Mongol Army

Medieval Armies DBA Page

Mongol -- DBA 154

By David Kuijt

Note: all images are thumbnails, and are clickable to see the larger original.

Army #154 represents the armies of the Mongol Conquest under Chinghis and his son Ogedai, and the successor Khanates the Mongols created (with the exception of the Ilkhanate of Persia, which has its own DBA list). After the death of Ogedai the Mongol Empire of Chinghis was split between four of his offspring: the Golden Horde under Batu got the Russian Steppe, the Il-Khans under Hulegu and his heirs got Persia; Chagatai took the Mongolian Steppe, and Kublai got China and created the Yuan dynasty. The Ilkhanate has its own DBA army, #159a; the Khanates of the Golden Horde and Chagatai are still represented by army #154, as is the Yuan dynasty under Kublai and his successors.

The initial expansion of the Mongols was perhaps the most devastating and successful series of invasions in history. The list of nations and kingdoms they crushed goes on and on. The conquered the Hsia-hsia, Khwarizm, the Abassid Caliphate, Georgia, the Alans, the Kipchaks, the Ghuzz, the Volga Bulgars. They conquered the Russian Principalities in the winter. They conquered the Sung, Korea, the Seljuq Sultanate. In a huge raid to divert attention from an invasion of Hungary they shattered the Poles and Teutonic Knights at Leignitz; at the same time their invasion force in Hungary shattered and obliterated a feudal force twice their size in the battle of Mohi. The Mongols fought battles as far south as Annam (modern Vietnam) and Burma, as far east as Korea and Japan.

News of the death of their Khan caused the Mongols to turn around when they were within a few hundred miles of Venice and Vienna. Similar news caused them to withdraw from an invasion of Egypt; the forces they left behind in Syria were soundly thrashed by the Mamlukes in a rare defeat. An invasion of Japan was stopped only by nature, as a tremendous storm shattered their invasion fleet.

Mongol Light Horse Outnumbered in every battle, they won through toughness, discipline, ruthlessness, and planning. They investigated their neighbours thoroughly, spread propoganda to demoralize them, and exploited any weakness or dissension. During a period when most Kings were glad if their nobles would obey a direct command without debate, Mongol commanders would think nothing of planning and sending forces out on independent maneuvers that took days, weeks, or months to execute.

No fewer than five other DBA army lists end because of the Mongols. The Early Hungarian (#119) list ends after the Mongols extirpate King Bela and his entire army of 80,000 at the battle of Mohi, killing nearly every man in the army. The Seljuq Sultans (#124) were gradually conquering the Anatolian peninsula when they were shattered by the Mongols; although they tottered on as a client state for a few decades, they collapsed into a network of independent Emirates by 1281. The Early Russian (#129) list likewise ends when another arm of the Mongol war machine crushed the southern Russian principalities and subjugated the northern ones.

Heavily-armoured Mongol Cavalry The Khwarizmian Shahs (#146) were powerful when the Mongols came through the first time around 1230, breaking the Shahdom and their army, chasing the Shah across Persia to die on an Island in the Black Sea. The Shah's son was energetic and able, recouping many of the Khwarizm losses, but when the Mongols came again in the 1240s they crushed him, his army, and his nation, and the army list ends.

The Sung Chinese (#116) were finally conquered by the Mongols in 1280, which ends their army list as well.

DBA army list #154 only specifically refers to two of the many fractions of the Mongol Empire; the army of Mongol Conquest and the Yuan Chinese dynasty that represents the Mongols in China. If you would like a little more accuracy or detail, later on this article describes four Variant Armies which give slightly more detailed and specific description of the separate Mongol armies: Mongol Conquest (#154a), Yuan Chinese (#154b), Golden Horde (#154c), and Later Nomadic Mongol (#154d).

Composition of DBA Army 154 Mongols (1206 AD - 1368 AD)

The DBA options:

More Mongols Enemies

The tremendous list of enemies above includes a minor error. Army #127 should be split into two: #127a (Early Samurai) and #127b (Later Samurai). Both of these armies have the Mongols in their enemies list; like the two parts of army #159, the two versions of #127 should be listed separately.

The list of enemies has some omissions, as well. The Early Polish (#122) fought beside the Teutonic Knights at the battle of Leignitz; since that battle is the reason for the inclusion of the Teutonic Knights in the Mongol enemies list, it should suffice to justify the inclusion of the Early Polish as well. After they conquered the Kipchak Turks, the Mongols also extinguished the Volga Bulgars early in their foray into Russia, 1239 or 1240. It is not clear if the Volga Bulgar army is properly represented by army list #147, the "Later Bulgars", as that list is clearly being used by the Bulgar Empire (that thorn in the side of the Byzantines); if not, there is no DBA army list for the Volga Bulgars.

