably came of better. Also, the use of missiles is a means of recreating the morale and physical effect of the chariots hordes as they swept around in front of and around their enemy. A bit more informed, and considered, rather than knee jerk debate would be more constructive. The articles are based upon a greater degree of empirical evidence than most people have experience of.
Andreas Johansson: If we accept the argument that chariots
weren't shock troops - and for whatever it's worth I do think it has merit - the
obvious solution would seem to be eliminating the HCh subtype, turning them all
into LCh. A chiefly skirmishing/missile role is certainly within the compass of
the cavalry class.
Last Updated: 18 August 2015
Questions, comments, suggestions welcome.