The Age of Persian Empire

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Persia's First Invasion of Greece (492 BCE)

By Matthew Kirkhart

In 490 BC, the Achaemenid Persian Empire began the first of two invasions of Greece in response to a revolt by Ionian Greeks from 499-494 BC. In 492 BC Darius king of Persian sent heralds to the city states of Greece demanding a tribute of earth and water. A few city states, including Athens, refused to pay tribute and were targeted for retribution by the Persian king. Thus, the first invasion of Greece by the Persians was begun.

The following is a DBA campaign designed to allow 3 players to play out the Ionian revolt and the Persian invasion in one afternoon of gaming. Attempts were made to follow the traditional DBA 2.0 game and campaign rules as closely as possible, while also adding some additional rules in the hopes of capturing the historical flavor of this first invasion of Greece by the Persians. The choices for armies and rule modifications were done purposefully. It is hoped that the dynamics for interesting play both on and off the DBA game board that these choices should produce will give players a real flavor for the actual historical events and battles.

As with most historical events during this period, there is some disagreement about the facts. The primary historical sources used in the development of this campaign were Herodotus and some of the writings of Peter Green and David Hanson. However, the most used text was one of Osprey's Campaign titles: "Marathon 490 BC: The First Persian Invasion of Greece" by Nicholas Sekunda.


This campaign is designed for three players, each controlling one of the following armies (see below). A two player campaign option is included at the end of this document as well. In the case of the Persians, the composition of elements for the army was changed somewhat in efforts to be as consistent as possible with historical information regarding the Persian army during the first invasion of Greece, while still retaining the feel of a DBA game.

I/52f: Athenian 540-450 BC -- 1x4Sp (Gen), 9x4sp, 2x2Ps

Note: The Athenians cannot be allies of the Persians.

I/52g: Asiatic Greek 668-450 BC -- 1x3Cv (Gen), 8x4Sp, 1x2Ps

Note: The Asiatic Greek army's "normal" number of elements is 10 rather than 12. The army is considered defeated if they lose 3 elements, not the regular 4, and the number of elements drops to 9 if they fail to engage in a battle during the course of an entire campaign year, rather than 10 elements as per the normal DBA 2.0 rules. These modifications were done to force the Asiatic Greek player to be mindful of the "politics" of the campaign and to choose alliances wisely as there is little chance for him to win the game without doing so.

I/60a: Early Achaemenid Persian, 550-466 BC -- 1x3Cv (Gen), 1x2LH, 6x8Bw, 2x4Sp, 1x3Ax, 1x2Ps

Note: The Persians cannot be allies of the Athenians.

Campaign Map

Maps of ancient Greece are readily available and could be used to add flavor to the game. Attached is a stylized map for the campaign. Except for the Athenian controlled cities, all travel between cities takes place over water, and the rules for sea travel in the DBA 2.0 rulebook should be used.

The campaign begins in the Spring turn of 492 BC and will last for a total of 9 turns, ending at the end of the Autumn turn of 490 BC. Although the dates and timeline are not entirely consistent with historical evidence, some "wiggle room" had to be made so that the DBA 2.0 campaign rules could be used to play out this campaign.

At the time of the beginning of the campaign, the Persians have already received tribute from some cities and therefore are assumed to control the cities of Lindor (for the purposes of the campaign this is the Persian capital), Samos, and Naxos. The Asiatic Greeks control the cities of Karystos, Tenos, and Andros (their capital). The Athenians control the cities of Plataea, Marathon, and Athens (their capital).

The Battle of Marathon

The Persian invasion of Greece in 490 BC involved many battles and sieges, but none is more noteworthy historically than the land battle at Marathon. Because of this, some rule modifications have been provided to raise the importance of a battle at this location in the campaign and to make the DBA battle as historically accurate a possible. These modifications also make it advantageous for all players to be involved in a battle at Marathon. The following rules ONLY apply if a battle at Marathon is between the Athenian and Persian armies, and should only be used the first time a battle between the Athenians and the Persians occurs at Marathon. If any subsequent battles occur at Marathon between these armies during the campaign, ignore all the following rule modifications and conduct the battle as per the normal DBA rules.

