Monday, 7 November 2016

Battle of Gaza 312BC using Ancient Battlelines Clash

This is game 27 in play testing my ancient rules by replaying historical battles.  The latest version of ‘Ancient Battlelines Clash’ is on its own blog page. I am play testing the rules by replaying all the Peter Sides scenarios from his Historical Battles books.  ABC is designed to finish in under an hour on a 2'x2' table.  However, sometimes I come across a battle that is not in the scenario books that I want to include.  The Battle of Gaza is one that does not appear in the Peter Sides books, but is included in Phil Sabin's Lost Battles book.

Battle of Gaza
In the saga of the Successor Wars, Ptolemy and Seleucus invade Syria to battle with the son of Antigonus, Demetrius.

There is not much on the internet on this battle but here is the link to Wikipedia:

Wikipedia article 

I used Lost Battles (Sabin) to create this scenario.

Scenario changes
I reduced the number of units by about half due to the smaller sized table.


Ptolemy (and Seleucus)

Ptolemy's army
5 Phalangites, battle infantry, phalanx
4 Psiloi, skirmish infantry, short missile
1 Psiloi (anti-elephant), skirmish infantry, high fortitude, short missile
1 Guard cavalry, aux cavalry, high fortitude, disciplined
1 Heavy Cavalry, aux cavalry
2 Light Cavalry, skirmish cavalry, short missile
1 General, +1 command ability, with Guards

Breakpoint: 9


Demetrius's army
3 Phalangites, battle infantry, phalanx
1 Hoplite, battle infantry, phalanx, some protection
2 Psiloi, skirmish infantry, short missile
1 Companions, aux cavalry, high fortitude, disciplined
1 Heavy Cavalry, aux cavalry
2 Light Cavalry, skirmish cavalry, short missile
2 Elephants, elephant
1 General, with Companions

Breakpoint: 9


The Game
Both forces generally advance along the line;  except both sides hang back the heavy cavalry, awaiting the outcome of the elephants and skirmishers. This is not how it went historically when it was the other way around - phalanxes did not clash until the cavalry battle was decided.  Due to deployment limits in my rules, the elephants had to deploy in the same group as the phalanxes. The elephants tried to split in their first action.  They failed an group split roll and so the entire group has moved forwards.  I would have liked to have hung back the Antigonid phalanx line to see if the elephant causes any damage to the Ptolemaic line.

First turn advances

A few more advances and the only contact is the Antigonid elephant (on the heavy cavalry flank) meets the skirmishers, including the anti-elephant unit. The elephant is accompanied by a skirmish unit of it own and the latter that retreats due to enemy missile fire.

Antigonid elephant in battle with enemy skirmish line

Against both skirmishers, the elephant rolled snake-eyes!  1's are bad, and the elephant routs, causing no reciprocal damage to the skirmishers. The skirmishers pursue into the Antigonid retreating skirmishers that had cause an Ptolemaic skirmisher to retreat.

...and the elephant is destroyed

The flanks are much the same in quality and quantity.  The centre is the only place Demetrius can make a difference, but it is one elephant and 4 phalanxes Vs 5 phalanxes and some skirmishers.  Demetrius sends them in.

Another Antigonid elephant advances to the phalanx line

Ptolemaic skirmishers cannot face the charging elephant and retreat though the phalanx and retire from the game.  Elephant and accompanying skirmisher continue into the phalanx.  Elephant routed - all those long sharp pointy sticks was too much! - and the skirmisher retires from the game as well.  The elephant had a good chance (50%) of disordering a phalanx, which would have helped, but alas it was not to be.  One phalanx unit did pursue though that did break up the line.

Pointy sticks are too much and the elephant is destroyed

Ptolemy tidies up the line - both the skirmishers and heavy cavalry, and the phalanx battle line.

Overview mid-game.  Ptolemy (left) has redressed his lines and ready to go!

Ptolemy's phalangites crash into the opposing Antigonid battle line.  This is the start of what becomes quite a long phalanx battle.

Ptolemy phalangites (red) crash into the opposing better painted Antigonids.

A few disorders, and one retreat on each side.

Mostly disorders all rounf

On the next run of melee, one of the Ptolemaic phalanxes rout!

One Ptolemaic phalanx unit is routed

The next turn, one of the Antigonid phalanxes is routed.  And a retreated Ptolemaic phalanx rallies.  I have never used rallies much as it requires a 6 for a single unit and they are usually busy being in melee.
Then an Antigonid phalanx

Another round of melee for both sides sees the Ptolemaic phalanx charge back into the line, but to ill avail, as another Ptolemaic phalanx succumbs and routs.  A Ptolemaic phalanx is slowly turning on the left flank of the Antigonid phalanx, so they are likely to lose the middle eventually.

Then a Ptolemaic one.

Another one is gone in battle with the Hoplites.

And another Ptolemaic one.  Things are not so great for Ptolemy - 5 phalanx units versus 4, now 2 versus  3.

Ptolemy decides the best chance from here is to try for a win on with the heavy cavalry. Nothing for it but to charge the heavy cavalry in!  Skirmish screen is dissipated with no ill effects, and the cavalry clash just has disorder all round.

So Ptolemy (rear left unit) leads the charge of the heavy cavalry to Demetrius (near left)

Disaster for Ptolemy! The accompanying heavy cavalry routs.

Ptolemy is one heavy cavalry down.

The lone phalanx makes it around the flank and it unlucky and does not rout the Antigonid phalanx.

The flank attack by the Ptolemaic phalanx, due to a very poor die roll, does not do anything to the Antigonid phalanx

And immediately the other Ptolemaic phalanx is routed.

But the front Ptolemaic phalanx is routed.  Demetrius wins and Ptolemy retires the army.

Ptolemy has reached his breakpoint and the game is over.

Game end.

Well that did not go as expected.  What I mean is that Ptolemy was supposed to win.  I have a bias to Ptolemy as my first army I started collecting, way back in 1980.  So I was cheering all the way for Ptolemy to win.  Alas, he did not.  It was a close game and could have easily gone the other way - Demetrius was only two units away from his breakpoint..  The phalanx battle lasted longer than I expected.  There was not many pursuits and both sides rolled dice that saw disorder after disorder, rather than some routs.  Only a little unusual, it was only a turn or two longer than usual.


  1. Interesting battle and great write up. I am sure I have one of the Ancients books you refer to. Now I will have to find it.

    Heading out to play DBA 3 with an old friend this weekend. I haven't played DBA since Phil Barker was making sausage on the Yahoo forum and I haven't played 3 even though I bought it. It will be interesting to try it again.

    1. Note that Gaza is one of the few battles that I am playing that is not in the Peter Sides scenario books!

      Strange you should mention DBA 3.0. I am not a bit fan of DBA (neither like nor dislike) but a friend and I are getting together at the end of this month to play a game of a DBA clone - Triumph (The authors may not say it is like DBA but it has similar troop types but more of them, roll d6 for command, shooting and combat handled the same with less than doubled, doubled or more and quick kills. There is so much in the mechanisms being similar, there is just a difference in the troop type interactions but there is some real differences: terrain setup is new, shooting support is a little different, 3'x2' table, points for units). I think I may like it more than DBA.