Sunday, 30 June 2013

Battle of Cunaxa 401BC using Ancient Battlelines Clash

This is game 9 in playtesting my ancient rules. Previous games used my rules called Ancient Warrior  Battles. The renamed latest version is Ancient Battlelines Clash (ABC) 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 Cunaxa
Cyrus the Younger rebels against his brother Artaxerxes II, the latter being the king of the Persian empire. Famous as the historian Xenophon, who was on the losing side, wrote about the long march of the Greek soldiers back to Greece.

Here are links of interest:

Wikipedia article
Caliban's Cunaxa scenario (scroll down the page)

Changes to the Bill Banks Scenario
The scenario is designed to play on a 77"x22" board.  The width and size of Cyrus's army is about 1/2 that of Artaxerxes II.   I reduced the forces by about two-thirds (reducing Cyrus slightly less) to play on a 24"x24" board.  The game also has the two sides starting 6" (or 3 heavy infantry moves apart) hence the short 22" depth. I will start them about 20cm, or about 2.5 heavy infantry moves so the short depth translates OK. 


The rebel persians

3 Hoplites, HI, missile protection 0, phalanx
2 Skirmisher, SI, javelin
2 Light Infantry, LI
1 Heavy Cavalry, HC
1 Light Cavalry, LC, javelin
1 +1 General 
1 Camp


Artaxerxes II

The loyal army - a lot longer and larger than the rebels!
3 Median Infantry, HA, bow
5 Subject Infantry, LI, bow
4 Skirmishers, SI, bow
2  Heavy Cavalry, HC, bow
2 Light Cavalry, LC, bow
1 Scythed Chariot, SCH
1 -1 General

Breakpoint: 9


Cyrus below, Artaxerxes above.

The Game
Cyrus advances his left flank, the Persians do the same.

Cyrus advances on his left, Artaxerxes advances his left.

Persians fire at the rebels. The rules are reaction based so a Median infantry firing on a hoplite usually sees the hoplite advancing and then the medians have an opportunity to fire again, the hoplites then advancing into melee with the Median infantry.  There is always a small chance that the hoplite will be disordered by the firing and not advance.

A hoplite makes it through the line

The clash did not go so well for the rebels - no real breakthrough and only a loss of a skirmisher to the loyal Persians.

Lots of holes in the loyal line where the hoplites went through, , but on the right of the picture it is still intact. Green markers are disorder markers.

Persians continue to advance their left flank, leaving opportunity for Artaxerxes to push through the gap.

The loyal Persian lest advances towards the camp.  In the foregorund are the two rebel camp defenders.

Cyrus moves up to proximity range (4cm) of some Median infantry threatening the flank of the rebel battleline.

Cyrus and his cavalry charge some median infantry....

Cyrus then charges in forcing the Medians to retreat,  and then routs them next turn.

...who are no more next turn.
Across the battleline clash, the rebels push through.  The  Hoplites win all the melees and the rebel light infantry with the subgeneral (a +1 general gives your side a subgeneral) manages to cause a Median light infantry to rout.  A Median infantry melees a rebel light infantry and routs it - the only loss so far to the rebels.
Loyal Persians are 5 into a breakpoint of 9. The rebels are 1 into a breakpoint of 6.

A happy median infantry that actually won a melee.

The rebel left is mostly clear, but at the expense of disordering the hoplites.
Artaxerxes turns to face Cyrus:

Cyrus forced to pursue a previous melee and landed near Artaxerxes, who pivots.

While the loyal Persian right flank makes a lot of progress towards the camp.  There are only two rebel defenders - skirmish javelineers and horse archers.

While the rebels are getting closer to the camp, hampered by poor order dice.
Cyrus charges Artaxerxes and both are disordered. Next turn, a Heavy cavalry in the same group as Artaxerxes gets onto the flank of the Cyrus Heavy Cavalry and, with a good roll, Cyrus is captured. Now the rebels are on 5 breakpoints (6 and they lose).

Cyrus is hit on two sides and is subsequently captured.

The loyal Persians continue close in on the rebels camp:

The loyalists still slowly advancing on the enemy camp.

..and eventually destroy it and rebels reach their breakpoint and game over - a win to the Persians.

Surrounded the camp with light infantry and eventually is was looted.

Nothing much more happened with the hoplites of the Rebel left flank.  With no general around, it was difficult to get them moving.  And they were all disordered and no possible way to rally (no support and no general). Note that I forgot that a +1 general (Cyrus) should be replaced by a +0 general - after capture I did not do this replacement as I am used to playing with +0 generals that are not replaced).  This may have helped the hoplites move a bit further, but would not have changed the outcome of the game.

Final table:

Game end - hoplites to the lower left, camp captured to the lower right, Artaxerxes in the middle.

Game was fast to start with but bogged down halfway.  This was because Artaxerxes is a poor general, and all units are at -1 to order rolls with a poor general.  So it too forever to get the Persians to the camp. Of course, all was not great for the Rebels.  They cleared their left flank fairly fast heavy infantry is not that manoeuvrable and were slow to redeploy.  This slowed down even more when Cyrus was captured and their order roll was at -1 too.  A good game but took awhile overall (it was played over about 6 weeks), maybe 45 minutes for the games without note taking.  This was mostly due to a lot of failed order rolls that does not occur so much in most games.  Oh, and the game went roughly along historical lines which is always good when testing rules.

It takes a while to write up reports this long and it has taken me 12 months to play 9 games out of at least 100. It takes longer to write them up than play!  So I think I will be shortening the battle reports using the rules from now on and just post game highlights.  And it takes me away from testing out new rules so getting back to that is a good thing as well.


  1. Nice report with great're right, not easy to play and write, but this is a good result!

    1. Thanks Phil. re: writing, it may be a hard habit (of writing lots) to break, so we shall see... :-)