190 BC – battle of Magnesia

illustration of a plaque discovered in Pergamon that arguably depicts a scene during the battle of Magnesia when the Attalid cavalry comes to the support of the Roman troops and facing Antiochus III phalanx and Gallic cavalry.

This article being a description of a solo game where I played both sides but invited engagement through the blue bird social network to make some decisions at points in battle.

Following the scenario book I had two options, one of Caesar’s battles and also Magnesia but the decision was fairly easy to make and while I enjoy the conflicts of Roman expansion towards the “barbarian” lands there’s something about a face off between roman and hellenic warfare traditions that lures my attention. Maybe it is the transitional period, the old versus the not-so-completely-new-but-novelty.

The game I selected to play the battle was Dawn of Battle, designed by Mike Nagel and published by Worthington.

The interaction with the social media was regarding Roman army command decisions at high level.


The initial setup. Romans in blue, Antiochus III in red.

An immediate input was requested.

What should be the main plan ?

  • Refuse right advance left – 50%
  • Charge center of enemy – 0%
  • Cautious skirmish – 50%

The council cannot reach a definitive decision and a cautious approach is taken while bending back the right flank.

The Seleucid line advances fast to close range but in doing so one elephant troop panics and crashes into a formation of chariots.

When next questioned about how to proceed the majority still decided for caution.

What counselling should be given to Lucius Scipio ?

  • Hold and skirmish – 50%
  • Charge through left – 0%
  • Probe attack right – 50%

With yet another cautious counselling, the Romans stick to keeping their formations tight but attempting spoiling attacks in the right using foederati.

The Seleucids line shows some cracks but one elephant troop charges the Roman skirmishers crushing them, but are in turn cut down.

A dilemma was now proposed given the situation as the Seleucid army seems like a loose collection of pieces like a broken vase, maybe… What counsel do you give ?

  • Wedge through center – 42.9%
  • Roll up the left – 57.1%
  • Hold and skirmish – 0%

The majority felt it was time to attack and roll forward in true roman grit grinder style.

The time for decisive action is now, the council proclaims, and striking up the left flank is chosen.
Antiochus sees this and orders the cavalry to charge.
The fast flowing battle at this point results in a limited number of actions.

The Seleucid right is holding but in the center the heavy horse charge is checked and destroyed, leaving the support light foot to hold the gap.
On the right the chariots are easily dealt with.

Next inquiry to the Council received an unanimous response…

The situation is changing fast and fleeting opportunities show up… what to do…

  • Keep rolling left – 100%
  • Hold left push others – 0%
  • Reform lines forward – 0%

Keeping the momentum Scipio nods to the counsellors and orders a push on the left with the Roman lines skilfully passing through.
Some losses in the right and the Persian cavalry ceases to be a fighting force.
Roman army doing what it does and rolling up the flank. Again the limited number of APs for the Seleucids was critical for roman plans. Some losses on the right but massive payback on their right flank.

Afraid to be carried away by the lust of victory a new inquiry to the council…

The day is ours but not yet. How to proceed ?

  • Sweep left to right – 33.3%
  • Hold and Reform – 66.7%
  • Loot enemy Camp – 0%

The buccinae signal to hold and regain formation blaring above the noise of battle. Commanders try to rally the legions in place while the allied lighter troops are ordered to cover the right flank and do admirably destroying weakened enemy formations… and then Panic hits…

An Unquestionably Decisive victory for Rome.
Panic points
Rome – 9
Seleucid – 37

Final table after Panic movement and Sudden Death victory check.


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