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The Battle of Bilios, 86BC


The Roman World , Hail Caesar, 28mm

This game was set loosely in The Mithraditic Wars of 89-81 BC, and pitted a Late Republican Roman army of two legions against a mixed bag of Mithraditic troops. This really was a mixed bag – while the core of the Mithraditic Pontic army consisted of phalangites in large pike phalanxes, these guys were supported by a large contingent of Galatians, plus a smattering of Thracian and Greek peltasts, Cappadochian archers and Scythian and Pontic cavalry. All of the kit was from my own collection, apart from one pike phalanx, the Thracians and the Galatians, who were supplied by Chris Henry. Chris and his satrap Joe played the Pontic horde, while Alan and I took charge of the small but professional Roman army, with Alan playing the part of Lucius Cornelius Sulla. The game itself was a straightforward line-em-up and advance sort of game, with the central road which bisected the battlefield serving as the boundary between the two commands on each side.On the Roman left, Alan took command of three cohorts, supported by all our cavalry ( a unit of Gallic horse and two small units of Numidians). He was faced by the main body of Mithdraditic foot – two pike phalanxes, two units of peltasts and the Scythian horse archers. Joe commanded them, while on the far side of the road my remaining five cohorts and a thin like of Cretan archers faced two ravening warbands of Galatians, a unit of Galatian chariots, the Pontic horse, plus three smaller units of Cappadochians and Thracians, supporting the last Pontic pike phalalnx. While the Romans were outnumbered we had a slightly better command rating (“9” for Sulla, “8” for Mithradites), plus our troops were drilled.Both sides advanced to contact from the word go, and on the left the Galatian advance was led by the chariots. I know purists will say the Galatians didn’t have chariots in this period, but Chris had painted them, and was determined to use them. Actually he needn’t have bothered – they careered into the nearest Roman cohort, which stood firm and repulsed the attackers with comparative ease. The Galatian charioteers failed their break test, and so Chris’ pet toys were put back in their box. Still, they looked great while they were on the table…Over on the Roman left things weren’t going quite so well. The pikemen and the legionaries clashed, and both sides began a long drawn out showing match. Meanwhile the Gallic horse rode round behind the pike phalanxes, only to run into the Greek peltasts, who refused to give ground. Soon three melees were under way, watched and at time supported by the Scythian and Numidian light cavalry, who swirled around ineffectively, loosing arrows and javelins at targets of opportunity. The fight lasted for several turns, but suddenly the dice rolls proved decisive. On the far left the Romans were pushed back, together with a supporting cohort, and they failed their break test.A little closer to the centre of the table the second fight ended in the Romans’ favour, as the pike phalanx broke and ran after both sides had taken heavy casualties. The GAllic horse also failed their break test, but then so too did the peltasts facing them, and both lots of troops were knocked out of the game. That meant that on the ROman left a single cohort backed up by Balearic slingers and Numidian light horse faced a single phalanx, also supported by Greek and Scythian light troops. However, both sides were too battered to continue the fight, and they spent the rest of the game holding their ground and rallying their men.By that time the fight on the Roman right had been desided too. The Galatians tried a sneaky move of sending a unit of cavalry around behind the Romans, while charging them from the front. That didn’t work too well, as after some hurried checking of the rules we found the Pontic cavalry unit couldn’t teleport onto a units flank, but had to initiate the charge at the start of the turn. A Roman cohort held them off, but that stripped the Roman front line of its handy support, leaving one Roman unit facing the remaining Pontic phalangites, while two cohorts and a one back in reserve faced the Galatian hordes. The Galatian charge looked fearsome, and for a couple of turns the fate of Greece hung in the balance. However, they failed to break the Romans, and one Warband was pushed back. The Romans followed up, and the warband broke under the pressure. The next turn the same happened to the second warband and the Pontic cavalry – all seen off by some solid Roman defensive die rolling.The last throw of the dice for Chris was the launch of his single scythed chariot – a gambit he described as a “battle-winning tactic”. While the Romans were disordered by it, the damned thing failed to do any real damage, and was removed from the table after scoring one miserable hit. That meant that on their left flank the Pontic army just had one reserve pike phalanz yet, backed up by some Thracian peltasts and a unit of Cappadochian archers. Clearly that was no match for five Roman cohorts…   At that point we called an end to the battle. The Romans had lost two cohorts and a cavalry ala, while the Mithraditic Pontic army had also lost a cavalry unit, as well as two warbands and a pike unit, plus two units of peltasts, and a unit of Cappadochian archers (seen off by some nifty Cretan bow work on the final turn). Therefore the game was declared a victory for the Romans. Sulla will be demanding a triumphal parade through the streets of Rome, while Mithradities will be licking his wounds and planning his comeback.

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