(This game of Zama was the largest ancient game that we have played so far, featuring around 900 points of troops on each side. Our ANF trio was joined by four friends:
Stephen, honorary ANF member;
David and Mark B. ('Biko'), two other ANF regulars, plus;
Oliver, first timer to wargaming ANF-style.)
Our source continues:
"Hannibal was so much struck with admiration of Scipio's magnanimity and daring, that he conceived, curiously enough, a strong desire to meet him and converse with him."
"On the following day both generals came out of their camps accompanied by a few horsemen..."
"After this conversation, which held out no hopes of reconciliation, the two generals parted from each other."
Mark W. arrayed the armies based on Simon MacDowall's excellent scenario along with information from those brilliant ancients 'standards', Connolly's "Greece and Rome at War" and Warry's "Warfare in the Classical World".
The Carthaginians in four lines—elephants and skirmishers in the van, followed by Gallic allies, then Libyans and finally the veteran infantry—were flanked on the right by their national cavalry and those of the Numidians on the left.
The Romans, arrayed in their tradition three lines of hastati, principes, triarii, skirmishers to the front and cavalry on each flank—Romano-Italian on the left and Massanissa' Numidians on the right.
Initial success for the Romano-Italian cavalry led Hannibal to direct an elephant their way. Taking the opportunity, one of the Roman cavalry units charged, before the elephants did...
The mêlée was in the balance, but possibly shifting in favour of the 'home team'.
Things were moving more slowly on the Carthaginian left. The Numidians advancing slowly towards one another while, the Carthaginian veterans had taken "a step to the left"!
In the centre, the Roman-Numidian skirmishers and hastati were getting the better of the elephants, though not sufficiently to drive the pachyderms off completely.
Back on the Roman left, the Carthaginian horse and elephants had prevailed; just, the remaining units being severely weakened.
In the centre, the lines of legions had slowed to a crawl, thanks to the stiffer-than-expected resistance of the skirmishers and elephants.
Meanwhile, on the Roman left, Massanissa sent his cavalry against the Carthaginian veteran infantry and Numidian allies.
Below are some impressions of the battlefield from a wider perspective.
Finally the elephants and Gauls had been defeated, so the left-hand legions re-ordered their lines in preparation for an attack on the Libyan infantry.
Back on the Roman left, the Carthaginian veterans were making their presence felt while the Numidian cavalry attempted to assist the Italian infantry.
Meanwhile, the legions at the left-hand end of the Roman line charged into the Libyans, losing some order in the process of a long-distance charge (i.e. two consecutive movement phases).
After such a fabulous game, the hard-fought draw was probably fitting.
The sections of the Carthaginian army that did poorly in the real thing (skirmishers, elephants, Gauls) did far better in our version.
In the centre our legions did well, but not decisively, the impact of Gauls and Elephants had been telling—plus those Libyans refused to be beaten!
At the end the Carthaginian veterans were beginning to throw their weight around against the Italians and were heading for the Roman left. Having 18 pts still on the table greatly helped to prevent a Roman victory.
The Numidians did not emulate their historical counterparts, instead fighting one another to a stalemate.
The 'dead' tables were covered with around half of the troops from each army.
History was re-written; in part, at least.
Our Carthaginians were able to make Hannibal’s plan work. Every line performed better than in the real thing. The legions were unable to produce a ‘killer punch’. The Carthaginian veterans were not there for the final clash, but were making merry on the Roman right. The Romano-Numidian cavalry were only able to exact a bloody stalemate against their Carthaginian-Numidian foes, so were not available to return to tip the balance (Roman players out-played there).
Interestingly though, with so much going well for Carthage#, as opposed to going badly in the real thing, the best that could be achieved was a bloody draw.
(#There was plenty of good luck (beneficial dice rolls) for the Romans in combat, but the Carthaginians had their fair share of those too. It does tend to even out over a game, not matter what the perceptions of a biased outlook.)
The evenness of the struggle was borne out by turns 7 to 9. Turn 7 went very much in favour of the Romans, with several Carthaginian & allied units broken. Turn 8 went the other way. Turn 9 was even. In all three of these last turns there were plenty of combats that merely whittled one or the other side down—or were scoreless draws.
As neither side gained the ascendency, the war would continue. Carthage could ill afford such losses. Rome would do what Rome always did. Raise another army and try again (and again, if necessary). Carthage would be defeated, but it would not be Scipio who assumed the epithet 'Africanus'!
- Clare, JD Livy on the Battle of Zama. Hannibal. Ancient History Website. http://www.johndclare.net/AncientHistory/Hannibal_Sources8.html
- Connolly, P (2012) Greece and Rome at War. Frontline Books (an imprint of Pen & Sword Books Ltd), Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK.
- Fields, N and Dennis, P (2010) Hannibal : leadership : strategy : conflict. Command 11 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, England. 64 pp.
- MacDowall, S (2010) The Battle of Zama, 202 BC. Lego Wargames. http://legio-wargames.com/zama/4539106142
- Polybius The Histories. Fragments of Book XV. I. Affairs of Italy and Africa. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Polybius/15*.html
- Warry, JG (1981) Warfare in the Classical World. St Martins Press, New York. 224 pp.