Empire: 290 BC – 281 BC

With a few changes to the campaign mechanics we have completed another turn from our ongoing Empire Campaign, this time covering the years 290 BC to 281 BC. Dramatic events unfold in Italia, the Gauls become active and the Successors continue their relentless wars.

The year of 290 BC, and those immediately following, were dramatic for Rome. Increasing Gallic pressure had been brewing in Cisalpina and in 290 BC a large Gallic host moved south threatening those cities that fell under Rome’s protection. To defeat this threat Manius Curius Dentatus marched north and confronted the Gallic host. Caught by the rapid Roman advances the Gauls were not fully deployed from their camp when Dentatus drew up his army. The Roman consul placed the majority of his horse on his left, supported by his Italian allies while a portion of his legions extending his centre. Echeloned back was his right comprising the remaining Roman foot.

Aware the Gauls had not fully deployed on the left, due to a wooded area, Dentatus advanced rapidly in an effort to restrict the Gauls further. Above, the Romans advance against the Gallic host whose right is restricted by woods reducing the deployment of their cavalry.

The fighting centred mostly against the Gallic right and centre. The Roman legions, and their Italian allies, fought with great determination. Despite suffering heavy casualties the Romans soundly defeated the Gallic host, with most casualties falling on the dismounted warriors. The threat to Rome itself had been averted.

Following the assassination of Alexander V of Macedonia Pyrrhus managed to secure the Macedonian throne at the head of his Epirot army. Having consolidated his position he lost no time in moving south and securing Graecia. It was Athens now, rather than Sparta, that assembled an alliance of city states to oppose the Macedonian army that in the spring of 288 BC that threatened to extinguish Greek independence. The Athenian general Clinias, a conservative, favoured the use of hoplites and ensured the army assembled contained many citizens. Seeking a more open battlefield he selected the plain east of Thebes to confront Pyrrhus in pitched battle. The Greek right outflanked the Macedonian left though their own left was constrained by a large wood and risked turning by Macedonian light troops. While the Greeks advanced forward Pyrrhus undertook a series of complex wheels of his phalanx to maximise his advantage against the Greek left, but in so doing weakened his centre. Clinias seized the advantage and pressed forward.

Above, the weak Macedonian centre is clearly visible.

Unfortunately Clinias’ aggressive advance resulted in his horse, positioned on his right being charged by the Macedonian mounted led by Pyrrhus. Decimated by the attack the Greek cavalry routed. Undeterred Clinias, leading by example, pressed the Macedonian centre. Several times the Macedonian centre looked likely to collapse, yet each time it held. While his centre held Pyrrhus focussed his attentions of his left taxis which were supported by xystophoroi. Subjected to a brutal series of attacks the Greek right broke and with it Greek resolve.

For some years Seleucus had focussed his army in the east content to watch the Antigonids and Ptolemy wrestle for control of Syria. With Ptolemy, and his son Ptolemy II, now firmly in control of Syria, and aware his own capital was threatened by future Ptolemaic expansion, Seleucus gathered a large army and sought battle against the ageing Ptolemy in Syria. The two armies finally faced each other in late autumn of 286 BC across the plain of Panaes. Seleucus’ intended the battlefield to be featureless and therefore ideal for his elephants and scythed chariots. However, the season was late and recent rains had turned many cultivated areas to mud restricting the battlefield further.

With Ptolemy Soter in Alexandria the army was commanded by Ptolemy II, who remained confident. With his peltasts concentrated on his left he advanced his phalanx in the centre and his xystophoroi on the right supported by light infantry. Seleucus, now hesitated and Ptolemy launched a number of xystophoroi forward on the extreme right. Below, the Ptolemaic forces are on the left and Seleucid on the right.

However, Seleucus resolve returned and he countered. Sacrificing depth for width he extended a portion of his phalangites which were in turn engaged and broken by Ptolemy at the head of a large body of xystophoroi. Pursuing too far they were themselves caught by redeploying scythed chariots with disastrous results. Ptolemy wounded was carried from the battlefield while his reserves tried desperately to restore the situation. The battle continued for some time with determination being shown by Ptolemy’s veterans. However, robbed of their commander slowly Seleucus gained the advantage. While Ptolemy II would escape to Alexandria, where he would recover, his army and Syria was lost. Ptolemaic losses would continue when finally Ptolemy Soter died in the Spring of 282 BC, aged 84.

