JP On Gaming

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Late Ptolemaic List for WAB

WAB is Warhammer Ancient Battles, a set of wargaming rules that is close to my own heart. It uses the same mechanics as the popular Warhammer Fantasy Battles, but strips out all of the magic and monsters, leaving only human soldiers and cavalry. I have found that it represents battles of the period well enough and that it is fast-paced.

A little History

The Ptolemaic Dynasty was the last dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs. After Alexander the Great liberated Egypt from Persian control, Egypt became part of the Macedonian Empire. With Alexander’s death, one of his top generals (Ptolemy) took control of Egypt and became embroiled in the many wars of successions that followed the breaking up of the Macedonian Empire. Ptolemy and his successor (also named Ptolemy) were foreign rulers in a conquered land. During its three century existence (323-30BC), the dynasty’s fortunes waxed and waned.

When Cleopatra was crowned in 51BC, Egypt extended south to Nubia (mod Northern Sudan), west into the Libyan desert (the exact location of the frontier is about where it is today), into the Sinai Peninsula and a few sea-side colonies. The Ptolemaic empire had diminished significantly since its heydays, but it was still a powerful state. It was a state where the leaders were Greek and the population was Egyptian, Libyan, Nubian and Jewish. The Greeks distrusted the local populace and kept separate from them.

The armies of Egypt were drawn from this group of Greek descendants and mercenary units the state was able to pay. Thus we have reports that the Egyptian army included: Gallatians, Gauls, Germans, Syrians, Nubians, Libyans and Cilicians.

Writing the list

I first came up with the idea of building an army centered the conflicts of Cleopatra VI's reign. She ruled over a period of history I really like and for which I own numerous armies for (Romans, Gauls, Illyrian/Thracians, Parthians). I had a few packs of Macedonian / Successor infantry and some Nubian archers. I began thinking about a way to use those minis. Then the idea dawned on me. So I decided to see what an army of Ptolemaic would look like.

I went to look for WAB resources: no army published. I looked through some on-line site, WRG's (Wargames Research Group) and DBM (De Bellis Multitudinis) books to see what those games had as far as resources. There were some useful tidbits. From those sources I was able to gather that the Egyptian Army was centered on a core of phalanxes and “imitation legionnaires”. Phalanxes were pike-armed units that fought in dense formation using 18-20 feet long pikes. Imitation legionnaires were a different best. Most sources agreed that they were most likely equipped as Roman legionnaires: pilum or throwing spear, sword and an oblong shield with a Roman-style helm, they were a number of divergences on their quality, training and distribution of chainmail or padded amongst the troops.

I contacted Jeff Jonas, the author of Alexander the Great for WAB and web master for He pointed me to an army list he published for his yet-unreleased Successor supplement (which has been on my must-buy list since AtG came out). As luck would have it, he was willing to share! I sat down and devoured the list. Immediately I saw a few tweaks to make to it. But I had a basic framework to work up from. So I did research aimed at learning about those mercenary troops in Egyptian service. How should they be classified in the game? Here, a little intuition and game experience can go a long way.

The list

So finally, I completed the army list and posted it to my website WAB page I completed the exercise by building a few sample armies to try out the rules. I like the mixture of pike and other units. If you have comments or thoughts, do not hesitate to contact me!


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