Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sprucing up old friends

Over the last couple of nights I've had the paintbrush and a tube of my lovely new white out touching up some old figures (well, old by my standards - they were painted in '05/'06).  My Old Glory Spanish scutarii have had the treatment, as have the Spanish medium cavalry from Chariot.  It's amazing what a difference a little love will make.

Next on the list are my Chariot Poeni cavalry, which have been a festering sore on my gaming table and a blight on my conscience for years.  They were 'hurriedly finished' for a game day, and are so bad I try not to use them unless I really have to.  But no more!  I'm determined that by the end of this week neither they nor I need again be ashamed to have them milling about on the flanks or threatening the enemy's rear.  They are never going to be the pride of the collection, but let's hope they will at least (and at last) be presentable!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Another play test of the Dertosa scenario.

I played through another game of Dertosa tonight using the same armies, deployments and plans as the first play test, but with the results this time proving to be far closer to the historical outcome.  The Romans again pressed forward early to take the Carthaginian key zone, but this time the levy troops opposing them could not counter-attack quite so effectively.  The infantry battles were again attritional, with Rome having the better of the exchanges in the centre and the centre left, but with Carthage performing strongly in the centre right.

The cavalry battle on Hasdrubal's flank was decided in the fifth turn as Gnaeus Scipio died in a rally attempt, but the centre abruptly gave way and carried the Numidian horse, the elephants and three of the (spent) average heavy infantry units with it before Hasdrubal could gain much advantage out of the cavalry's success.

At this point it became a grim struggle between the opposed right and left central zones.  The Roman right was under terrible pressure from the veteran infantry to their front and the cavalry to their side and rear - so much so that they lost three units shattered in two turns.  It was a similar story for the Carthaginian right, also under pressure to front, side and rear.  For a time the Carthaginians kept rolling high enough on morale tests to stay in the game, but in turn 9 two veteran units were shattered on a double hit and the rest of the army beat a hasty retreat.

The final tallies were as follows:

Roman VPs:
From shattered: 2 x VHI, 1 x AHI, 1 x LHI for  26 points.
From routed: 2 x AEL, 1 x LLC, 1 x LLI, 1 x ALI, 3 x AHI, 3 x AHC, 2 x VHI for 68 points.
From generals lost: AC for 6 points.

Total Roman VPs came to 100 exactly.

Carthaginian VPs:
From shattered: 2 x AHC, 3 x ALE, 1 x ALI for 36 points.
From units spent: 5 x ALE, 1 x ALI for 18 points.
From generals killed: UC for 6 points.
Handicap: 31 points.

Total Carthaginian VPs came to 91 points.

Result: a narrow victory to Rome.

This was much closer to how I think Patrick's article envisaged the battle as having gone.  If Rome had not lost Gnaeus Scipio and had had two or three fewer units shattered, I think that would have been about perfect.

I still have a few doubts about the scenario, especially in regards to the deployments.  The levies are still fleeing late and are needing to have given up their key zone to ensure the morale test failure.  I wonder if they should perhaps be classed as light infantry for morale purposes, which would see them begin the game with a morale of -1?  Anyway, this test shows that Lost Battles can come pretty close to replicating the historical result without requiring too much 'fiddling of the books', and without too much in the way of wild dice luck this game, either.

All in all, a satisfactory result.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Following on from the previous post, which detailed a Lost Battles Dertosa scenario based upon Patrick Waterson's interpretation of the battle in Slingshot 271, it's now time to provide a report of the action from the first playtest.

The purpose of this test was to check whether the Dertosa scenario was workable as written and to a lesser extent to see whether the Lost Battles system would support Patrick's contention that Hasdrubal could have turned this encounter into the Cannae of Spain.  The Carthaginian plan therefore was that of Patrick's Hasdrubal: to encircle the Romans from the left flank and use the veteran infantry to outflank the Roman foot (represented here abstractly by each veteran unit counting as half a unit towards the attack limit, thereby increasing the number of attacks that the Carthaginians can launch from the zones which contain veterans).  The Roman plan was simply to induce the Spanish infantry in the central zone to flee precipitately and then deal with the rest of the army, as happened historically. 

Naturally, one playtest is not going to generate any conclusive results, but the outcome was interesting nonetheless.

Anyway, enough blabbing.  Into the action! 