Carthage, having failed in its expansion into Magna Graecia, looked elsewhere to expand its influence. A combination of trade, military action and colonisation had established an strong base in Southern Iberia. Carthage now looked to expanded along the coast of Gallia. By 287 BC it had gained, by alliance with several Greek colonies, a fragile influence along the coast. Now Carthage’s resolve stiffened. Punic control was to be expanded by military means. Therefore the Punic general Malchus was dispatched inland at the head of a strong army. A series of ruthless acts by Malchus had, by 285 BC, resulted in a confederation of tribes assembling a large army in opposition.

Battle was joined in late spring when the two armies drew up opposite. A steep and rocky hill dominated the centre of the battlefield. This was seized early by Gallic light troops while the majority of Gallic foot advanced in support. To their flanks Gallic chariots and cavalry extended the front. Unusually Malchus formed in two lines. His Punic foot, hoplons locked, formed the second line while his heavy chariots, Spanish cavalry and Numidian light horse formed the first line. Malchus contempt for the Gallic horse and dismounted warriors was clear.

Yet, the Gauls were not deterred. Several thousand advanced rapidly down a road behind the dominating high ground to hurl themselves against the Punic right flank.

Unfortunately details of the battle are largely lost, instead only general fragments remain. The Gallic flanking manoeuvre delivered with great determination, shown above, was held. This was in part due to reinforcement by Gallic chariots was prevented by Punic light troops who challenged the Gallic position on the high ground. In due course however the main lines clashed and slowly the Carthaginians gained an advantage. However, Punic losses were crippling. When the Gallic forces finally collapsed in rout Carthaginian resolve was shaken. Malchus and his army returned to Iberia. Their resolve to secure Gallia was, at least for now, lost.

With Pyhrrus distracted by campaigning in Greece Demetrius crossed the Hellespont again to reassert Antigonid authority in Thrace in 283 BC. The usurper, if you are to believe Antigonid historians, rushing back north and assembled a force to defend his claim. Demetrius moved rapidly to attack the assembling force.

Pyrrhus deployed on open ground with his left flank anchored on a large wood. The Antigonid battle line was anchored, on its left flank, against a broken range of steep hills. Pyrrhus reorganised his battle line to move light troops to oppose the Antigonid elephant corp, then began a cautious advance. The appearance of psiloi supported by heavier mercenary infantry on the hills threatening Pyrrhus’ right flank led to protracted skirmishing on the heights. The enthusiastic insertion of Pyrrhic heavy cavalry into the fight led to the temporary capture of the heights.

Eventually the Antigonid main battle line moved forward, led on their left flank by the elephant corp, in the lee of the hills. Battle was joined along the entire front. The recently recruited allied hoplites, presumably following Pyrrhus’s recent successes in Greece, suffered the brunt of the Antigonid assault. Tarantine light cavalry having found a route through the mountainous terrain found themselves directly engaged against Pyrrhus and his companions. Supported by foot skirmishers descending from the heights, now secured by Antigonid mercenary troops, the usurper fell wounded to a Tarantine javelin. The remaining Macedonian phalanx surrendered and were enrolled by Demetrius.

Despite her victory against the Cisalpinan Gauls Rome remained apprehensive of further Gallic invasions from the north. As such in 281 BC the consul Quintus Marcius Philippus was dispatched north into Cisalpina. His army numbered 20,000 foot along with supporting cavalry. On the day of the battle Philippus drew up the army with his Italian allies on his left, their extreme left resting on a wood. His mounted were massed on the right where they were opposite the Gallic mounted.

The Gallic horse and chariots, who outnumbering the Romans, moved aggressively against the Roman right. However, as they advanced they created a significant gap between them and the Gallic foot. Philippus countered and supporting his mounted with Roman infantry. This manoeuvre however exposed the Roman foot to attack by the Gallic foot who advanced with determination. However, Roman resolve was evident and progressively the Romans over came the Gauls. Unlike the Carthaginians in Gallia, Philippus had gained a great victory and secured Cisalpina for Rome.

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

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

Independent states currently comprise: Gallia; Illyria; Bactria & India.

Numidians at the DBA Open

Last Sunday ten locals gathered for the Ancients Section of the Christchurch DBA Open. It was pleasing to have a good turnout of locals for the Open which has been organised by Brian for several years now. Unfortunately this year the day was reduced to just four rounds rather than the usual five rounds.

