words & photos by Stuart.
Ruleset used: Stuart’s own set based on “Ancient and Medieval Warfare” by Neil Thomas.
We like to try to stick to a single set of rules for a few weeks at the club. This lets everyone get use to the rules and the period and get into it, before we move off into something different. With a couple of members really just kicking off their armies it helps to give them something to keep the painting going. For the rest of us it saved having to remember of this week if numbers are good, do we get saving throws and how far do things move!
With a couple of buckshee weekends I’ve been able to get back to playing Ancients. My first attempt was scuppered when I had to deal with a work emergency and nearly had to fly off that afternoon, but I’ve managed four games since which have more than made up for it.
The culmination of this was last Sunday’s refight of Magnesia. This battle effectively spelled the end of the territorial ambitions of the successor kingdoms and brought Rome armies to the eastern Mediterranean. The Seleucid army was defeated by the Romans in a battle which saw pikemen, scythed chariots, Celts, elephants and cataphracts clash with the three lined Roman republican legion and its Latin allies.
This refight of the battle was a short notice affair because of some unexpected free time last Sunday. So armies were quickly put together and some stand ins were required. However the key elements were all present and we got kicked off with an attack on both flanks from the Seleucid.
Quite quickly the attack on the right got bogged down with the Cataphracts and Aegma becoming tangled up with the Latins. This ground on slowly for the most of the battle. Neither side gaining the upper hand until quite late in the day. Whilst the Seleucid cavalry failed to defeat their foe, they were able to tie up large numbers of the Romans which kept the Phalanx secure from attacks on its own flank.
On the left the Seleucid swept away the enemy light cavalry and infantry and that side became a swirling series of melees which drew in the Pergamene troops as well. Again neither side had the upper hand for much of the battle, but as it drew to its close it seemed the Seleucids were starting to edge ahead.
When the two central portions of the armies clashed the Seleucids pushed their elephants out just ahead of the phalanx. Faced with these creatures there was little the Romans could do but hang on and hope their multi line formation could soak up the damage. However the pike versus legion combats seem to grind away with the phalangites slowly losing an extra casualty here or there, succumbing to the effective gladius in the press of melee. And so it was with this fight. At a critical moment a phalanx battalion was lost, the Romans turned to their flank to take an Elephant which was carving up a neighbouring unit of hastati. This caused it to go berserk and it turned and crashed into the side of another beast on its right, causing its death in the smash. Suddenly this left a hole in the front line and several fresh Romans units able to exploit it.
With the flanks if not safe then at least secure the Romans would have been able to push through the centre and overlap the remaining phalanx units. No second line for the Seleucids and no reinforcement meant that after several hours of playing, the game was over.
What a way to spend a Sunday afternoon!