Monday, March 30, 2020

Men of Bronze: Battle Report- ...IF...

After Philip II’s victory over the Greek City-states at Chaeronea he was confident in his hegemony of Greece.  It is said that he sent heralds to the Ephors of Sparta and demanded their capitulation. 

“If I invade Laconia you will be destroyed, never to rise again.” 

Supposedly, the Sparta Ephors responded thus:


Today’s battle is represent this hypothetical battle between the Macedonians and the Spartans.  A true “What If” scenario!  See what I just did there.

The Macedonian army will be the well-oiled machine that crushed Thebes and Athens at the Battle of Chaeronea and end the freedom of the Greek City-States north of the Peloponnese.  We will use the same army list as the Men of Bronze rulebook has for that historical battle.  At Chaeronea it is said that Philip’s son Alexander led the cavalry.  Today, I will put the overall Commander as Philip and have him lead his own Companions.  Alexander will be elsewhere.

Philip II of Macedon
2 Macedonian Phalanx
1 Light Hoplites (Hypaspists)
1 Heavy Cavalry- Led by Philip  (Companions)
1 Psiloi

The Spartans are no longer the military force they once were.  The Theban general Epamonidas had seen to that at such famous battles as Luectra.  The Helot slave state of Messina had been liberated by the Theban and the traditional Spartan caste system had been destroyed.  In fact, Sparta had few actual true Spartiates left at this stage due to land issues and military losses.  Their army was not what it once was, and relied more on mercenaries, Perikoi, and other allies. 

1 Elite Hoplite- Spartiates and General
1 Drilled Hoplite- Perikoi
1 Militia Hoplite- Allies
2 Psiloi- Allies, mercenaries and helots
1 Peltast- Mercenaries

The Macedonians would generate 6 Arete Points to the Spartan 7 at the start of the battle. 

This will be a standard Decisive Battle scenario as the Macedonians try to force the strait into the Peloponnese.  The battle will take place on a 72 BW by 48 BW board, with the standard BW being 1 inch.  The battle will be 8 turns or until a Collapse of one side or the other. 

We go by the book on terrain placement, with alternating terrain placement via random roll.  This included some ruins, farm lands, a grove and rocky terrain.  Sounds like Greece to me!  The grove and a field flanked the Macedonian deployment zone, and it was split by a ruin.  The Spartans had the rocks on the left, a field splitting their deployment zone, and a field on the far flank.  The center was relatively open for a clash.

The Macedonian battle line from their right to left was: Light Hoplites, Macedonian Phalanx, Macedonian Phalanx, Psiloi (in the ruins) and the Cavalry on the far left.

The Spartan battle line from their right to left was: Peltasts in a field across from the Macedonian cavalry, the Milita Hoplites in a different field in loose formation, the Perikoi in phalanx, the Spartiates in phalanx both facing the fearsome Macedonian phalanx units, and the 2 Psiloi units in the rocks on the flank.  The Spartans apparently learned from the lessons of losing several battles to Thebes and placed their best units across from the Macedonians best infantry. 

Turn 1:
Both sides collect their Arete Points, and consider their Initiative bid.   

The Macedonians won the Initiative by bidding 4 Arete Points to 2.  The Macedonian forces moved up across the board.  The Light Hoplites stayed in open order for maximum maneuverability to counter the Spartan Psiloi units across from them.  The Phalangites marched forward.  Meanwhile the Psiloi used Arete to scramble into the ruins for cover.  The Cavalry moved forward, but there way was partially blocked by a field in front of them.

The Spartans did not interrupt.  They used some Arete points to move forward with their Psiloi on the flank, they were measuring up their chances against the Hypaspists.  The Spartan units in Phalanx slowly marched forward, careful to not out distance their allies in the field on their right.  The allies slowly trudged forward, encumbered by the rough terrain.  Finally, the Peltast mercenaries moved up towards the field between them and the Macedonian Heavy Cavalry. 

The two sides were closing the distance to prepare for action. 

Turn 2:
The two sides again collected their Arete points.  The Macedonians won the bid again, suspiciously similar to the last turn. 

