Empire: 310 BC – 301 BC

We have just completed the second turn in our Empire Campaign campaign, which covers the period from 310 BC to 301 BC. The following should provide a brief overview of the events as they unfolded. One of the interesting features of the campaign is the sequential nature of the turn sequence which in the closing poption of the decade resulted in a very dramatic turn of events. The outcomes of course determined by the order of player offensives, modified by battle outcomes.

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The cities of Sicilia were most unsettled following the failed Carthaginian campaigns of the previous decade. As a result a number of cities determined to take advantage of Syracue’s weakness and revolted against Syracusian hegemony. In 310 BC Xenodicus was elected general in Akragas and immediately embarked on a limited campaign to liberate the nearby Sicilian cities from Syracusian domination. Argathocles, tyrant of Syracuse, was determined to bringing Xenodicus to battle and in the Autumn of 309 BC they arimes clashed. Both armies comprised a large number of hoplites and were supported by cavalry. However, Argathocles had a slight advantage in the mousted arm and was further supported by light cavalry and bolt shooters. Xenodicus was more concerned in keeping his revolt alive and as such deployed behind a river with his right flank resting near the coast.

Argathocles determined to attack the enemy right with his mounted and some hoplites while other hoplites, as well as bolt shooters, pinned the Siciliot centre. The battle lines swirled back and forth for most of the day as first Syracusian and then Siciliot troops attacked across the river. Finally, unable to achieve an outcome Argathocles ordered his troops to disengage. Argathocles had clearly failed to defeat Xenodicus, the rebellion would continue to gain momentum. While Syracuse had clearly lost its domination over Sicilia it was far from defeated.

In the east Eumenes determined to launch an offensive into India in an effort to secure his supply of elephants. By the summer of 308 BC Eumenes finally deployed against the Indian hordes in a area interspersed by areas of forest and marsh. In the ensuing battle his light troops suffered in the initial skirmishes but soon the main battlelines clashed. It was now the Greeks, and Persian subjects, gained an advantage destroying many Indians cavalry and chariots. Sensing an opportunity to finish off the Indian host Eumenes committed his cavalry against the lightly armed Indian archers. Now the archers drew their fearsome swords and wreaked havoc amongst the invaders. Encouraged by their inferiors, the elephants and chariots redoubled their efforts and slaughtered the phalangites in front of them. Eumenes was now forced to fight and rearguard action and begin the long journey west. His invasion of India had failed. Yet, this defeat had even greater consequences. Eumenes, far from his capital learnt that in his absence Seleucus, previously satrap of Mesopotamia had returned from exile and seized control of the capital and treasury. Eumenes, never the most trusted of commanders, was handed over to Seleucus by his veterans in return for their long overdue pay.

In Macedonia Polypechon launched an offensive into Graecia in 307 BC to bring to heal Cassander. While a number of Greek cities opened their gates to Polypechon others gathered to support Cassander. The two armies manoeuvred until finally they faced each other in Attica near Dekelea in 306BC. Cassander positioned his mounted on his left while extending his line to the right with his phalangites in the centre and the majority of his mercenary peltasts on the right. Polypechon, having a numeric superiority in phalangites, massed these along with his xystophoroi in the centre while his Greek cavalry and elephants extended his right and his light troops were positioned on a rocky hill on his left. Both armies advanced with their right, with their centre and left in support.

Cassander hoped to gain the advantage against the outnumbered Macedonian left but failed as Polypechon light troops fell back. Meanwhile on the opposite flank and centre of both armies were soon engaged. Here Cassander routed Polypechon’s Greek cavalry while the phalangites of both armies pushed back and forth inconclusively.

With his right flank shattered and desperate for a result the Macedonian centre attacked. While Polypechon, at the head of his xystophoroi charged Cassander’s Greek hoplites, his phalangites attacked Cassander’s outnumbered phalangites frontally and from the flank. However, Cassander’s troops were well motivated and repulsed first the phalangites and then routed the xystophoroi after Polypechon fell mortally wounded. Demoralised and leaderless Polypechon’s army broke with many troops now deserting to Cassander. Aware of his own tenuous hold in Greece, an amalgam of diverse political interests at best, Cassander advanced in the following weeks into Macedonia and secured Pella, leaving the fractious Greek cities behind.

While the dynamic situation in Graecia was unfolding equally dramatic news arrived from Italia. The relatively unknown city state of Rome had successfully consolidated their position over Italia. Heavily populated and now commanding a united Italia rumours of Roman expansion filled many trading ports.

