Monday, December 11, 2017

Men of Bronze: Battle Report- Marathon

Regarding the Battle of Marathon from Herodotus The Histories in Book 6:

When the presidency came round to him, he arrayed the Athenians for battle, with the polemarch Callimachus commanding the right wing, since it was then the Athenian custom for the polemarch to hold the right wing. He led, and the other tribes were numbered out in succession next to each other.46 The Plataeans were marshalled last, holding the left wing. [2] Ever since that battle, when the Athenians are conducting sacrifices at the festivals every fourth year,47 the Athenian herald prays for good things for the Athenians and Plataeans together. [3] As the Athenians were marshalled at Marathon, it happened that their line of battle was as long as the line of the Medes. The center, where the line was weakest, was only a few ranks deep, but each wing was strong in numbers. 112.

When they had been set in order and the sacrifices were favorable, the Athenians were sent forth and charged the foreigners at a run. The space between the armies was no less than eight stadia. [2] The Persians saw them running to attack and prepared to receive them, thinking the Athenians absolutely crazy, since they saw how few of them there were and that they ran up so fast without either cavalry or archers. [3] So the foreigners imagined, but when the Athenians all together fell upon the foreigners they fought in a way worthy of record. These are the first Hellenes whom we know of to use running against the enemy. They are also the first to endure looking at Median dress and men wearing it, for up until then just hearing the name of the Medes caused the Hellenes to panic. 113.

They fought a long time at Marathon. In the center of the line the foreigners prevailed, where the Persians and Sacae were arrayed. The foreigners prevailed there and broke through in pursuit inland, but on each wing the Athenians and Plataeans prevailed. [2] In victory they let the routed foreigners flee, and brought the wings together to fight those who had broken through the center. The Athenians prevailed, then followed the fleeing Persians and struck them down. When they reached the sea they demanded fire and laid hold of the Persian ships. 114.

In this labor Callimachus the polemarch was slain, a brave man, and of the generals Stesilaus son of Thrasylaus died. Cynegirus48 son of Euphorion fell there, his hand cut off with an ax as he grabbed a ship's figurehead. Many other famous Athenians also fell there. 115.

In this way the Athenians overpowered seven ships. The foreigners pushed off with the rest, picked up the Eretrian slaves from the island where they had left them, and sailed around Sunium hoping to reach the city before the Athenians. There was an accusation at Athens that they devised this by a plan of the Alcmaeonidae, who were said to have arranged to hold up a shield as a signal once the Persians were in their ships. 116.

They sailed around Sunium, but the Athenians marched back to defend the city as fast as their feet could carry them and got there ahead of the foreigners. Coming from the sacred precinct of Heracles in Marathon, they pitched camp in the sacred precinct of Heracles in Cynosarges. The foreigners lay at anchor off Phalerum, the Athenian naval port at that time. After riding anchor there, they sailed their ships back to Asia. 117.

In Men of Bronze there will be a section on historical battles.  Of course, the Battle of Marathon must be present.  One of the challenges of creating a wargame is that you want to set-up the battle as it initially happened, but still allow the players to play their own game.  Therefore, the following scenario is an attempt to capture the key participants and objectives of the battle, but allow the players to dictate the deployment and strategy for the game. 

The Persians were attempting to break-out of the plains near the beach and head inland into Attica.  The Athenians were trying to halt this break-out and repel them.  To represent this, the Athenian side of the battlefield will have two passes that lead inland.  The Greek force will be able to deploy anywhere in front of those passes.  The Persians on the other hand have their back to the sea and can deploy anywhere on that side of the table.

The Forces
Again, it is challenging to completely recreate the deployment of the forces and still give the players the ability to change it up.  To be fair, we also know very little about the Persian force except that it had archers and lacked cavalry.  We also know that the Persians outnumbered the Greeks to such an extent that they had to stretch their Phalanx width by reducing the depth, which cost them the fight in the center. 

1 Drilled Athenian Hoplites
1 Militia Athenian Hoplites
1 Militia Plataean Hoplites

3 Archer Units
1 Drilled Infantry Unit
1 Warband Unit

This is equal points in the system and should prove an interesting game. 

Unlike the actual battle, the Greeks decide to place their Drilled Hoplites in the center in Phalanx.  In front of both passes is a Greek Militia Phalanx in formation and ready to fight.  It is critical that the Persian units do not get behind them and out of the either of the passes behind the Greek line. 

