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The Fate of All – The Anabasis of the First Three Months

Your humble scribe offers you an account of the first three months of Alexandros’ campaign in the lands of the eastern barbarians. I hope my prose will give justice to the heroic deeds and the strange events I’ve witnessed, and will please both the Gods and the King.

This After-Action Report uses standard text for the narrative sections, and black on grey text for historical notes and rules-related comments. In this playtest session I’ve followed as much as possible the historical events, in order to test the rules against actual, documented facts. Therefore, don’t be surprised if some decisions or moves aren’t exactly smart. Also, please note that I will try to keep rules explanation to a bare minimum, in order to leave more space to the narrative.

You may find a detailed description of the upcoming “The Fate of All” at this link… And remember to reserve your spot in Perdiccas’ Phalanx by sending a Votive Tablet to info@TRLGames.com !

April, 334 BCE (Olympiad 111 Year 3)

The Persians, probably alerted by spies about the incoming invasion, have already mobilised forces from the Anatolian Satrapies: Lydia, Hellespontic Phrygia, Greater Phrygia, Paphlagonia, Karia and Kappadokia. The Great King also starts moving from Persepolis to Babylon, but he is confident that his Satraps’ army will be more than enough to stop the young, impudent Macedonian King. After all, they already defeated Parmenion’s advance guard using only a fraction of their available forces.

The Satrapal armies start assembling at Kyzikos, offering plenty of supply from foraging and from requisitions in the city. A fully loaded Baggage Train is also available for any eventuality, and a small infantry force is left at Halikarnassos, to be used both as garrison and as expeditionary force once the assembled fleet will reach the Aegean.

In the spring of 334 BCE, the Anatolian Satraps had been fighting a 10,000 men strong expeditionary force led by Parmenion for almost two years, defeating it in battle at Magnesia with a smaller army and retaking most of the territory initially seized by the Greeks. As a consequence, they were probably quite confident about their chances to stop Alexander quickly.

A donation of 4 Talents is also made to the Spartan King Agis III, to help him seeing the advantages of Persian friendship and support. The Lakedaimons are the last independent military power in Greece, and they could attempt to restore their role in the Hellenic world if they see a chance. The donation is well accepted.

In 332 – 331 BCE, after long consultations with Persian envoys, Agis III finally mobilised the Spartan army and declared war on Macedonia, while at the same time a revolt erupted in the Macedonian province of Thrake. Both were short-lived, as the Macedonian regent Antipater used money received from Alexandros to “make peace” with the Thracian rebels, reinforce his army, and decisively defeat the Spartans at the battle of Megalopolis. Despite this conclusion, the possibility of the Spartan and Thracian revolts are a powerful instrument to keep the Macedonian faction off-balance.

The Opening Persian Moves in the Aegean, April 334 BCE

In the Eastern Mediterranean, the Persian fleet under the command of Autophradates and Pnytagoras starts assembling in the ports of Tyros, Arados and Tarsos. The perilous trait of open sea between Kypros and the continent is crossed without consequences. Mercenary hoplites are also embarked, and a couple of sea shipping routes start stocking supplies along the fleet’s planned path.

Not counting the construction cost, a fleet of triremes required vast amounts of food and money, particularly when actively used in a naval campaign. A trireme had a minimum of 170 rowers plus additional crew and marines, thus bringing the total for a relatively small fleet of 100 triremes to 20,000 men, all needing a diet adequate to their physically demanding task. As “living off the land” was obviously not an option, food, water and everything else had to be bought in friendly ports and stored onboard.
To give an idea of the impact of a fleet on the War Chest, Alexandros was forced to disband the rather small Macedonian fleet after just a few months of campaign, to avoid financial collapse.

Opening Persian moves in East Mediterranean

In the meantime, Alexandros starts moving. Time is of the essence for two reasons: He is desperately short of money, thus needing to secure the revenue of the Aegean Satrapies as soon as possible, and the crossing into Asia must be completed before the arrival in the Aegean of the powerful Persian fleet.

As someone said, waging war requires three things: Money, money, and money. According to Plutarch, Alexandros had only 60 Talents in his war chest when he entered Asia. The exact weight and value of a Talent varied, but in any case 60 talents practically means being broken, considering that the same Plutarch informs us that Bucephalus, Alexander’s trusted battle horse, had been bought for a price of 13 Talents.

