Sunday, 31 March 2013

Battle of Plataea 479BC using Ancient Battlelines Clash

This is game 7 in playtesting my ancient rules. Previous games used my rules called Ancient Warrior  Battles.  After game 6 I streamlined them and simplified the combat mechanism so renamed them Ancient Battlelines Clash (ABC).  The latest version is on its own blog page. I am playtesting the rules by replaying all the Peter Sides scenarios from his Historical Battles books.  ABC is designed to finish in under an hour on 2'x2' tables.

Battle of Plataea
After the invasion of Greece by Persia in 480, The Persians had their successes, but lost the naval battle of Salamis.  Xerxes left some of his army with Mardonius to continue the war.  The Greeks responded with an alliance of city states and won a victory over the invaders.  Mardonius was killed, much of the Persian army also killed and the remaining Persians left Greece.

Here are links of interest:

Wikipedia article
SOA Battle Day 2012 pics (Slingshot 283 has a lot of info that I referred to)
Caliban's Plataea scenario
DBA Scenario
Military History Online description summary (Herodotus 9.1-89)

Changes to the Bill Banks Scenario
The scenario is designed to play on a 77"x55" board.  I reduced the forces by about two-thirds to play on a 24"x24" board.  The depth ratio will be fine being longer as ABC has longer move distances than DBA.  The scenario also had lots of contours that I simplified based on Lost Battles and the SOA Battle Day 2012 replays.  The number of units and their deployment changed a little, mostly to differentiate troop types e.g. all the Hoplites were treated the same, I made the Spartans better.

Sides also recommends 2 generals for each side with each extra general adding 1 to the roll for PIPs.  I did not increase the general status, or add subgenerals, as I have only one-third of the troops and table width as the Sides scenario. 

2 Spartan Hoplites, HI, protection 0, phalanx, fortitude +1
6 Hoplites, HI, protection 0, phalanx
4 Skirmisher, SI, javelin
1 General


2 Immortals, HA, bow, fortitude +1
4 Median Infantry, HA, bow 
2 Subject Infantry, LI, bow
1  Heavy Cavalry, H, bow
1 Light Cavalry, LC, bow
Medising Greeks
2 Hoplites, HI, protection 0, phalanx
1 Skirmisher, SI, javelin
1 Heavy Cavalry, HC, fortitude -1
1 Light Cavalry, LC, javelin

1 General


Note: HC have bow. When I originally played the scenario, I did not have them with  bows but they should have.



Persian General is with the group on the hill, as per scenario setup (not like the picutre above where he is in the middle of the board - I moved him after the picture was taken)

I always use my optional rules on deployment for these rules. A side may only setup 3 controlled groups (4  controlled groups if a +1 general, 5 controlled groups if a +2 general).  Any other groups at deployment are uncontrolled (similar to uncontrolled in Armati).  If a general stays with an uncontrolled group for an entire turn, it has a 50% chance of becoming controlled.

The Game
Persians move first and the two wings of the force are already hampered being more than 20cm from the general (-1 to orders).   Not much happening in first few turns.Then the Spartans and comrades on the Greek left flank charge into close range of the Persian cavalry that need to take a Zone of Control test.

Spartans and Persian Cavalry in close combat (on right)

Light cavalry evades, Persian heavy cavalry routed (which is what you would expect when you charge a Spartan phalanx frontally). I like this bit - heavy cavalry may be forced to charge units they don't really want to.  They do have a 1 on 6 chance of disordering the hoplites, otherwise they will rout.

Heavy Cavalry routed by Spartans (on the right).  On the left, the Immortals and Sparabara are coming over the hill.

The Athenian right still fails to move (failed the move order).  The uncontrolled Persian group at the centre rear remains uncontrolled. The general has to roll a 4 or more on a d6 to make them controlled and they can move.  They did not do this for the whole game of 4 turns.  I like the idea of uncontrolled groups (borrowed from Armati).

The reserve group on the hill.  They never entered the battle.

LC harasses the Spartans, draws them out but are routed without inflicting any damage. Hoplites are well shielded and only a 1 on a d6 will inflict damage form missiles on a hoplite.

Immortals and some other Sparabara come over the hill and get close to the Tegean hoplites that charge.  Persians fire back for no effect.  The following combat sees just about everybody disordered.  Disordering hoplites is bad for them.  Normally they have a combat rating of 5, and Sparabara 3. But a disordered hoplite is a 2, as is a disordered sparabara. So if the sparabara can disorder the hoplites through shooting, or survive the first round of combat, the subsequent rounds are fairly equal.

Right flank hoplites and Immortals in combat
Athenians finally move and cause the Medising Greek hoplites to charge. The ensuing combat sees a Medising Greek unit rout.

Medising Greeks.  From left to right: light cavalry, heavy cavalry, hoplites.

The Spartans on on the flank of the Sparabara and Immortals and roll up three units via the flank before running into their own troops.  Flanking is bad.  And if you pursue and contact another unit, you can melee again.

Right flank owns the hill.  The last remaining Sparabara is on the far left.

Medising cavalry charges the hoplites but bounces back; the following turn sees the last Medising hoplite flanked and is routed.

The left flank - all the Greek Hoplites survive.  Only the Medising Light and Heavy Cavalry (top left) are left.
 Persian breakpoint is reached and game is over for a Greek win.

It is been four months since I last played my rules, and since then I have streamlined the combat rules and aligned all the other mechanisms to that.  It was a minor change but a really good one as it really streamlined the rules and removed a number of modifiers (change was to get rid of a type of damage - shaken - and change combat to be more like Bill Banks Ancients).  Game was fast and fun and I could see exactly the rolls that would be required to make the game flow historically, although it did not quite go that way.  I have always liked the idea of uncontrolled units at deployment that cannot move. And it worked well here.


  1. Shaun, you might want to examine the repeated cavalry charges the Persians made against the Greek line leading up to Plataea - they gave the hoplites far better than they got.

    1. Good point. The Persian heavy cavalry should have had bows, which would have increased the chance of disordering the hoplites. The disordered hoplites would have had a good chance of being routed by cavalry charges. If the missile fire could have disordered one or two hoplites, the game would have been a lot closer. It may even be worth adding an extra cavalry unit to balance out the forces. If I play this scenario again, I will keep this in mind. Thanks for pointing that out.