Sunday, 30 November 2014

Battle of Issus 333 BC using Ancient Battlelines Clash

This is game 20 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.
Battle of Issus
Alexander defeated the Persians under Memnon at the Granicus. The Persian army, now led by Darius, the King of Kings, marches behind the Macedonian advance and cut their line of supply.  Alexander is forced to turn around and the two armies meet at the River Pinarus.
Here are some links of interest that I used to create the scenario:
Wikipedia article
WAB very comprehensive scenario and forces detail (particularly Part III discussing the Kardakes)
Giant DBA scenario
Tactica scenario

Scenario changes
Reduced by about half the troops due to my smaller sized table.  However, I roughly halved the Spear or pike units as the scenario units are for DBx that assumes in this case that the units will be rear supported, not the case with my rules.


Alexander’s Macedonian
4 Phalangites, battle infantry, phalanx
1 Hypaspists, battle infantry, phalanx, some protection, high fortitude, drilled
2 Hoplites, battle infantry, phalanx, some protection, low fortitude
2 Thracians, auxiliary infantry
4 Psiloi, skirmish infantry, short missile
1 Companions, auxiliary cavalry,  high fortitude, disciplined
2 Heavy Cavalry, auxiliary cavalry
1 Light Cavalry, skirmish cavalry, short missile

1 General with Companions
+1 army command ability

Breakpoint: 13

Late Achaemenid Persian
3 Hoplites, battle infantry, phalanx, some protection
4 Karkades hoplites, battle infantry, low fortitude, long spears, some protection
2 Kardakes peltasts, auxiliary infantry
10 Psiloi, skirmish infantry, long missile
1 Heavy cavalry, auxiliary cavalry, high fortitude
4 Heavy Cavalry, auxiliary cavalry
2 Light Cavalry, skirmish cavalry, long missile
1 General with high fortitude cavalry

Breakpoint: 14

Note I have gone for the 60,000 Kardakes being 40,000 hoplites and 20,000 peltasts as discussed here as part of the WAB scenario.
This game was quite difficult to determine how the deployment should be, and also the forces to allow for the game to work on a 2'x2' table.  There are significant variations in the interpretation of how the units were deployed and where along the Pinarus river - did Alexander cross at the ford?  Did the battle include the escapements?  I went for what Peter Sides had, with a dash of the Tactica one (based on a Slingshot article).  I also found that the troops for the Persians would not fit, so there are less units on their side than the numbers would indicate.

On the positive side, after spending a long time looking at deployment options, I played this over one day and during daylight, so the photos are clearer than most of my other posts.


Persians on the left, Macedonians on the right.
The Pinarus river is classed as a stream.  This slows movement slightly and does give a stream bank defender a combat bonus.

The Game
Alexander move first.  The Macedonian plan is the same as in 333BC - use the Hypaspists to create a gap, and follow through with the Companions.  The Persians will launch across the river into the weaker Macedonian left flank. 

A view from the Macedonian side towards the river.
Peltasts advance on the right and make it through the skirmishers to the cavalry and manage to disorder one.  The reaction system works great here, with the Peltasts advancing as the enemy retreats.  A peltast is lost in the melee with the Heavy cavalry.

Peltasts advance and draw a heavy cavalry out.
The skirmish line advances and does not much, the phalanxes are following and clear the skirmish line, amazing with no damage to themselves. A 1 or 2 would have disordered a phalanx unit, but in (I think) 10 rolls, I did not get a single 1 or 2. The phalanxes continue to react and advance across the stream to engage the Kardakes and Hoplites defending the river Pinarus.  The Hypaspists and an adjacent pike unit take out two Kadakes units (two rolls of a d6 produced a 5 and 6 - enough to destroy them outright); the rest of the battle line sees most units on both sides disordered.

Battlelines clash.  This is before the Hypaspists entered the fray. 
The Persian heavy cavalry on the Macedonian left charge Parmenion...

The Persian Heavy cavalry charge over the river.
...engage in combat with Parmenion's heavy cavalry and a hoplite...

Persian heavy cavalery in combat with Parmenion's Heavy cavalry.
...and after retreating, Parmenion is destroyed (Persians rolled a 6).  So much for holding the left flank.

Parmenion retreats, Persians follow up and Parmenion subsequently routs
 On the right, a Persian heavy cavalry charges a skirmishers; the latter evades but the result of the evaders fire (an unlucky 1) causes the already disordered heavy cavalry to rout.

Persian heavy cavalry charges a skirmish cavalry.  Latter evades, former routed by missile fire.
Alexander charges a charges a Persian skirmisher, follows though in a Kardakes unit that routs and Alexander is now on the other side of the river.

Alexander, charges through two units and make it to the Persian side of the river.  Hypaspists to the right in the picture.
A couple of units lost of both sides in the battleline.  More importantly, the Macedonian hoplite unit on the left flanks succumbs to the cavalry (another unlucky 1) - the Macedonian left flank is now wide open.
Battleline losses.  There are no units in front of the Persian cavalry - that flank is theirs!
Breakpoints lost so far are 10 for Macedonian (13 to break) and 11 for the Persians (14 to break).  it is a close game!

The lone Macedonian Greek hoplite that is on the far left of the battleline (actually the leftmost Macedonian unit!) routs the opposing Karkades; and Alexander forces a skirmish cavalry off the board.

The Persian centre is looking quite bare.
The Persians reach their breakpoint and the game is a close Macedonian win.

Game at end.  Still unit on both sides at the top (Macedonian right flank) but Persian have the Macedoniam left; Macedonians effectively control the centre as well.
The rules are working well.  Changing cavalry to move slower has not worked as well as I thought and have moved it back to 16cm (20 for skirmishers).  Also, and it has been in the back of my mind for the last 5-6 games - cavalry wheel and move much like line infantry.  I have increased the manoeuvrability of cavalry so they can wheel a little more and move.  Cavalry that chased after routing cavalry are never be able to turn around in time to come back the the battle.  Now they have a chance.


  1. Great report of a famous batlle (I have played it on SPQR's boardgame)...nice looking armies and great explanations...

  2. This confirms my opinion that Ancients gamers are the natural historians and tinkerers of our hobby. I can't think of another period that requires so much research and theory. Not my cup of tea, but I admire chaps like you and your mad projects. Great post.

    1. Thanks Michael. I do not think of myself as mad, but then mad people probably don't think they are!

  3. Enjoyable report thanks Shaun. Nice looking paint job on the figures too.

    1. Thanks David. The Macedonians are not my paint job but a friend - Andy Bryant's. He was selling them and I could not resist. The are even better in real life.

  4. War is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.