Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Seven battles in seven days - Cyrus the Great battle reports

Halfway though November (2012) I realised that last year's November was solo gamers month - the 11 month of 2011. So for this year (2012) I decided to do something I had wanted to do for a long time - play some battles from Cyrus the Great's creation of the Persian empire. This post is quite long. I was tempted to split it into a number of posts, one for each battle, but in the end left it as a really long post.

This other post has the background, rules etc in it.  This post you are reading below has seven battle reports:
  • Cyrus Vs the Medes
  • Cyrus Vs Lydians in the Battle of Pteria
  • Cyrus Vs Lydians in the Battle of Thymbra
  • Mazares Vs Ionian Greeks
  • Cyrus Vs the Babylonians in the Battle of Opis
  • Cyrus Vs the Indians
  • Cyrus Vs the Massagetae
Army Generator
I used a random generator for all the army lists and terrain based on the army lists - it picks random units, subject to certain limitations, general rank (0, 1 or 2), army tactics and deployment to use, terrain, and attacker. It is a very large excel spreadsheet. Here is the result for the first battle:

The images are still a bit too small to include in the blog post, which was what I was originally going to do.  Ah well.  I just copied the troops description from the excel sheet for each battle.
Battle 1 Cyrus Versus the Medes
1 Heavy cavalry
1 Immortals, high fortitude
7 Sparabara
2 Skirmish infantry, bow

1 Heavy cavalry, bow
5 Spearmen, heavy infantry
2 Heavy Archers
1 Light Infantry
3 Skirmish infantry, bow
1 Horse Archer 

View of most of the Medes
Cyrus defended his flanks very well and manged to either drive them off (the left flank) or contain them (right flank).

View from the Median left of Cyrus, Immortals and some Sparabara (on the right of the picture) charging in
But the centre was touch and go.

Immortals (on left) and Sparabara fighting the Median spearmen.  Green marker = disorder.
The Median skirmishers managed to disorder some Sparabara before the skirmishers fled the field.  And so it was down to the Immortals to carry the day.
The Immortals that broke the Median line.
It did not help that the lone Median heavy cavalry managed to get disordered, then roll a 1 and rout.  The unfortunate bit was the Median general was attached and was captured.  Median breakpoint reached.  It was a close game though - the Persians were only one heavy unit away from reaching their breakpoint too.

Cyrus and his cavalry looking victorious.
Battle 2 Cyrus versus Lydians in the Battle of Pteria

1 Heavy cavalry
1 Immortals, high fortitude
8 Sparabara
2 Skirmish infantry, bow

2 Heavy Cavalry
1 Light Chariot (bow)
1 Light Cavalry
3 Hoplites
1 Skirmish infantry, javelin
1 Light Infantry

Deployment overview - Lydians at the top, Persians at the bottoms.  Note the two unit reserve to the bottom left - this was the undoing for the Persians.

This battle did not end well for Cyrus.  While he put up a good fight with his cavalry on his left flank, outnumbered 2 to 1, it eventually proved too much and he was carried away from the battlefield.

Cyrus and his single cavalry unit faces the Lydian cavalry (two units) and the general!

...and the predictable result.  Cyrus carried from the field.  The Sparabara at the right came too late to save Cyrus.
The Hoplites on the Persian left flank managed to break through the Sparabara holding that flank although it was touch and go for awhile.
Hoplites advancing on the Persian right.
The Persian reserve came late to the battle (rolled poor orders dice - anything but a 1 and they would move; they rolled a 1) and never really made the saving attack they were supposed to.
Hoplites break through and melee the reserve.
The Lydians really gained the upper hand in this battle - the Persian deployment was not a great one and the reserves not arriving on time did not help.

Battle 3 Cyrus versus Lydians in the Battle of Thymbra

Rather than generate random forces, I modified my previous battles troops slightly:


The Persians.  The missile tower does dominate a little.

1 Immortals, Heavy Archers, bow, high fortitude, missile protection +1
6 Sparabara, Heavy Archers, bow, missile protection +1
2 Skirmish Infantry, bow
1 Heavy Cavalry
1 Camels
1 Missile Tower
1 Scythed Chariot


Lydians - Cavalry on the flanks, Hoplites in the centre with skirmishers and light chariot in front.

