Luke Ueda-Sarson's Historical Battle Scenarios for DBM:

The Battle of Magnesia: 190 BC


In 192 BC, incited by the Aitolians, Antiochus III, King of Seleucid Asia, invaded Greece. The exasperated Romans dispatched a consular army to deal with him, which led to Antiochus' defeat at Thermopylae, and his flight from Europe. To his surprise, in late 190 BC the Romans crossed over into Asia, where Antiochus was gathering his forces, for the first time.

Map of Asia Minor

The Roman army was under the nominal command of the inexperienced consul, Lucius Cornelius Scipio, but actually led by his brother Publius Scipio Africanus, the conquerer of Hannibal. At the request of Eumenes, King of Pergamon, whose capital was under seige by the Seleucids, Scipio boldly advanced on Antiochus' position.

Despite his overwhelming numbers, Antiochus, knowing the power of the legions, was loath to fight, staying in a strongly fortified camp on Mount Sipylos near the town of Magnesia on the Hermos river. Africanus fell ill, and command devolved to his adjutant Gnaeus Domitius.

Domitius repeatedly offered battle while Antiochus refused it. After a week, Antiochus, perhaps seeing that his men were becoming demoralized by his lack of action in the face of such a small opposition force, finally came out to fight.

Antiochus III
Antiochus III, 'the Great'

Antiochus led a fierce cavalry charge that broke the legion opposed to him, and pursued it as far as the Roman camp, which was stoutly defended by the tribune Aemilius. His pursuit, as at Raphia 27 years before, was over-long, and by the time he returned to the centre of the battlefield, his cause was lost.

Eumenes had routed the Seleucid wing opposed to him, and the elephants intermingled with the formidable Seleucid phalanx had been panicked by the Roman light troops, allowing the legions to conduct their bloody execution amongst the Seleucid infantry.


Magnesia offers the chance for a really large game of DBM involving upto a dozen players with a great variety of troop types. The refight given here uses the scale of about 250 men (or 10 elephants) per element, and requires a 10' by 4' table.

My club used this scenario set-up on the 2nd August 1998 to refight the battle. Check it out here. The Gentlemen Miniature Gamers and Brass Band of Kaisaniemi, a club from Finland, have also used this same scenario to enact a refight with very different results. Check it out here.


The Seleucids:

Right Van:

4 x Irr Ps (S) - Cyrtians
3 x Irr LH (F) - Dahae (Livy gives 1200, Appian 200 men. I've compromised at 750!)
1 x Mendes - Reg Pk (O) sub-general
19 x Reg Pk (O) - Argyraspides (I can see no reason for classifying these as (S). Phil Barker remains unconvinced however!)
8 x Irr Ps (O) Elymain archers
2 x Irr Exp (O) - Scythed chariots

Right Wing:

14 x Irr Bw (I) - Mysian archers
2 x Irr El (S) - Elephants and their escorts
3 x Reg Kn (F) - Agema (I assume these are the 'silver shielded horse' of Livy, and therefore (F), and not (X) cataphracts)
1 x Antiochus - C-in-C as Reg Kn (F)
8 x Reg Kn (X) - Cataphracts
6 x Irr Wb (O) - Galatians [I now realise these should be Irr Bd (I)]
8 x Reg Ax (S) - Mercenaries. These represent the camp guard, whose strength is not given. The camp should be of say 22 TF, with a gate, and say 7 tower sections, and have 16 Bg within it as well as the camp guards


4 x Irr El (S) - Elephants and their escorts
1 x Philippos - Reg Pk (O) sub-general
63 x Reg Pk (O) - Phalanx
6 x Irr Ps (O) - Levy skirmishers

Left Wing:

6 x Irr Wb (O) - Galatians [I now realise these should be Irr Bd (I)]
8 x Irr Ax (O) - Cappadocians
2 x Reg Ax (S) - Mercenaries
6 x Irr Hd (O) - Mixed levies
8 x Reg Kn (X) - Cataphracts
1 x Seleucus - Reg Kn (F) sub-general
3 x Reg Kn (F) - Companions
2 x Irr El (S) - Elephants and their escorts
16 x Irr Ax (O) - Peltasts from Cilicia, Lycia, etc.

