Saturday, 15 February 2014

Battle of Ancyra, Spring 149 BCE

Tuesday saw the first battle in the new phase of the ancients campaign, as the Macedonians moved against an invading Ptolemaic army in Galatia.  Deployment map:
Terrain consisted of a long ridge on which the Ptolemaics (in blue) could happily park their infantry, while the Macedonians had the luxury of a couple of woods to cramp the style of their enemies.  Gordon chose and deployed the Macedonians as C-in-C, with me as his helpful subordinate.  After seeing the terrain, Gordon decided that an attack was in order, angled towards the left of the long ridge, as seen from our point of view.  Behind the usual skirmish screen, he had a dozen Thracian light cavalry and the same number of peltasts plus a unit of twelve Thessalian heavy cavalry.  He commanded six of the ten taxeis of the main phalanx, each 24 figures strong, and deployed four of them in front of the wood to our left, with another two behind the wood facing left.  I had the other four taxeis, deployed en echelon.  I also had twelve Thracian light cavalry and twelve peltasts of my own, along with the twelve Companions in reserve.  Simon chose and deployed the Ptolemaics, taking full advantage of the ridge.  Graham ran their right, facing Gordon:
From the outside left as you look at the photo above: eight Light Cavalry; twelve Cleruchs medium cavalry; twelve peltasts; two units of two elephants; and another twelve peltasts.  Various skirmishers.
Moving towards the right as we would see it, Willie was in command of their centre: two units of 24 of Simon's newly painted thureophoroi; 24 Agema; 36 Phalangites; 24 Phalangites; and another 36 Phalangites.  Skirmishers aplenty.
Simon ran the strike force on their left wing: a unit of 16 camels, a large unit of 18 Companions, and a unit of eight light horse.
Above is a photo of how our deployment looked to Simon.  Gordon's newly painted Navigator Miniatures pikemen are in the centre left of the photo as you look at it, under my command.
Above is a long table shot from the other side of the field.  The mat is Willie's; he has dyed it terracotta as the first stage of making a semi-arid basecloth, and he wanted to see how his basic colour would look with figures on it before deciding what to do  next.  It will be interesting to see how it turns out - I have one of these myself now for travelling games, and if the end result is good, I might follow suit.
This is how the initial dispositions look to me from my post at the right rear of our army.  I am going to have to angle my troops to face off against simon's expected wide sweep, and hope that I can at the same time hold off his infantry long enough for Gordon to win on our left and then sweep into the centre to win the battle.  Easy, eh?
Above is the first stage of Gordon's advance as his leftmost troops move quickly forward and his extra two phalanxes round the wood.  In the far distance you might be able to make out Simon's own grand advance, as my guys angle to face him.
How it looks to me at the same time.  The enemy infantry centre has advanced to the ridge line and then halted.
A close-up of Simon's new thureophoroi on their nice safe hill.
How my command looks from the front - I wanted a closer photo of Gordon's new pikemen too.
The imposing mass of enemy infantry on that ridge.  It turns out that they are going to stay there until Simon's mounted force has moved across most of the field in my direction.
Gordon's attack.  At the left rear of his force you can  just see the reserve phalanxes beginning to angle in towards the centre, behind his main attack.  As I wait nervously, I have to hope he will be in time...
...because here comes Simon.  Willie's centre is still stationary on the hill.
Map number two shows the relative dispositions around this point in the battle, with handy movement arrows to show the various moves.  I've taken off the skirmishers, because mostly they cancelled one another.  Apart from the photo below, however:
Things are starting to go badly for the Ptolemaics as the action hots up on the other side of the field from me. This photo shows Gordon's skirmishers and Thracians inflicting seven hits on one of Graham's elephant units - it can only take eight...
 One of Gordon's dice rolls - it sums up the way things are starting to go for him.  He has gone into some thureophoroi with a three-rank phalanx.  He has ten dice, needing a 4-6 to score a hit.  I think the numbers speak for themselves.  His attack is by now rather merry.
Simon is now really starting to work his way round my flank, so the infantry come off their hill.
Map three.  Gordon is attacking everything he can find.  His cavalry are mince, as we say in Glasgow, but his infantry are sweeping all before them.  His two reserve phalanxes have started their move in towards the centre properly now, but I am about to come under extreme pressure.
Willie's Agema crashes into my phalanx, so I throw in my Thracians at an angle to hold him up.  The guys at the left are Gordon's...
Map four shows the whole battle at this point.
The rest of my command is almost completely engaged.  Things are getting hairy for me.
Clash of the Guard Cavalry - my smaller unit outscored Simon's, adding insult to injury.  It's beginning to look as though I will be able to hold long enough for Gordon's phalangites to deliver their coup de grace,
And this is indeed what happens, as they crunch into the Agema from behind.
The final map.  I lose two of my phalanxes, but I also hang on long enough to destroy Simon's camels, which ends the game.  I also lose all of my cavalry.  The Ptolemaics retire from the field, with most of their phalanx intact.  Historians will tell great tales about how the Egyptian Companions were able to cover the retreat, mainly because almost all of the Macedonian horse were dead.

