Monday 21 March 2011

Pyrrhus in Italy

Rather belatedly, Pyrrhus lands in Italy as part of our Empire campaign, taking advantage of the temporary ousting of Rome by the local Greek city-states.  He immediately heads for the Italians in the hills after gathering some reinforcements from said Greeks:
Simon and William construct and deploy the Italians, who are in blue at the top of the map.  Here's a description from their right to left, ie starting at the top left of the map as you look at it.  Their right wing (Marco commanding) is composed of two units of 12 Samnite armoured light infantry with pila, supported by two units of 12 light infantry with javelins.  Just to their left are two units of 24 Italian medium infantry with pila, deployed wide.  Their centre right (Simon) has three units of 24 Italian medium spearmen in three ranks and two units of 24 armoured hoplites in three ranks, with an extra unit of 12 light infantry to their left.  The infantry commands are screened by many javelinmen. William commands the left wing cavalry force, which has two units of 12 medium horse in column screened by 8 skirmishing javelin light cavalry ready to come round the far end of the hills.  More into the centre are two units of 12 noble heavy cavalry and two more 8-figure units of light horse .

I make up and deploy the invaders.  The set-up is relatively conventional.  Gordon commands our left, which is where the majority of the mounted troops are located: a large unit of 12 Aetolian light horse with javelins; 18 Greek medium cavalry; 12 elite heavy cavalry; two elephants; and 12 peltasts.  He also commands the two units of Tarentine medium spearmen in our centre.  I comand the right: four units of 32 heavy phalangites in four ranks; three units of 12 peltasts; and another unit of 12 Aetolian light horse, this time in column.  We also have skirmishers out front, although not so many as the opposition.

Terrain is a large area of high ground in front of the enemy left, rising to a steep prominence at their leftmost wing area.  Our set-up is reasonably straightforward: line up to hit the Italian infantry on the hills.  Screen the phalanx to its right with lots of light troops.  And mass the rest of the army on our open left.  The only problem is that the Italians don't play ball, instead massing all of their infantry at an angle to our extreme left and placing all of their cavalry in and around the hills.  There's a bit of a gap in their centre.  All of the following photos are taken from behind our army:
In the photo above you can see the mass of Italian infantry off to our left.
Gordon decides that he can't afford to attack the infantry to his front head on, so he swings his forces across the centre front of our infantry line.  He doesn't think many of them will make it, but he hopes to slow down the opposition long enough for my phalanx to get into action.
I angle some of the phalanx towards the hills, hoping to head off his cavalry before they get behind my right flank.
I also move my light troops so as to meet his cavalry force that's threatening to come around the extreme edge of the ridge line.
Gordon's troops do their best in the traffic jam while my Tarentines angle inwards a bit.  A gap is beginning to appear between them and the phalanx.
The enemy cavalry advances towards my waiting light forces on our extreme right.  You can just see the phalanx to the left squeezing the enemy cavalry  - the steep hill at the extremity is cramping their style.  By being aggressive with the phalanx, I might just pull this off.
The centre continues to look a right mess.  This is one confused and confusing battle.
I have managed to force the enemy horse to retire behind the ridge.  Now I have to reorganise the phalanx and hit the enemy infantry closest to me before they finish off Gordon's troops and flank the left of our infantry line.  This is going to be close.
Desperate fighting as my light horse and peltasts try to stop the enemy cavalry on the right.
In the left foreground of the shot above you can see my phalanxes moving back into the centre.  And at the same time another wave of enemy cavalry starts to come around the hills.
The remains of the peltasts move into position to stop the latest development on the right, as enemy light horse pelt them with javelins.
More of the same.  Basically, we cancel each other's momentum here.  Which at least means the right rear of the phalanx is safe.
The moment of truth arrives - I thought a suitably dramatic close-up would be good for the final photo.  As the enemy infantry starts to roll up our Tarentines, the phalanx finally goes in.  Note the Carthaginian spearmen standing in for Italian hoplites - could it be captured armour?  In any event, it is all to no avail for us.  Pyrrhus personally joins the left of the two phalanxes you can see from behind here to try to shore up their morale.  It fails, and he and his phalanx are disordered by our routing elephant unit.  I throw in the next unit along and roll no hits from 32 dice (I should have got 10 on average!).
And that was it, game over for Pyrrhus.  His much vaunted phalanx was obviously still seasick or something.  We actually won the race, getting the phalanx to the right point in the line just in time before our left crumbled, but I couldn't hit a thing.  And just as the local Italians celebrate their victory, news comes that the Carthaginians have stabbed them in the back by assaulting from Sicily!  That's the next game, hopefully tomorrow.


  1. Excellent stuff. Love the close up at the end.

    In terms of rolling lots of dice, we sometimes use just one average dice.

    So rather than throwing 30 dice, you can (for example) say that this will result in 10 hits (5 or 6 on a d6).

    You just roll one average dice and dependent on the result (5 = +2, 4 = +1, 3 = -1, 2 = -2) this determines the hits dished out.

    So you are guaranteed 8 hits but could get 12. But at least hits are guaranteed. we think this is a fairer way when lots of dice are involved.

  2. Hi Phil, thanks for looking - that was quick! I like your idea about average dice. We talked about something similar, but our lot seems to prefer good old fashioned luck. Secretly, I was quite pleased with the result. In campaign terms, Rome is really up against it now, and Tarentines would be easier for them to defeat than Pyrrhus. Of course, they might end up against Carthage really soon. Again...


  3. Lovely looking game & figures!

  4. Wow very nice setup looking good.

  5. Cheers, both - I just wish I could roll dice properly. I'll probably make up for it tonight -nothing shall stand in my way!

    Fading sound of maniacal laughter as I'm dragged off for my own good...

  6. A lot of good looking bods there...I´ll have to get some pics of my Phalanxes up at some point.

  7. Hi Paul, I'd like to see those! Are they in 1/72nd?

  8. Excellent stuff! My next project could be Pyrrhus!
    Thanks for sharing.


  9. Hi Scullmeister, do let us see them! The figs in our game are Essex Later Seleucids pretending to be Pyrrhus' troops; I fancy building another Successor army to fight them, but that will be a while off.