Saturday, January 21, 2023

Carthage vs Epirus - The Portable Ancient Wargame

With the holidays over, I finally played this last of my round-robin ancient games, this time between Epirus and Carthage.  The rules again were the Ancient Portable Wargame, as published in Developing the Portable Wargame.  I used a rough draft, more-linear, randomized deployment chart and terrain tiles to complete the set-up.  The army compositions were again based off DBA 1e army lists.  This confrontation was of course fictional, as it features a later-period Carthaginian army facing off against the Epirotes, but how could I resist elephants versus elephants?

Epirote war elephants melee with Libyan heavy cavalry.

The randomized deployment landed all the heavy infantry in the centers, with the bulk of cavalry not across from each other.  The Epirote elephants were on the Epirote left, while Carthage's elephants were in the center.

After first moves, Epirus on left and Carthage on right. At the top, Epirote elephants rolled for extra move distance and went ahead and engaged Carthage cavalry.

In the Ancient Portable Wargame, elephants (along with light cavalry and light infantry) can test each turn for extra movement.  The Epirote elephants passed this test on their first turn, so went right at the Libyan heavy cavalry.

View from the Epirote left flank.

The Carthaginians, having four cavalry units to the Epirotes three, sent one of their Numidian light cavalry units galloping along the back of the Carthaginian infantry line to lend support to the Carthage left, where Epirote heavy cavalry had already routed the Baeleric slingers and was starting to flank the end of the Carthaginian battle line.

Balaeric slingers are routed, Epirote heavy cavalry is behind Carthage right flank.

Wanting to strike while Strength Points were still fresh, the Epirote heavy infantry commenced its attack on the Carthaginians, despite the Carthaginians being in better position with part of its line atop a hill.

Epirote heavy infantry engages the Carthaginian center.

While the Carthaginian elephants in the center held the hill, the infantry on the Carthaginian left gave some ground.  On the Carthaginian right, the Libyan heavy cavalry, assisted by Iberian heavy infantry, routed the Epirote elephants, giving the Carthaginians an advantage over the single remaining Greek light cavalry unit.

At lower right, the Epirote war elephants are routed by Iberian infantry.

Said Greek light cavalry unit eluded destruction, however, and the Carthaginian massed cavalry did not make easy headway in attempting to flank the Epirote left. Worse yet, the Carthaginian chance cards had burned off a rally card early one before even losing any Strength Points, so the Epirotes were attacking from a position of confidence that they could rally some losses.

Epirote light cavalry and a phalanx of heavy infantry are working to turn the right flank of the Carthaginian infantry.

The Epirote infantry continued to make headway against the center and the Celts and Iberians at the flank ends of the Carthaginian battle line were taking a beating, while the victorious Carthaginian cavalry on the Carthage right had to abandon efforts to turn the Epirote flank in order to deal with the persistent Epirote light cavalry.

Epirote light cavalry brings Iberians to brink of routing
Epirote hoplites trying to flank the Carthage line.
Things looking shaky for Carthage, with both flanks curving back...

BUT THEN, a good turn of luck on the chance cards! Epirus draws "Loss of Nerve" which confers a -2 on all melee rolls. Although Carthage draws a "Confusion" card (no movement), many of their units are already adjacent to Epirote units, so no movement is needed to engage in close combat.

 Carthage's attacks go well enough bring Epirus roughly equally close to its exhaustion point.

Celtic mercenaries attack Epirote hoplites in flank.

Epriote line thrown back, but the Celts route, at top.

Although the entire Epirote battle line is pushed back, the Celts do route, having already taken too many lost SPs.

Celts on Carthaginian left are routed.

Carthaginian war elephants.

Fortune then seems to swing back to Epirus, with the Iberians on the Carthaginian left routing...

Iberians on Carthaginian right are routed.

But then Epirus draws its second Loss of Nerve card! Heavy Epirote cavalry is routed on its right flank.

Epirote heavy cavalry are routed.

And the pesky Epirote light cavalry is routed on its right flank.

Epirote light cavalry are routed.

And the Carthage come-back victory is sealed when a phalangite block is routed in the center!

Epirote phlangites are routed.

Defeated Epirote commander.

Victorious Carthaginian elephants!