I spent some time considering which army I would field. I decided reasonably early that I wanted to try something different. With limited painting time I eventually narrowed this down to the Numidians, which would only require a couple of stands to be completed to make my existing army compliant with the changes introduced under DBA 3.0. That said determining which options, of several, to take was interesting. Indeed, I went through several iterations when considering possible army compositions. Finally I opted for seven light horse, including a general, supported by five stands of psiloi. The games were all to be played on 600mm square tables. Clearly I expected to struggle to win against many opponents. I also was aware I needed to play reasonably quickly, in an effort to break up my opponents army, while avoiding less than optimal combats by vigorous manoeuvre.

As it turned out on the day the armies others selected were a reasonably diverse lot. There were, as expected, some more popular armies returning but these were supplemented by a few armies that are less seldom seen. 

My first engagement for the day was against Later Carthaginians who were well managed by Paul. Initial action focussed around the Numidian left where a feigned flight by Numidian light horse drew in the Punic mounted. From here battle soon expanding out to the centre and the Numidian left as the game progressed. Working the Carthaginian right the Numidian light horse managed at least two attacks on the Carthaginian camp, though without success. Despite initially gaining the advantage the Numidians were unable to secure the final victory before time was called.

Above, the Numidian right following the loss of a Carthaginian horse who were hit by two deep Numidian light cavalry.

Next up was a clash against the Palmyrans. Defending again the Numidians opted to hold two steep and rocky hills and let the one remaining one be secured by the Palmyrans, where hopefully it would disrupt the Palmyran commander to control his troops. Demonstrating in the centre and on the Numidian right, the remaining Numidians advanced more aggressively against the Palmyran right where the enemy was not fully deployed. Low Numidian PIP die rolls and poor combat dice for both players were a feature of this encounter.

However, some advantage was achieved eventually against the Palmyran right. Cautiously, the Palmyran centre advanced and slowly they gained the advantage in the centre.

Finally with casualties mounting for both armies the Numidian commander was lost in a desperate counter attack. A well deserved victory to the Palmyrans.

The clash with the Spartans under Brasidas was to be arguably my most entertaining game of the day. The Greeks, having no less than ten stands of hoplites were keen to maintain a solid line, while the Numidians probed relentlessly.

Above, the general situation at the beginning of the game, while below the Numidian centre. The Numidian commander tended to take a central position to ensure the light infantry were in command range.

As the game progressed increasingly both armies were broken up and many individual stands pinned. At one stage the Spartans were in nine groups and the Numidians in ten! Success for the Numidians was increasingly likely when Brasidas was cut down by Numidian light infantry. Alas, the surviving Spartans stumbled on as the game ran to time, robbing Numidia of a victory.

The final round of the day was against the Galatians, complete with scythed chariots. The Galatians formed up in dense ranks with their left covered by massed cavalry and their right secured by scythed chariots. Again the steep hills were secured by Numidian light infantry while the Numidian light cavalry probed for weakness. Fortunately the Gallic mounted attack on the Numidian right was held, more by luck than skill. However, a gap developed in the centre, as Galatian foot pressing forward, and here the Numidians struck. Light cavalry, supported by light infantry, poured through eventually overwhelming the Galatian reserves and killing their general who had been dashing about on a chariot. Combined with previous losses sustained by the Galatian foot the Numidian King was finally able to claim a complete victory – at last!

After four rounds the results were as follows:

  • 1st Jim Morton – II/3b Classical Indian 79-545 AD, 36pts.
  • 2nd Eric Juhl – II/74a Palmyran, Odenathus 260-271AD with II/23a Nomad Arab Army ally, 33pts.
  • 3rd Brian Sowman – I/50 Lydian 687-540BC with I/52g Asiatic Greek Hoplites ally, 31pts.
  • 4th= Josh Day – II/47f Early German, Suevi 19-49AD, 24pts.
  • 4th= Mike Thorby – II/5a Spartans in Greece 448-276BC, 24pts.
  • 6th Keith McNelly – II/40 Numidian 215BC-24AD, 23pts.
  • 7th Paul Deacon – II/32a Later Carthaginian, 21pts
  • 8th Rick Bishop – II/5k Spartan, Brasidas 428-422BC, 20pts
  • 9th Nathan Maynard – II/49 Marian Roman 105-25BC, 12pts
  • 10th Gordon Pinchin – II/30b Galatian 273-65BC, 5pts

A most enjoyable series of games thanks to four excellent opponents. I was pleased with the performance of the Numidians. They were, as expected, a challenge to use, yet they gave a good account of themselves in all games.

