between the Romans
and the Carthaginians
the third century BC Rome was growing in power, but Carthage stood
in the way. The Carthaginians had controlled the Western
Mediterranean for more than a century using a fleet of hundreds of
war galleys. By coincidence the Romans captured one of these
vessels. And because all parts of the vessel were painstakingly
numbered Rome could now build its own fleet. Within 6 months Rome
possessed a fleet of 120 war galleys. The war for the Mediterranean
More information about the rules are at the
13 February 2010
We also have been playing a few games
with the Corvus ruleset. This game has been adapted by Society of Ancients and is
a very interesting game for 1/600th or 1/1200th naval warfare games
from 320BC to 30BC.
(The Romans are closing in. All ships are from Warrior Online and
On February the 13th we played one of these
games with a squadron of Roman and Punic ships. The Romans had a
"corvus" at the front of their ships, played by Richard. The Punic
fleet was commanded by Henri.
Here the Romans are the red ships, and the
Carthaginians are green. No one knows what colour the Quinquiremes of that era were, so I decided to paint them in
distinctive red and green colours to be able to keep them easily
apart, because naval battles tend to be quite chaotic due to the
difficulty steering and turning these warships.
(A closer look at the Roman fleet.)
There were two very important tactics in
sea warfare in the ancient period. The first one (the Periplous) was trying to
extend your line beyond that of the enemy to be able to roll up
their line one by one. The other tactic (the Diekplous) used ships that
were behind each other. If the enemy tries to ram the first ship, its
vulnerable side is exposed to the second ship. Also the first ship
could shear the oars of an enemy ship and the second could than
finish the job by ramming the battered enemy vessel.
The Punic player tried this second tactic.
He placed his ships in a kind of checkerboard formation
The Romans went for outmanoeuvring the Punic fleet and tried to
extend their right flank. This turned out to be a mistake.
(A good impression of the chaos
and havoc a Naval battle consists of.)
The corvus (Click
here for photos of the corvus
entering method) made it difficult for the Romans to
outmanoeuvre the Carthaginians. Therefore it were the Punic ships
that were able to do the first damage. Soon the sea was scattered
with the remains of sinking and burning ships. In this chaos the
Roman commander made some serious mistakes and the Punic fleet was
able to hit a few Roman ships in the oar bank.
But if it was Neptune that helped the
Romans, or only the dice, I don't know, but two of the Punic ships
that did the ramming sank themselves. After that, the Romans were
able to regroup, and now superior numbers faced the Carthaginians.
(The remaining Carthaginian ships flee
back to the harbour of Lilybaeum.)
As the Carthaginian fleet fled to the
harbour of Lilybaeum the Romans started counting their dead. This
had not been a great victory. A Pyrrhic victory at the most.
But both players have had a nice Saturday
afternoon. And that counts for something as well, doesn't it?
The Corvus rulebook
320BC to 30BC
The game "Corvus" has everything you would like in a naval
wargame set in this period of ancient history. The ships can ram each others, they can
can shear its opponent's oars. One can use missiles and the ships
may try to enter the deck of the enemy by grapping hooks, or even by
making use of the famous Roman Corvus (=raven). This kind of bridge
that was lowered and pinned into the deck of the enemy with a sharp
point was the secret weapon the Romans invented to hit the
Carthaginian fleet by surprise. But these contraptions made the
ships cumbersome and unstable. It is nice to see that even this
effect is added to the rules of this game; it is possible that a
Roman ship with a Corvus sinks then trying to enter the enemy...
The movement system of the game is also very well designed. The
different types of ships (from Lembus, Trireme, Quinquireme up to
Dekeres ships) all have there different speeds, and a different turning
circle, which is larger for the larger type of ships. A ship needs
one turn in the game to speed up to cruising speed, which is needed
in order to ram the enemy. And it is also not possible to stop a
once. (I use little pieces of cardboard which indicate if a ship is
at cruising speed. This works very well as a visualisation of the
speed of the vessels.)
Enemy ships can be captured or burned and the (burning) wrecks
become obstacles in the water, making the game even more fun to
The rules are easy and summarized on one sheet, and fast play is
possible. But you will need some time to get a good feeling of the
difficulties moving the ships. It is therefore advised to be lenient
with the movement rules, otherwise a game may last for many hours.
I currently use 1/600th ships from warrior
online and Triton. They are about 3 inches long. The wrecks are
simply made from left-over pieces of wood and cardboard. I put some
red and black wool on the ships that are burning adding to the
The sea is made by latex structure paint
using a special roller normally used to get a nice structure on a
wall you paint with this same paint. Afterwards I painted the latex
with different shades of Acrylic blue paint and finished it by
applying a glossy varnish.