Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pyrrhic campaign battle maps: Heraclea and Beneventum

Here are two battle maps I've put together for a Pyrrhic campaign that Luke is coming down for on Sunday (images are taken from the Lost Battles VASSAL module).

This is Heraclea, with the Romans entering from the bottom of the board:

And this is Beneventum, with the Romans beginning in their camp: 

These battles will bookend Asculum, which will take place on a flat plain.  In both cases the terrain is of course highly speculative, but a wargamer has to be prepared to make the odd executive decision at times!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


The other night my VASSAL buddy Gorgoneion and I got together online for the first game of our new Lost Battles campaign.  We are playing Bibracte, Sambre and Pharsalus in series, scoring points based on the results of each battle (draw, narrow victory, clear victory, major victory, etc).  Whichever of us has the most number of points accumulated at the end of the third battle wins.  These campaign rules included in the boardgame are a nice addition to the system.

Anyway, Gorgo is taking Caesar's side, so it was me, as the Helvetii, who kicked things off.

We used the historical set ups as neither of us had played this scenario before and to reduce time online.  Even when using VOIP software (google talk), it still takes us two to three hours to get through a game at the moment.

Caesar's account of the battle can be found in his Gallic Wars which is online here.  His description begins in book 1, chapter 24 and following.  The Lost Battles scenario gives the Romans a fighting value of 70 versus the Gauls' FV of 55.  Caesar is only rated an average commander in this clash, but as the Gauls have no commander at all, commands will be at a premium for them.

Turn 1:

As we jump into Caesar's narrative, we find the Helvetii have been harassing the Roman column, so upon gaining the next hill Caesar sends his veteran legionaries to defend the approaches and orders the cavalry to hold the left and right flanks.  His newer recruits are still busy preparing a fall-back position, represented here by the camp, so they are undeployed at this stage.

Board after the first turn.

Turn 2:

The Helvetii advance their left and centre zones to engage Caesar himself and to threaten the cavalry.  Elsewhere the Gauls remain in place.  Caesar pulls back his cavalry and attacks with his veterans in the centre, and these score one hit.  He orders one veteran legionary to double move forward from the camp and prepares the rest of his undeployed troops for action. 

First blood to the Romans.

Turn 3:

The Helvetii advance on their left and press the retreating Roman cavalry.  They launch an attack in the centre but are unable to do much more than inconvenience the legionaries.  

Caesar attacks with no noticeable success in the centre, but his cavalry give the too-eager Gauls on the right a bloody nose as they close on the hill.  More men are shuffled across to reinforce his right flank, but he refuses to be drawn off the high ground on his left.  

(Caesar's central zone, being outflanked on one side, is able to make five attacks rather than the usual four, which will likely prove a significant advantage over time unless the Gauls can dispose of the Roman right quickly.)

Pressure on Caesar's right.

Turn 4: 

The Helvetii begin to make a little headway in the centre, and their assault on the left begins to gather steam as the cavalry are thrown back and the light infantry are disorganised by the assault.  Encouraged by this result, the remainder of the heavy infantry on the right charge forward into contact with Caesar's left centre. 

Caesar calmly reinforces his right with more legionaries from the camp, and they maintain their front with an effective discharge of pila from the heights.   His men continue to attack with purpose in the centre, inflicting a double hit at the cost of a spent unit of their own.

Mutual attrition takes its toll.

Turn 5:

The Gauls all-out attack against Caesar's zone and manage to score two hits on the Roman left centre, and another on the Roman right.

The Roman response however is brutal: Caesar's men attack with devastating effect all along the line, shattering two of the Gallic units in the centre and another on the right.  Gallic morale holds firm for now but it is wavering.

The Gallic line is grievously afflicted...

Turn 6:

The Helvetti are now faced with a decision: do they call off the attack and make a stand on the hill behind them, or do they risk a final charge?  A piecemeal withdrawal will expose their fellows in the line to overwhelming counter-attack, so without the commands available to pull back the entire left, everyone elects to attack once more.

