Saturday, 23 November 2013


Yesterday evening saw a load of folks arriving in Glasgow for the annual Armati tournament, being held today and tomorrow.  Since there are visitors from various parts of England (and Vincent from Paris!), I decided it was high time I helped out a bit at least.  I'm (obviously) not a 15mm player, nor do I like tournaments, but this is a very friendly circuit of players.  I can't make it to a whole weekend of gaming anyway due to family commitments, but I do like to aim for a large game every so often.  So as a way of saying thanks to our visitors, I brought in a load of the larger scale toys for a large Tactica II game.  The battle begins after the Romans have cleared the field of the Carthaginian skirmishers and shifted the remainder of the Velites to the flanks to help out against the elephants.  First up is a series of deployment photos:
The Roman right flank, as the enemy sees it: Spanish and Roman horse, the Roman Triarii, and Roman Velites out front.  One of Scipio's tactical innovations on this battle is the way he has thrown the Triarii wide of the main line to get them stuck in as soon as possible, instead of keeping in reserve.
Moving along Scipio's battle line we have the Roman legions.  That's the man himself at the top left of the photo as you look at it.
The Spanish foot occupy the centre of Scipio's army.  You can't really tell from the photo, but they are held further back than the legions, in a sort of concave infantry formation.  This is another of the tricks Scipio pulled on the day - he knew the opposition would be expecting the legions to be in his centre.
Next come the Latin legions.  The bits of paper detail each of the commands, and have basic information on the various troop types.  I had no idea how many players we would have, but I was pretty certain that the visiting gamers probably wouldn't have much knowledge of Tactica II.
Finally, the Roman left, comprising the Latin Triarii, brigaded together in the same manner as their Roman compatriots at the other end of the line, and a large contingent of Latin horse.  Latin Velites out front.  The bits of cork are my latest attempt to make a less uninteresting basic field for ancients games.  I tried terrain tiles made from cork on an earlier occasion, but they didn't work very well.  The problem with tiles is that the lines are always visible, which detracts from their visual appeal.  So I've decided on the opposite approach: bits of cork tile to break up the billiard table look, but made deliberately irregular.  These ones have green through them, which I hope helps with the illusion.
Now we see the Carthaginian deployment.  The first photo (above) shows the troops facing the Latin cavalry: Spanish horse; elite Punic heavy cavalry, and a unit of elephants.  No skirmishers in this army, because the Velites have already removed them.
The first contingent of Turdetani, played for the evening by my Caetrati.  Unfortunately for them, they are facing the Latin legions...
The centre is held by the cream of the army, four good sized units of elite Punic heavy spearmen (supplied by Simon).  Now we see why Scipio has deployed his Spanish as far back as possible!
Unfortunately, the photo of the next batch of Turdetani was too blurry to use, but you can just make out one of the units at the left.  The remainder shows the Carthaginian left wing, under the command of the famous Numidian Prince Masinissa: a unit of elephants plus loads of Numidian light cavalry.
Finally, a long table shot of the entire field, with the Romans to the right.  We had four Carthaginian players and three Romans, so plenty for everyone to do.  Overall, Carthage had two units of elephants, 56 cavalry and 504 foot figures.  The Romans had 42 cavalry and 464 infantry.  Various commanders could also be seen running around the place.
The battle began in ferocious style, as was indeed the intention.  The first action shot above shows the Latin cavalry on Scipio's left coming to grips with their Spanish and Punic adversaries.  The Latins lost in spectacular style.  I deliberately set the game up so that manoeuvre would be restricted.  Most folks had been travelling for quite a while, and it seemed like a good idea just to have a fun, set 'em up and roll the dice type of battle.  Relatively little thought required; fun at the option of the players.  They are about to play a tournament for a whole weekend, so I didn't want to inflict something too challenging the night before - besides, most folks wouldn't know the rules anyway.
The Latin legions come to grips with the Turdetani.  The legionary mincing machine begins its terrible work...
At the other end of the field, the Numidians do their level best to keep the Romans here occupied and away from the flanks of the Turdetani.  Above you can see that the elephants have drawn the Triarii in this direction.  A rather necessary nellie sacrifice.
And here's why: the Turdetani are rather fully occupied with Roman legionaries to their front; the last thing they need is a column of elite Triarii spearmen bearing down on their open flank...
The concave formation adopted by Scipio has forced Hasdrubal to march his heavy spearmen right across the table, thus delaying contact here for as long as possible.  Unlike the historical performance, in this refight the Punics go straight in and an epic struggle develops.
It's pretty much combat all along the line now.  Above, the Turdetani facing the Latins are having a really bad time.
The Latin Equites have been wiped out, however, and the Punic nobles turn in towards the left rear of the legions.  The Spanish cavalry are nowhere to be seen, haring off in pursuit of their defeated enemies.  At the top of the photo you can see the Latin Triarii in desperate combat against the elephants.
Above: this is what happens to elephants caught in the flank by Romans in a bad mood...
Masinissa has done well to hold the Romans here as long as possible, but will it be enough?
The Turdetani here begin to crumble, but the remainder fight on grimly.  Quite a few of the legionaries here are getting rather exhausted by the attrition.
The Latins, however, have ruthlessly exterminated all opposition - all the Turdetani here have been wiped out in rather spectacular fashion.  The Latins try to regroup but are hit from behind by the Punic aristocrats.  Will the Latins be swept away by a glorious cavalry charge?  Nope.  It fizzles and the left of Scipio's army is saved.
A final shot of the Turdetani facing the Romans before the legionary grinders finish their grisly work.

The game was actually a lot closer than it seemed.  Hasdrubal's Punics cut their way through the Spanish in Scipio's centre, wiping them out to a man.  If that cavalry charge had come off, the Latin legions would have been severely mauled if not destroyed outright, because all the units there were already disordered due to their attempt to turn to face the threat from behind.  Fortunately for them, though, they successfully crushed the Turdetani before the cavalry arrived, so they weren't fighting in two directions at once.  Even so, there were a couple of hairy moments.

So, a better result than the historical outcome for Carthage.  They still lost, but at least Hasdrubal used his spearmen this time, and they escaped by bursting through the Spanish in the centre.  Thanks are due to everyone who took part.  I think it went well; people seemed to be enjoying the spectacle, and once they saw how the rules worked the game practically ran itself.  I only had to adjudicate things like morale tests and elephant routs, which are always good fun.  It wasn't intentional, but it turns out that this is a good game for learning the rules from scratch.  There are enough troop types to give the players a decent range of options, while at the same time it works as a good old-fashioned focus on the melee interactions.  We'll maybe play it again some time...


  1. Nice report, the mass of troops is really impressive!

  2. Cheers, Phil - thanks for looking!

  3. Now, that is a battle! Great scenes, Paul. I'm sure the visitors would've been impressed :)


  4. Well done . Ancient battles always look best with masses of figures.

  5. Thanks guys. I'm with James on this one - there's nothing quite like the spectacle of a large 25mm game.

  6. Great game. Looks like it was a lot of fun. If I had it to do over, I would have started with 25mm figures.

  7. Nice report Paul and great to see the Romans coming out on top.

  8. Hi Mitch, thanks so much for looking in on us. I must admit that I'm finding it harder and harder to field queries about Tactica II - I really want to see them in print!

    Good to hear from you too, Raglan. Hope all is well in sunny Wales!

  9. great game,very good!!!
    my blog :
    ( a little roman city )