Notes from the Designer #18

The Scenarios: Attack on Pataliputra, 319 BC

As we saw in “Notes from the Designer” #15, the kingdom of Magadha was originally brought under rule by a prince of the Paurava family (of “Porus” fame). The dynasty, known as Haryanka, came to an end when its last king was murdered by a usurper known today only as Shishunaga. Shishunaga had a successful career, ruling over several kingdoms in what could legitimately be called India’s first empire, but his karma (one could say) eventually caught up with him. According to Curtius, the bastard son of the last prince of the Haryanka clan – known as Ugrasena Nanda – thrust a dagger into Shishunaga’s throat, then promptly had the royal children murdered. The Nanda dynasty was born.

Born of a Sudra (plebian or labor-caste) courtesan, Nanda waged war against the aristocracy, exterminating many of the Kshatriya (warrior caste) dynasties in his growing empire. In doing so he garnered the relentless hostility of politically minded Brahmins such as Chanakya, a political refugee from the Nandan court who quickly rose to the occasion and began plotting to overthrow the government in Gandhara. Chanakya flees to Takshashila where he meets Chandragupta, and he and his young protégé begin recruiting mercenaries and other armed malcontents for a rebellion.

This inaugural battle did not go well for Chandragupta, as he and his insurgents brashly attacked the capital without having consolidated their power base among the “hereditary” (i.e. Maula) military class (see “Notes” #9). By all accounts they were defeated, forcing them to regroup in the countryside to build up their military strength and political support.

The Combatants: The Nanda army vs. Chandragupta’s coalition of tribals, guild militia, and mercenaries. From Jain legend, Chanakya was a charioteer in the initial uprising against the Nandas. As Chandragupta was quite young here, Chanakya is likely to have been the OC. It is not known who commanded the Nandas, but we opt here to give the assignment of mopping up this insurrection to the Nanda’s able general Bhadrasala, who enjoyed some respect as Mahasenapati (commanding general), even among his adversaries. Chandramas and Dhana were the younger of Ugrasena’s sons; we’ve given them commands here appropriate for Nandan princes.

The Battlefield: The historical location is not known, though it is generally described as being waged outside the walls of Pataliputra (very rash indeed!) in basically flat and featureless terrain.

Special Features: This scenario introduces the players to Dharmayuddha, discussed in “Notes” #10.

Next week: The Scenarios -- Magadha.

Until then, please visit the CSW Chandragupta Forum for the latest news and discussion …