Carthaginians and pseudo-pikes II (Ptolemaic, II/20b)

26 July, 2010

The next day John and I varied the pike army a little, going with a Ptolemaic one: 2x3Kn (1=cmd), 1x2LH, 1xEl, 6x4Pk, 1x4Ax, 1x2Ps. This list is also a possible variant of the Imperial Alexandrian army. The same figures were used as the day before, and one can only imagine that poor old Hasdrubal was stranded on the same island in time for a rematch.

Hasdrubal went with two elephants, as they seemed the best counter to the Ptolemaic knights and elephant. He also went with two psiloi and two warbands. He was again the attacker and the littoral Egyptians laid two steep hills and a wood. Of these the wood was the only terrain that played a part, as the hills were on the respective baselines.

Initial Deployment: Carthaginians on the left, 'Ptolemaics' on the right.

I deployed with my bad-going troops on the right flank, where they could make use of the woods, the spear in the centre and the elephants on the left flank. This forced John to redeploy some of his knights away from the elephants, but more particularly, to redeploy the auxilia and psiloi away from the woods towards the elephants.

John sent his light horse wide and I responded by chasing it with my light horse, my general, and even my elephants; somewhat extreme, perhaps! The initial combat between the two light horse saw one of us recoil. John then very kindly showed me how I could flank the light horse by sliding my general into the space between the two of them, thus taking the Numidians out of ZOC where they could then flank the light horse. This gave the first kill to me.

The Ptolemaic LH is destroyed. Note the Balearic slingers at the edge of the woods, ZOCing the Ptolemaic flank; they got their in the first turn. Note also the Ptolemaic light foot facing the elephants.

With the light horse gone, John decided that the light foot were best to contact the elephants on their own terms, rather than wait. It was a tactic that bore fruit, when one elephant was destroyed.

Bonnachts against elephants and the Irish come up laughing.

At this point my PIPs really died away; I think I consistently had only one or two PIPs for the remainder of the game. I was really beginning to despair of the Carthaginians, as they had had such a long run of bad luck. However, John was a very helpful opponent and encouraged me to weigh up my options carefully to get the full value out of every PIP. The threat of the Irish to the elephants was neutralized by the Numidians attacking the kerns and an element of spear ZOCing the bonnachts.

To the rescue of the elephant!

The spear that peeled off to ZOC the Irish proved a real thorn, holding up a pair of ‘pike’. In fact, it stuck out repeated combats at uneven odds, refusing to budge.

The Libyan skirmishers recoil from the giant, while the blueshield spear drive back the bonnachts, despite their overlap from the 'pike'.

John continued to get more of the PIPs, but his left flank was severely compromised by the lack of any troops that could go into the woods. He had to peel off pike elements to prevent his main body from being flanked. In the centre, the giant put the Libyan skirmishers to flight, but those pugnacious blueshields drove back double-ranked pikes!

The blueshields frustrate pseudo-Ptolemy.

With only two PIPs the Carthaginians are unable to repair any of the tenuous position in the centre, and go for even odds on a kill on their right flank: Gauls provide a friction kill, but not flanking support for the Scutarii against an element of pikes. Both roll 6, and looking back I think this should have been a stick. Perhaps the pike were put down one for the Gauls in error—oops (unless we put the dice back in the picture in error, which seems doubtful)!

In a fierce encounter pike are destroyed by auxilia with some warband support.

Ptolemy then drives forward in the centre. One element of spear folds before the giant, the other recoils from the pike.

The giant makes it 2-2.

Again with only two PIPs the Carthaginians focus on the right flank. The warband go in on the side. One would provide a friction kill if the pike advanced against the spear and the other peels off the rear element of pike. The warband are at even odds, but QK the pike and in this combat triumph, making it 3-2.

Another 6 for the Carthaginians, and the Ptolemaic left flank is looking very fragile.

Good PIPs allow the Ptolemaic knights to advance on the Spanish Scutarii in the open, and to attack the spear with the giant and with the pike. However, the dice desert them in combat as they roll two 1s.

No luck for Ptolemy as the Carthaginian spear hold fast.

Now was the time to roll a 6 for PIPs and attack on all fronts, but the PIP dice was yet another 1. The auxilia had to remain in the open, the elephant remained unmoved from where it was very early in the game, as indeed did that entire wing. Instead Ambiorix (that’s the headhunter with clothes), attacked the pike from the rear. When they turned to face, the other warband (led by Lucterius of the Battle of Vienne fame) now flanked them. The combat dice continued to smile and it was game over! The Carthaginians had their first win!

