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.


Antigonos’ Invasion of Aegyptus

The following is a battle report from our Empire Campaign. The armies involved were Antigonid (II/16a) and Ptolemic (II/20a). The battle found the Ptolemy defending and therefore setting terrain. The following report has been supplied by the Antigonid player.

With Satraps based in Macedonia, Babylon and Aegyptus all campaigning to bring neighbouring provinces under control Antigonos Monophthalmos decided to move to extract Egypt from Ptolemaic control in 315 BC. Recent Antigonid support for the defence of Cyrenaicia and Ptolemy’s seizure of the Alexander’s body were factors in this decision.

Strong naval support helped the army move through Giza and a landing was effected on the coastal plans of the Nile Delta. A camp was established on the firm ground to the west of a major Nile distributary. Significant marshy ground to the east of the river was a major factor in siting the camp and the decision to deploy for battle along the coastal shore.

Ptolemy’s camp was sited inland of the coastal marsh. With a preponderance of mercenary peltasts and other light troops in his army Ptolemy opened the battle with a major thrust of these troops through the marshes. Antigonos and a major portion of his phalanx deployed on a strip of firm ground between the river and the marshes with light troops covering their eastern flank while his young son Demetrius commanded the mounted troops on the western bank. Consummate drill from the Antigonid veteran infantry repositioned the phalanx to cover the flanking troops whilst still remaining on firm ground.

A move by Demetrius to cross the rivers and cut the lines of communication between Ptolemy’s heavy troops and the attacking light infantry in the marshes was confounded by rising water levels in the distributary. Above, Antigonid troops can be seen expanding east and west. Below, Antigonos commands his Silver Shields while to the left Ptolemic phalangites prevent more troops crossing.

Antigonos continued to lead his phalanx on foot and eventually manoeuvred a body of Ptolemaic peltasts out of their marshy ground. An uncontrolled pursuit of the defeated peltasts (below) mired Antigonos’ foot companions in the marsh and a subsequent counter attack led to general being severely wounded.

Although dragged from the marshy ground before the defensive line collapsed the wounded Antigonos’ remained in an extremely vulnerable position. A valiant stand by the remnants of his body guard provided just sufficient time for Antigonos to escape to the banks of the river. A charge across the river by the companion cavalry, led by Demetrius himself, into the teeth of the Ptolemaic phalanx secured a crossing for the injured Antigonos.

With news arriving of a victory by Eumenes in the hills of Armenia, and unable to bring Ptolemy to battle on an open plain, the decision was made to withdraw from Egypt. The need for Antigonos to recuperate and with Demetrius still a very young man, although gifted cavalry commander, the leadership necessary for further campaigning was thin on the ground.

The Glory that is Rome

Last weekend we managed a short trip north to visit our son in Auckland. Taking advantage of some wet weather we managed a number of excellent DBA games. In fact we played seven classical games over the course of the weekend, as well as one in the New World which I won’t cover here. Restricted by the limits of carry-on luggage I could only take one army with me so I opted to for my Polybian Romans which, when fighting Joel’s classical armies, the Romans ensured a wealth of historical opponents. I will provide a brief description of the games and a small selection of photos from the weekend.

Our gaming began with a couple of clashes on Saturday between the Romans and Later Carthaginians. The first found the Carthaginians using the two elephants, while in the second the elephants were abandoned.

One of the strengths of the Carthaginians, when not using elephants, is their increased mounted component when combined with troops able to move through bad going. Combining these two however can be difficult. Above, Carthaginians press the Roman right flank in the second game. A lack of PIPs prevented them successfully exploiting the eventual domination of the hill.

Sunday’s games included two encounters between the Romans and Gauls. I find these armies provide very interesting challenges. For the Gauls there are of course decisions on the number of dismounted warriors compared to mounted. For the Romans, prior to the game consideration must be given to taking allied troops, such as Italians or in my case Spanish and how to best use the velites to delay the inevitable charge of the Gauls. These games resulted in a win for the Gauls and one for the Romans showing the balance between the armies.

Above, Gauls engage Roman velites who have been thrown forward to disrupt the Gallic host. Spanish auxilia can be seen on the left. Below, another view of the same battle before the Roman defeat.

However, Rome soon dispatched another army and this time the Roman light troops were on the offensive once again. Below, Spanish auxilia and velites concentrate their attacks on the Gallic left before the Roman hastati and principes surge forward. On the left both the Spanish and velites drove in the Gallic right causing recoil pressure.

Finally, we finished the gaming off with three excellent encounters against a Lysimachid Successor. While not an historical opponent it was not to far from a potential opponent. All three games included some excellent manoeuvres, classic breakthroughs as well as some humorous moments.

Above, the Greeks have advanced over a gentle hill. Lysimachus is deployed in the centre of the Greek phalanx and would punch a hole in the Roman line, shown below.

Now exposed Lysimachus was driven back by Roman triarii, just after his supporting phalangites had smashed Roman principes themselves surrounded. Unable to recoil, being a three element column, Lysimachus was cut down. A fascinating game.

Our final game between Lysimachid Successor found the Romans using a Numidian ally on a battlefield broken by two steep hills, as shown below.

Greek light auxilia eventually secured the hills but were then restricted due to command limitations caused by these hills and raids by Numidians on the Greek camp.

Above, Numidians raid the camp, just visible on the right, while the Greeks prepare to attack the hill on the Roman left. Below, the Roman velites fall back before the main Greek attack in the centre.

