Granicus (Alexander's Macedonians vs Persians)

The Background


The Battle of the Granicus River in May, 334 BC was the first major victory of Alexander the Great against the Persian Empire. Fought in Northwestern Asia Minor, near the site of Troy, Alexander here defeated the forces of the Persian satraps of Asia Minor, including a large force of Greek mercenaries.

The Persians placed the cavalry in front of the infantry, and drew up on the right (east) bank of the river. Accounts vary as to whether Alexander immediately attacked, or crossed the river upstream and attack at dawn the next day.

In any case, the Persians had some cavalry that was in contact with the first Greek units to arrive, but Alexander led the elite Companions on an outflanking charge while the Macedonian foot companions covered the rest of the battle column as it formed up against the Persians. The Macedonian line was arrayed with the heavy Phalanxes in the middle, and cavalry on either side.

The battle started with a cavalry and light infantry feint from the Macedonian left. The Persians heavily reinforced that side, and the feint was driven back, but at that point, Alexander led the horse companions in their classic wedge-shaped charge, and smashed into the centre of the Persian line. The Persians counter charged with a squadron of nobles on horse, and accounts show that in the melee, several high-ranking Persian nobles were killed by Alexander himself or his bodyguards, although Alexander received a wound.

The Macedonian cavalry then turned left and started rolling up the Persian cavalry, which was engaged with the left side of the Macedonian line after a general advance. A hole opened in the recently vacated place in the battle line, and the Macedonian infantry charged through to engage the poor quality Persian in the rear. At this, both flanks of the Persian cavalry retreated, seeing the collapse of the centre. The infantry also routed, with many being cut down in the rout.

Total casualties for the Macedonians was anywhere between 80 and 200. The Persians had 2000 infantry captured, roughly 1,000 cavalry and 3,000 infantry killed, mostly in the rout.

The scenario


The scenario we played was taken from the WAB supplement "Alexander the great" (AtG) on page 72. We scaled down the amount of models to 75%; we did not have enough models to play it otherwise.



Click here for the battle report played by Jeff Jonas himself (writer of the WAB AtG supplement).
The battle took us 7 turns and (only) 4 hours to play.

The Persians should have more room to their back to rally fleeing troops Jeff Jonas advised us. We decided that a Persian unit was allowed one more change to rally after it left the table edge.


The battlefield was a little too small for a 4000 points battle. The Persians did not have time to (re)deploy the cavalry to the sides before the Macedonians arrived.

The Forces

Alexander's Macedonian force

Memnon's Persian force

1 General: Alexander 1 General: Memnon (could only command the greeks forces)
1 Strategos and 1 taxiarch 3 Satraps
30 Shock cavalry 64 Persian and Noble cavalry <<<   120 cavalry!
16 Promodroi cavalry 39 Greek and Colonist cavalry
25 Hypaspist Phalanx 16 Light cavalry
95 Pezhetairoi Phalanx 72 Greek veteran and mercenary phalanx
34 Javelinmen 48 Satrapal infantry
21 Bowmen 16 Slingers
  34 Javelinmen


The Plan

The Persians were hoping the massed cavalry rule would stop the Macedonian cavalry. The deployment in the centre was not suitable for their plans. The cavalry may not attack the phalanx to the front. So they decided to move to the edge. The gap should be filled with the Greek mercenary Phalanx.


The Macedonians were planning to wait on both sides for the Persian cavalry. At the right time at the right place both wedges on the left and right would strike through the Persian cavalry and attack the infantry in the flank or back. The phalanx would wait on our side of the river to wait for his infantry to make the first move.



The Battle

The Persian Light troops and cavalry started just behind the river. The Macedonians had the first turn. They quickly deployed their cavalry in advantage positions. On the first turn of the Persians their Greek phalanx arrived on the table edge.

Persian Cavalry & Skirmishers Greek Mercenaries with Memnon Macedonian Phalanx Macedonian Skirmish screen Macedonian Cavalry Macedonian Cavalry with Alexander

The start of the battle after the first macedonain movement (this side of the river).
(move over the picture to get unit info)

Memnon wanted to cross the river as soon as possible when he noticed that the Macedonian phalanx hesitated. But the massive amount of troops in front of them could not get out of the way quickly. They managed to rout the Macedonian light troops, but were forced back by the phalanx, which the cavalry can not charge.

     Both cavalry moved to the flanks.
(Persians in orange, Macedonians in purple)

The Persian massed cavalry movement penalties made the move to the flanks very slow. The Macedonian cavalry could easily outmanoeuvre them. The Persians had hoped that the sheer number of cavalry units (4:9) would eventually break the wedges.

The skirmishers on both sides very quickly annihilated each other.

Fierce phalanx battle in the centre and cavalry charges on the flanks.

No one dared to cross the river. But when a Persian cavalry unit was attacked by Hypaspists things really got nasty. Almost all of the Persian right flank started fleeing...and did not rally again. When the Persian flanks began failing, the Greek mercenaries decided that they could not longer wait and attacked. The Macedonian pikes stopped the charge without trouble. Also two Persian cavalry charges on the Macadonian wedges did not do much. Things were getting very dangerous for the Persians.


In the end all the Persian Cavalry was routed.


The Greek mercenaries were about to be surrounded when finally the Persian flanks totally collapsed. The game ended after turn 7. There was no need to count the victory points. The Macedonians lost only one Promodroi cavalry unit. Almost all the Persians were fleeing or destroyed.


The Result

The Persians were defeated in the same manner as history tells us the story: the Persian cavalry were no match for the aggressive Macedonian wedge. Their line collapsed totally. In the centre the stalemate between the two Phalanx lines was ended when the Macedonians could get into the flank and/or rear of the Greek mercenaries.

The Aftermath

The only troops the Persians could rely on were foreigners. The light infantry and skirmishers, Satrapal infantry and the cavalry could not make a stand against the better Macedonians. 

Alexander's aggressive cavalry tactics paid of once again. The wedges were too strong for the Persian cavalry who couldn’t move so fast. The macedonian pike phalanx weren't even decisive in this battle. It must be said that the 16 Macedonian oracles were very welcome in the battle results!

Some things we noticed:

  1. At first I could not believe that the Satrapal levies had a LD of only 3 ! (Though warband rule 1 (=add rank bonus to LD) is added.)

  2. The Persian massed cavalry did not give the punch I had hoped for. They may not march when wheeling. This made them very slow, too slow for the wedge.

  3. The massed cavalry rank bonus only applied if they actually charged. But the Macedonians were waiting on the other side of the river. Charging them would mean letting go of the rank bonus due to the river crossing. Getting charged would do the same.

  4. The Macedonians always striking first with their pikes and kontos also had a profound impact on the game. The dice were against the Persians this game and the Macedonians made large amounts of casualties that even the rank bonus could not level.

It was the first time we played a Persian army. Maybe the Persians will do things different the next time.


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