Empire: 300 BC – 291 BC

After considerable delay I can finally provide a summary of the events of the Empire Campaign covering the years 300 BC to 291 BC. Again the campaign has provided some interesting context to a range of battles with some upsets along the way.


In 299 BC Ptolemy, now some 68 years old, determined to launch yet another offensive into Cyrenaica under his own command and subdue it. Too many previous attempts under his generals had after all failed. Unfortunately little is known of the desperate battle that was fought near the coast on a relatively open plain. Indications are that victory hung in the balance for some time as the armies pressed each other seeking advantage. However, Ptolemy finally defeated his enemy and with the ensuing slaughter Cyrenaica was finally absorbed into Ptolemy’s kingdom.

Even more dramatic clashes were unfolding in the west. Having secured their position in Sicilia, Carthaginian forces in 298 BC invaded Magna Graecia. An alliance of several Italiot Greek cities allowed the assembly of a significant army with which the Carthaginians could be defeated. In the Summer of 296 BC battle was joined. The Italiot Greeks formed up with their right somewhat anchored by the hill town of Quiesa with their army stretching to the left across an open plain. Concerned that the Carthaginian fleet would land troops a proportion of the army was held in reserve while other hoplites defended the city walls. Despite this the Italiot Greeks had a greater number of hoplites that outnumbered the Punic heavy foot. Recent rains caused some areas of farmland to be soft, and a hinderence to the heavy foot of both armies on this otherwise open battlefield.

The Carthaginian advance was focussed against the Greek left, which was quickly reinforced. The battle soon drew in the foot of the centre where the Carthaginian forces made significant use of various light troops to screen the advancing African and Libyan hoplites. However, it was on the Carthaginian right that victory was secured as the Carthaginian mounted slowly gained the advantage in a swirling battle. Demoralised by defeat many more cities of Magna Graecia now opened their gates to Carthage.

Despite many cities excepting Punic rule their remained a number of Italiot Greek cities that sought assistance from Rome. Emissaries were dispatched pleading for assistance to which Rome. The Roman Senate, determined to expand its area of influence in the south, dispatched the Consul Marcus Atilius Regulus, at the head of a vast army in 294 BC. The battlefield was open in the centre and Carthaginian right but broken by a steep and rocky hill on the Carthaginian left. The Carthaginians deployed their mounted, a mix of cavalry and chariots, on their right where they considerably outnumbered the Roman mounted.

The Romans struggled to counter the Carthaginian attacks against their left where the combination of chariots and cavalry proved particularly effective. Indeed, the Consul Regulus was almost captured as the Roman left began to collapse. Then Roman resolve in the centre stiffened and the Punic foot suffered a series of almost unbelievable reverses. Unable to withstand the Roman attacks the resolve of the Punic forces collapsed. In the ensuing months much of Punic Magna Graecia was lost as Rome’s influence expanded.

In the east you will recall the previous crushing defeat of Eumenes expedition to India and Seleucus’ seizure of Babylon. These events provided Andragoras, satrap of Bactria, the opportunity to revolt against Seleucus in 299 BC while Seleucus was still attempting to consolidate his position. Respected by Greek and Bactrian, Andragoras quickly secured the province of Bactria and absorbed Greek settlor and native Bactrian into a formidable army. Seleucus determined to crush the revolt and dispatched an expedition under one of his most trusted generals, Antigenes. Antigenes pressed deep into Bactria until in 297 BC Andragoras was forced to face him on a relatively open plain. With such an open field the role of cavalry and light horse would dominate the initial battle with dramatic flank actions. Antigenes gained an advantage but over confidence was dangerous and Andragoras exploited the extended Seleucids, cutting down Antigenes and his bodyguard. With the Seleucid expedition defeated Bactria, at least for now, would remain independent.

Between the east and west Demetrius having tired of a prolonged war with Ptolemy determined a different path and prepared to invade Thracia. Assembling a large army he crossed from Asia in 295 BC and was soon met in battle by Alexander V of Macedonia, son of Cassander. Alexander, short on phalangites, bolstered his army with Thracian auxiliaries before offering battle. The battlefield was dominated by steep and rocky hills as well as woods, yet retained large areas of open ground. Demetrius sought victory and pressed the Macedonian right flank with his mounted, which was countered by Macedonian mounted and a number of Thracians that held the high ground.