It is extremely improbable, even for a daring and overconfident commander like Alexander, that Macedonia started a campaign against Persia with the war chest equivalent of pocket change, so the initial Macedonian Treasury has been increased. Nonetheless, the decision of Alexander to disband the fleet after the capture of Halicarnassos proves that he had serious money problems, maybe enough for just a few months. The Macedonian Faction must limit expenses to a bare minimum and gain control of some rich Persian Satrapies as fast as possible to avoid being left with no money at all.

The small Macedonian fleet has two assigned tasks: Assist the army in the crossing of the Hellespont, and transport needed supply to the area where the army will join Parmenion’s expeditionary force. To these ends, some squadrons are used to open a Sea Shipping Route from Amphipolis to Sestos, while the bulk of the fleet under the command of Amphoteros moves to Sestos to ferry the army.

The main Macedonian army splits in three different columns under Alexandros, Antigonos and Nicanor, each with approximately 15,000 men and no baggage train; This will allow each column to move faster and supply separately, maximising the food gathered by foraging (also known as “Live Off the Land”) and minimising the expenses for food requisitions in the cities along the route. Each column will then cross the Hellespont at Sestos, and meet with the other two at Abydos, where what’s left of Parmenion’s expeditionary force is waiting.

A third army of 11,000 men under the command of Antipater is left in Makedonia, to deal with any unexpected event or Persian raid.

Supply has always been one of the main concerns for an army in any period of history, and ancient Greece is no exception: Foraging, Requisitions, Supply Depots, Sea Shipping and Plunder were all used to gather the required amount of food, water, and forage, with problems growing exponentially with the increase of the army size. To make things worse, enemy cavalry may disrupt or negate foraging, and during winter only the most fertile regions are able to sustain even a small army.

The initial Macedonian march into Asia

May, 334 BCE (Olympiad 111 Year 3)

First and foremost, it must be noted that the Persian Court, upon the command of the Great King, has now relocated to Babylon. Furthermore, there seems to be a shift in the morale of the Persian forces, as both the common soldiers and the high-ranking nobles are questioning why the Chosen One by Ahura Mazda is not personally leading a mighty army against the audacious Greeks.

The Great King could not avoid to have his court and vast amount of money with him or in the nearest Royal residence, as they were both important tools to project power and control over subjects and enemies. Unfortunately for Darius, this backfired spectacularly when, after the Persian defeat at Issus, the Macedonians captured part of the Royal family and an immense quantity of gold and silver in the Persian camp and in the royal palace of Damascos.

This month too, the conspicuous sum of 4 Talents is sent to King Agis III of Sparta. The donations to Sparta are by now a relevant amount even for the rich Persian treasury, but they bring the desired result. The Spartans are now convinced that their time could soon return, and they are just waiting for the Great King approval to enter the fray.

A game Talent is the equivalent of 50 Euboic Talents. One Euboic Talent was approximately 26 kg of silver for a rough value of 21,000 USD.

The Persian army is finally assembled near the Granicus river. The Satraps are counting on their vast cavalry superiority to seize the day, as happened at Magnesia a couple of years earlier. As the army assembles and the days pass, the sheer quantity of food, water and forage needed cannot be gathered anymore from the depleted countryside, and additional supply must be requisitioned (and paid) from nearby cities, or taken from the reserves of the baggage train.

Persian moves in the Aegean, May 334 BCE

Meanwhile, the Persian Sea Shipping gathers a good amount of supply in Tyros and Tarsos. The Persian fleet embarks the supply, some additional troops, and sails for Tarsos, joining the Kypros fleet already there.

Events in East Mediterranean, May 334 BCE

Alexandros, confident as ever, splits his army in two: A main army under his command, with 22,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry, and a secondary army of about 5,000 infantry and 500 cavalry lead by Antigonos. Alexandros then marches East and attacks the Persians on the Granicus.

The first Macedonian moves, May 334 BCE

The outcome of a battle can be decided using the Strategic Combat rules, or the Tactical Combat rules and map. Strategic Combat is fast and still realistic, but the Tactical Combat allows to appreciate the slaughter of a large, decisive battle to its full extent. Needless to say, in this case we opted for the Tactical Combat.
As I wrote earlier, we are sticking to the historical decisions as much as possible. This means that the Persian will use their historical – ahem – “plan” for the battle of Granicus, practically ensuring a sound defeat unless they are able to kill Alexandros.

