Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Sepeia – 494 BC

Spartans vs. Argives

A Warhammer Ancient Battles Scenario

Strategic situation

For centuries the city-states of Argos and Sparta were feuding over control and leadership of the Peloponnese. Cleomenes, king of Sparta was told by the Delphic oracle that he would “take” Argos. Happy with his news that he would be the one to finally eliminate Sparta’s old enemy he led his army north to attack their rival. He took a rather odd route according to Herodotus, sacrificing at the river Erasinus, but receiving unfavorable omens. Believing his pass over the river was bared; he crossed by way of sea and landed southeast of Argos near the town of Nauplia near Tiryns.

The Argives raised their army and marched south to meet them outside the town of Tiryns at a place called Sepeia. The Argives has been feuding with the Spartans for many years and did not fear them on the battlefield, but had another worry. Herodotus tells of the Argives disposition “And now their fear was not so much lest they should be worsted in open fight as lest some trick should be practised on them; for such was the danger which the oracle given to them in common with the Milesians seemed to intimate.”

The Argive leader told his herald to echo any orders given by his Spartan counterpart to prevent any trickery and allow the Argives to follow whatever the Spartans were doing. When Cleomenes figured out what was going on, he secretly told his troops to attack the Argives when his herald gave the message to break for food. The Spartan herald gave the message and the Argives copied it, settling in for a good meal while the Spartan force attacked.

The forces

Argive Force

2,500 pts (or bigger if you’ve got the models) picked from the AOA Ancient Greek army list (excluding an army general which you get for free). Standard oracle rules apply.

Must upgrade at least one unit of hoplites to Argive hoplites. They gain LD 8 and I 4 and cost 11 pts (same as veteran hoplites from AtG.)

Restrictions – Cannot take, Spartan hoplites, Sacred Band, Peltasts, Thracians, Theban or Thessalian cavalry. Cannot take more than 1 unit of cavalry.

Spartan Forces

2,000 pts (or bigger if you’ve got the figures) picked from the AOA Ancient Greek army list (excluding an army general Cleomenes which you get for free). Standard oracle rules apply.


Cannot take Sacred Band, Peltasts, Thracians, Theban or Thessalian cavalry. Cannot take more than 1 unit of cavalry.

Must take at least 1 unit of Spartan hoplites. They must not be the largest hoplite unit in the army. For each unit of Spartan hoplites taken, one generic hoplite unit must be taken as well.


The battlefield will have been generally flat and open as most ancient Greek battlefields were. Any areas of rough ground or gentle hills should be confined to the sides and corners. In the left hand corner of the Argive side there should be a section of woods representing the sacred grove the Argives eventually hid in.

The battle as a game

The Argive player deploys first. Instead of actually placing down units, the Argive player lays down a group of 4-5 models for each unit, representing each unit type deployed, in a small circle or bunch. Each grouping of 4-5 models (which represents one unit) must be placed within the deployment zone and not within 6 inches of another group. These groups represent the Argive forces eating in camp and not prepared for combat. The groupings of figures will be replaced during the battle with units from their respective type (hoplite, skirmisher, and cavalry) but are not tied to a specific unit (see activating Argive units below).

The Spartan player deploys second with no unit closer than 18 inches to the Argive deployment zone.

The Argives get first turn. The battle lasts 7-8 turns or until army break point is reached.


Groups (the 4-5 model groups mentioned above representing a unit) cannot move until they are activated (see below). If a group is charged, they are considered to have been scattered and run off the battle field (as if you had caught a fleeing enemy). Move the charging unit up to contact and then remove the group from the board (which counts as killing an Argive unit of the type it represents).

Activating Argive Units

At the beginning of each Argive turn, the controlling player attempts to activate each of their groups (the 4-5 model groups mentioned above representing a unit). Roll a D6 for each Argive group on the board consulting the table below for the result.

Turn 1: Roll of 5+ Group becomes active and is replaced by unit it represents (either Hoplite, skirmisher etc…)

Turn 2: Roll of 4+ Group becomes active and is replaced by unit it represents (either Hoplite, skirmisher etc…)

Turn 3: Roll of 3+ Group becomes active and is replaced by unit it represents (either Hoplite, skirmisher etc…)

Turn 4+: Roll of 2+ Group becomes active and is replaced by unit it represents (either Hoplite, skirmisher etc…)

Once you have activated the group, replace it with a unit from your army list facing the Spartan board edge (since the alarm has now been raised). Once a group has been replaced by the unit it represents, the unit behaves normally and is free to march, charge, and shoot as long as the situation allows it. Each group is not representative of a specific unit, just a general unit type. Each group must clearly represent hoplite, skirmisher or cavalry (if you’ve taken some) but that is it. This allows the Spartan to have some idea of the type of troops deployed but not exact numbers or strength (or the position of characters) until the actual units are activated. This represents the chaos of combat and limited vision of the enemy the Spartan forces would have during the attack.

Once a group is activated and replaced with a unit, the unit behaves normally in all subsequent turns.

Example: It is the beginning of the 3rd Argive turn, and the Argive player has 3 groups left on the board. Two of the groups are comprised of hoplites, which represent surprisingly enough…hoplites, while the third is comprised of various javelin, bow and sling armed light troops and represents skirmishers. He/She rolls for the first group of hoplites and rolls a 1, they are still not activated. The Argive player rolls a 3 for the second group of hoplites so they are now activated. The Argive player now replaces the group with a unit of hoplites. Since there are two remaining hoplite units on the roster that have not been deployed, the Argive player has a choice of which one to put out for the group that was just activated. The player then rolls a 6 for the group of skirmishers and replaces them with the remaining skirmisher unit from their roster. The Argive player now continues on with the turn in normal order (declaring charges, rallying fleeing troops etc…) with two new units to take the fight to those nasty Spartans.


This battle could be fought simply as a pitched battle without the special rules above using the restrictions and deployments above. If this is the case, both sides should have equal points.

The Historical Battle

Now when Cleomenes heard that the Argives were acting thus, he commanded his troops that, so soon as the herald gave the word for the soldiers to go to dinner, they should instantly seize their arms and charge the host of the enemy. Which the Lacedaemonians did accordingly, and fell upon the Argives just as, following the signal, they had begun their repast; whereby it came to pass that vast numbers of the Argives were slain, while the rest, who were more than they which died in the fight, were driven to take refuge in the grove of Argus hard by, where they were surrounded, and watch kept upon them.


Cleomenes tricked some of the Argives into coming out and slaughtered them. When they became wise to the Spartans traps and refused to come out of the grove, Cleomenes had it burned with the enemy still in it killing most of them. He found out the god of this grove which he had destroyed was Argus. Upon hearing this, Herodotus has him responding "Greatly hast thou deceived me, Apollo, god of prophecy, in saying that I should take Argos. I fear me thy oracle has now got its accomplishment."

Cleomenes sent most of his army home and proceeded to sacrifice at a local temple (and stir up more controversy) before returning to Sparta. This battle secured for Sparta dominance of the Peloponnese over their old adversary Argos.

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