Lithuania fought (and lost) a major battle against the Golden Horde in the Crimea in 1399; its omission from the enemies list for army #154 is an error.

The Alans (#55d) were conquered by the Mongols, and later gained independence again (from the Golden Horde). Unless this conquest was entirely bloodless, they should be added to the Mongol enemies list.

The Mamluke Egyptians do not appear on this enemy list deliberately, as the crucial battle of Ayn Jalut (1260) is considered to be between the Mamlukes and the Ilkhanids, rather than between Mamlukes and Mongols. Note that the Ilkhan army is almost identical to that of the Mongols so long as you choose an all-mounted option, and that the Ilkhan army of 1260 would be nearly indistinguishable in costume, weapons, tactics, or language from any western Mongol army. So if you want to fight a battle between Mongols and Mamlukes, go for it.

Mongol heavy cavalry Army Notes

Cavalry: The strike arm of a Mongol army is their heavy cavalry. Many of them would have armour and a lance to supplement their bow and sabre. Some would even have horse armour. Armour would be lamellar with the plates made of iron (described in some sources as very brightly polished), or of leather hardened and waterproofed with pitch.

Mongol Touman Light Horse: the bulk of Mongol troops were unarmoured light horsemen, armed with bow and a sword or axe or similar handweapon; often with a lassoo as well. The prototypical Mongol army fighting in the west would have as many light horse elements as possible.

Spear: The Mongols often dismounted and fought behind large pavises in siege operations. In open battles in Europe they always fought mounted, however. The justification for the Spear elements is in their warfare in the Orient, especially in the invasions of Japan, where they used large numbers of Korean and Chinese foot equipped with large rectangular pavises of bamboo, and long spears. The spears in particular impressed the Japanese, and were important in the pre-eminence of the Yari in later Japan. Luckily for figure-painters, a sequence of illuminations were made soon after the first Mongol invasion, called the "Invasion Scroll". Most books on Japan at that period will have at least one picture from the Invasion Scroll.

Bow: The Mongols seem to have dismounted their light horse to face elephants in Burma. In those battles they fought as infantry bow. I'm unaware of any other occasion when the Mongols fought as dismounted archers. Note, however, that their spear infantry are usually equipped with bows in addition to spear and pavise; perhaps the 4Bw elements could be considered a missile-emphasized part of such a formation.

Mongol Trebuchet Artillery: the Mongols used artillery in a number of field battles. The first illustration, anywhere, of an exploding gunpowder weapon is in the Invasion Scroll showing their assault on Japan. They used relatively fast-firing human-powered trebuchets that were also adopted by the Mamlukes, and also appear in the Maciejowsky Bible (Western European, c. 1250). In particular, they forced their way across the river Sajo against the Hungarians at the battle of Mohi with the aid of artillery.

Psiloi: The Psiloi option represents a variety of Chinese troops described in slightly more detail in the Yuan Chinese Variant list. If you are fighting a battle west of Mongolia, I suggest you use the Artillery instead.

Mongol General Notes on Tactics

The army of the Mongols had a nearly untarnished record of victory. Their constant stream of victory, however, was due to systematic planning, reconnaisance of their foes, strategic mobility and initiative, propoganda, discipline, and many other factors that do not appear on the DBA battlefield. In one case the Mongols spent nine consecutive days in feigned flight from a Muslim foe before regrouping and attacking their very shocked "pursuers".

As a Mongol commander, you've got your work cut out for you. Ghengis Khan was one of the most brilliant commanders of all time, and many of his commanders were also men of tremendous ability (notably the redoubtable Subodai, who may have even outshone Ghengis). When the sons of Ghenghis passed on, his grandsons were not so well served. Under later commanders, the ferocity of the Mongols was not enough to win them victories. The Golden Horde was feared in Russia, but no more than the Kipchak Turks that had preceded them there. The Ilkhanate of Persia only lasted about a century before collapsing to internal trouble. The Yuan Chinese Empire of Kublai Khan also lasted barely more than a century before a rebellion led by a peasant formed the Ming Empire. And the Chagatai Khanate sunk into the nomadic backwater it had been before Ghengis arose.

