Sunday, 22 September 2013

Raphia Write Up

Raphia is described by Phil Sabin as one of the largest ancient battles ever fought. The challenges for this game, then, were to get a lot of figures on the table so that it looked like a very big battle and then fight it to a conclusion in afternoon.

The armies were probably the biggest ancient armies I've ever put together on a table top, including my refights of Guagamela. In summary they were:


6 units Heavy Cavalry - 72 figures
2 units Heavy Infantry - 32 figures
8 units Phalangites - 128 figures
5 units Light Infantry - 40 figures
3 elephants

3 units Heavy Cavalry - 36 figures
1 unit Heavy Infantry - 16 figures
14 units Phalangites - 224 figures
2 units Light Infantry - 16 figures
2 units Light Cavalry - 16 figures
2 elephants

So, in total 124 cavalry, 456 infantry and 5 elephants in 48 units. Not bad at all.

For the game Will took on the role of Ptolemy and Chris took Antiochus. The Successor generals were very considerate when deciding where to fight their battles for those of us who come after them, as the action took place on a flat, featureless plain.

So, nearly 600 25mm figures, an 11' x 5' table, two players and one afternoon. Can it be done?

Ptolemy's army is on the left, Antiochus' on the right. Both armies have their camp on the table. The only remark I'd make on the set up is that I should have deployed the armies closer together, as it is a long walk for the infantry especially if one side decides not to move. You know who you are. (NB The counters mark unit quality, -green is good, red is poor)

Ptolemaic left and Antiochan right went at one another pretty much at full speed. Ptolemy's centre started the advance to contact, but his right was strangley passive. Will remarked later on "I didn't realise they were light horse", a slightly enigmatic comment.

The first clash occured on the Ptolemaic left, where both generals were present. It was overall a bit of a chaotic mess as too much cavalry got in each others' way with elephants and light infantry also in the mix.

Chris as Antiochus had the slightly better cavalry, and his support was a bit stronger too. That enabled him to work out a bit wider and try to turn the flank. He also tried to use his light infantry to take out Will's elephant.

This didn't work, and Will's attempt to use his slingers as a bit more than a speed bump to stop Chris's inner cavalry had more success.

On the other wing the choreography was a bit more careful, with Will's light cavalry being quite effective with their javelins. Both sides' elephants held back, preferring to be a threat in being rather than committing themselves.

I thought at this point I'd throw in a photo of Will's phalanx advancing. I was advised by Chris that it "looks a bit scary".

Back on the far wing it was getting a bit desperate as both Ptolemy and Antiochus got involved with the melee between the two Companion units.

The commander dice re-rolling rule works really well. Effectively it enables a general to intervene once per turn. By the way, the two command figures were painted by Phil, who couldn't joiun us on the day. Any how, if you enlarge the pucture you'll see they look a bit good.

Next to this combat the two elephants on this flank finally got stuck into one another. We are still not sure if they get saving rolls when fighting each other. Or how many dice they now roll if they go berserk.

Meanwhile, in the middle the infatry closed....

In retrospect standing still and letting Will come at him was a bit of a gamble for Chris as it meant fighting close to his camp. If his centre broke at all (and Will had more and better infantry) then his camp would have been sacked. In this game the camps were used as a proxy for the table edge for exiting troops as under the standard AMW rules.

Will's elephant was having the worst of it, and the Companions were fighting each other to a standstill.

Things were also hotting up on the other flank:

Javelins had started to reduce Chris' heavy cavalry, but actually he had done well enough. He had delayed Will's flanking manouevre for most of the game.

The other end of the table was hotting up to a climax.

The phalanx at this point was one move away from contact, when to everyone's surprise Chris charged.

This should have been the pivotal moment for Will, but things, as usual, didn't turn out as he expected. At first it seemed to be going well for him, as Chris' front line seemed to be crumbling.

In fact it seemed like a big hole had opened up for Will.

Alas the ends of the line were both exposed. By using his light troops Chris had succeeded in inflicting some hits of the end of the line before it engaged, whilst at the other end he freed his cavalry to turn on the flank as well. Add to this Chris' levy troops holding on and passing every morale test inflicted on them and it look like the writing was on the wall.

In an attempt to shore up his left flank Ptolemy got stuck into an infantry battle.

This proved to be a desperate move. Aniochus likewise got stuck in, and it was all one way. When the Ptolemaic infatry unit collapsed, there was no friendly unit within a single move so Ptolemy was surrounded and captured.

And that was nearly it. After another move we did a quick count up and Will was down to 6 units, - a quarter of his army, and the break point. It was all over.

Will startes defeat in the face.
It was actuallt quite close. Chris could have easily lost a couple of units in the next couple of turns, and so come out on the wrong end. Doubly so as Will had two heavy infantry units bearing down on the camp and all Chris had to defend it were some light javelins. An incredibly attritional battle. Which might be why Chris looks so exhausted in this last picture.

We started at 1pm and took a break for tea & cake at 3pm for about half an hour. The game finally concluded by 5:30. So, all over in four and a half hours, or four hours of playing time. With only two players and no corners cut I think that was quite impressive.

AMW continues to surprise me at how well it works, especially for these large battles. As long as the two sides have a similar number of units they give a quick, plausible outcome and provide a lot of tense action.

I think I need to look at elephants again. I've improved them but they still don't work quite right. Having them in a much bigger game makes them work better as well.

So, everyone pronounced themselves satisfied, and I cleared the table for next Tuesday's "Square Bashing".


  1. Very enjoyable game report and impressive looking table of figures. AMW looks like the rules I've been looking for

    1. Have fun with them. They're easy to learn, and easy to tweak. They give a good game without being overly fussy.