Category Archives: Campaigns

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.

Sparta in Peril (365BC)

Campaigns using DBA can be as simple or as complex as required. To provide an illustration of one I will outline a small fictional Ancient Greek campaign involving Athens, Thebes, Sparta and Syracuse set loosely in Greece around 365BC which we ran recently.

The DBA 2.2 rule book comes complete with a simple set of campaign rules. To this we added a map and mixed it with a little history. The DBA campaign rules, when combined with the DBA rules themselves, meant that campaign turns were quickly calculated and battles resolved. Indeed, the entire campaign played out over a couple of evenings between three players. The battles were first class with each being placed in a strategic context, where alliances and state politics all played their part.


For our campaign there were three human players with Sparta being a non-player nation whose foreign policy determined by die roll using the rules for non-player nations. It could easily have supported four players, of course, or even two.

The campaign map illustrated below can be used to reference the unfolding campaign. Provinces underlined indicate the location of a city state capital.

At the start of the campaign the areas under control were as follows:

  • Thebes: Boeotia, Thessaly, Aetolia
  • Athens: East Attica, North Attica, Megara
  • Sparta: Laconia, Corinth, Achaea
  • Syracuse: East Sicily, North Sicily, Western Sicily
  • Independent: Southern Italy

Each player state starts with a 12 element army, drawn from the DBA army lists. The Southern Italians do not have a field army so can not offer open battle or invade another province.

On Campaign:

What follows is a very potted history of the campaign complete with a certain artistic license associated with your average classical historian…

War Begins (365BC):

By the spring of 365BC the Athenian plans to attack Sparta were almost complete. Assembled in Megara were some 9000 hoplites supported by 1000 cavalry and 500 light troops who now prepared to march on Corinth. Despite Athenian diplomatic efforts Thebes was unwilling to provide a contingent to assist. Instead she preferred to await developments in the south while protecting herself by assembling her own army in Aetolia. An Athenian attack was expected after all with Athens likely to use Sparta as a neutral buffer to the south. The Syracusans, always looking for opportunities of expansion, also eyed mainland Greece. While willing to assist the Athenians they were however unable to send a contingent. If they wished to attack Sparta they would need to conducted an invasion of Achaea independently. A risky affair in spring when storms could decimate the Syracusan army while at sea.

Therefore Athens, without support, invaded in mid spring and lay siege to several cities in Corinth. In the summer the incompetent Spartan commander Agthon, under pressure from the Spartan war party, determined to offer battle. With an army of similar size he marched out to confront the Athenians in a valley south east of Corinth. In the first battle of the campaign he hesitated frequently (-1 on all PIP rolls). As a result his army was defeated by the more aggressive Athenian commander. Meanwhile Thebes, with the Athenian army now clearly campaigning against Sparta, mounted her own invasion of southern Italy, with the expedition under command by the veteran Pelopidas. No doubt an attempt to earn prestige and a small colony without too great a risk to her own army. However, the Italian Greeks withstood the invasion and the Theban expedition, unable to gain a foothold, retired to Greece in late Autumn of 365BC.

Decision in Sparta (364BC):

The following year, 364BC, the Thebans dispatched another expedition to southern Italy which this time was successful in capturing Tarentum. At the same time the Syracusans, also ignoring the risk of storms, invaded southern Greece and achieved a foothold in Attica, no doubt by a ruse or some other cunning ploy. The Spartan King, Agthon, decided to strike into Attica. Clearly with the aim of destroying at least one of his enemies. The Syracusan army, now supported by a small Athenian detachment, prepared for open battle against the Spartans.

Agthon could not risk a long battle as he was clearly outnumber, especially in cavalry. Therefore he elected to reinforce his right flank and refuse his left which was partly protected by an area of hilly terrain. While clearly more aggresive this year he still suffered moments of hesitation before and during the battle (still a -1 on PIP rolls). The Syracusan commander was also keen to get his own hoplites engaged and the two lines of hoplites soon clashed along the front. While each strove for advantage the Athenian light cavalry advanced in a wide flanking movement with the aim of attacking the Spartan camp. They were however driven off eventually by the brave Spartan helots. Interestingly elsewhere the Athenians contingent seemed content to watch the battle and contributing little, some say they were more interested to see the Syracusans and Spartans suffer greater casualties. Agthon continued his massed attack on the right with his hoplites line extended ever more weakly and echoloned to the left. Victory looked to be within his grasp as portions of the Syracusan line broke. Then fate cast him a brutal blow and the fickle gods turned their support to the Syracusans. The Spartan King was cut down and with his death the Spartan army collapsed the survivors retiring into Laconia.

All was not peaceful elsewhere. While the army of Athens was engaged in operations against Sparta, Thebes recalled her expedition form Tarentum and Pelopidas attacked and then captured northern Attica. Epaminondas clearly hoped the Spartans would rebuild their army if they could only survive the autumn campaigning season and keep the Athenians distracted. However, with the second year drawing to a conclusion the Athenian commander advanced into Laconia and conducted a brutal campaign against the demoralised Spartans. In a series of short local sieges the Spartans were defeated. Athens and Syracusan forces were now supreme in the south. Sparta had been reduced in less than two years to being but a tributary to the resurgent Athenian Empire. The military situation had changed significantly, what was not clear was what the new campaign season would hold.

