Monday, 9 January 2017

A Decisive Moment In History - ACTIUM 31 BC

There have been several battles that have changed the face of history, none more so than the Battle of Actium on 2nd Speptember 31 BC. It decided the fate of much of the 'western' world for the next 500 years, and even beyond that in the east. It decided that Rome would be ruled by Emperor's and, on that day day in September, the fate of three people in particular: Marcus Antonius, Cleopatra and Gaius Octavius.

The Battle of Actium has always fascinated me, partly because it is a reasonably well documented [for an] ancient naval battle, and partly because it is an asymmetrical contest between a fleet of big ships and a larger fleet of small ships. I've planned to do a re-fight of it for years. I've even set up versions of it (posted here) from time to time but, I've never actually seen it re-fought. That is about to change: My first historical re-fight of 2017 will be Actium and it will be started this coming Wednesday. I expect it to take two or three sessions to fight to a conclusion.

The history leading up to the battle is quite complex, so please forgive me for not potting it into a paragraph or two here. 

What follows are the scenario notes that will be used to re-fight the battle.

The notes are for use with my amended GMT War Galley rules.

Antony's fleet has exited the Gulf of Ambracia and formed up, facing west, in four squadrons. Octavian's fleet has sailed to block his escape and formed, facing east, in three two line divisions each of two squadrons.
Octavian's Fleet. I have used the names of the fleet commanders given in the GMT scenario book. I believe Drusus and Agricola are made up names. GMT uses a galley scale of 1:4 to re-fight this battle (wow!). I am using a scale of 1:9 because I don't have enough galleys to do it at 1:4 and the squadrons divide up better at 1:9 than 1:10 or 1:8.

AGRIPPA (Senior Admiral rated 6): 

  • 4 Quinquiremes (CR3 x 1, CR4 x 3), 
  • 3 Quadriremes (CR3 x 1, CR4 x2), 
  • 2 Cataphracted Triremes (CR4 x2)

DRUSUS (Squadron Commander rated 4): 
  • 1 Quadrireme (CR4 x 1), 
  • 1 Cataphracted Trireme (CR4 x1)
  • 4 Liburnian Biremes (CR3 x 1, CR4 x 3)
ARUNTIUS (Senior Squadron Commander rated 5):
  • 4 Quinquiremes (CR3 x 2, CR4 x 2), 
  • 3 Quadriremes (CR3 x 1, CR4 x2), 
  • 2 Cataphracted Triremes (CR4 x2)
AGRICOLA (Squadron Commander rated 4):
  • 1 Quadrireme (CR4 x 1), 
  • 2 Cataphracted Trireme (CR4 x2)
  • 3 Liburnian Biremes (CR3 x 1, CR4 x 2)
LURIUS (Squadron Commander 5):
  • 3 Quinquiremes (CR3 x 1, CR4 x 2), 
  • 4 Quadriremes (CR3 x 2, CR4 x2), 
  • 2 Cataphracted Triremes (CR4 x2)
OCTAVIAN (Senior Squadron Commander rated 4):
  • 1 Quinquireme (CR4 x 1), 
  • 1 Cataphracted Trireme (CR4 x1)
  • 4 Liburnian Biremes (CR3 x 1, CR4 x 3)
A note on command structure and the rules.

The Octavian fleet is divided into six squadrons but three have senior commanders. Senior commanders can be used to 'double activate' squadron commanders. Agrippa can 'double activate' any commander.

The picture shows the activation chips that will be put into the bag for random draw to activate squadrons. In the play test last week, I forgot about the fleet commanders initiative bonus (if any). However, we had already included a chip (the joker - wild - chip, which allows the player to choose a squadron not previously activated) into the draw and this has proved just dandy. Agrippa is a brilliant admiral with a +2 initiative rating - he gets two jokers added to the bag.

Antony's Fleet: The GMT scenario only includes galleys in this OOB. If Antony's intention was to escape (see victory conditions) I think it would be reasonable to assume he would have store vessels with him; I have added these to Cleopatra's squadron. I have also chosen to make more galleys 7s than is probable but done away with all of the 6s in compensation. 
ANTONY & PUBLICOLA (Senior Admiral rated 5 & Squadron Commander rated 5): 
  • 1 Decares (CR3)
  • 2 Hepteremes (CR3)
  • 4 Quinquiremes (CR3) 
INSTEIUS (Squadron Commander rated 5)
  • 1 Octares (CR3)
  • 1 Hepteremes (CR3)
  • 4 Quinquiremes (CR3) 
CLEOPATRA & ACCO (Senior Squadron Commander rated 5 & Squadron Commander rated 4)
  • 2 Hepteremes (CR3)
  • 4 Quinquiremes (CR3) 
  • 4 'Merchantmen' (CR3)
SOSIUS (Squadron Commander rated 4).
  • 2 Hepteremes (CR3)
  • 4 Quinquiremes (CR3) 
A note on command structure.

Antony's and Cleopatra's squadrons both have secondary commanders to whom Antony or Cleopatra can relinquish command. If either chooses to do so, they do so for the rest of the game. It gives them the option to flee, leaving their commands to cover their escape (see victory conditions). Until command is relinquished the secondary commanders serve no purpose.

As senior commanders, Antony and Cleopatra can double activate squadron commanders. Antony can double activate any commanders.

Antony has an initiative value of +1 so he gets one Joker chip added to the bag. I'm not that convinced by his naval abilities but I'll go with his GMT command marker.

Antony's fleet is carrying a vast amount of treasure. One vessel must be secretly designated the treasure ship (see victory conditions). 
Ignore the corvus! I'm going to use galleys with a corvus to distinguish quadriremes from quinquiremes for this scenario - if it has a corvus it's a quadrireme. At some point I'll have to come up with something better.

GMT has, in its scenario notes, has all galleys able to use incendiary missiles and carry towers. Whilst I'm OK with the former I'm not happy with the latter as it allows liburnians to have the same height advantages as decares. Therefore, in my scenario the following will apply.
  • All galleys have maximum marines.
  • All galleys are able to use incendiaries.
  • All Quinquiremes and above carry towers.
  • All Quadriremes and above carry engines.
For this scenario I will be using tremiola models to represent liburnian biremes. I intend converting ten trimiolas into liburnians in the future (as I have far too many of these blighters). 

The action starts with only the slightest breeze blowing from NE to SW. It has no effect on vessels carrying sail. At the Victory Phase of each turn, Antony's fleet rolls a die. On a result less than the current turn number the wind increases in strength to the point that it will effect any ship carrying sail. The strength and wind direction remain constant thereafter.

This is a close up of one of my converted Xyston Triremes. I have removed the oarmen's 'housing' and added new balsa wood decking / outriggers in their stead to make a cataphract trireme. I made eleven of them. You can clearly see the new side rail made from narrow lengths of plastic zip tie (although slightly too high, they do give a nice 'rail' effect).
  • If Antony's fleet has 100 VPs and double that of the enemy he wins. 
  • If Octavian has 90 VPs and double that of the enemy he wins. 
In addition to the usual VP awards:
  • If Antony and Cleopatra have escaped death or capture at the end of the battle they add 15 VP to their total (but if Octavian still has more VPs he still wins).
  • If Antony and Cleopatra's treasure ship has escaped they add 8 VP to their total.
  • If Octavian's fleet captures the treasure ship he adds 10 VP to his total.


Prufrock said...

Lovely models and table. Would be a nice affair to observe at close range, I'd say!

Cheers, and all the best to you for 2017, James.

Joseph.Cade said...

Those galleys look spectacular! While normally not a naval games fan, I am looking forward to seeing how the battle turns out.