Saturday, 2 March 2019

Carthaginian Capers

Battles, Alexander thought, were not as easy as his father had claimed. ‘Just slice through them,’ Daddy had said. ‘Have the companions at your back and they’ll just melt away.’

Well, maybe the Persians and Indians had done so for him. These Punic types, with Greeks and Celts and Moors, were no pushover. Even so, he had won, and some of his father’s veterans were giving him some respect now. After all, he had been in the thick of it, Companions at his back.

The problem was really, he thought, that the Carthaginians did not just run away when they had been beaten. Clearly, they had lost some time before they actually gave up. He was sure that one of the generals had commented that the hardest part of warfare was convincing the enemy that he had lost. Still, the Senators of the city had been summoned to attend him the next day, and they should be persuadable that surrender was the best way forward. He was not exactly sure why his father had taken against the city, but he was inclined to be merciful.

On the other hand, there were now even more nations to be punished for opposing him. He could deal with the Greeks later, but these Celts and Moors were much nearer at hand. After a few days rest the army would need to pursue the Moorish forces. A tyrant’s job is never done.


The slightly out of focus picture above (the camera focussed on the command group in the foreground, by the sea) shows the initial disposition of the armies by the sea. The Macedonians are to the left, the Carthaginians to the right.
A slightly better picture is below.

This is from behind the Carthaginian lines and shows most of the forces. Alexander and his Companions are to the right of the phalanx, opposed by the Carthaginian chariots (of Indian origin) and Greek-style cavalry. Gallic warbands await any phalangites who break through the thin crust of hoplites forming the centre of the Carthaginian army.

The Macedonian plan was to pin the centre with the pike and then launch the classic Alexandrian cavalry charge onto its flank. The Carthaginians realised the risk and were determined to hold the line, smashing any breakthroughs with the reserve warbands and Greek cavalry, while attempting to flank the Macedonians with superior light troops.

In the interests of balance, here is a view from behind the Macedonian lines.

I am sure it does not take me to tell you that neither plan worked terribly well. To start with, the Companions and phalanx advanced in step and the Companions charged at the same point that the hoplites threw themselves upon the pike and pushed them back. The chariots held the companions very nicely and it looked as if Alexander’s luck was out. Statistically, the Macedonians should have managed to win more than one of the eight combats.

Eventually, of course, statistics came through. The Macedonian breakthroughs were not terribly decisive, but they sucked the Carthaginian general into the cavalry combat which led to his demise, while Alexander survived two similar rolls.

The Carthaginian army morale only broke when they had lost ten bases plus the general. The loss of the general meant that flanking manoeuvres had to be suspended due to lack of tempo points, but this was balanced by Alexander’s involvement for most of the battle in combat, which meant that not much happened on his side either. The Companions and pike won the battle.

The end state is shown below.

In the distance on the right, the Companions are driving the rest of the Carthaginian chariots off the table, while a little nearer the pike mop up the remains of the hoplites. A quirk of the rules means that one hoplite base has driven two pikes practically across the table; the pikes are at breaking point but the hoplites just did not manage to finish them off. This is, in fact, why the late sixteenth century rules have a rule which indicates that two recoils give a shaken, which would limit this sort of thing. I think I shall implement it here.
Overall, it was a satisfying game, with a great deal of interest in how the plans worked out and also a good deal of head scratching as to how very limited tempo points were going to be distributed. As I mentioned, the light troops saw little action as a consequence of this, something which probably benefitted the Macedonians.

It was, I suppose, something of a relief that the Macedonians won; otherwise, this would have been a one battle campaign. Next up are the Moors, but a battle of a very different sort, I think, given that the Moors are all lights. Alexander III struggled against ambush and raid. On the other hand, young Alex can always sail away to Spain to try his luck there.

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