Saturday, 29 October 2016

The Battle for Mastery of the World: Zama 202 BC

"Is there anyone who can remain unmoved in reading the narrative of such an encounter? For it would be impossible to find more valiant soldiers, or generals who had been more successful and were more thoroughly exercised in the art of war, nor indeed had Fortune ever offered to contending armies a more splendid prize of victory, since the conquerors would not be masters of Africa and Europe alone, but of all those parts of the world which now hold a place in history..." (Polybius).

(This game of Zama was the largest ancient game that we have played so far, featuring around 900 points of troops on each side. Our ANF trio was joined by four friends:
Stephen, honorary ANF member;
David and Mark B. ('Biko'), two other ANF regulars, plus;
Oliver, first timer to wargaming ANF-style.)

Our source continues:
"Hannibal was so much struck with admiration of Scipio's magnanimity and daring, that he conceived, curiously enough, a strong desire to meet him and converse with him."

"On the following day both generals came out of their camps accompanied by a few horsemen..."

"After this conversation, which held out no hopes of reconciliation, the two generals parted from each other."

Mark W. arrayed the armies based on Simon MacDowall's excellent scenario along with information from those brilliant ancients 'standards', Connolly's "Greece and Rome at War" and Warry's "Warfare in the Classical World".

The Carthaginians in four lines—elephants and skirmishers in the van, followed by Gallic allies, then Libyans and finally the veteran infantry—were flanked on the right by their national cavalry and those of the Numidians on the left.
Can you spot Mark's little joke in the set-up?!

The Romans, arrayed in their tradition three lines of hastati, principes, triarii, skirmishers to the front and cavalry on each flank—Romano-Italian on the left and Massanissa' Numidians on the right.

Scipio (Bikio Africanus) ordered a general advance.

The Carthaginian and Romano-Italian cavalry came to grips first.

Hannibal sent the elephants to meet the Roman advance.

Scipio was destined to have a less-than perfect day. Double-one for initiative downgraded him from Expert to Fair (Hannibal remained a 'genius', though he did not like to brag, hey Mark?!).

Initial success for the Romano-Italian cavalry led Hannibal to direct an elephant their way. Taking the opportunity, one of the Roman cavalry units charged, before the elephants did...

The mêlée was in the balance, but possibly shifting in favour of the 'home team'.

The legions doing what they do so well; advancing powerfully forwards.

Things were moving more slowly on the Carthaginian left. The Numidians advancing slowly towards one another while, the Carthaginian veterans had taken "a step to the left"!

In the centre, the Roman-Numidian skirmishers and hastati were getting the better of the elephants, though not sufficiently to drive the pachyderms off completely. 

Back on the Roman left, the Carthaginian horse and elephants had prevailed; just, the remaining units being severely weakened.

In the centre, the lines of legions had slowed to a crawl, thanks to the stiffer-than-expected resistance of the skirmishers and elephants.

Unable to control their impetuous nature, the Gauls came to join the fray.

The Carthaginian elephants re-entereed the fray, with impactful results.

Meanwhile, on the Roman left, Massanissa sent his cavalry against the Carthaginian veteran infantry and Numidian allies.

Below are some impressions of the battlefield from a wider perspective.

Finally the elephants and Gauls had been defeated, so the left-hand legions re-ordered their lines in preparation for an attack on the Libyan infantry.

Back on the Roman left, the Carthaginian veterans were making their presence felt while the Numidian cavalry attempted to assist the Italian infantry.

Meanwhile, the legions at the left-hand end of the Roman line charged into the Libyans, losing some order in the process of a long-distance charge (i.e. two consecutive movement phases).

In the Roman centre, the legions had broken into individual fighting formations.

While on the left, the Italian allies were suffering reverses c/- the Carthaginian veteran phalanx.

It was now the end of the ninth turn and both sides had reached their break point!

After such a fabulous game, the hard-fought draw was probably fitting.

In scenario terms, the Carthaginian players ‘won' by doing better than their historical counterparts. 
The sections of the Carthaginian army that did poorly in the real thing (skirmishers, elephants, Gauls) did far better in our version.

In the centre our legions did well, but not decisively, the impact of Gauls and Elephants had been telling—plus those Libyans refused to be beaten! 

