Wednesday, 23 April 2014

They fought like lions

Yesterday was my first day back at work after two weeks' leave, so I was a bit mindless by the time we went to the club.  All of which means that I didn't pack the camera, which was a shame because the game saw the first use of my newly painted North Africans (Numidian foot by Companion Miniatures).  This was the opening battle of the 3rd Punic War, as the dastardly Romans invaded, heading straight for Carthage itself (you can probably already tell which side was mine).  On they came with a consular army, supplemented by some Iberians in the form of Caetrati.

The brave defenders had a mostly medium army of all round average quality - I'll post the list to the campaign page later.  I took advice from a short discussion on the Society of Ancients forum and came up with what seemed an appropriate mix of troop types.  Deployment map, with Romans at the top:
The Romans are in red, Latins in white and auxiliaries and mercenaries in yellow.  Billy ran the right half of the invading forces, and Simon the left.  Their deployment was conventional in the centre, with wall to wall legionaries.  On their right was a light command of extraordinarii drawn from both the Latin and Roman legions, along with some auxiliary Spanish Caetrati.  On their left were the combined Equites of all of the legions, bolstered by many wealthy youths seeking adventure and booty at the expense of the old enemy.  The Velites were accompanied by some contingents of mercenary Cretan archers and Rhodian Slingers.

Gordon ran the left of our army and I took the right.  He had a command of three units of light horse at the extreme left.  Our centre comprised all of the infantry, with the heavies at the left of the line.  Our right had all of the heavier horse: a small unit of Punic aristocrats and a larger one of Spanish mercenaries, eager to face the hated enemy.

There was some rough stuff to our front left, along with a hill, and another hill to our front right.  The rough would cramp the style of the legions, but we would have to cede it to the Caetrati.  I had intended to lead with the right, but the presence of all of those Equites would make this difficult.  The opening phases:
We won the initiative on the first turn, and made the Romans move first.  Simon advanced his legions aggressively - I think he was roleplaying a Roman commander.  Billy was a little more circumspect with the Latins.  Seeing that Simon was holding back his Equites to protect the flanks of the Roman advance, rather than attacking outright, I decided on a variation on the right hook.  The end unit of medium foot wheeled outwards and advanced to get as much in the way of the Roman cavalry as possible.  My shooting was excellent, and a unit of Velites vanished almost instantly under a hail of javelins inscribed with things like Romanes eunt domus.  These Carthaginians were plainly in a really bad mood.  Next:
The Romans continued in almost exactly the same way as the initial turns, except that Simon advanced his cavalry a little.  Our infantry rumbled forward as fast as it could, with Gordon holding back the heavy guys at the left rear of the developing echelon.  I also capitalised on the shooting success of my skirmishers and attacked theirs.  Various light guys vanished in the dust.
My infantry attacked the Hastati of both Roman legions, while my endmost guys continued marching forward under a hail of slingshot towards the Equites.  Gordon was quite relieved at the slower progress of the Latin legions and the Caetrati, and decided to feint to the left.  At this point, his slingers lost their shooting match with the Cretans in the woods.  The infantry fighting was vicious, with both sides rolling well above average.  Definitely no quarter given by either side in this battle.
On our left, Gordon's light cavalry presses forward, taking some damage from those pesky Cretans.  Billy counters by sending his own light cavalry wide.  More into the centre, the Latin legions and the Caetrati continue their stately advance, while my infantry and Simon's Hastati gleefully slaughter one another.  Simon retires his Roman Equites, and I continue to advance my rightmost infantry unit.  I also begin to move my own cavalry forward - the Spanish to support the infantry, and the Punic nobles to a position where they can begin to influence events further into the centre.
  Having pulled the enemy light horse to the wing, and also having taken more than enough shooting hits, Gordon puts his light cavalry into reverse.  The Latins continue to advance, but the Roman Hastati are starting to crumble before the onslaught of the big blocks of African medium foot - mind you, they are also taking a hammering.  My end unit of infantry goes into the Latin Equites together with my Spanish cavalry.
The Latin legions make contact, and Gordon takes advantage of the relative tardiness of the Caetrati to throw in his heavy infantry as well to attain a temporary local superiority.  My infantry have finally disposed of the Roman Hastati, and now have the dubious honour of facing the Principes.  Simon commits the Roman Equites to the desperate struggle at my top right.
The first wave of Caetrati joins in against Gordon's heavy infantry.  My guys are beginning to crumble against the Roman Principes.  However, Simon's Roman Equites fail their morale test and are disordered by the rout of their Latin compatriots.  Seeing this, I swing my aristos further inwards.
On our left, both sides desperately attempt to move their light horse back into the center of the field to try to gain some sort of advantage.  Fortunately for us, the swift demise of the rest of the Equites shakes the morale of the closest victorious Roman Principes, giving my heavy cavalry elites the opportunity to hit the other unit of Principes in the flank.  Nasty.  Unfortunately, though, the enthusiasm of my Spanish cavalry gets the better of them and they hare off in pursuit of the fleeing Roman middle classes.
This is now the crisis point of the battle.  Gordon has destroyed the first of Billy's units of Caetrati, so in goes the second.  Having wiped out the Roman Principes, I roll a disastrous compulsory pursuit with my nobles and they go crashing into the rear of some Latin Hastati - which then allows their Principes to join in against my cavalry.  Gordon manages to destroy some other Romans with his medium foot, but all is now in the hands of the dice gods.  Both armies are nearing their breakpoints.
Some of the light horse clash in the centre, which ends badly for Rome.  In the meantime, the Latins finally destroy both of Gordon's remaining infantry units.  Game over.