As if to reassure the Gallic commander, the surge on the right is a great success, and the Romans almost buckle under the ferocity of the charge.  Three hits are taken, but despite this the line holds. The assault on the left also scores a hit, but Caesar's zone escapes unscathed due to the exhaustion of the attackers.

Taken aback by the intensity of the offensive, the Romans can do nothing but hold as missiles fall wide and swords fail to find their mark.

The Gauls press the assault with renewed vigour.

Turn 7:

A lack of commands again prevents anything fancy from the Gauls, so they just line up and charge yet again.  They appear to have given of their all though as only one hit is scored, by the cavalry on the left.  The Romans are spent in two zones but - agonisingly - none of the attacks are able to cause a shatter.

Caesar's genius now reveals itself: his remaining fresh legionaries come down off their hill and sweep the Gallic centre away.  Their irresistible charge shatters two units, and the rest run with them.  The Gauls hold elsewhere, even when another unit is shattered on the left, but the end cannot now be far off.

Caesar leads his men down off the hill to put the Gallic centre to flight.

Turn 8:

Although their situation is precarious the Helvetii manage to rouse themselves for another effort.  With the right centre they score a double hit, shattering two units of veteran legionaries;  on the left the cavalry shatter a unit of average legionaries and panic the Caesar's cavalry and light infantry.

Caesar's men score one hit in return while they reposition themselves for the final assault.

The Gauls are not done yet.  Three units are shattered, and a further two rout!

Turns 9 and 10:

The Gauls manage to inflict one more shatter on the Roman right before, but they are soon taken in the flank by Caesar himself, and a double hit shatters two units at the cost of an all-out attack.  Under this final assault the remaining Gauls break and run, leaving Caesar in possession of the field. 

The Romans have won a hard-fought clash on the final turn, but the VP count will be interesting.

Caesar's men launch the final attack.

Victory Points:

Rome: 9 x shattered, 8 x routed, 1 x withdrawn gives the Romans 90 VPs.

Helvetii: 2 x V shattered, 2 x A shattered, 1 x L and 1 x A routed, 8 x V spent is 67.  The handicap is 35, so the Gauls score 102, which is 2 points shy of a clear victory under the handicap system.  

Gorgo's final all out attack to score a double hit was the difference between a narrow and a clear victory, which just goes to show how small the margins are in Lost Battles.

So the campaign result is 4 points to the Helvetii and 3 points to Caesar which represents a good start for the Gauls.


It was a fantastic game.  There was a lot of tension throughout and the advantage swung from one side to the other.  The 'Favour of the Gods' chit had a satisfyingly influential impact, and really does add to the experience.  The Gauls generally suffered for want of commands, especially when it came time to think about withdrawal, but the tactic of attacking on the left - nicely countered by the Roman cavalry pulling back - saw the Roman centre getting five attacks in per turn instead of the usual four, and that was crucial in the long run.  The attack on the left was a qualified success in the end, but the price was high, and the Gauls may have been better served by engaging both central hill zones from the outset and saving a flank attack until the reinforcing legions were committed in the centre.  Plenty to think about, but the Gauls will be reasonably happy with their four points, though they will feel they could have made more of their mid-game position than they did.

Caesar's daemon played a fine game, maximising his attacking opportunities, remaining cool under pressure and all-out attacking with a precision that had me applauding.  Judicious play pulled him back from suffering a potential blow out, and I'm very much looking forward to two more battles against such a canny opponent.  The biggest difficulty will be finding the time to meet up and play!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I've not actually done this before so I think it's about time I offered a big, official thank you and welcome to those of you who read, comment on and/or follow this blog.  I really do appreciate it very much.

Cheers, and best wishes to you all!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Iberian Campaign, Autumn 218: Cissa, part 2.

Turn 4 (continued). 

