Saturday, 1 December 2012

Battle of Thymbra 547BC using Ancient Warrior Battles (005)

This is game 5 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.  It is the first in a line of Battles involving hoplite or hoplite-type units.

Battle of Thymbra
The Lydian King Croesus defends his Empire against the Persian King Cyrus the Great. Even though outnumbered, Cyrus defeated Croesus and soon after all of Lydia became Persian.

This battle is actually not in the Peter Sides books, and I will base the scenario from Bill Banks Ancients. Here are some links of interest:

Wikipedia article
An animated overview of the battle (in Powerpoint)
The Gathering of Hosts blog has orders of Battle for Thymbra using Basic Impetus and a replay:
Thymbra orders of battle and deployment 
Thymbra battle report

Changes to the Bill Banks Scenario
I have roughly halved the number of units so it works on a 2'x2' battlefield.  The scenario deployment is based on the animated overview of the battle rather than Bill Banks Ancients - both are similar but the units are a bit different from Bill Bank's. For a start, Bill Banks does not include Missile towers.  So I built two towers (turned out OK - I was not looking for a masterpiece) and used them based on the Thymbra animation.

2 Light Chariots, LCH, bow, light armour
4 Heavy Cavalry, HC, heavy armour
2 Light Cavalry, LC
4 Spearmen, HI, light armour, long spear, phalanx
2 Skirmishers, SI, javelins, light armour
1 General (Croesus)

Breakpoint: 10

Lydians deployed

2 Scythed Chariots, SCH
1 Camel, light armour, low fortitude
2 Heavy Cavalry, HC, light armour
1 Immortals, HI, archer, light armour, high fortitude
4 Sparabara, HI, archer, light armour
2 Missile Towers (warwagons), archer, heavy armour, average fortitude
2 Skirmishers, SI, bows, light armour
1 +1 General (Cyrus)


Persians deployed
I could not help myself and changed some of the deployment around - Croesus had only light cavalry for instance, there were no chariots for each side and no camels for Cyrus. And of course I added in two missile towers. Missile towers I am treating as heavy armoured warwagons.  I get to try out the war wagon rules, scythed chariot rules and revised camel rules with this game.

Lydians on the left, Persians on the right.

The Game
Croesus goes first, right to left and advances across the field but leaves the Hoplites in reserve.

Sparabara on right fires at the oncoming cavalry who charge and in subsequent combat force the Sparabara to retreat.

Lydian cavalry charges a Sparabara unit.

Cyrus unleashes the Scythed chariots at the advancing light chariots.  The first combat sees the Light chariot fire and evade.  The Scythed chariot shrugs this off, continues charging and recontacts the light chariot who rolls badly for the charged test and routs.  The chariot pursues into a Hoplite and the chariot is routed in the close combat. Second scythed chariot causes light chariot to retreat but is routed by the parting missile fire.  This is what I like about reaction type games for solo play.  Fast, interactive and with a degree of  unpredictability.

Light chariot in centre after scythed chariot is destroyed.  Green marker is disordered, black ring is depleted.

Sparabara and skirmishers on left fire on the cavalry who end up pushed back and disordered.

Lydian cavalry repulsed on their right flank.

Skirmishers and Sparabara fight off charging cavalry - still holding the flank.

Lydian cavalry on Persian left flank not doing too well.

Lydian skirmisher and light chariot advance to close with the line in front of the towers.  Lydian cavalry forced back on their right flank but managed to rout a Persian skirmisher.

Cavalry face-off on the Persian right.

Persian right flank cavalry must roll for a mandatory charge as they have heavy units to their front.  They roll low and so do not need to charge.  They decide to wait.
The Immortals and Sparabara in front of the missile towers drive off and rout the two skirmishers and light chariots in front.  A bit of missile exchanges went on to achieve this result.  On the left Persian flank, a heavy cavalry is pushed back.

Overview of the battle from the Persian view
It may not be noticeable, but I've angled the missile towers so they can cover the flanks a bit better. I have decided that War Wagons/missile towers can fire over friendly units  so I will need to update the rules.