The Satraps have been informed that the young Macedonian King, impulsive and stupidly brave, will personally lead the charge of the heavy cavalry. With 16,000 cavalry, 14,000 infantry and 6,000 mercenary infantry at their disposal, they are counting on their cavalry numerical superiority and on the river to disrupt the enemy formations, isolate Alexandros, and kill him on the spot. The Persian deployment is therefore as follows:

  • Skirmish and Cavalry troops are deployed as first line, in front of the Granicus. They will send a rain of arrows and javelins on the disordered enemy troops crossing the river, and finish off in melee combat any survivor.
  • Light Infantry is deployed as second line, just in case.
  • Mercenary Hoplites cannot be trusted and anyway are not needed, just keep them in the rear.

Arsites will be the best Persian commander in the Left wing. Memnon will take the Centre and will also act as overall commander (Probably not historical, but let’s give the Persian at least a chance). Omares will command the Right wing.

The Macedonians will use their trusted, battle-tested deployment, from Left to Right:

  • Greek Allies Cavalry
  • Greek Allies Hoplites, with Skirmish troops in front where possible
  • The six Taxis of Phalanx, in Closed Order (approximately 1 meter per man, maximum impact effect)
  • The three Taxis of Hypaspist.
  • The seven squadrons of Hetairoi (Companions) Heavy Cavalry.
  • The seven squadrons of Thessalian Heavy Cavalry (these were actually on the left in the historical battle, my fault)
  • Prodromoi (Light Cavalry) and Skirmishers

Parmenion will command the Left, and Menandros the Centre. Alexandros will lead personally the Right Wing Cavalry, and of course he will be the overall commander.

Battle of Granicus, initial deployment

Each hex on the Tactical Combat map has enough space for two units. During this battle, I’ve often used the extra space to give more visibility to important markers or units, so don’t worry if some hexes look a little messy: they aren’t during the actual play 🙂

The battle begins. Crossing the river will impose attrition on the Macedonians, but even more importantly their heavy cavalry will not be able to charge while fording.

With the Persians playing a waiting game, the skirmish troops under Parmenion and the nine thousands phalangites under Menandros start crossing the river, greeted by a rain of javelins and sling bullets thrown by the enemy skirmishers and light cavalry. The river crossing and the enemy weapons cause much disruption in the ranks of the phalanx, but despite that the Macedonians close in and engage in melee the lighter enemy troops. A couple of Persian units start fleeing, and in the heat of combat Perdiccas’ Taxis finds itself alone in the middle of the enemy line, as on its flanks both Philippos and Koinos are still struggling to cross the river.

The Macedonian Phalanx crosses the river

Mithrobuzanes tries to exploit the vulnerable position of Perdiccas, and personally leads one thousand of Karian medium cavalry on the flank of the phalanx, bringing it near the breaking point.

The Persian Cavalry attacks on the flank

With the fight in the Centre still undecided, Nicanor orders the Thracian Peltasts to hurl their javelins at the Persian cavalry engaging Koinos. The Persians rout, thus giving Koinos a bit of respite, but Niphates promptly orders the Armenian Light Infantry to advance, thus plugging the gap in the Persian line.

On the Macedonian right flank, Calas orders the Agrianes and the Macedonian Archers to attack the Kilikian Light Cavalry on the opposite bank with javelins and arrows. After a brief exchange, the Kilikians cowardly flee, leaving the Persian left flank open.

Seeing the opportunity, Philotas sends messengers to inform Alexander and, after the positive answer of the King, orders the whole cavalry line on the right flank to advance. More than five thousands heavy and light cavalry cross the river and, despite heavy disruption and some losses caused by the enemy thrown weapons, bring chaos to the Persian Left.

The assault on the Persian left flank

Alexandros, still leading the Hetairoi on the right flank, exhorts his Companions to press forward. Finding new vigour in the King’s words and deeds, the Macedonians bring more havoc in the enemy lines.

Alexandros presses forward

The Persian commanders desperately try to stop and reorganise the routing troops, but more and more soldiers flee in front of the Macedonian advance as Calas, Philotas and Alexandros reorganise the cavalry and launch another assault on the Persian left flank, routing the few units still trying to hold the line.

In the end, the whole Persian front collapses.

