Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Macedonia's Revenge

Above is the deployment map for the latest battle in our Empire campaign, played on Tuesday evening. Simon built the Persian army and Mark deployed them (in red above); they were played by something like five different folks, including people new to the club and/or ancients. These games are continuing to be very good for club multi-player evenings, but I kind of lost track of who was whom on the Persian side. Terrain consisted of a long low ridge on the Persian side, and a single smaller low hill on the Macedonian centre left. Interestingly, the Persians had no foot skirmishers, instead relying on their prolific light horse. Looking at the map from the top left, they set up as follows:
  • Right wing command consisting of two units of 8 Light Cavalry with javelins in two ranks; one unit of 12 Light Infantry with javelins in two ranks; two large units of 36 Hoplites in three ranks; and behind those, the Satrap's Guard, a unit of 24 Elite Heavy Infantry in three ranks.
  • A relatively hollow centre composed of three units of 8 Skythian Horse Archers spread across the front in skirmish formation, and well behind them the rest of the command: two large units of 20 Colonist Militia Cavalry set up wide in two ranks, interspersed with three units of 12 Light Infantry with javelins in two ranks.
  • A powerful left wing cavalry punch in three waves. The first line is a sacrificial batch of four units of 8 Light Cavalry with javelins. They are followed by all of the best cavalry in the army: two units of 16 Persian Medium Cavalry, a unit of 16 Armenian Heavy Cavalry, and the Satrap's Guard of 12 Elite Heavy Cavalry. Finally, hanging back as far as possible, the rest of the Colonists, two more units of 20 Militia. All of these units are deployed in two ranks.

I chose the Macedonian army and set it up. The pre-battle confab was mostly about how best to divide up the Phalanx units and the Light Infantry. We had enough phalangites for four large units of 36, six units of 24, or a mixture. William suggested that given the open terrain we should make the phalanx as flexible as possible, hoping that the relative manoeuvrability of the smaller units would enable them to gang up on the expected large units of Hoplites. Our units set up from left to right as follows:

  • Left wing (me): 12 Thessalian Heavy Cavalry in two ranks on the far side of the hill, with a large unit of 18 Thracian Peltasts in two ranks and a unit of 24 Hypaspists in three ranks on the hill itself. To their right and slightly further ahead is the first Phalanx unit of 24 figures in three ranks. In front is a skirmish screen of 10 Cretan Archers.
  • Centre (William): five phalanx units, each of 24 figures in three ranks and on their right another unit of 24 Hypaspists in three ranks. In front of the Hypaspists is a unit of 8 elite Agrianian javelin skirmishers.
  • Right wing (Billy): 12 Peltasts in two ranks; 12 Companions in two ranks; 18 Thracian Peltasts in three ranks; another 12 Companions in two ranks; and 8 Thracian Light Cavalry in two ranks. Behind them at the extreme right is a unit of 8 Prodromoi in 2 ranks.
The relative deployments mean that the Persians are hoping to postpone meeting any central phalanxes for as long as possible while shooting at them with the Skythians. They have weighted both ends of their line, with the hoplites offset to their centre right and the mass of cavalry on their left. The Macedonian plan is a holding action on the left near the hill, a flexible phalanx deployment ready for use in the centre, and a straightforward right hook.

The second map shows the situation after the first turn's movement: The Persians have advanced the hoplites and other troops on their right, and have thrown forward the first two waves of their main cavalry strike. The Macedonians have begun to echelon their phalanx, waiting for the right moment to choose where to strike in the centre, and advanced their own cavalry force. It is already clear that a major combat will take place between the cream of the Macedonian horse and the huge mass of Persian cavalry. Here is Turn Two: The Persians have begun to shift the infantry of the Satrap's Guard into the centre from behind the advancing hoplites. Their rightmost light horse have been taking substantial damage from the Cretans. The Persian centre has remained put, and the sacrificial light horse have cantered right over the Agrianes to destruction on their left flank, doing some hits across the front of the Macedonians before disappearing. The only unit left of four is held in combat by the Macedonian light cavalry, including the Prodromoi, who have wheeled out to extend the army's frontage. Turn three:
In response to the withering fire of the Cretans, the right wing Persian cavalry disperses into skirmish formation to return fire more effectively with their javelins. The unit of Light Infantry drops back somewhat to stay out of reach of the Thessalians, while covering the flank of the hoplites. They continue their advance en echelon, supported by the Satrap's Guard. I manage to keep them occupied to their front while William takes advantage of the flexible phalanx to begin to threaten the inside of the enemy advance. The Skythians' fire is beginning to hurt, but there are no other Persian massed units in range to stop the phalanx from manoeuvring. Meanwhile, on the other wing, the majority of the Persian second wave contacts the Macedonians right across the front. The outside left unit of Persian cavalry waits for the lights in front to resolve their differences as the final unit of Persian Light Cavalry dissolves in melee. Turn Four:The Cretan archers destroy the rightmost unit of Persian light cavalry. The hoplites continue to advance towards the hill. The outside unit is unable to manoeuvre because of the Thracians on the hill, and the Macedonians take advantage of this by squeezing the leftmost unit of Hypaspists and the first phalanx block past them to threaten a joint attack on the second hoplite unit. The idea here is to sacrifice the Thracians in order to destroy one hoplite unit. At the same time the Satrap's Guard is caught at a disadvantage by a phalanx unit that has wheeled inwards as the rest of the phalanx advances. The rest of the phalanx grinds forward. On the other wing the Hypaspists join in against the Persian cavalry. The small unit of Macedonian Light Infantry is destroyed as the fighting rages all across the front. The outside unit of Persian cavalry charges the two end units of Macedonian light horse. The Thracians are destroyed, but the Prodromoi hold. Turn Five:

