Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mago's last battle scenario (following Jim Webster)

Amongst the recent influx of new members on the Lost Battles yahoo group, I recognised a name from Slingshot - Jim Webster. This reminded me that I'd been meaning to convert his recent discussion of Mago's final battle in Insubria into a Lost Battles scenario. Jim's article, "The Italian Campaign of Mago" (Slingshot 276) gives an account of Mago's expedition to Italy and the battle there that resulted in the younger Barca's defeat in 203 and the subsequent evacuation of his army from the mainland. Incidentally, I can't actually find an accepted name for this battle. Wikipedia calls it "The Po Valley Raid", but given that there appear to have been four legions involved as well as a good 20-odd thousand Carthaginians, calling it a 'raid' might be a little insulting! Has anyone an answer to this?

Anyway, this OOB relies on Jim's research and conclusions, which are themselves based on Livy's account of the battle. Livy's treatment can be found in Book XXX.18 of his "History of Rome". Here is the relevant excerpt (Canon Roberts's translation) taken from the electronic text centre, University of Virginia:


During this summer P. Quintilius Varus the praetor and M. Cornelius the proconsul fought a regular engagement with Mago. The praetor's legions formed the fighting line; Cornelius kept his in reserve, but rode to the front and took command of one wing, the praetor leading the other, and both of them exhorted the soldiers to make a furious charge on the enemy. When they failed to make any impression upon them, Quintilius said to Cornelius, "As you see, the battle is progressing too slowly; the enemy finding themselves offering an unhoped-for resistance have steeled themselves against fear, there is danger of this fear passing into audacity. We must let loose a hurricane of cavalry against them if we want to shake them and make them give ground. Either, then, you must keep up the fighting at the front and I will bring the cavalry into action, or I will remain here and direct the operations of the first line while you launch the cavalry of the four legions against the enemy." The proconsul left it to the praetor to decide what he would do. Quintilius, accordingly, accompanied by his son Marcus, an enterprising and energetic youth, rode off to the cavalry, ordered them to mount and sent them at once against the enemy. The effect of their charge was heightened by the battle-shout of the legions, and the hostile lines would not have stood their ground, had not Mago, at the first movement of the cavalry, promptly brought his elephants into action. The appearance of these animals, their trumpeting and smell so terrified the horses as to render the assistance of the cavalry futile. When engaged at close quarters and able to use sword and lance the Roman cavalryman was the better fighter, but when carried away by a frightened horse, he was a better target for the Numidian darts. As for the infantry, the twelfth legion had lost a large proportion of their men and were holding their ground more to avoid the disgrace of retreat than from any hope of offering effectual resistance. Nor would they have held it any longer if the thirteenth legion which was in reserve had not been brought up and taken part in the doubtful conflict. To oppose this fresh legion Mago brought up his reserves also. These were Gauls, and the hastati of the eleventh legion had not much trouble in putting them to rout. They then closed up and attacked the elephants who were creating confusion in the Roman infantry ranks. Showering their darts upon them as they crowded together, and hardly ever failing to hit, they drove them all back upon the Carthaginian lines, after four had fallen, severely wounded.

At last the enemy began to give ground, and the whole of the Roman infantry, when they saw the elephants turning against their own side, rushed forward to increase the confusion and panic. As long as Mago kept his station in front, his men retreated slowly and in good order, but when they saw him fall, seriously wounded and carried almost fainting from the field, there was a general flight. The losses of the enemy amounted to 5000 men, and 22 standards were taken. The victory was a far from bloodless one for the Romans, they lost 2300 men in the praetor's army, mostly from the twelfth legion, and amongst them two military tribunes, M. Cosconius and M. Maevius. The thirteenth legion, the last to take part in the action, also had its losses; C. Helvius, a military tribune, fell whilst restoring the battle, and twenty-two members of the cavalry corps, belonging to distinguished families, together with some of the centurions were trampled to death by the elephants. The battle would have lasted longer had not Mago's wound given the Romans the victory.


