SOA Battle Day

I attended the 6th Society of Ancients Battle day last Saturday, held once again at Sycamore Hall in Bletchley.

The aim of the day is to play out a particular chosen battle using many different rulesets, in order to access how each particular ruleset deals with the particular challenges of the battle, and also to examine several ‘what if’ scenarios.

This year, the battle in question was Callinicum, the final battle of the 30-year war between the Eastern Romans (early Byzantines) and the Sassanian Persians, which was fought in 531 AD.

The day started early (though thankfully, not as early as Salute a few weeks earlier) and by 7.30 Dave Luff and I were on our way down the M1.

Sycamore Hall is pretty easy to find, and is actually a nice venue, including both a bar and a kitchen. The main hall was vastly improved this year by the installation of new lighting, which meant that those games away from the window were no longer fought in an eerie twilight.


Andy and Peter soon arrived and we set the table up ready for battle. We were playing a large ‘Commands & Colors” game using a 6′ x 4’ board with 20mm plastic troops, based using the ‘standard’ DBA basing format.

Other games present on the day included:



Armarti, with a very nice moulded terrain table.


Piquet – very different in that this game concentrated entirely on the Arab vs Arab cavalry battle, which occurred on the Roman right flank.








Field of Glory


…and one I’m not sure about – the board is divided into squares, but much more than that I couldn’t tell you!

We managed to play the scenario three times throughout the day. Much debate had been had over the previous days about introducing special rules to reflect certain aspects of the battle, but in the end, we opted to play the ‘Standard’ C&C:A rules, but using the optional rules for 4 players – which meant that each side had a general and a lesser commander.  The General distributed the Command Cards and commanded the centre section troops, whilst the lesser commander ordered both flanks. Discussion between commanders was only allowed before play, and when a command card was played that affected the entire army.


The final deployment for the battle had a Roman army of 16 units facing a Persian army of 13 units. The Roman army was a mix of cavalry and infantry, whilst the Persians comprised entirely of cavalry. The Romans had 6 command cards, the Persian 8, and the game was played with a victory point total of 7.


The first game was a route for the Persians (played by Dave and I) – winning 7-2.

This game also included one of the most notable events of the day, when the Persian general launched a counter attack with his heavy cavalry in response to a Roman cavalry advance in the centre.



The Roman cavalry was rooted to the spot by the onrushing Persians, forgot to evade their heavy counterparts and were completely crushed. With the Roman centre and right flank in full retreat, the battle was the Persians. This action went on to win me the “Persian General of the Day” award – a very nice surprise!


The second battle was a much more closely fought affair – the Romans (green bases) fought bravely, but their forces on the right were eventually overwhelmed by the Arabs…at which point we discovered that the Persians had won the game – a bit of an anti-climax actually, as it was discovered that the Persians (Andy and Peter) had forgotten to collect their victory tokens for defeated units and all of a sudden it was “hang on, how many units have you got left?” Persians 7, Romans 5


Dave and I once again commanded the Persians in the last battle of the day – a ‘speed’ game which resulted in a massed cavalry melee in the centre of the table. This really became a bit of a crap shoot, and the Romans won the day as they were simply able to roll more ‘banner’ symbols against surrounded Persian Cavalry. Killing the Persian general also helped! Final score, 7-4 to the Romans

5pm soon rolled around and the day ended. The Persians, as expected, won almost all the battles fought on the day. It was interesting to see again how different groups interpreted the battle.

I think the biggest surprise was just how well Commands & Colors operated – the battle was fought along pretty historical lines without having to introduce lots of special rules to artificially handicap the Romans.

Overall, a really good day – and I’m looking forward already to next year – it is rumoured to be Zama, so we will be planning an epic scale C&C game, plus a 6mm Impetus game. Battleground Historical Warfare should also be out, and Zama is a scenario in the book. However, I don’t think we will quite get the support from the club to run three different games on the day.

Full details of the day can be found on the Society of Ancients website

1 Comment on SOA Battle Day

  1. Martyn Simpson // August 10, 2009 at 21:36 // Reply

    Great report on the day. The unknown game your not sure about was peter pig’s Conquerors and Kings. I was really interested to read about your game as I’ve recently picked up on Command and Colors. I now wish I had paid more attention to your game, something which is a bit difficult to do if your playing on the day. Anyhow I too am looking forward to Zama, but unlike you I’m not sure about which rules I’m to use.


    Martyn Simpson

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