Monday 14 September 2020

Spartans vs Early Macedonians with Fantastic Batles


As the seasons change, and parts of Northern Ireland start to descend, once more, into Covid-19 lockdown, I seized a fleeting oportunity to head up beyond the Foyle and run a game of Fantastic Battles with Lee, using our 10mm Greco-Macedonian forces.

We didn't overly think the terrain, and just used every unit that we had available on the table. In retrospect the table size was far too small for the size of forces available (well, not really retrospect, it was patently obvious during deployment).

Lee commanded a force of Spartans: two companies of Spartiate hoplites and five companies of allied hoplites, supported by two companies of hippokontistai (skirmishing light horse javelineers), two companies of peltasts, and a company of slingers. My early Macedonians were spearheaded (or not as it turned out) by two companies of Macedonian hetairoi, followed by two companies of mercenary hoplites, six companies of tribal levy, and two companies each of Illyrian mercenaries, slingers and archers. As characters, we used only a strategos (warlord) and a single polemarch (captain) each.

The size of the table hampered both deployments, but especially the Spartans who, as the attacker, started on a narrower frontage. It isn't normally a problem, but all of the Spartan units needed to depoly in march columns in order to fit (top of the photo).

When rolling for mishaps, the Spartan's peltasts were enthusiastic and deployed too far forward, and their slingers were demoralised due to disease. On the Macedonian side there was no disruption save for the mercenary hoplites in the centre of the line who must have wanted to claim the best spoils for themselves as they deployed further forward than they were supposed to.

The opening turns saw the Macedonians advance to form two waves, with the rubbish tribal levies forming the second line. The Spartans shuffled their slingers into the woods on their right, and advanced their light horse on the opposite flank. Their main line becan to change into line formation to make ready for battle.

As the Macedonians contined to advance their foward line, the Spartan peltasts made a mad charge for the slingers on the Macedonian left, while the Spartan light horse showered the Illyrians with javelins on the opposide end of the line.

The follow turn saw the Macedonian slingers extricate themselves from battle, allowing a unit of tribal levies to come howling up from the second line to crash into the peltasts. At the same time, the hoplite lines met in the centre. 

The Illyrians charged at the light horse who attempted to evade. However, they ran into the rough ground before they could make their escape and the Illyrians caught them. The Macedonian hetairoi turned around and pulled back, while the archers on the right now wheeled to start shooting into the exposed flanks of the Spartiate phalanx. The trap was set and the Spartiates were falling into it...

However, far from slaughtering the Spartan light horse, the timely encouragement of the Spartan Strategos ment the horsemen rallied and saw the Illyrian assault falter as the mercenaries scattered. The light horse then followed up their advantage on the flank by charging into the skirmishing Macedonian archers. 

In the centre, the Macedonian mercenary hoplites were holding on determinedly, but they were now facing the full might of two larger units of hoplites and it was only a matter of time before their luck ran out. 

In the woods on the Macedonian left, the tribal levy completed their assault, scattering both the Spartan peltasts and their slingers. However, in doing so they had passed beyond the control of the Macedonian polemarch (captain) and were to become subject to impetuous actions for the remainder of the battle. 

The second unit of Macedonian levy spent several turns changing formation, trying to decide which flank to lend their support to. The Macedonian hetairoi too, messed about in indecision, not really being too keen to engage the front of a Spartiate phalanx. In the end, the Macedonian strategos decided to get them to work together, using the levy to engage the phalanx and allowing the hetairoi access to the flanks. 

Meanwhile, the archers scattered before the Spartan horse, and the successful tribal levy on the left flank decided to pursue their routed foes/abandon the field rather than return and face the hoplites in the centre.

In the centre, the Macedonian hoplites were close to being overwhelmed. If only there was a large unit of tribal levy available, capable of charging their enemies in the rear...

As one unit of Macedonian tribal levy left the table, the Spartiates crashed into the other in the centre. While the Macedonian hetairoi striggled to get through the woods to take a bite out of the Spartiate flank, the levy felt the full weight of the Spartan education system. 

And at that crucial juncture, the Macedonian mercinary hoplites broke before the weight of their opposition (but not before killing the Spartan polemarch). The Macedonian polemarch was also killed in the route. The flight of the the hoplites caused panic among the levy to their rear who likewise scattered. All that was left of the Macedonian army were the badly shaken slingers away on the left flank, and the elite hertairoi who failed to distinguish themselves in any way, shape, or form.

We were both really pleased how the game played out, and how the various mechanisms interacted allowing for subtle variations in how different units performed. Even though Fantastic Battes is written with fantasy armies in mind, choosing not to take magic and flying traits did not leave us feeling like we were missing out on anything. 

All in all, a most satisfying evening in good company. May this lockdown be shorter lived than the last!


  1. This looks like a smashing game. Haven't come across the rule set before, but will have to look them up. Wanted to ask about the Macedonians - is it the traditional alexandrian list, or is an earlier formation?

    1. Thanks. The rules are due out at the end of November/start December.

      No, I have a soft spot for Macedonia before Philip II's reforms. This army is one of 'those'. I published a summary breakdown of Classical/Early Macedonian armies in AWM 13.3 , but list have existed in the likes of DBA and L'Art de la Guerre for quite a few years now.

      Drop me a message through the contact form if you're interested in read the article.

  2. Hi Nick. Are you planning to have some historical lists when you publish Fantastic battles? Cheers


    1. Hi Simon,

      Yes, just a few matched examples to showcase different historical unit types. So far it will include Achaeans and Trojans, Classical Greeks and Achaemenids, Rep. Romans and Carthaginians, Early Byz and Sassanians, Anglo-Norman and Hiberno-Norse, Conquistadors and Mesoamericans.

  3. Sounds good. Will the rules have chanmce cards and if so, will it be possible to get them in the UK?


    1. No, I'm afraid that we have not gone with Chance Cards this time around. As an indie developer, the infrastructure just doesn't exist to make game cards practical (and affordable in the EU).