Watching these developments with renewed interest Carthage pressed on with her own territorial expansions. Following the defeat of her previous invasion of Sicilia Carthage prepared for another invasion of the islands now disrupted by revolts by cities seeking independence from Syracusian hegemony. Carthaginian forces landed on the west of the island from where her forces quickly expanded and consolidated their control. However, Carthage was soon in direct conflict with the much expanded Akragas League which now controlled much of Sicilia in a loose alliance of city states. This finally came to a head in 305 BC when the Akragas League dispatched Xenodicus to arrest Carthaginian arrest expansion.

The two armies met on a relatively open plain north of Heraclea, a site chosen by Hamilcar, son of Gisco. Hamilcar selecting the field to ensure his heavy chariots would benefit from an obstacle free battlefield. Hamilcar deployed with his Punic and Libyan infantry in the centre his auxilia and cavalry on his right and his heavy chariots on the left.

Taking advantage of what looked to be an unusual deployment by the Greeks Hamilcar pressed forward with his centre and left while refusing his more vulnerable right. He further moved his cavalry from his right flank to his left to gain further advantage. The Siciliot Greeks countered and repositioning some of their centre to attack the Punic right flank.

However, such deployments take time and the Carthaginian heavy chariots and cavalry, supported by Punic infantry, eventually gained the advantage on the Punic left and centre destroying the Greek flank. The surviving Greeks fled and as word of the victory spread cities opened their gates to Carthage. Sicilia had been finally secured for Carthage.

However, it was in the Syria and Aegyptus that the most dramatic events of the decade unfolded. In 303 BC Antigonus dispatched his son Demetrius against Ptolemy in a war that had now been fought for many years. Moving south a number cities offered little or no resistance to the Antigonid invasion. Now the very survival of Ptolemaic rule seemed in question.  Ptolemy finally offered battle in the Nile Delta, again using a major distributary to strengthen his position.

Demetrius launched his attack across one of these rivers while landing Greek hoplites on the coast. Ptolemy counted the landing with his mounted while his the smaller phalanx and elephants advanced to defend the river bank opposite the mighty phalanx of Demetrius. A long but determined clash over the river and marshes no took place the details of which are not known. The result however was that headway gained by the Antigonid phalanx was lost when it was finally forced back across the river and the Greek hoplites along the coast were finally over-run. Once again the Antigonid invasion of Aegyptus is repulsed.

Seeking revenge and taking advantage of the Antigonid defeat Ptolemy now launched his own invasion of Syria. Several cities opened their gates to Ptolemy as he marched relentlessly north. As these cities fell the economic cost to the Antigonids increased. Antigonus, unable to accept continued economic destruction being inflicted on Syria assembled a large army to defeat the invader.

Antigonus, having executed a night march, was able to catch the Ptolemaic host breaking camp in the summer of 301 BC. Ptolemy had deployed with his right flank anchored on a fortified position and his left an area of marsh. Having recovered from the surprise attack Ptolemy moves against the Antigonid flanks. This includes a raid against the Antigonid camp, though this attack fails. In due course the phalangites of both armies are engaged, with the aging Antigonus, now 80, fighting in the front ranks of the Antigonid phalanx. As the battle develops victory seems within Antigonus’ grasp until a series of disasters combine. Firstly, Antigonid xystophoroi fail to achieve a breakthrough and then a portion of the Antigonid phalanx, attacked frontally and from the flank, is destroyed with the loss of Antigonus. While Ptolemaic casualties are heavy the Antigonid defeat is complete. Syria has fallen to Ptolemy and two decades of determined engagements have, at least for the time being, provided a rich reward.

At the end of the decade the various states control the following provinces, the first being the home province:

  • Carthage: Africa, Numidia, Iberia, Sicilia
  • Rome: Italia
  • Macedonia: Macedonia, Thracia
  • Antigonids: Asia, Pontus
  • Seleucids: Mesopotamia, Persia, Parthia, Armenia, Bactria
  • Ptolemaic: Aegyptus, Syria

Independent states currently comprise: Gallia; Cisalpina; Magna Graecia; Illyria; Cyrenaica; Scythia & India.

Empire: 320 BC – 311 BC

As previous posts have indicated our campaign based on Phil Sabin’s boardgame is now underway. In fact we have now completed the first campaign turn which covers the period from 320 BC to 311 BC. In the turn six battles have occurred, with all being resolved with DBA. I have struggled a little between the requirements of running the campaign, being involved in playing some of the battles and recording results. As such I suspect the format will see me document most battles in very general terms. Hopefully this will provide a degree of balance. 

As way of reminder each player conducts offensives in order. In this campaign turn Rome went first, followed by Ptolemy and so forth. This order can be an important, though not as much this turn.


During 319 BC Antipater, regent of Macedonia died. His death threw the Macedonian world into chaos. Antipater appointed Polyperchon as regent of Macedonia on his death. This resulted in Cassandros, Antipater’s son, fleeing to Greece where he would form an army. If the stability of the civilised world was not already shaken news then reached Athens of revolts in nearby Illyria. However, as Illyria is independent this has no immediate effect.

