Monday 14 May 2012

The Battle of Marathon

The following scenario is based largely on the one outlined in Charles Grant’s excellent book Ancient Battles for Wargamers (Argus 1977).

Marathon – The Wargame

The Athenian Army

Aristiedes “The Just”

Hoplite Phalanxes.
(Each phalanx is made up of 24 figures)

Akamantis Regiment
Oieneis Regiment
Kekropis Regiment
Hippothonteis Regiment
Antiochis Regiment
Leontis Regiment
Pandionis Regiment
Aegeis Regiment
Erechtheis Regiment
Aentis Regiment

The Plataeans (under their commander Arimnestus)

Light Troops
(Each unit is a group of twelve)
Messenion slingers
Helot javelins A
Helot javelins B

Total 264 hoplites and 36 light troops

Special rules For The Greek Hoplites

To simulate the fast advance of the Greeks at Marathon the hoplites may charge for one move that does not bring them into contact with the enemy. All named Greek commanders are inspirational and will affect morale of any unit they are attached to.

The Persian Army


40 figure close order units

Blue Immortals
Red Immortals

Ectabana Infantry (Persian)
Shiraz Infantry (Persian)
Hamadan Infantry (Mede)

Babylonian Infantry (Auxiliary)
Samarran Infantry (Auxiliary)
Phrygian Infantry (Auxiliary)
Egyptian Infantry (Auxiliary)

20 Figure close order Units
Persian Archers
Mede Archers
Ashur Slingers (Auxiliary)
Indian Archers (Auxiliary)

12 Figure Light Units
Ethiopian Archers
Dahae Archers
Nineveh Javelins

476 Infantry

Persian Cavalry

The Persian Cavalry (two sixteen figure units of spear armed cavalry and one of horse archers) are behind the battle lines watering the horses. Units may appear when they throw a score equal to or less than the move number on 2 D6 (ie on move six they must throw six or less). They then appear on the table’s edge at a place of the Persian commanders choosing.

The Refight

The tabletop (nine feet by six feet) was laid out in a rough approximation of the actual battlefield. The Greeks were arrayed in front of their camp on the slopes of Mount Agrieliki, with to the right the blue waters of the gulf of Marathon and to the left the slopes of Mount Kotroni (deemed non-scaleable for the coming conflict).

The Greek force was commanded by John Bowman and his eight-year-old son, Henry, the considerably more, ahem, “experienced” pairing of myself and Clive Norman commanded the invaders.

The Persian line was formed directly in front of the river Charadra, which – this being high summer - was considered to be more or less dried up and providing no obstacle to the movement of the Persian cavalry if and when it arrived from the area of the Great Marsh.

The two sets of commanders chose to set out their troops in much the same way as their historical counterparts. The Greeks, with the Plataeans on the far right of the line, doubled up the depths of the three phalanxes that made up each flank section and spread the centre group of five phalanxes more thinly. To the extreme right and left they stationed their light troops.

The Persian commanders put their reliable Persian and Mede troops in the centre with the dubious auxiliaries provided by the far-flung reaches of the Empire on either flank. Looking at the two dispositions it was plain that despite the extension of the Greek centre the Persians still enjoyed a considerable overlap of the Greek right. The senior Greek commander boldly dismissed the fears of his junior by claiming this was “totally irrelevant”. True as it turned out, but only just.

As expected given their vast superiority in missile troops the early stages of the battle went the Persians way. They advanced all their archers, slingers and javelinmen and very quickly drove off the Greek helots and slingers, which left them free to pepper the advancing hoplites unhindered. The Greeks advanced slowly, but unchecked by the arrows bouncing off their shields and soon the Persian missile troops were withdrawing back to the battle-line.

On the Greek right the driving off of the helots had left an even bigger overlap than had originally existed and the Persians, bolstered by the arrival of a unit of Sakae horse archers set about exploiting the situation by an outflanking manoeuvre. After much frantic signalling amongst the Greeks the Plataeans halted, extended their formation and to face the enemy. Since all the Persian troops in the outflanking force were lights, the Greeks knew that charging them would be futile. The Persians, meanwhile could not risk coming to grips with the hoplites hand to hand. Missiles rained down on the Plataeans, but they stood firm while behind them the Greek line finally crunched into contact with the forces of the Great King.

The Persian centre more than held its own with the Immortals driving back one phalanx and the Ecbatana regiment destroying the Leontis “tribe”. Unfortunately the Persian flanks offered only minimal resistance and soon Assyrians, Phrygians, Egyptians and Indians were fleeing headlong from the field and the victorious “wing” phalanxes were turning in to attack the Persian and Medean flanks.

At this point, after five moves of resistance, the gallant Plataeans finally collapsed, their commander Aemnistus dying in a volley of arrows. The Persians could now fall on the rear of the Greeks. As they moved to do so, however, the Immortals, assaulted to front and flank, broke and ran, leaving the field to the Athenians.

A close run thing indeed and one that pretty much mimicked the historical outcome.

This was big battle (over 800 figures) but from beginning to end lasted about 4 ½ hours. Our simple rules system worked extremely well – they provided no obstacles to the youngster taking part and the rest of us enjoyed the fact that so little maths was needed that nobody got a headache. The course of the fighting suggested that they captured history quite well, too.


  1. Great refight brings back loads of memories having fought this many years ago with my 20mm Garrison Greeks and Persians. Set of your rules would be very much appreciated.

  2. Thanks Graham. Really glad you enjoyed it. Send me an email at:
    and I'll send you a set of rules.