With forced lockdown, I am spending more and more time playing my favorite boardgames via online means of communication – mainly Vassal. One of those games is definitely Commands Colors Ancients. With Lukasz and Marcin – my two most regular CCA opponents – we started to play series of EPIC encounters, grouped into the thematic blocks. Today I would like to present our first three games, with working title “Greek World EPICs“. We had possibility to reenact famous battles of Marathon, Plataea as well as Leuctra – let us see how did it go!

1) EPIC Marathon (490 BC)

Every history fan knows that battle but to briefly remind the historical background:

King Darius I of Persia sent an expedition against Athens in reprisal for the burning of Sardes in 498 BC during the failed Ionian Revolt. The Persian fleet under the joint command of Datis and Artaphernes landed near Marathon bay. The Athenians marched out to face the enemy in the field, with 1000 allied soldiers from Plataea supplementing the Athenian force of 9000. The Persians outnumbered the Greeks, but to counter the disparity, Callimachus extended the Greek line to match the enemy, thinning the center while keeping both wings at full strength. The Persian army, with its best troops in the center, was taken by surprise when the Athenians attacked. In the battle the Persian center got the best of the weak Greek center and broke through, but this success was more than countered by the defeat of their two wings. The victorious Athenians then swung inwards and the Persian force was routed back to their ships.

Now let us have a look how CCA depicts that battle:

Set-up of Marathon battle and the split of leadership (click to enlarge)

We rolled for the sides and I started as subordinate commander in Greek army, led by Lukasz. Marcin had whole Persian invasion army prepared for the attack.

The final situation of Marathon battle and troops maneuvers (click to enlarge)

Main actions of our game – very similar to actual historical events:

  • Greek right commanded by me immediately moved forward with two double times; whoever was not able to evade was obliterated by my Heavy Infantry.
  • Exactly same fate awaited Persians on the other wing – quick hits, tons of causalities inflicted by Lukasz’s Hoplites.
  • Marcin of course counter-attacks in the center; he manages to pull the result from 4-9 to 9-9; he does it despite his leader being killed at the beginning of the game!
  • The last turns of the game was a Greeks chase for that 1 Victory Banner needed to defeat Persians; it was hard to get – light Persians were evading on their left and what is more, obliterated almost whole center!
  • In the end timely played I am Spartacus finished the game; great play by Marcin who managed to really well defend plus do a great counter-attack; bloody battle with almost 50 blocks lost on each side.

2) EPIC Plataea (479 BC)

Another very famous battle, which with the Salamis encounter definitely repelled Persian incursion into Greece. Brief historical background follows:

The Persian emperor Xerxes I led a massive invasion of Greece to avenge the defeat of his father’s forces at Marathon. After annihilating the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, Xerxes burned Athens, then Macedon, Thessaly, and Boeotia submitted. However, Following the loss of the Persian fleet at Salamis, Xerxes withdrew to Asia and left Mardonius with most of the Persian land forces to continue the subjugation of Greece. Amid much bickering, an allied Greek army was formed under the Spartan Pausanias, and moved to oppose the Persians. When forces faced each other, Mardonis attacked the entire Greek line, with an onslaught that was particularly fierce on the Athenian wing. On the right, the Spartans held back until Pausanias obtained just the right “omens” from a sacrifice and then ordered them to charge. It was a desperate infantry battle but the better tactics and weapons of the Greeks finally turned the tide, killing Mardonius along the way. The victory at Plataea meant the direct Persian threat to Greece was effectively ended.

Plataea as portrayed by CCA:

Set-up of Plataea battle and the split of leadership (click to enlarge)

This time I had a role of subordinate general in Marcin’s army, while Lukasz tried to repeat the great feat of Greek army.

The final situation of Plataea battle and troops maneuvers (click to enlarge)

The dynamics of Plataea our battle:

  • As a leader of the Persian left I had my moments of glory, killing two heavy infantry units but in the end my wing was dispersed.
  • Marcin decided to move the center of Persians – able to support either of the wings – to the right; that paid off, as it got the Greeks from two sides, annihilating tons of barely mobile heavy and medium units.
  • Lukasz fought bravely but the final Mounted Charge did the Greeks and surprisingly, the Easterners won! The losses on both sides were staggering (around 45 blocks each).

3) EPIC Leuctra (371 BC)

Not so much known but very important for Greek world, battle of Leuctra indirectly set the stage for Macedonian domination and Alexander the Great. But first this two hoplite powers clashed, resulting in mutual annihilation which significantly weakened them. Short historical background follows:

Sparta’s victory in the Peloponnesian War (431-404) over Athens cemented the reputation of her hoplites as the premier infantry force in the world. However, Spartan arrogance following this victory led to the outbreak of hostilities with her former ally, Thebes. In 371 King Cleombrotus of Sparta marched against Thebes. When he reached Leuctra he found the Theban army barred his way. Greek commanders traditionally placed their best troops on the right, and this wing usually led the attack. The brilliant Theban commander, Epaminodas, devised an innovative plan to mass his best men on the left in a 50-man deep phalanx. Seeing his cavalry fail, Cleombrotus ordered his infantry to advance. The Spartans on the left were attempting to change formation to deal with the situation when the Sacred Band charged and hit them in mid-maneuver. Cleombrotus was killed and the massive weight of the Theban phalanx broke the Spartan line. Never before had Sparta experienced such a defeat and Leuctra shattered the myth of Spartan military invincibility.

Set-up of Leuctra battle and the split of leadership (click to enlarge)

For the first time I had occasion to play as an overall commander – leading Spartans destined to lose. On the other side Marcin took command of Thebes and Lukasz – the most important part of this army – left wing.

The final situation of Leuctra battle and troops maneuvers (click to enlarge)

Key developments:

  • The Elites clashes – yes! What a great and magnificent battle ensued on Spartan right / Theban left! Two powerful blocks of Hoplites met each other, decimating themselves pretty evenly; still, Spartans lost all of their Heavy Infantry while Thebans only 3 out of 5.
  • The Theban center also moved forward but I managed to circumvent it with my cavalry – which in the end proved to be a very successful formation in that battle, killing two Theban Medium counterparts.
  • In the long run my Spartans – despite great feats of heroism – had to succumb to the numerical superiority of the opponents; while losses were not so great on both sides – as we had 2 VPs for each HI – the battlefield looked like a place of carnage; not surprisingly, both sides blooded themselves here significantly with the victory going to Thebes.


That was a time well spent – three epic game, played in thematic, consecutive sequence. We will for sure continue and now moves to battles fought 700-800 later – late Roman Empire vs Barbarians!