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the battle of cnidos, 394 b.c.

-The latest test was the battle of Cnidos, in 394 b.c., after the Peloponnesian war. In this battle a Spartan fleet under the King’s brother Peisandros was annihilated by a Persian fleet commanded by the satrap Farnabazu in person, and which included a rebel Athenian squadron les by Konon (yes, strange allies…).

It was a fairly balanced game so I share here the setting, because it can be played nicely. Both fleet had five squadrons. Here’s how I made them:

the spartans

Peisandros (determined)


Kleitos (determined, green)

Menelaos (green)


the persians

Farnabazu (well trained)


Konon (well trained)

Evagoras (poorly motivated)

Eurotas (poorly motivated)

Peisander lacked experience in commanding at sea, so the Spartans get a -1 when rolling for initiative at the beginning of the movement phase.

Because I decided to make it an unprepared clash in open seas (scenario 2 in the rules) the fleets had to enter the table in two or three columns. The table was 110” large – equal to the largest fleet deployed in line plus 1/3, which I find is an ideal size – and deep enough to leave a distance between the heads of the column equal to three turns of movement in column (so 24”). I put some island to identify the land side of the table, which is friendly to the Persians. Konon’s squadron had to enter alone in the first turn, with the rest of the Persian fleet following in the second (as it was historically).

The beginning. Konon, above right, is making space for the rest of the fleet

Evolutions of the Spartan fleet, synchronised swimming-like, draw applause from the crowds looking from cape Cnidos.

Spartans quickly advance in columns

The Great King's ships deploy in an half moon formation, hoping to envelope the enemy.

On the offshore side, Konon catches the enemy on flank and destroys it!

But the Spartans, mostly in columns, really aim to fight closer to the shore...

... and they do: thanks to the skilled use of swift moving columns, they manage to obtain local superiority and gang up 3 vs 1. Megacles' squadron, supported on both sides, executes a perfect diekplous and quickly destroys a Phoenician squadron!

The battle concentrates on the center

The struggle is furious! After this last melee survivors, exausted, separate to row home

This test was quite successful overall, but two issues emerged. The first is, length of the game! Because the fleets were balanced, the battle lasted until the last squadron (and took too much time!). This issue has already been underlined to me by David and other testers. So I am drafting a table which will allow, with a single die roll, to end the game if certain conditions are fulfilled or to introduce random events (such as a weather change), which is something I always wanted to do.

A second hole that emerged from the tests was that, in some situations, a squadron should lose any semblance of formation, and this is not foreseen under the current rules. In some situations, disorder is not enough: even a disordered squadron still has a formation, while I felt the need to have a totally messed up squadron in some circumstances.

Imagine a squadron in line hit by a flank attack: ships would individually scramble to turn and face the enemy, and the line would be no more. How to represent this scramble on table? And how to deal with squadrons which are so disordered as to have lost all order? The solution was simply to create a new formation, which is actually no formation at all – rather, it represents the lack of it. It is the “unformed” formation. Think of it as a bunch of ships moving around as if it was like a school of fish.

The “unformed”squadron should be slow and difficult to move, because the lack of order would make it harder for trierarchs to understand how fast to move and in which direction. Therefore unformed units can only move 1Avd-1 (less than a line) and can only move straight – signalling a change of direction in these conditions would be a challenge for the unfortunate navarcos!

The unformed squadron would also be bad in combat, because a well-ordered formation would have an advantage over this messy bunch of ships, most of which would not be able to engage the enemy. So unformed is third out of four in the order of formations, and would therefore suffer a -2 vs line and -1 vs double line.

Finally, the unformed squadron will also suffer a morale malus, because confusion increases the chance of breaking and routing of course.

So I added the unformed status both as a result of a flank/rear attack and as a result of a botched manouver while already disordered. This will (hopefully!) add a tactical choice to the navarcos which must choose whether to stand and rally its ships or hurry in disorder – running the risk of losing the formation completely.

Both these changes will be added to the new draft rules which I will upload as soon as I get a chance to write them down and playtest.

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