Tuesday, 3 July 2018

The Battle of Ilipa 206 BC, using To The Strongest rules

Following a run through of this battle this post has been updated with several text edits and new photographs.

This week, at Peter J's request, I've set up a battle from the 2nd Punic War. Our first thought was to do a game using Hail Caesar but, because I don't have the army lists done, because I don't really know the rules (it would be a first battle using Hail Caesar), because I only have the PDF of the rules (which Warlord were offering for free a while ago), and because Mark D. wants to try a game of To The Strongest (rules the rest of us are familiar with), I've decided to set up the Battle of Ilipa 206 BC on the T.T.S. grid.

I haven't done this battle before, I can't think why, so it's probably worth me writing up the following blurb for the players as a pre-game briefing. 
Note that this picture shows the table with the drop leaf extension (foreground) down. On game night it will be raised for two extra flank squares.
I have edited the text for the following picture but the other photos were taken before this change was made. Given the Romans should (will !) attack I think giving more room behind the Carthaginian line will work much better.
A much better deployment providing the Romans attack - I'm planning this to be a demo game this year where they will!
Historical Background

In 211 BC the Romans in Spain suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Hasdrubal Barca, Mago and Gisgo. The disaster was compounded by the deaths of two of the Roman commanders, Cnaeus and Publius Scipio. 

The remnants of the Roman army, under it's soldier elected leader Marcius Lucius managed to cling onto a small enclave north of the Ebro until reinforced by fresh troops, and a new commanding officer named Nero, that sailed in from Italy. 

Nero did much to improve the situation and by the Spring of 210 BC he was aggressively expanding Roman territory south of the Ebro.
Crusader Miniatures elephants. These have had some significant alterations to what comes in the post. Extra 'neck' has been added to raise the elephants head, padding has been added to the bottom of the howdahs, and various chains, tassles, shields and other adornments have been modelled onto them. The howdah crew are Renegade Miniatures.
At the end 210 BC Nero returned to Rome. He was replaced by one of the most gifted generals of antiquity - Publius Cornelius Scipio, later called Scipio Africanus - who arrived in Spain with further reinforcements. He was the nephew of the former commander, killed in Spain in 211 BC.

In 209 BC Scipio took the Barca's Spanish capital of New Carthage, and followed this major achievement by defeating Hasdrubal Barca at the Battle of Baecula in 208 BC. 

This victory cemented Scipio's reputation with his soldiers - they were well trained veterans, well led and confident.

207 BC saw the Romans under Scipio consolidating their gains, especially over the rich silver mines in the Baecula region. The Carthaginian counterattack under Hasdrubal Barca fizzled out before it achieved anything and the Carthaginian army went onto the defensive by dispersing into surrounding cities. 


Spanish and Numidian cavalry. The Spanish are Renegade. The Numidians are a mixture of Crusader (front) and  another manufacturer (rear).
In 206 BC the Carthaginians decided to make a major effort against Scipio; they concentrated a large army under a new commander in chief called Hasdrubal Gisgo; this army would swamp and crush the lucky, until now, Roman. 

The army is variously described as somewhere between 50,000 and 70, 000 foot, between 4,000 and 4,500 horse and thirty-two elephants. (Polybius gives smaller numbers than Livy).

Hasdrubal established his camp on top of a ridge near a town called Ilipa (probably in the modern region of Seville) from where he could taunt the Romans into action.

Scipio called in his various detachments and newly won Spanish allies. His army, roughly half Italian and half Spanish, amounted to 45,000 foot and 3,000 horse. He marched towards Ilipa and his willing enemy. Here, on a ridge on the opposite side of a wide flat bottomed valley, Scipio established his camp. 


Romani and Latini equites backed by velites.
Following a clash of cavalry as Scipio's army approached, which the Romans got the better of, things calmed down to a daily routine. 

Each morning, both armies would march out of their camp and form up in the plain between the ridges. Both sides formed up in a conventional fashion. 

The Carthaginians formed up with their African infantry in the centre flanked by Spanish troops supported by elephants, with wings of cavalry. The Romans deployed with their legions and alae in the centre flanked by their Spanish allies with cavalry on the wings. 

Neither side would attack, and after the usual taunts and challenges that accompanied such displays of force, both armies marched back to their respective camps for the night. Every day the routine was the same until.....
Rome's Spanish allies with attached Spanish general.
Scipio decided to wrong foot his enemy, and following a council of war where his orders for the upcoming battle were given and explained to his subordinates, the Roman army marched out of camp. 

The Carthaginians formed up as usual. The Romans formed up differently. 

