Alexandrian Macedonian versus Roman

090221fog01aField of Glory Battle Report: A two player game at the Croydon venue of NWA. A Macedonian army led by Alexander fought against the Romans on the pastures of northern Italy. This battle was played on 21st February 2009.


Alexander led the Macedonian army (using Later Seleucid figures). The Romans and the  Macedonians carefully advanced towards one another. The armies were closely matched, with the skill of the legions being matched by the depth of the pike blocks. The Romans forced their way through the well grown crops as the Macedonians forded the river. 

On the far side of the river, the left flank of the Romans was covered by the Numidian light cavalry. As the two battle lines closed, the Numidians threw their javelins and charged into their Thracian light cavalry opponents (see picture below, left). Nearby, across the shallow water, the opposing slingers also closed for battle, after indecisively hurling rocks at each other.

To the right of the Roman centre, the Illyrian foot charged the Greek mercenary spearmen but did not have enough time to close against the Macedonian archers before being embroiled in melee with the Greeks (see picture below, right).

On the right wing, the Roman heavy and light cavalry delayed contact with the very dangerous Companion heavy cavalry (represented by the cataphracts), in the hope of the rest of the army winning before they were overrun by the superior mounted force of the Macedonians.   

Despite being well matched, the Numidian light cavalry disordered the Thracians on impact and then rapidly routed them in the subsequent melee. The Thracians turned and fled, but not quickly enough to outpace the Numidians. With more casualties sustained in the pursuit, the Thracians broke formation and fled to the four winds (below right).

While this was happening, the Roman slingers were gaining the upper hand in their melee. They had disordered their opponents and were causing more casualties. Having dispersed their foes, the Numidian light cavalry reformed, wheeled lightly and then charged across the shallow river to hit the right flank of the Macedonian slingers.

The battle between the Illyrian foot and the Greek mercenaries was at first indecisive. Sustained Macedonian archery fire on the right hand end of the Illyrian formation had no effect on the outcome. Even wheeling to bring all their bows to bear could not cause enough casualties to discomfort the Illyrians.

The Macedonian pike phalanx charged into the Roman legionaries. Battle had now been joined along the whole line. The steadfast legionaries maintained their composure as some of the pikemen became disordered. Despite the initial equality of the opponents, the Romans continued their winning ways and the pikemen quickly degenerated (below centre).

Since they were enjoying good fortune across the rest of the battlefield, the Roman heavy and light cavalry could not restrain themselves and charge in against their more fancied opponents. The light horse became disordered but did not immediately break. The Roman heavy cavalry had the better of the first round against Alexander's Companions. This was reversed as the melee continued, with the Roman heavies losing casualties although surprisingly not losing heart. This battle continued to swing and the confusion further fragmented the Companions (below left).

Below are views from the Macedonian side. The small dice are used to indicate the current status of the battle groups. White indicates disordered, red indicates fragmented and the black indicates a unit that has broken and about to degenerate into rout.

As the first pike phalanx broke under the continued pressure from the legionaries, the Roman battle unit which opposed them held formation so that they could act as overlap support for the legionaries either side.

But this turned out to be unnecessary. Seeing the first pike phalanx break, one of their neighbours was so shaken that they broke in sympathy. They fled from their opponents with great speed and soon outdistanced these legionaries.

Four Macedonian units were now broken: the Thracian light cavalry, the Macedonian slingers and two pike phalanxes. Most of the remainder was fragmented or disordered. With all their generals locked in combat, there was no way of rallying any of the Macedonian troops. Alexander's army disintegrated and he left the field of battle.

The pictures below show the final state of the battle. In the lower row centre and the lower row right can be seen the difference in casualties: lots for the Macedonians versus one for the Romans. The commanders on both sides fought bravely. All were committed to the front rank, but none of them became casualties.

The luck was definitely with the Romans today.