Friday, 1 October 2010

Finally: a Roman attack succeeds

On Tuesday, the Romans defeated Carthage in Magna Graecia in the latest of our Empire campaign battles.  Deployment map:

Carthaginians in blue at the top; Romans in red

Simon constructed the Carthaginian army and provided the figures.  He also drew up the deployment.  I did the same for Rome.  The battlefield is open in the centre, with a mixture of hills towards the flanks, especially on the Roman left.

The Carthaginian right wing (Marco commanding in his second Tactica game, with rules assistance from Simon): three units of 12 good heavy cavalry on the outside, the Punic nobles held in reserve, plus two units of 8 Numidians.  Billy commands the infantry centre, which is composed of a unit of 24 Italian foot, deployed in two shallow ranks; a large unit of 48 Elite Punic heavy spearmen in four ranks; a large unit of 48 Spanish in four ranks; and a second unit of 24 Italians in two ranks.  In front of the large blocks are some sacrificial Gauls: two units of 24, each in four ranks.  In front of the leftmost Italian infantry unit can be found another 8 Numidians, attached to the central command.  In front are two units of 12 javelinmen in a skirmish line, and another unit of 12 in a block.  William plays the army's left wing, comprising three units of 8 Numidians, one of them on the extreme flank beyond a steep hill, plus a unit of 12 heavy cavalry in reserve.  He also has two units of 10 slingers and a group of 10 javelinmen.  From the Roman perspective, it would seem that the Carthaginian commander is hoping to absorb the impact of the legions in the centre with his large group of units there, and outflank the Roman left wing.

I lay out the Romans overall as a slight variation on the deployment that was foiled by the Spanish in the previous encounter.  The left wing comprises all of the Italian foot: a large unit of 36 in three ranks to block off the extreme end of the line, with two units of 24 in three ranks to link in with the legions themselves.  The details of this deployment are Gordon's idea.  To the front is a unit of 12 slingers.  Ian commands the four legions in the centre, each of which comprises 11 Velites; 12 Heavy Hastati with pila; and 24 Heavy Principes with spears.  I command the right wing, which is where the cavalry is packed: two units of 18 Medium Equites in two ranks, with a unit of 8 Italian light horse to either side.  I also have 12 skirmish archers.
The Italians move into their usual sacrificial position
The battle begins with the legions doing...nothing.  The Roman high command has decided that they can afford to wait and see how it develops before committing to the attack.  In the meantime, the Italians start to manoeuvre into their flank position on the Roman left (photograph above).
An unusual sight: Equites advancing
The Romans mirror this with a tentative cavalry advance on their right (above).  I'm pretty sure I can protect the right flank of the legions against the relatively small enemy contingent on this flank.  If I get lucky, I might even be able to send some cavalry into the centre as well, doing to the Carthaginians what they usually do to me.
The Legions mass
In the meantime, the Legions continue to do very little, permitting the Carthaginians to advance at will.  At the top left of the photograph above, you can see the Italians moving out from their blocking position on the Roman left wing.  The reason for this is that the Carthaginian heavy cavalry have taken a rather circuitous route across the hills, and Gordon sees an opportunity for the Italians to overlap the enemy infantry centre. 
The gap seen by the Italians
His reasoning is that the cavalry flanking movement is taking the enemy horse quite far away from the centre right flank of their infantry formations.  I hope this opportunity can be seen clearly from the picture above.  If he times it right, he might be able to use our Italians to crush those on the enemy side before their cavalry can intervene.
Clash in the centre
By this time, the Carthaginian infantry is getting quite close, led by the Gauls.  In order to stall their advance, Ian charges in with the Hastati of the two leftmost legions.  This will hold up the two large units behind them for a while, allowing possibilities to develop to either side of the centre.
An opportunity for the Legions to our centre right
In mirror image fashion, a large gap has opened to the left of the Carthaginian infantry.  The unit of Numidians here has desperately tried to slow down the Legions to no avail.  It has been crushed by the Hastati, and now the front line starts to bear down on the hapless Italians (they are off to the right of the photograph above).  We are hoping that at least one of our central overlaps will win the game for us.  I have given up getting anywhere fast with my cavalry.  I have superiority in numbers on the right flank, but the steep hill is cramping my style somewhat and the enemy skirmishers are being very effective.  This part of the game is turning into a mutual meat grinder.

The Carthaginian cavalry finally makes it across the field

Above: our large unit of Italian foot faces off against all three of the enemy heavy cavalry units while our smaller units crush their opponents and make the overlap on their infantry.  One group of Numidian light horse manages to squeeze into a gap in our line that has presented itself as a result, but we calculate that we can just about afford this.
The struggle in the centre
The shot above shows the infantry combat well underway in the centre of the field.  At the top right of the picture the victorious Hastati are advancing after crushing the Italians, which has in turn allowed the Principes of the inside right (Roman) Legion to hit the big unit of Spanish at an angle.  Although there are twice as many Spanish, this advantage is cancelled out by double dice for the Principes.  You will probably notice the absence of Gauls by this point as well...

The final cavalry clash on our right
The photo above shows that the cavalry fight is still ongoing.  Very quickly, though, the foremost unit of Equites is destroyed by the Carthaginian heavies on this flank.  The final units on each side then come together.

But it is too late for what happens here to make any difference.  The Spanish and the Principes fight each other to destruction, and the Carthaginian army flees.  With hindsight, my performance on the Roman right was mediocre at best, but as things turned out I didn't need to swing into the centre anyway.  What won the battle for Rome here, or rather lost it for Carthage, was the extreme concentration of large blocks of infantry in the centre.  This allowed the Romans to overlap the centre on both sides, and the flexible Legionaries took advantage.  On the far left of the Roman line, the large block of Italians did their job facing off the main force of enemy cavalry.

That's it; the Romans have finally beaten Carthage on the attack.  Carthage goes next in the turn, but they have decided to try to regain territory in Spain.  The mid-game Victory Points calculation is beginning to loom, and since Iberia is worth twice as many points as Magna Graecia, it makes sense to attack in the west.  We are also getting rather fatigued with the 1st Punic War!  Having said that, Carthage in this period probably shouldn't be so single-minded as their enemies.  Maybe the War Party has suffered a defeat in council back home, as the glory of defeating Rome is now wearing off.

I'm looking forward to this.  A fight between Carthaginians and Iberians should be a good match as well as a relief from the usual.  We play this in two weeks' time.


  1. I should think a triumph is in order! Good report, as usual, Paul. Good to relive the glory! :)

  2. Hi Ian, glad you like it - you and Gordon did most of the damage. I think I'm happy with a battle plan followed by photos, although most of those don't come out very well. If enough are usable and help to illustrate the narrative, that's good enough!


  3. I think I'm starting to get to grips with the rules a bit more now. Do you know if the basing for 15mm is compatible with DBx and FoG? If so then I reckon I'll be painting lots more Romans when (if?) the rules appear!

  4. I'm pretty sure Tactica has always used WRG basing as standard - it certainly does for 25/28mm, so it should for 15mm as well. The good thing is that you should be able to use the same figures for loads of rulesets. Quite a few players at the club have Armati armies in 15mm - you might be able to persuade them to play Tactica with them too.