Monday, 5 June 2023

Battle of Plataea 479BC

I staged this battle some months ago as a hex game with Jon but the plan had been for some time to transfer this to a larger format. Whilst the actual battle developed over several days the key the key 24 hours developed into three distinct engagements. Partly through the design and partly by luck my Greek and Persian armies match the make up of the various contingents when placed across a 12x6 battlefield. As a reminder of the situation (as it is understood) the two armies were each broken into roughly three broad ‘wings’ they had faced off for several days with the Greeks not wanting to fight on flat open ground where the Persians cavalry would have an advantage and the Persians of course wanting to find as much flat ground as possible for their cavalry. This stand off took place across the River Asopus. When the Spartans forming the right wing of the Greek army decided to move a dangerous gap was formed in the Greek line and the Persians decided to cross the river and attack.

A map of the situation.
This converted onto the table. In the foreground the Athenians in front of Plataea face off against the Persian Greek allies including the Thebans and Greek cavalry. In the Persian centre the Medes, Bactrians and other Persian satrap allies, face a reforming group of minor Greek states. In the distance the Spartans isolated by the Asopus ridge gave the bulk of the Persian army and cavalry.
The Spartans won’t fight until the gods have been honoured with a sacrifice and the signs are in their favour, a ritual called the spaghia, according to history it took several attempts before Pausanias appealed to the temple of Hera at plataea when the omens improved and they could start the battle,  Meanwhile the Persians were shooting at them ! For those interested the table is 12x6 feet, figures are a mix, many Victrix Greeks, lots of Foundry, Wargames factory Persians, others as well. We would be using Kings of War which works for us.
The Persian main force under Mardonius leaving the Persian fort on the other side of the Asopus River, Persian light cavalry and Sparabara with some spearmen.
The Persian Greek allies including Thebans advance towards the Athenians 
Greek cavalry fighting for the Persians ! And in the centre hordes of bactrian and median spearmen.
The Athenians advance to hold the river line as a defensive position
The attack in the Persian centre starts to break up
The Spartans of course hold fast while the Persian cavalry pepper them with arrows and javelins
In the centre the first significant infantry combat where the more heavily armed Greeks get the better of the lighter bactrians
The Thebans hold their advance closing to hurl slingshot across the river rather than come to grips
The Persian cavalry have weakened the Spartans slightly but the omens have improved and the Spartans move to the attack
Piecemeal fighting in the centre not yet decisive for either side
Crunch as the Spartans crash into the Immortals, light cavalry continue to harry the Spartan flank (I wonder why the Spartans never developed cavalry ?)
Across the river still a stand-off 
But having weakened the Athenian line the Thebans are order to assault
Several phases of combat and the Spartans are inevitably cutting the Persian infantry to pieces but they have been significantly weakened and there are two lines of Persians !
The Greeks have won the centre, but both flanks are still hotly contested
Still the Spartans and Persians are fighting, but the Spartans are very close to breaking
Despite the risk of charging through the river the Thebans assault 
The Spartans are breaking ! One of the Royal guard units has been cut down to a man
Another smaller contest has now started to hold the broken ground on the Asopus ridge
Finally the Spartans are worn down by the tricky hit and run tactics of the Persian cavalry, if only they hadn’t fought on the open plain !
The final Spartans choose to die rather than surrender 
The Greek unit here in the foreground were awarded the honours for the battle as they destroyed 3 or 4 units on their own here they are about to charge the rear of some Galatian hill tribes
The whole battle now rests on the conflict by the town
Although we are close to the end of the battle we choose to run one final combat phase in this area to assess the overall result
The Thebans win the day and the Athenians are sent running back into the town in panic
A battlefield covered with the dead and dying…..

A splendid battle very close, the Persians won the left, very hard to see how the Spartans can actually win, as they have no cavalry and no support and are outnumbered, we have considered giving the Persian cavalry limited ammo in future battles ? The Greeks have crushed the centre but the Persian (Greeks) have beaten back the Athenians to claim a narrow win. I think we played about 8 turns and took about 4 hours of gaming.

This was a lot of fun a great to get pretty much all my Greeks and Persians on the battlefield. Hoping to play Marathon at some point in the future πŸ˜€

Thanks as always for checking in

Matt

29 comments:

  1. Super battle, Matt, and fab looking armies all arrayed for battle! I remember our battle very well. The Persians saw success on the left in both battles but the Thebans under my command broke and run at the first glimpse of Athenians.

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  2. It was a fantastic battle to fight and a close run thing. Think we were both quite pleased the Spartans lost, even though they were mine. It appeals to our anti-fascist sensibilities.

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    1. Thanks Martin…a fun battle and a while in the development. Spartans remarkably easy to kill as long as you don’t get into combat with them !

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  3. Lots of figures involved in that one Matt. Nice to see the bulk of your two collections on the table.

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    1. Thanks Lawrence on this size table we have just enough figures to cover the battle and we have more cavalry which means we should be able to cover Marathon as well

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  4. Superb looking game Matt, a real wargame.

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    1. Thanks George enjoyable to plan and play

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  5. Funny how opinions change - the Spartans were the great heroes of Ancient Greece, once upon a time! Now they are viewed as proto-Fascists! I think they were just a bit too staunch for our modern sensibilities, particularly their mothers!
    Great looking game that went down to the wire though Matt, so must have been fun to play.

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    1. Thanks Keith we won’t get into the politics but during the battle we pondered that in fact we should probably call the Persians the ‘good guys’ whilst they were clearly focussed on colonial and empire building they were perhaps a more open and secular society than the Greeks ?

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  6. That is one spectacular wargame there Matt, epic!

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  7. Cracking game Matt and interesing post game thoughts too.

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  8. Excellent example of a large miniature game. Looks like a lot of fun to play. πŸ˜€

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    1. Thanks Stew indeed fun to battle our way through πŸ‘

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  9. Spectacular looking game Matt

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  10. Matt, a lovely spectacle and Kings of War delivers again! I’m surprised we don’t hear more about these rules on blogs, have Mantic let them slip out of production?

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    1. Thank Norm…. We certainly enjoy them for these larger battles πŸ‘

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  11. Awesome big Ancients gaming, Matt! It is very impressive to see the mass of Persians. Too many Ancients gamers only paint up Hoplites and Phalangites! :)

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    1. Thanks Dean….my Persians are work in progress, the nice thing is you can have a real variety of troops πŸ‘

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  12. Excellent looking game, always difficult to apply 21st century sensibilities to ancient societies women's rights were being massively eroded in Athens where democracy only applied to male citizens who were also slave holders by contrast women's rights in Sparta were much better, they were the landowners as the men were busy training or fighting, I thought the Spartans used skirmishing helots on their flanks, then if they were successful crowned them with garlands and massacred them!
    Best Iain

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    1. Thanks Iain as you say hard sometime to compare but I think I would have preferred a Persian society rather than a Spartan one !

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  13. A marvellously massive refight Matt. Superb viewing.
    Regards, James

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