Scenario Beneventum 275 BC


The battle at Beneventum has been less well described than the battle of Asculum or Heraclea.

Nevertheless We decided to (re)play this battle too after two very enjoyable earlier battles.

Here follows a scenario to play this battle and the result of a battle we played using this scenario. The game is best played with 2,200pts or more.


The Historical Battle

The parallel lives by Plutarch:

"So he <pyrrhus> accomplished the rest of his march unmolested and came to Tarentum, bringing twenty thousand foot and three thousand horse. Then, adding to his force the best troops of the Tarantines, he forthwith led them against the Romans, who were encamped in the country of the Samnites.

But the power of the Samnites had been shattered, and their spirits were broken, in consequence of many defeats at the hands of the Romans. They also cherished considerable resentment against Pyrrhus because of his expedition to Sicily; hence not many of them came to join him. Pyrrhus, however, divided his army into two parts, sent one of them into Lucania to attack the other consul, that he might not come to the help of his colleague, and led the other part himself against Manius Curius, who was safely encamped near the city of Beneventum and was awaiting assistance from Lucania; in part also it was because his soothsayers had dissuaded him with unfavourable omens and sacrifices that he kept quiet. Pyrrhus, accordingly, hastening to attack this consul before the other one came up, took his best men and his most warlike elephants and set out by night against his camp. But since he took a long circuit through a densely wooded country, his lights did not hold out, and his soldiers lost their way and straggled. This caused delay, so that the night passed, and at daybreak he was in full view of the enemy as he advanced upon them from the heights, and caused much tumult and agitation among them.

Manius, however, since the sacrifices were propitious and the crisis forced action upon him, led his forces out and attacked the foremost of the enemy, and after routing these, put their whole army to flight, so that many of them fell and some of their elephants were left behind and captured. This victory brought Manius down into the plain to give battle; here, after an engagement in the open, he routed the enemy at some points, but at one was overwhelmed by the elephants and driven back upon his camp, where he was obliged to call upon the guards, who were standing on the parapets in great numbers, all in arms, and full of fresh vigour. Down they came from their strong places, and hurling their javelins at the elephants compelled them to wheel about and run back through the ranks of their own men, thus causing disorder and confusion there. This gave the victory to the Romans, and at the same time the advantage also in the struggle for supremacy. For having acquired high courage and power and a reputation for invincibility from their valour in these struggles, they at once got control of Italy, and soon afterwards of Sicily.

Thus Pyrrhus was excluded from his hopes of Italy and Sicily, after squandering six years' time in his wars there, and after being worsted in his undertakings, but he kept his brave spirit unconquered in the midst of his defeats; and men believed that in military experience, personal prowess, and daring, he was by far the first of the kings of his time, but that what he won by his exploits he lost by indulging in vain hopes, since through passionate desire for what he had not he always failed to establish securely what he had. For this reason Antigonus used to liken him to a player with dice who makes many fine throws but does not understand how to use them when they are made.

He returned to Epirus with eight thousand foot and five hundred horse."

The Start

We start just after dawn when the Romans noted that some Epirote elements were descending from a hill towards the Roman camp.
The Romans know where the danger is lurking, so they can act upon it in the setup phase.


- The Pyrrhus player must use a flanking force or the Night march including a Chaeonian unit and an elephant.
- The Roman player must have a camp in the deployment zone. The camp is placed after the terrain setup and before deployment.
- Before deploying and after the camp setup of the Romans, the Epirote player must say from which side of the table the night march will arrive. Place a hill here.
After the normal deployment the Epirote player places the flanking force on the hill, or you may use the Night March rules.

Pyrrhus' Army

- Use the Successors Epirote list.
- Army is lead by Pyrrhus.
- May not use Samnites in his army.
Also no Galatians and Sicilians are allowed.
- Half of the infantry must be of Italian origin, other half of Greek origin.

Roman Army

- Use the HatPW Romans 1st Punic Wars list.
- Army is lead by a Consul (Manius Curius Dentatus).
- Must have at least one light Ballista (28pts taken from the WAB rulebook p.124) at the Camp. This is an elevated position.
- Must use at least one unit of Flaming Pigs (special rule).
- Drilled troops may NOT "open lanes" to let elephants through. The Romans were not enough accustomed to elephants yet.
- Ratio of the legions: Triarri:Principes:Hastati:Leves at 1:2:2:1
- Hastati and principes have thrusting spears.
- Half of the Hastati must be raw Hastati representing the recruits.
- Only troops of Italian origin may be used.



Special rules

- Elephants will change course towards the Epirote table on a dice roll of 1-3.
The Romans start.
The battle lasts for 6 turns.
- Best played with 2,200 pts or more.
- Drilled Roman troops may NOT use the "open lanes" rule.
- Flaming Pigs. Tread them as a unit of 5 Veles with shield. They are destroyed automatically when in contact with an enemy unit, except for elephant units. They cause terror to elephants.


Let me know what you think of this scenario. I am eager to learn!

The Theoretical Tactics

The Romans can try to destroy the flanking force before the main Epirote army is in place. They can put the ballista and flaming pigs to use against the elephants.