On this morning, Scipio deployed his Spanish infantry in the centre flanked by a legion with its alae of Latins, whilst on the wings the cavalry deployed supported by the army's velites.
Roman and Allied triplex acies formations - more anon.
Scipio's plan of attack was sophisticated. His Spanish troops would advance and pin the Carthaginian centre in place without coming to hand strokes. The Romans and Italians would attack the Carthaginian's Spanish troops and cavalry whilst the Roman cavalry and velites manoeuvred around the enemy flanks. 

Scipio hoped that, having thrown the Carthaginian battle plan into confusion by his novel deployment, his troops might get into their final attack positions before the enemy could respond effectively. His judgement was correct and his victory was an emphatic one.

The Game

The game has been set up on a 16 x 7 grid. No man's land is three squares. 


Because my units are quite large I decided to have my table marked up with 10 inch squares; this means my six feet wide table is only seven squares deep, not the prescribed eight; according to Simon Miller a three square deep no man's land, rather than four square deep no man's land, is quite sufficient for 'infantry' battles and I tend to agree.

The grid has been marked with green dots. They are easily seen when looking for them but they are unnoticeable when you aren't. A grid of bold lines is not required.

The Romans
The Roman battle line.
The army has four 'heroes' and four spare ammunition chits. The army's breaking point is 14 VPs. The C-in-C, Publius Cornelius Scipio, is a senior brilliant general; he can be deployed anywhere in or behind the Roman battle line prior to battle.

The Romans are deployed with a first square front line and two clear squares to either flank. From left to right, they are deployed in the following order of battle (colours denote separate commands). 

  • Romani / Latini equites backed by velites, + general.
  • Romani / Latini equites backed by velites.
  • Alae triplex acies Hastati / Principes unit backed by a small triarii unit.
  • Roman triplex acies Hastati / Principes unit backed by a small triarii unit, + heroic general.
  • Spanish scutarii (deep unit).
  • Spanish scutarii (deep unit), + attached general.
  • Spanish scutarii (deep unit).
  • Spanish scutarii (deep unit).
  • Roman triplex acies Hastati / Principes unit backed by triarii, + heroic general.
  • Alae triplex acies Hastati / Principes unit backed by triarii.
  • Romani / Latini equites backed by velites.
  • Romani / Latini equites backed by velites, + general.
Publius Cornelius Scipio (senior and brilliant).
Rather than use individual figures to represent heroes, I use spare shields mounted on two penny pieces.
The yellow beads are reserve ammunition chits. The poker chips are army break point VP chits.

Scipio (senior and brilliant) can be deployed anywhere in the Roman battle line. The army has four heroes and four spare ammunition chits. The army's breaking point is 14 VPs.

Rather than use individual figures to represent heroes, I use spare shields mounted on two penny pieces.

The Carthaginians
The Carthaginian battle line.
The army has three heroes and six spare ammunition chits. The army's breaking point is 18 VPs. The C-in-C, Hasdrubal Gisgo, is a senior heroic general; he can be deployed anywhere in or behind the Carthaginian battle line prior to battle.

The Carthaginians are deployed, with a third square front line and two clear squares to either flank, from left to right, in the following order of battle. 

  • Numidian cavalry backed by Numidian cavalry.
  • Spanish cavalry backed by Spanish cavalry, + general.
  • Escorted African elephants backed by Spanish scutarii (deep unit).
  • Escorted African elephants backed by Spanish scutarii (deep unit), + attached general.
  • Spanish catrati backed by African spearmen (deep unit).
  • Balearic slingers backed by African spearmen (deep unit).
  • Balearic slingers backed by African spearmen (deep unit), + attached general.
  • Spanish catrati backed by African spearmen (deep unit).
  • Escorted African elephants backed by a Spanish scutarii (deep unit).
  • Escorted African elephants backed by a Spanish scutarii (deep unit), + attached general.
  • Spanish cavalry backed by Spanish cavalry, + heroic general (Massinissa).
  • Numidian cavalry backed by Numidian cavalry.

Hasdrubal  Gisgo (senior and heroic). 
In the game, ammunition chits are displayed with black pony beads on a 'spike'. Spare ammunition chits are yellow. This is so I don't confuse my piles of spare and spent - everyone else doesn't seem to have a problem with beads of the same colour but I do, and I usually end up with more spare chits than I started with; hopefully this simple two colour approach will help.
Notes on Troops

  I will use the standard rules, with one exception (see elephants), but I'll play around with the definitions for some troops.