The Persian deployment is to have the Archers on their left screen the Warband infantry behind them.  Then the center is the Drilled infantry, which is flanked on the right by another Archer unit.  Their forces are unequal to the Phalanxes in close combat, but they outmatch them in ranged firepower.  In addition, the Persians will also have the advantage in Arête Points.

Will we see a repeat of history with the Greeks victorious, or will the Persians manage to force their way ashore?   Let’s find out!

Turn 1:
The Persians bid 2 Arête Points to start the battle, and the Greeks decide to spend none.  The Persians move out first.  The Greeks are content to watch them as they move forward, with the Persian left taking the lead.  The Greeks are not eager to get into Persian arrow range, so hold their position. 

Turn 2:
Persians again Bid 2 Arête Points to go first, while the Greeks bid none.  The Persian archers can not move and shoot, so they decide to continue to advance.  The Persian Drilled Infantry moves so it is forward of the archers to its left and right, but not blocking Line of Sight for them.  On the left, the Warband infantry lurks behind the left most archer unit. 

The Greeks again watched the Persians maneuver and were content to hold back.  Now, they are in a bit of a dilemma.  The Persian archers will have them in range, but probably the less effective long range.  If they move now, they will close the gap and be able to engage sooner but potentially leave the passes unprotected from the numerically superior Persian force.

The Drilled Hoplites could use an Arête Point to slide towards one side or the other, but that would force one of the Militia Hoplite units to hold its own against many more Persians.  The Greeks are on the horns of a Dilemma, and decide to do nothing and let the Persian plan unfold. 

Turn 3:
This time the Persians see a pattern, and decide to only bid 1 Arête point, expecting the Greeks to bid 0.  They bid 0 and the Persians get to move first. 

The left most archer unit forms itself in what it hopes to be just beyond charge range against the militia Athenians.  The Warband Infantry moves to cover their left flank.  In the center, the Drilled Persian Infantry move forward to challenge the Athenian Hoplites.  The Persians wait a moment before going to their next unit to see if the Athenians will try to interrupt and charge the isolated Persian Infantry.  However, the Athenian general judges the distance to be too great and holds. 

The two Persian archers units left open fire on the Militia Hoplites opposite them.  The Athenians throw up their shields and weather the storm.  The Plataeans are less successful, and the first death screams fill the tense air of the battlefield. 

The Greeks can now either stand and wait to get hit again, or begin to move forward.  The Plataeans decide to move forward towards the Persians, and the Drilled Athenians do likewise.  They still judge the distance too great to charge.  The Militia Athenians hold position, not liking the numbers on their side. 

Turn 4:
This could be a big turn.  The Greeks decide to bid 2 Arête Points to try and charge first.  However, the benefits of outnumbering your opponent shows as the Persians bid 3.  That leaves the Greeks with only 1 left! 

Now, it is the Persians time to make a tough decision.  Their open order formation will allow their Drilled Infantry to rush the Militia or Drill Hoplites.  They could also choose to rain more arrows, but that would allow a potential Greek interrupt.  However, the Greeks would then have no Arête Points to launch a true charge.  Now the Persians need to make a tough decision.

The archers on the Persian right decide to fire a barrage of arrows at the Plataeans, but fail to cause any injuries this time.  Feeling like they can fire with impunity and not get a reaction, the other Persian archers open fire at the Athenian Militia Phalanx but fail to scratch them. 

The Drilled Persian Infantry decide to charge the Plataeans, and they use the last Greek Arête point to counter-charge.  The Persians get to count it as a flank attack. The two meet with a loud crash.  The Persian infantry lose 1 Courage in the combat, but pass their Courage test.  The Plataeans push the Persians back 1 Base width.    

The Persian left has the Warband Infantry move forward.  In response to the Persian activity, the Drilled Athenians break into open formation and drop back to protect the pass off the plains.        

Turn 5:
With Arête Points reset, it is time to bid for initiative.  This time the Persians bid 1, and the Greeks 0. 

The Persian Archers on the right rush forward to support their infantry against the Plataeans.  The rest of the Persian force moves forward, with the Left flank trying to extend the line beyond the edges of the Greek troops there.  The Persian archers do not fire their arrows, and march instead.  The Greeks watch it all patiently. 

The Plataeans and the Persian Drilled Infantry both lose a point of Courage in the melee.  However, this time the Drilled Infantry of the Persians fail their Discipline check and start waivering, along with the supporting Archers.  I thought the Drilled Infantry would put up a bit more of a fight, but they haven’t broken yet!   