At the end the Carthaginian veterans were beginning to throw their weight around against the Italians and were heading for the Roman left. Having 18 pts still on the table greatly helped to prevent a Roman victory.

The Numidians did not emulate their historical counterparts, instead fighting one another to a stalemate.

The 'dead' tables were covered with around half of the troops from each army.

The Romans

The Carthaginians

The Outcome

History was re-written; in part, at least.

Our Carthaginians were able to make Hannibal’s plan work. Every line performed better than in the real thing. The legions were unable to produce a ‘killer punch’. The Carthaginian veterans were not there for the final clash, but were making merry on the Roman right. The Romano-Numidian cavalry were only able to exact a bloody stalemate against their Carthaginian-Numidian foes, so were not available to return to tip the balance (Roman players out-played there).

Interestingly though, with so much going well for Carthage#, as opposed to going badly in the real thing, the best that could be achieved was a bloody draw.
(#There was plenty of good luck (beneficial dice rolls) for the Romans in combat, but the Carthaginians had their fair share of those too. It does tend to even out over a game, not matter what the perceptions of a biased outlook.)

The evenness of the struggle was borne out by turns 7 to 9. Turn 7 went very much in favour of the Romans, with several Carthaginian & allied units broken. Turn 8 went the other way. Turn 9 was even. In all three of these last turns there were plenty of combats that merely whittled one or the other side down—or were scoreless draws.


As neither side gained the ascendency, the war would continue. Carthage could ill afford such losses. Rome would do what Rome always did. Raise another army and try again (and again, if necessary). Carthage would be defeated, but it would not be Scipio who assumed the epithet 'Africanus'!


  • Clare, JD Livy on the Battle of Zama. Hannibal. Ancient History Website.
  • Connolly, P (2012) Greece and Rome at War. Frontline Books (an imprint of Pen & Sword Books Ltd), Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK.
  • Fields, N and Dennis, P (2010) Hannibal : leadership : strategy : conflict. Command 11 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, England. 64 pp.
  • MacDowall, S (2010) The Battle of Zama, 202 BC. Lego Wargames.
  • Polybius The Histories. Fragments of Book XV. I. Affairs of Italy and Africa.*.html
  • Warry, JG (1981) Warfare in the Classical World. St Martins Press, New York. 224 pp.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Old ancient games no. 4 (plus packaging re-visited)

Celts v Greeks

The last of the games that Mark and I played back in June was another game of ancients. This was a surprise for the Celts!

As the priests of both sides performed their sacrifices...

... the sheep continued "harmlessly passing their time in the grasslands awaaaay!"

Peacefully oblivious of the human struggle that was about to play out on the broad plain below their quiet hillside home.

The Celts (above) eager to come to grips with their Greek foes (below).

So they came on, lead by their chariots and a few warbands, the bulk of the latter in the second line with their chieftain.

On the left the cavalry were the first to come to grips, albeit indecisively.

The lead warbands ran into the Greek light infantry,

while the chariots hurtled towards the hoplite phalanx—not the best of ideas!

Eventually the Celtic horsemen on the left overcame their adversaries.

The chariots found the hoplites were not at all intimidated by them and barely affected by their throwing javelins.

The Celtic front line was breaking up, so victory would need to be achieved by the warbands behind.

The chariots were soon dispersed by the hoplites.

The warbands went in!

They began to have the better of the fight.

The élite nakeds could not breakthrough,

but the victory of the 'regular' warband to their left tipped the Greek army to their breakpoint.

A tough, ebb and flow battle but, with a bit of luck on their side, the Celts were victorious!

That concludes the series of brief reports of our games from back in June.

Next game for us is the Battle of Zama, 202 BC, which we'll play tomorrow. Report to follow soon...

Packaging revisited

Back in September, I posted some photos of damage to books that I'd received by mail and the subsequent sub-standard response from the shop, of which I'm now a former customer.

By contrast, check out the photos below of a suitably packaged order from the good people at Naval & Military Press.

Securely packaged, the contents were not going anywhere,
... plus they were placed in a plastic bag, to keep them together and protected should any damage occur to the packaging.

This package contained books for which I paid a mere two to three pounds each, plus 8.35 p & p, but the packaging was far, far superior to those that had cost me ten times the price!

Chalk and cheese, really.