In a emphatic 6-1 contest the Gauls chew up another element of pike to give the battle to the Carthaginians. Over in the centre the blueshields remain locked in combat with the opposing pike

  • Review

I could, and shamelessly did, whine about PIP dice, but the combat rolls went my way. Being able to ZOC the bonnachts with my general was crucial to preventing them from supporting the pike against the blueshields. In turn, the blueshields stalwart resistance was crucial in stopping their centre from folding.

The control of the BGo on the right flank proved the undoing of the pike on that flank; unsupported pike against warband is not pretty.

The elephants did little except die, but their importance was in pulling the opponents’ BGo troops away from the woods, and in putting their knights where they failed to get into combat, so perhaps they weren’t totally without use.

It was a nailbiting game because of the lack of PIPs, and my defeatist attitude after so many losses. However, the lack of PIPs did have the effect of making me focus, rather than try to  win everywhere.

This was a crucial victory before going down to the CWC competition. If I hadn’t won, I’m not sure what I’d have done with the Carthaginians. I’m sure I’d start to think they were cursed! I have John to thank for coaching me through my options when I was feeling like giving up in disgust over the chronic PIP-starvation. His advice to try to win somewhere faster than you lose elsewhere was very good, though in this game it was a matter of hoping not to lose too fast in the places I had no PIPs to spare! And my spear showed some real grit in making that happen.

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8 Responses to “Carthaginians and pseudo-pikes II (Ptolemaic, II/20b)”

  1. Stephen Says:

    Yes nothing focuses the mind like a low PIP roll. You obviously made the right decisions with the PIPs you had though. Nothing’s worse than moving just because you have the PIPs and then wishing you hadn’t when the PIPs dry up and you’re in hot water!

    • Mark Davies Says:

      Good point. I probably do exactly that very often: charging off somewhere because I’ve got the PIPs without thinking what I’ll do when the PIPs dry up. The position of the elephants in this battle is a good example of that!

  2. John Says:

    It was a great evening. Most importantly you were able to go to Christchurch knowing that the Carthos could win against Successors. Your results over the weekend showed that you are rapidly coming to terms with the army. Sad though – I was enjoying the wins! 🙂

    • Mark Davies Says:

      Indeed, my only wins down there were against pike armies, so the practice paid off! You’re right; I do feel I’m getting to grips with this army finally. It’s not so straight forward as some, and offers more ways to shoot yourself in the foot than many.

  3. TWR Says:

    Your point above which describes your first combat reads: “John then very kindly showed me how I could flank the light horse by sliding my general into the space between the two of them, thus taking the Numidians out of ZOC where they could then flank the light horse.”

    While I except that this can be read from the rules, and certainly from the WADBAG guide, doesn’t it really go against the concept of the what the ZOC rules are trying to achieve?

    The rules actually state “An element directly in front of any part of an enemy element’s front edge…” without defining when this is determined.

    Is it determined when moving an element or at the beginning of the players turn? I personally prefer the latter.

    • Mark Davies Says:

      Yes, it’s a bit cheesy, but it’s really no different from what we do all the time when an element advances to block someone’s ZOC so that another element can close the door. The one closing the door was in the ZOC at the start of the turn, but after the ZOC was blocked it was not.

      • TWR Says:

        I believe it is different. For one thing there is a time and space issue.

        The element of light horse, representing perhaps 600 men, was very near the enemy, within ZOC of an enemy at the start of the turn in DBA terms. The fact another 900 men have neatly snuck in to a gap, which now allows the light horse to dance to the flank, just seems wrong to me.

      • Mark Davies Says:

        In terms of realism I’d agree that it is different, but I don’t think there’s anything in the rules to stop you doing it.

        The ZOC rules for DBA are very brief and I guess they’re fairly open to abuse, to play that’s not entirely realistic. You can see how they’ve been developed in other related sets in attempts to prevent this.

        Movement is always taken to be one element at a time, which allows one to block ZOCs or to move out of an elements way, so you can’t really take ZOCs to be at any time other than immediately before an element moves.

        Is it partly the tight fit of the 3Cv into the gap that makes this cheesy? Would it be different if it was a 4Sp that moved into the gap?


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