I have little previous knowledge about biblical period ancient battles (although of course I’m not alone there). The excellent documentary series Ancient Egyptians, particularly the first episode on the Battle of Megiddo, has recently focused my interest. I was surprised to find that nobody has yet attempted a C&C:A scenario for the battle. This will surely come if an official biblical expansion is ever produced for the game, but in the meantime I thought I’d have a go at it.
Megiddo is fascinating because it’s the first battle in history for which we have a surviving first hand account. Thutmose’s scribe, Tjaneni, accompanied the Egyptian army and recorded the march, the battle and the aftermath, all of which can still be read three and a half thousand years later (by those literate in hieroglyphics), carved into the walls of the Temple of Amun Re at Karnak.
Details about army composition and the equipment of the common soldier are necessarily limited. The majority of foot soldiers in both armies would certainly have been lightly armed in comparison to their later counterparts. Although there is evidence of scale style mail worn by pharaohs in New Kingdom tomb carvings, most of the army would have been completely unarmoured except for wicker and hide shields. Some differentiation is still possible to give variety to the troops, however, and relative strengths of the soldiers can be abstracted by unit choices.
I have given both sides Auxilia as units of the regular standing army for the Egyptians and warrior classes for the Canaanites, separating them from Light Infantry chosen for the Egyptian conscripts and regular Canaanite tribesmen. The Warrior units represent the Medjay, the famous Nubian mercenaries, giving the Egyptian army a stronger, more aggressive backbone.
The key thing that differentiates biblical era battles from later ancients, of course, is chariots and this is what gives this battle its unique character. If the Canaanite nobility were equal to the Egyptians in number of chariots, why would they have been driven so readily from the field? Further reading points to a possible explanation. The chariots used by the Egyptians were different to their northern neighbours and were employed differently in battle. The chariots of the Hyksos (from whom the Egyptians probably learned to make chariots), the Hittites and other people from the Levant, Syria and Anatolia, were in general more heavy axled and armoured wagons that could be used to charge and break enemy lines with their weight, perhaps not so much purpose built for this as the later heavy scythed chariots of Achaemenid Persia and Pontus, but still primarily performing this function in battle. In contrast, the Egyptians and Assyrians developed lighter, more manoeuvreable chariots used primarily as mobile platforms for archery. This difference in construction and use of chariots was more clearly and fully described at Kadesh over a century later but it’s reasonable to assume that it also separated the chariot wings of the opposing armies at Megiddo.
Light Chariots were never employed in official scenarios and have been dropped from the 3rd Edition rules but can still be found in 1st and 2nd Editions. From experience of using them in Scenario X, their mobility and ability to fire at 3 hex range at full strength even when moving, makes them extremely effective, possibly even overpowered. In this scenario, however, giving the Egyptians Light Chariots and the Canaanites Heavies, sets up the plausible historical confrontation nicely. An aggressive charge by the Canaanite chariots might scatter the Egyptians but they’re just as likely to be shot up and their support dissolve as they are retreated into the walls of Megiddo.
In an era where chariots ruled the battlefield, trained cavalry did not exist as formal units. There is documentation, however, of mercenary mounted bowmen from northern Canaan or Mitanni, in the Egyptian New Kingdom armies. The Egyptians called them haibrw, which interestingly may be where the word Hebrew was derived. They are definitely described at the Battle of Kadesh and one source I’ve found suggests they were used by Thutmose as scouts and to guard his flanks during the treacherous march through the Aruna Pass. These cavalry were certainly not armed with the new, more powerful, longer range composite bows that the stable platforms of chariots allowed, so I chose to make them Light Cavalry, rather than Light Bow Cavalry. I also felt that giving the Egyptians even more range 3 attacks would be too unbalancing. If these haibrw were local to the region of Megiddo, it’s not unreasonable to expect the Canaanite army would also have included similar troops, so I have given them some Light Cavalry too.
There is much more detail in Tjaneni’s account about the leadup to the battle than the battle itself. In fact, if the account is taken at face value, there was almost no battle to speak of, the enemy routing at the first Egyptian assault. Typical of the period, however, most of the language of the scribe’s account is phrased as glorification of his pharaoh. The fantastic description of Thutmose just before the battle is typical of this.
His majesty went forth in a chariot of electrum, arrayed in his weapons of war, like Horus, the Smiter, lord of power; like Montu of Thebes, while his father, Amon, strengthened his arms.
It is more likely that there was a battle before the Canaanites were routed, even if this occurred fairly quickly. What is useful, for a battle of such antiquity, is the description of the crescent shaped deployment of the Egyptian army into its three wings, the right flank on hills behind the Qina Brook and Thutmose himself with his chariots at the centre, making it easy for the layout of a C&C:A scenario.
I don’t know that special rules are necessary for C&C:A scenarios but used sparingly they can do a lot to emphasise the historical flavour of a particular battle. The escape of the Canaanites into Megiddo and the looting by the Egyptian troops that denied Thutmose an immediate and decisive victory were easy inclusions. I don’t think the rout of an army has to be included in special rules because C&C:A handles this pretty well with its Retreat rules but it seems to have been so immediate and overwhelming here that I wanted to include it……the Rout rule as it stands doesn’t give an overwhelming advantage to the Egyptians but will hopefully simulate what might have happened in a small way.
Finally, I don’t think every C&C:A battle warrants an Epic version but there’s something epic about Tjaneni’s account and the way it will look when set up that begged for an Epic upgrade, and I was on a roll so I went ahead with it.
Hope you enjoy them.