The Epirote army must use their phalanx to force the Romans of the field. The elephants can cause the victory...but also the defeat. Use the flanking force to split up the enemy, but make sure they Romans can not defeat your split army by taking one force at the time. The Epirote cavalry is also an important factor if it survives the ballista.

Learn more about the Roman Tactical Checkerboard Formation here.

The Practical Tactics
See how things worked out when we (Don Evers and I) played this scenario with 2,200 points. Each side has roughly 150 models on the table.

Romans (taken from the HatPW supplement)

# Type Points
5 Veles (shield) 25
1 Flaming pigs 35
12 Hastati (Pila, drilled) 156
12 Principes (Thrusting Spear, stubborn, drilled) 180
12 Principes (Thrusting Spear, stubborn, drilled) 180
8 Triarii (Thrusting Spear, stubborn, drilled) 120
5 Veles (shield) 25
5 Veles (shield) 25
12 Raw Hastati (Pila, not drilled, LD5, WS2) 108
12 Raw Hastati (Pila, not drilled, LD5, WS2) 108
12 Raw Hastati (Pila, not drilled, LD5, WS2) 108
12 Hastati (Pila, drilled) 156
12 Principes (Thrusting Spear, stubborn, drilled) 180
1 Light Ballista (p.124 WAB rulebook) 28
1 Consul 150
1 Army Battle Standard 85
5 Veles (shield) 25
12 Principes (Thrusting Spear, stubborn, drilled) 180
8 Triarii (Thrusting Spear, stubborn, drilled) 120
10 Roman Cavalry (no unbridled charge) 195


(We used a test army from the upcoming successor book by Jeff Jonas, but the draft from Jeff Jonas' website is an excellent alternative. The list below is from this website.)

# Type Points
Flanking Force
12 Chaeonian Guards 220
1 Elephant 170
1 Elephant 170
8 Cretan archers 80
20 Epirote Phalanx 215
20 Epirote Phalanx 215
1 Army Battle Standard 85
25 Tarantine conscript Phalanx 190
25 Tarantine conscript Phalanx 190
10 Italian Skirmishers (Bruttians) 80
8 Rhodian Slingers 64
9 Tarantine Light Cavalry 135
1 Pyrrhus 190
9 Agema Cavalry 220

A Battle Report

3...2...1... FIRE!

Roman left
Seeing the Epirotes advance through the woods, the Romans gathered a few extra units to meet them. Chaeonians and and elephant from the flank, and an elephant from the Epirote right were to be stopped. The Romans really need an anti-elephant weapon in this scenario. Especially since we forbade the use of the "open lanes" rule.

The Romans prevailed after a bitter struggle. But at what cost? 4 maniples were needed to cover this flank...

The combined Epirote and Tarantine phalanx (100 models of phalanx) was in the centre facing the bulk of the Roman maniples. Both sides advanced slowly, probably knowing from previous encounters that this would be a bloody battle.

Raw Hastati Roman Cavalry Elephant Elephant Veles Veles Veles Triarii Triarii Principes Principes Hastati Hastati Principes Principes Tarantine Cavalry Agema Wedge Rhodian Slingers Italian Skirmishers Tarantine Phalanx Epirote Phalanx Cretan Archers Chaeonian Guards Roman camp with light ballista Flaming Pigs Manius Curius Dentatus Pyrrhus
(Move mouse over the picture to reveal details)

By the time the phalanx line made contact the Romans had sneaked into their flanks with the help of their drilled ability. The advantages of the maniple rules and phalanx rules made the combats tough. The Romans were able to roll up the flank phalanx units, but in the centre the phalanx broke through.

The combination of though phalanxes against small but agile Romans maniples is always a fun game to play. Above another example of how much these fighting techniques are a challenge to play.

The fierce fight in the centre

Pyrrhus left
The Roman maniples came under heavy fire from the Rhodian Slingers and Italian Javelin men, and the Tarantine skirmish cavalry. But they kept moving forward. The Romans had hoped to keep the wedge occupied until the infantry came t the rescue. But the Roman Equites cavalry was no match at all against the experienced Epirote wedge and were quickly driven of the table.

The Romans managed to drive the Tarantine cavalry off the table, but the wedge was now seriously threatening the Roman rear.

Romans winning on the left, loosing on the right and a draw in the centre. We concluded that the Romans had a little advantage after the last turn, but things could certainly still change if luck was on the Epirote side.


- Dionysius of Halicarnassus 20.10'1-12'3
- Plutarch, Pyrrhus 25(4-9)
Livy, Epitome 14
- Warfare in the classical world (John Warry)
- Battles of the Greek and Roman World (John Drogo Montagu)
- Fighting techniques of the Ancient World (Anglim, Jestice, Rice, Rusch and Serrati)
- Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars (Duncan Head)
- Early Roman Armies (N. Sekunda & S. Northwood)
WAB successors (Jeff Jonas) & WAB Hannibal and the Punic Wars (Allen Curtis)

See also for information about the novel I wrote about the life of Pyrrhus.

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