Monday, February 16, 2009

Project SPQR - Pt 2b, Heraclea

The results are in, and they say that I *suck* as the Romans. Two times now I've gotten my hat handed to me, and while the dice sure seemed to go to Pyrrhus, I can't imagine that's all it is. 

After last time, the Romans were getting ready to force the river, Pyrrhus had reformed his heavy cav and was in position to threaten the Roman right flank, and the Tarentine main battle line had formed up in full to defend the river once it was crossed. 

With the Romans at the river and the Velites fleeing, the Roman left flank cav, still made up of Roman cavalry (useless against heavy cav) went up and hit the Tarentine light cav, and what a difference that was. While they didn't lose more than one unit, they got beat up pretty badly while the RC mostly took damage thanks to reactive missile fire. However, that was the end of the cavalry battle on that side. 

On the right flank, the Tarentine HC crashed into the legion flank and forcing that entire side of the battlefield to wheel to meet the cavalry. Unfortunately, since this was strictly the Alae cohorts, they didn't get the benefit of the Principe reduced side and also had poor troop quality. Let me tell you, the entire point to this game is to get a good matchup on the weapon system matrix and have better troop quality. That's where all the positive DRMs come into play. Not helping was Pyrrhus' elite status, which gave a +1 drm to all of the units within two hexes on his side. 

However, this was all moot as the Hastati plowed forward into the remains of the Tarentine skirmisher line, which they pushed back to some extent, but many of the units were able to retreat. The exception was where the Velites still generated a ZOC into the skirmisher hex, and those couldn't run. At only two rout points per, though, it was a bit of a disappointing result. Worse, a few mandatory advances screwed up the Hastati line, so the right flank was out of command (that means that they can't run away, which it the whole point - hit the enemy, then run when you get messed up and let the Principes take over). 

By now, the Romans were out of turn seizures, so they were at the mercy of Megacles and Pyrrhus taking double turns for at least three or four more rounds. Which they did. Because of the command structure, the heavy infantry out on the end of the Tarentine right flank couldn't activate with the phalanx under Megacles and the Tarentine medium infantry under Leonatus (of Successors fame). Being able to move all of these up in two phases was critical.

First, the heavy infantry on the flank ran up and whupped the allied cohorts on that side but bad. The Medium infantry did less well, forcing the better trained Roman legions back, but also losing their line's cohesion, and putting most of the force out of command. The phalanx had the same problem, resulting in only two of the eight being in command after the first rush, although they'd already savaged the Roman right at that point. 

The bright spot for the Romans was their center, of course. They were in enough command to get most of the Hastati out and the Principes in, where they did a lot of damage to the center of the Tarentine line. And that is actually what the legions are supposed to do - force a breakthrough in the center, and then take the phalanxes in the rear where the weapons matrix results in big drms, up to +4! And they did a great job, reducing the central phalanx and messing up the medium infantry quite well. And if they hadn't lost so many units on their flanks doing so (when you activate a group, you have to fight if you can with units that are out of command unless someone else takes them for you), they might just have won the day. Losing so many points early (the Velites and RC are both worth around 5 points each, and a lot were lost), and then losing so much of the Hastati really killed them. The cohorts, of which there were about twice as many as normal because the six legions were all half strength, four only consisting of alae, took the brunt of the fighting by a long shot. 

The game was a lot of work, but I do feel like I'm starting to get a grip on how to use the Roman legions. The other thing I *finally* woke up enough to figure out was to put the cohesion hits *under* the counters instead of on top of them. I really have no excuse with this, it just didn't occur to me. Putting them underneath made it so much easier to parse the board that I'll keep doing that from now on. 

Two down, twelve to go. This was a big battle, but the next one, Ausculum, is *bigger*. In fact, it takes two maps and won't fit in a poster frame, so I'm going to need to either run it as one long session when I can leave the game set up for a few days (which isn't happening in the next week or so), or else try to do it online using VASSAL. Doing that is so much less satisfying for me, for reasons that must have to do with using my fingers and tactile sensation, that I'm loathe to do it. However, this would be the one to use. Or Cannae. Or Zama. I do know that most of the battles are actually around this size. 

Maybe I'll try to set up Raphia, the scenario from War Elephant that was excluded from the reprint, that uses two maps and every elephant counter they can find. Something like 40. Really. It's a lot of elephants. 

The next game will determine if I decide to finish up the resolution or not. I was thinking that it was an awful lot of work just to satisfy a whim of a resolution about halfway into this scenario, but seeing the Romans come *so* close to breaking the Tarentine line and figuring out that the game was easier to play with the cohesion hits under the counters, I think that this next one will either see me tire of the system (at least in terms of playing every scenario - I may try this with the "real" rules), or else I'll finally have everything so internalized that I won't have to spend time every five minutes looking up yet another rule. 

Anyway, expect another report, this one hopefully in one piece, in about two or three weeks. 

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