Category Archives: Ancient

Epeirot Adventures

Because of the size of DBA games, and that you can more easily build armies in historical pairs, it is relatively straightforward to link several battles together to form a linear or narrative campaign. Over the last couple of weeks, as time has allowed, my son and I traced the campaigns of Pyrrhus of Epirus in Italy and Sicily using his and my own armies.

As way of a refresher Pyrrhus entered Southern Italy in 280 BC with an Epeirot army to support Tarentum against the growing power of Rome. Pyrrhus then fought the battles of Heraclea (280 BC) and Asculum (279 BC) where he secured a very costly victory. By 277 BC Pyrrhus had quit Italy and was campaigning in Sicily where he hoped to carve out a new kingdom. But as the campaign against the Carthaginians stalled he departed for Italy once again. Then in 275 BC Pyrrhus faced the Romans at Beneventum, but was defeated in battle. Unable to overcome Rome he finally departed to continue his wars elsewhere.

Pyrrhus, King of Epeiros 297 to 272 BC

For our purposes we decided on five battles with the first two or three against the Romans. These would decide the conquest of Italy. If the first two were defeats, or costly victories for the Epeirots, Pyrrhus would move to Sicily for two more battles before returning to Italy for a final battle. If however the first two battles against the Romans were victories Pyrrhus would fight a third battle against the Romans potentially securing his Italian conquests before moving to Sicily.

The army of Pyrrhus would be represented by the standard DBA list (II/28b). Pyrrhus would select a smaller phalanx and supplement his army with Italiot and Sicilian hoplites. While not perfectly historic the Romans would be represented by the Polybian list (II/33) in all three battles, this would at least allow Joel to use his own Romans which would of course fight with great determination. The Carthaginians would be represented by the Early Carthaginian list (I/61b) and in both battles the Carthaginian player selected to field heavy chariots, though less chariots and more cavalry may have been more realistic.

In the first battle in 280 BC near Heraclea Pyrrhus deployed his army with a strong centre and his elephants on the immediate left of the phalanx and his left extended further by a significant portion of his mounted. While Pyrrhus and his companions formed on the right he ordered a swift attack on the left in an attempt to destroy the Roman right before it was fully deployed. Unfortunately before the Epeirot line engaged the Roman right the Romans had completed their deployment and fought back with great determination. The resulting battle hung in the balance for some time. However, despite heavy Epeirot casualties the Roman army eventually collapsed and Pyrrhus secured a narrow victory.

Below, the Epeirot left and centre advance on the Romans. The Epeirot cavalry have just achieved a breakthrough and will soon exploit the situation.

In the second battle of the campaign, at Asculum in 279 BC Pyrrhus deployed with his companions and elephants in the centre flanked by phalangites while the rest of his army extended both flanks. He now aimed to simply cut his way through the Roman centre with the combination of Epeirot phalangites, pachyderms and Epeirot heavy cavalry. The Romans, having selected the battlefield countered with heavy reserves in the centre. In this battle however the Romans were unable to stop Pyrrhus. As dusk settled the Romans had suffered complete collapse of their army and as those few survivors fled north Rome was overtaken by panic. Pyrrhus now marched on Rome his conquest almost complete.

Above and below the forces at Asculum. Above the phalanx is seen advancing with Pyrrhus in support while below the refused Epeirot left wing with Italiot hoplites protecting a portion of the phalanx.

Rome was now galvanised into action and assembled another army and offered battle in 278 BC. Again Rome selected the battlefield and a now desperate and frustrated consul determined to offer battle near Fregellae, resting his left flank on the walled town. Constrained by woods on his left and right Pyrrhus struggled to fully deploy, especially on his right. Below, the general situation with Fregellae on the right.

Undeterred Pyrrhus advanced and progressively attempted to expand his right. It was against the Epeirot right that the weight of the Roman attack came and soon Pyrrhus himself was in the thick of the fighting. His first attack was to drive off the Roman infantry attempting to envelop the Epeirot phalanx, seen below.

Unfortunately Pyrrhus’ luck was not to hold. The first disaster was the loss of a portion of his phalanx engaged from the front and enveloped from the flank.

Pyrrhus now attempted to stabilise the situation and led his heavy cavalry in another charge. Unfortunately the attack was beaten back and worse Pyrrhus was wounded. The combination was too much and the Epeirot army retired from the field defeated. Above and below, the defining moments of the battle.

