Monday, January 13, 2020

Battle Report: Wars of the Republic- Carthaginians vs. Numidians

Hamilcar surveyed the dusty plains beyond. His army of Libyans, Phoenicians, and Carthaginians were at the edge of their fertile lands. The furthest their irrigation channels reached. Beyond was the wilder lands of the Numidians. They had dared to resist the will of Baal, and now he was sent to show them the error of their ways. From Libya he had brought his heavy chariots, each pulled by four powerful steads. He had also come with loyal North African tributary soldiers and his fellow citizens to act as the backbone of the force.

Across the dusty plains were the barbarous Numidians. He could see that they had brought their own
horseman to the fight. In addition, he could see the white of goose feathers on the backs of their
soldiers. That meant archers would be present, and they most likely out-numbered and out-ranged his
own missile troops. Speed would be the key to closing the distance, but the Numidians lighter horseman could slow him up. Perhaps Baal had been watching over him when the dry air from the ocean blew across the fields and kicked up dust. It would help screen his troops from the enemy archers.

Today’s battle will be using my test Wars of the Republic rules and features a battle between the rising power of Carthage in North Africa versus the army of the neighboring kingdom of Numidia. In actuality, we have very little records that such a clash happened, but it only makes logical sense that as Carthage’s power grew, there would be tension before Numidia became a client state. No real documents survive from Carthage to discuss their early history and we are left mostly with speculation from archeology and what records the Romans left us.

The big decision is to determine which army lists to use for such a hypothetical clash. If we place the
battle earlier in time, we can use the Early Republic Carthage list that aligns with the wars in Sicily and the Numidian list there. If we want a later battle, closer to the time of the Punic Wars we could use the Pre-Xanthippus Reforms army list and the Jugartha list for the Numidians. The main difference between the lists is the use of Hoplites and Heavy Cavalry by the Carthaginians, and the access to Elephants for both sides.

I decide to place the battle in a very early time frame for Carthage and the Numidians, before Carthage’s interference in Sicily. This would put the battle early in Carthage’s rise to power and before it extensively used mercenaries. Essentially, it is a rising city-state against a rival regional tribal power.

Carthaginians- Early Republic (ER)
1 Heavy Cavalry- Chariots
2 Drilled Infantry
2 Light Infantry
1 Slingers

Numidians- ER
2 Light Cavalry- 12 points
2 Archers- 8 Points
2 Drilled Infantry- 16 points
1 Skirmisher- 2 Points

Both sides are 38 points. The Carthaginians will generate 6 Command Tokens, and the Numidians will have 7.

I decided to test out the scenario generator I have been working on and rolled up the following:
We rolled up a Secure and Control objective. Both sides are trying to seize and hold onto a small oasis in the center of the board. Each side is trying to have an intact unit covering or touching the Oasis at the
end of an 8 turn game. You can also route your enemy as per usual.

We also rolled up the Dusty complication for this battle.

Today, my Paper Templates are designed to simulate multi-based units on 50x50 bases with three bases
per unit. I am testing to make sure that Multi-based units will function as intended within the rules.

The terrain is a dusty plain on a 4x4 table with the objective Oasis set in the center. The objective is
normal terrain. The Carthaginians are the attackers. They point to one of the grids on the table and roll
a 2, a 1 level hill that they place towards the center and to the side of the board. The Numidians chose a
different grid space and roll a stone wall. They place it in the back corner of the grid. The Carthaginians
roll again and get another stone wall, which they place in the center towards the opposite edge of the
board as the hill. In the final square, the Numidians roll up a 1 level hill that they place in the back close to the center.

The Carthaginians choose the board edge with the 1 level hill in the center to deploy on.

The Carthaginians deploy their Chariots on the their left, facing a 1 level hill close to the center line. Then a unit of Drilled Infantry, Light Infantry, slingers on the hill, Drilled Infantry, and then Light Infantry on the right.

The Numidian side of the board is relatively terrain less, as it is closer to the center line. The far left of their line has the Skirmishers. Then both flanks have the cavalry, archers, and then the Drilled infantry in the center of the battle line.

Turn 1:
Neither side bids any Commander’s Gaze, and the roll off has the Carthaginians go first.

