Tuesday 8 January 2019

Rome versus the Seleucid - a preparation for Magnesia 190 BC

It has been nearly three years since the Seleucid army marched across the table and in preparation for the Battle of Magnesia later this month, I decided some re-fresher training might be in order. After a few standard 12 element games which ended in disasters, I increased the size of each command to 18 elements. This produced a much tighter game with the victor winning by one element.

Seleucid Army
1 x General (4Kn), 1 x cataphract (4Kn), 4 x phalangites (4Pk), 1 x Theurophori (4Ax), 1 x Galatian (4Wb), 1 x elephant (El), 1 x scythed chariot (SCh), 2 x skirmishers (Ps).
Additional troops: 1 x cataphract (4Kn), 2 x phalangites (4Pk), 1 x elephant (El), 1 x Galatian |(4Wb), 1 x Asiatic skirmishers (Ps).

Consular Army
1 x General (Cv), 1 x cavalry (Cv), 4 x hastati/principes (4Bd), 2 x Latin allies (4Ax), 2 x triarii (Sp), 2 x velites (Ps).
Additional troops: 1 x cavalry (Cv), 1 x hastati/principes (4Bd), 2 x Latin allies (4Ax), 2 x velites (Ps).
Note: the additional troops produced an even number of Roman (red) and Latin (white) types which can be seen from their shield colour.  

Test games
Rather than give a blow by blow description of the test games, I will highlight some of the key events that made this a useful exercise.

It goes without saying, the flanks of the phalanx are most vulnerable and in the first two tests, the phalanx was adequately protected by placing catapracht and elephants on either flank; subsequent tests did experiment with their placement.

The timing of an attack is crucial as the elephants are particularly vulnerable to enemy skirmishers as can be seen in the photo below.

In general, the both sides were well matched and scored an even number of victories. The Seleucid did avoid a catastrophe by exerting enough pressure against one Roman flank. This forced Roman pip expenditure on their bound must be re-diverted  to stave an impending disaster. 

Another test game Rome adjusted  their deployment to position a “flying column’ on each flank. This double envelopment by Roman cavalry and infantry support proved worrisome for the Seleucid as the cataphract were held back to protect the army’s right flank while on the left, troops supporting the phalanx were peeled off to deal with the threat on that side.

The final test resembled the deployments made at Magnesia. This was not on purpose, but developed as a consequence of trial and error of five games. The battle progressed much like Magnesia with the Seleucid cataphract destroying the Roman line to their front, the phalangites did make headway but exposed their left flank to a Roman counter stroke. This was not enough however to claim victory as entire Roman left crumbled to the combined efforts of Galatians, thureophoroi and cataphracts.   


  1. Really enjoyed reading these excellent accounts which I found via TMP. Love your beautiful figures and terrain!
    Keep well, warm regards Noel

  2. Noel,

    Thank you for your comments. I plan doing more experimenting with “Barker’s Basic 12 plus 6”. The extra elements make the game less dicey as the conditions for victory are raised, but certain troop types are now increased which makes the game more interesting.


  3. Always a pleasure to look at such beautiful armies in action, great report!

  4. Hi Robert, great report. What is the criterea do you use for choosing the "+6" from the standard army list?

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  5. Dave,
    The quantity for each type selected was in proportion to the basic army list, e.g. 1 x 4Kn, 2 x Pk, 2 x Ps, however, the elephant could easily have been replaced by an extra auxiliary. The tests did reveal how vulnerable the elephants were to aggressive use of skirmishers and this was very useful to know.

  6. Awesome. Thanks for sharing. I want to do these armies at some point.