Saturday, 31 December 2016

Battle of Philippi: Antonius versus Cassius

I have been slowly putting together an article for Slingshot about the monster Philippi games I ran at the Society of Ancients conference in October. I don't want to pre-empt what is going into the article, which will include full scenario details as well as a basic write-up of what transpired on the day. I do, however, have a little bit of time right now since I am on holiday, so I thought I'd post a full battle report of each of the three stages here. There's no way I could put this number of photos into a journal article! This first posting is about the first game, between the Republican conspirator and assassin Cassius, and the Caesarean Antonius.
First up is a view of the opposing lines, taken from behind the left flank of Cassius' army. At the left is a very large swamp, which Antonius tried to turn to his advantage by building a causeway. Cassius figured this out, and had his men throw up a palisaded rampart from his camp (off to the right of the photo) to intercept Antonius' causeway. It is at this point that Antonius attacks. At the top of the photo you can see his rather imposing camp, and in front of that he has deployed three legions in triplex acres. Cassius has been caught momentarily on the hop, and has only two legions here, in duplex acres. They do have some help from a stream running across their front and emptying into the swamp, but they will be under pressure.
Moving along to the right of the previous photo, we see in the right foreground Cassius in his camp and one of his central legions in triplex, also behind the stream. In the distance, I hope it is apparent that Antonius has another couple of legions, also in the traditional three lines, but echeloned back somewhat from his more advanced right hook.
Still moving along to the right behind the Republican army, we have a bend in the stream. In the distance at the top right of the shot can be seen the first of Antonius' rightmost legions, in duplex acies, and echeloned even further back. In the immediate foreground is a palisaded walkway that goes off to the right to link Cassius' camp with that of Brutus on the other side of the Via Egnatia.
In the foreground of the photo above is the remainder of the Republicans, facing two of the Caesarean legions in duplex.
Above is a gratuitous close-up of one of Cassius' legions waiting behind their stream, with the commanding legate at the bottom right as you look at it.
Switching sides to behind the Caesareans, the photo above shows the view from Antonius' left wing, with two legions in duplex facing three of Cassius' legions in three lines.
Moving more into Antonius' centre, you should be able to see where his next legions are deployed in triplex, somewhat in advance of the leftmost troops and ready to think about perhaps attacking across that stream towards Cassius' camp - maybe.
Again moving to the right behind the Caesarean lines, this one shows where the rightmost of Antonius' troops appears en echelon. This one is bit blurry, but I hope it gives a sense of the relative deployments.
Above is the view from the ramparts of Antonius' splendid camp. The three legions he has placed here are all veterans, and he is ready to ride out of the camp in person to help if need be - or, more likely, take the credit if the attack goes well.
The photo above shows determined Republicans ready to defend their camp, deployed as usual behind their stream.
How the whole thing looks, from off to the Republican right and Caesarean left. Cassius' forces are to the right as you look at it, Antonius on the right. At the bottom of the photo you can just see the Via Egnatia, the dividing line between this battle, and the other between Brutus and Octavius. You should be able to see Antonius' echeloned deployment. He has three veteran legions ready to assault across the stream at the far end of the field, nearest the swamp. His centre comprises two more legions, and his left is weakest, with two legions in two lines. The echelon is an attempt to buy time for his leftmost troops. Cassius' weakest point, in mirror image, is his left, with the two legions in duplex facing Antonius' veterans.
The whole field from the opposite side.
And they're off. Well not quite all of them, as some of Antonius' legions hang back a little. In the foreground, Cassius' outnumbered legionaries wait, albeit rather nervously. Somewhat fortuitously, the Republican legion next to the swamp is composed of veterans.
Moving a bit more toward the centre of the field, and agin taken from behind Cassius' lines, it would appear that Antonius is intending to make a decent attempt at forcing a crossing.
Cassius' men wait patiently behind their stream while the Caesareans appear to be doing a bit of shuffling - nervous about that weaker flank to the right of the photo?
And here indeed is why - two legions hanging back to avoid contact for as long as possible, one with white shields and one with yellow. At the bottom of this photo you can see some of the legion information cards I produced for the game.
A shot from the swamp. At the very top right you can see the far wing of Cassius' legions starting to advance; they are going to try to come to grips with Antonius' weaker forces there.
A view from the Via Egnatia at the same time.
The Caesareans start to cross the stream.
Cassius' men behind the stream hold position, while their far right swings more to try to engage the Caesareans.
A lower level shot of the advancing Republicans. John Drewiekiewicz is in charge of the Caesareans here, and is doing a grand job of avoiding contact for as long as he possibly can.
All of the veteran Caesarean legions are now fighting their way across the stream.
Fighting rages right across the entire field.
A closer shot of the fighting near the swamp. The casualty markers are seeing a great deal of use.
In the centre, the Republicans have decided to charge across the stream, rather than wait for Antonius to win at their right and then roll up the line.
Antonius' white legion tries desperately to hold the far left of the line...
...along with their compatriots with the yellow shields.
And here is how it looks from the Via Egnatia at the crucial moment.

In the end, it turned out to be a substantial victory for Antonius. His yellow shields crumbled at his far left, but the assault across the stream destroyed the two Republican legions there. The game was up when one of the central legions on the Republican side also broke, sweeping Cassius away with it. A creditable win for the Caesareans.


  1. What a massive battle, bet that was fun to participate in or even watch. How many Roman figs are on that field??

    Great job!

    1. Hi Joe, to be honest, I didn't count! Seven legions per side, each of 80 figures. Plus command stands... Thanks for looking.

  2. An impressive amount of eye candy. I shall need to schedule an appointment with my optometrist/dentist post haste! (The colour of the field seemed to change . . . These were photos from a number of games, right?) Looking forward to the planned articles in Slingshot. How did Octavian do against Brutus? Or should I (we) wait for the next installment? What were the rules used? Again, very impressive set up and staging. A scenario of the highest standard; one to be emulated, to be certain.

    1. Hi Chris, thanks for looking, and for commenting too. The field was a cloth made of short teddy bear fur, so depending on the angle of the light, it looks like different shades - these photos are in fact from the same game. I'm going to post a report of Octavius versus Brutus here soon, so no need to wait for it to appear in the journal. Rules used were a version of Tactica, because they work really quickly for large games, and because I know them quite well. The article will be much more about the scenario, although I'll also do a quickie report to go with it. Thanks again, and happy new year.

  3. Most impressive, Paul! Like those legionaries with cloaks.


  4. Outstanding visual treat! I look forward to reading your final presentation in Slingshot.