The growing city of Rome continued to expand its influence, yet despite its efforts had failed to fully consolidate Italia.

Ptolemy, wishing to consolidate his own position launched an army, under his trusted general Ophellas, in a rapid offensive against the cities of Cyrenia in 319 BC. However, the Ptolemaic forces suffered a major defeat in Cyrenia and were forced to retire. Reports indicated that Cyrenia benefited from Antigonid support and mercenary commanders. Meanwhile Eumenes having seized control of the Eastern Satrapies, and with his capital in Mesopotamia, could have launched invasions against several provinces. However, rather than risk direct conflict with Antigonus, Eumenes opted to launch an offensive into Armenia in 317 BC. Here Eumenes, constrained by terrain, opted to press forward through a narrow defile. At great personel risk, and with much daring, he defeated the Armenians in open battle. Details of both campaigns can be found here.

In 315 BC Antigonus having awaited the outcomes of Ptolemy’s and Eumenes’ campaigns determined to take advantage of the Ptolemic defeat in Cyrenaica by launching an invasion of Aegyptus. Success here would have destroyed Ptolemaic control of the fertile province of Aegyptus and displaced Ptolemy in a single stroke. Advancing through Syria Antigonus’ army was well supported by his fleet as it moved down the coast. Ptolemy, desperate to repulse the invader, yet short of phalangites, opted for a defence around the marshes of the Nile Delta. Antigonus, keen to retain his link to his fleet stayed near to the coast. In a most unusual battle Ptolemy managed to secure a significant victory, details of which can be found here.

Polyperchon, regent of Macedonia, having stabilised his control of Macedonia before launching his offensive. While he could advance into Illyria his more sensible options were to strike at Cassander in Greccia or Lysimachus in Thrace. He opted for Lysimachus and in 314 BC launched an offensive against Thracia. By controlling Thracia Polyerchon would not only consolidated his position in Macedonia but would open a route to Asia. Lysimachus was confident that his army, though outnumbered in phalangites, could withstand the invasion and confidently deployed for battle. Once deployed however the larger Macedonian phalanx, combined with xystophoroi was apparent.

As such he seized the initiative and concentrated his attack on the Macedonia right while refusing his own right. The battle hung in the balance until Lysimachus, desperate to secure victory, attacked the Macedonian camp while simultaneously rolling up the Macedonian right flank.

Here, in a surprising outcome, he fell from his horse and was killed by murderous Macedonian camp followers! Polyperchon, it would seem, had secured Thracia.

In Carthage the Punic council was divided on their military plans. Various options were considered with some pressing for expansion into Gallia while others argued for the more traditional expansion in to Sicilia. Finally the fleet transported a large army to the western coast of Sicilia in 315 BC under Hamilcar. The army then campaigned across the island liberating many Greek cities. However, it was not until 312 BC that the Carthaginians finally bought Agathocles, the most recent tyrant of Syracuse.

With a portion of the Syracusian army locked up defending the a small city of Catane the Carthaginians opted to assault the town while delaying the delaying the advancing Syracusian relief army first as they crossed a difficult hill including with massed heavy chariots.

When this failed the Hamilcar opted for an aggressive attack against the Syracusian left flank. However, poorly timed the attack soon failed and the Syracusians applied continued pressure against the Carthaginian right flank until it collapsed, along with the Carthaginian invasion.

 

Antigonos’ Invasion of Aegyptus

The following is a battle report from our Empire Campaign. The armies involved were Antigonid (II/16a) and Ptolemic (II/20a). The battle found the Ptolemy defending and therefore setting terrain. The following report has been supplied by the Antigonid player.

With Satraps based in Macedonia, Babylon and Aegyptus all campaigning to bring neighbouring provinces under control Antigonos Monophthalmos decided to move to extract Egypt from Ptolemaic control in 315 BC. Recent Antigonid support for the defence of Cyrenaicia and Ptolemy’s seizure of the Alexander’s body were factors in this decision.

Strong naval support helped the army move through Giza and a landing was effected on the coastal plans of the Nile Delta. A camp was established on the firm ground to the west of a major Nile distributary. Significant marshy ground to the east of the river was a major factor in siting the camp and the decision to deploy for battle along the coastal shore.

Ptolemy’s camp was sited inland of the coastal marsh. With a preponderance of mercenary peltasts and other light troops in his army Ptolemy opened the battle with a major thrust of these troops through the marshes. Antigonos and a major portion of his phalanx deployed on a strip of firm ground between the river and the marshes with light troops covering their eastern flank while his young son Demetrius commanded the mounted troops on the western bank. Consummate drill from the Antigonid veteran infantry repositioned the phalanx to cover the flanking troops whilst still remaining on firm ground.

