The Persians Are Coming!

Following on from the last Ancients wargame I played against my mate John via e-mail, he set up a larger game pitting me as the Greeks against himself as the Persians.  Basically, these are games he’s using to test out the “Hail Caesar” wargames rules and he’s dug out some pretty ancient 25mm figures for the games (as I mentioned in the last post on this subject, I didn’t even know he had these figures).  So the whole game setup, figures and pictures are thanks to John, I only had to e-mail him the orders for my troops!  The troops have all been tidied up and based on larger unit bases for these games.  I added pictures into this post as the game developed and then realised there were quite a few, so I’ve taken some out in an attempt to not let this post get too long!  The dialogue accompanying the pictures is my rough translation of John’s running commentary on the game as we played it through.


Shown above are the Greek forces – left to right they are an Athenian division, a City States division and a Spartan division.


Shown above are the Persians – right to left they are an Iranian medium infantry division, a Persian Immortal/Sparabara medium infantry division and one cavalry division (Sparabara are shield-carrying infantry).

I drew up a very crude map on my Chromebook to show the initial dispositions of my troops (shown below, complete with typo).

Greece vs Persia

The picture below shows them on the table ready to go!


The Persians deployed as shown below.


The Persians won the initiative and started moving first.  The Persian cavalry advanced towards the Greek right flank, showering the Athenian cavalry with missile fire while the Persian infantry advanced slowly towards the Greek lines.  The Athenians wheeled to deny their right flank and face the advancing Persian cavalry but the Athenian cavalry were unwilling to engage the oncoming masses.  In turn, the Persian cavalry advanced to within bow range and inflicted heavy casualties on the Athenian cavalry, who retreated shaken. The Persian Immortals advanced rapidly to occupy the hill in the centre (as shown below, Greeks at the top of the picture).


The Athenians advanced against the Persian cavalry without making contact.  Meanwhile the City States division, with a loud yell, surged forward towards the Immortals on the hill, driving them back despite a hail of missiles (shown right of centre below).


On the Greek right flank the Persian cavalry bombarded the Athenian hoplites with missile fire, with the left hand unit becoming disordered as a result.  Taking advantage of this, a Persian cavalry column formed up and moved to the threaten the gap between the Athenian and City States divisions.  In the centre the City States hoplites slowed their advance, still having the better of the fighting, although the Immortals had now been joined by the Iranian levy (see below).


Responding quickly, the Athenian cavalry closed up to the gap threatened by the Persian cavalry, charging the Persian column.  On the other flank the Spartans, feeling left out of it somewhat, marched rapidly towards the Iranian troops and charged them, driving off the skirmish screen.

In the centre the City States troops unexpectedly came off badly, with the left hand unit of hoplites routing and the right hand unit near the rocky outcrop being held by the Immortals.  The Spartan unit on the right flank forced the Iranian medium infantry back though (see picture below)


On the Greek right flank the Athenian horsemen drove off the threatening Persian cavalry but then then the whole centre position collapsed, with the remaining City States hoplites routing and taking the rest of the division with them!  This allowed one unit of Persian Sparabara to break off from that combat and turn and charge the rear of the Spartan levy.  The rest of the Spartans meanwhile had all but finished off the Iranians, routing a third unit and leaving only one formed unit offering resistance (see below).


Meanwhile the Spartan hoplites on the Greek left charged the Sparabara who had tried to outlank them and the Persians routed!  However, whilst recovering from this melee, the hoplites were themselves charged by the Immortals and overwhelmed, although the Immortals become shaken in the process.  The Spartan levy also withdraw disordered, while the Sparabara unit who pushed them back maintained their position to avoid being outflanked in turn.

On the other flank, the Athenian cavalry were driven back by missile fire and the camels of the Persian cavalry division raced into the gap (see picture below – no-one told me there were camels)!


To prevent a Greek collapse the Athenian hoplites charge the Persian cavalry, becoming disordered in the process.  The Persian horse archers evaded and the medium cavalry countercharged, one unit being disordered on the hedge of Greek spears.  The Athenian light cavalry were meanwhile rallied by their General and returned to the fray.  As the melee continued, the Persian cavalry division was held back by the Athenians with neither side gaining the upper hand.  The camels charged in found it difficult to make any progress (although horses apparently do not like the smell of camels)!

On the other flank, the Sparabara, backed up by the Immortals, charged the remaining Spartan hoplites but were brought to a standstill.  The other shaken Immortal unit was rallied by the Persian general (see below).


At this point, the Greek centre was history, the Spartans were trying to recover on their flank while the Athenians were still managing to hold off the cavalry (and camels – picture above)!  I reckoned a complete Greek collapse was in the making!

On the Greek right flank the Athenian spear phalanx, despite being disordered, proved too much for the Persian cavalry, destroying one unit and forcing another to pull back, while the Athenian cavalry meanwhile held back the camels.  On the other flank the Spartan levy panicked when ordered to wheel about and were caught in the flank and routed by the rallied Immortals.  The other Spartan hoplites fared better, finally overcoming both Sparabara and the other Immortals, who both routed!