And possibly the bloodiest draw we have ever seen.  Both sides fought well, with lots of damage being dished out, but the Romans suffered really badly when it came to morale and control dice.  In terms of army values, the Roman army was in fact almost entirely destroyed.  This is due to the way that the legions count towards army breakpoint - Hastati don't count until the Principes are also destroyed (and the Triarii, although there weren't any of those in this particular battle).  This makes them incredibly tough, but it also means that if and when they lose, they do so big time.  The Carthaginian army isn't in any condition to pursue, so the Roman remnants are deemed to have broken through and escaped.

As far as the campaign is concerned, this means that the Roman expeditionary force won't be doing any expediting any more, even with some reinforcements coming in from Sicily.  The war in Africa therefore settles down into a sullen stalemate.  However, word has reached both sides that the people of Rome are incensed at the senate's seeming inability to force a military resolution.  In order to contain the rage of the plebeians, the senate has decreed that a certain Scipio Aemilianus should be given extraordinary propraetorial powers, even though he isn't old enough.  He has already taken command of the army in Spain that defeated the Celtiberians a year ago, and is marching it southwards with the intention of moving across to Africa and attacking Carthage from the west.  The combination of that force plus the local remnants make it extremely unlikely that Carthage will survive.  But first it needs to be invested and then taken.

10 comments:

  1. A very good report and easy to follow Look forward to the next installment

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    1. Thanks, Andrew. It is turning into the never-ending story. That's good, though, because it will keep us in games...

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  2. Fantastic battle report, I really enjoyed reading it.
    Cheers, Guido.

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  3. You destroyed those Romans. Good for you!

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    1. Hi Anne, thanks for looking. Beating Romans does leave a warm glow in the heart, it has to be said!

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  4. Great report. Looks like it was a very enjoyable game and a close one at that. I assume both sides were at Breaking Point so side with higher % losses was the looser. Any chance you could post your OB's. I like to see how others organize their T2 armies.

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    1. Hi Mitch, Romans were as follows:

      4 legions, each comprising 8 Velites, 24 Hastati and 24 Principes (no Triarii) all FV 5-6 pila
      36 FV 5-6 Cavalry
      16 FV 3-6 Light Cavalry
      Caetrati: 36 FV 4-6 Light Infantry with javelins
      SI: 20 slingers and 10 archers

      Carthage:
      12 Elite Cavalry FV 5-6
      18 Cavalry FV 4-6
      24 Light Cavalry FV 3-6
      36 Infantry FV 5-6
      5 units of 48 Infantry FV 4-6
      SI: 16 slingers and 20 javelins

      This was a campaign game, so the armies were slightly unbalanced. The Romans had, if I remember rightly, just over 2200 points, and the Carthaginians about 150 points less. You couldn't tell form the way they fought, though!

      Hope this makes sense.
      Paul

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