Clearly the casualties were becoming too great and in the late 278 BC Pyrrhus, having recovered from his wounds, departed for Sicily. As in Italy his arrival in was warmly received by his allies, and with concern by his enemies.

The first major battle occurred in early 277 BC near Agrigentum. Pyrrhus, his army reinforced and bolstered by Sicilian mercenaries, faced the Carthaginians on the coast. The Punic commander had selected an open battlefield ideal for heavy chariots and Punic foot. To counter the Carthaginian deployment Pyrrhus’ left rested on the coast and his infantry extended to the right. Again, Pyrrhus deployed towards the centre and between the phalanx. His right was extended by his massed elephants and cavalry interspersed by Sicilian auxilia.

The advance of both armies was swift and despite some attempts to adjust to the Epeirot deployment the Carthaginian chariots crashed into the Epeirot phalanx and pachyderms with unsurprising results. Meanwhile, other parts of the Epeirot phalanx, supported by Pyrrhus, pressed ever forward against the heavy Punic foot.

The fighting was desperate, as can be seen above, but the Carthaginian army was unable to withstand the Epeirot veterans. As night fell the Carthaginian army abandoned the field.

The ensuing months resulted in several great cities surrendering to Pyrrhus. However, as he advanced on Eryx, the last Carthaginian stronghold on the island in 276 BC, the Carthaginians having been reinforced offered open battle.

Again, the Punic army was deployed along the coast where it was supplied by the fleet and the terrain was open. The Carthaginian commander this time deployed more traditionally his mounted massed on the left and his heavy infantry extending to the right where a wood provided some protection from a move against the Punic right. Pyrrhus massed his mounted on his right opposite the Punic mounted and likewise extended his centre and left with his heavy infantry and the extreme left with his light troops. Again the armies advanced and soon both would be locked in combat. Punic light troops, originally to be used on the Punic right for an attack against the Epeirot left, were hastily moved to counter the Punic elephants but failed to adequately redeploy.

Above, the Epeirot army advances while the Carthaginian commander attempts to redeploy a number of slingers to his left. Below the advancing Epeirot phalanx, elephants and Pyrrhus heavy cavalry.

Instead, of the pachyderms being engaged with light troops it was the Gallic cavalry who skirmished against the Epeirot elephants while heavy chariots and Numidian light horse attempted to delay the advancing Greeks, as can be seen below.

But it was too much for the Punic host and the advancing phalangites, encouraged by Pyrrhus, pressed ever forward until the Punic army collapsed.

Thus ended our Epeirot adventures. Pyrrhic hopes of an Italian Kingdom looked initially likely to be achieved. That is until their devastating defeat at Fregellae in 278 BC. However, Pyrrhus’ campaign in Sicily was completely successful. With the Carthaginians utterly defeated there was nothing to prevent his establishment of a lasting kingdom on this rich island – other than a few rebellious locals and the rising power of his two new neighbours…

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Flaminius’ Legions

My first 15mm Ancients army was a Polybian Roman army assembled for DBA 1.0 back in 1990. At the time DBA was relatively popular in my local town but having to relocate and keen for opponents I reluctantly expanded the army to DBM size. With my local opponents at the time more interested in competition games, and my dislike for non-historical games or at least those between armies of too great a time difference, my Romans were dispatched to the back of the cupboard.

Eventually some interest in DBA locally allowed me to pull the Polybian Romans out of storage and to repainted sufficient for standard DBA purposes. While I had plans at some stage to repaint the other figures the remainder languished in storage while other projects took precedence.

For the last three years at Conquest we have had a Big Battle tournament and this year I found myself pondering options. Several armies were considered but the decision was finally made when it became clear that Mark would likely be bringing Carthaginians. The Polybian Romans needed to be reformed. Over the coming weeks evenings were spent cleaning, priming, painting and basing the Romans until finally the legions of Rome could take the field. Most of the miniatures were well over 20 years old, and some almost 30. Fittingly on the morning of Conquest’s BBDBA tournament they deployed facing Mark’s Carthaginians. Now to their first outing in their reformed state…

Having first eluded an ambush along near Lake Trasimene, Gaius Flaminius had now successfully combined his army with another under Gnaeus Servilius Geminus and together they advanced on the Carthaginian invader. Flaminius’ scouts had been active and with Hannibal’s army near the coast the legions advanced to offer battle. On his left was the coast while on his right an area of marsh promised to negate, to some extent the Punic superiority in mounted. In between a small hamlet and a steep hill, with rocky slopes, broke up the field.

