This week saw a 1250 point game of Fantastic Battles take place down in Lisburn. My Classical Macedonians (pre-Philippic reforms) took on Rogers Early Imperial Romans. But for those of you who shudder with such blatant ahistoricality, fear not - we also had mythical units. So it was all totally legit. 😇
The armies deployed before mishaps: the Romans are deployed along the top, fielding a four-company legion and three-company units of praetorians and spear-armed auxiliaries, along with archers, scorpions and onagers for main line missile support. A two-company unit of slingers were sheltering in the woods to the Roman left (top right), some German cavalry were behind the woods on the opposite flank, and an ambush of Numidian light cavalry lead by a rogue were sitting on the Macedonian left flank (bottom left). Aside from the warlord, the army was led by three captains, three magic-users (one prophet and two summoners) and a rogue.
The Macedonians were led by their king supported by two captains and a magic-user (prophet). From left to right there were two three-company hoplite phalanxes, three-companies of mixed slingers and archers, a cyclops, a camp (two formed companies with the slow and shieldwall traits in tortoise formation), a six-company horde of unreliable highland levy, some Cretan archers, two two-company units of elite hetairoi cavalry, and two small units of peltasts and Illyrians. There was a small command of Thessalian cavalry with a company of sirens were led by a third captain on a flank march off table to the right.
After mishaps, the reliable Romans suffered no ill effects, although both their German and Numidian cavalry units were late. Among the Macedonians, the skirmishing slingers and archers were late, turning up behind the hoplites, while the levy and Cretans were overly enthusiastic. The Illyrians and peltasts switched places, and the rear unit hetairoi were suffering from disease.
The first turn saw the Macedonian king rally his hetairoi, while the Cretans and levy tried to withdraw from their advanced position under onager fire from the Roman centre. On the Macedonian right, the Illyrians and peltasts advanced through the woods.
The Romano-Numidian ambush advanced towards the rear of the Macedonian hoplites. The Macedonian skirmished advanced through the hoplites to get out of the way, while one hoplite phalanx and the cyclops turned to face the threat.
Arriving far earlier than expected, the Thessalian flank march also arrived in the first turn, causing the Roman left some consternation. The Romans used their drilled racial trope to start redressing their formation, shifting the big legion into column to advance, and starting to move the scorpions towards their left flank.
The Roman slingers withdrew into the woods to avoid the Thessalian cavalry, only to be charged by the Illyrians coming through the woods from the other direction. The Thessalians charged the Roman Auxiliaries who had changed into column so as not to be charged in the flank. Meanwhile, the forward unit of the Macedonian hetairoi thundered towards the auxiliaries newly exposed flank. The magic-user on the Roman left flank managed to summon a hydra which engaged with the sirens while the Roman praetorians advanced to put pressure on the Macedonian centre.
Back on the far left of the Macedonian lines, the Numidian cavalry were cornered between the cyclops and hoplites and promptly fled, taking their rogue leader with them.
The hoplites then turned to face the newly emerging threat from the German cavalry who had just circumvented the woods. The other hoplite phalanx moved up to cover the approach of the legion, screened by the Macedonian skirmishers.
In the centre, the praetorians and hetairoi clashed, while the levy turned themselves around to advance again, threatening the exposed praetorian flank.
The other unit of hetairoi charged into the auxiliaries, but not before they turned back to face the on-coming cavalry charge. The auxiliary shieldwall bristling with spears was too much for the Macedonian nobles and the hetairoi scattered, however, the distraction allowed the Thessalians to rally off their lost resolve, pinning the Romans in place.
The hydra destroyed sirens and then moved on to support the auxiliaries against the Thessalians on the flank. The hoplites and legion closed in the centre, while the levy finally made contact with the praetorians.
The Macedonian peltasts advancing on the praetorian's other flank was very surprised to find a basilisk summoned in their flank, quickly breaking and leaving a giant snake-filled hole in the formation on that flank.
The Macedonian levy, despite their best effort to be rubbish, managed to score some breathtakingly good hits on the praetorian flank, causing havoc in the ranks of the Roman elite unit.
On the Macedonian left, the German cavalry engaged the Macedonian skirmishers, but were then charged by the cyclops in their flank. To their right, the hoplite-on-legion battle continued to grind on.
The skirmishers could not resist the Germans, but the cyclops gave the cavalry a major battering causing them the flee.
The Illyrians, fresh from scattering the Roman slingers in the woods emerged to charge the basilisk, the Thessalian horse managed to scatter the hydra, and the Macedonian king did his best to rally his failing hetairoi.
And the hoplites and legion continued to poke at each other... Beyond them, a newly summoned two-company unit of auxiliaries charged the Macedonian levy in the flank.
The basilisk broke the Illyrians and then moved on to hit the hetairoi unit in the flank. The battle was now hanging in the balance with both forces only a couple of companies away from their break point. The Macedonian king joined with the Cretan skirmishers to rush recklessly into the basilisk.
At that moment, the Roman praetorians finally succumbed to the pressure on their front and flank and scattered. The hetairoi could now turn to face the basilisk while the levy conformed with their new auxiliary foes.
And then the Thessalians and Roman auxiliaries on the far right finally fought themselves to mutual destruction. At the same time the Macedonian king with the Cretans and hetairoi dispatched the basilisk, bringing the Romans to breaking point.
This was an epic battle which could have gone either way. In the end, the Romans broke at 12/12, while the Macedonians were teetering at 13/16. The levy were only two resolve away from breaking and the hetairoi were also nearing break point - so it was very close. The Thessalians proved remarkably lucky to hold out so long on the flank, while the Macedonian commanders all made the most of their rhetoric training to roll remarkably well when rallying. It also helped that the Roman summoners failed something like five or six attempts to summon during the game.