The Persian Collapse

If you are thinking that the Persian acted really dumb during the battle, you are absolutely right. What we know from the historical sources about their deployment and actions makes really little or no sense at all, and most modern historians have tried to find a rationale or to propose alternate scenarios not openly contradicting the ancient accounts of the battle.
Admittedly, the basic idea of killing Alexandros was a good one, but no finesse was put in place to make the event more probable, or at least possible. Both in the real battle and in our simulation the Persian actually had at least one chance to kill the Macedonian King, but it was a long shot.

The Persians have lost 3000 cavalry and 5000 infantry on the battlefield, while the Macedonian losses are approximately 2000 infantry and 1000 cavalry. But it’s not over: Alexandros’ cavalry pursues the fleeing enemy, inflicting additional 2000 cavalry and 4000 infantry losses, and during the long rout of the following days the died, left behind and deserters count reaches 1500 cavalry and 3000 infantry.

After the battle, Alexandros marches to Sardeis, the capital of Lydia, and Ephesos. Both cities surrender to him, and an appropriate Macedonian garrison is left to ensure they will not change their mind.

Meanwhile, Antigonos ordered a Siege Train to be built in Abydos, and after it’s complete his 10,000 strong army marches on Kyzikos and Daskyleion, the capital of Hellespontic Phrygia. Both cities, seeing the fearsome Macedonian siege engines and having heard of the recent battle, surrender to the Macedonians.

The chance of surrender of a city depends by several factors: The strength of its defenses, the control of a port not under blockade, the presence of an enemy siege train, the morale of the City’s Faction, the Loyalty of the Satrapy. The presence of Alexandros is also a factor, as the news of his prowess and ruthlessness were starting to spread.

The Macedonian Advance in the Aegean, May 334 BCE

June, 334 BCE (Olympiad 111 Year 3)

During the Events Step, we must report about the untimely and unfortunate demise of Spithridates, the Persian Satrap of Lydia. Despite having survived the battle of Granicus and being in good health, the noble Spithridates was found dead in his tent by one of his servants.

He will be remembered for being the one who almost killed Alexandros during the recent battle. Almost.

The Persian army, still demoralised for the bloody defeat at the Granicus, splits: Most of the survivors march to Herakleia under the command of Memnon, while a consistent detachment of cavalry rides south to Gordion, intentioned to raid the Macedonian foraging parties and slow down the enemy movements.

The Persian fleet, lead by Autophradates and Pharnabazos, arrives at Rhodos. A small army of mercenary infantry is embarked, and could be used to contest the Macedonian control on the Aegean islands or to help the defense of Halicarnassos.

At the same time, the Great King Dareios III moves to Nisibis, gathering more troops along the route.

On the opposite side, the Macedonians assemble several transport vessels at Sestos, assigning them to ship food and succours to the newly controlled port of Ephesos. The rest of the fleet sails to Adramyttion and puts the port under blockade, to help convincing the inhabitants about the best course of action.

Antigonos, with 10,000 infantry and siege engines, also arrives at Adramyttion’s walls and demands the surrender of the city. The local governor obtusely refuses, and the Greeks proceed to take the city by storm, costing the army one thousand of valiant infantry. Enraged by this senseless resistance, the Macedonian commander orders to burn the city to ashes, and to sell the survivors as slaves.

Antigonos then moves to Kyme, that to his surprise also refuses to surrender. As his army is by now worn out from the previous struggle, he decides to encamp in front of the walls and let his troops rest.

Once again, Alexandros divides the army into two groups: the Thessalian cavalry and the Greek infantry will wait for Parmenion at Ephesos, while Alexandros and the core troops quickly march to Halicarnassos, in the attempt to take the city before the arrival of the Persian fleet.

At his arrival at Halicarnassos, Alexandros decides to ask not for a surrender, as the strong city garrison and the absence of Macedonian siege engines would probably induce the Persian commander to refuse it. He therefore proceeds to assault the walls, leading personally his troops. After an intense struggle with grevious losses on both sides, the city is finally taken at the third assault, with the Persian commander Orontobates and the whole garrison killed during the fight. Alexandros barely refrains from sacking the city, as it will be important in the future operations.

The Events in the Month of June, 334 BCE

3 thoughts on “The Fate of All – The Anabasis of the First Three Months

  1. Fabulous!!!

    1. 🙂

  2. Interested in ordering The Fate of all

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