Left Van:

4 x Irr Exp (O) - Scythed chariots
1 x Zeuxis - Reg Kn (F) sub-general
2 x Reg LH (O) -Tarantines
4 x Irr Cv (O) - Galatians (Livy gives 2500 men - but this seems overlarge given they fielded only 3000 foot - since Appian says some of the Cataphracts were Galatian, some of these 2500 should be included in the cataphracts)
6 x Reg Ps (O) - Cretans
4 x Irr Ps (S) - Cyrtians
4 x Irr Ps (O) - Trallians
8 x Irr Bw (I) Elymain archers

(1379 points)

The Romans and their allies:

Allied Left Wing:

6 x Reg Ps (S) - Velites
6 x Reg Bd (O) - Hastatii
6 x Reg Bd (O) - Principes
3 x Reg Sp (S) - Triarii
6 x Irr Ax (S) - Volunteers. These are part of the camp guard. The camp should be of say 22 TF, with two gates and have 10 Bg within it as well as the camp guards
1 x Marcus Aemilius - Reg Cv (O) sub-general

Roman Left:

6 x Reg Ps (S) - Velites
6 x Reg Bd (O) - Hastatii
6 x Reg Bd (O) - Principes
2 x Reg Sp (S) - Triarii
1 x Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus - Reg Sp (S) sub-general
2 x Irr Ax (S) - Volunteers. These are also part of the camp guard

Roman Right:

6 x Reg Ps (S) - Velites
6 x Reg Bd (O) - Hastatii
6 x Reg Bd (O) - Principes
1 x Lucius Cornelius Scipio - Reg Sp (S) sub-general
3 x Reg Sp (S) - Triarii
2 x Irr El (I) - African Elephants

Allied Right:

6 x Reg Ps (S) - Velites
6 x Reg Bd (O) - Hastatii
6 x Reg Bd (O) - Principes
3 x Reg Sp (S) - Triarii
1 x Gnaeus Domitius - C-in-C as Reg Cv (O)
1 x Reg Cv (O) - Roman Equites
6 x Reg Cv (O) - Italian Equites


2 x Reg Ps (O) - Cretans
4 x Irr Ps (S) - Masdyenes
2 x Irr Ps (O) - Trallians
2 x Reg Kn (F) - Xystophoroi
1 x Eumenes - Reg Kn (F) ally-general
1 x Irr Cv (O) - Galatians
5 x Reg Ax (S) - Thureophoroi


4 x Reg Ps (S) - Peltasts
1 x Diophanes of Megalopolis - Reg Kn (F) ally-general
10 x Reg Ax (S) - Thureophoroi

(936 points)


Fighting the battle:

The Seleucids face due west, the Romans face due east. The season is winter. The Romans count as the invader, and so take the first move. All allies have already been proven as reliable.

The battle was fought just after dawn on a murky and misty day (New Years day may have passed, so the battle could have been fought in 189 BC). Appian says that the performance of the missile troops was adversley affected by the clinging dampness. Bowmen should therefore count a combat disadvantage when conducting distant shooting.

Mount Sipylos counts as a large but gentle hill - Antiochus fortified it with a wall studded with towers, and encemped there, so it cannot have been too rugged. While the river Hermos is reasonably large (portray it as about one element wide) and certainly defensible (which is why the Romans anchored their left wing on it), it was crossed without too much difficulty by Antiochus during the course of the battle. Therefore it can be forded in any formation, but at reduced movement rate.

Notes and special rules:

At this scale, the dice-allocation procedure must be modified slightly. It is unreasonable that generals several kilometers away from each other could communicate effectively - especially given the mirk the battle was fought in.

The Roman generals can allocate their PiP dice as per normal. Eumenes and Diophanes can swap their PiP dice between each other similarly, but only if Eumenes is still alive.

Philippos and Mendes get to swap PiP dice, so long as Philippos lives, likewise Seleucus and Zeuxis so long as Seleucus lives. Antiochus, after the other Seleucid generals have decided their allocations, can then choose to swap his dice for any of his subordinates, as long as he still lives.

Scythed chariots under DBM v2.0 no longer have an extra deep zone of death - a critical part of any Magnesia refight! Here's my fix: any scythed chariot that is killed by drawing with an enemy, rather than being beaten, flees without deviation before it is removed. Any friendly element except elephants it contacts immediately flees [Replaying the scenario, we decided that they should keep fleeing each turn until they leave the board, rather than be removed after a single flee].

Finally, the Roman velites should not give rear support to their cavalry, as this ability is based on a corrupt passage in Livy (26.4.4) that in my mind is plainly impossible, and since the velites didn't support their horse in this battle (not having met catafracts before), they shouldn't do so in the refight.

Livy, 37, 37-44
Appian, Syrian Wars, 30-36


This page last modified: February 7, 2000
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