Carthaginians vs Pyrrhus of Epirus
After his adventure in Italy, Pyrrhus got involved in a
campaign in Sicily.
The terrain in Sicily is a little hilly. We thought it nice to put a few hills
on the battlefield.
The Carthaginians were planning a strategy like one of their ancestors would be using at Cannae. The large Celtic warband had to take the main offence of the enemy. The Carthaginian units next to them would have to attack the enemy in the flank. These units were in Phalanx formation. That would make it difficult to turn into the enemies flanks (only 1" wheel and 180 degrees turn allowed). But a little give and take from the opponent (give in this case) would make this possible. On the left flank the three cavalry units had to be enough to destroy the enemy's right flank. After that, they would close the trap by attacking the enemy in the rear. And, like Vegetius advices, the Spanish light infantry and the third Carthaginian unit were the reserve to take any enemy that might break through.
As you will see the saying that "no plan survives contact with the enemy", is once again underlined below.
The Carthaginian line
The Carthaginians thought that due to the rocky formation in the middle of the deployment zone of the enemy that the best place to place their trap was on the right flank. But the Epirotes placed their best troops on the other site!
The battlefield and setup of Pyrrhus made it difficult for the Carthaginians to unfold their trap. They suspected the enemy to wield some large infantry units. The trap was laid, but the victim didn't appear. "One unit of phalanx to the left only? How could this be possible? Are you sure you used 2000 points? had i made an error in the Armybuilder files? You don't want me to look at your armylist? ...better place the reserves on the left flank, just in case..." The danger that lurked from the deployment of the elephants it was also impossible to ignore that side.
The arrival of the Chaeonian Guard
The Chaeonians appear out of thin air
The special rule 'night march" was used bij Pyrrhus! Now it was clear why the Epirots had so few units on the table. In the second turn the surprise appearance had the following effect: Because the enemy didn’t know where to aspect the night march he turned his first phalanx on his right 90 degrees and the Carthaginian cavalry pulled back immediately when they heard of the arrival of un unexpected enemy flank or even rear attack. The arrival of the Chaeonians made the enemy very nervous. "So there was another infantry unit!". But soon after that first panic the units reformed and resumed their planned attack.
The Chaeonian Guard appeared on his left flank. It was not entirely clear if they were allowed to arrive within 8" of the enemy (and thus be able to charge that turn). We allowed them to do so, to make it even nastier for the Carthaginians!
The battle on the left flank of the Carthaginians
Some skirmish battles between the light troops was the next fase of the war, as often happens.
Pyhhrus couldn’t take advantage of the enemy's cavalry retreat. He couldn’t get through: both phalanx on the right were waiting for each other. Pyhhrus decided to take the wedge and general to the middle of the battlefield. That was a good idea; He defeated his second phalanx with the general and elephant. The wedge pushed away the warband. Also the appearance of my night march could hold his first phalanx but in the end it was slain. But the Carthaginian troops began to get the upper hand on their left flank.
The Numidian Light Cavalry runs away a lot
The Tarentines unexpectedly got beaten by Numidian skirmishers and fled. They rallied within a fraction of an inch from the edge.
The attack of the elephants
This part is always one of the nicest. Elephants are so unpredictable, but also potentially very dangerous. And they look great on the battlefield.
Pyrrhus attacks with artillery and elephants
We do not allow Bolt Throwers to shoot into close combat to avoid the confusion, and we also think that a Bolt Thrower shot into a skirmish formation can only hit one model (there are no ranks after all). This is one of the many situations you will encounter in every single battle where the rules are not conclusive. Whenever we think the exact rule is crucial to the outcome of the battle, we take some time to look things up in the rulebooks. Otherwise we try to get an agreement on what would be logical, or let the dice decide.
The Celts soaked up the attack of the elephants. Mostly due to their large numbers they held ground for a while. FBIGO rule (outnumber 2:1) prevented them form running away directly. They also outnumbered the elephants, so the fear rule was not an issue. but they lost every turn with about 5 casualties!
The Celts even managed to chase off one of the elephants. For a moment we thought the other elephant had to take a panic test, but in time we remembered that they are immune to psychology. We decided not to let the freshly arrived Chaeonians flee in panic, as that would have an undesired impact on the game. But the fleeing elephant nearly ran into the Chaeonian unit!
On the other flank the Carthaginians moved up and began surrounding the enemy. The Tarentines were once again broken. This time they had the decency to flee of the table.
The general flees
The Carthaginian general joins the elephant battle, but his miscalculated his fortunes: no panic test for a flank attack (elephants are immune to psychology), no rank bonus, almost impossible to wound the elephant (only on a 6) and a crew that were behind a 3+ armour save! The elephant broke the general and his unit, and they never recovered from the shock.
The next turn they disappeared from the battlefield. Whether we had to test the army for the disappeared general was not clear at that moment (it turned out you do not test for a general that flees off the table). We decided that the Carthaginians were punished enough by loosing their general.
The mounted Epirote general came too close to the elephants and had to take a terror test. However, he did not loose his nerve and stood firm.
The flanks of the Epirotes get crushed
When the Epirote Phalangites were completely surrounded, you could not, but feel pity for them. getting sandwiched from 4 sides is never funny.
The single unit left on the right Epirote flank gets crushed.
Chaeonian guards take up against a Carthaginian phalanx
The Chaeonians in loose formation were no match for the Carthaginian phalanx with the Army battle standard in close formation. The guard were wearing their Heavy Armour. This was technically allowed in the army list, but after informing Jeff Jonas, he wisely decided to disallow this in an updated version of the army list.
On the right also the Epirpte phalanx was slain and al the skirmishers were leaving the battlefield. The left and right flank of the Epirotes were now destroyed. But in the centre of the Carthaginian line things are getting worse.
The Celts leave the battle
The Celts that chased off the elephant were now being attacked by the Thessalian wedge in their flank. Again the FBIGO rule allowed them to hold on. But they were in deep trouble.
The continuing attacks by the elephant are decimating the Celts (only 21 left of the 42)
Then Pyrrhus also joined the battle. After a brave but short struggle both Celtic units are pushed of the table, literally.
The left flank of the Carthaginians arrives
At this stage both armies grew tired of fighting. Neither one had been able to decisively break their opponent.
The Carthaginians had taken the left flank, but the centre had been beaten. The trap had not worked.
Pyrrhus caught 3 banners from the Carthaginians, but one was re-captured. This is not officially stated in the rules, but we like the ability to recapture standards. Think of the Roman officer that threw his banner into the enemy lines at the coast of Britain: "Leap, fellow soldiers, unless you wish to betray your eagle to the enemy. I, for my part, will perform my duty to the commonwealth and my general." When he had said this with a loud voice, he leaped from the ship and proceeded to bear the eagle toward the enemy. Then our men, exhorting one another that so great a disgrace should not be incurred, all leaped from the ship. When those in the nearest vessels saw them, they speedily followed and approached the enemy.
Epirotes thought that because
of the overwhelming light
cavalry at the left flank of the enemy and the arrival of the guards in their second turn, the initial plan
would not work. Pyrrhus
decided to let the guards arrive on the enemies right flank behind a forest so
they could pinpoint the enemy phalanx.
The Epirotes won the battle by about 39 points. But is really was a Pyrrhus victory. There was not much left of this army: 6 Thessalians, an elephant, some skirmishers and Pyrrhus himself. He won the battle, but would probably loose the war with so few of his men left....
See also www.richardevers.nl for information about the novel I wrote about the life of Pyrrhus.