Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Macedonians grind onward

Yesterday evening the Macedonians advanced inexorably into Armenia. Simon picked the Persian opposition (in blue above). Due to shortage of figures, he came up with a list that was a good approximation of a core Persian force with substantial Armenian auxiliaries. Mark set them up as follows, from left to right as you look at it:
  • The right wing had a skirmish screen of two units of 8 Skythian horse archers. Further back, flung out wide on the flank, were three units of 8 javelin Light Horse (Medes). Linking with the centre was a large unit of 4 Scythed Chariots, with a reserve of 18 tough Armenian hillmen behind them.
  • The centre was composed of four large blocks of Kardakes on a low ridge: two units of 36 on either end and two of 48 figures in the centre. Well in front of those was a substantial skirmish screen of two units of 12 archers.
  • The Persian left wing rested on a steep hill, which was occupied by two units of Armenian hillmen, one of 18 figures and the other of 12. Between them and the central Kardakes was a force of good quality horse: the 16 men of the Satrap's Guard; 20 Armoured Armenian heavies; and a unit of 16 Persian Medium Cavalry. In front was a pair of 8-figure Skythian light horse in skirmish formation.

I chose the Macedonian army and deployed it. I was expecting the Persians to pick Scythed Chariots as a way of trying to compensate for their inability to field any Hoplites. The chariots are extremely difficult to use effectively, but if they are fortunate enough to pick the right target, they can severely damage heavy infantry or destroy heavy cavalry. I went for a very flexible deployment:

  • The left wing had a good skirmish screen of two units of 10 Cretan Archers. Behind them was a large unit of 18 Peltasts deployed wide so as to watch the steep hill off to our front left; a unit of 12 mercenary Greek Medium Cavalry; and a large unit of 36 Hypaspists. This lot was meant to be the flank guard. I controlled this flank.
  • The centre had five phalanxes of 24 figures each, with a unit of 12 Thracians at the forward extremities of the line. They were tasked with going forward or off on the oblique to counter any Scythed Chariots. If none were present in the centre, they could also link with the flank commands. The whole lot was preceded by 10 Psiloi javelinmen. Billy and I shared the centre
  • The right was incredibly powerful: two units of 12 Companions; a unit of 12 Elite Thessalians; 12 Prodromoi; and two units of 8 Thracian light horse. This lot was interspersed with another two units of 12 Light Infantry who would be able to deal with any chariots and/or screen the steep hill on which the Persian left flank was anchored. There was a unit of 8 Agrianes in the forefront. Billy was in charge here.

I won't do maps for every turn because the battle was very mobile, intense and hotly contested. I kind of lost track of the turn by turn details. On my wing, the Macedonian left, I was able to counter the advance of the Persian light horse by concentrating fire from my skirmishers on them one at a time. I was able gradually to force them back to their own lines by a combination of moves from the large unit of Peltasts and the Greek mercenary cavalry. This was essentially a long running skirmish, masking the extra unit of Light Infantry from the Macedonian centre as they advanced towards the chariots; both of those units vanished in a puff of dust. In the meantime, the Hypaspists ground their way forward into contact with the end Persian block of Kardakes.

Life in the centre was very hard for our advancing pike blocks. The Persian skirmishers had amazingly good luck, hurting the phalanxes right across the line. Eventually the damage became so great that we halted the advance out of charge reach of the Kardakes on the hill, in the hopes that a cavalry breakthrough would come through from our right.

Billy swept aside everything in his path, wiping out all of the Persian heavy cavalry and forcing the inner unit of Companions through, eventually wheeling them to threaten the flank of the Kardakes. The other Macedonians on this flank traded hits with the Armenians on the hill.

With their cavalry destroyed and the phalanxes weakening, the Kardakes launched an all-out assault on the phalanxes, and again the Persian dice were brilliant. One phalanx was destroyed; another routed on morale, and a third was disordered on morale. Then the Companions came through and destroyed everything in their path.

Another extremely close game: one more hit on a phalanx and it would have been all over for the invaders, but it was not to be. The cavalry arrived just in time and so Armenia has fallen. Now the Macedonians are poised to aim for the centre of the Persian Empire.

We are experiencing a little bit of battle fatigue with games between Persians and Macedonians. Even though the latter have another move to take this turn, we decided to give it a rest for now and play a different game before we return to the titanic struggle in the east. Carthage and Persia still have to take their campaign move, so we rolled to see who would go next: Persia. Everyone there reckoned that they would shy away from taking on the conquering Macedonians, so the Great King is going to try to consolidate what is left of his domains by taking back Bactria from the insolent Sakae. That is next week's game, and it should be very different from the battles we have played up to now.


  1. great stuff! We're now working on Macedonians vs. Persians (after the Romans went to 5-2 against Carthage) and its useful to see how the units work.

  2. Hi Phil, good to hear from you. Field of Glory's Battlegroups concept seems somewhat similar to the command structures in Armati 2 in some respects, but completely different from Tactica II (from the little I've seen of FoG). But in the abstract, the difficulty for the Macedonians is balancing flexibility (smaller units, especially with the elite horse) against the survivability of larger units. The Persians, of course have so much stuff. Good luck with that; it can be a lot of painting.

    Cheers for the comment