Tuesday 10 September 2019

Late Imperial Rome vs. the Sassanid

Those of you who have regularly followed this blog may remember the games played between armies with uneven numbers or those between commands comprising of 18 elements. Following a tip from the Fanaticus Forum, I continued my experiments with an even larger command size and moved the scale to 24 elements.

For these tests, Rome invaded Persian territory giving the Sassanid choice of terrain features from the arable list. Aside from the obligatory BUA, the other features, two difficult hills and scrub, seemed appropriate for an arid clime. The gameboard was increased by half producing a area measuring 120 cm x 80 cm.

In the first game, the Sassanid deployment formed a crescent curve with the levy and elephants forming its tips and Asavaran cavalry forming its base. The Immortals and generals formed a central reserve behind the centre and tribal light horse took positions on both flanks. 

Rome countered this by placing its legions and auxilia to contain the levy and elephants and the clibanarii, equites and generals formed a central reserve to deal with the Asavaran cavalry. The battle opened with the levy supported by elephants surpassing all expectations by crushing their opposition leaving the asavaran to pick off isolated units. Rome could not respond well enough which ensured a Sassan a decisive 8 – 2 victory.

Rome, now defending, revised its deployment to fit the constricted open ground between scrub and difficult hills. This meant all the cavalry were positioned in the second line. Opposing them, the Sassanid formed two wings with its levy and elephants on the right and on the left the majority of the Asavaran cavalry. Behind them, the Immortals and generals formed a reserve. This novel deployment had the opposite effect for the Sassanid as the legions and auxilia made short work of crushing the Sassanid cavalry to earn and 8 – 0 victory.

while attention was devoted to one sector. I decided to modify this and utilise the second general to pass on commands thereby extending the CinC’s control a further 8BW. (Note, only the CinC could benefit from the +1 bonus for combat). This small change help speed the game in the subsequent two tests. Each game became less chess-like and developed as actual battle would with assaults stalling, regrouping of elements to continue an assault or concentrate an attack elsewhere. Game three proved another victory for Sassan (Sassan 8 – 3 + Hd) which took seven turns to complete. However, game four was exceptional and here follows an expanded report.

Late Imperial Rome vs. the Sassanid.
In the final battle, Rome placed its legions in centre and on either flank were equal numbers of Clibanarii and auxilia. Archers were placed to extend the battle line further. Each were supported by the equites and both generals and the remaining cavalry formed a central reserve. The Sassanid matched their opponent placing an equal number of levy and elephants on its flanks filling the gap between them with Asavaran cavalry. The Immortals and both generals formed a reserve and more Asavaran cavalry and tribal light horse were placed to support each flank.

Roman plans to destroy the levy and elephants went astray as the Sassanid right struck first. Casualties fell evenly on both sides but the severity of the fight blunted any further effort to continue leaving both commanders to look elsewhere to gain leverage. The centre was next.

In the centre, the Asavaran cavalry made repeated assaults against the legions and heavy fighting caused casualties for both sides. Nonetheless, gaps appeared in the Roman line with the Sassanid intent on widening the gap between the Roman centre and its left flank. Sensing the treat, both commanders moved their reserves forward as the score reached an even 6 – 6.

To further relieve the danger to the centre, the Roman commander ordered the uncommitted right flank to engage the enemy. Here, the auxilia swept over the hill to threaten the Sassanid line while the remaining troops engaged the levy and elephants. This had the adverse effect as the Sassanid demonstrated greater fortitude and mauled the Roman cavalry and archers. This tipped the balance forcing Rome to call a retreat leaving the field to the Sassaniid, score 8 – 6.

The Roman army was twice the following: 
1 x General (Cv), 2 x clibanarii (4Kn), 1 x equites (Cv), 2 x light horse (LH), 3 x legionnaires (4Bd), 2 x auxilia palatina (4Ax), 1 x archers (4Bw).  

The Sassanid also doubled the following for its single command:
1 x General (Cv), 6 x Asavaran cavalry (Cv), 2 x tribal horse (LH), 1 x elephant (El), 2 x levy (7Hd).


  1. Such a fantastic period to play, great looking armies!

  2. Great to see how the same two armies can produce such different results; a crushing win each and a nail-biter as the decider - if only the Ashes was as close.

    1. I will continue the experiment with other historical pairs; next are the Sassanid vs. the Arab Conquest. Should be posted next week.

  3. Was there any corresponding PIP increase with the 24AP armies?

  4. Snowcat,
    No. Increasing the size of the command to 24 elements and using an un-altered pip score posed a number of new challenges. Having troops operate on the flanks in the extended deployment area resulted in them falling out of the influence of the commander.

    This was resolved by deploying troops in deeper formations of say two or three lines. Changing from a contiguous line to smaller groups with gaps between, but covered by support troops in a second line offered greater flexibility and the game developed as a battle should with probing attacks leading to a general assault.

  5. Interesting. I checked the rules for Double DBA and that proposed a corresponding doubling on the PIPs, but you've kept them at the original amount. I'm very keen to see more of your experiments with this idea, as I think it has an ideal 'look' at the scale of DBA. A viable alternative to BBDBA. Thanks. :)

  6. Arab Conquest vs. the Sassanid are next.

  7. I ran a couple of campaigns with armies comprising between 12 and 24 elements, but a single dice for command. I found it worked really well, and I pleased to see that it worked here too. Having the second general present to reduce the 'out of command' issues is an interesting idea.