Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

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):


  1. So the Romans use 12 commands to deploy?

    And the Carthaginians 6?

  2. Hello, and thanks for your comment. The Romans actually use 14 commands to deploy, but 3 of those come from their generals' exemptions, so are effectively free. The Romans use 7 for their army commands (an fighting value of 70-79 gives 7 commands automatically), plus 4 for the opening die roll (which is always set at 4 for deployment).

    The Carthaginians use 10 commands plus 2 free (from their general's exemption). They have a fighting value of 62, so get 6 commands automatically, plus 4 for the die roll.

    So total army + die commands used are 11 for Rome and 10 for Carthage.

    I hope that makes sense!


  3. So...(sorry about this, i've developed a mental block!) the ROMANS: The ALI double move into their keyzone with their special dipensation. 1 MOVE. The other ALI double move at the rear. 2 MOVES. The AHC get to the same point for 1 MOVE. The 3 groups deploy in the 3 rear zones for a move each. 3 MOVES. The 2 units on the right both double move for 2 moves each. 4 MOVES.

    Now i actually make that 11 MOVES!!!!!


    Rufus. (Newbie)

  4. So each of the 3 groups in the Roman rear cost 2 MOVES each. (That would give me a 14 move total). I re read the section a couple of times in the book and I'm pretty sure it said groups can deploy in these rear zones for 1 MOVE each. I did think it was cheap myself. I think I've misunderstood. Again!


  5. Tell you what Rufus, it sounds to me like you've got things figured out a lot faster than I did when I first started out with Lost Battles! I still find myself playing or remembering the the odd rule wrongly :)

    So to confirm that Roman deployment, it's 2 moves each for the rear infantry zones (6 moves but 2 are taken up by the average commander's exemptions); two double moves for the cavalry on the right flank (4 moves but 1 taken up by uninspired commander's exemption); 1 move for the ALI's double move straight forward, 1 move for the AHC on the other flank, and a double move for the other ALI to join them. That's 11 all told (plus 3 used by exemptions), so I think you got it right.

    Carthaginian deployment is 6 moves for rear zones; 1 for elephant double move straight forward; 2 for AHC on the left flank (paid for by commander's exemptions); 1 for the light cav on the right and two for the light infantry to join them. That's a total of 10 moves (plus 2 exemptions).

    I hope that's all done correctly, anyway!


  6. Ahhhh,where the hell did I get the notion it was one move to deploy a group into a rear zone?

    Dumb! I'm now guessing to deploy ONE unit into a rear zone would of course be 1 MOVE.

    The rest of it i totally get. The only little niggle i otherwise had was deploying cav in the right rear and right left zones facing right or left was if that was the extent of their deployment. I kinda figured it wasn't because they would always get in the way of the infantry.

    It's a wonderfully elegant system despite it's simplicity isn't it? You can really imaging the cavalry entering the field and fanning out to the flanks with the infantry tramping up behind them.

    Well, I can now at least anyway!

    Thanks a million Aaron,


  7. Hi again Rufus, maybe you got confused by the 'activate a group of two veteran units for 1 point' exception? It's easy enough to do, anyway!

    As far as the cavalry goes, they normally two moves, but on the deployment turn can use their first move to plonk down in the left or right rear deployment zones facing toward the nearest flank. That only counts as one move, so they can use their second move to go into the left or right rear zone, still facing the flank.

    They can of course double move too, which is what Gnaeus and his two AHC units have done in this version of the deployment.

    Hope that helps!

    And you're right - it is a wonderfully elegant system. Every time I play a game I'm reminded of it afresh.

    BTW, are you a member of the yahoo group? If so, you can always get a response to any rules queries that you come up with there.



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