Category Archives: Campaigns

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…


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.


Empire Campaign

I’ve been pondering for a while running another campaign and after much consideration I have finally managed to get one underway. I decided the campaign would be heavily based on “Empire” the board game by Phil Sabin. Empire starts in 350 BC and has twenty turns, with each representing a decade. This period of course starts with Alexander the Great and progresses to the end of the Third Punic War.

A friend and I recently played Empire as a board game. It was apparent that it would benefit from more players and had potential to provide the strategic backdrop for some miniature games. The board game considers only four player states and largely glosses over the Wars of Alexander’s Successor States. My own version starts with six player states, four of whom are Macedonian Successors. To accommodate this change I have pushed the start date forward to around 319 BC which now aligns with the death of Antipater, the trigger for the Second War of the Diadochi. While there are a number of rules in the standard Empire game that will ensure that the player states will develop along generally historical lines I have added a few additional changes, and for a time added two provinces though since removed. In addition I included some simple modifications that will allow the battles to be fought on the table using DBA. The following map shows the general area of the campaign.

The initial six player states are as follows:

Macedonia: Ruled by the regent Antipater, Macedonia has been fractured by his death. His son Cassander has been passed over after Antipater who has defined his new regent as Polypecheron. Cassander having fled Macedonia has established himself in Greece, which is treated as independent. In nearby Thracia Lysimichus has effectively chosen an independent path also.

Antigonid: Antigonus Monophthalmus, Satrap of Phyrigia and veteran of Alexander’s campaigns, has secured much of Asia, Syria and Pontus. His capital in Antioch is relatively vulnerable to attack from both east and west but he takes some comfort in the disunity that exists in Macedonian Europe. His old enemy Eumenes has escaped and gathered a large army in Mesopotamia.

Seleucids: Eumenes has secured Mesopotamia, while Selecus has fled. The eastern portion of Alexander’s empire stretches through Persia, Parthia and eventually to Bactria. The rich provinces of India lay further east but are no longer effectively controlled and are treated as independent. The great wastes of Scythia are to the north of Parthia and Bactria and remain a vast wasteland and could prove difficult to control. While Eumenes builds his army Selecus awaits a time that he can return to Babylon and establish his dominance.

Ptolemaic Aegytptus: Ptolemy has ensconced himself in the rich province of Aegyptus. Here he can only be attacked via the routes through Syria. He himself has yet to fully enforce his rule over the area as the small province of Cyrenaica is still regarded as independent.

Carthage: The city of Carthage has established its influence over Africa and, to a greater or lesser extent, Numidia and much of coastal Iberia. Beyond Iberia lays Gallia. To the northeast of Carthage sits the island of Sicily where Cart gage has campaigned before in support of allied and controlled cities.

Rome: A relatively small state in Italia. Rome has yet to impose its will on the surrounding peoples of Italia. If they do this they are likely to be a very determined people. Having secured Italia it is more than likely to look south towards Magna Graecia, while keeping an eye on the unstable Gauls to the north.

There are a number of independent provinces. Some are geographically large, such as Scythia while others have great resources, such as India. Others, though small, represent small kingdoms such as Thracia, under control of Lysimachus, and Graecia under Cassandros. Magna Graecia and Sicily remain a patchwork of cities, many of whom are Greek but could easily fall to Rome, Carthage or Macedonia. West of Aegyptus is Cyrenaica who remains independent as does Armenia, north east of Asia. The Celts are divided into three general areas are all independent of each other. North of Italia the Gauls of Cisalpina are always ready for war and occasionally have struck into Italy. There is a constant risk of this occurring again. However, perhaps the greatest risk is above Greece and Macedonia. Here sit the Galatian territories. Rumours from the borders indicate growing migrational pressures among these tribes.

Our campaign is now underway and a short history of the campaign will be added to this site which will document developments as it develops.

The Conquistadores

After a gap of a couple of months I finally managed a few DBA 3.0 games. Joel and I had played several games over the summer but late summer and autumn have seen me more focussed on other periods and therefore rule systems. Though that hasn’t been the case for Joel who has continued to play a reasonable number of DBA 3.0 games in Auckland. Anyway, a visit to Auckland recently allowed five DBA games over the course of two days, though unfortunately I took no photos of the games.

In each game we pitted Aztecs against Spanish Conquistadores and their Tlaxcalan allies. It is perhaps simplest to consider these games as a form of a mini-campaign, with two Conquistador commanders each leading competiting expeditions towards the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, its gold, and of course glory…


The first expedition, under Cortés, made solid progress advancing inland from the coast. Indeed, it was soon on the plains of the New World and deployed before them was the first of several Aztec armies. In two hard fought battles Cortés and his Spanish troops were victorious. In both the Aztecs had fought bravely and losses on the great host of clan warriors, rated as hordes, seemed to have little impact on their army morale. Cortés’ cannon had proved useful and his Spanish infantry immensely solid. However, the small group of mounted Conquistadors were clearly his battle winner, be they used offensively or held back as an initial reserve. Yet despite two great victories Cortés was forced to  pause and reorganised his forces. More Tlaxcalans were needed to replace the heavy losses of his allies.

Meanwhile, the second Spanish expedition, under the command of Pánfilo de Narváez, had also been preparing for an advance on Tenochtitlan. Before Narváez’s expedition could advance into the arable areas of the Aztec Empire it was forced to battle in the hills of Tlaxcala by an invading Aztec army. The Aztec commander focussed his attack on the Tlaxcalan allies and gained some advantage until the Spanish broke into his own left and the Aztec army finally broke. Narváez, emboldened by victory now pressed forward into the Aztec homelands where in due course another Aztec host blocked his advance. This time the Aztec commander intended to focus his attack on the Spanish right while delaying the Tlaxcalans. He manouvred a huge portion of his army against the Spanish right and these initial attacks were successful. However, a small body of mounted Conquistadors proved unstoppable and another Aztec army was destroyed. Narváez had now closed the gap on Cortés.

Aware of  Narváez’s progress, Cortés advanced once more. Hoping to seek a quicker victory against the Aztecs in his third battle he echloned his right back in an attempt to draw the Aztecs forward, and hopefully elimanate the Aztec commander. Previous experience indicated the Aztec commanders often fought in the front ranks where he was supported by his elite troops. Simultaneously Cortés planned to avoid the massed clan warriors, and with his small contingent of mounted Conquistadors advance and loot the enemy camp, demoralising the Aztecs in the process. Both outcomes were achieved, but not before his own casualties, especially among his allies, became crippling. Cortés was forced from the field and the Aztecs had proven victory against these foreigners was possible. While Cortés was within striking distance of Tenochtitlan he needed further reinforcements before another advance could proceed. The question was would Narváez get there first? Only time would tell…

In game terms we had five excellent games. Interestingly the Aztec list requires six stands of clan warriors and these can be modelled as either auxilia or hordes. Joel has modelled them as hordes ensuring the army looks sufficiently large. However, DBA 3.0 does not count the loss of hordes towards army demorilisation. These two factors combine to create the feel of the Conquistadors in the New World, at least within the restrictions of 12 element armies.