Saturday 24 December 2011

The Romans conquer Sicily

The First Punic War draws to a close as the manipular legions of the Roman Republic crush the last Carthaginian resistance.  The battlefield looks promising for the defending Punics and their large mercenary host, with a lovely defensive ridge line on which to nestle:
Gordon chooses and deploys the Carthaginian army.  He runs their right wing and half of the infantry centre; David takes the other half of the army.  Their right wing comprises a large unit of 18 Punic Medium Cavalry with a unit of 8 Numidians to either side, the whole lot followed up by a unit of 12 Carthaginian aristocratic Heavy Cavalry.  In front are two blocks of slingers.  The centre has some skirmish javelinmen in front of an initial wave of Celtiberians (three Warbands of 24 figs each, deployed shallow).  Immediately behind these are three large units of 36 Scutarii.  There is a heavy unit to either side of the main body: 24 Sicilian Hoplites and 24 Punic Heavy Infantry, both deployed in two ranks.  The army's left wing comprises a unit of 18 Celtiberian cavalry, 18 Spanish cavalry and a unit of 8 Spanish light horse.

Facing them is a consular army of four legions, two Roman and two Latin.  Each of these comprises 9 Velites; two units of 8 Hastati; two units of 8 Principes; and a unit of 8 Triarii.  On each flank of the army is an ala of 36 Italian medium foot, an ala of 18 medium cavalry, and a unit of 8 light horse.  Completing the mix is one unit of 10 Cretan archers in front of the Roman cavalry on the right. 

I chose this lot and deployed them.  I remain somewhat unsatisfied with how the Romans play out under the rules.  The traditional three-line deployment, which I adopted for this battle, has a lot of staying power but in practice it is very inflexible.  Since the Romans must deploy in this fashion in this period, it is very easy for anyone facing them to try a Cannae.  So I changed the legion composition around a bit.  There are still half as many Triarii as either Principes or Hastati, but the base unit is no longer the line, but an eight-figure maniple.  I wanted to see if this would be too brittle, or if it would compensate somewhat for the triplex acies setup, by restoring some flexibility to the individual units. 

My plan is to be as aggressive as possible with the Italian foot and the mounted wings so as to keep the enemy off the vulnerable flanks of the legion as long as possible, while pinning the enemy centre with the legions.  I will then choose a point of attack depending on how the enemy presents.  As I see the enemy deployment, I decide to hold the hill to my front centre with the Roman Hastati.  The Latin legions will carry the attack towards the two units of enemy heavy spearmen, while the Romans simply hold the centre.  This is a bit of a change from what was expected, and is a result of the enemy's central two-line infantry deployment.  The Italians and cavalry will be used to stop the enemy getting onto the flanks of the legions, as planned in setup.  All photos are taking from my command post behind the Roman lines:
The foreground of the shot above shows my Italians moving forward on my left.  I hold the cavalry back until the foot are sufficiently advanced.
The two leftmost legions, Romans to the inside centre.  At the bottom left you can just see the Latin Triarii angling towards the left flank.  The presence of the Carthaginian heavy cavalry on this wing has me worried.
Meanwhile on my far right the enemy horse advances.  In mirror image fashion, the Italian foot thrusts aggressively towards the wing.