[Part one can be found here]

With both sides having won on one flank, Gnaeus recalls his victorious cavalry, sending them back round the rear of his army to confront Hasdrubal and his hordes.  The Roman centre is under severe pressure and the triarii are having to be committed forward, which means that they will need reinforcing if they are to hold Hasdrubal off.

View of the field.

Turn 5.

Hanno and Hasdrubal now have victory within reach, but it will require a concerted effort.  The infantry oblige, scoring four hits along the line, with most of them in the centre where the veteran legionaries continue to bear the brunt of the Punic fury.

But these farmers are made of stern stuff, and it will take more than a few hill-tribesmen to send them on their way.


All examples of Roman stoicism aside, the situation is dire for Scipio.  His centre is almost entirely spent and it has nowhere to fall to back due to Hasdrubal's presence in the rear.  The men there have no choice but to hold their ground and take the fight to the enemy, whose right is also becoming dangerously spent.  The question is, who will break first?

Turns 6 and 7.

Hasdrubal engages the Roman reserve - comprised of triarii and blown horse from the right - and scores another two hits.  He is proving to be a commander of genius!

The Roman centre begins to crack, and a unit of legionaries shatters.  Is Gnaeus going to be defeated?

But Gnaeus will not countenance a loss, and continues to exhort his men on to greater deeds, as is right and proper for a Roman.  And it is not false hope: the battle is still in the balance.

Spent zones everywhere!  First hit will cause a shatter.

And Scipio's personal intervention turns the tide: his men - the men of the left centre - break through, and the Punic army dissolves!

Two hits, and then they run!

Well, not entirely dissolved - there are still five Punic units left on the field, but surely they will depart soon enough.

Scipio praises his men (and thanks his lucky stars).

Turn 8.

This Hanno character does not know when to give up.  His men attack again....

...and they've have put the fear of Capitoline Jove into the Roman veterans.  Three hits are scored, three units are shattered, and the centre falls back in near panic.

Turns 9 and 10.

The exhausted troops of each army try in turn to finish those of the other off, but neither side can force the shatter that is needed.

The Carthaginian reserves venture out from the camp to support their brethren, and the veterans turn back to the fray, but it is a stalemate.

Finally, dusk falls, and the Romans pull back, allowing the Carthaginians to return to their camp unmolested.  It is a draw, and Hanno has shown himself to be an inspired commander in beating the odds to claim a share of the field.

Iberian Campaign, Autumn 218: Cissa, part 1.

With Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus working his way down the coast, Hanno, in command north of the Ebro, sent for assistance from Hasdrubal.  The two armies combined in the autumn of 218 and attempted to bring Scipio to battle near the town of Cissa, inland from Tarraco.

Scipio perceived that he had an advantage in both numbers and quality, and decided to accept battle.

The forces were as follows:


Commander, Cn. Scipio, average commander.

6 units of veteran legionaries (3,750 men)
9 units of average legionaries (11,250 men)
2 units of levy light infantry (5,000 men)
3 units of average heavy cavalry (1,875 men)

In Lost Battles terms this equates to a fighting value of 79.


Commanders, Hanno, uninspired commander; Hasdrubal, uninspired commander.

2 units of veteran heavy infantry (1,250 men)
12 units of average heavy infantry (15,000 men)
2 units of average light infantry (2,500 men)
3 units of average heavy cavalry (1,875 men)

In Lost Battles terms this army has a fighting value of 65.


Clear, but Hanno has a fortified camp in his central rear zone.

Hanno has the first move.

Turn 1.

Hanno deploys out of his camp.

The cavalry are split one unit left and two units right, with Hasdrubal accompanying the stronger wing.  The veteran infantry are in the centre.

Scipio responds by deploying his veterans in the centre also, but he keeps the triarii in reserve.  He splits his cavalry to match Hanno's - two left and one right.

Turn 2.

The cavalry engage on the Punic right, and Hanno and Hasdrubal are clearly apprehensive about the coming fight.

They need not have worried: Hasdrubal draws first blood with a hit on the equites!

