Go to ...


The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


RSS Feed

Battle of Thespiae, 86 BC

The Roman World, To the Strongest, 28mm

The plan was to play two Ancient games, one with Gauls against Romans and the other one with Romans fighting a Mithraditic Pontic army. However, someone had the bright idea to merge them into one big game. So, that’s what we did. On one side we had Bart’s Polybian Romans and my Marian Romans (commanded by Dax), plus Michael’s small Greek contingent. Facing them was Peter’s large Pontic army, and my Gauls, who were masquerading as Galatians for the evening.The game was loosely set during the First Mithraditic War, and the battle fought in the Greek region of  Boeotia. Essentially the battlefield was a large open plain, or rather an 8×6 foot table with woods and hills kept to the edges. As Peter laid it out, and he was the one with the pike phalanxes, then I suspect that was all part of the plan.So, once we’d laid out or toys, battle was joined. my Galatians were facing Michael’s Greeks, bolstered by some Romans, on the far left of the Roman line. Bart commanded the Roman centre, while Dax took charge of the Marian Romans on their far right. In terms of points it came to about 660 a side or thereabouts. Peter had worked it all out, but frankly we weren’t really worrying about it – we just wanted all our toys on the table!With Gauls or Galatians, there’s only one sensible plan – you charge the enemy, and hope for the best. Either it works or it doesn’t. So, I unleashed my warriors right from the start, while my Galatian cavalry supported them on their right flank. Over on my left Peter was moving his Pontic troops forward too, albeit at a more sedate pace. In fact we needed to, if we were ever going to finish such a big game. So, my six Galatian warbands kept advancing until they got within charge reach. then they waded in. The Greeks proved surprisingly resilient. I sort of hoped they’d fall apart, but only one unit did – the other two held their ground. The same was true of Bart’s Polybian Romans too. Worse, they had a nifty trick of being able to disengage their front line – their Hastati – with the Principes behind them. So, not only did they get a chance to rally from disorder, they could also throw in fresh troops, with another volley of pila. So, my charge was absorbed, and soon my entire Galatian line was badly disordered. When I lost a warband to the Greeks I tried to salvage something by throwing my cavalry against the disordered victors. Even the cavalry got nowhere. It looked good though (above), but those pesky double-disordered hoplites just shrugged it off. Meanwhile, over on my left the Pontic army was rolling into action. Strangely, Peter tried an echeloned attack, with his weakest phalanx – his freed slaves one – leading the way on the right. They got softened up by Bart’s velites, and then chopped up by his hastati. Those Romans were proving particularly tough today, and it didn’t bode well for the rest of the Pontic phalangites.Meanwhile, things were really starting to kick off on the Roman right. The two cavalry wings had clashed with each other, supported by light troops. As the Roman and Pontic foot clashed, the cavalry melee was really getting in full swing. It was pretty clear that the Roman plan was to break both flanks and hold in the centre, so all of the Roman cavalry was sent into this flank battle. However, the Pontic horsemen held off the Romans, and despite a lot of whirling and slashing, the cavalry battle descended into a stalemate. The same was true of the centre. A series of bad activation cards left Peter’s phalangites poised to strike, but apart from one unit the Romans pretty much held their ground. That was as good as it got really – one Roman cohort sent the left-flank phalanx back, and the Pontic troops eventually pulled back to regroup, then try again. The Romans were holding firm, helped by their general – Sulla – who of course was rated as “brilliant”. He helped hold the line together, and so Peter found his big chance of a win slipping through his fingers. At that point Dax had to head home. The battle had reached a sort of stalemate all across the table. Most of my Galatian warbands were double-disordered – one more hit would break them. However, the Greeks and Polybian Romans never managed to land those knock-out blows. I was helped by a string of poor activation cards by them, so their attacks rarely had much bite to them. Neither, of course, did my spent warbands. Then things started moving again. Dax was replaced by Jack, who ended the ROman run of poor cards by defeating two Pontic cavalry units in quick succession. They also lost a unit of supporting light troops, who were ridden down by the Roman cavalry. The main Pontic line was in fairly good shape though, apart from on its left flank, where Sulla and his Marian legionaries were pressing them hard. Still, Peter’s luck held – and so too did his hard-pressed phalangites. That’s pretty much where we ended the game. Both sides had been bloodied, but on points it was a Roman victory. So, the Pontic army and their wild Galatian allies hadn’t managed to roll up their opponents – this time. My solution, of course, is to paint up another couple of warbands. That, and making sure that when I’m fighting against my own Marian Roman army, I’ll leave my Sulla command stand  at home. There’s a reason he was nicknamed “Felix”… 








2 Responses “Battle of Thespiae, 86 BC”

  1. JosephCade
    19th August 2018 at 6:09 pm

    Excellent looking battle, love the massed troops smashing into each other. Great rules set too. Thanks for the report!

  2. Tony C
    21st October 2019 at 7:51 pm

    Great review. Has the pleasure yesterday at SELWEG in Crystal Palace to join in a game organised and run by Simon. Never been an ancients player so can’t comment on older rules but these ones are great fun. Now I have a new project!!!

    PS I am building a mid 17th C Poles/imperilaists vs Ottoman armies, so looking forward to the Renaissance/ECW version.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More Stories From The Roman World