Monday, 13 February 2017

Battle Royale

Here are the highlights from last nights Sword and Spear game with Martin. The Romans faced off against Mithradate's Pontic army.

We tried out the terrain placement rules for the first time. This resulted in a hill and swamp in the centre front of the Roman deployment zone. The Pontics had a woods in their rear and a hill and field on their left and another field on their right. This was a fair bit of terrain for an ancients battle and had quite a bit of influence on the battles outcome.

The Romans were out scouted and deployed their heavy infantry on the hill with their flank anchored against the swamp. Cavalry deployed on the right and archers with light cavalry formed a screening force and reserve on the left.

The Pontic Army set up opposite the Roman heavy infantry and cavalry. They had a larger army and were able to stack the flanks with extra light units. to try and win on the flanks.


The Roman plan was to attack with a refused left flank. The cavalry clashed on the Roman right resulting in a quick loss of a Pontic skirmisher and cavalry unit. The remaining units on that flank settled into a seesaw battle.
Cavalry battle

The Pontic Army invested their initiative in moving their flank attack on their left but found themselves hampered by the swamp and cultivated field as well as low troop discipline.

The Romans advanced the right of their heavy infantry toward the Pontic Imitation Legionnaire line, hoping their cavalry would hold long enough to avoid getting flanked. The Pontic responded by attacking the partially committed Roman heavy infantry.
Heavy Infantry closing in the Centre

The Romans spent the next few turns sending in more troops into the centre until their two sides were engaged in a major press of shields.

It became apparent that the Pontic flanking maneuver would not arrive in time to alter the outcome in the centre. The Romans were slowly winning the cavalry fight on the other flank. In the centre, Roman armour and discipline wore down and eventually defeated enough of the Pontic heavy infantry to clinch the win.
End Game

Martin and I talked at length after the game to decide what could have happened differently. Rome did very well in the terrain set up by getting a defensive spot to launch their attack from. The terrain deployment system in Sword and Spear has a random element that can see terrain move around or disappear and the Romans were lucky to have their gamble pay off.

The Pontic heavy infantry could have deployed further back, anchoring their flank against some heavy woods. If the Romans pursued, the Pontic could have more easily picked at their exposed flanks and Roman flankers would have been impaired by terrain. The Pontic cavalry might have faired better if they led with their melee cavalry and supported them with skirmishers in the rear.

The game was set up and played in 4 hours including a couple of coffee breaks. A very pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon and a chance to try out our luck as Armchair Commanders.
Bad Activation Roll!


  1. The Pontics often seemed to have tried to use terrain to their advantage and it often backfired on them, partly because the Romans had a bad habit of improvising and adapting.

    1. I have been reading up on the 3rd Mithridatic Wars but it is not easy to find much detail on specific battles. I don't think the Pontic army had any successes, except for slaughtering garrisons and turning allies of Rome.

    2. You may recognize some of your old troops in the cavalry battle photo...