Polybian Romans on the loose (three games at the AWC)

26 October, 2010

Sunday week John and I caught up with an old friend, Craig, over from Brisbane. It was a chance to see the Polybian Romans on the table. We met at the Auckland Wargames Club, where Craing saw a number of old faces. We had three games. The first saw the Carthaginians and Romans square off, the next was between the Gauls and Spanish and the last was a Double DBA where the Romans and Spanish faced the Gauls and Romans. It was a fun day, though the last game went on a bit (it would have helped had we read the BBDBA rules more carefully!).

  • Game 1: Romans v. Carthaginians.

The first game was between me and Craig. Craig opted for the Carthaginians and took an elephant, an extra cavalry and two warbands. Predictably the ‘peace-loving’ Romans were the defenders (was there ever an aggression factor more in need of correction!). They decided the Carthaginians would like BGo more than they would and decided to deny them it. They went for two gentle hills and a small wood.

The Carthaginian general, still reeling from a deleterious caffeine experience (worst cup ever!), managed to get the very edge he didn’t want and was required to deploy with the wood in his deployment zone. The Romans went first and put their Triarii on a hill on the left flank, and deployed the two legions with psiloi support in the centre.

Initial Deployment: Romans facing Carthaginians.

The Romans decided to advance fast and the Triarii were required to move up to prevent the legions being flanked. This put them at severe odds facing the elephant and the other Carthaginian mounted. The Carthaginians saw no benefit in advancing their centre and left flank, but wanted to sweep around on their right. All that stood in their way was the Triarii and a general who wasn’t sure he wanted to be there!

The lines meet. The Carthaginian cavalry flees, and the Triarii face long odds.

Things did not go well for the Romans. The Triarii fell before the Carthaginian elephants and an element of blade went down to Gauls. It seemed the bungled deployment of the Triarii was reaping its well deserved consequences. At this point the general, who had hovered to the rear as the Triarii came to grief decided it was time for a last fling of the dice. The Carthaginian general was unsupported, so he attacked him at even odds. A small chance of destroying the general (and an equally small chance of dying himself). He liked to think of it as a form of devotio, rushing into the midst of the enemy to die in order to win divine favour.

Well, the gods didn’t destroy him, the fight only saw the Carthaginians recoil, but the act seemed to have the effect of galvanizing the beleaguered Romans, who finally broke an element of Carthaginian spear.

In the next turn it was all over. The Carthaginians had only a few PIPs and could only plug the line with some Libyan skirmishers, and attack the Roman general with Numidian support. The general recoiled and then the legions swept all before them. The Libyan skirmishers fled, the overlapped spear were destroyed as were two elements of Gauls. In no time it went from 0-3 to 4-3!

The final position showing the hole the legions had created in the Carthaginian line.

The game illustrated how resilient blade armies can be. It was a lucky victory, and what will the Roman general say to the senate: ‘You did WHAT with our veteran troops!’ In future I suspect a more defensive, and historical, posture for the Triarii might be in order!

  • Game 2: Gauls v. Spanish.

The next game was Craig as the Gauls against John as the Spanish. In a battle where both have no aggression, the Gauls got off to a good start and were the defenders. They deployed minimal terrain to prevent the Spanish lurking in it and to give their cavalry an edge.

Initial Deployment: before two element swap.

The Spanish prepared to send two psiloi into the wood, so the Gauls brought a cavalry and their psiloi over to meet this threat.

Initial Deployment: Gauls rearrange their flanks.

As the battle began, the Gauls had a small chance to get an edge when their left flank met by choosing to attack. If they could recoil the central element they would have overlaps at 4-2 for the other two. It didn’t work and the Spanish were able to pile on the pressure on the flank.

The Gallic attack on the left flank made no impression, being recoiled, and now it begins to be outflanked.

Remarkably the outclassed cavalry held on here, but the block of warband showed less resolve and fell apart before the Spanish attack, managing to destroy only one of the Spanish Scutarii. The battle here and a general lack of PIPs prevented the Gallic right from ever seeing combat, yet it was that cavalry and their general that might have given them the edge.

It's all over! The right flank is destroyed. The only Spanish casualty was a 3Ax that is shown lurking behind their 2LH.

Warbands against Auxilia is a tough match-up. It might have been better for the Gauls to have held back the left flank to allow the right flank to engage. Also they could have looked to put more pressure on that flank, as once the six double-ranked warbands were engaged little was left over. Another tactic would be not to double-rank, and try to get the overlaps.

A footnote to this battle was that the Spanish commander continued his cowardly form from the previous game, rolling at least another one in his first combat, and it is his lack of resolve that kept the Gallic cavalry on that flank alive.

  • Game 3: Romans and Spanish v. Carthaginians and Gauls.

We finished the day with a game of double DBA. I took the Carthaginians with Gallic allies and John took the Spanish again in alliance with Craig using the Polybian Romans. The Romans were defending, and laid down a fair amount of BGo. The Spanish deployed to dominate this rough terrain, but left only a thin centre: the two elements of cavalry! The Roman deployment was more conventional. In response the Gauls deployed their cavalry where they would make the Spanish nervous of leaving the woods, and their warband where they would encounter the Romans head-on. The Carthaginians opted for their mounted in the centre, where they could go after the Spanish cavalry.

Initial Deployments: from the Carthaginian side.

Initial Deployments: from the Gallic side.

