Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Romans and Macedonians

And so to the battle.  Luke took the Macedonians and I the Romans, who won the scouting contest and gained the initiative. The commands were divided up as shown in the photo below. I needed to claim 13 victory medals for the win while Luke needed 12 (for Luke's take on the battle, see this post on his blog named - coincidentally? - hoti to kratistos!).

My overall plan was to try to use my cavalry advantage on the left (command 1) to win through there and either get into the baggage or hit the rear of the phalangite line.

The knottiest problem I faced was how to deal with Luke's deep pike units - each of which could take three hits - with my legionaries, who could only take one hit each. Would I try to defeat him with depth, or aim to get around his flanks and win that way?

All this and more was going around in my little head...

As usual for me, things started badly. Pulling four ones in a row for activation meant I only got to move a single unit in the whole of turn 1!

April fool!  The velites are sheepish after the rest of the army played a wee trick on them...
I must confess now that we made a bit of a rules blunder. While deployment in To the Strongest! is by command, and taken turn about, activation is by army, and within that command by command. That this change occurs had completely slipped my mind, and having got into the deployment rhythm we continued that on in the game proper, activating commands turn about instead of army by army. It probably didn't make too much difference to the result, but did lead to an extra layer of decision making as we wrestled with which command to activate at any particular time.

With that confession out of the way, we return to a battle in which, over time, our main lines came into contact in the centre of the field. Luke's lighter troops had secured the wood on his left, forcing my right wing into a defensive posture, but on the other flank my cavalry command had made better progress, taking the hill and endeavouring to drive off the enemy horse.

Unfortunately, in a most dreadful few turns, the javelins of the velites and the pila of the legionaries proved completely ineffective. The phalangites hit us at full strength, destroying both the hastati units of our centre command almost immediately.

Ouch! Hastati gone, and veteran pike leading the advance.
We tried to recover the situation by pulling back and hitting the lead phalangites from three directions at once. These efforts, however, were in vain: a mixture of failed activations and poor attacks over the course of several turns saw the phalanx stand firm against all dangers.

A grim struggle in the centre.
Our left was doing better: having driven off the enemy heavy cavalry and general, we sent the allied light cavalry in behind the phalanx. Their javelins struck home...

 and then they charged in...

...scoring two melee hits!  At this there was much rejoicing amongst the Romans, not least because these very Tarantines were a gift from the author of TtS! himself!

Luke sportingly agreed that their success was very appropriate!

Sadly for us, the success didn't last - the phalangites coolly saved one of the two hits and the line steadied.

This was the high point of the battle for the Romans, and from here our fortunes rapidly declined, as the remainder of this report will illustrate:

Nail-in-coffin 1: The phalangites advanced.

Nail-in-coffin 2: They shrugged off hits with timely rallies.

Nail-in-coffin 3: Every time they scored a hit of their own, one of my units was destroyed.

Nail-in-coffin 4: We lost the cavalry battle on the right flank (this as the result of a rash advance which I gave myself a good kicking over!), our cavalry on the left were tied up and picked off by some great shooting by the camp guard and the Tarantines were unable to follow up their success against the rear of the infantry line.

Ouch! Down to the triarii.....

And our right flank guard is now gone, too.
The Cretans - and grinning death - put paid to the other Tarantines!
Under pressure!

Seeing that the poor old Romans were being well beaten - and it was 3:30 in the morning - we called it a Macedonian victory, took a few photos, and prepared for a new game on the morrow.


We both really enjoyed the rules. There were cries of elation and frustration during the gameplay but no sighs of boredom, so Simon is onto something good.

We did feel that there may be a few oddities. It seemed for example that light cavalry could evade off board and then reappear on table a little too easily (and could reappear in some rather awkward places). I was biased though; this minigame of evade-off-table-and-reappear-on-a-unit's-exposed-flank effectively prevented my victorious left from being able to capitalize on their initial success.

The other thing (and again I am biased!) was that the Macedonian phalangites were able to sustain hits and then rally them, but being small units, the Romans once hit were removed from the table. There is not the ability to rally and reform a Roman line in the way that Scipio did at Zama, for example.

But - as Simon warned me in advance - the game has its nuances, and it's quite likely that, first battle in and gaming with a tricky opposed pair, I have simply failed to see subtleties and employ optimum tactics.

Anyway, minor quibbles aside, it was a thoroughly enjoyable game, and the more we played the more we came to admire what Simon has done with these rules. In my opinion, they are well worth checking out.

I'll stop here, but there is another battle report to come at some stage.


  1. Well done. I enjoyed that. Tough battle for the Romans to say the least. I would have thought breaking around the enemy flank would surely end the day badly for the phalanxes.

    Once again, well done. Looked great!

    1. Thanks Kurtus. It always is a tough battle against Luke, and when he's in charge of phalanxes, look out!

  2. What a great looking game, beautiful lines of battle and impressive pikes!

  3. Hi Aaron, it is amazing to see my Tarantines fighting with such confidence around the other side of the world!

    Re the light cavalry evading, they are restricted to returning in the same table-edge zone as the one they left, which should limit the possibility of them turning up on an enemy unit's flank (unless the enemy turned after they evaded off table).

    Re the pikes, if they make contact with the legionaries without disorders from the velites and in clear terrain, it is not a situation likely to lead to triumphal honours! ;-) The astute deployment of patches of broken ground (a la Paullus) will quite ruin their day, though.

    I'm very glad you enjoyed the game! Best, Simon

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Simon. Those Tarantines were the stars of the show. I think it'd be hard to drop from the first team after that performance!

      Regarding legions, there are clearly a few tactics to work through with Polybians. I'll look forward to figuring them out.

      Well done on a fine set of rules!


  4. When you are "down to the Triarii" you know you will be in for a tough fight.

    Great looking battle lines and the pike were too much this time.

  5. The real test of the rules will be, as Simon suggested,how it takes your development of tactics. Great looking game. I'm looking forward to the next report.

    1. Cheers - rules worth continuing with, I think!

  6. Nice looking game. Those Phalanxes look impressive!

  7. Well, I like big bases.. as Freddy said "Big is beautiful - in evrything!"

    My take on the game here.

    I'm writing up the second battle now...

  8. Those look amazing. What make are the miniatures? Also, what base size are the pike phalanxes?

    1. The pike are Naismith 15 mm from the early 80s - true 15 mm; they look rather puny compared to most modern "15 mm" figures, like Xyston et al., who are typically much closer to 20 mm. They are on 80 mm square bases.

      Aaron will have to give you the run down on his figures - except I can say the unit of Tarantines that got round my flank are Minifigs boy; the casts are probably older than even my Naismith ones to judge from the styling!

    2. Are all of your Macedonians Naismith? Could you recommend a manufacturer who makes good quality Macedonians?

    3. Sorry Kris, missed this comment earlier. As Luke has said, he uses Naismith, but you can't get them anymore, so I went with Xyston for my phalangites. They are big, but I think they have character. They take a lot of prep though: drilling hands, attaching pikes, attaching shields as well as the usual stuff. If you want smaller 15s, maybe check out Magister Militum's Chariot figures? They look good to me, but the sarissas are cast on, and subject to spaghetti pike syndrome.

    4. The other figures here are Old Glory horse for the Macedonian heavy cavalry, Magister Militum for their light cavalry and Old Glory for the light infantry. Command figures are Xyston. The Romans are Strategio e Tattica, with Magister Militum making up about half of the velites, and the light cavalry are Minifigs.

    5. Sorry, Strategia e tattica.

    6. Oh, and the Greek peltasts are Xyston, so you can see how much bigger they are than the Naismith figs.


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