Slingers spend a Commander's Gaze and move to the edge of the hill. Light Infantry move forward, with Drilled Infantry lagging abit behind. It is a solid battleline, with the Chariots out on the edge, and moving slow. The Numidians do not interrupt.

The Numidian battle line moves forward, with the missile troops leading the way. A few points are paid to skirmish as needed. Their formation starts to take on a crescent formation with the Drilled infantry in the center and the skirmishers and light cavalry on the out tips. Anyone who moves into the center Oasis looks like they are going to be turned into a pin cushion.

Turn 2:
Both sides pick up their Commander's Gaze tokens. Neither side looks excited to move first, but the Numidians bid 1 Gaze to do so.

The entire army does not move. Only parts of it as the Carthaginian commander watches the battle line unfold. Archers get into position in cover by the wall near the Oasis. They are supported by a unit of Drilled Infantry behind them. That looks like tough bastion to crack.

Meanwhile, the Skirmishers use Commander's Gaze to rush forward over the hill. By the Oasis, Light Infantry move to Javelin range, backed up by Light Infantry again. The remaining archers seem ready to volley into the oasis.

Carthaginian Light Infantry on the right rush forward and use Commander's Gaze to throw Javelins at the Skirmishers on the hill. The Numidians are reduced 1 Courage, but are okay. The other Carthaginian Light Infantry surge towards the Archer Bastion, but their Javelins fall short of the mark. That puts them in a dangerous position.

The Heavy Chariots rumble menacingly forward on the flank.

Turn 3:
Both sides collect Commander's Gaze again. This time the Carthaginians bid 3, while the Numidians bid 4. Close bids.

The Numidian Archers in the Bastion open fire on the Carthaginian Light infantry in front of them. Despite the barrage, they are lucky and only lose 1 Courage. The Carthaginians try to interrupt, which they do successfully.

The signal is given to the heavy Chariots to charge the enemy light Infantry in their fore. The Numidians choose to Evade. The Carthaginians are desperate to make contact and choose to pursue for another 1 Commander's Gaze. Both Evade and pursuit rolls are bad, but the Heavy Chariots fail to come into contact with the enemy! They are disordered.

The Numidians do not choose to try to steal the initiative. Instead, they are content to let the Carthaginian commander show his hand. They sense he is low on Commander's Gaze. He uses his last Gaze to charge with his light Infantry into the Archers in the bastion. They choose to hold position at the wall.

On the other flank, the Carthaginian Light Infantry again throw at the Skirmishers, hoping to drive them off. They lose another point of courage, but seem steady. The rest of the Carthaginian moves up, with the slingers coming down from the hill.

The Carthaginians have completed their turn, so play goes back to the Numidians. The Light Infantry throw Javelins at the oncoming Chariots, but fail to cause any significant impact. The Numidian Light Cavalry decide to attack them on the flank with a charge.

The Numidian Light Infantry in the center decides to charge into the flank and support their archers friends.

On the Numidian left (Carthaginian right) the Light Cavalry rides forward and throws Javelins along with the Skirmishers at the Carthaginian Light Infantry. The Carthaginians manage to take cover in the rocky terrain at the foot of the hill. They lose a single Courage and stay steady.

The Numidian Drilled Infantry and remaining archers seem content to see the results of the nearby combats.

Resolve Melee
The Light Cavalry of the Numidians charge into the flank of the Chariots. However, Despite waverng, the Chariots manage to absorb the attack and push back the Ligth Cavalry into the nearby light Infantry. This turns into a bigger melee with the Light Infantry supporting the Light Cavalry. Heavy Chariots are down 1 Courage and Light Cavalry are down 2. Both sides are wavering, the Chariots due to a failed charge and the Cavalry due to Courage loss.

The Carthaginian Light Infantry manage to reduce the Archers 1, but take 2 courage loss in return and are pushed back. Neither side starts wavering.

Turn 4:
Both sides have been battered, but no units have been lost. They have full Commander's Gaze. Carthaginians bid 0, while the Numidians bid 3.

The Numidians charge their Light Cavalry into the right flank Carthaginian Light infantry with the Skirmishers supporting. The Carthaginians do not try to interrupt.

The Drilled Infantry begins to move to secure the Oasis, supported by Archers. The rest are in melee.

