Category Archives: Empire Campaign

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; Graecia; 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.

 

Empire – Rules Summary

In my previous post I outlined the general campaign and player states. I thought it worth now explaining briefly the turn sequence and mechanics. Before I do it is worth stating the aim of the campaign is to produce DBA games and not to become bogged down in campaign rules.

During the course of a campaign turn each of the six player states will be able to make a single offensive in random order. The campaign turn progresses in the following sequence:

  • Revolt by a province is determined;
  • A player with a great captain, if there is one that turn, conducts his offensives and resolves battles;
  • Each remaining player state, selected at random, makes his offensive and a battle is resolved.

It’s important to note that offensives are not simultaneous, but sequential.

Revolts are determined by a die roll and they impact provinces that are not homeland provinces. A maximum of one province can revolt each campaign turn, which is ten years. The impact of a revolt is the province is no longer player controlled and an offensive needs to be recaptured, assuming the player wishes to. While revolts can occasionally trigger a special event the normal impact is that large empires spend more time suppressing revolts than conducting offensives. 

Each player state can normally launch one offensive per campaign turn and the order is randomly selected until all player states have conducted an offensive. To launch an offensive you must have a block of three provinces, or a smaller number which includes your home province. The exception is offensives by great captains, which for our campaign are Hannibal and Scipio. In certain campaign turns they can launch five offensives which are made one at a time and always before other players.

An offensive by a sea route may be disrupted but otherwise, like offensives by land routes, a battle will be fought using DBA. There are no sieges. The result of this battle, modified by some factors which can change between turns, results in the province being captured or the offensive being driven back. No casualties are recorded and each battle involves a 12 element DBA army.

There are some other more detailed rules but I hope this short summary will help explain the basic mechanics and help place the battles in context.

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 two provinces, as well as 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.