Friday, October 12, 2007

Tribute to Mago

(Jeez - where have the last two weeks gone... I've been sick a bit over that time, but no excuse for being this late.)

Mike and I gave the new Command & Colors: Ancients scenarios as published in C3i #19 a try. They cover Carthaginian General Mago's battles in Europe against the Romans towards the end of the Second Punic War. They specifically cover Orongis, Celtiberia, and Po River - the final three battles before the Romans took the war back to Africa, culminating at Zama.

Mike had Orongis, the first of the three battles, set up when I arrived. We randomly chose sides, and I ended up with Carthage. (BTW, I don't believe this battle has been depicted in any other wargame – hex-n-counter, miniatures, or otherwise – ever. Please point me to a counter example if you can – I'm curious.)

This is a bit of a tough battle for the Carthaginians. You're outnumbered (15-12) and not optimally deployed. The Romans are drawn up in battle lines and ready to go. I started out by taking potshots with my bowmen (the Romans deploy in range) and trying to get my Elephants up into play. I was fortunate in that I was able to take out three or four blocks (but I don't believe an entire unit) by the time the Elephants were eliminated. So they did their job. My Gallic warriors caused a bit of carnage as well, but it turned out to not be enough. Carthage lost this battle 6-3, IIRC.

(Interestingly, it turned out rather historically. Carthage lost, but nearly all the casualties were the Gallic mercenaries – which Mago then conveniently didn't have to pay, and his core army lived to fight another day. Which they do below.)

We swapped sides for the 2nd battle, Celtiberia, and I took the Romans. This battle involves the Romans catching Carthage slightly unaware – almost half their forces are still in camp and the remainder are somewhat scattered. The Romans, however, are arrayed in full battle lines and are ready to go. I was fortunate enough to be dealt a Line Command card at the start so I immediately pressed home and tried to force an outcome before Mike could respond. It turns out that Mike was dealt two Line Commands, so he was able to get his forces arrayed quicker than I'd hoped. Fortunately, I also had a Counter Attack card and used it to copy his Line Command order and kept pressing home.

Mike was never able to bring many of his encamped units into the fray, and one particularly bloody exchange lead to my wiping out two of his units on a single order. I believe the final score in this one was 5-3 for the Romans. Again, this was relatively close to the historical result. Carthage lost badly enough that their counterpunch was delayed a full year.

The third battle was Po River. This is a large battle - 18 units on one side and 17 on the other. I had Carthage again. I was dealt a fair number of Cavalry cards, so I decided to push the issue that way – all the cavalry is on the Carthage right, so off I went. This time, the Elephants went poof without much effect, and all the cavalry eventually disappeared. Fortunately, Mike didn't have much to respond on that flank. The end battle came down to the clash in the center, and I frankly got rather lucky. I eliminated a couple units on a single roll of the dice with my heavy infantry and that tipped the scales in my favor. The end was VERY close, however, as the final score was 7-6. Not historical, however, as this was the battle where Mago received his fatal wound (he actually died sailing back to Africa) and lead to Rome finishing off Carthage at Zama.

Tactical tip: Heavy infantry with adjacent/attached leaders are DEADLY. 5 dice each with a 50/50 shot at a hit. 2.5 hits on average comes close to wiping out units. Particularly those softened up a bit with archers.

Good fun – two of the three battles came close to historical results, and we got all three battles completed in ~2.5 hours. I haven't had a bad experience with this game yet. I always enjoy the challenges it presents.


Mike and I are meeting on Monday for some 2-player 18xx gaming as his choice. Not sure which game yet – we'll have to finalize that over the weekend. (I'm guessing 1889 or 1825, but we'll have to see.)

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