In this final clash Lysimachus again broke through. However, a Roman counterattack drove him back on the flank of the phalanx, visible below. As can be seen from the photo the Roman camp is near to being captured. At this point both armies had suffered equal losses. With Lysimachus wounded the Greek command and control was further compromised. The Romans now surged forward breaking the phalanx.

So ends a short summary of an excellent weekend of gaming. It highlighted for us the advantages of DBA. A series of excellent and very dynamic games between historical opponents with victory within grasp of either player.

Ophellas & Eumenes  

The following outlines the first two battles of our Empire Campaign, specifically the invasions of Ophellas and Eumenes.

Ophellas’ Cyrenian Expedition:

Ptolemy determined on an offensive against Cyrenia, a critical state for which would cement his power in Aegyptus. The forces of Cyrenia were deemed to be defending, their province was being invaded after all. A player was found to command the Kyreneans and the Ptolemic player opted to command his invading army rather than risk his invasion to the mercy of some mercenary. 

Thimbron a Lacedaemonian who murdered Harpalus, the Macedonian satrap of Babylon before Alexander’s death, had recently secured his position in Cyrenia. Ptolemy, frustrated with the situation determined to secure Cyrenia and therefore ordered Ophellas, one of his generals, to invade in 319 BC.

Thimbron determined to make a stand near the coastal city of Apollonia. The city, on the Mediterranean coast, has  difficult hills immediately inland. The Colonist forces (I/56a) included hoplites mounted in chariots (as HCh//Sp), and a core of infantry hoplites supported by psiloi. Thimbron, along with his bodyguard, deployed on horseback (Cv Gen). The colonist camp was established on the western side of the city, away from the approaching Ptolemaic forces. The Greeks deployed to meet the invaders with chariots on the inland flank on the coastal roadway and a garrison of hoplites were stationed in Apollonia. Thimbron used a cunning ruse to suggest reinforcements were on triremes off the coast. The cunning Greek stratagem was sustained as the Ptolemaic infantry forces, accompanied by their elephants, deployed for battle on the plains east of the battlefield. The entire Ptolemaic mounted corp (Kn Gen, Kn and LH) remained at sea on their horse transports.

The Greeks moved rapidly forward on the inland flank with the mounted hoplites (HCh) eyeing up the Ptolemaic mercenary troops (3 x 4Ax) deployed opposite the flanking steep hills. Psiloi moved to engage the elephant corp and Ptolemaic pike phalanx, while the hoplites on foot maintained their battle lines and echeloned forward of the city on the coastal flank. Much manoeuvring ensued, the Ptolemaic mercenary troops proved exceptionally resilient in the face of charging chariot forces.

Ophellas eventually led his companions in a charge into the middle of the Greek hoplites. Ultimately his personal success was too late for the invading army. Heavy casualties amongst the mercenaries, elephants and pike formations forced Ophellas’ army to withdraw back to Egypt.

The final result a 4-2 loss for the Ophellas.

Eumenes in Armenia:

The next invasion was that by Eumenes who commands Mesopotamia and the Eastern Successor provinces. Like Ptolemy he wished to expand his influence over independent provinces rather than invoke an invasion. He had several options but decided on Armenia.

Mithranes (II/28b) had exercised a degree of independence in his satrapy since death of Alexander, however in 317 BC Eumenes (II/16d), having escaped Antigonus’ grip, determined that the territories known as Armenia should be subjected to Babylon’s control. While Eumenes pressed deeper into the country, harassed by the hill people’s at every turn, Mithranes drew his various vassals together in preparation for the eventual deciding battle of the campaign.

Selecting his field of battle with care Mithranes determined to attack the Greeks as they emerged from a narrow defile. With his  infantry were drawn up in the centre and flanked by light horse, Mithranes with his reserve of cataphracts was confident of victory.

Eumenes, aware of the desperate situation selected an unusual deployment which found his army deployed on a narrow frontage astride a road in a defile. In front was his elephants supported to the rear by phalangites and xystophoroi. On his left his few light troops advanced over rocky hills while yet more phalangites prepared to expanded his line. Below the defile between a series of difficult hills.

Despite Mithranes confidence the Armenians were far from united. Indeed, no sooner had the armies deployed that it became apparent that many contingents were reluctant to advance (a series of low PIP dice). His plan to dominate the high ground astride the defile now seemed unlikely. Despite this setback more motivated parts of the army advanced and a number of Armenian infantry were thrown forward to harass the Greeks, though they failed to secure the critical high ground. The Greeks seizing the initiative advanced relentlessly with pachyderms and xystophoroi leading the advance. As the battle reached a climatic decision in the centre isolated Armenian light cavalry advanced towards the Greek camp before being driven back. Victory, or defeat would be decided in the centre.

Eumenes himself was soon in the thick of the fighting and was, for sometime, surrounded by Armenians to front and flank. Reinforcements were thrown in by both commanders, and yet the battle remained on a knife edge. Finally, with Armenian casualties mounting Mithranes ordered his last reserves forward. It was now that Eumenes, in a last desperate effort secured a final breakthrough and in so doing shattered the Armenian foot.

This was a fascinating battle and one I, as the Armenian player, expected to win. However, a complete failure in PIPs combined with a complex strategy was my undoing. That said Eumenes, at the head of the xystophoroi, was locked in combat for four turns due to evens on combats. As he was attacked in front and side anything less than a tie would have seen him cut down. As it transpired Eumenes secured a 4-0 victory and Armenia!