We take things up in the second turn, which sees the Roman centre double-move forward to take the Carthaginian key zone and keep the levy troops pinned back on their baseline.  The rest of the infantry line advances at a more staid pace, while the cavalry holds back from caution and a dirth of commands.

The shot belows shows the situation after the Roman move (all photos will enlarge if clicked upon).

The Carthaginian response was as one would expect: the infantry in the zones left and right of centre advanced into contact, while the levy centre attacked.  The cavalry prepared themselves to charge on the left and to hold their ground on the right.  What was not predicted was the ferocity of the levy attack.  They light infantry inflicted a hit on their Roman counterparts, as can be seen in the picture below (wooden circles denote spent units).

The infantry lines, now in contact, began pounding away at each other.  Except for the levies in the Carthaginian centre, which continued to land hits while deftly avoiding taking any in return, not much progress was made by either side. 

Meanwhile, due mainly to two turns of low command rolls, the cavalry did not engage until late, and when they finally did the action on both flanks was fairly even.

The picture below shows the situation after the third turn.

As the infantry fight continued into the fourth and fifth turns, the Spanish troops began to set about themselves with a joy-in-battle that belied their levy status.  They scored hits at will, and by the fifth turn Publius Cornelius was forced to begin rallying units to avert shatters.  He saved two, but could not save the third.

The shot below shows the entire Roman centre spent (Note that for the look of the thing each Roman legionary unit here is represented on table by two of the psuedo-maniples in shot.   That's why there are only four spent markers for eight groupings of heavy infantry).

At this point any sensible Roman commander would have pulled back in the centre to buy some time.  That was not part of the plan here however, so Publius and company stood in place.  Their confidence was raised by the fact that the levies now had a unit or two spent of their own, and it would only take three hits to cause a shatter and (hopefully) induce the rest to rout.

Elsewhere in the infantry fight, things went on slowly. The shot below is of the Roman right centre.  Even into the fifth turn there has only been one hit apiece. 

By this stage the cavalry fight had swung decisively.  Gnaeus had been forced to leave the field ungracefully after his cavalry units were shattered by two double hits in a turn; on the other flank the opposite occurred, with the Numidian cavalry fleeing after the light infantry support was shattered. 

On this flank at least things were beginning to look a bit more historical!

The shot below shows the moment at which the Numidian cavalry as a collective decide that it would be preferable to run and have each man preserve both of his horses than to stay and perish with one.

With the cavalry fights resolved and both sides' remaining cavalry units - Carthage with three and Rome with one - racing to encircle the enemy as best they may, the infantry lines started to take things more seriously.  Pressure began mounting on the Roman left centre, which suddenly found itself with all units spent...

...and enemy to front and rear.

Meanwhile, during the Roman seventh turn the Spanish levies finally decided they had had enough, but not before they had inflicted nine hits (three of which were saved by Publius) and shattered one of their opposed units.  The Carthaginian centre was at last open, and the veterans' interior flanks exposed!

But any feeling of triumph is short-lived, for in the Carthaginian phase of that same turn the Roman left centre gave way entirely.  Outnumbered and exhausted, it fell beneath a hail of 6s!

Hasdrubal's ride around the enemy now complete, he was cheered wildly by his right centre!

Publius swung to the right in an effort to destroy the Punic left centre and put the rest of the army to flight, but the veterans were made of stern stuff.

On their turn the Carthaginian veterans scored another hit, and the Romans, surrounded and having lost half of their infantry force shattered, elected to rout.  It is a glorious victory for Hasdrubal - he has indeed pulled off a Spanish Cannae!

It was a great wee battle, and although played solo it kept me interested right until the end.  More in-depth analysis than this will have to wait for another time, but the final victory point tallies may help readers to reach their own conclusions about the extent of the victory, so here they are.

VPs gained by Rome
Shattered: 1 x LHI, 1 x ALI for 10 points.
Routed: 2 x LHI, 1 x LLI, 1x LLC for 12 points
Spent: 3 x VHI, 4 x AHI,  2 x AEL, 2 x AHC for 36 points.
Total Roman points: 58.

VPs gained by Carthage
Shattered: 6 x ALE, 2 x AHC for 48 points.
Routed: 6 x ALE, 1 x AHC, 3 x ALI for 40 points.
Lost: AC, UC for 9 points.
Handicap: 31 points.
Total Carthaginian points: 128.

