Why do ancient battles seem so epic?

Is it because they were fought in the distant past, where history tends to mingle with myth?

Whenever I play one I feel like I need to queue some music from 300 or The Immortals.

Is it because they were fought in the distance past, where history tends to mingle with myth? Or it is because the miniatures we used represented somewhere around 100,000 (or more) warriors, fighting on the plain next to the Hermos River with Mt. Sipylus looming overhead (as perhaps represented by the green hill on the wall…)

Either way, it felt epic.

Warning: long post ahead with lots of pictures:

Romans on the left. Seleucids on the right. I took command of the Seleucid cavalry.

Just as with the Battle of Heraclea, the miniatures were gorgeous. Mike painted up some Gauls/Gallatians and a scythed chariot for this battle. The player who supplied the Romans last time had even more Romans on the battlefield.

We ran the game using Clash of Empires.

We setup the scenario based on history. Both sides anchored a flank on the river. The Seleucids deployed in a wide front, while the Romans deployed in depth.  As one of the Seleucid players (and in command of Antiochus III The Great!), I needed to defeat the Roman cavalry before the infantry maniples could punch through our Gallic/Galatian allies.

By the end of the second game turn, it appeared that the Romans had the upper hand. They were advancing with their infantry and my cavalry had not gotten close enough to engage.

The more I waited to advance the more likely the Romans would push through our right flank, routing our Gallic allies.

But then Mike’s scythed chariot rode forth with a well-timed and well-placed charge…

As the scythed chariot destroyed itself, it disrupted the Roman ranks. A piece of wheel struck Scipio on the helmet, causing him to doubt the outcome of the battle…

The disruption of the Roman left gave the Seleucids some time mount an offensive.

So I sent the cavalry forth…


The cavalry duel on the flank lasted for about three turns… three long and frustrating turns for the Seleucid left (me–I lost most of my command. Only Antiochus’s heavy cavalry remained).

The Roman cavalry just would not break. Nearly each combat ended up as a draw, with the Seleucids slowly losing.

Meanwhile, the Romans had also regrouped and started pressuring our center and right. An elephant also had gone amok, routing one our own phalanxes. It looked like things were taking a turn for the worse until another one of Mike’s elephants finally charged the Roman lines.

Endgame: The Seleucid main battle line and skirmish elements outflank the Roman right flank.

With the elephant causing chaos in the center and the right flank folding, the Roman player conceded victory to the Seleucid players.

At one point, I swear, I thought we were going to lose. My cavalry attack was blunted. I feared Romans would break through on our left flank.

It was a hard-fought victory.

Things to Remember:
Clash of Empires is derivative of Warhammer Ancient Battles. Therefore…

  • Missile weapons usually won’t be as effective as I’d like.
  • Combat resolution can be confusing. Watch those modifiers.
  • Expect fiddly rules. Study them. Expect the game to last 4-5 hours (which it did).
  • This is not really a set of rules for beginners.
  • Gain initiative. Charge first. Shoot first. Strike first.
  • Heavy Cavalry with Xystons and heavy armor can be brutal–if you roll well.

Things I liked: 
The miniatures were beautiful.
Great players.
The horse archers. If I play them again, instead of using them to screen my main cavalry elements I’ll send them far and wide out on the enemies flank as a nice distraction.
We went against history–The Seleucids had actually lost.
The game felt epic.

Until next time…

Antiochus III, with his weakened companion cavalry, chooses an easy target–some Roman archers. But the Romans retreated before the charge could happen.