Popular Posts

Friday, 6 April 2012

Battle of Magnesia 190BC as a game

Another of my old games where I took photos using a real camera and scanned them to get digital images - so sorry for the quality.
The pictures are linked to larger versions, so for more detail, just click on a picture.
This is one of my favourite battles to re-fight as the victory conditions are simply beat the enemy and sides are balanced enough that you don't need anything other than that simple plan.
For a bit of the history of the battle, see
The historical deployment for the battle is as follows,

With the Romans on the left, Seleucid's on the right.
”In anticipation of the battle, Antiochus set up an entrenched camp protecting the approach to Sardis and his fleet base at Ephesos. According to both Livy and Appian, he posted his 16.000 strong phalanx, armed in the Macedonian fashion in the center in brigades (taxeis) of 1.600 men, 50 men wide and 32 men deep. He ordered intervals to be formed among the taxeis in which he placed 2 elephants each. On the right wing, next to the phalanx, he arrayed 1500 Gallograecian infantry, 3.000 Galatian mail clad cavalry (cataphracti) and 1.000 agema cavalry, his royal household guards. Behind them he kept 16 elephants in reserve. Next to the agema, he placed a cavalry corps Livy calls argyraspides, 200 or 1.200 Dahae horse archers, 3.000 Cretan and Trallean light infantry, 2.500 Mysian bowmen, Cyrtian slingers and Elymaean archers. On the left, Antiochus arrayed another 1.500 Gallograecian infantry, according to Appian men from the tribes of the Tectosagi, the Trocmi and the Tolistoboii, 2.000 Cappadocians similarly armed and a miscellaneous force of 2.700. Next to them, he posted 1.000 heavy horsemen, the Companions, 3.000 more cataphracti and probably another 1.000 men of the agema. In front of them, he placed the scythed chariots and a unit of dromedary, camel-borne Arab archers. His left wing was completed with a corps of Tarentines, 2.500 Gallograecian cavalry, 1.000 newly enlisted Cretans, 1.500 Carians and Cilicians similarly armed, and the same number of Tralles. Then came 4000 peltasts, Pisidians, Pamphylians and Lydians, next to these Cyrtian and Elymaean troops equal in number to those on the right wing, and finally sixteen elephants a short distance away. Antiochus retained command of the horse on the right wing in person; his son Seleucus and his nephew Antipater commanded the left. Philip, the master of the elephants, commanded the phalanx, and Mendis and Zeuxis the skirmishers.
The Romans arrayed in their customary triple line formation with their left wing resting on the river. The Roman reinforced legions occupied the center of this formation and the Latins, the Ally legions, on their wings. In all, there were 20.000 men of the legion. Behind them, Scipio held his 16 elephants in reserve, fully aware that the African elephants could not face the larger Indian stock on equal terms. On the right Scipio placed the allied Pergamenese army under Eumenes and the Achaean peltasts, 3.000 in all to cover the flank of the legions. Next to them he placed his cavalry, nearly 3.000 strong, 800 of them Pergamenese, the rest legionary cavalry. According to Livy, in the extreme right he posted the Trallian and Cretan horsemen, each body numbering 500 troopers, but most probably, these are the light troops and archers named by Appian to be intermingled among the cavalry. Livy also mentions 2.000 Macedonian and Thracian volunteers, who are left to guard the Roman camp. Domitius was stationed with 4 squadrons of cavalry on the right wing, Scipio kept command of the center and gave command of the left to Eumenes.”

However in our game the commanders were given full freedom to deploy how they liked. We played on a 11 foot by 6 foot table using a figure to man ratio of 1:40. Since my units are normally organised on a 1:20 ratio, I just halved the number of units, example we only used one Roman and one Italian legion instead of the 2 of each actually present in the real battle. Battle was fought using my own Die Is Cast ancient rules. The white plastic curtain rings are used to indicate individual casualties on multi-figure bases.So on the game day the deployment looked like this

Quite historical with both Roman legions in front of their camp and the allied forces on their right. The Seleucids however chose to mass all their cataphracts on their left (the Roman right), not to put elephants amongst the pikes (historically the elephants had stampeded and disrupted the pike phalanx) and on their right was a fairly weak wing of light troops and cavalry.

The Roman legions advance in the centre and on the left.

On the Roman left the velites drive back the poor quality Seleucid light troops, clearing the way for the legions to advance.

On the Roman right, the Seleucid cataphracts advance, seemingly unstoppable.

But the Roman (and allied cavalry) fall back in front of the cataphracts throwing javelins and getting round their flanks. The Roman cavalry commander adopted a cunning tactic of engaging the cataphracts - in combats he knew he could not win - and then attacking the cataphracts in the flank as they pursued his fleeing cavalry. It was a fantastic delaying tactic and it worked, breaking up the units of cataphracts and buying time for the legions to defeat the pike phalanx.

The cataphracts are in a hopeless mess. In the middle left of this picture you will see some cataphracts in melee with the Roman allied elephants, that must have hurt. And just below that some cataphracts have actually broken and are being pursued by Roman cavalry. In most places however the cataphracts have just got bogged down in fruitless fighting. This was basically the end for the Seleucid's, the cataphracts should have been used to break through the Roman legions (as happened in the real battle). By massing in one (and the wrong) place the Seleucid players allowed the Romans to stop their potential battle-winning force.

On the Roman left, a legion has swept away the Seleucid troops and whilst keeping up the pressure, a few units of legionaries have been used to attack the flank of the Seleucid pike phalanx. The Italian legion is holding off from attacking the pikes basically acting as support to their velites, who are harassing the phalanx.

The extreme left of the Roman line.

And you can see here the Seleucid centre is going to crumble under the Roman attack, basically game over.

No comments:

Post a Comment