Result: a resounding Carthaginian victory!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dertosa Scenario for Lost Battles

After reading Patrick Waterson's article on Dertosa in the latest Slingshot (issue 271) I decided to come up with a Lost Battles scenario based upon Patrick's reconstruction of the battle.

The gist of Patrick's interpretation is that Hasdrubal was attempting to pull off a Spanish version of Cannae. That is, he was hoping to annihilate the army of Publius and Gnaeus Scipio by fixing it in place in the centre, encircling it with the cavalry of the left wing, and finally crushing it with wrap-around attacks to be carried out by the Carthaginian veteran infantry on each flank.  Unfortunately for Hasdrubal, all did not go to plan.  The Spanish allies to whom he had entrusted care of the centre ran off at the earliest opportunity, which encouraged the Numidian cavalry of the right wing to do the same.  Despite a brave performance by the rest of the infantry the Carthaginians were soundly beaten.

The situation is unusual, for not only did Hasdrubal seem to have little idea his Spanish allies were lacking motivation, but they also turned out to be very unmotivated indeed, and ran at the first onset.  One of the big questions of the scenario becomes how best to model this in Lost Battles.  What follows are details of an initial basic scenario for Dertosa that uses no special rules or add-ons.  Depending on results, the scenario may require finer tuning.

Ground scale: 500 metres per zone
Manpower Multiple: x3
Attack Limit: 3
Terrain: The battlefield is a flat plain, and while a case could perhaps be made for including a Carthaginian camp on table to aid deployment, I elected not to do so.

12 x ALE for a total of 18,000 hastati, principes and triarii.
3 x ALI for a total of 4500 light-armed troops.
3 x AHC for a total of 2250 heavy cavalry.
AC (Publius Scipio); UC (Gnaeus Scipio).

This makes for a total of 22,500 foot, 2250 cav and two commanders for a fighting value of 75.

4 x VHI for a total of 3000 veteran heavy infantry.
4 x AHI for a total of 6000 other heavy infantry.
3 x LHI for a total of 9000 unreliable Spanish allies.
1 x LLI and 1 x ALI for a total of 4500 light troops, including Balearics and assorted Spanish lights.
2 x AEL for a total of 30 (21 in the real battle) elephants and a few hundred hangers-on.
3 x AHC for a total of 2250 heavy cavalry.
1 x LLC for a total of 1500 Numidians and 'Moors' of doubtful loyalty.
1 x AC (hapless Hasdrubal).

This makes for a total of around 23,000 foot, 3750 cav, 30 elephants and one commander for a fighting value of 62.

Below is a possible deployment based upon Patrick's reconstruction, but limited by command points.  These graphics are from John Acar's excellent VASSAL module for Lost Battles (click on the picture for a larger view):

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

News on Lost Battles the board game

Some good news recently regarding the board game version of Phil Sabin's Lost Battles. Lost Battles is one of my favourite game systems, so it was pleasing to see this message on the yahoo group:

I now at long last can report real progress with the boardgame project. I have just sent professional wargame artist Mark Mahaffey the first instalment of his fee for the graphic design work, and we are busily discussing his already very impressive initial drafts of the box and the Empire map. I also just produced a blurb to announce the game, as follows:

'Lost Battles is 40 games in one. It is based on Professor Philip Sabin's decades of research and simulation design on ancient warfare, and it includes an updated copy of his very successful 130,000 word book, with extensive historical and design notes on every scenario. The book was described by Professor Barry Strauss (author of 'The Trojan War', 'The Battle of Salamis' and 'The Spartacus War') as 'utterly fascinating' and as 'required reading for anyine interested in ancient warfare'. The game covers battles and campaigns in the Mediterranean and Near East from the Persian defeat at Marathon in 490 BC to Caesar's victory at Pharsalus in 48 BC. It has been exhaustively tested and refined over the past several years, and it has already spawned a Yahoo discussion group which contains twice as many words as there are in the book itself!