5 Hoplites, HI, long spear phalanx, MP+1
2 Skirmish infantry, javelin
1 Light Chariot
2 Heavy Cavalry, high fortitude
1 Light Cavalry, bows

A revisit of the battle I recently played using an older version of the rules (see this blog post) for the writeup of this). But this time there is only one missile tower, one scythed chariot and a few more Sparabara. The Lydian cavalry bounced off each Sparabara flank.
Lydian cavalry caught up with Sparbara while Cyrus (at right) begins charging up the (now open) right flank.
 The hoplites managed to chew up the Persian centre.

Hoplites managing to pushback the Persian heavy archers.
Cyrus managed to get around to the rear of a Hoplite unit of the right flank and win the game by routing a couple of units.

Cyrus and cavalry charge the rear of a hoplite already engaging in battle.  Did not end well for the hoplite.
The Missile tower looked great but never got a chance to effect the outcome of the game.  The camel did play stand-off with some light horse but that was about it for that gimmick.

Battle 4 Mazares versus Ionian Greeks

1 Heavy Cavalry
1 Immortals
6 Sparabara
2 Skirmish infantry, bow

2 Heavy cavalry
6 Hoplites, low fortitude
1 Skirmish infantry (javelins)
The Ionian hoplite battleline

This one was very interesting.  The Ionian Greeks were 6 hoplites in the battleline with one heavy cavalry on each flank, holding back (as tactic was centre attack).  Persian attacked along the line.

Turn 2, I think, and a hoplite (with general) has already charged and broken through the Sparabara battleline (to the centre left at the bottom).
The Sparabara in the centre were mostly wiped off the field by the Hoplites, but there were some surprises.
Closer look at the victorious hoplites.
The "roll anything but a 1 and the Hoplite will be OK; rolled a 1" happened a few times, unluckily for the Greeks.  The right flank Greek cavalry managed to hold its own for a while against Cyrus and the two cavalry, but eventually succumbed.

Cyrus and cavalry (on the right) in melee with the Ionian cavalry.  Cyrus eventually won.  Both cavalry are disordered (green marker).
Each army reached its breakpoint during the same player turn, and the game continued for another turn when the Persians managed to rout a Hoplite (using the "anything but a 1" tactic).

Persian cavalry charge a disordered hoplite and manage to rout it.  Lucky.  I am too nervous to unbend those spears; another time maybe.
Battle 5 Cyrus versus Neo-Babylonians in the Battle of Opis

3 Heavy cavalry
1 Immortals, high fortitude
5 Sparabara
2 Subject infantry (light infantry)

1 Heavy chariot, bow
1 Heavy Cavalry
8 Heavy archers
1 Skirmish infantry, bow

The Neo-Babylonian heavy archers
Archers Vs archers.  Both battlelines are made up of heavy archers. The armies were close enough to images of each other with minor variations.

The Persian deployment (from their front).  Immortals on the left, Cavalry to the right and rear.

The Babylonians set up with the Heavy chariot in front of the hill for something different.
Babylonian Heavy chariot and general (The chariot is suspiciously like my Neo-Assyrian ones).
Setting up the chariot here was a good risk (retreating into the steep hill would have destroyed it). It was a good thing and the Neo-Babylonians won that flank...

Babylonian heavy chariot in combat with Persian cavalry.  The latter routed.  The Persian light infantry in the foreground looked on helpless.
...but lost the other one that had two heavy cavalry units vs one. archers vs archers makes for a fair bit of dice rolling as they fire and counter fire.  The Persians managed to break up the Babylonian line, charged in and manged to break enough units to gain a victory.

The Persian Cavalry, with Cyrus, victorious on the left flank now turns and help break up the battleline.
I think the Persians had some good die rolling in the missile combat but as I am not recording die rolls it could just be perception.

Battle 6 Cyrus versus Indians

The Persian setup.  Immortals on the right.
1 Heavy cavalry
2 Immortals, high fortitude
5 Sparabara
2 skirmish infantry, bows
1 Subject infantry (light infantry)

The Indian setup - chariots on the flanks, elephant in the centre, cavalry in reserve. Note that the Indian archers are light infantry archers, while the Persians are heavy archers.  Similar missile effect, but Indians are poorer in melee. 
1 Elephant
2 Heavy Chariots
1 Heavy cavalry, low fortitude
8 Light archers
1 Skirmish infantry, bow

More enemy archers!

Closeup of the elephant in the centre.  Sparabara got lucky with the dice and routed it.

