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Almost Ilipa

With the Society of Ancients Ilipa Battle Day only a couple of weeks away it was time for a final test game with my 6 mil Carthaginians and Romans.  We used the historical orders of battle for both sides but the players were allowed free deployment unconstrained by the deployment of the actual battle. The rules were Legio VI Carthago which are available as a free download from my website here.

The heavily outnumbered Romans decided to concentrate all their forces on their right, holding their cavalry back as a reserve. Seeing the huge gap in front of the Carthaginian right, I though that this was what Sir Humphrey might call a ‘courageous decision’ in an episode of Yes Minister. Or was it rather a ‘cunning plan’?

Led by Mago on the right, the Carthaginians pressed forward, hoping to envelop the Roman left before the Romans could smash through on the other wing. To counter this Scipio detached cohorts of triarii from his legions to shore up his left, supported by cavalry from his reserve.

Meanwhile the Romans pressed forward with their legions. As the skirmish lines engaged the Carthaginians achieved ascendancy — driving off the Roman velites.

The Roman cavalry did not fare well. Their Spanish allies were badly mauled by elephants supported by Numidians. The elite Roman equites were sent packing when they charged Mago’s infantry.

After chasing off some Carthaginian skirmishers the Roman triarii found themselves facing the fierce Celtiberians. The initial combat was a stalemate but then the triarii began to give ground. The valiant, if failed, Roman attacks did, however, hold up the advance of the heavy troops on the Carthaginian right — buying time for the legions to close into combat without danger of being outflanked.

On the other wing the Carthaginian elephants trampled through a unit of Roman light infantry. They rampaged when maddened by javelins but handily (for the Carthaginians) took off in the direction of the Roman lines. The Spanish holding the far Roman right were able to see off a charge by the Carthaginian cavalry, thus protecting the Legions to continue their advance unhindered.

Two Roman and two Italian legions crashed into the Carthaginian line. The Spanish on the Carthaginian left took the brunt of it. Unable to stand up to the Roman charge they retired with heavy casualties. The better trained Libyan heavy infantry did make a good fight of it. They fell back in face of the Roman attack and would have won had it not been for the fact that Scipio led the Roman charge in person.

It was a clear Roman victory. This down to a number of reasons. The Romans managed to concentrate their best troops on a weak point in the enemy line. The Carthaginians failed to turn the open Roman left flank due in no small part to the intervention of the triarii and cavalry from their reserve which held up the Carthaginian advance. The Spanish on the Carthaginian left had little chance of holding off the Roman legions. Meanwhile the main strength of the Carthaginian army — their heavy infantry veterans — never saw combat.

I will be hosting a game of Ilipa at the Society of Ancients Battle Day near Newbury Sunday 24 March using the same troops and rules. If anyone would like to join in there is room for additional players. If you would like to secure a place contact me or just show up on the day.

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I played as Scipio and, in conjunction with Ernie playing Silanus, made the bold/brave/inspired/foolish (delete as appropriate!) decision to load our centre and right and hope to delay the Carthaginians on our left with a small group of cavalry backed by an even smaller unit of triarii deployed from the rear line of the allied Italian legions. There were many times I thought we had miscalculated, especially when I committed two small units of my best troops to combat when I should probably have held them back to continue to pose a threat. Ad you’ve read, it worked in the end when our disciplined legions cut through the Cathagininian line before the weight of the Carthaginian right could be brough…

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Well played Richard. It was indeed a cunning plan!

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An excellent game, but I suppose I would say that as I was Marcus Junius Silanus and commanded the Roman right wing! 😂

Thank you , Simon, for setting it up and for a delicious lunch. Looking forward to the Battle Day,


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