Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Monday, January 5, 2015


I'd promised myself a holiday game of Lost Battles' Magnesia scenario over the New Year break, and - cataphracts now painted - got to it the other night.

For those who know Lost Battles and its prior incarnations, I went with the Strategos II deployments and orders of battle rather than those in the latest version. This means that there are no camps on table and the Seleucid phalangites are all average quality units.  I also made a further change of my own, exchanging one unit of the 'Silver Shields' for standard heavy infantry as I felt that three units of phalangites on the right of the main phalanx gave that wing just a little too much strike power.

For appearance's sake I plunked a base of Roman cavalry on table between the river and the Roman infantry line. This flank guard is too small to register as a unit at Lost Battles' scale, but as it is mentioned so prominently in the sources I felt it needed to be on table, even if only in token form.

A quick word about the Lost Battles system 


Lost Battles requires activation for units to do anything, and to activate these units requires command points. The quality of an army's organisation and leadership is thus represented by the number of these points it can muster. Commands can be used anywhere across the battlefield, but named leaders also contribute 'exemptions', which act as localized command points that can be used in the general's own zone (and in his zone only!).

Generally speaking, two command points will activate a zone to fight or move (the battlefield is five zones wide by four zones deep); one point will move a single unit; two points will allow a unit to move twice as far as usual (called a double move, strangely enough!); and to give a fighting unit a +1 modifier to the attacking dice roll will also cost 2 points. Veteran units are cheaper to activate, but this is just a summary and I don't want to bore you unnecessarily with details, so we won't say anything more than that!

A bit of maths tells us that to activate a standard battleline in its entirety (two wing zones, three centre zones) will cost a minimum of 10 commands. If players want to give combat bonuses to any of the zones, these will cost a further 2 points per bonus, and any fancy redeployment or exploitation moves are usually going to cost 2 points per unit as well.

For this battle, the Romans get a base of 7 command points per turn plus 2 activation and 2 combat bonus exemptions for each of their commanders. The Seleucids have a base of 6 points, with 2 of each exemption type for Antiochus. Both sides will also get a command die roll, but because the day starts with a bit of rain about, the command die roll is halved. The number of command points will therefore be scarcer than usual until the weather clears, and both armies will need to be conservative with their approach, making the most of the points they get.

The Magnesian battlefield is more constricted than normal because of the river on one flank. The two armies therefore will usually need to activate only four zones rather than the usual five.

Turn 1: deployment

From the Seleucid right. Dahae, Silver shields, cataphracts, heavy infantry, main phalanx line. Antiochus is forward of the line behind the levy light infantry.

From the Roman left on the river. The left ala, the Roman legions, the right ala, the Pergamenes and the cavalry. Velites are advanced to skirmish.

The legions again.

Antiochus. Scythed chariots in the distance oppose Eumenes and the Pergamene cavalry.

The phalanx in the centre is formed up deep with elephants in the intervals. The Seleucid left extends beyond, with heavy infantry, cavalry, cataphracts. Galatian cavalry is on the far left. Scythed chariots and light infantry man the first line. 

There are several important decisions to make in this scenario.

1) Does Eumenes charge straight in against the scythed chariot wing and risk having his cavalry hammered in the counter-attack? Does he instead hold back and have his light infantry absorb the enemy charge and make his main thrust a counter-attack?

2) Does the Seleucid phalanx advance in the centre and incur the first casualties or does it stay put and hope the Romans close with them, thereby allowing the pikemen the first strike?

3) Does Antiochus attack the Roman left frontally, or does he personally lead an outflanking party?

4) How far do the respective leaders push their luck in an attempt to rally hits? Hits scored on Antiochus' and Eumenes' zones can be rallied on a 2d6 roll of 9-12, but the leaders would themselves die should the roll come up 2 or 3. When and how often to risk all on a rally will be here - as it so often is in Lost Battles - gutbusting questions.

Turn 2: Openings

Eumenes elects to advance immediately. The scythed chariots withdraw; another hit is scored. Further to the right the Roman cavalry presses the Galatians hard.

The light infantry in Antiochus' zone are hit.

The Seleucids outflank the Roman left with the light cavalry. 

They advance the phalanx in the centre. On the right, Antiochus chooses to delay the attack, resolving instead to bring up the second line.

The cataphracts on the left damage the Italian cavalry.

Turn 3: The Lines Clash

Eumenes presses the attack.

Two of the Seleucid cavalry units are destroyed as a double hits sees off the cataphracts and the Roman cavalry cuts down the Galatians on the far end of the line. 

The Seleucid centre loses its skirmish screen to enemy attack. The elephants rampage, causing further disorder.

A strong response on the right sees the Roman advance shaken. 