The chance cards really delivered the goods for this game, making what was starting to look like a bog-standard Carthaginian defeat (wherein they basically just get pummeled by a more heavy infantry-focused opponent) into a narrow victory.

Overall, this round robin sampling of battles lays some good foundations for potential solo campaigns. the DBA 1e army lists created competitive armies and gave each their own character.  More importantly, with the 12-units-per-army system in place, the simple campaign system at the back of the 1e rulebook can be used.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

2022 in Review

No games in September or October at all in 2022, as the start of the school year and a very involved, six-weekend-long landscaping project ate up all my free time.  Mainly just posting this for reference because I like to see at a glance what happened in a given year.

Games played:

1. A big game of Black Powder with Pete's massive Napoleonic collection!
2. SAGA in February.
3. A try-out game of Kings of War Historical using Italian Wars armies.
4. SAGA in March.
5-6. Two games of SAGA in April.
7. Another solo game of Kings of War Historical, this time with Late Roman armies.
8. SAGA in May.
9. SAGA in June.
10. A porch game of Pike & Shotte in July using English Civil War armies.
11. Another ECW porch game of Pike & Shotte in August.
12. A fun trio of 'Belle Epoque' French vs. British toy soldier solo games using the Portable Wargame in November, starting with the classic Hooks Farm, then...
13. Green Ridge, and and finally...
14. St. James Road.
15. And then followed that up with a trio of Ancient Portable Wargame solo battles in December, starting with Carthage vs. Syracuse.
16. And then Syracuse vs. Rome.
17. And then Rome vs. Epirus.

I got a production pot metal melter with temp control for Christmas, so I look forward to more homecasting when the weather dries out!

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Epirus vs Rome - The Portable Ancient Wargame

With games between a Syracusan army against a Carthaginian one and a Roman one in the books, the Romans stayed on the table and I changed out the Syracusans for a Epirote army.  Once again, I used the army list from DBA's first edition as a basis for an army from Epirus. This method surprising creates two armies of the same SP strength, or just a point or two off, so its an easy resource to add to the Portable Ancient Wargame toolbox.

Initial positions - Epirotes on left, Romans on right.

The Epirotes of Pyrrus thus ended up with four phalangite heavy infantry units, two hoplite heavies, two light infantry units (one with bows [2SP], one with javelins [3SP]) two heavy cavalry units, a light cavalry unit, and a unit of elephants.  The Romans had the same composition as the previous game - seven heavy infantry units, two heavy cavalry, and two light infantry with javelins (the velites).

Roman hastati in front of the woods. In retrospect, heavy infantry cannot enter wooded squares in The Portable Ancient Wargame, so that unit of principes in the woods wasn't right. I really need to sit down and outline a solid random deployment system.

The random terrain and deployment wasn't too weird this time, although I redrew one of the terrain tiles because the "big woods" tile came up.

Epirotes. I painted those phlangites and elephants in 2021 so its taken way too long for them to get on the table.

Both sides spent their first turns repositioning infantry from three lines in the center into a single battle line with perhaps a reserve of a single unit. The Epirotes sent their elephants from their center to their right, to support their two units of heavy cavalry against the Roman cavalry.

Romans make first move and start deploying into a proper battle line.
20mm figures do fill up a 6x4ish table quite nicely...

The Roman infantry, however, was able to take position on the crest of the small hill first.  This gives them a slight advantage in close combat rolls which would probably prove the decisive factor in the game.


Roman lines are now starting to take position atop the hill (slight bonus if attacked and enemy is fighting uphill). Epirotes are lining hoplites and phlangites up across from them.

The Epriote battle line.
Epirote elephants. Although there are two figures this counts as one unit.

Roman legions atop the hill looking at advancing Epirotes.

Epirotes have commenced the attack on Epirote left.

The Epirotes accordingly tried to focus their efforts on the flanks - with the Roman and Epirote heavy cavalry tried up on the Roman left, the elephants could hit the Romans in the flank. At the same time, Epirote light infantry and unopposed light cavalry could try and flank/overlap the Roman right flank anchored at the corner of the hill.

Phalangites vs legionaries.

Close combat has now commenced all across the table.

As it turned out, the Roman cavalry got he better of their Epirote counterparts, the elephants failed to really disrupt the Roman flank.  On the opposite flank, the Roman simply would not budge from the crest of the hill. 