Returning now to Jim's take on this, the reference point is a Roman army under P. Quintilius Varus and M. Cornelius Cethegus consisting of 4 legions plus allies. At a Lost Battles troop multiple of 4, this force could come out like this:

24,000 heavy infantry - 12 units of average legionaries.

c.10,000 velities - 2 levy and 1 average light infantry units.

c.5,000 cavalry - 5 average heavy cavalry units.

Quintilius Varus (uninspired commander; perhaps even uninspired leader) with the cavalry and Cornelius Cethegus (average leader) for a total fighting value of 79.

Mago's force could look something like this (again, these are Jim's numbers and my guestimates are just to fit them into the LB scheme):

12,000 veterans from Spain - perhaps 4 units of average heavy infantry and 4 units of veteran heavy infantry.

4,000 Africans - 2 units of average heavy infantry or 1 heavy and 1 light.

7 elephants and 2,000 light infantry - 1 African elephant unit with accompanying skirmishers.

8,000 Ligurians & 4,000 Gauls - mixing these contingents together we could say 2 average heavy infantry, 1 levy heavy infantry and one levy light infantry.

1,000 Spanish cavalry - 1 average heavy cavalry unit.

1,600 Numidian cavalry and c.400 Gallic cavalry - 2 average light cavalry units.

With Mago as an average commander (though I would perhaps think about making him an inspired commander to account for the positive morale influence Livy attributes to him in this battle) this would give a fighting value of 62 (or 68 if Mago is an IC).

So far so good. This OOB can be tweaked easily enough, but is hopefully a reasonable start given what is known of the forces involved and the way Livy reports the salient features of the battle. It would be possible to use a troop multiple of five and allow both sides more veteran units, but I'm not sure that the account warrants that (though playtesting might).
The terrain is, as Jim intimates, one of the the most difficult elements of the battle to attempt a reconstruction of, as there is not very much to go on. He suggests that Mago picked a site with restricted frontage so as to negate the Roman advantage in numbers, and posits terrain on the flanks to effect this. Regarding the reserve lines, no special considerations need to be made here, as Lost Battles already effectively accounts for reserves through the zone attack limits and the gradual attrition caused by units becoming spent and rotating out of the lead position.

As two legions with ala deployed side by side might take up around 1500-1600 metres frontage, we could probably go with 600m zones, giving us a battlefield 3kms across, an attack limit of three, and ample space for the other two legions to wait for their turn on the front line. To further restrict things as per Jim's vision we could add an impassable hill on one flank and perhaps another (normal) hill in the Roman wing zone of the opposing flank to interfere with the Roman cavalry deployment and give Mago time to bring the elephants in to support the cavalry on that flank if he so desired.

Alternatively, we could make the zones 500 across, do away with the impassable hill altogether, and consider the attack limit of three to be an adequate enough representation of a constricted battlefield as it is.

There does not seem any call for weather, fatigue, or surprise to have any special impact on the battle. Key zones should probably be in the centre as usual, though if the impassable hill battlefield is used the key zones could be shifted one zone farther away from that. Mago should certainly have the first move, and if he were classed as an inspired commander would have enough commands available to set up a strong defensive position with either battlefield configuration. Even as an average commander he would be able to do a fair bit with a deployment turn of 12 commands.

Well, there we go for a start. Thanks very much to Jim for an interesting article on such an overlooked battle.
This has also been posted on the yahoo group, though in an insufficiently proof-read form, I regret to say!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cannae refight

I went through a quick solo refight of Cannae using Lost Battles last night as I hadn't played a game for a while and felt that one was due.  Here are a few shots taken from during the game...

Opening scenes.

From the Carthaginian side, showing the Libyan veterans in their famous columns with the Gauls and Spanish out front to bait the trap and the cavalry to complete the encirclement.

The main Roman line, formed up in great depth, hopes to break clean through the Carthaginian centre.

Hasdrubal and his crack cavalry units approach the Roman right.

The Gauls shout and expose themselves, as was their wont...

The early going.

The Romans advance to contact, with the cavalry of the right scoring a double hit and putting Hasdrubal's men on their guard.