Interestingly, neither commander ordering their respective phalangites forward initially, though later, as the battle progressed, each deployed their phalanx in massed ranks opposite each other on open ground. Yet it was the battle on the flank where the battle was decided. Here the combat swung back and forth until finally the Antigonid left comprising the bulk of Demetrius’ mounted, collapsed. Yet, Alexander’s casualties were such his pursuit was limited. However, Thracia remained firmly under control of Macedonia.

Having defeated the Antigonid invasion of Thracia, Alexander V of Macedonian, replaced his casualties and turned his attention to the independent city states of Graecia in 292 BC. While a number of cities opened their gates to Alexander others rallied around an army formed by Sparta and led by Cleonymus. Seizing the initiative Cleonymus marched his army out to offer battle. He deployed his Spartans and his most trusted allies on the left while his less committed allies extended the right.

Alexander advanced his Macedonians onto the open plain and focussed his attack against the Greek right using the bulk of his Thracian mercenaries as well as his xystophoroi under his personal command. Meanwhile his phalangites and elephants pinned the Greek centre and his right was held by his remaining mounted and light troops. While the initial charge of the Macedonian xystophoroi shattered the Greek line many of the Greek allied hoplites reformed and fought with renewed determination.

Cleonymus, aware he must attack the Macedonian centre, or suffer defeat, ordered his remaining hoplites forward. While Spartan hoplites on the Greek left overwhelmed the Macedonian right Greek psiloi engaged the Macedonian elephants. As these pachyderms routed they exposed the Macedonian phalanx which was simultaneously attacked frontally and from the flank. This sudden turn of events demoralised both Alexander and his army, but such are the vagaries of war. As his army collapsed Alexander was forced to retire, his hopes of Greek hedgeomony shattered.

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

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

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

Having now completed three campaign turns, and resolved around eighteen battles, I have spent some time evaluating the campaign mechanics. A couple of issues have become apparent. First is the challenge of organising games where frequently players are unavailable. Secondly, with strategic boundaries constrained by geography many games have involved the same players. I had hoped this would have been countered by other players controlling independent provinces, but it hasn’t significantly. Having read two articles in Slingshot on automated campaigns I intend to move the strategic elements of the campaign to an automated process allowing greater flexibility in using players to fighting actual tabletop battles. I hope this will address both the above issues. In addition I think I can dispense with two provinces, Cyrenaica and Scythia, instead reverting back to the original Empire map.

Chariot, Spear and Yari

After an extremely busy six months it has been enjoyable to return to some more regular DBA gaming. In fact the last couple of weeks I’ve managed a swathe of games against several locals.

Clashes between historical matched opponents have dominated especially between my recently rebased and “Purple Compliant” Post Mongol Samurai and Jim’s own new Japanese army. These games covering the Sengoku jidai period have been particularly interesting as they have allowed me to experiment with town militia (7Hd) and a seated commander (CP).

These troop types have been supplemented by the normal ashigaru armed with yari, bow and Samurai including some mounted (6Cv). Then of course their are the sohei warrior monks (3Bd). 

This has been supplemented by a Biblical encounter between Kassite Babylonian and Syro-Canaanite, with both armies being supplied by my Andrew. I have only a scattering of Section I armies but the game has certainly rekindled my interest in the Chariot period.

Most recently four of us gathered last night for a three rounds of games with a mix of armies being deployed. Early and Later Carthaginians, Celtiberians, Gauls, Galatians and a Macedonian Successor under the redoubtable Pyrrhus all made a showing. This was supplemented by two Early Mycenaean armies, to ensure the Chariot theme continued.

Above, my Later Carthaginians clash with Robin’s Celtiberians. While it was Robin’s first game of DBA 3.0 his army made short work of my Carthaginians. Below, the Celtiberians clash in their second game against Andrew’s Gauls. In this encounter they weren’t so successful!

The Gallic conquest was itself short lived when they encountered the Carthaginians, actually Early Carthaginians (I/61b) for some variety.

Below, a close up view of the Gauls. The initial Gallic attack was driven back, with the loss of their commander. With their aggressive tendencies checked the Gallic foot seemed happier to hold the high ground while the Gallic mounted tried, unsuccessfully, to counter the Punic mounted.

Below, a photo of the clash between the Mycenaean states. One army is from Andrew’s collection, but commanded by Alastair, while the other is from Robin’s collection.

An enjoyable couple of weeks with some long overdue weeknight DBA. Now, where is that paint brush…