Roman hastati are attack in front by hoplites and in flank by Greek light infantry.

Still, it was hard fighting all around.  Both generals fled when the units they were respectively attached to were routed. And both sides ended up past their exhausted point, so we entered the twilight of battle with both sides unable to advance towards each other, trying to push the other side past the 50% route mark using only units already in close combat proximity or ranged weapons.

A unit of phalangites is routed on Epirote left!

The game-winning close combat for the Romans was delivered by the Roman cavalry against the Epirote elephants, but once again the real game winner was the Roman heavy infantry, which threw back multiple attacks by phalangite, hoplite, and light troops alike.

End of game. Three of four phalangite blocks have been routed...

Rome could not be budged from the hilltop.

I am definitely finding that light infantry deployed at the flanks of the battle line is more effective than in front of it in a traditional skrimish role.  With thier seven full units of heavy infantry, the Romans are proving really difficult to beat, athough I've often wondered if sheer numbers of heavy infantry were the real secret to Roman success, and not the pila and/or three lines in a checkerboard formation or whaever (wargamers can never seem to decide if Romans of the Republcian era should be in three lines or in a checkerboard of blocks).  The results on the table certainly seem to indicate that having more heavy infantry than anything else is the way to go!

Epirote elephants were not effective.

Up next will tbe final round robin game, with Epirotes going up against a Late Carthaginian army, so there will be elephants all around!

Monday, December 19, 2022

Rome vs Syracuse - The Portable Ancient Wargame

Having played the first round-robin ancients game (Syracuse beating Carthage), now it was Rome's turn to have a go against Syracuse's hoplites and catapult artillery.  I again used the DBA 1e army list for Camillan Rome to determine the make up a Roman Republic army for the Portable Ancient Wargame (the rules to which are found in Developing the Portable Wargame).

Roman heavy infantry - the team to beat, for sure.

The Romans had seven heavy infantry units, two heavy cavalry, and two light infantry with javelins (the velites).  The Syracusans had five heavy infantry hoplite units, two heavy cavalry, one light cavalry, an artillery detachment, and two light infantry units: one with slings (2SP) an one with javelins (3SP).  Terrain was again randomized and I continued to toy around with the random deployment in three lines, with all heavy infantry in the center. 

Starting positions, Syracuse on right, Rome on left.

The heavy cavalry contingents for both armies ended up on opposite flanks, with the two Roman heavy cavalry squadrons opposed by the Syracusan light cavalry, while the Syracuse heavy cavalry was unopposed.

Roman light infantry and Syracuse light infantry and cavalry skirmish on Syracusan left.

The Syracusan artillery was ineffective this time, and the Roman velites performed very well and made a mess of things on the Syracusan left.  You would think this would clear the way for the Roman heavy cavalry to do something spectacular but they were rather ineffective instead.

Syracusan hoplites looking towards the light units skirmishing in the middle ground.

Roman Velites and Syracusans skirmishers in close combat.

The Romans were then able to start moving their heavies into sweep aside Syracusan light infantry. The Greek heavy cavalry, even unopposed by Roman cavalry, was not able to make effective attacks against the Roman right flank.

The Syracusan infantry line looks in better formation, but the Romans are making short work of the Syracusan lights, and the Syracusan cavalry to the left is not making headway.

Syracusan lights against Roman hastati and principes.

At last, the heavy infantry lines make contact...

Hastati flank the Syracusan left.

The hoplites of Syracuse are underwhelming.  The more numerous Romans start overlapping the ends of the Syracuse line and attacking hoplites in the flanks...

A big scrum.

Loses pile up for both sides, but Syracuse takes the worse of it, and the Roman's Italian allies anchoring the Roman left route a unit of hoplites to push Syracuse past 50% losses and give the Romans' the victory.

End of game. Syracuse right is quite disarrayed. Italian allies on left side have just dispatched a unit of hoplites.

Romans are tough to beat, the sheer number of heavy infantry tending to be resilient enough to make advantages in enemy light infantry or cavalry numbers moot.

A victorious Roman general surveys the field.

