Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Romans lose again (surprise, surprise)

Last night was the next in our ongoing series of bloody defeats for Rome at the hands of the Carthaginians in Italy (1st Punic War period).  After winning for a change in the previous game, the latest one was an attempt by the Romans to mount a meaningful counterattack and beat someone.  Deployment map:

William made up the Carthaginian army list (at the top of the plan, in blue), but he wasn't able to make it along, so Simon set them up.  He opted for a conservative, reasonably balanced deployment.  The army's right wing (top left of the plan as you look at it) was under Simon's command: a unit of 12 skirmish javelinmen in rough ground; a cavalry column of three units (8 Numidians at the front, followed by two 12s of Heavy Cavalry); and the 24 Sacred Band in three ranks.  Billy played the infantry centre: two units of 36 Italians; two 48s of Spanish, and a final 36 of Italians partly on the long ridge.  Marco played his first Tactica game and had the far left flank of the army, hidden behind the hill: three units of 8 Numidians and the 12 Punic Nobles.  Across the front of the army was a long line of skirmishers of various kinds.

I used the same Roman force that actually won a game, and set them up.  I was torn between aiming the main fighting force, the legions, at the area to the inside of the rough ground, or to echelon them more to the open right.  I thought the Carthaginians would anchor on the rough and pack the far wing with loads of cavalry.  I was wrong.  I deployed with the usual Italian sacrificial foot in two units of 24 to the left of the legions, intending to refuse that flank as long as possible.  Next came the four legions, each comprising a front line of 11 Velites (actually Leves in this period); 12 Heavy Hastati with pila; and 24 Heavy Principes with spears.  The Triarii were left in camp.  The right end of the infantry line had a large unit of 36 Italians angled to aim for the open right wing, set up hidden behind our only hill.  I packed the right flank itself with two units of 8 Italian light horse and two units of 18 Equites in two waves.  The intention was to use this lot and the extra unit of Italian foot to absorb and then destroy the expected hordes of Carthaginian horse, and then swing in to the centre to help the legions win the battle.  Except it didn't work out that way.  We also had some slingers on the right and skirmish archers on the left. I played the Roman centre right and right; Gordon took the centre left and the Italian foot on the far left.
The battle began accordingly, with the big Carthaginian left hook failing to materialise, which meant that they had more weight than expected to our left, but relatively little to face our packed right.  This in turn meant that we would be able to shift some of our horse into the centre to help win the game there earlier than anticipated; we thought the Italians would hold out long enough on the far left in the meantime.  The photograph above shows the Hand of Billy just beside the second unit of Carthaginian heavy cavalry on the right.  As a long table shot, it shows the battle in full swing with the infantry centres moving together and the Roman cavalry superiority visible at the far side.  We thought we were onto a winner.
The second photograph is a close-up of the centre at the same time.  Right in the middle of the shot are two legions fighting the large units of Spanish; this is where the tables would be turned on the Romans.
Photo number three (above) is a turn later, at the same central point.  The Roman right is quite happily swinging round towards the centre; off to the right of this shot the Carthaginian horse were being mercilessly wiped out.
And here it is happening (above).  The foremost unit of Equites was destroying everything in its path, at great cost to itself, so I swung the large unit of Italians to finish off whatever might be left.  This opened up enough space towards the centre that I was able to charge the reserve Equites into the Italians fighting for Carthage (you can just see the second unit of Equites at the extreme left of the photo).
Meanwhile, on the Roman left, we see the Hand of Billy again, pointing to the Sacred Band.  One unit of Italian infantry has been destroyed and the legions are being exterminated with great glee by Billy's Spanish infantry.  I haven't seen sustained excellent dice like his for a long time, and they are easily the best I've seen him throw: for four turns the Spanish killed twice as many legionaries as they should have done on average.  What should have been a grinding Roman success was turning into a complete massacre in the centre.
Here we are again, with the legion on the right advancing to glory while their pals in the centre were dying in droves.
At this point David came across from another part of the club and commended me for loyally taking photos of my own army's demise, which was nice.  Sportsmanship, and all that.  To tell truth, I really wanted to document Billy's splendid triumph.  I don't want to mess with those Spanish again, and here they are in the picture above, having disposed of one legion without pausing for breath, and about to exterminate another.
Just for posterity, the final photgraph of the evening shows the victorious Roman right wing.  It all went to plan, Carthage was comprehensively outmanoeuvred, and then the Spanish arrived in the centre...

Next week: Persia attacks the Macedonians.  Again.  This is not a grudge match, honest!


  1. Foiled by the Spanish, eh? When are your Romans going to find themselves a Scipio (or even a Marcellus or Fabius Cunctator...)?

    Nonetheless, it sounds like a fine battle, and what an impressive mass of figures that is to see on the table. Glorious!


  2. Hi Aaron, thanks for the kind comments. I'm not taking sides as such in this campaign, but I do tend to find myself rooting for whichever power is doing the least well - which is the Romans. Besides, I painted them, so I suppose I should play them!

    We find that an average Tactica II game like this has about 300-350 figures per side, and we can still usually get a conclusion in three hours, from set up to finish.

    At the moment, the campaign is a game of two theatres: Rome vs Carthage, and Macedon vs Persia. If we took a victory points calculation, Carthage would be winning. Interestingly enough, some of the players are beginning to suggest that the Macedonians might want to consolidate in Greece and then hit the Carthaginians in Southern Italy. That would definitely be a departure from history, but it could be fun!

    Cheers agin