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The Romans had two strong wings, that on the right under Flaminius contained the majority of Roman and allied cavalry while that on the left, under Servilius, fewer. However, Servilius wing was supplemented by some Italian extraordinary fighting in more traditional styles. In the centre the legions under Porcius Licinus were devoid of mounted with even Licinus opting to fight on foot. In all three sectors the hastati & principles, comprising Romans and Italians fighting in Roman style, were supported by triarii & velites.

Above, the Romans on the left and the Carthaginians on the right. An area of marsh is visible in the right foreground and in the distance a steep rocky hill. In the extreme distance another marsh and finally the coast are visible.

The battle opened with a general advance by the Punic host. Gallic mercenaries moved rapidly forward to secure the rocky slopes opposite the Roman left. Yet more dramatic movements occurred against the Roman right where the massed Punic horse wheeled and advanced. Hannibal clearly hoping to expand the Punic line while light troops moved to dominate the marsh on the Punic left. Countering, Flaminius ordered forward his right. The hastati, principles and triarii moved forward, supported by the cavalry who now expanded the Roman right

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Above, Flaminius’ flank with a portion of his cavalry and the infantry of the wing advancing. The triarii are deployed forward in an untraditional deployment. Below, another view this time illustrating the Roman centre, under Licinus, as well as the infantry of the right flank. Opposite Carthaginian foot of the centre are visible.

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Reacting to the advancing Roman right the Punic mounted started to retire reforming on the Punic foot of the centre. The Roman advance continued, soon the respective centres were locked in combat.

Flaminius’s plans was relatively simple. Using the terrain and his mounted he hoped to neutralise the Punic mounted and then with the hastati & principle of all the wings bring his heavy infantry against the Punic foot. His multiple lines would, he hoped, provide adequate reserves to plug gaps and exploit the Punic line as it began to break. Unfortunately, this meant the Roman left under Servilius would need to fight a desperate delaying action.

Soon in the centre the Romans started to gain the advantage. Yet the Carthaginians fought with determination and many Romans fell as well. The resulting gaps in both lines were plugged by reserves. Below, both Punic and Romans lines are suffering casualties.

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Turning to the left Servilius’ flank the delaying action was working, due in part to the lack of determination by the Punic commander. Having successfully secured the steep and rocky slopes his ability to command his wing was compromised. Eventually however the Gallic mercenaries poured down the slopes only to be held by valiant Roman velites.

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The velites fought valiantly allowing Servilius on the Roman left flank to bring forward his Italian reserves and bolster the line, which can be seen below. Servilius, had already committed many of his hastati to the assault on the Punic centre.

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Returning to the centre the fighting had continued unabated. A Roman breakthrough seemed imminent with Carthaginian casualties reaching critical levels. Yet the Punic centre maintained its cohesion, mostly as a result of additional mounted filling the widening gaps.

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Even the last valiant attacks led by Porcius Licinus at the front of his legions failed to cripple the Punic lines. Now, as dusk wrapped its arms around the battlefield Gaius Flaminius accepted that the might of Rome had failed to destroy the invader, and worse robbed him of victory. Still he took heart that his reformed legions had fought well.

Conquest 2018 BBDBA

On the second day of the Conquest 2018 Convention a three round Big Battle DBA tournament was held. This is the third year we have had a 15mm BBDBA event at Conquest. Armies comprised 36 elements with all armies having a list date of prior to 450 AD. The tournament was limited to just three rounds with each round limited to 2 1/4 hours including setup.

While a couple of regulars were unable to make the event we were pleased to see a new player who supplemented his standard DBA army with some additional figures so he could participate. Most armies were drawn from the early portions of the Section II armies ensuring that many were historical or near historical opponents to each other.

Below, Polybian Romans on the left engage Carthaginians in a desperate fight in Southern Italy. The Carthaginians were defending and with a significant advantage in mounted had offered battle on a relatively open plain.

The marsh in the right foreground significantly constrained the movement of the Punic horse and nullified much of their advantage on the wing. Yet despite this the Romans struggled to gain a decisive advantage against the Carthaginian centre who proved frustratingly resilient.

Above, a Greek coalition prepare to face the Graeco-Bactrians on another relatively open battlefield. The Greeks under an Athenian strategos comprised two Athenian commands and were supported by a Thessalian allied command. The Athenians are visible in the foreground while the Thessalians are in the distance. Both the Athenians and the Thessalians have their own camps.

