Cynocephalae (Republican Romans vs Macedonians)

The Plan

The Macedonians put their Cavalry on the left of the right advanced flank. They planned to use their speed to be able to protect the gap between their left and right flank.


The Romans were planning to advance as quick as possible on their right flank to hold the top of the ridge. They were confident that they could crush the enemy there.

On the left they decided to attack the Phalanx hoping to be able to sneek into a gap by drawing the enemy forward. With the cavalry on the extreme left in position and a unit (that was drawn from the right flank to the left) on the other side. By the way, this was the unit that got the bonus LD for the unnamed tribune.

Roman Hastati


Learn more about the Roman Tactical Checkerboard Formation here.

The Setup

The table was 80". It turned out to be just a little to small to deploy the cavalry the way we wanted.

We played with two 4000 points armies. Click here for the scenario we used.

Macedonian Phalanx Macedonian Phalanx Galatian Warriors Macedonian Cavalry Macedonian Light Troops Velites Roman Cavalry Aetolian Peltasts Roman Manipuls Aetolian Phalanx Aetolian/Roman Cavalry Galatian Cavalry

The armies are ready to engage. Macedonians this side, Romans at the right top, Aetolians at the left top.
(move over the picture to get unit info)


A Battle on 2 Flanks

Macedonian Backward Flank Macedonian Advanced Flank
The Aetolian peltasts threw a devastating round of javelins. But no Macedonian light troops fled. The Cretans, however, were reduced to 3 models. The Romans advanced quickly here.
Nicanor encouraged his phalanx units to march up the hill.
The light troops managed to rout the Roman cavalry on this flank. (Because the Aetolian general could only use his LD on his own troops, they broke and fled of the table.)
Macedonia arrived on the top of the ridge. They were looking down at the Romans struggling to get rid of the skirmishers.
All units that could charge, engaged the enemy. Elephants, cavalry and peltasts alike. The Romans were joined by a unit of principes from the other flank (The light blue unit). The need was higher here.
The Phalanx had to reform into a phalanx because the Romans were about to break through the light troops. The Macedonian cavalry realised they were in a difficult position should the Romans break through the light troops. they decided to draw back a await their chance.
The Phalanx steadily advanced downhill.

Romans in Blue   -   Aetolians in Purple
Macedonians in Orange   -   Galatians in brown
(Move over the picture to see unit legend)

The Galatians were the first to be charged by the Roman heavy troops. An elephant charged the Galatian infantry, while a Roman unit got engaged with the Galatian cavalry. The light troops finally out of the way the battle was about to start here too.
The Roman cavalry hid in the woods.
A Macedonian phalanx charged and joined the fight with the Galatian cavalry against the Romans.
The Galatian infantry got destroyed by the elephant.
The Thessalians were moved to the other flank where help was needed.
The Thesssalian cavalry decided that the time was right and charged the Romans. Another Phalanx charged also.
Philip joined a phalanx on his extreme right, thus making his range of command less affective.
The Romans lost the combat against the phalanx but did not break. They decided to FBIGO instead. The phalanx followed and got in combat with another Roman unit.
The Romans got their second elephant in range and charged the Galatian cavalry that quickly routed. After that the phalanx also lost the combat and fled. The engaged phalanx got a flank attack from a Roman cavalry unit but stood their ground.
The Thessalians did the same. They got caught in the flank by the Roman unit with the unnamed tribune and lost badly. Fled and were destroyed.

The Phalanx advances...

Luckily all Macedonian units rallied. But they were in a unfavourable position, surrounded by elephants and Romans.
The Romans attacked another phalanx unit.
The cavalry that charged the Macedonian phalanx was on his turn charged by a phalanx. They were cut down to the last man.This was to much for the Romans. They fled.
Another Phalanx also charged the Romans. But this Roman Triarii unit was stubborn and stayed.

(Move over the picture to see unit legend)

Two Roman Elephants joined forces an attacked a phalanx frontally. They should not have done this. They lost the combat and stampeded! The Romans were loosing badly on their extreme left, but on the centre left they were not doing so badly.
Another unit of Romans charged here and got a phalanx in the flank.
The phalanx in combat was attacked in the flank, but they stayed. Due to the leadership of Nicanor they passed every break test. On the Macedonian turn the last phalanx not engaged (the Macedonian guard unit) attacked the Roman flanking unit in its flank. The Romans stood firm. A fierce battle was evolving here.

(Move over the picture to see unit legend)

The stampeding elephants ran into the Aetolian cavalry and a skirmish unit, that fled. things were looking up for the Macedonians on this side.
Two phalanx were again ready to counter, and they were now joined by the Macedonian cavalry.
The one phalanx unit in combat passed their breaktest again and again.
The last Roman cavalry unit attacked the Macedonians in the flank.
And, again the unit with the unnamed tribune, got in the flank of a Macedonian unit. All Macedonians stayed put.
But the combat itself turned out to be too much for one Macedonian phalanx. They fled.
Unfortunatly the Macedonians were faced with the two Aetolian phalanxes. And on their flank two Roman units were approaching.
We could imagine that this flank was going to loose in the end.
The Macedonian guard was now surrounded by 5 Roman units.
On the other side of this flank the phalanx was winning convincingly. But they would be too late to prevent the collapse of the Macedonian guard.


Roman Principes get into the flank of a Veteran Phalanx

The Result

The battle ended after 6 hours of playing in a defeat for the Macedonians. Strangely this went almost exactly as it historically did.

The Macedonian backward flank did not manage to develop into a solid  front. This gave the agile Roman maniples the opportunity to wreck havoc.

The Macedonian advanced flank pushed the Romans right of the hill. And back to Italy, had the help from the Roman right, attacking the flank of the phalanx not resulted into the defeat of the Macedonian forward flank. In the end only the Macedonian extreme right were victorious.

The Aftermath

The most important unit on the Roman side was the unit with the unnamed tribune. They were responsible for smashing the Thessalian Wedge, and giving the death blow to the Macedonian guard.

For the Macedonians the dice were probably the best part. Throwing snake eyes (2) for break tests four or five times is really something nobody can reckon with.

But it surely wasn't an easy win for the Romans. The tides turned several times during the battle. We think that it is a scenario worth playing.

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