  • All equites save on 7+ and have 1 ammunition chit. Due to their morale ascendancy over the Carthaginian cavalry, gained when the armies first met, in melee they get a +1 save Vs Carthaginian horse.
  • Velites save on 7+ and have 3 ammunition chits.
  • Hastati / Principes save on 6+ / 5+ (see special rules below) and have one ranged melee ammunition chit; they are drilled legionaries.
  • Triarii save on 5+; they are drilled legionaries.
  • All Spanish scutarii are deep shock javelimen units, save on 7+ and have one ranged melee ammunition chit.
  • Spanish cavalry save on 7+ and have 1 ammunition chit.
  • Numidian cavalry save on 7+ and have 3 ammunition chits. 
  • All Carthaginian skirmishers save on 7+ and have 3 ammunition chits.
  • African spearmen are deep units and they save on 6+. 
  • Escorted elephants save on 7+ and have 3 ammunition chits (see special rules below). 
Special Rules
Nothing ever changes. African spearsmen, tharsand's of  'em.
Scipio's surprise tactics: 
Scipio's surprise deployment threw the Carthaginians off balance and they were unable to respond to Scipio's plan. To allow Scipio an advantage in the early stages of the battle, the Carthaginians require five better than normal to activate in turn one and three better than normal to activate in turn two. This penalty only effects activation for movement, including cavalry charges into a second square; it has no effect on activation to shoot, or to charge into adjacent squares. On turn three all Carthaginian troops activate as normal. The Romans initiated the battle, so they go first.


Roman Triplex acies formation. Note that the front two 'units' count as one regular sized unit. This allows three units in one square - nice!
Triplex Acies:
We will use the TtS rule as per the 3rd edition of the Polybian Roman army list which I quote, word for word, here: 

"Roman line relief. 

The successive lines of the Polybian legion had a unique (but unknown) mechanism which permitted them to fall back through or past the unit behind them. I have therefore combined pairs of hastati and principes small units to form a single regular-sized unit with some special properties, which usually shares a box with a small triarii unit positioned behind it.
This legionary special unit is best represented by two single lines of hastati and principes with a gap in between them or, alternatively, with a pair of small units of hastati and principes. In either case the hastati start in front.
This unit has a save of 6+ whilst the hastati are in front.  Once per unit per game, when the unit is disordered, a player can conduct a "line exchange" representing the legion's hastati retiring though its principes. This special rally activation replaces the unit's pila (if already expended), improves its save from 6+ to 5+ and, if the unit is disordered, permits a rally save without the penalties for enemy units capable of charging it. Note that it is entirely possible for the rally activation to be successful, putting the principes in front with their improved save, but the subsequent rally save to fail, leaving the unit disordered. The line exchange is represented by moving the principes minis in front of the hastati minis, whence they will remain for the rest of the battle.
The legionaries special unit can also use a normal move activation to exchange places with a unit of triarii unit in the same box when within an enemy zone of control (line exchange within a ZOC isn't otherwise permitted)."
Carthaginian elephants. The one on the right is an adamant elephant - for those into their early 80's pseudo punk rock stars.
Elephants:
Escorted elephants count as deep (2 hit) units but they can share a square with one other unit of any size; they must otherwise follow all the rules for deep units (my very deep squares allow me to do this and it keeps the battle lines tidier). They will gain a the +2 save bonus versus Roman cavalry. Twice in the game, elephants can make can make two melee attacks instead of one; they can do this following activation to charge, or when striking back. 

Sources

From my Punic Wars books I used the following books as the main sources for reconstructing this battle.

The Fall of Carthage - Adrian Goldsworthy. ISBN 0-304-36642-0 
Scipio Africanus, Romes Greatest General - Richard A. Gabriel. ISBN 978-1-59797-205-5

8 comments:

Caliban said...

Great stuff! This is one of my favourite battles too.

roma912 said...

Brilliant post - looking forward to the next post.

Cheers, Ross

William Stewart said...

Epic ancients in the Simon Miller style. You said that you are familiar with TtS rules but you didn't give an opinion on how you like them.

JAMES ROACH said...

We use them a lot and we like them very much. We've used them for Punic Wars here, and for later Roman an medieval games at Graham H's. At some point we'll try them for a Crusades game.

Carlo said...

Looking good James. We love TtS and play it often at our club. Currently getting ready to rebase a stack of Polybian Romans myself!
http://withpyjamasthroughawhiffofgrapeshot.blogspot.com/

Norm said...

Beautiful armies, looking forward to the write up.

Steve63 said...

Inspirational and aspirational!
Outstanding!

Gonsalvo said...

Looks great, and of course I am a fan of To the Strongest! as well.