Saturday 26 May 2012

Hannibal has a bad day

Hannibal kicks off the 2nd Punic War by invading Cisalpine Gaul.  He encounters a Roman consular army in an area of rolling hills, with its left flank anchored on a steep hill:
Hannibal is in blue at the top.  From the left, as you look at it, the Carthaginians are deployed as follows:

  • Right Wing: two units of 8 Numidians; one unit of 12 Heavy Cavalry; a large block of 48 Gauls; and a skirmish screen of 12 Javelinmen.
  • Centre: a wave of two units of 24 Gauls deployed wide along with 24 Scutarii; a second wave of three units of 24 figures, one of Scutarii and two of Elite African Spearmen; skirmish screen of two 8s and one 12 of Javelinmen.
  • Left Wing: A very powerful mixed cavalry force comprising three units of 12 Heavy Cavalry and four units of 8 Numidians, with 12 Slingers in front.
The Roman left is composed of a small command of two units of 8 Light Horse and 8 Slingers at the steep hill.  The centre is the usual four legions, two Roman and two Latin.  Each is composed of 8 Velites, 24 Militia Grade Medium Hastati; 24 Heavy Principes; and 12 Triarii.  The Right Wing is a small command of two units of 12 Equites Medium Cavalry and 8 Cretan Archers.

I constructed and deployed the Roman army.  I wanted to see if I could squeeze a reasonable number of figures into the triplex acies formation.  To some extent the terrain dictated my setup, which as you can see isn't strictly symmetrical.  I ran the tiny left wing; Paul took the two leftmost legions; and Billy ran the legions on the right and the cavalry.  Simon built the Carthaginian army and Gordon deployed it.  Simon sat out of the game, so Gordon ran the right half of the attackers and David took the left.  From their deployment, it seems clear that the Carthaginians are intending to absorb the legions in the centre while punching with their left.  We ruled that as a Great Captain, Hannibal's battlefield bonus would be a sort of army morale boost, so we decided that the Gallic infantry would not cause any morale tests on routing and would not count towards army breakpoint.

After a huddled conference, we decide that the Romans will attack with the legions, leading from the rightmost.  It is clear from the outset that the Carthaginians will be able to swing round our right flank; the Equites will just have to sell their lives as dearly as possible.  Our symmetrical deployment has given us a useful overlap with the extreme right legion, which we decide will advance its Hastati and Principes, but whose Triarii can afford to go wide to help guard the extreme right of the infantry centre.  However, I am at a disadvantage on the left, so here I will attempt to slow down the opposition as much as possible.  I'll use the steep hill to delay them while shooting with the slingers.  The legion to my immediate right will have to be careful against that huge warband.

Photo 1 above shows the look of the field from my post at the left rear of the Roman army.
Photo 2 shows the advance of the enemy towards my meagre forces.  The fact that the Carthaginian cavalry started so far back on this flank, combined with the inconvenience of the steep hill, should stop them getting to contact too quickly.  I am, however, aware that their extra unit of heavy cavalry will pose a serious threat to the left of our legions.  On the right of the shot you can see the double-strength warband advancing in all its glory.
Photo 3 is a sweeping shot of the panorama, looking from my wing across to the right.  At the far right of the photo you can see the mass of enemy cavalry advancing upon our hapless Equites.  By this point it has become clear that Billy has decided against swinging his rightmost Triarii wide to help; this convinces me that we are doomed.
Photo 4 shows the situation on my wing.  I have retired my cavalry as much as I can, all the while hoping that the slingers will even things up against the Numidians to my front.  Four rounds of shooting, and they miss with every single shot.
In Photo 5 above, the armies clash in the centre.  The low grade Hastati destroy huge numbers of Gauls.
Photo 6 shows the action right across the rest of the field from a different angle.  At the far end of the battle Billy's Equites give a good account of themselves and despite some shooting hits, they hold up well against the enemy cavalry.  It is beginning to look as though their assault has spent itself.
Back to my wing.  The Numidians are about to come off the steep hill, so I have to throw in my light horse. With luck, we'll wipe each other out, but it should take a couple of turns.  Which will slow their heavy horse down even more; I can hear the stomping of hooves and impatient neighing as they are forced to wait for the way to clear.  My rubbish slingers shout insults at the rear.
With my force entirely engaged, I manage to sneak over to Billy's wing to snap this shot of the conclusion of his cavalry action.  His Equites are gone, but have destroyed a unit of Numidians.  Another plus some heavies have hared off in pursuit, badly mangled by the close contest, which is why there is such a gap between their two waves.  This will make it even longer before they can try to turn the right flank of our infantry.  In fact, to slow them down the Carthaginians have had to throw two units of heavy cavalry to destroy the rightmost  Hastati; also badly damaged, they then end up in contact with the Principes, who don't seem too bothered.
Back on our left, my command has entirely evaporated, leaving the way clear for the enemy's reserve unit of heavy cavalry to move past and onto the exposed left flank of Paul's legions.  But they still have quite a way to go...
And the centres clear.  The only Gauls left are stuck in combat at the very bottom of this photo against Paul's Principes, and the Hastati have all finally been cleared.  However, the rest of the Principes are still intact and surge forward to victory.  

It was close; on our left the lone unit of Carthaginian heavies was about to flank the legions, and our rightmost legion was down to the Triarii.  But the attrition was too much for Hannibal, despite his Great Captain status, so Rome has gleefully declared his much vaunted invasion a damp squib.  There's always the next time, though, and the Hastati should be lucky to get away with it against the Gauls in like manner again.  Next up: the Indians attack the Greek colonies in Bactria once again.


  1. Always great battle reports! I especially enjoyed this one for some reason - maybe it was the tension of who would win came through in the narrative.

  2. Hi Shaun, glad you liked it. I've tried to make the reports as generic as possible. You can probably get some idea of the rules from the narrative, but the idea is to make them sort of invisible if I can. I must admit that with this one I was really surprised that we did win it!

  3. Nice battle report, mus get around to rolling out my republicans again!