The Carthaginians soon came to regret the placement of their camps, as the Spanish threatened them with a quick march down the central road. Fortunately the Spanish proved short of PIPs owing to low PIP dice, and their commander being out of range.

Indeed, their commander was not feeling happy. He was outnumbered 2-1 by the fast-approaching Carthaginian mounted, who included an elephant. However, by dint of hard fighting they held off the first attack.

The Spanish general finally rolls a 6!

On the other flank the Spanish succeeded in destroying an element of Gallic cavalry, which helped relieve the pressure on the Romans, who had lost an element of legionaries to cavalry on that flank.

The Spanish destroy one cavalry, but the Gallic commander had recoiled the central element of the block of Roman blades, removing the psiloi support and setting up the destruction of another blade.

Luck couldn’t save the beleaguered Spanish commander forever, though his light cavalry gave the elephant a hard fight; only with the commander gone and the Spanish becoming demoralized did the light horse finally break.

The Spanish light horse narrowly miss out on destroying the elephant, but their commander, flanked, is less bold.

With the Spanish giving up the fight, some of the pressure came off the Gauls, but they’d lost two warbands, and along with the cavalry were at the point of breaking. Given that one cavalry was badly trapped it seemedonly a matter of time before they copied the Spanish by fleeing. Their commander, seeing this, decided to go out with a bang, and order his surviving warbands into a desperate attack on the other Roman flank. If they won in the centre at 4-6, they would be at 4-4 and 2-4 for the other two combats (best not to do the odds if this didn’t happen!). The warriors had obviously decided this was too unlikely and broke on contact, rolling 1, 3 and 1 against 6, 6 and 4. From being three down the Gauls went to eight down! That said, if those rolls were reversed, it would have been the Romans who broke.

The Gallic warbands disintegrate before the Romans like chaff in the wind.

At this point it would have been a good idea if we’d read the victory conditions for such a game, as we assumed it was now a matter of breaking the Romans or the Carthaginians, yet actually totally destroying the Spanish would have been enough.

The Gauls, those left, held easily as they still had a commander, though the surrounded element of cavalry didn’t survive. The leaderless and more scattered Spanish started to stream towards the rear. This proved a real nuisance for the Carthaginians, who couldn’t get past this carefully timed succession of troops fleeing down the central road.

The Spanish proved a real distraction, as did a lack of PIPs (the Gauls wallowed in an obscene amount, for which they had no use!). This led to the Carthaginians forgetting about the Numidians that had advanced on the Roman camp then dithered. They were eventually destroyed by the Roman general, not without a fight.

The Numidians recoil the Roman commander, while the Spanish block the road.

Time seemed to move slowly as the Romans moved glacially back to their camp, while an element of blades with a psiloi in support inched towards the Carthaginian camp. The Carthaginians managed to sack the Roman camp with some Libyan skirmishers, but couldn’t get the right match-ups to get the last element they needed.

The camp is taken, but elsewhere the Carthaginians can't get a result.

At this point I wondered if I could leave the camp, or whether the Libyans were too busy looting it. I was too tired to penetrate the opaque organization of the rules to settle this (I was confused by the silly rules around BUAs, which are in the same section as camps). I decided to err on the side of caution and make the Libyans stay in the camp, though their ability to flank the Roman general might have proved decisive. The fight in front of the Roman camp continued for a couple of rounds more (I got a turn’s reprieve when Craig got only one PIP and couldn’t advance on my camp), but eventually the Romans did reach the camp and it was all over.

The Romans take a dim view on donkey beating!

This was a fun game, though it dragged at the end, and it would have been very different if we’d read the rules carefully: John would have been trying to survive rather than provide speed-bumps to the Carthaginian advance. I would have had two warbands to root out three auxilia and a psiloi from the right-hand wood and an auxilia, two psiloi and the spear to get them out of the other wood. Sacking their camp would have counted towards the losses, I presume, and the lack of a general would have seen elements breaking and leaving the woods, where they would be vulnerable to the Carthaginian mounted. In such a scenario, I’d not have needed to go after the Romans, as they had already lost an element, meaning once all the Spanish were gone they’d have been over half destroyed.

This was only my third game of BBDBA, and my first when I wasn’t playing against someone who knew the rules better than me. It was very useful for getting me actually to read the rules (all one page of them) carefully, even if only after the game!

I enjoyed the day, and the chance to get my four completed armies from the period of the 2nd Punic War onto the table.

4 Responses to “Polybian Romans on the loose (three games at the AWC)”

  1. TWR Says:

    Interesting reports as always. It looks as if you used a 4’x2′ table for your Double DBA.

    I wonder what a 3’x2′ area would have been like. I was surprised by how open out BBDBA game was on a 4’x2′ table on Saturday evening.

    • Mark Davies Says:

      We did use a 4’x2′ table. As there were hills on both flanks that we didn’t go into, it had the effect of shortening the board a bit. However, in this game neither side really tried to outflank, so the edges weren’t so important.

  2. Prufrock Says:

    Good reports. We had a similar problem with the BBDBA rules first time up – didn’t read ’em properly and so were a bit surprised by the game ending when and as it did!

    Your armies are looking really good. Love how the Chariot Romans turned out. Doing the shields they way you did has given them some extra character.


    • Mark Davies Says:

      Thanks, I did try to read the rules on BBDBA, but it was only in hindsight that aspects of them really made sense.

      I like these Chariot figures; they have big heads like the Feudal Casting figures. I was a bit worried about the size of their horses, but that doesn’t stand out the way I thought it would.

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