EXCERPT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

East meets West

Marathon is a classic under-dog scenario but while we tend to think of the Persian army as the under-dog against Greeks or Macedonians, at the time, the smart money was on them. The Persians were on top of their game, a largely professional army, fresh from beating a number of hoplite armies in asia minor in a series of hard fought campaigns. The Athenians were heavily outnumbered, amateur citizen soldiers and untried against their foe. 

When you put this on a wargames table, there are 2 main issues to face. The first is a recreation of the orignal problem: how does a smaller, close combat army, defeat a larger balanced army with missile power, cavalry and close fighting capability. The other question is how much leeway to allow the players? At what point does hindsight and ahistorical tactics and capabilities change this from a refight of an historical battle into just another game and does it matter? The latter question is one that often leads me to avoid it by converting historical battles into generic scenarios!

The historical battle plan for the Greeks was to reduce the number of ranks in the center of the phalanx in order to lengthen the line, and to close at a run to reduce missile casualties. How much to  thin it, how long to make the line and how deep to make the wings are key decisions that probably couldn't have been changed once battle was joined. Another option might have been the reverse, thin out the flanks to lengthen the line but leave the center deep to break through the Persian center. Yet another possible tactic, if it had been thought of a hundred or so years early, would have been a refused flank, echelon, attack with a deep phaanx leading the attack on 1 flank and the rest of the army hanging back to make it hard for the Persians to get around the flank.  It would be interesting to try all three and compare their degree of success.

One possible Greek deployment, 1 deep in the centre, 4 deep on the flanks.
For the Persians, their plan seems to have been deploy their best troops in the center with the weaker auxiliaries on the flanks. I suspect they had been forming this way for several days under Greek scrutiny and the latter were aware of it and planned on it. Since they didn't know what was about to hit them, there is little reason to speculate on what else they might have tried so I will stick with it but it is worth noting that at Platea, the Immortals, Persians & Medes were on one flank.

Artaphernes behind the Persian center.
It looks like the game on Friday will be a solo affair so I will take advantage of that to try to follow the historical deployments and actions as far as possible. Next week my friend Gary is tentatively scheduled to come over and for that game, I will take the gloves off and let the players take command of their armies as they see fit.


  1. Excellent - I look forward to the write up...

  2. Love the Garrison Persians,they remind me of one of my original armies,that I wish Id never sold.
    Thanks Robbie