The Carthaginians decide to have a Drilled Infantry unit charge down in to support their Light Infantry, who are looking pretty steady. The Slingers just have the range on the Numidian Archers, and fire. They are reduced 2 Courage and begin to Waver. The remaining Drilled Infantry unit decides to back-up and hold fast to see the outcome of the melee in front of them.

Resolve Melee
This time the Carthaginians decide to start on their right flank with the new melee. Some abysmal rolling that Commander's Gaze could not help sees the Carthaginians losing badly! The whole right flanks collapses and leaves the Numidians free on that flank!

In the center, the Carthaginian Light Infantry fighting in front of the wall is also routed. However, they were one dice away from vanquishing their foes!

On the left, the Heavy Chariots manage to eliminate their foes in a decisive manner.

End Phase
These losses force some Morale and Collapse tests. The Carthaginian Slingers and Drilled Infantry saw their friends rout, but pass Morale checks to avoid wavering themselves. They also pass their Collapse test, putting their faith with the strength of their chariots. The Nunmidian army could not see their Light cavalry and Light Infantry crushed by the Heavy Chariots.

Turn 5:
Both sides lost units, so they have reduced Commander's Gaze pools. Numidians bid 3 for Initiative.

The Numidian Archers fire on the Slingers, and reduce them three Courage and to wavering. The other archers fire on the Drilled Infantry and reduce them two Courage and force them to Waver as well.

The Numidian Light Infantry that fought near the wall charges the wavering Drilled Infantry. The Slingers choose to support. However, the flank is also charged by the Light Cavalry. Finally, the Drilled Infantry move into the Oasis.

The Heavy Chariots are out of position, but use a Commander's Gaze to Rally.

Resolve Melee
In the ensuing Blood Bath, the Numdians and Carthaginians are all routed from the combat.

End Phase
The Carthaginian Heavy cavalry automatically Collapses due to the modifiers to their Collapse roll. They flee to live another day. That leaves the Numidians in control of the Oasis.

As the Carthaginian commander, I followed in the footsteps of a long line of Hamilcar's. I lost! Let's talk a little bit about why I lost. First, I had some terrible rolls on the right flank, but those were off-set by good rolling on the left with the Heavy Chariots. Therefore, I can't blame bad dice. They balanced. I actually lost for two main reasons.

  1. Poor support choices- I should not have backed up the Light Infantry with the much better Drilled Infantry on the right flank. Sure, the Lights had a good 4 Courage left, but ultimately the Drilled Infantry would have been better off waiting to see who won and charging the winners.
  2. I was outnumbered pretty badly. This allowed the Numidians to dictate the pace of the game with Commander's Gaze. There was always a unit ready to jump in on the Flank during combat. I put too many points into those heavy Chariots.
  3. Not a good enough strategy. I was hoping to crush the left with my Heavy Chariots and then roll up the flanks. However, Chariots are not maneuverable enough for that. In addition, I did more than pin the enemy with the rest of my force, I outright attacked a well defended bastion in the center with Light Infantry instead of heavier units.

In other words, I got out played! We both forgot the Dusty complication through out the battle.

Here are some observations about the rules themselves so far. For the most part, they are pretty straight forward. The larger bases got a bit confusing as I did a terrible job of marking which and where was the focal point of the unit. If I would have done that better, I think they would work fine. All though, it got tight on a 4 x 4 board with 3 base units of 50mm each base. I had to move to maneuver due to Zones of Control and using a 1 inch base Measurement Unit.

The other big take away was the “Resolve Melee” phase of the rules. In Men of Bronze, attacks happen as they occur, but it is harder to chain your attacks with support then. Here, there is a post- movement phase to resolve melees. This was a popular However, it can be challenging to recall who charged, who was the initial attacker, was support, etc. In addition, I just left flankers on the flank and did not move them around to support after the first turn. These were based on feedback from Men of Bronze.

Flank attacks got flank bonuses turn-after-turn. This allowed some decisive combats, but made calculating attack dice a bit harder. In addition, it can be tough to recall what is happening in a big melee. Therefore, I may need to re-think how the rules deal with this without going all token/notes crazy.

Overall, the changes to Wavering worked really well and made it much more relevant to the game. Instead, of only wavering at 2 Courage a Unit can Waver anytime they get damaged and fail a Morale test. It wasn't a huge deal breaker in this game, but it made each attack and melee seem relevant.

A fun game, but some tweaks are still needed.

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