The Battle of Chaeronea, 338 BC
Fast Play Rules for Students

by Brett Drake

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Historical Background (Taken From Wikipedia): Fought near Chaeronea, in Boeotia, this was the greatest victory of Philip II of Macedon. There, Philip (with 32,000 men) defeated the smaller combined forces of Athens and Thebes, securing Macedonian hegemony in Greece. The battle itself pitted the classical phalanx of the Athenian and Theban confederates and the Macedonian phalanx of Philip. The confederate battle line formed with the Athenians holding the left wing and the Thebans holding the right wing (with the all-important extreme right flank protected by the Sacred Band). Athenians and Thebans occupied the center of the line. In the Macedonian line, Philip commanded the right wing, while Alexander commanded the left wing - albeit supervised by the best Commanders of the King. Ancient sources tell us that the two sides fought bitterly for a long time. It would appear that Philip deliberately withdrew his troops on the right wing, in order to break up the Greek lines. Most sources are agreed in saying that Alexander was the first to break into the Theban lines, followed by a courageous band (presumably his kinsmen and friends); upon seeing this, Philip urged his forces to attack with great fury and the Athenians - ardent but untrained - were unable to resist his Macedonian veterans. With the rout of the Athenians, the Thebans were left to fight for themselves and crushed. The famed Sacred Band of Thebes fought to the last man in the defeat.

Designer's Notes: (Not needed to play): This game was designed for an advanced 5th grade class studying classical Greece. I picked Charoenea because I didn't have any Persian figures, and because I thought it would be fun for them to get to see Alexander on the battlefield. The Hypaspists are represented by the rightmost pike stand, and their increased effectiveness is achieved in the game by Philip's presence, rather than by a special classification as elite pike. I just didn't want to confuse the game by adding even more kinds of units. The main problems with the design were (1) nobody knows exactly what happened in a tactical sense, (2) there may have been a feigned flight by Philip on his right (hard to represent) and (3) that somehow Alexander's cavalry wiped out the Theban Sacred Band. How did he do this? We have no other record of horsemen riding down elite hoplites frontally. People guess that gaps opened in the Greek line as they pursued Philip (as happened when the Anglo-Saxon shield wall came apart at Hastings) but nobody really knows. I have therefore allowed Alexander to be set up facing some skirmishers, allowing him to take the Sacred Band in the flank after the skirmishers die. This is plausible and should achieve a historical outcome. The Greeks probably don't have much chance in this scenario, I'm afraid, and the players should be prepared for this. It is more a historical simulation than a "fair" game. There were 8 students, but the game is designed for 9 players. Cards were printed and handed out (see pages 4-5) at random. One card, the card representing the Theban flank, was held and those forces were played by the designer. The reason for this is that historically, that part of the Greek line had a very bad day (allegedly the Sacred band was destroyed in toto by Alexander), and I didn't want to give a kid a command that was just going to be stomped.

Battle Report: Edgar Road School, Webster Groves Missouri, February 27, 2006. We had eight kids playing, five played Macedonians, three played Greeks, and the teacher was kind enough to take the Greek far right (opposite Alexander). Figures were 15mm lead based for use with DBA/DBM. Due to available table sizes, the map was reduced to 6' by 3'. This meant that the lines had to be arrayed parallel to the table sides, not slanted, as the map shows. Total time (including a short historical introduction) was 90 min.
Early part of the game: The game started with each side advancing their left flanks aggressively.

On the Macedonian left, there was a quick exchange of fire between the outside skirmisher units, resulting in the destruction of the Macedonian unit (a harbinger of things to come). Shortly, however, the Macedonian horse killed off the two light units, leaving the Theban phalanx hanging in air. On the Greek left, the commander of the Greek skirmishers (an experienced 10-year old wargamer) took his light troops on a wide flanking maneuver, which spooked the Macedonian skirmishers, who pulled back. In the center of the line, the hoplites and the pike clashed, with the Greeks rolling consistently better than the Macedonians and grinding them down (despite the rule allowing the second rank of pike to fight).

Later part of the game: Both left flanks continued to roll. Fortune abandoned the Sacred Band, and it disintegrated in front of some pike right as the Companions were about to hit them in the flank. The Companions found another hoplite unit, killed it, killed another, and the light horse hit yet another unit of hoplites in the rear and killed them. The crisis on the Macedonian right was delayed by the sacrifice of light troops, which slowed down the wave of Greek skirmishers and hoplites. The real decision came in the center. For some reason, the hoplites were murdering the Macedonian pikemen. Sure, the pike had 50% greater "firepower", but that didn't matter, as unit after unit fell. As gaps opened, the victorious hoplite units turned and flanked remaining units. The Macedonians ended up losing 6 of their 8 pike units and the game was over with a startling Greek victory. The Greeks lost five (non-skirmisher) units, of which three, interestingly, were killed by flanking cavalry. A close game.