The remnants on the left score three hits against Eumenes' zone, but he rallies two of them to prevent catastrophe. 

Turn 4: Advantage Antiochus

The infantry clash becomes general; Seleucid cataphracts lead the charge on the right.

Eumenes fails to break through.  Antiochus holds his veteran cataphracts together and Eumenes rallies yet another hit on the Roman right.

Turn 5: Breathrough

Eumenes engenders the collapse the Romans need.  The Seleucid left vanishes!

The Seleucid right has caused massive damage to the Roman left. Any more hits and the line will begin to shatter.

Turn 6: Decision

The weather clears; a command roll of 6 enables the Romans to send their cavalry (here Eumenes) into the rear of the Seleucid lines, lowering the morale of the easterners and rendering their attacks less effective.

The legionaries press everything into an attack on Antiochus' zone.

A hit is scored on the lead cataphracts.

Antiochus decides to attempt a rally so that he can get one more turn before disordering the Silver Shield phalanx.

He rolls a 3, and dies.

Surrounded, and with army morale suffering a -3 modifier for Antiochus' death, for having had four units shattered and for having enemy units in front and rear, the Seleucids break.

This ala heaves a sight of relief...

Is he really dead?

What? He tried to rally? 


And there we have it!

My notes for turn 6 say:

Break in the rain. Full command dice.  Cavalry gets around behind the Seleucid infantry. Antiochus tries to rally a hit on the cataphracts but is killed in the attempt.  The army routs.

It was an unfortunate result, especially as the rally was not really necessary at this point. The hit could have been absorbed, but with time running out I felt that the best chance to try to win a battlefield victory was to be aggressive and attempt to take the Romans on.

Conservative may well have been the better option here: another turn spent hitting Roman units would probably have resulted in a game victory for the Seleucids.

But 'tis no great matter - the soldiers were lead, not flesh and blood!

Returning to our key decision points from earlier:

1) Eumenes did attack from the beginning. It almost cost him his wing; three successful rallies ensured that it didn't.

2) The phalanx did advance. It took a lot of hits in so doing, but the Roman line was under pressure. Holding back would have allowed the Romans to pick and choose their place of attack and reinforce where weaknesses appeared.

3) Antiochus did stay with the main line. His personal command exemptions made a huge difference: the Roman left was only a couple of hits away from taking serious damage and facing potential collapse.

4) Rally attempts were made. Eumenes' ones were necessary; Antiochus' ones were more ornamental. The first succeeded, the second cost the Seleucids the battle.

It was an exciting game, and one where the Seleucids came closer to winning than it looks.

Aftermath: points tallies

Shattered. 1 x LCat, 1 x LHC, 1 x LHI, 1 x AHC, 1 x AL for 30 points
Routed. 3 x LLI. 2 x VCat, 1 x IEL, 3 x APH, 1 x AHI  for 39 points
Withdrawn. 1 x SCH, 1 x |ALC, 4 x APH, 1 x VHC for 20 points

89 points for Rome.

Shattered. 1 x LLI for 4 points
Spent. 3 x VLE, 3 x ALE. 1 x VLI, 1 x ALI, 1 x AHC, 1 x VHC for 35 points
Handicap. 24 points

63 points for the Seleucids.


  1. Great BatRep! You are quite right about the closeness of the battle. The ending point tally was much closer than it looked from your play-by-play. What a bad break for Antiochus!

  2. Bad day for Antiochus!... great battle report/rules write up
    love the Pike blocks!

  3. Great report. Nice figures too. I definitely want to get my copy to the table again sometime this year!

  4. That is a terrific looking game, Aaron! The minis look really good, especially the Macedonians, which I assume are Xystons. Best, Simon

  5. Gorgeous looking game, Aaron, and exciting too

  6. Thanks all! Yes, Xyston figures, Simon. Painted by Fernando, they were.

  7. Great looking game. It's nice to see you get some miniatures out on the table again. It seems like it's been ages. I love a game that comes down to the last second and can go either way.

    1. Cheers Aaron. With the hobby room mostly filled with household junk that doesn't fit anywhere else now games are getting rarer, unfortunately!

  8. Nice write-up Aaron. I can't remember. Does 26 points get you a marginal or does it get the next level up?

    1. Can't remember either, John! Since it changed I can't be bothered checking :)

  9. That's a butt load of troops on the table, like 8 Saga warbands worth! They look really nice all proud and standing tall on your table.


    1. Cheers Kevin. I'm a 'more is more better' kind of collector!

  10. Can't believe I missed this earlier. Amazing looking game, Aaron. Impressively done!

    1. Thanks Dean. Loved your Jacques Molay figure!

  11. Excellent report! Fantastic lines of battle, these armies are really sorry for Antochius...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...