At this point the remaining Spartans and Immortals broke contact and retired from the field in good order, followed by the Persian cavalry and the Athenians!  The result – a very bloody draw!

As far as John was concerned, he was pleased that it was a game with a lot going on, and he got the chance to get to grips with a lot of the rules.  He expected the Greeks would bulldoze their way through the Persians, but in the end it was very even game.  Having read up on this, I discovered that the best use to make of Greek troops drawn up in phalanxes is to punch through the enemy centre and force the flanks to collapse.  On that basis, I should have put my best troops, the Spartans, in the middle but I was more concerned about my own flank security.  A few more of these games by e-mail and I might get the hang of it!































  1. Entertaining read, John, certainly lots going on – a very bloody battle indeed!

    The Hoplite Phalanx was possibly the most effective unit of that period; its strength lay in its tight, deep formation and those long Ash spears. Only the very best of units, though, could maintain this formation effectively at anything faster than a walk and maneuverability was often cumbersome. They would be used to pin the oppositions best troops to allow their cavalry to encircle them and take them in the rear or flank.
    The Phalanx itself was vulnerable in this manner too, especially their left flank and rear. When advancing forwards they would often tend to crab to the right, as each man tried to keep behind his neighbours shield, thus the left most file would often lose cohesion and it was here a canny general would attack!

    Liked by 4 people

    • I’ve been reading a bit more about it and I think you’ve nicely summarised everything there for me, Justin! 🙂 Maybe when I know what games might be coming up I should drop you a line and ask your advice – after all, a trouble shared is a blame halved! 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      • lol, no pressure there then! 😅
        It’s often difficult to transfer real life tactics to the tabletop, as it depends so much on the ruleset you’re using. As you know, it’s a balance between realism and moving things along. A lot of the games I used to play were steeped in realism, unfortunately it took all-night just to take a few turns!

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Another great romp through history John, Spartans should always be the tip of the spear as they say but in gaming terms it can be a very different story. Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Now this is getting close to my historical interests! I’m not as well-versed on the Greeks as I am the Romans but it is awesome reading about your Hail Caesar game. I’m envious of the extensive collection you and/or John have. It is a serious hobby commitment to play Hail Caesar! This was a great read and I will always be excited to see and read about Ancients wargaming 😀

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Kuribo, glad you liked it! 🙂 The plan to play Hail Caesar and all the minis are John’s. He’s dug out these old 25mm armies, tidied them up and based them, so that they can be used to test out the rules! He then plans to paint Republican Roman, Carthaginian and Macedonian armies in 15mm, and I’m led to believe painting is under way!

      Liked by 3 people

      • Very exciting! I don’t know as much about that period of Roman History (Imperial Rome is what I’ve read lots about) but it is an excellent time period for some epic battles all the same. I will be excited to see more when John has the time to get all that painting done 🙂

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        • I think John’s project has suffered from “mission creep” already! When I first spoke to him it was going to be Republican Romans and Carthaginians, so I was quite surprised when Macedonians got a mention in a later chat. The armies are not going to be small, but we’ll no doubt have a game as the first units on the various sides become available!

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          • That is how it often goes! The temptation can be hard to resist. The work output it is going to take to paint those armies is the real trick but I’ll be rooting for John to get it done 🙂

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  4. This battle is a classic! It just looks so good! I was quite suprised the other day when someone said that Hail Caesar is the most popular ancients set by some distance. Reading your report, I can quite see why! I’ve gone back to the rules to see what I’ve been missing. Loved this post!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Mike! 🙂 I’ve never read the rules, since John has the game set up and sends me photos along with a summary of what happens each move! I then just issue my orders for the next move and maybe ask for some clarifications of what I can and can’t do. But it might be possible in future to leave a game running by e-mail in between face-to-face games, in which case I might just buy the rules myself so I’ve got a better idea about why I’m being defeated!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. hi John, i think you did well to pull off a draw, i have also been reading that its possible to play by yourself too, i will have to look into a game when all this has gone..

    Liked by 2 people

    • Steve, I have to agree with you in getting the draw, ’cause it really did look like a collapse was imminent! 🙂 I quite like solo games and I know Justin over at The Solo Meeple is thinking about mechanisms that might be used in wargames (no pressure there, Justin, if you’re reading this)!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I am very jealous that you had such a great game. Beautiful write up, fun to follow, well done!

    John, I have one bone to pick with this (and is indeed small). You are a master of the use of the English language – and a master of military history and militaria terms from Paraguayan wars to the Franco-Prussian War to WWII. Yet here you had the chance to use the great term “camelry” and you passed! 😁

    Just kidding, I suspect you will find this of interest!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Mark, glad you enjoyed it! 🙂 Well the camels were being used by the opposition, so I didn’t want to dignify their presence by using the proper term (let’s face it, horses don’t like the way they smell, and horses aren’t daft). I can recall seeing the term camelry in rulesets though and it was interesting reading the Wikipedia article you linked to.

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