The Thessalians charge the flank guard of Light Infantry as the first block of hoplites goes up the hill and into the Thracians. The Hypaspists and phalanx gang up on the other hoplites. The Satrap's Guard begins to take serious damage. In the centre, the rest of the phalanxes continue to advance as the Skythians manoeuvre around them, continually shooting all the while. On the other flank, the cavalry melee begins to resolve itself as the inner Persian cavalry are wiped out by the Hypaspists and the Armenians are destroyed by a combination of Companions and Thracian Light Infantry. On the outside, however, the Persians finally break the Prodromoi flank guard. Turn Six:
There's quite a lot of rather desperate fighting as the Thessalians get bogged down against the Persian Light Infantry and the hoplites start to wade their way through the Thracians. The Satrap's Guard Infantry is wiped out by the phalanx, other elements of which continue to press forward in the centre amidst a hail of missile fire. On the Macedonian right flank, one unit of Companions finally struggles through against the Satrap's Guard Cavalry with serious damage to themselves; the outermost Persian cavalry manages to flank the rest of the Companions. Turn Seven:
It's all happening this turn. The Cretans finally wipe out the second light horse unit facing them and the Thessalians burst through the Persian Light Infantry. The Thracians on the hill flee from the hoplites. The inner hoplite unit collapses in the face of superior numbers. Both units of Companions are finally destroyed, but it is all too much for the Persians.
This is the first time I've used Battle Chronicler for a full account of a large game, but I think it deserves it, and I hope you can follow what happened. Besides, I wanted to post a full description because it was such a good multi-player game. It's a very good example of how Tactica II works (without going into details too much). I have missed out a few minor points and I probably haven't quite got the sequence correct for the action on the Macedonian right, because I was at the other end of the table, but I have tried to make the narrative flow as best I can.
The Macedonians have now finally broken through Pontus beyond into Armenia, which will be the next game in a couple of weeks' time. We have ruled that since they are now well into Persian territory, there are no more hoplites to face. So it could be an even larger army that meets them next time: more polyglot cavalry and light infantry, Kardakes and possibly some levy and scythed chariots. Another classic match.


  1. Another good report! Ominously, it would appear that the Macedonians are beginning to find their feet. The Persians might be going to have a rough time of it over the next wee while, but we shall have to wait and see!


  2. Hi Aaron, thanks for dropping by. The link with Tactica II is kind of levelling out the modifiers in Empire, which means that so far spectacular series of conquests are not materialising. But steady progress is being made nevertheless. If the Macedonians can keep this up, the Persians will be reduced to just a couple of territories in short order. It would still give the Macedonians quite a few subsequent turns to finish off Persia and expand elsewhere before the mid-game victory points calculation.

    More importantly, it's turning into a regular multi-player club feature. This gives us something with a background against which to play, rather than just a series of one-off games.

  3. Very nice report. I will need to give Battle Chronicler another try after I get my new hard drive!

  4. What software do you use to map these battles, Caliban?

  5. Hi guys, there's a link to Battle Chronicler on the left hand column of links on my front page; hope you can see it okay. There is a really good facility to import pictures of units to use instead of symbols. I don't yet have enough decent top-down photos of my collection to be able to do this properly on a weekly basis. I am thinking of making the effort to do it properly for the big Society of Ancients games, though.