Two games of Saga: Age of Hannibal with Sam had got my Ancient Spanish army out of its boxes and into action; the Iberian battle board is great fun, but I wanted to play something bigger. And so I threw together an encounter battle pitting my Republican Romans* against Sam’s growing Carthaginian force backed up by a substantial number of Spanish.
*For reasons of disclosure, these also included Scrivs’s Romans that have been living in my loft for the last five years. They threw dreadful dice!
Left: Carthaginians (left) try to hold off the Romans (right) from breaking through and taking the pass.
I had thought about using To The Strongest (Simon Miller’s fine set of card-driven big battle rules), but resorted instead to my own Midgard rules (still in playtesting, whenever real life allows. See the linked page on my site here: https://mogsymakes.net/midgard/ ). Midgard is designed to play fast-moving big battles with Heroes driving the action and actually worked pretty well for this game, although we dropped the rules for single combats, as it seemed out of scale with Punic Wars big scraps.
Under their commander Khemmitsbaal and two sub-commanders, the Carthaginians mustered:
1 x elephant and attendants
6 x Iberian warbands
4 x African spearmen
4 x Iberian skirmishers
2 x Greek archers
3 x Heavy cavalry
Right: African spearmen muster with the elephant in the centre
Facing off against them were Consul Vetilius and his two sub-commanders, Marcus and Metillius, with:
4 x Velites
4 x Hastati
4 x Principes
2 x Triarii
4 x Light Spanish Cavalry
The Romans were able to be arranged in a manipular formation due to the support rules in Midgard (having friendly units around you is critical to winning sustained combats) and some extra traits thrown in, allowing a fresh unit to replace a worn one. These kept the Romans in the game but the legions took quite a hammering nonetheless!
The game opened with the Romans making their advance in the centre and on the left, hoping to break through there with the legions, while Marcus and the Spanish Light Cavalry took on a delaying role on the right. The drilled trait that the legions had ensured that the fresh Roman units were able to keep up the pace and get quickly into position for the attack.
A full-on battle developed in the centre as the Roman legions came to grips with the Carthaginians. Some rough Roman dice rolling resulted in several of the Hastati units struggling to get the breakthrough I had hoped for!
With some serious scraping going on around the centre, I was very much hoping to be able to break through. Alas, it was not to be. I had foregone my lucky green Welsh dice for the night and things went against my Romans in short order!
However, there was one lucky break; in combat with my Hastati against the mighty Iberian warband, Sam decided to commit Khemmitsbaal. With the Iberians taking some damage, Khemmitsbaal had to make a ‘Risk to Heroes’ check and ended up with a double 1 (you don’t need to know much about my rules to know that this is a BAD THING). Fortunately he was able to use his final remaining Might Point to reroll one of these dice. Less fortunately, he managed to roll a 1 (again) and was left being carried out of the melee with a pilum wedged through his lungs. Nasty!
Alas, Sam got wise to my delaying tactics and pushed forward with all the skirmishers and cavalry on my right flank. Marcus’ Spanish Light Cavalry got somewhat thrashed, with Marcus narrowly making his escape.
This hastened the urgency of the Roman main attack, but the dice just wouldn’t come right and it was driven back.
The Carthaginian Heavy Cavalry on my left flank fought heroically and just would not crumble, leaving my battered Romans pinned against the rocks. With the clock on two hours exactly, we decided to call it. Neither side had broken but the Romans had only 4 Reputation Tokens left against the Carthaginians’ 7, giving the Africans a solid victory. Had Khemmitsbaal not gotten a bit bloodthirsty in the earlier combat, the Carthaginians would have had an even greater margin of victory.
This was terrific fun and the rules worked very well indeed. I was pleased that my tweaks allowed the manipular system to be modelled to a limited extent and that the command and control felt pretty much just right for the period. Predicatably, I went straight home and pulled out the box of half-painted Punic Wars models that have been sat there since 2017 – we will most definitely be back for more!