Thursday, 2 September 2010

The Romans see off the Carthaginians - for now

On Tuesday we played the latest in our series of campaign battles between Rome and Carthage.  This time we had to adjourn to the hall next door to our usual club premises, because the club was full.  Which was nice.  Having said that, table space was at a premium next door as well, and the lighting wasn't great.  I took 27 photos, of which less than half a dozen were any good.  Here's the deployment plan:
The Carthaginian host was the same army composition that easily thrashed the Romans in the previous encounter, only this time they are on the offensive into central Italia; they were deployed by William, and played by him and Gordon.  I chose and deployed the Romans and Billy joined in as the other consul.  The battlefield is relatively constrained, because there is a river running down the right flank as you look at it.  We didn't place this on table because of the limited space, which we reckoned would work in Rome's favour anyway - less room for Punic manoeuvres.  So we compensated by reducing Rome's defensive terrain a little.

The Carthaginians (in blue, at the top of the map) set up with the four units of 8 Numidians on their right wing; next came all of their heavy horse in three units of 12; then the three large columns of 36 Gauls; the 24 Sacred Band in three ranks; and then the Italian foot (32 figs in four ranks; 36 in three ranks; and 40 in five ranks).  They also had javelin and sling skirmishers.  The Roman army had a different composition from previous occasions, mainly because they are so easily defeated that we decided to try something else.  The reason for this is that in a points-based game, the classic Republican three-line legion is incredibly expensive, especially if it is bought in something like the proportions that existed between the various heavy infantry lines.  This means that a huge amount of fighting power is concentrated in the centre, as indeed it should be, but there are never enough points left over for much else.  The Romans always lose because the Triarii are effectively redundant while the enemy strips the flanks and then moves in for the kill - it's too early in campaign time for Scipio-style deployments to counter this.  Which makes for a rotten game.  We agreed that in order to even things out, the Romans could purchase legions without Triarii, and so have enough points left over to pay for more troops outwith the legionary deployment.  This is in fact a historically accurate Roman set up for the period; it is often noted that the Triarii were just left in camp.  The end result for this particular battle is that a legion is composed of 12 heavy Hastati with pila (as opposed to mediums), and 24 heavy Principes with spears.  The Velites are relatively numerous at 11 figures.  The rest of the army is maxed out in support troops, with two large units of 18 medium cavalry; two units of 8 Italian light cavalry; a 36 and two 24s of Italian medium infantry; 12 skirmish archers; and 12 skirmish slingers.  I packed the Roman left with all of the horse, and placed all of the Italian infantry on the right, resting on the hill and up against the river.

The game played out very neatly as the Romans advanced en echelon from their left, and the opposition did likewise, in mirror-image.
One of the few reasonably okay photos I managed to take.  It shows the whole table from the perspective of the wing farthest from the river.  On the right, you can see the Roman cavalry advancing; then the legions in the centre; and the Italians on their hill in the background at top right as you look at it.  The Carthaginian horse in the left foreground have stayed put, while all of their infantry advances towards the endmost legion and the Italians on their hill.
This one was taken from behind the Roman centre left, a couple of turns later.  The first of the Warband columns is already engaged, and the Carthaginian heavy cavalry are starting to take an interest.

Next up we have the same point in the battle, only more to the right.  The large unit of Italians fighting for Rome is en echelon to the right rear of the Romans as the mass of Carthaginian foot advances; you can see two warbands fighting Hastati, while the other lines up with the Sacred Band for their onslaught on the hapless Italians, whom the Romans were quite happy to abandon to their fate.  The warbands fighting legionaries were disposed of quite easily in brisk fashion.
At the same time, the poor Italians on the hill are beginning to feel rather lonely.  They will have to sell their lives dearly, because they won't be getting any help!
The last of the decent photos, showing the lines engaged right across the field.  This one is taken three turns later from the right corner of the Roman line, with the Italian hill right at the bottom of the shot.  You should be able to make out both armies en echelon.  The victorious Italians fighting for Carthage had turned about, but are too far away from the centre to take any further effective action.

Overall, the game was a draw.  The Italians fighting for Rome were wiped out.  The legions crushed two of the warbands and almost all of the enemy cavalry.  The two lines would have had to turn about and charge each other, and my own feeling is that the legions would have won.  The Principes were relatively intact and the Romans still had quite a few cavalry, while the remaining Gauls and the Carthaginian Sacred Band had taken quite a bit of damage from the brave Italians before their demise.  Carthage retired gracefully.  We'll play the next Roman attempt to drive them entirely from Southern Italy in a couple of weeks' time, when it looks as though some Spanish mercenaries will be in the Carthaginian line-up instead of the Gauls.

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