Above is a shot of the infantry centres.  The Roman legions are simply going to wait for the expected charge of the warbands.
At my centre right, the outermost maniple of Hastati manages to attack the enemy's Spanish light horse.  If I can clear the way here, the entire rightmost Latin legion will concentrate on the Punic heavy infantry.
On the right, the Italian infantry have almost reached the enemy cavalry, so I move my own mounted troops up in support.
On the far left, the presence of the Italian infantry has forced the Carthaginian cavalry wide.  The Italians, however, have entered a world of pain as the enemy slingers and light horse have a field day chucking things at the nice big juicy target.  But all they need to do is hold out long enough for the Latin legion to assault the Syracusan hoplites at the end of the enemy infantry centre.
Gordon sees what I'm up to and rushes the Celtiberians forward.  He needs to break through the Roman thin red line as soon as possible.
At my centre right, the Latin Hastati have disposed of the light cavalry and gone into the Punic heavy infantry. In the centre of the photo above you can see the Principes waiting in the classic support position.
Fighting is heavy along the whole of my right wing now, but the presence of the Italian infantry here gives me extra weight.  The Carthaginians aren't helped by poor dice.
On my left, though, the Italian cavalry collapses spectacularly.  My decision to throw the Latin Triarii wide turns out to have been correct.  Will they be able to hold back the impending cavalry attack on the flank of the legions?
At the Roman centre right, the African heavy infantry have destroyed the outermost maniple of Hastati, so in go some of the Principes with a new volley of pila.
Above is an angled photo of the desperate infantry melee in the centre.  The dice gods desert the Celtiberians here and the fighting grinds on.  This suits me as the Romans, because it will give me more time to destroy the two heavy infantry units.
To my left, the Triarii have seen off the large enemy cavalry unit, but at great cost to themselves.  Unfortunately for Carthage, though, the rout has disordered their reserve heavy cavalry.  I try to threaten them with the Italian infantry as well, who have turned around.  However, they have been taking missile fire all game now and are trailing a growing smear of wounded and dying behind them.  It really is touch and go on this flank; I just hope I can hold the opposition a little longer here.
The leftmost Latin legion has disposed of the Syracusan hoplites, and a maniple breaks through onto the Spanish in the second line.  Unfortunately for the Spanish, they became disordered on  morale when the hoplites broke.
Just to the right of the previous shot, one lone unit of badly mangled Celtiberians makes a final vainglorious charge across the hill into the waiting Roman Principes.  Finally the Hastati have been driven off, but at great cost to the valiant warriors from the west.
The enemy plan works at one part of the field.  On the right side of Hastati Hill one of the Spanish units finally makes it into contact with Roman Principes.  But again luck is not with Carthage as they are stopped in their tracks.
Finally, all is over for Carthage as they lose too many of their infantry.  The final photo shows the victorious Roman right wing streaming into the centre just in time to join in the pursuit.

The combination of maniples and the triplex acies system worked very well indeed.  The Roman centre held nicely against the enemy masses while the Latin legions each picked on a single enemy unit and then enveloped the flanks of the enemy centre.  Manipular flexibility worked well here, although it does have to be said that the Carthaginian foot had a very bad dice day.  About time too, though, because so far in the campaign Rome has done very poorly.

In effect, this battle sees the end of the First Punic War as Rome kicks Carthage out of Sicily.  There will be one more campaign turn, and then Hannibal appears.  Peter has  rolled to see what the Macedonians would do.  Their glory-seeking King has decided to go one better than his ancestor Alexander, and finally subjugate the wild Illyrians to the north.  That will be played in January, Scottish weather permitting of course.  In the meantime, the Romans are off to a well-deserved Saturnalia.


  1. Fantastic blog.............Have a very Merry Christmas and a great new year.

  2. Have a great Xmas, Paul! Simon

  3. Thanks, guys, here's hoping you and yours have a good one too!

  4. Nice report, fine generalship, and a worrying result for Carthage!

    On that note, have a great Christmas ;-)


  5. Cheers, Aaron, same to yourself!

  6. Shame, I was rooting for the Carthaginian's. Good rep as usual, and look forward to more next year. Hope you and yours have a great Christmas!

  7. Hi Hendrid, I agree - normally I would root for Carthage as well, but in this campaign I find myself cheering on whichever side is doing worst!

    Have survived Christmas so far; hope yours is going well too...

  8. Another great report. Very entertaining.

  9. Cheers, Brian; hope you're feeling better!

  10. Nice battle report....The "C's" lost another one it seems under the dark sky.
    Carthage will arise again.

    Michael aka WR

  11. Thanks Michael, I'm glad it made sense. The guy who usually provides our Carthaginian army isn't well at the moment, so I'm using stand-ins. Maybe that's why they didn't do too well this time!