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Alexander versus Caesar

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Alexander versus Caesar Empty Alexander versus Caesar

Post by AncientWarrior on Sun Apr 05, 2015 1:33 pm

Who Would Win? [Part 3]

For my third and final exercise or experiment in which I tested an ahistorical hypothesis positing a martial contest between Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, I used Lorenzo Sartori’s IMPETVS rules and 500-point armies. (The first and second installments or narratives can be reviewed and remarked upon (feedback - constructive or critical - is always welcome) at and, respectively.) The Romans were drawn from page 47 of the spiral-bound rule book, and the Macedonians were drafted from page 14 of Extra IMPETVS 4. Due to the points cost of the historical figures and their respective command structures (40 points for Genius commanders and 20 points for Good command structures - 60 points total), there was only one command in each army. A detailed order of battle follows:

1 x CP Agema (Alexander was attached to this unit)
1 x CP Hetairoi
2 x CM Thessalian
1 x CL Prodromoi
1 x CL Thracian

1 x large Hypaspists
4 x large Pezetairoi
3 x FP Greek hoplites
2 x FL Greek peltasts
1 x S Agrianian
1 x S Rhodian slingers

3 x CM Italians/Spanish
2 x CL Numidians/Spanish

10 x FP Legionaries (Caesar was attached to one of these “cohorts”)
3 x FL Allied Auxiliaries
1 x S Cretans

The field of battle remained unchanged. It was loosely based on the diagram of the field of Chaeronea 338 BC found on page 68 of WARFARE IN THE CLASSICAL WORLD.

In addition to the heavily annotated spiral-bound rule book (post-it notes, not scribbling in the margins), I had version 1.5 of Advanced IMPETVS (dated February 18, 2014), a large QRS (a homemade, laminated, 2-sided poster measuring approximately 14 inches by 16 inches, and a very recent clarification/confirmation regarding the number of dice large units of pikemen could roll in melee.
Competitive die rolls were made to see which side secured which long edge of the tabletop and which side would be required to deploy first. In contrast to the two previous contests, the Macedonians “won” the hilly side of the fictional field and were favored by the gods as Alexander was able to arrange his formations after seeing how the Romans deployed for battle.

On his left flank, closest to the river and marshy areas, Caesar placed his one unit of Spanish medium cavalry. The main legionary line was just to the right of these troopers. The first line contained 6 separated units of legionaries. The reserve formation consisted of 4 units of legionaries. These cohorts were also separated by at least 2 centimeters of space and were 12 centimeters from their brothers in the first line. Julius Caesar was attached to the third unit from the left in this second, smaller line of heavy infantry. Two unit of Italian medium cavalry were arranged on the right of the legion line. These “regiments” did not operate as a group but were in line with each other. Three units of auxiliaries formed up to the right of the Italian horse. These light formations were screened by a single unit of Cretan archers. The far right of the Roman position was “held” by two units of light cavalry.

Alexander placed his light troops on his left flank to counter the Roman auxiliaries. A unit of Thracian light horse was stationed on the extreme left of the line. Then came 2 units of Greek allied peltasts screened by some Rhodian slingers. A unit of Prodromoi light cavalry was placed on the right of the peltasts’ line. Two units of Thessalian medium horse were deployed almost directly across from the enemy Italian cavalry. To their immediate right, 2 large units of pikemen stood on the forward slope of a gentle hill. To the right and slightly in front of these deep formations there were 3 units of Greek allied hoplites screened by some Agrianian skirmishers. On the hill which anchored the right flank of the Macedonian position, Alexander deployed 3 more large units of pike-wielding phalangites. The hypaspists were on the right of this local defensive line and about a normal move behind the 2 frontline units of regulars. Positioned at a slight angle and very nearly brushing up against some marshy ground were the Hetairoi and Agema of the army. Alexander, to be certain, was three horse lengths out in front of his men.

Brief Summary of the Battle
The first missiles were loosed and the first melees were fought on the Macedonian left. All of this action took place around or within sight of the ruins of the acropolis. Things did not start well for the Romans, as their complement of Numidian light cavalry was quickly routed by some tough Thracian light horse. As this localized engagement developed, however, the balance tipped in favor of Caesar’s troops. The slingers and peltasts were overwhelmed by the auxiliaries. The unit of Prodromoi joined in (as a kind of last gasp) and wiped out an auxiliary formation but was bloodied and disordered in the process. As these troopers tried to recover, they were set upon by a combination of Italian medium cavalry and a vengeful unit of auxiliaries and destroyed.