A move by Demetrius to cross the rivers and cut the lines of communication between Ptolemy’s heavy troops and the attacking light infantry in the marshes was confounded by rising water levels in the distributary. Above, Antigonid troops can be seen expanding east and west. Below, Antigonos commands his Silver Shields while to the left Ptolemic phalangites prevent more troops crossing.

Antigonos continued to lead his phalanx on foot and eventually manoeuvred a body of Ptolemaic peltasts out of their marshy ground. An uncontrolled pursuit of the defeated peltasts (below) mired Antigonos’ foot companions in the marsh and a subsequent counter attack led to general being severely wounded.

Although dragged from the marshy ground before the defensive line collapsed the wounded Antigonos’ remained in an extremely vulnerable position. A valiant stand by the remnants of his body guard provided just sufficient time for Antigonos to escape to the banks of the river. A charge across the river by the companion cavalry, led by Demetrius himself, into the teeth of the Ptolemaic phalanx secured a crossing for the injured Antigonos.

With news arriving of a victory by Eumenes in the hills of Armenia, and unable to bring Ptolemy to battle on an open plain, the decision was made to withdraw from Egypt. The need for Antigonos to recuperate and with Demetrius still a very young man, although gifted cavalry commander, the leadership necessary for further campaigning was thin on the ground.

The Glory that is Rome

Last weekend we managed a short trip north to visit our son in Auckland. Taking advantage of some wet weather we managed a number of excellent DBA games. In fact we played seven classical games over the course of the weekend, as well as one in the New World which I won’t cover here. Restricted by the limits of carry-on luggage I could only take one army with me so I opted to for my Polybian Romans which, when fighting Joel’s classical armies, the Romans ensured a wealth of historical opponents. I will provide a brief description of the games and a small selection of photos from the weekend.

Our gaming began with a couple of clashes on Saturday between the Romans and Later Carthaginians. The first found the Carthaginians using the two elephants, while in the second the elephants were abandoned.

One of the strengths of the Carthaginians, when not using elephants, is their increased mounted component when combined with troops able to move through bad going. Combining these two however can be difficult. Above, Carthaginians press the Roman right flank in the second game. A lack of PIPs prevented them successfully exploiting the eventual domination of the hill.

Sunday’s games included two encounters between the Romans and Gauls. I find these armies provide very interesting challenges. For the Gauls there are of course decisions on the number of dismounted warriors compared to mounted. For the Romans, prior to the game consideration must be given to taking allied troops, such as Italians or in my case Spanish and how to best use the velites to delay the inevitable charge of the Gauls. These games resulted in a win for the Gauls and one for the Romans showing the balance between the armies.

Above, Gauls engage Roman velites who have been thrown forward to disrupt the Gallic host. Spanish auxilia can be seen on the left. Below, another view of the same battle before the Roman defeat.

However, Rome soon dispatched another army and this time the Roman light troops were on the offensive once again. Below, Spanish auxilia and velites concentrate their attacks on the Gallic left before the Roman hastati and principes surge forward. On the left both the Spanish and velites drove in the Gallic right causing recoil pressure.

Finally, we finished the gaming off with three excellent encounters against a Lysimachid Successor. While not an historical opponent it was not to far from a potential opponent. All three games included some excellent manoeuvres, classic breakthroughs as well as some humorous moments.

Above, the Greeks have advanced over a gentle hill. Lysimachus is deployed in the centre of the Greek phalanx and would punch a hole in the Roman line, shown below.

Now exposed Lysimachus was driven back by Roman triarii, just after his supporting phalangites had smashed Roman principes themselves surrounded. Unable to recoil, being a three element column, Lysimachus was cut down. A fascinating game.

Our final game between Lysimachid Successor found the Romans using a Numidian ally on a battlefield broken by two steep hills, as shown below.

Greek light auxilia eventually secured the hills but were then restricted due to command limitations caused by these hills and raids by Numidians on the Greek camp.

Above, Numidians raid the camp, just visible on the right, while the Greeks prepare to attack the hill on the Roman left. Below, the Roman velites fall back before the main Greek attack in the centre.

In this final clash Lysimachus again broke through. However, a Roman counterattack drove him back on the flank of the phalanx, visible below. As can be seen from the photo the Roman camp is near to being captured. At this point both armies had suffered equal losses. With Lysimachus wounded the Greek command and control was further compromised. The Romans now surged forward breaking the phalanx.

So ends a short summary of an excellent weekend of gaming. It highlighted for us the advantages of DBA. A series of excellent and very dynamic games between historical opponents with victory within grasp of either player.