The Bronze shields surged forward, while the second phalanx unit with white shields held back a bit.  This created a slightly staggered main battle line.  The Hypaspists ranged ahead on the flank, still in loose formation to counter the enemy Psiloi from harassing the main force.  Ths Psiloi in the ruins ventured out as they saw the militia across from them was plodding through the field.  The Heavy Cavalry moved up and started to move in on the Spartan flank. 

The Spartans also moved forward.  The Psiloi rushed out of the rocks and confronted the Macedonian light hoplites.  They threw Javelins, but they fell short.  Woops. 

The Militia in the field got to the edge, and formed Phalanx immediately.  The enemy Heavy Cavalry was approaching.  The Perikoi and Spartiates inches up, but kept their flaks protected from the roving enemy horse.  The Peltasts rushed across the field and threw their Javelins at the Companion Cavalry, but the horseman’s breast plates kept them safe.  This left the cavalry with a tough decision about what to do next.

Turn 3:
Both sides collected their Arete Points.  Macedonians bid 2, while the Spartans bid 3.  Spartans go first. 

The Spartans start by having the Psiloi aggressively charge the Hypaspists before they can form up.  The initial assault is thwarted, but the first squad is soon supported by their brother Psiloi.  In the ensuing exchange, both groups lose 1 Courage in the fighting. 

The Peltasts in the field also choose to throw their Javelins at the Heavy Cavalry but again fail to injure the riders.  The rest of the Spartan force is content to stay where they are and let the Macedonians come to them since their flanks are protected from roving cavalry.   

The Macedonian Pike blocks move forward towards the Spartans.  They judge the distance to far to mount a charge, but dare the Hoplites to come at them…. Bro.  The Psiloi hold their ground to flank charge any unit that tries to maneuver into the pikeman’s flank. 

Meanwhile, Phillip himself makes a dangerous decision to charge his cavalry into the fields to try and rout the Peltasts there.  The Peltast try to Evade, and almost make it thanks to the rough terrain.  Sadly, almost doesn’t count and the cavalry men ride into them and reduce them 2 courage thanks to the charge.  The Companion Cavalry are not phased by the Peltast’s feeble attempts to fight back.

Turn 4:
The Spartans and Macedonians collect their Arete Points and plan their strategy for the turn.  The Macedonians bid 2, while the Spartans bid also bid 2.  The Spartans decide to up their bid 1.  They judge now is the time to strike, and begin the turn. 

The Spartiates judge the distance and determine now is the time to charge their foe.  For their part, the Macedonians are game, and Counter-charge.  Both sides spend Arete points and the two units clash head-on with the crash of spear on shield! The pushing and shoving results in both sides losing 1 Courage.  Upon review, the Spartan charge would have fallen short but the Macedonian Counter-charge allowed the connection. 

The Psiloi and the Hypaspists continued their whirling battle. The Hypaspists lost 1 Courage, while the Psiloi lost 2 Courage.  No one starts wavering.  The Spartan Psiloi are close to routing and the gamble of their charge may not have paid off. 

On the opposite flank, the cavalry continue to pursue and push back the Peltasts on the opposite flank.  The Peltasts are down to 2 Courage, and the Cavalry are unhurt.  The Peltasts are keeping the Macedonian force and are tying them up and dragging them further from the main fight. 

The Perikoi and other Macedonian Pikeblock charge and counter-charge each other.  The fighting is fierce, but the Perikoi are on the defensive and lose 1 Courage and pushed back.  Seeing this, the militia Hoplites break formation and charge towards the flank of the melee, but fall short due to leaving the difficult terrain of the fields.  This causes them to Waver as they close in. 

The Macedonian Psiloi move up and lob javelins at the Militia Hoplites, but fail to cause any further damage.

Turn 4:
Both sides collect their Arete points, 6 for the Spartans and 5 for the Macedonians.  No one has lost any units yet, but that looks like it could change this round.  Most of the warriors are engaged, but the Spartans bid 2 Arete Points, while the Macedonians hold theirs for Re-rolls. 

The Spartans start by rallying their Militia from wavering.  They then form into a phalanx again, and launch their charge into the Macedonian Phalanxes flank!  This triggers combat for that melee.  The Spartans are out of Arete points.  The combat does not go the Spartans way, and the Macedonians push the Perikoi and the militia back.  The Macedonians lose 1 Courage to 3, while the Spartans are reduced to 2 and are wavering!  Macedonian re-rolls were critical in this engagement.

