The Age of Persian Empire

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A Year of Battles:
Persian Civil War (522 BCE)

by Andrew Fisher

> Campaigns > DBA Resources > Fanaticus

In 522BC Darius I murdered the Great King Gaumāta, plunging the Achaemenid empire into civil war. In a single year, Darius went on to defeat all his rivals and reunite the empire which he had divided. The astonishing story is preserved in the inscription which Darius himself commissioned at Behistun (and by Herodotus) and you can read it (fortunately in translation) at the excellent Livius site from whom I also stole the campaign map.

These events are the inspiration for a mighty 16-turn DBA Persian campaign with no Greeks in it. Now even wargaming can be cleansed of its Dead White European Males.

Setting Up the campaign

The Year of Battles campaign is intended for two teams each of two or three players but could be played by just two players if wished. The team-based approach helps to ensure that all players are continually involved in battles, but if you prefer you can give each army a separate player. Darius records no sieges during the civil war, and in any case sieges are boring, so we have eliminated them altogether. This campaign is designed to generate a lot of battles. That's the point, isn't it?

The campaign is played on the accompanying map of the Persian empire. Provinces (areas) are connected by routes exactly as in a standard DBA campaign, and none of the routes are considered Sea routes, not even the route from Persia to Maka. Movement is a maximum of two stages as normal, but many of the other rules are different.

The Loyalist side starts with four armies (each I/60a), all in the Media area.

The Rebels start with three armies:

  • A Babylonian army (I/44b) in the Babylon area.
  • An Armenian army (I/39b) in the Armenia area.
  • A Persian army (I/60a) in the Persia area.

Certain areas have an Unrest Level (a number printed alongside the area name on the map. At the start of the game, place Unrest Markers equal to the Unrest Level of each area in the area (coins are useful as they are easy to stack). Unrest levels are:

4 Armenia, Babylon
3 Media, Parthia, Persia
2 Arachosia, Elam
1 Assyria, Drangiana, Memphis (Egypt), Sattagydia

Turn Order

Each turn is a single month (not a season as in standard DBA). The first Turn is October 522 and the last turn is December 521. There are therefore 16 turns in all (because the Persians used the Lunar calendar).


In the first turn, the Loyalists have the initiative. In subsequent turns, each side dices for the initiative. The side with the initiative moves all its armies first.


Movement is up to two provinces per turn, as in standard DBA campaigns. A province with no Unrest markers counts as Loyalist controlled, an area with twelve (or more) Unrest Markers count as rebel controlled. All other areas are controlled by neither side, and both sides may move through such uncontrolled areas.

Armies which enter an area containing an enemy army must engage in a land battle. You may not stand siege, nor may a player without the Initiative retreat without fighting a battle if the player with the Initiative has invaded an area containing one of his (or her) armies.


After both sides have moved their armies, any battles are fought. The player who moved into contact counts as the Invader, and the other player places terrain. Each area counts as a specific terrain type as follows, regardless of the home terrain of the armies actually engaged.

Arable Assyria, Babylonia, Chorasmia, Media, Persia
Dry Arabia
Hilly Armenia, Cappadocia, Elam, Parapamisos
Littoral Maka, Memphis (Egypt), Yauna (Ionia)
Steppe Aria, Arachosia, Bactria, Drangiana, Parthia, Sogdiana
Tropical Sattagydia

An army which did not move and is not engaged in battle may send up to two ally contingents in accordance with the normal rules.

After Battle

The defeated army may retreat to any friendly-controlled or uncontrolled area which does not contain a hostile army, except the area from which it was attacked. If no eligible area is available to retreat to, then the defeated army may not retreat and is wholly destroyed (e.g. if a Rebel army in Armenia is attacked and defeated by a Loyalist army moving from Media, it may retreat to Cappadocia if Cappadocia contains any Unrest markers, but if Cappadocia contains no Unrest markers, then the Rebel army may not retreat, and is destroyed).

Political Phase

After all battles have been fought, and any retreats have taken place, then the winner of any battle may add or remove Unrest markers in the area in which the battle was fought up to the number of prestige points gained in the battle (calculate prestige points in the normal way, although you will not need them except for this purpose).

If no battle took place in an area, then if either side has an army in an area (except an army which has just retreated after battle), they may chose to add or subtract up to 4 Unrest markers in that area.

If there was no battle in an area, and no armies are present (except retreating armies) then add Unrest markers to each area equal to that area's Unrest Level. For example, the Unrest Level of Babylon is 4. If there is no battle in Babylon, then 4 Unrest markers are placed in Babylon in each political phase. If a Loyalist army is present in Babylon and has neither fought nor retreated (it could have sent allied contingents) then the Loyalist player may instead choose to add or subtract up to 4 Unrest markers, and will usually subtract 4.

Reinforcement Phase

Each army may now move any elements from its reserve back into the field army. Elements may be transferred from the reserve at the end of every turn, even though each turn is just a (lunar) month long. For each element transferred by a Loyalist army, add one Unrest marker to the area in which the army is currently located. For each element transferred by a Rebel army, subtract one Unrest marker (Rebels may not transfer more elements than there are Unrest markers available in the area the army is currently occupying).

If any area contains twelve or more Unrest markers, the Rebel player may choose to convert twelve unrest markers into a new Rebel army, which is immediately placed in the appropriate area. The army raised will vary depending on the area from which it was raised, as follows:

Arabia I/6(c) Armenia I/39(b) Assyria or Babylonia I/44(b) Maka I/8(b) Memphis (Egypt) I/53 Parapamisos II/2 Sattagydia II/3 Sogdiana I/43(a) Yauna (Ionia) I/52(g) All other areas I/60(a)

The Loyalists may never raise new armies.

Victory or Defeat

After 16 turns have been played, victory or defeat is determined based on the number of rebel armies still in play:

4 or more Overwhelming Rebel Victory
3 Rebel Victory
2 Draw
1 Loyalist Victory
0 Overwhelming Loyalist Victory

Alternative Rules

As an alternative, you can assign each Rebel and Loyalist army to a different player and keep track of prestige for all players. One Loyalist player should be designated as Darius. If the Rebels win, then the winning player is the Rebel with the highest prestige score. If the Loyalists win, then the winning player is the Loyalist player ranking next after Darius in prestige, unless Darius has more prestige than any other player, in which case Darius is the winner (any Loyalist player with more prestige than Darius will be executed as soon as the new regime has settled down!)

If you think it is still too easy for the Loyalists to win (and bear in mind that they probably haven't done as well as the real Darius did), then add an additional rebel army in Memphis (Egypt) at game start.

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Last Updated: 4 July 2004.

Thanks to Andrew Fisher for this submission.
Comments and feedback welcome.