Elsewhere the lines close to contact.  The Roman cavalry have less success than their Punic counterparts, but the velites skirmish effectively.

Turn 3.

Hanno nominates the lead cavalryman as the Punic left gears up for the fight, but the presence of their grim commander serves only to terrify the poor men, and they make no impression on the enemy.

Despite the difficulties of the cavalry, a flurry of hits on the veteran legionaries in the centre does not bode well for Scipio's chances.

The lines engage.

View from the Roman left.

The legionaries drive off the Punic light infantry, but make no headway against Hanno in the centre.

Rueful marker placement as the legions get into their work.

The situation is even as turn three draws to a close, but the Roman right has not yet made its attack.

The attack, when it does come, is devastating.  A double hit is scored, and the Carthaginian left is shattered!!

Turn 4.

Hanno's men redouble their efforts, as time is now short.  They continue to apply pressure in the infantry fight...

Hasdrubal leads his horse in again for another charge, and they meet with success.

Three hits are scored, and the equites of the Roman left are shattered!  The Roman rear is open to Hasdrubal and his command.

To be continued... 

(the second report is here)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Campaign: The Iberian Adventures of Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus.

In 218 BC, with the war against Carthage just begun, the brothers Publius and Gnaeus Scipio found Hannibal had bypassed their position on the Rhone and headed inland for Gallia Cisalpina via a certain mountainous path.    As consul, Publius directed his elder brother Gnaeus to proceed to Spain with the bulk of their forces while he himself returned to see to the defence of Italy.

Thus Gnaeus, in command of around 2000 horse, 22,000 foot and 60 quinquiremes, made for Emporiae, and commenced working his way down the coast securing a base for future operations.

Hanno, the Carthaginian commander in charge of the area north of the Ebro, made haste to confront Gnaeus before the latter could enlist the aid of too many of the natives.  With only 10,000 foot and 1000 horse under his command, Hanno did not have much in the way of men with him, and despite an apparent enthusiasm for a fight was soundly defeated at Cissa.  He had had assistance coming in the form of Hasdrubal with 8000 foot and 1000 mounted, but Hasdrubal was too late: Hanno's army had been destroyed by the time he arrived.

Having researched this episode recently in an attempt to put together a Lost Battles' scenario for Cissa, it struck me that we have here an intriguing 'what-if':  suppose Hanno had waited for Hasdrubal to join him before he came to grips with Scipio; how might this have affected the battle for Iberia, and the Second Punic War at large?

As I've been looking to do a series of linked encounters to give some context to Lost Battles solo games, this seemed a perfect opportunity to start an alternative history campaign that has Hanno and Hasdrubal doing just that: joining forces prior to the battle of Cissa, meeting Scipio as a combined force, and forcing him to do a bit of hard fighting.

The campaign will take the form of a series of battles - interspersed with some other events I will dice for as I go along - and will follow Gnaeus' attempt to establish the Roman presence in Spain.

Below is a stylized map of the areas in play: orange shows Roman control; yellow shows Carthaginian control; white shows no control.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Devlan Mud

I recently picked up some Devlan Mud wash from the good folk at Brookhurst Hobbies after hearing positive things about it.  A quick post to The Miniatures Page asking how experienced types used it elicited some excellent responses and tonight I tried a little experiment.

I had some Numidian skirmishers - mostly in off-white tunics, though with the odd tan or brown in there as well - and thought I'd see how the tunics would look after a wash.

My usual washes are home brew using Future/Klear, water, a drop of hand soap and a bit of paint, but the advantages of having a ready-mixed and consistent wash to hand are pretty obvious.  Some of the tunics probably turned out a little dark so I might be a little less heavy handed in future, but base coat, wash, and highlight looks to be a good quick-and-dirty way to do them.

Here are a few shots, but please bear in mind that these figures are not yet finished so don't get too shocked by any shoddiness you may be witness to!