The centre, where both sides are hesitant in their initial attacks.

The Libyans on the Carthaginian right wait for their moment. 

Battle is joined all along the line.

Mid battle.

Both sides score hits in the infantry struggle with no clear advantage to either army.

Hasdrubal's cavalry fail to make any headway against the single unit of equites opposing them.

The Roman left centre inflicts a flurry of hits on the Carthaginian right centre, forcing it to contemplate a withdrawal or face a possible collapse.


Hasdrubal is still waiting for his breakthrough, and now all of his cavalry command is spent.  It is a brave effort by the determined Roman horse!

End game.

The Romans are having the better of it in the infantry battle, and their cavalry have held on both the left and the right.  Varro successfully rallies his troop on the left, but in trying to do so again is struck down and killed, taking a unit of heavy cavalry with him.  The advantage on that flank is now transferred to the Numidian lights.  Foolish Varro!


The Carthaginian right centre is about to crack, but in the nick of time Hasdrubal breaks through on the left.  Hannibal now takes his flip-flop move which reverses the turn order and gives the Carthaginians a second turn in a row.  He uses it to envelop the Roman centre and to withdraw his own under-pressure right centre.

With the encirclement complete and shatters beginning to mount, Paulus also falls in a rally attempt.  The legions take some Gauls and a unit of African veterans with them, but with both consuls dead and the army surrounded their spirit finally gives out.

With the Romans routing from the field the battle went to Carthage.  Despite the seeming inevitability of that result, it was very close, and for this the Romans can thank the heroics of the cavalry of the right whose resolute defense was only exceeded by their brilliant attack.  If Varro had not allowed himself to get killed in a vanity rally attempt on the other flank Rome may in fact have won the field.

As it turned out, once the VPs were tallied up the Romans did win on points under the handicap system by virtue of having inflicted so much damage upon Hannibal's host.  The Carthaginians scored 92 VPs, but the Romans beat them by 8.  This was no doubt a great consolation to the mothers, wives and children of those who lost their lives in the subsequent slaughter!

Again, another engaging game of Lost Battles.  It rarely disappoints.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Lost Battles revised rules

As many of you will know, Phil Sabin's excellent rules set Lost Battles is being released as a deluxe boardgame by Fifth Column Games later this year (hopefully later this month, in fact).  In what could be very good news for dedicated miniatures gamers who do not wish to shell out for a copy of the boardgame, it appears that Phil Sabin is considering making copies of the rules and charts available separately for about 20 GBP + postage.  He has just posted this message on the Lost Battles Yahoo group:

Please could anyone who might be interested in buying a copy of the boardgame rules and charts separately for around 20 GBP plus postage say so here ASAP.

So, if you are interested in being able to get the fully revised and reformated rules in full colour, with much expanded examples and separate charts, it might be a good idea to let Phil know and encourage him to order production of extra copies of the rules.  To do that, simply post on the group in reply to his message.  If you are not a member of the group, it is a simple matter to join by following this link here.

And with that out of the way, we return to our normal programme...

Basic Impetus Carthaginians

The third and final phase of my Basic Impetus project is now complete - the Carthaginians are here!

Again, these were put together out of spare figures from earlier purchases and ebay wins, with the elephant being a notable exception: it was made from a resin elephant calf picked up years ago at the 100 yen shop.

The Gauls are from Irregular, the Spanish and Numidans from Minifigs, the Italian spearman (which are enormous!) could also be Minifigs, but I'm really not too sure.  The Carthaginian citizen infantry is a mix of Corvus Belli and Chariot, while the citizen cavalry is Chariot with an Old Glory chap for the commander.  The caetrati are also old  Glory, but I don't know what the slingers are.  They're a pretty rough and ready lot, but perhaps one should expect nothing less from the perfidious Carthaginians.

Anyway, to the pictures.

The first line, made up of skirmishers and the jumbo. 

The second line - Spanish and Gauls.

The third line - Carthaginian citizens and some rather beefy Italians who appear to be carrying sharpened telephone poles...

The cavalry of the right - Numidians and Gauls.

