The Classical Indians appear in the Age of Alexander book. Historically they did fight the Persians, Alexander and Seleucus. The Greco Bactrians could also run as a Seleucid list, earlier or later Greek settlements in the East might also run under the Greek battle board. In both cases the non-phalanx ‘Greek’ figures could be represented by Indian or Persian models. Geography makes any other match up tricky. The Maurya period (322-185 BC) was a period of stable government and the best guess is that troop types over this time would change little. If we move to the Gupta era (319 to 467 AD) and a Parthian list were to appear in a later antquity Saga book there could be opportunities. Pushing the envelope and lose the Chariots these Indians could fight Sassanids or even the Mutatawwi’a from Age of Crusades.
Geography or even the march of time is often given a light touch by Ancients gamers. A Classical Indian army was popular in the old WRG Ancients days as they could field longbows and two handed swords on the same model. The WRG rules treated these in the same manner as British medieval longbows and heavy cutting weapons such as the halberd so they were useful fellows to bring along. The counter attraction under almost any ruleset, including Saga are the expensive elephant and chariot models. In Saga a 4-horse chariot is the same cost as 2 foot hearthguard; the 2-horse is an equivalent to 2 foot or horse warriors. Elephants are not so costly as they could swap out for 8 warriors but in all cases the expense is going to be more than an army relying almost entirely on foot models. On the other hand the basic foot model is only going to need a weapon, some facial detail and a white kilt so would be quick to churn out.
Unlike many armies there is no host of Osprey type books with a pile of pretty pictures to follow. Duncan Head’s Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars is probably the most accessible source. The older Phil Barker edition is best avoided as it contains less information and makes little attempt to justify what it does include. Classical Indian art does illustrate battles and parades but as with some Western pieces it may show a literary ideal rather than what might be seen in life. Note that at this period the Indian Mauryan Kings were Buddhist as Porus may also have been. Many of the soldiers could still have been Hindu but best not go overboard on Hindu motifs in the army.
Book X Chapter 6 of the Arthashastra gives some idea of the tactical use of Elephants, Chariots, Cavalry and Infantry from around our period. Book II Chapter 30 onwards governs acquiring and caring for elements of the army. Chariots are defined as a range of sizes with the widest being 12 purushas, 9′ plenty of width for 4 horses abreast.
The Anabasis includes details of Porus’ army and the battle at the Hydaspes. It is not stated how many horses pulled the chariots but they were heavy and slow and less than effective due to the mud.
Arrian’s Indica Chapter XVI also includes a description of Indian dress and of infantry weapons and shields.
The Saga Indian list options are in some ways relatively accurate as they encourage a variety of troop types. Not only in the actual models that can be fielded but with benefits on the battle board from having a mix. This fits in nicely with the Arthashastra and the Saga concept of the game being more about the story than strictly historical. It makes sense to field elephants, chariots and infantry. As the infantry are Levy there are likely to be quite a few of them. Only cavalry get a short shrift. A single unit can be fielded as Hearthguard or Warriors but they have no specific advanced Saga ability benefit. They have some attraction as only cavalry and light chariots fill the Warrior slot and 8 cavalry models will be cheaper to buy than the equivalent 4 light chariots.
Only half of any Saga army can be elephants (including the general) and only half of the units in an Indian army can have resilience (not including the general).
A viable list would be 3 elephants (3 units), 2 heavy chariots (1 unit), 1 Hearthguard and 12 levy. If taken as a general an elephant costs 1 point but does have better stats than ‘your average’ elephant. Elephants are best used as single models rather than units because a single elephant can take 7 hits (6 as resilience) but a pair 8 hits (6 as resilience) in a single round. Also 2 units could both rest stripping 2 fatigue, a combined unit could only rest once per turn. If running a standard Warlord at 0 points with a single heavy chariot model an extra point is freed up.
Our Indians take a run out against Macedonians who move first sliding up the slow moving phalanx. There are 2 areas of swamp and sections of rough and also rocky ground. This match up will involve some careful dancing around as the elephants are vulnerable to sarissa but the cavalry do not like elephants.
The Indians move up their elephant line with the aim of knocking out the Macedonian archers. They hit home with hearthguard cavalry but the results are middling.
The Macedonians push the phalanx up against the Indian archers and chariots. Chariots are poor in defense but with resilience and buffs from the Indian battle board can hold out well. The Indian bow retreat into the swamp. It might be argued that they gain an additional fatigue for that. It depends on a if a retreat is a move (so they probably should take an additional fatigue.)
The Macedonian archers are getting slowly mashed but manage to hang on.
The heavy chariots also beat the odds and are still on the pitch.
The Macedonian archers are gone and the elephants move in on the phalanx.
The chariots are also off for an early bath.
It would be easier if the elephants were not so slow. One does not want to pile up the fatigue on them.
Some solid sarissa action and the Indians are an elephant down their Hearthguard are also off the field.
The Indians take out a unit of mounted Macedonian hearthguard.
A sarissa assault on the Raja’s elephant does not go so well. A key tactical issue here; sarissa have a +1 vs mounted and elephants if they have no fatigue themselves. So if defending against fatigued sarissas it makes sense not to strip their last fatigue.
Game winning moment here. The Macedonian Warlord is within charge range of the Raja. The Indians can buff their defense but have resilience 3 anyway so take him out for a final score of 20 to 15 in their favour. If the Warlord had moved ‘L’ away rather than stripping his own fatigue in the previous turn he would have been safe and the game almost certainly a draw.
The Indian board compliments the elephants and chariots as REINFORCED ARMOUR, GREAT SIZE and DYNASTIES all buff models with resilience making it easier to keep them on the field. Indians are capped at 3 elephants (including the Warlord) and half with resilience (not including the Warlord) this makes it hard to field both types of chariot if the full 3 elephants are on the pitch. Even with 1 as the Warlord the maths needs 8 units for 4 resilience and at 6 points that probably means some weak units to pad out the points. The heavy chariots are much like elephants with no missiles but a unit of 2 will throw down 12 dice and 2 automatic hits if it is charging in. Although elephants can move 3 times (adding up to L) without fatigue through careful use of the Indian board the chariots can do that in 1 activation rather than 3. A missile armour of 5 (compared to 4 for elephants and light chariots) also keeps them alive unitil they get into melee).
The light chariots are missile platforms so are perfect for NO WAY OUT (as are elephants) but do lack punch in melee. A unit of 4 light chariots will cost more than the Victrix Republican Roman army boxes that make an entire army for Saga so chariots are far from an auto-choice. On the other hand any Indian army should have at least 2 elephants.
The optimum Macedonian ability ought to be SLAYER OF KINGS as it allows all misses in a single melee to be re-rolled if the defender has resilience but it is a one-off advanced Saga ability. Compare this to VARIA that allows the Indian to re-roll 1 attack and 1 defense die in every single combat. While the Indian and Persian boards have clear synergies with their troops the Macedonian board still seems to be a collection of useful abilities that may not gel with their troop load outs. There could be a benefit in deploying some or all of their Hearthguard as sarissa when facing Indian or Persian armies where the cavalry might be less useful.