'The game can be fought on three levels - the grand tactical, the grand strategic, or a combination of the two. At the grand tactical level, 1 or 2 players may refight any of 35 different land battles such as Leuctra, Gaugamela, Raphia, Cannae, Cynoscephalae or the Sambre - far more than in any other single boxed game. At the grand strategic level, 1 to 4 players may refight the epic duels of the two centuries from 350 to 150 BC, starting with the eclipse of Achaemenid Persia by Alexander of Macedon, and ending with Hannibal's campaigns and the conquest of Carthage and the Hellenistic states by the resurgent Roman republic. The most ambitious games combine these two levels, and see 1 to 4 players using tactical battles to resolve strategic campaigns across part or all of this two century period, or else refighting a series of historical battles to decide conflicts such as the three-cornered contest for dominance between Athens, Sparta and Thebes from the start of the Peloponnesian War to the death of Epaminondas.

'The accent throughout is on combining historical accuracy with speed and accessibility. The free-standing strategic game may be completed in just 30 minutes, while individual land battles may be refought in two hours or less. There is constant player interaction, and a series of tortuous dilemmas - how should the scarce command points be allocated across the battlefront, which troop types should be put in the lead against particular opponents, should units attack all-out at the cost of becoming exhausted themselves, and should generals join the fighting to rally their disheartened men at the risk of being killed and so making things far worse? The game includes all the many troop types from hoplites, legionaries, phalangites and archers to cataphracts, scythed chariots and war elephants, and it includes simple rules to reflect the huge differences in generalship and troop quality and to allow outclassed armies to win a handicapped 'game victory' even if they are defeated on the field, as long as they do better than they did historically. All aspects of the game are avowedly solitaire-friendly, and can be run by a single player swapping sides just as easily as by one or more players per side.

'As befits the successor to Fifth Column Games' inaugural and widely praised product 'Where There is Discord', the deluxe components are graphically stunning, thanks again to the work of famous boardgame artist Mark Mahaffey. Tactical battles are fought on a 5 x 4 grid of full colour 5 inch square hard mounted terrain tiles, which dovetail to form any desired battlefield. The individually die-cut counters have rounded corners and are also in full colour - they depict the various different troop types in sumptuous detail thanks to their large size, which ranges up to 2 inches across. The strategic game is fought using plastic game pieces on a hard mounted 33 by 12 inch map showing a stunning image of the area from Spain to India. Besides the book, the game also includes a 64 page A4 booklet of rules and examples of play, in full colour throughout and supplemented by three double-sided sheets of charts and tables. There is no need for the usual card spacer to bulk out the contents, since the wealth of components fill the oversized box to the brim!

'Lost Battles is being produced in a one-off deluxe edition, and is expected to sell out quickly just as did both printings of Where There is Discord. To be sure of your copy, place your order at the special pre-production price as soon as the website goes live.'

We are now reaching the stage where YOU can help make sure that the game is published as soon as possible. Mark is setting up folders on Boardgame Geek and Consimworld, separate from those for the book itself, and we really need as many of you as possible to take up the discussion there and to create the 'buzz' which the game needs to succeed. Mark is now a member of this Yahoo group, and I hope he will be able to request help and solicit ideas directly in the near future. The website at Fifth Column Games will come shortly once we have enough of Mark's graphics to make a real splash, and you will then at long last be able to order your own copies.

I am investing a lot of my own money in this project, so please help me to make it work by being as forthcoming as you have on this site in the past, and helping newcomers to the system to see how much fun it is to play.

Thanks in advance,

It's great to see progress being made on what should be quite a box of goodies.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

It's almost priming season...

The weather here is starting to turn from stinking hot and humid to pleasantly variable, which means that it's time to get the cans of spray primer out.  My first priority is to fill out my Successor armies and to get some of my recently purchased DBA armies primed and ready to go.  Of the DBA armies, Normans and Saxons will be first up, but I have to get my hands on some painting guides or books so that I don't make a complete mess of things...

Anyway, now's a good time to take stock of where I'm at.  This is the painting tally for this year so far:

12 Celtiberian scutarii (OG).
4 Carthaginian four-horse chariots, 12 crew (Chariot).
8 Successor elephants, 24 crew, (Chariot) 6 supporting skirmishers (OG).
1 mounted general (OG).
18 Thracian medium cavalry (OG).
18 Illyrian light horse (OG).
12 Tarentine cavalry (Chariot).
This is what's partly finished or on the table:
24 Celtiberians with spear (OG).
18 generic horse archers (OG).
120+ Confederate infantry (Italeri, Esci, Revell, RSM).
There is also a lot of stuff sitting already primed in boxes that I hope to get round to some time, but Lord knows when that will happen...
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