Elephant in the centre I thought was going to be tough for the Sparabara but lucky dice rolling saw it routed in close combat.

Elephant charges into the Sparabara line.  It subsequently routs.
The heavy chariot on the Persian right flank was rout with some unlucky die rolls (only on a 1 or a 2 will it be bad.  Oh, a 1).  Anyway, so long as the Persians does not roll a 6 on their turn, the chariot will survive.  Oh, a 6.  Eventually the Persian heavy archers managed to deal with the lighter Indian archers (in this period, it seems they were of a lighter version than found in the "Classical Indians" lists).

The Indian cavalry come out of reserve to try an exploit a gap in the line
For the entire game, from turn 1, both generals were locked in combat with each other, effectively blocking the Persian left flank.

 It also meant the Immortals were also stuck on that flank for the entire game.

Immortals, with Cyrus, in combat with the Indian heavy chariot and Indian general.
Battle 7 Cyrus versus Massagetae

2 Heavy cavalry
2 Immortals, high fortitude
6 Sparabara
1 Subject infantry (light infantry)

Massagetae army - infantry archers in the centre and loads of horse archers on the flanks
12 Horse Archers
1 Heavy Cavalry, bow
5 Foot archers (heavy archers)
1 Tribal foot (light infantry)
2 Skirmish infantry, bow

I am amazed I have 12 horse archers across different armies.  I've never played a game in my life against a horse archer based army.  I have read a lot of rules do not handle them well. Note sure if I handled them well under my rules, but mainly due to inexperience with horse archer armies rather than the rules.  Of course, after a few more horse archer games, I may think my rules are crap with them too, but we are not their yet.

Archers in the centre for both armies, with heavy cavalry on the flanks for the Persians, and loads of horse archers on the flanks of the Massagetae.

The game started off slow with lots of disorders being handed out. But then suddenly the Persians managed to force lots of horse archer to rout on the right flank, and also clear some off the left flank too.
The Persian left flank after managing to make a lot of the opposing horse archers retreat.

The Persian right flank.  More horse archers in good condition over this side.

But then the lone Massagetae heavy cavalry rips down one side of the Persian archers.

The Massagetae heavy cavalry, and general, manages to break through on an edge of the battleline.
 Cyrus and  the immortals does the same thing in the centre - and keeps going to the hills.  He nearly pursues off the board!

Cyrus and the Immortals rout and pursue some light cavalry almost to the edge of the table.

However, a Persian heavy cavalry unit gets the Massagetae archer battle line in the flank, and routs two units.
Persian heavy cavalry flanks the Massagetae heavy archer battleline.  This shot is after two units have routed already.

Next turn, the Persian left flank cavalry unit does the same and gets one.

Amazingly, the other Persian Heavy cavalry gets into a position to do the same to the other flank of the battleline.
Massagetae reached their breakpoint and game over for a Persian win.  Different to history where in one version of events, Cyrus  lost his life in a battle like this.

I did not play the horse archers very well - I should have been a little more aggressive in disordering the enemy to allow for some breakthroughs with the heavy cavalry earlier, or at least used some archers for the breakthrough.  Anyway, a good learning experience.

End note
A fun and fantastic experience, even if I did have to ignore some other non-gaming duties to get it done.


  1. Looks like Cyrus did well in all but 1 battle and even then his army still did OK. Interesting reports Shawn. Any mods to the rules since we last spoke about them?


    1. Cyrus did badly in one, very close in another and for 2 more (versus the Messagatae and Indians) it was touch and go in the early stages. I was probably biased to Cyrus so did not play the other sides as hard as I possibly could have.

      No real changes to the rules since we last spoke. I did remove shaken as we discussed and now there is only one marker - disordered. I haven't playtested the latest version but the only difference between these seven games and the latest version is that now complex moves will disorder a unit, while in the games above a complex move causes shaken that can be removed fairly easily. I hope to get a few playtest games underway in the new year.

  2. That was some serious solo gaming there, Shaun! Great stuff. Looks like your rules are coming together well.

    The other reason I wanted to post here was to use the phrase 'one man's Mede is another man's Persian', but I couldn't quite find a suitable tie-in...

    Cheers, Aaron

    1. Aaron,

      And just how many years have you been looking for the opportunity to say that :-)

    2. Far too many for my own good, Shaun ;-)

      At least I can cross it off the bucket list now though!