In the center of the field, the legionary infantry of Caesar advanced at a measured pace. The phalanxes of Alexander’s army stood silently in ordered ranks, watching the approach of the enemy formations. The Greek allied hoplites, however, did not stand around and wait. This small formation (3 units of heavy foot screened by some javelin-carrying skirmishers) moved forward to contest the uncontested advance of the Romans. Melee was soon joined between the separate units on both sides. The legionaries met the charge of the hoplites with a volley of pila (all were rather ineffectual, though the pila did manage to disorder the Greeks) and then drew their short swords. The combats were chaotic but eventually, Roman discipline and training won out. (It also helped that the hoplites threw terrible dice when making cohesion tests.) In the space of a few turns, the hoplites and skirmishers were no more. The Roman infantry redressed their ranks and licked their wounds. (Only 2 units had taken casualties to their VBU.)

Aware from the start of the threat to the left flank of his legionary formation, Caesar ordered the lone unit of Spanish medium cavalry to demonstrate against Alexander and his powerful cavalry arm. He also ordered 2 units of legionaries (from the second line) to wheel to the left in order to deal with the expected threat. The Macedonian threat was not long in developing. Alexander and his Agema caught the Spanish horse flat-footed and sliced through them like a hot knife through cold butter. Supported by the unit of Hetairoi, Alexander proceeded to charge the Roman infantry. Here too, the pre-melee volleys of pila proved worthless. Very good cohesion test rolls saved the Roman formations, though they were pushed back a bit. Subsequent rounds of melee saw the combat swing back and forth. At one point, Alexander found himself the center of attention in the midst of the confused melee. Fortunately, he escaped without injury. His valued and veteran troopers were not as lucky. From a starting unit VBU of 7, the Agema of Alexander had lost 6 to battle casualties and was disordered as well. Adding injury to injury, the ranks of the Hetairoi had also suffered in the ongoing combat on the Roman left.

At the conclusion of the tenth turn, an accounting was completed. The Romans, with an army morale of 22 points, had lost 7 points worth of units so far. In contrast, the Macedonians, with an army morale of 23 points, had suffered 15 points of casualties. The Macedonian left flank, with the exception of an isolated unit of light horse, was non-existent. Several formations of Roman troops were getting in position to threaten the left flank of one of the large units of pikemen standing on the forward slope of a gentle hill.
In the center, the untouched and fresh units of phalanx could stand in place and wait for the Romans to engage. By doing so, the pikemen would enjoy the advantage of being on higher ground. However, as just explained, they were threatened on their left. In addition, their original deployment left them somewhat separated. There were 2 large units in one location and 3 more large units some distance to the right. With regard to the cavalry formation under the direct command of Alexander, his Agema was a skeleton of its former self. Being the sometimes irrational and impetuous leader he was, he could have rallied off the disorder marker and ordered another charge against the stubborn Roman infantry, but this seemed almost suicidal. The regiment of Hetairoi was not as damaged, but there was a third unit of Roman infantry wheeling and moving to support its hard pressed brothers in this sector. On considered reflection, it did appear that Caesar held all the cards. With a degree of reluctance suitable to his character, Alexander ordered a general withdrawal and ceded the field and honors to his Roman counterpart.

To be sure, I am no expert when it comes to the IMPETVS rules. (It should go without saying that I am even less knowledgeable when it comes to commanding troops on the tabletop, regardless of the rules used.) It follows then, that there were mistakes made in the conduct of this counterfactual scenario. For example, should I have rolled command dice again after the initial determination of initiative to see if one general or the other changed or cemented his level of leadership? For another example, I think there were a couple of times where I might have moved a disordered unit incorrectly. In the large combat in the center between the hoplites and Roman infantry, I may have mixed up main units and supporting units in resolving the separate melees. However, I do not believe that these errors, due to inexperience and or misinterpretation, significantly impacted the process of the “miniature” battle.

In brief comparison to the other two contests (experiments) waged to determine who was the better commander, this one was different because the sides and basic roles were switched. The IMPETVS scenario saw the Romans deployed on the more open side of the battlefield. In this game, the Romans were on the offensive. In contrast to the previous actions, the dice seemed to be with the Romans and Caesar in this battle.

Expanding the comparison, the cavalry action on the river side of the table seemed to be the key with regard to how the battle developed and was ultimately decided. The action around the acropolis was second in terms of importance, I would suggest. The center, oddly enough, was not where the battle was won or lost. How the dice fell (behaved) seemed to be more important than how the various formations were deployed for battle. Briefly, the activity of Alexander seemed to be as plausible as the role played by the “miniature” Caesar.

In summary, my 3 battle experiment to test an admittedly ridiculous hypothetical produced a confirmed win for each side and one contest marked with an asterisk. My experiment failed then, to produce a definitive answer to this ahistorical question. The conversation may or may not continue around the dinner table or at the pub. In some respects, however, my experiment was a qualified success. I was engaged and entertained by the process of preparing and playing 3 separate engagements involving the armies of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. I educated myself a little more about all 3 sets of rules utilized, and learned more about what I like and dislike on the tabletop as well as in the text of a set of rules.


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Alexander versus Caesar Empty Re: Alexander versus Caesar

Post by Jim Webster on Sun Apr 05, 2015 3:09 pm

sounds like you've been having fun with your experimenting so I'd mark that up as a win Very Happy

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