Tuesday 25 July 2017

Lost Battles: Dertosa

I decided to give Lost Battles another go after enjoying the last play through. I could do with working on more Iberian heavy infantry, cavalry units and light infantry for Trebia and Ilipa (I could scrape something together really) but I came across the Dertosa 215BC scenario on Here's no great matter, again an invaluable source of inspiration for giving Lost Battles a go. 

I am getting the hang of the combat resolution modifiers, its taking time to get my head around the morale roll modifiers. It'll take a few more games to get it going smooth but the morale system is very neat.   

The Battle of Dertosa

The Scipio brothers, locating the Punic army of Hasdrabul Barca, opted to challenge the Carthaginian. Hasdrubal, emboldened by the news of Cannae and learning of Hannibal's methods, accepted the challenge. The field was an open plain without any visible obstacles.  

The Velites rushed forward towards the Punic lines and the legions trailed behind, Publius Scipio commanded the legions from the centre of the line. Gnaeus Scipio commanded the Roman and allied cavalry on their right flank. Some of the allied cavalry deployed on the left flank to protect the infantry.

Hasdrubal sought to pull off another Cannae, he placed the Iberian levies in the centre of the field, knowing they would not withstand the legions for too long and hoping the Romans would be pulled in as the tribesmen fell back. To buy them more time he sent the bulk of the skirmishers forward to cover the Iberian advance. The Libyan and Carthaginian infantry were deployed either side of the Iberians. Hasdrubal took command of the Punic and Iberian horsemen on the left flank hoping to smash through Gnaeus and his cavalry. The right flank was covered by the Numidians. Both wings were to receive elephants to help sweep away the Roman cavalry but the Punic officers had trouble getting the animals mobilised and they trailed behind, much to Hasdrubal's dismay.

After a short period of indecisive skirmishing the Velites, wishing to prove themselves, drove away the Iberian Caetratii and in their boldness, the violent recoil of the Caetratii and the subsequent javlin volleys inflicted casualties too on the Scutarii. The legionaries following the skirmishers caused further concern for the Iberian levies. Elsewhere in the line the Velites effectiveness with the javlin distruped the Punic close order troops and drove away the Belaeric slingers. The Romans did not come away unscathed the legions on the left took some casualties after the retreat of their Velites following the agressive Punic advance. 

The Velites in the centre showing true Roman virtue and emboldened by their own success continued to harass and press the levies, encouraged further, by the feebleness of their attacks. The levies fell back hoping that they could regroup before renewing resistance.

The Roman infantry on the right managed to wear down the Punic foot but they were still steady, however the Roman left was being pressed and was too much for some of the Hastati. They fled through the lines and the rest of the army were unmoved by the shock of this.

All the while, there was a bitter Cavalry battle on Punic left, and both the Roman and Punic horse were blown and at breaking point. On the Punic right there had been ineffective skirmishing and charges that were easily avoided by the nimble Numidians. Eventually the Elephants were marshalled to the flanks. On the Punic left the elephants repelled a Roman charge that would have finished off some of the Punic horsemen, then repaid the Romans in kind sending both the Romans and allies off the field broken and Gnaeus, dispite his best efforts, was unable to rally either. He was then himself swept away with them. Roman morale held firm but some of the tired light infantry took flight.  

The frustrated allied cavalry of the Roman left took out their fury on the approaching elephants and the ferocity of their charge caused disruption and the Numidians were also taken aback. However the elephants proved too much for the horsemen and the allies fled the field. The legions again unmoved by the cavalry fights poor results.  

The Punic foot on the right continued the melee causing more legionnaires to flee in an un Roman like manner it looked to be Hasdrubal's day, but the Romans just kept on coming, unwilling to give in to the severity of the Carthaginian's attacks. The Punic foot on the left proved to be a different story the legionaries prevailed over some of Hasdrubal's most experienced infantry, the shock of this was too much for most of the Libyans on the left and only the most committed stayed in battle formation. Seeing the Libyans flee inspired the Iberians to rout and the worn cavalry, who could not see victory on this day, also quit the field. All this happened much to Hasdrubal's indignation, but having no choice, fled with them. The Numidians on the right also followed suit.   

In a last ditch effort the Punic right drove away yet more legionaries, it was down to the Triarii, worn though they were. The Romans knew it was their day and the Roman right broke the committed Punic veterans. The last remaining legionaries on the Roman left worn out by the hard fight they had thrust upon them, savagely smashed the Punic line. The Punic line crumbled, as half the units were cut down the other fled, in a final bitter blow. The elephants on their right fled with them, and the other elephants, seeing no other course, promptly withdrew. Publius Scipio took the field but at what cost? 


The Roman Velites earned their wolf skins in this fight although they would probably have been Leves at this point in history? Either way they caused a lot of damage to the Punic lines. The cavalry contest was neck and neck until the lumbering elephants caught up, if Hasdrubal had some better initial rolls they would have arrived to that fight earlier. 

Ultimately the Roman cavalry had bought the legions enough time to defeat the Punic and Spanish foot though the Roman left paid a heavy price for victory, the Roman centre took no hits! The battered Roman right finished the game off in style as the last spent unit shattered both a VHI and an AHI finishing off the Punic forces. But the critical hit of the battle was not the simultaneous shattering of all of Rome's cavalry, but the loss of a unit of Punic veterans, the poor morale of the spent Carthaginians was too much and 11 units around the field fled in complete rout. Rome took their punishment with much higher spirits.  

Great scenario and great game, I didn't know which way it was going to go, just as the Carthaginians were starting to make head way the Romans flipped the battle their way. Without Hannibal's quality cavalry, better infantry and much better leadership, Hasdrubal could not pull off his own double envelopment though it is not impossible. When playing Cannae Hannibal's morale bonus was critical to offset bad luck. 

Below is an attempt at working out the victory points, I used the book version rather than the board game rules, they seemed slightly easier to work out (if I have it correct in the first place).


Shattered: 3 x VHI, 1 x AHI  
Routed: 1 x VHI, 3 x AHI, 3 x LHI, 1 x LLI, 1 x ALI, 1 x AEL. 1 x LLC, 3 x AHC, 
Withdrawn: 1 x AEL
Lost: 1 x AL.

106 VP


Shattered: 3 x ALE, 3 x AHC.
Routed: 1 x ALI.
Spent: 3 x ALE 1 x ALI
Lost:  1 x UC.

73 VP
+26 handicap (double the difference in FV)
99 VP

If I have this correct the Romans may have won but it was closer than it my have appeared during the fight. The Romans may stand in the fight for longer but Carthage took flight to fight another day. Although the shattering of their best units was too much on the day the Romans probably broke the back of the Punic army. Back to Carthago Nova for fresh levies! Forget Italy, Punic Spain must be defended!

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