It took me some time, but I finally had a chance to play the great Field Commander series from Dan Verssen Games. Being able to choose from the three titles in the series, I went for the period in history I am most interested in – antiquity. Which meant that I will have a chance to revisit the great feats of Alexander the Great!
Today I am going to present the first two campaigns in the game – Granicus and Issus. Soon, you can expect second article, focusing on the last two maps – Tyre and Gaugamela. But before session report, some info on the game and of course historical background.
Let me bring some more info about game goal, mechanics and scenarios:
When playing the game, you are placed in Alexander’s footsteps when he comes of age in 338 BC, just before the battle of Chaeronea. From that point on, you get to decide where to travel, when to battle, when to negotiate, and when to seek out divine prophesies to guide your actions.
The life of Alexander is divided into several campaigns, each spanning several years. During each campaign, you are given goals, but how you achieve those goals is up to you. Do you enter into battle? Or negotiate? How strong are you? How strong are they? What can you gain? These are all decisions you get to make, and must make well, if you are to live up to the immortal standards set before you.
The campaigns can either be played stand alone, or linked to play through his entire life. When played as one on-going life, the outcome of one campaign affects your starting situation in the next campaign.
Sounds like a fun? Yes it is and you shall see this in my session report!
Alexander succeeded his father in 336 BC, and after securing control of Macedon and the other Greek states, he marched east to challenge the Persian Empire. He crossed the Hellespont into Asia with about 32,000 infantry and 5,100 cavalry. (in game terms, we can easily cross from Greece to Asia)
Darius III, emperor of Persia, did not act in time to prevent the crossing and ordered his Satraps (governors) and generals to assemble their forces near the Granicus River. The Persian cavalry were deployed along the bank and the infantry some distance to the rear. Alexander placed his heavy infantry in the center and light infantry and cavalry on the wings. Parmenio command the defensive left and Alexander the overloaded right. (Parmenion will be key Advisor for Alexander in the game)
The initial Macedonian attack across the river was repulsed. Alexander then led the Companion cavalry in a ferocious assault on the Persian leaders who were now grouped closely together. Mithridates, Darius’ nephew, struck the Macedonian king with a javelin, but Alexander slew him with a sword stroke. Rhoesaces then managed to deliver a blow that split Alexander’s helmet. As Alexander struck Rhoesaces down, Spithradates came from behind and raised his scimitar to finish off the Macedonian king. However, Alexander’s bodyguard Cleitus struck the Persian noble with such power that he severed his arm.
The death of these three leaders was too much for the Persian cavalry and they broke and fled. So did the Persian foot. Only the Greek mercenaries held their ground. When they asked for quarter, none was given, and they were butchered almost to the man. Asia Minor was now ripe for Macedonian conquest.
In this campaign we will need to deal first with Spartans – fortunately, having king Philip alive, enemy battle plans will be reduced by 3. There are two prophecies, which once fulfilled, will nicely progress Alexander toward higher levels – an interesting, mini-RPG element of the game. Granicus must be dealt with in battle, but on top of this three strongholds are there to be taken (by intimidation or conquest): Sardis, Halicarnasus and Lycia. A lot of stuff to cover!
I was really afraid if I manage to cover the map in time – but some lucky scouting rolls helped here enormously. Fighting in open terrain proved to be much easier than scaling the walls – but with time I am sure I will devise also strategies for those situations. In the end I scored 30 VPs which can be translated into 104 Immortality Points (special metric for Alexander campaigns, marking for how long he will be remembered. Onto the next challenge!
After the battle of Granicus River, Darius assembled a new army near Babylon while Alexander overran Asia Minor. (in game terms these are the strongholds of Side and Ancyra). Darius advanced into Syria to await the Macedonian invader. However, when Alexander’s advance was delayed due to his illness, Darius maneuvered his forces around behind the Macedonian army and overran its supply base. Alexander turned back to meet Darius at the Pinarus River.
Darius’ army was deployed defensively behind the river, with light-armed units on the hills on his left, Greek mercenaries in the center and the majority of his cavalry on his right under Narbazanes. Alexander took command of the Companion Cavalry on the right, deployed his phalanx in the center and sent the Thessalian cavalry under Parmenio to the left flank to hold out against the massed Persian horse.
Alexander’s advance was slow at first, but when he realized the Persian units in the hills were no threat, he ordered the charge toward the Greek mercenaries. The Macedonian phalanx initially had a tough time against Darius’ Greek mercenaries, but Alexander broke through with his Companions and took the mercenaries in the flank. The Persian center rapidly collapsed and Darius fled the field. A fierce, evenly matched cavalry battle near the shore turned into a Persian rout when the horsemen saw Darius take flight. Persia had lost two armies, and Alexander now had access into the heart of the empire.
We start Issus with slightly larger army than in Granicus. The task we have is more challenging – there are like 4 strongholds to be captured, Alexander has problems with supply (in most places cost to recruit is doubled) and on top of this large Persian army is awaiting with his King Darius. The fact that prophecy is away from main attack route does not help. Let us see how it went!
Despite some set-backs, the result achieved was fantastic – 30 VPs and 88 Immortality Points. I think first turn was key and gaining enough gold to go through Side, Ancyra up to Tarsos. The Issus battle – while very blood and destructive for both sides – never hinged in doubt. All in all, great experience!
I truly enjoyed those two campaigns and game in itself. What an interesting combination of strategic-level campaign with low level, operational battles. The gold is crucially important to fuel the conquest – which in turn, also provides a lot of gold! Advisors and battle Plans allow for many interesting tactics on battlefield; Prophecies develop Alexander as general; Insights provide some specific, unique advantages. I can’t wait to start playing more difficult and demanding campaigns: Tyre and Gaugamela. More to come!