One interesting note, however -- even a century after the death of Ghengis' son Ogedai, the Chagatai Mongols were still tools that great commanders could devastate the world with. Timur the lame arose in the late 14th century as a commander among the Chagatai Mongols in Transoxiana; he used them as the core of an army (#159b, Timurid) that may have equalled or even exceeded that of Ghengis. With the Mongols as the core of his army he defeated the Delhi Sultanate, Islamic Persia, the Mamluke Egyptians, the Golden Horde, and shattered the Ottoman Sultanate under one of its greatest commanders, Bayezid "the Thunderbolt".

What does all this mean? It means that a good general who can use light horse adeptly can win with the Mongols, but one who cannot is going to have trouble. The Mongols are a maneuver army; you must use maneuver, outflanking, threats and confusion to keep your enemy off balance. Some suggestions are contained in the Light Horse tactics page.

If you are unsure how to use the Mongol artillery, put it in your camp as a garrison. With the +2 bonus for camp defenses your camp will be almost impregnable, giving you as much time as you need to spend effort on outflanking your enemy or raiding his camp.

still more Mongols Variant Army List: #154a Mongol Conquest (1206 AD - 1266 AD)

Based upon DBA Army Book IV, army 35.

This is the army of Chinghis and Ogedai, that devastated the world. It ends at the foundation of the Yuan and Ilkhanid dynasties, and the breakaway of the Golden Horde.

Cavalry and Light Horse would be Mongols, with a significant admixture of conquered races, especially Turk, Cuman, and Alan. As mentioned earlier, the Mongol Conquest army used artillery in a number of battles to good affect.

Mongol Heavy Cavalry Variant Army List: #154b Yuan Chinese (1260 AD - 1368 AD)

Based upon DBA Army Book IV, army 48.

This is the army of the Yuan dynasty founded by Chinghis' grandson Kubilai; it begins at his accession and ends when rebellion finally overthrows Mongol rule in China, at the formation of the Ming dynasty.

This is not a literal conversion of the complicated Yuan Chinese DBM list, which includes some mandatory foot and many allied options; I've left this identical to the DBA list #154 deliberately.

Cavalry and Light Horse could be Mongols, several varieties of Chinese, or allies. Some "Mongols" could be Turkish, Alan, or even Russian.

Spear represent Chinese or Korean subject foot and allies. Bow can represent dismounted Mongol bowmen, a tactic they used when they faced Elephants; it can also represent Han-chun archers or crossbowmen which would be fairly numerous in a Yuan army. Infantry was a fairly large component of a Yuan army; taking all 4 elements as foot of some sort would be fairly common.

Psiloi are skirmishing spear or javelin troops; after 1275 they might be handgunners.

Attacking Mongols Variant Army List: #154c Golden Horde (1251 AD - 1556 AD)

Based upon DBA Army Book IV, army 47.

This army represents the Khanate formed by Chinghis' grandson Batu (from whose golden tent they took their name) and their successors, including the Khanate of the Crimea and that of Kazan.

Cavalry and light horse may be Mongol, Cuman, or Alan. By 1400 they had largely merged into "Tartars", a mixture of Mongol and Cuman, speaking Cuman Turkish. Bow are Bessermeni, archer conscripts from the Moslem towns of the Golden Horde.

Lithuania fought (and lost) a major battle against the Golden Horde in the Crimea in 1399; its omission from the enemies list for army #154 is an error.

The Golden Horde was quite hostile to the Ilkhanids, and maintained an alliance with the Genoese, Byzantines, and Mamlukes against them for a long time. The Khanate of the Crimea split off from the Golden Horde in 1430, becoming a vassal of Poland/Lithuania, and in 1475 a vassal of the Ottoman Turks; in 1502 it overthrew the Golden Horde.

Irregular Mongol Cav Variant Army List: #154d Later Nomadic Mongol (1266 AD - 1508 AD)

Based upon DBA Army Book IV, army 52.

This represents the parts of the Mongol Empire that remained in Mongolia and Transoxiana, living a nomadic lifestyle as had their ancestors, raiding each other and their neighbours.

Notes about Figures and Pictures

The Mongol mounted figures illustrated are mostly Irregular (AS1-AS6) with some Gladiator CRK1 and CRK4 thrown in. The Gladiator CRK4 have been remounted on nicer horses (from Gladiator EQ 9 wagon) -- the CRK range horses are somewhat malformed. There are two Essex (MOA5) as well.

The spearmen are an even mix of Essex MOA8 and Irregular V73, with a couple of Essex MOA7 thrown in.


Steven Goode has a DBA Mongol page of his own here, with additional historical information on the Mongol Conquest period in Eastern Europe. Check it out.

Page created: April 13, 1999.

The author may be contacted at Please do not use any pictures or text from this page without permission.