The Cavalry of the left - citizens with general.

Jumbo again, with tusks like toothpicks and a suspiciously Hellenistic rider atop him...

The lot of 'em.  They are so fearsome that even the trees prefer to get out of the way...

Of course, these fellows mix and match a bit - the Numidians, Spanish and Balearics will serve with the Romans occasionally, and the Gauls may revert to their old allegiances on occasion - but the total force comes to ten cavalry, eight light infantry, twenty-four tribal types, twenty-four close-order spearmen and the jumbo.  May they perform well!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Basic Impetus Republican Romans

This is the second Basic Impetus army that I've been putting together.  These are based around a core of hastati and principes from Lancashire Games supplemented by trairii from Museum Miniatures,  cavalry from (I think) Minifigs and velites from Chariot and Strategia e Tattica.  As for the slingers, I don't know which make they are.

All of these figures barring the velites were in ebay lots that I've purchased at various times, so they had already been painted.  I replaced a few broken weapons, touched up a few figures, added highlights and generally tidied them up before basing them.

Again, I was able to keep to my stated aim of making these armies from miniatures I already had about the place and which I didn't need or didn't use.  So, here are the shots.

The infantry. The hastati and principes are mixed in together on the bases.  Velites and Balearic slingers are in the foreground; triarii are to the rear.

Cavalry of the right.  I think these fellows are Minifigs, and same for the Numidians behind them.

The cavalry of the left.

A closer look at the velites.

A standard...

The lot of them.

There are nine heavy cavalry, two light cavalry, nine light infantry and fifty-five heavy infantry in this lot.  This should give a few decent options for games using Basic Impetus.  They could even be used as Caesarians with a few additions here and there...

(Many thanks to Andy McMaster and "Swampster" from TMP in helping me identify some of these figures, and to "Iosart" and "Tarantella" - also from TMP - for kindly providing suggestions on how to base these fellows )

Basic Impetus Gauls

Here are some picture of a Basic Impetus army I've put together out of bits and pieces figures that I never use.  The majority of the Gauls are I believe from Irregular Miniatures' 15mm range, with one or two that look as if they could be from Chariot.  I picked these up about five years ago off ebay before I was experienced enough to realise that painted figures are not necessarily a better buy than unpainted ones.  I'm afraid to say that I was so disapppointed in them that I put them away and tried to forget about ever having bought the things...

But, with my Basic Impetus project in mind (a project that limits itself to using excess figures from the collection) it seemed like a good time to pull them out and see if anything could be done with them.

After a few (not always entirely successful, it must be said!) washes, a tidy up here and there, the replacement of the odd broken sword or spear, a good spray of matt varnish to standardise the look and a rebasing they seem to be presentable enough for our purposes.  The figures are pretty rough, but they have some quite active poses so en masse they don't look so bad.  All in all, I'm reasonably pleased with the salvage job and I'm very glad that I've finally found a use for them!  Anyway, enough rabbiting from me - here are the pictures.

The infantry.

The cavalry...

...and more cavalry.

The lot of 'em.

There are twelve cavalry, six light infantry and forty-eight warriors all told, making up seven bases of warriors, a base of gaesati (or however you spell it!), three bases of  heavy cavalry, a base of light cavalry and two bases of skirmishers.  Hopefully they will prove adequate for the tasks that may await them!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The elephant appears

I haven't been posting for a while due to busy family life while we get used to having a new little one in the house, but that's not to say I haven't been sneaking in a bit of hobby time.  I've managed to put together three Basic Impetus armies using figures left over from other projects or acquired in ebay purchases, so that has been good fun to do.

In keeping with my recent spirit of improvisation, here is a shot of a 100 yen (.80c) shop baby elephant.  I've added tusks using toothpicks, repainted it, put some white-glue reinforced paper on as a covering and glued on a mangled slinger to serve as the mahout.  Here are some in-progress shots.

With half-painted mahout glued on...

With spare rider (kindly donated by Luke some time ago) chucked on.  This is supposed to be a Carthaginian elephant, but as I said, we are improvising somewhat!
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