Both the Athenians and the Persians will earn an additional 3 prestige points if they battle each other and win at Marathon. The Asiatic Greeks will earn an additional 3 prestige points if they are an ally of the side that wins the battle at Marathon.

The terrain for the actual Battle of Marathon is rather uninteresting from a DBA game perspective as the majority of the battle took place on an open plane. However, a stylized DBA map for the battle is included if players wish to use it. The map assumes that players will use the optional rules listed below, so the Greek 2Ps elements and the Persian LH and 3Cv elements are located in their respective camps. Much of the terrain on the map was actually to the rear of each force during the actual battle. But to make an interesting DBA game, the terrain is placed in the front of each force. The relative positions of each army, however, were maintained to be consistent with the likely deployment of the Athenian and Persian troops during the actual battle.

Special Rules for the Athenian Player

At the beginning of the game, the Athenian player rolls a die. If a 6 is rolled the Athenian player may place another piece of Rough terrain. There is some slim historical evidence that a group of Athenians felled trees in an area of the battlefield before the Battle of Marathon to make it difficult for the Persians to deploy their cavalry effectively. Although the evidence is weak, this detail adds a nice element to the battle, so this rule is included.

The 2Ps elements for the Athenian army must begin the game in the Athenian camp and may only exit the camp on a PIP roll of 6. Most historical records mention only Greek hoplites fighting at Marathon, and therefore, in DBA terms, the 2Ps elements of a DBA army may be assumed to have stayed in the Greek camp for most if not all of the battle.

The Athenian hoplite elements may make a double move once at any time during the game. This simulates the famous "charge" performed by the Athenians in an effort to quickly close the gap between themselves and the Persians. If they contact enemy elements at the end of the double move, apply a -1 modifier to their attack rolls for the first turn only.

Special Rules for the Persian Player

There is some evidence that the Persian cavalry did not even participate in the Battle of Marathon ("The cavalry are away!"). For the game, the Persian player must place his 3Cv and LH elements in his camp and may only move them out of the camp on a PIP roll of 6.

The Persian player may select one of the 4Sp elements to serve as his General element during this battle. However, if he wishes, he may still use the 3Cv element as his General element even though the element must start in the camp as stated above.

Modeling Tips

The following are modeling suggestions given in the hopes of giving this DBA campaign a historical feel.

The two 4Sp elements for the Persian army could be modeled in any number of ways. If the player wishes to keep his army "purely Persian," the 4Sp elements should probably be modeled either as Immortals or Arstibara ("spearbearers"). The 4Sp elements could also be modeled as Greek hoplites, and this would be still be historically accurate.

The best representation of the Persian camp is probably a beached ship, indicating their naval invasion of Greece. The Greek camps can be traditional, such as a Greek building, but for the battle at Marathon the Athenian player should consider using a BUA olive grove element.

Two Player Campaign

Some players are not fortunate enough to have more than one DBA friend in their area so the following rules are provided so that this campaign can be run as a two player game.

One player should control the Athenian army while the other controls the Persian army. The Asiatic Greek army should only be used as allies, and in this case use one 4Sp and one 2Ps element.

Both the Athenian and Persian players may move freely through the cities controlled by the Asiatic Greeks. However, whenever the Athenian or Persian player wishes to move into an area controlled by the Asiatic Greeks roll a die. On a roll of 5 or 6, the player may take control of that area either through diplomatic means (the Athenians) or through military means (the Persians). If the die roll is not a 5 or 6, the player may move through the city normally, but it is assumed that the Asiatic Greeks still control the city and were simply allowing the Athenians or Persians to travel through the area.

Whenever the Athenian and Persian armies clash, the player who has the most number of Asiatic Greek areas controlled may use the Asiatic Greek elements mentioned above as allies if he wishes, controlling them as if they were his troops. If the Athenians and the Persians control the same number of Asiatic Greek cities, neither can use them as allies in the battle.

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Last Updated: 4 July 2004.

Thanks to Matthew Kirkhart for this submission.
Comments and feedback welcome.