Saturday, 10 December 2016

Battle of Raphia 217BC using Ancients Battlelines Clash

This is game 29 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 Raphia
This very large battle was fought between Ptolemy IV of Egypt and Antiochus III of the Seleucid Empire. It was the latest battle in the ongoing fight between the two empires for control of Syria.

Surprisingly little on the internet. There is more in the paper books I have.  Mostly Total War sites and discussion on the battle.  But some sites of interest on this battle:

I used Lost Battles (Sabin) a little.

Scenario changes
Reduced by about three quarters the troops due to my smaller sized table. I roughly also then 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.


Both sides use classic Successor units and deployment.


Ptolemaic army - Egyptians phalanx in the centre, royal Guard  (with Ptolemy) with blue shields on the right, 
1 Guard cavalry, aux cavalry, high fortitude
1 Heavy Cavalry, aux cavalry
2 Light Cavalry, skirmish cavalry, short missile
1 Royal Guard, battle infantry, phalanx, high fortitude
2 Phalangites, battle infantry, phalanx
2 Egyptian phalangites, battle infantry, phalanx, low fortitude
1 Mercenaries,  battle infantry, phalanx, some protection, low fortitude
2 Peltasts, aux infantry
2 Psiloi, skirmish infantry, short missile
2 Elephants, elephant, low fortitude (to represent them as bush elephants)
1 General with Royal Guard phalanx (to represent where he spent most of his time)

Breakpoint: 12


Seleucid army
1 Elite heavy cavalry, aux cavalry, high fortitude
1 Heavy Cavalry, aux cavalry
2 Light Cavalry, skirmish cavalry, short missile
1 Hypaspists, battle infantry, phalanx, high fortitude
2 Phalangites, battle infantry, phalanx
1 Hoplite, battle infantry, phalanx, some protection, low fortitude
1 Spearmen, battle infantry
1 Persian archers, battle infantry, bow
2 Peltasts, aux infantry
2 Psiloi, skirmish infantry, short missile
2 Elephant, elephant
1 General with Elite cavalry

Breakpoint: 13

Making this work with the number of troops was hard - it was one of the largest battles and so to be able to represent the units involved on a small table, and give a reasonable interpretation of the battle, was not easy.


The Game

Ptolemy advances the flank elephants and the battleline.  The heavy cavalry on the left flank holds back - they are facing Antiochus and will likely lose.

Antiochus responds by advancing his elephants, and skirmishers, into the enemy elephants/skirmishers.

Elephants clash on Ptolemaic right flank

Elephants clash on Ptolemaic left flank
Ptolemaic army continues to advance, no resolution for the elephants battling on each flank.

Ptolemy advancing on the Seleucid army (from the Seleucid point of view)

Ptolemy continues to act crazy but knowing that his infantry battleline should be superior to the Seleucid one, he advances between the elephants locked in melee on both flanks towards the Seleucid battleline.  The flanks can be guarded by the cavalry on both sides if need be by going around the elephants.

Seleucid army at bottom.  Ptolemy is advancing the phalanxes past the elephants clashing on the flank and with the cavalry far to the rear.  While his phalanx battleline is slightly superior, it is still a bit of a gamble with the flanks unresolved. 

Persian archers fire on the hoplites that are in range.  A 1.  The only score that would score damage!
The Ptolemaic peltasts advance due to being fired on. This brings them into proximity to the Seleucid peltasts and Persian archers   The archers fire and the peltasts are force back.

Ptolemaic peltasts advance, fired on by the Persian archers, and retreat.
Ptolemaic elephant of right flank defeats the opposing Seleucid elephant, that then advances towards the cavalry.  The skirmish cavalry fire (the heavy cav do not have shock against the elephants so do not charge them). skirmish cavalry retreats, as does heavy cavalry. Elephant pursues and rolls a 6 that means they add 2cm to their move and reach the heavy cavalry.  Cavalry and elephant locked in melee.

Ptolemaic right flank elephant reaches the Seleucid cavalry
The Ptolemaic right cavalry is set to advance to help protect the flank but decides the time is not yet ready to do so (orders failed to arrive to move).

Ptolemaic phalanxes (mostly) advances into the opposing battleline.

Ancient battlelines clash (Ptolemaic viewpoint)
Disorders all round, except on the Ptolemaic right flank, the peltasts managed to destroy the opposing disordered peltasts and then advanced into the other peltasts that they also routs!  On the Ptolemaic left flank, Ptolemy and his guard phalanx routed the Seleucid peltasts.

Minor losses on both sides.
Seleucid elephant on the right flank is routed.

Just tusk on tusk after clearing the skirmishers.

And the Ptolemaic elephant is victorious!
Antiochus charges past the elephant to contact the Ptolemaic heavy cavalry

Antiochus leads the cavalry past the elephant into opposing heavy cavalry and they are locked in melee.
Both are disordered.

Phalanx clash is bad for Ptolemy.  While the Guard routed the opposing Seleucid phalanx, both Egyptian phalanxes are routed.  Not good.

The centre is not going well for Ptolemy - Egyptian phalanxes and one non-native phalanx gone
Tragedy for Antiochus on  his left flank - the elephant routs the heavy cavalry and the light cavalry flees off the board.  So very lucky, the Elephant pursues to the very edge.  A few more millimetres and it would have gone off the board!

The right flank Ptolemaic elephant manages to rout the opposing cavalry. 
Note the elephant on edge needs to rally before it can about face - it cannot turn as it would take it off the board.  It unlikely to come back into the game.

Ptolemy breakpoint loss is currently at 7; Antiochus 9.  But Antiochus has a few more chances to rout some units, but it is still close.

Ptolemaic heavy cavalry advance on the left flank, Ptolemaic hoplites routed but Ptolemy routs an opposing phalanx.

One phalanx loss each for the centre, but Ptolemy definitely is worse off here.
Elephant advances towards the light cavalry on Ptolemaic left flank and the light cavalvy eventually flees off the board.  This gets the Seleucid army to their breakpoint and so P wins!

The left flank Ptolemaic elephant advances on the light cavalry

The cavalry retreat and the Seleucid army reaches its breaking point, 

End game overview

Another very close game.  Ptolemy was only one heavy unit away from their breakpoint. This is the last of the Successor battles I will be playing.  There are a few more with phalanxes (e.g. Sellasia) and then a very long string of a lot of battles with Roman forces appearing in just about every battle!


  1. Nice to see that the game was so tight. Are the elephants of both sides equal in combat and capability (i.e. does the opening simply become a 50 / 50 chance on the flanks as to who wins the elephant tussle?)

    1. During the game, I played the elephants as equal in combat and capability, so it was a 50/50 chance. After reading your comment, something did not ring true, and I note that when writing the army units for each side, I made the Ptolemaic elephants low fortitude (effectively -1 on the dice roll). This was to represent that Ptolemy only had access to the small bush elephants for this battle. a straight -1 disadvantage translates to odds of about a 42% chance of winning compared to the other side having a 58% chance (there is a special rule for a straight -1 disadvantage that is not simply a +1 to the dice roll). If I ever play this again, I will have to remember that!

    2. Thanks Shaun, some potential there for player character traits to reveal themselves on the flank (cautious or rash players).