Anyway, I'm looking forward to doing some more product testing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lost Battles Scenario for Cissa, 218 BC.

I've been putting together a scenario for Cissa, 218 BC to test whether Lost Battles can manage what is a bit of a curious battle.

Hanno, who was in command north of the Ebro, was greatly outnumbered but still elected to engage Gnaeus Scipio (uncle of Africanus) rather than wait for the arrival of Hasdrubal and his reinforcements.

Polybius (III.76) and Livy (XXI.60) both have Hanno's force at 10,000 infantry and 1000 horse, said to be taken from Hannibal's own army as he headed for the Alps. Polybius notes Hannibal's army - from which Hanno's force was detached - was 'well trained', but even so it seems ambitious of Hanno to want to take on such a superior force when help was close at hand (whether he knew that Hasdrubal was on his way is of course another matter).

The exact figure for the Romans is more problematic. The brothers Scipio had been assigned a force of two legions with the usual complement of Roman horse plus 14,000 allied infantry, 1,600 allied cavalry, and 60 quinquiremes. After Hannibal bypassed their position on the Rhone, Publius sent Gnaeus on to Spain with the bulk of the army while he himself hurried back with a small force to join the troops in Italy.

Gnaeus subsequently landed near Emporiae and began making such a nuisance of himself that Hanno felt compelled to engage him somewhere north of the Ebro, inland from Tarraco, and near a town called Cissa or Cissis.

If we allow Gnaeus 20,000 foot and 2000 horse then that leaves a small escort for Publius and a detachment for camp/port guard duty. Both Livy and Polybius mentioned Gnaeus' gathering of Iberian allies, so the numbers may in fact be higher. If we confine ourselves to the original force we still have around 16,000 heavy infantry and 4000 light infantry, if usual proportions are assumed.

At a troop multiple of 2 these would become 16 units of average legionaries, 2 units of levy light infantry and 4 units of average cavalry. Even with Gnaeus as an uninspired commander that still gives a fighting value of 81.

Hanno's force would need to be almost entirely veteran to match them, but that seems unlikely given the thrashing he got historically, so we would have to go with a split. 1 ALI and 4 AHI would leave 5000 as veterans, resulting in 10 units of VHI. Two units of average cavalry and Hanno as an uninspired commander would give a total fighting value of 64. Ten units of veterans seems too  many,but to make many more of them average would be going too far below the guideline of c.20 units per side. We could perhaps go with 2ALI, 4AHI, 8 VHI and 2 AHC to give 16 units and reduce the FV to 59. Since the battle saw 6000 Carthaginians killed and 2000 taken captive the latter might be a fairer reflection!

The Carthaginians should probably have a camp on table as its sacking is mentioned in the sources, so if we have that in the rear centre, clear terrain elsewhere, and go for an attack limit of 3 (got to throw the dog a bone somewhere...) we have a rough scenario.

One thing to consider might be to replace a couple of units of legionaries with some Iberian allies, and assume the legionaries to have been left on the coast to guard/man the quinquiremes. This would reduce the Roman FV advantage slightly and might better accord with the reality.

The biggest incongruity is the large number of veterans in Hanno's force.  Given their performance it goes against the grain to categorise them as veterans, but it must be done to allow the battle to fit Lost Battles' parameters. It could, therefore, provide a useful test of the system.

(Also posted on the Lost Battles Yahoo Group)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

More Spanish

Here is my next batch of Spanish, which are about ready to be given a Klear coat, a spray of matt varnish, and then a good old-fashioned basing. 

These guys are a mixture of Old Glory and Chariot 15s figures and are also a combination of newly touched-up and freshly painted.  They are part of my ongoing project to clear the remnants of the Punic War era lead and bring older paint jobs up to speed with newer ones. 

Tomorrow night I'll do the Klear coats and (weather and family permitting, of course...) might be able to get the varnishing and basing done on Monday.

Will be nice to get them off the bench and onto the table at last (they've been staring at me for a while!).
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