I did some campaign calculations, and it turns out that while the armies were pretty evenly matched, they definitely aren't now.  The Macedonian force comprised 22,400 men and its total losses in terms of army value were 29%, because of the destroyed cavalry and phalanxes.  The Ptolemaics had 60 elephants and 20,640 men, but their loss was 45% of army value, including all of the elephants.  They retire, badly mauled, back into Cilicia.  The Macedonians are still a large enough force to be counted as field army, so it will be interesting to see what they do next.  Now that the Ptolemaic threat has been ended for the time being, will they return home to help face the Romans, or will they take the opportunity to conquer some Asian provinces?

Afterwards, we rolled for the next events in the campaign.  The Carthaginians take advantage of the storms that dispersed the Roman fleet and recruit some more troops.  The Parthian host moves westwards into Hyrcania, and is now poised to take advantage of the power vacuum left by the demise of the Seleucid Empire.  The Ptolemaic home army decides to do something similar, and moves into Marmarica; the alternative would have been to move northwards to bolster the remnants of the army in Asia Minor, but they choose not to do so.  The Macedonian home army moves into Epirus to await the inevitable challenge from Rome.  And the Celtiberians decide that hanging around in Numantia is boring, and hit the Roman army in Beribracia.  So next week will see the Battle of Saguntum.  Some names just keep cropping up in the annals of history...


  1. A great looking game!!! I may need to borrow Gordon for a while though as long as he keeps throwing them dice!!!

    1. Hi Ray - and here was me thinking it was Big Lee's dice that are rubbish!

  2. Great! Love your armies and the maps, really interesting batrep! Phalanx and elephants are impressive...beautiful work!

    1. Hi Phil, it would be good to have somewhat better terrain, but it is a new club situation. It will get better...

  3. Great looking Game Paul,our Demon Dice thrower is also called Paul.A wonder to behold but only if you are on his side!! Brian,Westerhope wargames.

    1. Hi Brian, my run of good luck is due to expire in explosive fashion - I've been on the winning side in the last three games, and they have all been rather impressive victory totals. I'm sure it's about to end...

  4. Impressive report with lots of lead I like it!


  5. Don't jinx yourself! Great looking game. Wish I was there. The maps help a lot in understanding the course of the game. The lettering on the Blue units is hard to read. You might want to make it a lighter shade or increase lettering size. You can also move the labels outside of the unit. I'm still struggling with Battle Chronicler myself. Would like to get more info on the campaign system you are using.

    1. Hi Mitch, thanks for the feedback on Battle Chronicler. I've found that if I leave the labels outside the unit, they can sort of run into other labels. I think I'll take your advice and maybe try white labels inside the units. Black looks good in Battle Chronicler itself, but it somehow doesn't seem to translate to the web clearly.

      I've been adding to the campaign system as we go along - it's a separate page on the blog, which you can find at the front top let of the homepage as you look at it.