The War in Attica (363BC):

The winter of 364BC was one of intense diplomatic activity, but by the spring of 363BC it was clear the war in the Peloponnese was about to enter a new phase. With Sparta subject to Athens it was likely that Athens would now switch her attention north against Thebes. Obviously they would move to retake northern Attica but first needed to protect their capital. By the spring of 363BC the Athenians had massed their army in Athens while Thebes gathered her own army in northern Attica. Meanwhile in the south Sparta attempted to slowly rebuild her army, but was hampered by limited resources. By the spring only 2000 hoplites were available for service. The new King of Sparta, Telys, can best be described as a feeble coward. He would content himself to what indulgences he could afford for 363BC and would undertake no military action in the coming years, except when called upon by Athens.

However, not all was peaceful. The Syracusan tyrant, Dionysius the Younger, now readied his fleet to transport of his army from Achaea in an unprovoked attack on Thebe’s cities in Southern Italy. Avoiding the early storms his army landed and began to conduct siege operations against Tarentum, However, with lack luster planning his assault were repulsed with heavy casualties.

In north Attica Epaminondas completed his own plans and in early spring, seizing the initiative, marched his small army through Attica and towards the very gates of Athens. He was now determined to risk all with Athens before the Dionysius could secure Tarentum and Southern Italy. Much clamor was raised in Athens and the citizen hoplites were deployed to face Epaminondas’ Boeotians in open battle. Athens deployed some 8000 hoplites, 1500 light troops and 1500 cavalry while the Theban coalition deployed slightly fewer light troops but more heavy cavalry. Epaminondas deployed his cavalry and half of his light infantry on his right wing where he hoped to gain an early advantage against the Athenian light cavalry and infantry. Assuming success on the right his own hoplites, deployed in depth, would smash the enemy centre whose left flank would be exposed. On his own left he would extend his hoplite line to protect against envelopment. His attacks initially went well and soon the Athenians began to crumble. Victory now looked within his grasp. However, the Athenians rallied and counter attacked. The senior Athenian strategoi pushed forward and broke a section of the Boeotian line. Eventually with casualties mounting and dusk approaching Epaminondas was forced to quit the field.

The summer found the Athenian army advancing into northern Attica. Epaminondas now outnumbered fell back hoping that the cities of northern Attica would resist. Such resistance would cause Athenian losses and therefore narrow the Athenian neumeric advantage. Unfortunately Epaminondas was mistaken and by autumn the Athenians were advancing into Aetolia, which also succumbed to Athens! The loss of Aetolia was not the only disaster to befall Thebes in the autumn of 363BC however. As the weather closed in on the campaign season Tarentum fell to the Syracusans after a long and bloody siege.

Dionysius and the Laconian Campaign (362BC):

By the spring of 362BC Thebes and Athens had determined a path of peace. Thebes, was more focused on regaining Southern Italy. Athens meanwhile was becoming concerned by rumours that Dionysius was planning a move against Sparta in the south. Sparta was of course a tributary of Athens. These rumours were confirmed when the Syracusan army moved back to Achaea and was further reinforced by more hoplites raised in Sicily.

In the Spring of 362 the treacherous Dionysius advanced from Achaea into Laconia. He hoped to secure the province with all haste. However, the Athenian army of the strategos Peisistratos was on hand and the two armies soon deployed in open battle in the rolling valleys of Laconia. Peisistratos however deployed poorly his army split in two. Peisistratos then pushed boldly, and somewhat foolishly, forward through constricted terrain. He now struggled to deploy his 6000 hoplites of his right and centre while the rest of his army, bolstered by 2000 Spartan hoplites advanced on the left. Soon the hoplites collided, the future of southern Peloponnese rested in the outcome of this battle and both commanders knew it. In time however the numerical advantage of the Allied army, despite its poor deployment began to tell. Dionysius, his army shattered, abandoned the field.

Athens however, was not prepared to rest. In a further lightening campaign Peisistratos pushed forward into Achaea where towns threw off the yoke of Syracusan rule. Dionysius, with what remained of his army, sailed for the safety of Sicily. In pursuit was an Athenian fleet. Dionysius’ woes were however complete when he received news that Tarentum had fallen to another Theban expedition. While Dionysius contemplated rebuilding his army an Athenian army landed in Northern Sicily. Instead of rallying to Dionysius and delaying the Athenians the Sicilian Greeks took the opportunity of seeking freedom and soon northern Sicily had declared for Athens. With little option Dionysius sought peace and with it the wars of the Peloponnese drew to an end with Athens having established a new empire.

As way of comparison the states, and the provinces they control at this point, can be summarised as follows:

  • Thebes: Boeotia, Thessaly, Southern Italy,
  • Athens: Aetolia, East Attica, Megara, Corinth, Achaea, North Sicily
  • Sparta: Laconia
  • Syracuse: East Sicily, Western Sicily

Clearly the Athens was ascendant and Sparta in peril!