If I wanted to adhere more closely to the DBA 1e lists, the Syracusans could actually take another unit of hoplites and forget about the artillery. Unfortunately I do not have another unit of Greek-ish hoplites, so no such luck.  I do have a box of Mithridatic Heavy Infantry which should do the trick. Maybe the rematch would play out a bit different.  

Next up is Epirus vs. Rome. My Epirote army uses a lot of the same units as Syracuse, just phalangites and elephants added in place of some of the hoplites and artillery.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Syracuse vs Carthage - The Portable Ancient Wargame

After feeling pretty put off from several days playing a totally inconclusive game of Three Ages of Rome, I reset the table and deployed a Syracusan army against a Carthaginian one for a more reliable game of The Portable Ancient Wargame, as set forth in Developing the Portable Wargame

Syracusans!  Almost this entire army has been painted for over a year, but never been moved in anger before!

For some time I have toyed with the idea of an ancients campaign set in Sicily, where Carthage, Syracuse, Epirus, and the Roman Republic all clashed at various times.  I recently finished painting some more Greek Hoplite types as well as some Greek light cavalry which at last made putting a decent non-phalangite Greek army on the table possible. 

Initial deployment, with Carthage on left and Syracuse on right.  Using the Grid-Based Wargaming ancients deployment system a bit, all heavy infantry is deployed in the center initially three squares deep (i.e., 3 lines).  This seems okay but the first thing both sides invariably do is fan out into basically a single line of infantry.

Using the old DBA 1e army lists, I assembled a Syracusan army whose main features were a lot of heavy infantry hoplites, supported by decent cavalry (heavy and light), light troops, and even some longer range artillery. Carthage was a usual mix of heavy infantry (Libyan, Iberian, and Gallic) with a little more light cavalry (Numidians) but no elephants at this time.

Both sides line up and advance.  The Numidian cavalry decides to tangle with the Greek cavalry, while the Syracusan artillery throws back the Iberian infantry and disrupts the Carthage line.

I calculated the Exhaustion Point for both sides at 1/3 of their total starting SP, and a Breaking Point (as borrowed from the Portable Pike & Shotte Wargame) at 1/2 lost SP.  This means that both sides can become exhausted, but one side loosing half its Strength Points causes it to route and hands victory to the other side.

Syracusan hoplites.

Plays of any variant of The Portable Wargame go quite quickly, less than an hour and sometimes done in 30 minutes.Victory tends to hinge on very small things you usually wouldn't expect. A common decisive moment, I've found, is whether one side can bring its heavy infantry to attack without suffering too many losses by its skirmishers or flank cavalry before making contact with the enemy heavies.  If a side can get its heavies in contact with the enemy while still at close to starting SP strength overall, they will have the necessary SP fortitude to take some losses but also to press advantages or exploit gaps as they become available. 

Syracusan catapult artillery. This is actually one unit, I just used to two models so as to fill up the 6" square more.

In this game, the Syracusan catapults seemed to perform well, dropping an early lost SP on one Carthaginian heavy infantry unit and causing another to fall back, disrupting the Carthaginian battle line. The Carthaginians had cavalry superiority on their right flank, consisting of two Numidian light horse units and one heavy Libyan cavalry.  Although opposed by a single Syracusan light cavalry unit, both Numidian units were routed.

Numidian light horse and Syrcusan light horse skirmishing on the flank.

Carthaginian battle line advancing.

This is after a few rounds of close combat between the heavy infantry lines. Some of the Syracusan hoplites have taken a beating but are still standing. However, the Syracusan heavy cavalry has hooked around the Carthaginian left flank and are attacking Gallic infantry from behind, while another cavalry is poised to attack from the flank after having finished off the Carthaginian heavy cavalry contingent.

These lowly Syrcausan staff slingers were key to destroying the Libyan heavy cavalry on the Carthaginian left.

The game was over but these Gallic warriors were very poorly situated at game end, with Syracusans on three sides.

Syracusan hoplites (Macedonian Hypasists by HAT).

Libyan and Syracusan heavy infantry in close combat.

Syracusans and Iberians in close combat.

End of game.

With Syracuse the victor, I set aside the Carthaginians and got out the Romans. Now a plan was hatched: a quick round robin series of games: Carthage vs. Syracuse, Syracuse vs. Rome, Rome vs. Epirus, Epirus vs. Carthage.  No Rome vs. Carthage game, they've played before already.