Turn 6:
The Arête Points get reset yet again, and the Greeks still have 3 to Persians 5.  The Persians bid 2 to go first, and the Greeks also bid 2.  The Persians choose to up their bid by 1 so they will go first. 

After winning initiative, the Persian Archers on their left across from the Athenian Militia Phalanx declare a charge with an Arête point.  The Athenians elect to counter-charge and meet them half way to try to finish them early.  This uses the last Greek Arête Point.  This locks the Greek flank unit up in combat, and the Persian Warband infantry move to skirt around the battle.        

The final unengaged Persian Archer unit charges into the Drilled Hoplites who can not counter-charge as they do not have any Arête Points remaining.  This will be the decisive turn. 

Unsurprisingly, the Athenian Militia Phalanx easily beats the Persian archers, and reduces them to 1 Courage.  However, they pass their Discipline check and stay in the battle, tying up the Greeks.  In the Center, the Drilled Athenians utterly crush the Persian archers and send them fleeing!   

On the Persian right, the Plataeans are reduced to a single Courage point, while the Persian Infantry and archers they face are routed.  They turn to flee with a Courage of 0.  The two remaining Persian units make their Collapse and Morale tests.

Turn 7:
Things look bad for the Persians.  They only have 2 units left, and 1 has a single courage point.  However, they also have a unit in position to get to the board edge.  The Arete Points are distributed 2 for Persia and 3 for the Greeks. 

Persians bid 2, while the Greeks bid 1.  The Persian Warband Infantry make a break for it, but will need 1 more turn to get off the board edge. 

Both unengaged Greek units break into open order and turn to the Persian enemies.  Seeing the Warband infantry making for the pass, the Drilled Hoplites do not bother to reform and instead declare a charge using 1 Arête Point.  They charge forward, but fail to come into contact with the sneaky Persian warband! 

The Athenian Militia chases off the last Persian Archery unit easily.  The Plataeans move towards the middle of the plain to help support where needed.  They stay in open order. 

Turn 8:
The Greeks get 3 Arête points to the Persian 1.  The Greeks bid 2 to ensure they can go first.  The Persians decide to save their’s for a re-roll.

The Drilled Athenians use the last Greek Arete Point to charge into the Persian Warband Infantry.  The other Greeks stay in loose formations and move towards the melee.  The Athenian Hoplites manage to reduce the Wraband infantry 3 Courage, and the Athenians lose 1.

Turn 9- Final Turn
The Persians collect their 1 Arête Point, and the Greeks 3.  No one bothers to bid for initiative, and the roll off goes to the Persians.  However, since they are locked in combat it is sort of a moot point. 

The Athenians and Persians continue their struggle.  The Persian Warband infantry reduces the Athenians another Courage point, but are routed in return. 

Athens is saved!

Final Thoughts
This version of the battle did not go down exactly like Herodotus describes it, but the outcome was the same regardless.  In this version, the Greeks may not “thin” their center to make a weaker unit there.  Instead, the big decision the Greeks have to decide is how far are they willing to move away from the passes and where the Drilled Hoplites are going to deploy. 

When I designed the “historical” scenarios I wanted to allow the player to still have decisions to make, and not be a slave to the historical deployment.  However, I want the tactical problems to be similar.  In this case, the Persians greatly outnumber the Greeks and that almost allowed me to win with the Persians by turning theGreek flank.  Ultimately, I wasn’t quite fast enough. 

The Persian Drilled Infantry was disappointing against the Plataeans.  The effectiveness of the Persian archers to soften up the Hoplites in Phalanxes was almost nil.  If the center archer unit could have been supported and held up the Drilled Athenians only one turned, this could easily have been a Persian victory.  Oh well. 

I have also received my shipment of Victrix Greek Hoplites.  They are off to my painter to get cracking on them.  Maybe I can have some painted battles coming up, but until then these paper templates will have to do.  I have added the Persians to the Templates on the Messageboard, so you can have them of a quick run through of Marathon on your own. 

On a side note, this battle took me almost two months to play to completion!  The game itself took about 90 minutes with documentation and verifying the rules.  However, that is how crazy “Real Life” has been for me lately.  Typically, this time of the year I am productive on the hobby front but not this year.  Hopefully my next game for the blog will not take nearly as long to get played, posted, and published.           

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