Wednesday 6 June 2012

The Granicus

Alexander's Army prepares for action. Alexander and Kleitos to the fore.

The Granicus was the second of our big Christmas battles, one that saw the regulars joined by no less a personage than The Old Metal Detector of Vintage Wargaming fame.

The scenario was originally to have been based on the one in Charles Grant’s book Ancient Battles for Wargamers. However, Grant took Peter Green as his guide in setting up his refight. Professor Green argues that Alexander did not attack directly across the River Granicus, but carried out a night march that brought him over to the Persian bank upstream of Arsites and Memnon. In this version the battle is fought on a flat plain with the Granicus on Alexander’s right flank. I decided to reject this in favour of the more traditional interpretation given by Alfred Burne in his excellent little book Alexander and the Hellensitic Empire (1947) and also used in the Osprey Campaign Granicus. My feeling is that Alexander, young, natural impetuous and with the adrenalin pumping, would have wanted to attack the Persians as soon as possible. On a more practical note, from a wargaming point of view an attack across the river seemed more interesting – there are plenty of ancient battles fought on flat, featureless plains.

In the spring of the year 334, leaving all enemies at home dead or mortally paralysed, Alexander marched for the Dardanelles. He crossed the Hellespont and after a diversion to visit the tomb of Achilles at Troy headed northwards up the Phrygian coast before cutting east near the town of Lampsacus.

Alerted to his progress the Satraps of Persia’s western provinces gathered their forces at the River Granicus. Amongst them was the experienced Greek mercenary general Memnon of Rhodes. Memnon was theoretically commander of all the Great King’s forces in the West, but he struggled to convince the Persian nobles of that fact. Annoyed by the Greek’s offhand assessment of Persian fighting capabilities, they elected to ignore his proposed scorched earth policy of retreat and harassment in favour of facing Alexander head on.

True the Greeks had defeated the Persians in every pitched battle they had ever fought against them, but that had been on fields of their choosing, on terrain that negated the power of the Persian horsemen. Now the Persians would pick the field, one suitable for the manoeuvre of cavalry and they would teach the Greeks and their arrogant boy-king a lesson. They would route his army and kill him.

Under the command of Arsites, Lord of Hellespontine Phrygia, a Persian army containing both the son-in-law and the brother-in-law of King Darius along with dozens of other Iranian aristocrats awaited the arrival of the invaders on the eastern bank of the River Granicus a few miles upstream from the Sea of Marmara. They were eager for combat, almost as eager as Alexander himself.

(Macedonian phalanxes, with covering fire provided by Cretan archers. The main phlanx in the photo is made up of Garrison 20mm Boetian hoplites ably converted and painted by Ray McGarry)

Special Rules

Macedonians move first

Individual command figures add plus one to all charge morale throws and 1D20 to combat dice roles. Alexander adds 2. This may be combined with other Macedonian leaders (for example with Kleitos and Alexander attached the Royal Companions would add 3D20 in melee)

It was summer and the Granicus was very low. It offers no obstacle to cavalry or light infantry but close order infantry must deduct 4cms from movement when crossing it.

Phalanx fighting while crossing the river deducts 2D20 from combat dice throws.

Persian unit movement. All Mercenary and noble units can move each turn. Other Persian and allied units must throw above the number of hits they have suffered on a D6 in order to move.

Garrison 20mm Persian Mercenaries. The ones nearest are the Ionian hoplites.

The Macedonian Army

Figures marked * are commanders, each will be represented by an individually based figure.


The Phalangites

Phalanx I (From Elymiotis)                                                         Koinos*

Phalanx II (From Orestis & Lynkestis)                             Perdikkas

Phalanx III                                                                                Amyntas

Phalanx IV                                                                               Philip

Phalanx V                                                                                 Meleagros

Phalanx VI                                                                               Krateros*

Each phalanx contains 40 figures

Koinos commands the right side of the centre, Krateros the left side.

The Hypaspistai

Unit I (The Agema) elite guard unit                                             Nikanor*

Unit II

Unit III

Each unit contains 24 figures


Thracians I

Thracians II


Each unit contains 20 figures

Light Troops

Cretan Archers

Macedonian Archers

Agrianes Javelins I

Agrianes Javelins II

Each unit contains 12 figures


The Companions                                                                 Officer

Companions I (Royal squadron) elite unit                               “Black” Kleitos*


Companions II

Companions III

Overall command of Companions                                         Philotas*

Light Cavalry

Thessalian Cavalry                                                                        Parmenion*

Greek Cavalry                                                                          Philip son of Menalaus

Thracian Cavalry

The Prodromoi (pike armed)                                                     Ariston

All units consist of 16 figures

Parmenion commands the left-wing of the Macedonian army and is second in command to Alexander, Kleitos commands the right wing.

(Action begins to unfold as Alexander and the Royal Companions cross the river)

The Persian Army

Commander: Arsites Satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia*

Other commanders:

Memnon of Rhodes*

Mithrobarzanes Satrap of Cappadocia*

Spithridates Satrap of Lydia*


Mercenary Hoplites

Commanded by Omares

Phalanx I  

Phalanx II

Phalanx III

Phalanx IV

Phalanx V

Phalanx VI

Phalanx VII

Phalanx VIII

Phalanx units of 24 hoplites

Mercenary Light Troops

Rhodian slingers

Ionian slingers

Aetolian javelins

Sestan javelins

Light units of 12 figures

Minifig Pbs Persian heavy cavalry from the brush of Ray McGarry.


Persian Noble Cavalry

Hykranians                                                         Spithridates*

Paphlagonians                                                     Arsites*

Bactrians                                                            Pharnaces

All close order heavy cavalry with armour and half-armoured horses.

Other Close Order Cavalry






Horse Archers

Dahae I

Dahae II


Assyrian I


Light Cavalry

Persian I

Persian II

Persian III

Persian IV

Persian V

All cavalry units contain 16 figures.

More Tomorrow.....


  1. Dear sir,

    truly inspirational. I envisaged armies like you show in your pictures. I was thinking of Warrior miniatures for a classic feel...I don't know anymore. Luckily this project has been sent to the rear, which gives me some time to reconsider things.
    I've "linked" your wonderful blog in my own "Chronicles".
    Sorry for the "middle me" avatar, I'm working on it.


  2. Thanks Pjotr. One advantage of the older, smaller figures is that they are far quicker to paint than the modern 28mm figures - and cheaper to buy, so big armies come within reach with regard to time and money. I was lucky that I picked up so many from second hand figure dealers at shows. I must have bought many hundreds of figures for less than 20p each - though admittedly I have spent more hours on eBay than is good for anybody.
    I like the Middle Me - it has a sense of mystery about it.