The missile towers overlook the centre of the battlefield.

Lydian heavy cavalry on their right is forced to charge against the Sparabara, which is bad as they are disordered and depleted, but they are simply pushed back,  Hoplites move up.

On Persian right flank, the heavy cavalry forced to mandatory charge against the Lydian heavy cavalry.  Skirmisher cavalry fires and retreats but does upset the balance by forcing one of the heavy cavalry to be pushed back.

Cyrus and his heavy cavalry charge the opposition..

A classic opposed dice roll of 1 to 6 sees the Persian heavy cavalry routed but Cyrus escapes capture (there was no pursuit).  Cyrus joins the remaining heavy cavalry and charges a Lydian heavy cavalry.  Unbelievable! I rolled a 6-1 for the combat - the Lydian heavy cavalry is routed.  They pursue and get a bonus 2cm to the distance (extra movement occurs if rolling a 6 for pursuit - adds a bit of randomisation and give a occasional chance of faster troops being caught in retreats).  They slam into the light cavalry that retreated earlier.

Cyrus with the other heavy cavalry catches up with some light cavalry

Light cavalry rout.  Cyrus pursues them. He is now halfway up the board.

The Hoplites are now subject to a hail of fire from missile towers and Sparabara.

Interesting.  As the rules are written,  the missile tower fires on a Hoplites that will tend to advance 4cm, then a Sparabara fires, forcing them to advance 4cm.  A Hoplites unit with no support and no damage will advance on anything but a 1 or a 2. Note I forgot I made the hoplites light armour for this battle just because of this and the hoplites should be disordered on a 1,2 or 3, thus negating the phalanx benefit and allowing the Sparabara to fight on a more even footing with the hoplites.  This would have made a difference and the Persian foot may have held on longer than they did (one turn - see below).

The first Hoplites makes it unscathed to the Sparabara and routs them.  The missile tower behind is disordered.  The Hoplite pursues into the tower.

Hoplites attack a missile tower

Missile towers are classed as mounted, loose order, heavy armour.  The melee result is a tie and stay in melee.

The other hoplites advance as well.  Lots of melee, pushed back Sparabara, fighting the missile towers; the end result sees both missile towers routing and a Sparabara unit routing too.  The Hoplites did end up receiving a bit of disorder.

The end result of the fighting in the centre (from the Persian side)

The Persians have reached their breakpoint and I call it a Lydian victory.

End of game.

Fun.  I could see how the game could have gone along historically but the dice rolls favoured the Lydians.  Due to a month from deployment to actually playing, I did make the mistake with what the Hoplites were actually classified as, and made it harder for the Persians.  I will try in future to decrease the time between deployment and playing.

Couple of rule clarifications came up that I need to include (which is the point of replaying the battles so all good): need to spell out War Wagons don't get a +2 charge bonus and the proximity test is not taken in pursuit or retreats etc - only moves, but they are taken as a result of reaction tests by the enemy.

Even though I have played about 12 games with AWB now, I still find it hard to work out the combat modifiers.  This is obviously an issue as if I wrote them and still cannot follow them, there must be a better way.  There are too many modifiers methinks and I will think on this.


  1. Always a good point with any rules you write; if you can't figure them out yourself then they probably need a rethink.

    Much worse, to my mind, are those rules that are simple to execute when you're trying them out, but which are difficult to explain clearly and concisely in writing.

    And those missile towers are lovely; simple but effective.

    1. Kaptain,

      Since I wrote this post (it was written about a month ago but took me awhile to put the picture into it), I have hacked apart and put back together the combat rules - they are now much easier, much more streamlined, less modifiers, less types of results and it now actually fits into the rest of the rules much better too. Of course, changing the combat rules had some flow on effect to the rest of the rules, but the impact was actually removing some rules and made the rest flow a bit better too. I played a few battles with the new rules and hope to have that blog post ready by Christmas.

      Ta for the comment of the missile towers - paper and brown house paint can do wonders.