Saturday, 1 December 2012

Battle of Marathon 490BC using Ancient Warrior Battles

This is game 6 in playtesting my rules Ancient Warrior Battles rules (AWB) by replaying all the Peter Sides scenarios from his Historical Battles books.  AWB is designed to finish in under an hour on 2'x2' tables. Note that due to some major evolution in the rules, Marathon is likely to be the last playtest using this variant of Ancient Warrior Battles.

Battle of Marathon
Athenians and Plataean hoplites under the command of Miltiades defeats the Persians. The Persians then moved (by sea) to attack Athens but were unable to land and went back to Persia.    This battle is very well known so I will not go into it much further.

Here is a link of interest:  Wikipedia article

Changes to the Bill Banks Scenario
The scenario is designed to play on a 33"x33" board but a lot of the area is not really used so all I did was reduce the size of the board to 2'x2'.  The number of units and their deployment is changed a little:
  • I made the thinned line in the centre low fortitude rather than add extra hoplites to the flanks
  • the Persians, in DBA terms, had Bow and Auxilia and I have made them Heavy Infantry and Light Infantry
  • added one extra skirmisher to the Greeks (in AWB, skirmishers are very fragile).

2 Hoplites, HI, heavy armour, phalanx
4 Hoplites, HI, heavy armour, phalanx, low fortitude
1 Skirmisher, SI, javelin, light armour
1 Slinger, SI, sling, light armour
1 Poor General (Miltiades)

Breakpoint: 6

1 Immortals, HI, archer, light armour, high fortitude
3 Median Infantry, HI, archer, light armour
4 Subject Infantry, LI, archer, light armour
1 Poor General (Artaphernes)

Breakpoint: 6

Neither general excelled themselves in this battle so will class them both as poor.  Poor generals give a -1 on all move command die rolls.


Greek line to the left (stronger hoplite units at each end).  Black thread is a contour line.  Persian line to the right is Immortals in centre, Sparabara on either side of Immortals and some light infantry on the flanks.

The Game
Greeks get to move first - they will run like hell to get into melee and not stand around getting fired on by arrows.  Just like 2000 years ago.

Hoplite line just before contact.

Lucky rolls see the 2 Greek skirmishers routed with no return fire.  Rest of the firing sees the one flanking Hoplite charge ahead into contact, the other flank disordered.

Hoplite at the right charges in but is disordered.

Hoplites all charge into contact and all are now disordered by unlucky dice rolls (if a low fortitude Hoplite is fired on, it would be OK on a 3 or more, but all 3 rolls were all 1's and 2's.  It does mean the Hoplites will not get a +2 close combat modifier).

Quick rundown on close combat table:  It is opposed dice rolls.  The low fortitude disordered Hoplites have a die modifier of +0.  The Immortals have a die roll modifier of +0 while the Median infantry is -1.  So it is a close battle.

Hoplites pushed back on one flank, won on the other and the middle mostly holding.

Persian left flank and centre holding, the right has gone.

The next round of combat sees good luck for the Persians on the left - two Hoplites retreat and so are badly damaged, and the Hoplites on the flank edge is routed (a 1-6 roll with the allied infantry). 

The left flank is won by the Persians, the middle is looking good and the Greeks are not taking advantage of thir win on the right.

Another round sees a median Sparabara on the left gone and a Sparabara on the right gone as well.  The Persian right flank is wide open.

The centre collapses - of the 4 units that were in the centre, two are gone. Victory to the Greeks.
The Hoplites that managed to be victorious on their left flank.

And at this point, the Persians have lost 50% of their army break value and so the Greeks carry the day.

Very fast- line them up, charge, bowfire, then a few rounds of melee.  I can well see how the historical outcome could have been achieved, however in this game the Greek right flank just did not hold up.

While still fun to play, after this game I became disillusioned with the close combat modifiers. As I write, I am playing a sequence of battles involve the Persian King Cyrus the Great in which I test out an evolution of the AWB rules with streamlined troops classifications and a different combat mechanism.  Marathon is certain to be the last playtest using this variant of Ancient Warrior Battles.


  1. Nice AAR, a great battle...

  2. Good report, Shaun. Will be following the progression of your rules with interest (when I get the chance!).


  3. Great work as always Shaun. I nominated you for the Liebster Blog Awards for all the great battle reports and rules reviews. Keep up the good work.