Above and below, additional views illustrating the situation with the Graeco-Bactrians on the left.

Being distracted in the second round I took no photos. However, we do have some from the third round. Below, the Carthaginians are engaging the Seleucids. The Carthaginians interestingly have almost all their mounted massed into one wing.

Below, another engagement now between the Athenian coalition and the Palmyrans. The Athenians on the left are defending and have clearly adopted a defensive deployment in an attempt to counter the significant mounted threat posed by the Palmyrans.

Next we have some photos from the battle between the Polybian Romans and the Greco-Bactrians. Again the Graeco-Bactrian host has deployed on the open steppes while this time the Romans are campaigning in the far reaches of the known world.

Another view below viewed from the Roman lines. In the centre Roman velites are trying to draw out the Greek pachyderms, who like much of the phalangites, were reluctant to face the determined Romans.

With regards to scoring, a slightly modified version of the standard DBA scoring was used. Players were rewarded with 8pts for a win. Others received one point for each three enemy element equivalents lost. Again this was aimed at rewarding decisive play and discouraged draws.

After three rounds the results were:

  • 1st: Jim Morton – II/36a Graeco-Bactrian, 20pts
  • 2nd: Mark Davies – II/32a Later Carthaginian, 13pts
  • 3rd Gordon Pinchin – II/19a Seleucid, 12pts
  • 4th: Keith McNelly – II/33 Polybian Roman, 10pts
  • 5th: Colin Foster – II/5b Later Hoplite Greek (Athenian) with II/5d Thessalian Ally, 9pts
  • 6th: Greg Wells – II/74a Palmyran with II/23a LPIA Nomad Ally, 7pts

With more generals in play unsurprisingly casualties to generals were heavy. Greg’s Palmyrans lost four generals, while Gordon’s Seleucids and Colin’s Greeks lost three each. The Carthaginians and Romans lost one each while the Greco-Bactrians lost none. From my experience battling the Graeco-Bactrian their commanders seemed reluctant to risk their lives in battle, leaving the fighting to the lower classes. The Carthaginians meanwhile seemed focused on targeting enemy generals killing no less than three enemy generals across their three battles while most others killed two enemy generals. No enemy camps were raided during the course of the tournament.

The Big Battle DBA tournament seemed to be a great success with plenty of challenges and an additional visual spectacle provided by the larger armies on the table, despite retaining the simplicity and elegance of DBA.

Mycenaean Expeditions

Last night I was fortunate to play a couple of games as part of a DBA 3.0 rules refresher for a good friend. Dusting off his existing DBA armies Robin fielded two armies over the evening. These were his first game of DBA in many years. However, being a veteran HotT player I was sure he would quickly recall the rules.

The first army deployed was his Minoan & Early Mycenaean (I/18). This list is of course based on the Aegean Palace Kingdoms. It has been an army I have often planned to build but haven’t been organised enough to start. The army comprises a core of chariots, a phalanx of heavy infantry armed with spear (4Pk) as well as an option of light troops in the form of Pylians (4Ax). Finally it has several psiloi. Robin opted for heavy chariots and a smaller phalanx.

Lacking a suitable historical opponent for the Mycenaeans I opted to field Later Carthaginians (II/32a) who are at best a challenging army with an eclectic mix of troops.

The Mycenaeans were to suffer an invasion of the Carthaginians and with their deployment restricted by terrain a determined Carthaginian attack against the Minion right seemed sensible. However, the Mycenaeans expanded their right with great dexterity forcing the Carthaginians to commit their small reserve more quickly than originally intended.

Above, a view of the Mycenaean right heavily engaged against the Carthaginian left. The Punic elephants, as expected, had gained an initial advantage.

While the Mycenaean right was heavily engaged against the Carthaginians opposite, the Mycenaean centre pressed forward with equal elan.

Below, the view from the Carthaginian left rear. The Punic centre comprising the heavy Punic foot and Gallic mercenaries and here can be seen giving ground as the Mycenaean spearmen press forward.

The Mycenaean attack on the Carthaginian centre was relentless and soon the Gallic mercenaries of the Carthaginian centre, as well as the Punic heavy infantry supporting them, were collapsing.

With his centre decimated and his army demoralised, the Carthaginian commander had to reluctantly accept defeat and abandon the field. A great win to the the Mycenaean commander, who seemed a little surprised by the outcome.