The Spartiates also are pushed back and lose Courage to the Macedonian Phalanx.  Again, Macedonian re-rolls pushed the Spartans as they were reduced to 2 Courage, but held firm.  The Macedonians were down to 3. 

The Companian Cavalry continued to push back the Peltasts, but that was the plan.  The Peltasts were close to routing, but they were doing their job tying up the Heavy cavalry and keeping them away from the decisive combats. 

Finally, the Spartan gamble of using the Psiloi vs. the light Hoplites was playing out on the other flank. The Hypaspists were reduced to 1 Courage, but that was enough to rout the Spartan Psiloi.  The
desperate gamble on that flank had failed.

The Macedonian Psiloi move to prepare to support their phalanx engaged with the Perikoi and Militia Hoplites.    

At the end of this turn, things looked bad for the Spartans. 

Turn 5:
With the Spartan Psiloi routed, the Spartans only earned 4 Arete Points.  The Macedonians had the advantage with 5 Arete Points.  The Macedonians bid 1 to try and go first so they could get their Hypaspists into a support position against the Spartiates.  This is enough to win as the Spartans want all their Arete Points for Re-rolls to try and break their foes. 

The Hypaspists move towards the scrum between the Macedonian Phalanx and the Spartiates.  The Macedonian command determines it is too far away to charge in and support and holds the Arete Points for re-rolls in the fight. 

That is a wise move.  The Spartiates manage to reduce the Macedonians down to two Courage, but in return effective use of Re-rolls allows the Macedonians to route their foes.  The Spartiates decide discretion is the better part of valor and make a break for it.  

The Macedonian Heavy cavalry final routs the Peltasts they were fighting too.

The Macedonian Psiloi move in and support their Macedonian allies fighting the Perikoi and Militia allies.  

The fighting is fierce and both sides make use of re-rolls.  The Perikoi roll horribly and only reduce the Macedonians to three Courage.  In return, they are also routed from the field causing the entire Spartan army to be routed.    

It was a sad day for Sparta.  Phillip made good on his promise and made low the city of Sparta.  It would not rise again.  Soon, he was killed on an Assassin’s blade.  His son Alexander’s attention was elsewhere….    

As the Spartan player, I knew that I had an uphill battle.  The Macedonian Phalanxes are pretty tough, plus the Heavy Cavalry could sweep in and easily flank my main forces.  I would need to rely on my light forces to carry a higher than normal load.  The plan was simple, use the Psiloi to overwhelm the Hypasipists so that they could come back and help the Spartiates with the Macedonian Phalanx.  The Perikoi would be helped out by the Allied Militia hoplites, and the Peltasts were to keep the Cavalry tied up long enough for the battle to be over by the time they could arrive. 

The plan ended up being executed pretty well.  Sadly, the Psiloi couldn’t quite pull off the task assigned to them.  Once they fled, it was pretty clear what way the wind was blowing.  In addition, the Militia supporting the Perikoi fought particularly poorly.  Finally, the Peltasts did their job perfectly, and were the bright spot of the battle. They tied up the Heavy Cavalry for most of the game, and even when they fled; the Macedonians were out of position.  By the end of turn 4, the writing was on the wall.  My only hope was some amazing rolling and poor collapse tests on the Macedonians part.  Needless to say, that did not happen.   

One other very interesting aspect of this battle was that it was fought over the course of a couple weeks.  I am very lucky in that I can leave my wargaming table set-up 24/7/365.  My wife and I came back separately and at various times to play the game here and there.  We would play out a turn or half turn, make note of where we left off and come back much later.  We were trying to fit it in between various tasks that were impacted by/during the Pandemic.  Therefore, the game had little interaction between the actual players compared to a normal game, and gameplay had large gaps between sessions.  Frequently, I would walk away and think about what I wanted to do next; come back and see what had happened and then try to adjust my plan.  It was interesting, was a very different experience, but it worked. 

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  1. As ever, this was a clear battle report and looks to have been a fun game. The fact that you were effectively playing be mail is interesting.

    1. Yes, from my Spartan perspective, it was like watching a slow motion train wreck.