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Battle Scenarios

The Battle of Granicus (334 BC)

The young Alexander leads his Macedonians (#36) across the Hellespont to confront his Later Archaemenid Persian (#33) foes arrayed along the bank of the River Granicus. Although outnumbered 2-1 in cavalry, Alexander leads his Companions into a fierce melee that pierces the Persian center and eventually causes both Persian wings to abandon the field in panic.

The Armies

Later Achaemenid Persian (#33)

Although not sanctioned by the official DBA army list, the following army composition is recommended for purposes of refighting the historical battle: 6 x 3Cav, 2 x 2LH, 4 x 4SP (Greek mercenaries)

Alexanderian Macedonian (#36)

The following army composition is recommended for purposes of refighting the historical battle: 1 x 3KN (Companions), 2 x 3 Cav, 1 x 2LH, 4 x 4Pk (Foot Companions/phalanx), 2 x 4Aux (shield-bearers), 2 x 2 Ps (Agrainian javelinmen and Cretin archers)

The Historical Battle

After consolidating the kingdom he inherited upon the death of his father Phillip II in 336 BC, Alexander led his army east, across the Hellespont and along the Propontis (i.e., Black Sea), with the goal of driving the Persians from Asia Minor. The Persians gathered their army, believed to be comprised of 10,000 cavalry and 5,000 infantry (comprised mostly of Greek mercenary hoplites under Memnon) and took a strong defensive position in-land on the east bank of the Granicus River (the current day Kocabas Cay), where they gave Alexander battle in May, 334 BC.

The Granicus river was approximately 60-90 feet wide, with a strong current, varing depth, and steep irregular banks. The Persians adopted the river as their first line of defense and arrayed their cavalry along its banks. The Greek infantry was posted in line on a hill approximately a quarter mile to the rear.

Surveying the Persian dispositions, Parmenion, Alexander's second in command, counseled caution, noting that an attack across the river invited disaster. Alexander, however, felt that the Persians had made a tactical error in placing their cavalry along the river bank, rather than using the Greek infantry to contest the crossing, and he was anxious to take advantage. He formed his line with 9000 phalanx infantry in the center. On the far left were posted 1,800 Thessalonian heavy cavalry, with 150 Thracian light horse and 650 Greek heavy horse filling the gap. On his right, Alexander posted in succession 3,000 "shield bearers" or heavy infantry, 750 light horse, 1,800 Companion heavy cavalry in two units, 500 Agrianian javelinmen and finally 500 Cretin archers.

The battle was commenced with a feint against the Persian left flank by 750 light horse, 200 Companion heavy cavalry in a unit commanded by the Macedonian General Socrates, and 1000 Foot Companions comprising one of the six phalanx units. The Persian cavalry rained javelins down on the Macedonians, who found themselves outnumbered, on unsteady ground, struggling to gain the bank in fierce fighting. The feint served its purpose, however, drawing Persian reenforcements to their far left flank where they expected Alexander to press his attack.

Seeing the state of affairs, Alexander sent forward his Companion cavalry with light infantry supports slashing across the river into the Persian left center. They were closely followed by three phalanx of Foot Companions and the remaining 2000 shield bearers, who assailed the Persian center. Having gained the level ground above the bank after hard fighting, the Companion cavalry put their long sarissas to good use, slowly gaining the advantage in the close melee over the Persian's who found their throwing javelins of little use at close quarters.

Alexander was at the head of his horsemen and an obvious target for the Persians. (Some historians argue that the crux of the Persian battleplan and the reason for their peculiar deployment may have been to concentrate the best Persian cavalry in an attempt to isolate and kill Alexander). First the Persian cavalry commander Mithridates charged him, scimitar in hand, only to be struck down by Alexander's lance. The Persian nobleman Rhoesaces was able to strike Alexander a blow to the head, which cut through his helmut, before being cut down. A third Persian, Spithridates, was poised to strike Alexander a fatal blow from behind, but was thwarted by Cleitus, commander of Alexander's royal squadron, who was able to lop of the attacker's arm in mid-swing.

By this point in the battle, Alexander's left flank led by the Thessalonian heavy cavalry, and the Macedonian infantry in the center, were also advancing and pressing back the Persians before them. The hard-pressed Persian center collapsed first under the impetuous assault of Alexander's Companions, and then both wings fled in panic, leaving only the second line of Greek mercenary infantry on the field and standing squarely in Alexander's path.

The Greeks had seen no service so far that day; and even their commander Memnon and his sons had left them to fight with the Persian cavalry. They sent a deposition to Alexander offering terms of their surrender, but Alexander would have nothing of it. The Macedonian phalanxes were brought forward and Alexander's cavalry swung round to threaten their flanks and rear. The Greeks were quickly dispatched, with an estimated 2000 taken prisoner.

Deployment

Normal deployment rules can be used.

To more closely approximate the historical battle, the following rules are suggested. Persians deploy first. Persian cavalry can deploy anywhere behind the Granicus River, but may not cross the river until the Macedonian's commence their attack. Persian spear (comprising their Greek mercenaries) must form on the hill and may not move until at least one Macedonian unit successfully crosses the Granicus.

Game Map (ASCII)


===============Persian Baseline==================
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r r . . r r r r r . . . r r r r r . . . . . . . .
. . r r . . . . . r r r . . . . . r r r r . . . .
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==============Macedonian Baseline================

SCALE: The distance between each dot/letter is one inch.

TERRAIN KEY:

.=Good Going (Good Going)
r=River
h=Hill


Terrain Notes

All hills have gentle slopes. Treat the Granicus River as a 3-4 river (i.e. banks can be used to aid defense but each element need not score 2+ to cross). As an interesting variant, allow the Persian commander to designate up to six inches of river (in two or more sections) as treacherous. These can be represented by using different color felt, small peebles, or some other indicator.

Special Rules

None.

Victory Conditions

Use the normal DBA victory conditions.

Notes

In putting together this scenario, I relied in significant part on information provided in John Mixter, "Aexander's First Great Victory," Military History (December 1997).


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Last Updated: June 5, 1998

Questions, comments, and feedback are welcome. Sent them to my attention at IamFanaticus@gmail.com.