That should be easy right.
Front Rank – thrusting spear, spara
2nd, 3rd, 4th etc… Rank- composite bow
This would look right, sure, but there is a nagging problem. The thrusting spear in Warhammer Ancient Battles (WAB) is meant to be used in two ranks as the only advantage it gives is allowing the back rank to fight. Arming the front rank only with thrusting spears is pretty pointless, and you’re paying for it (not a whole lot, but it is still annoying to optionally pay for something that has no game effect). So I see two basic options to represent the Persian formation.
Arm the front two ranks with thrusting spear allowing them to fight two ranks deep (at least till the casualties start to roll in) and be at least a partial hand to hand threat.
Don’t give the front rank thrusting spears and just use the rules for hand weapons.
Now both options have pro’s and cons so let’s explore.
Arming the two front ranks with spears makes the most game sense to me. Remember that WAB has no fixed figure scale, so spear armed troops are still the file leaders fighting, just using the spear rules that WAB supplies. Aesthetically it is not as strong an option. Your front rank will be easy to tell with spear and spara, but the second rank would be armed with spear and composite bow with the following ranks armed with just bow. How best to model this so your opponent knows the makeup of your mixed weapon unit creates some interesting scenarios. It also looses the classic look of the Persian force with a thin wall of spara supported by ranks and ranks of bowmen.
By not giving the front rank thrusting spears at all (in game terms) you will have the most aesthetic option. You should still model the figures of the file leaders with spears, but as they have no effect on the game (as a front rank only) they will be armed with only hand weapons according to the mechanics of WAB. You won’t be paying the extra points for spears (as you won’t be using them) and are free to give the 2nd through whatever ranks composite bows. As a fighting force, this makes them pretty pitiful as most infantry they will fight will use two ranks at some point during the combat (in period all infantry they fight will probably be using two ranks). Whether you believe this matches the Persians reputation is up to you (I personally don’t believe they were that horrible). You might also deem that spears aren’t worth the points for the front two ranks and opt with hand weapons in that case (again modeling the front rank with spears for historical reasons).
With my current army lists I am opting for the first option, and arming the front ranks with spears. While the Persians of the period could not stand up to the Greek phalanxes in head to head combat, I don’t believe they were as pitiful as just giving them hand weapons would suggest. I believe the strength of the Greek infantry is represented by the large shield and phalanx special rule so there is no need to further dumb down the Persian infantry by having them fight in a single rank.
How to best represent this with figures, I’m still figuring out. I’ll post some pictures of my first Persian units when I complete them.
As always, comments and questions are encouraged.