In summary, the game went pretty historically, except for the action in the center. Alex slaughtered units at will. The balance between skirmishers and heavies seemed pretty good. If the hoplites hadn't gotten so lucky, the game would have gone precisely as the original battle did. It was a good thing I gave the teacher the Greek right, they were killed to a man. Not having skirmishers count towards victory conditions worked well, and conferred a certain expendable quality to them. Overall, everyone had a really good time. I was surprised how orderly and fun the experience was. One note - it took me about 40 minutes to set up. If I hadn't been set up when the kids arrived it would have been a disaster.

Rules (Modified from Marathon Scenario)

Mapboard: (Terrain consists of gentle hills and the town of Chaeronea)

The Armies: Each "unit" is a group of four stands in a 2x2 formation. You should have trays of this size available for use during the game (I cut some from masonite on my table saw, but you could easily use cardboard). The "footprint" of the unit should always be the tray, not the surviving stands. This speeds up play and gives a better "feel" for the units. A unit with only one stand left is eliminated.

2 Heroic Commanders (Philip, Alexander)
1 unit "Companion" Heavy Cavalry (4 bases)
1 unit Light Cavalry (4 bases)
8 units Macedonian Pikemen (4 bases)
4 units skirmishers (4 bases)

Alexander is deployed with the Companions
Philip is deployed with the pike unit furthest to it's own right.

0 Heroic Commanders
6 units Athenian Hoplites (4 bases)
3 units Theban Hoplites (4 bases )
1 unit Theban Sacred Band (4 bases)
4 units Skirmishers (4 bases )

Sequence of Play:
1. Macedonians Move (foot move 6", cavalry move 12")
2. Macedonian Skirmishers Shoot (up to 8")
3. Touching Bases fight (casualties are inflicted simultaneously by both sides)
Repeat above, with Greeks moving and shooting instead of Macedonians. Continue switching sides until one side has lost six units (Skirmishers don't count).

Movement: Skirmish units or the Macedonian Light Cavalry unit may move in any direction. Other units are limited to wheels and obliques (sideways drifting) of 45 degrees. Units contacted in flank or rear (and not to their front) must turn to face the enemy during their upcoming turn.

Shooting: Skirmishers are allowed to shoot, as long as the target is within 8" and neither the shooting unit nor the target unit is touching any enemy, and so long as there is a reasonable "gap" to shoot through (you can't shook over people). Roll a die. If the target is a skirmisher or a light cavalry, one enemy stand is removed on a "1" or a "2". Otherwise, one enemy stand is removed on a "1".

Melee (fighting when your bases are touching):
1) Find the column representing the Macedonian troops in the fight
2) Find the row representing the Greek troops in the fight
3) Find the cell where the column and row intersect, Both sides roll one die per stand fighting.
4) If any die rolls are within the indicated range (e.g. Companions vs. Gr. Skirmishers need a 1-4) then the other side loses one stand.
5) If a unit is contacted on it's flank or rear, it doesn't get to inflict damage, but it can still take damage.
Each side rolls 1D6 for each stand in the fight. The Close Combat table shows the number needed to score hits. Remove one enemy stand for every hit. Both sides roll simultaneously. If both units still have stands left they remain engaged and fight again next turn. You can't leave combat.

How many stands can fight? Any stand with it's front edge in contact can fight. In addition, any Macedonian pike stand which is in the second rank (behind a stand which is fighting) may also fight, but only hits on a "1".

Generals: Generals may not be targeted individually. If they are attached to a unit they count as an extra front rank stand in melee (but not shooting). If their unit is eliminated, they are transferred to the nearest friendly unit. Represent generals by single figures or stands adjacent to the rear of the unit they are attached to.

Terrain: Only skirmishers may enter Charoenea. Any unit fighting downhill (front edge of unit is on a hill uphill of the enemy) gets one extra attack.

Shooting Die Roll needed:
If you're shooting at a skirmisher or light cavalry:

Roll of 1 or 2 hits (remove one enemy stand)

3-6 misses

If you're shooting at anything else:

Roll of 1 hits (remove one enemy stand)

2-6 misses

Close Combat Companions Macedonian Pikemen Light Cavalry Skirmishers
Theban Sacred Band Sacred Band: 1-2
Companions: 1-2
Sacred Band: 1-3
Macedonians: 1
Macedonian 2nd Rank: 1
Sacred Band: 1-4
M. Light Cav: 1
Sacred Band: 1-3
M. Skirmishers: 1
Other Greek Hoplites Hoplites: 1
Companions: 1-2
Hoplites: 1-2
Macedonians: 1-2
Macedonian 2nd rank: 1
Hoplites: 1-2
M. Light Cav: 1
Hoplites: 1-2
M. Skirmishers: 1
Skirmishers Gr. Skirmishers: 1
Companions: 1-4
Gr. Skirmishers: 1
Macedonians: 1-2
Macedonian 2nd Rank: 1
Gr. Skirmishers: 1
M. Light Cav: 1-3
Gr. Skirmishers: 1-2
M. Skirmishers: 1-2

Modifications for subsequent games: The heavy infantry probably killed each other too fast. I might consider changing the combat table so that hoplites and pike only kill each other on a "1" (Sacred Band: 1-2). If this was done, you would probably need to allow only one rear rank stand of pike to fight per unit, so as not to overbalance the value of the pike.