Saturday 23 September 2017

Battle of Beneventum 275BCE

I've finally got my Pyrrhic army out onto the games table, a mere six months after finishing it! Today the Padawan and I played out a battle based very loosely on the Battle of Beneventum.  The tactical setup mirrored the battle but we used the forces available to us rather than trying to mimic the historical order of battle. As usual we used the To the Strongest! rule set and played across a relatively small table with my 6mm figures. The result was a hard fought battle but a decisive outcome.

The Battle of Beneventum (275 BC) was the last battle of the Pyrrhic War. It was fought between the forces of Pyrrhus, and the Romans, led by consul Manius Curius Dentatus. The Epirot king was eager to engage the Romans as another force under the second consul was trying to join up with that of Dentatus. The initial attack forced back the Romans but their reserves were able to route some of the Epirot elephants and this handed victory to the Republic.

In our game we set up the terrain to reflect this rather confined battlefield and deployed forces roughly in line with the historic situation as described by Plutarch over 200 years later. Both force are equal in points value but I gave the Padawan an additional small reserve of 2 Maniples of Velites based in the camp to the left of the Roman line. The camp and reserves are not counted as part of the command until certain conditions arise (any unit in that command being pushed back or destroyed in melee). When these conditions are met they may come out of the camp to join the fight and from that point onward are considered part of the command.

Order of Battle

The Epirot Army - Pyrrhus of Epirus (Me!) - 151 Points
    Left Flank under the direct command of Pyrrhus (+1 Hero)
       2 Squadrons of Greek Allied Cavalry
       1 Squadron of Thessalian Cavalry (Veterans)
    Centre -Commanded by a Mounted General (+4 Heroes)
       2 Epirot Phalangitae
       2 Macedonian Phalangitae
    Right Flank - Commanded by Mounted General
       2 Units of Greek Archers
       1 Squadron Greek Light Cavalry
       2 Units Indian Elephants

Republic Roman Army - Manius Curius Dentatus (The Padawan) - 161 Points
    Right Flank - Commanded by a Mounted General
       2 Turma of Allied Light Cavalry
       1 Turma of Equites Extrodinarii
       Camp containing 2 Maniples of Velites as reserves. 
    Centre - Commanded by a Mounted General (+3 Heroes)
       2 Maniples of Velites
       4 Maniples of Hastati
       4 Maniples of Principes
       4 Maniples of Triarii
    Right Flank under the direct command of Dentatus
       2 Turma Equites Romani
       2 Turma of Equites Latini

The Action
Initial setup. Both armies stare across the plain at each other. We drew Strategum Cards and Emily got "This way effendi" opting to push back my centre command one off the table edge! Lucky this means they come on as reserves but it was still a bit cheeky! 

The action begins as both flanks of my army move cautiously forward. My aim is to hold both flanks down before moving my Pike units forward. I use 10 sided dice rather than cards for my activation's, mainly because they fit on the table. At this scale even small decks of cards would be unmanageable. Yellow dice are my activation's, Purple are the Roman activation's and green dice were used for attack rolls. 

A furious exchange of Javelins and arrows begins on both sides as the light units clash. The Padawan's fire was only slightly more effective than mine, the vast majority of raged attacks failing to even hit a target. 

Ok, I spoke too soon! Damn, one of my bow units is hit by a volley of javelins and fails its saving roll. Light units like this are destroyed by a single hit. I used large red markers to show where units were destroyed (sort of like using casualty markers). No real game value, I just thought I'd see how it looked. 

On the other flank (my left) two cavalry units smash into each other and mine comes off worse, finding themselves disordered. 

Many of the units on this flank took multiple activation's resulting in a rain of Javelins falling and some melee's but ending without a single casualty. 

The pile of used ammo chits grows and grows....and this is just turn two!

End of the second turn and both flanks are firmly locked in a struggle for supremacy. The centre command however are slowly trudging towards each other and the tension mounts. 

The view from the other (Roman) side of the battlefield. That massive manipular Roman centre looks unstoppable!

On the next turn things start to look better. Pyrrhus leads the veteran Thessalian Cavalry into a charge and wipes out one of the Turma of Equites Latini, taking their position. 

The roman Maniples march steadily towards the Macedonian and Epirot Pike-men. 

The Padawan see's an opportunity for some payback and launches a volley of javelins at the Thessalian's. The unit is hit and disordered and worse still Pyrrhus himself is wounded! I'm suddenly re-evaluating the wisdom of sending him into the thick of battle.

End of the third or fourth turn (after a break for lunch) and things are hotting up. Both cavalry flanks are fully engaged in battle and we are moments away from the Centres from reaching each other. Now we'll find out if the Roman Maniples are a match for Macedonian pikes. 

I finally let loose my elephants and they smash through the Light Cavalry of the Romans. Both Light Cavalry units failed to evade and paid the price. With the elephants in the clear the small Roman reserve in the camp is now free to move. 

Crunch! Greek Pike Phalanxes smash into Roman Maniples and there is a furious back and forth melee. Both sides launch charges and counter attacks but after a single turn its clear the Romans have come off worse.  Some of the Phalanxes have been disordered but the Romans have lost nearly all the Hastati.

An 'Eagles eye view' as it swoops over the battlefield. 

By the end of the next turn its clear where this battle is going. The Padawan is cursing a run of bad luck in melee and for a change her dad is having a good game. Both Roman flanks have crumbled and the centre is looking a bit thin. 

With the Roman cavalry destroyed my Elephants have the luxury of space to turn and threaten the flank of the remaining legionaries. With her position untenable the Padawan rather wisely conceded defeat. 

Final positions. That rather impressive Roman army seen earlier is no more and what is left is disintegrating fast. My Pike Phalanxes just rumble forward and have hardly taken a scratch. In the immortal words of Bill Paxton as Private Hudson "Its game over man. Game over!"

Pike Phalanxes Rock! Oh, you want more analysis. Very well. Pike Phalanxes are a steamroller compared to the Roman Maniples. Even when hit they kept on going. Their ability to charge and prevent the enemy from conducting a counter attack is a powerful advantage and one that should be husbanded carefully. The units themselves are not very manoeuvrable so don't expect them to pull off any fancy footwork. Just point them at the enemy and let those 18 foot pikes do the talking! 

I was also very impressed with my Elephants. Again they just kept moving and before I knew it they were clear of any opposition and ready to flank the enemy centre. The Padawan put up a good fight and kept up a constant rain of missile file (she carefully resupplied throughout the game) but was ultimately unlucky not to do more damage this way. 

All in all a very satisfying battle (for me at least) and my honour has been restored after being handed my backside by the Padawan in the last couple of games we played. 


  1. Great report, nice for Dad to get a win on occasion


  2. Beneventum, a fabulous battle to play and replay...great report with beautiful mass effect, superb! Oh, btw, glad to see your honnor restored!

  3. Great stuff! I really like those little wood terrain dioramas you use as well. Some food for thought there!


    1. All the trees were bought on eBay for just a few quid.

  4. Fantastic. Far better than a boring Napoleonic game.

  5. What a super-looking game, Lee! Absolutely terrific. Such cruelty to the Padwan, though... Have you seen the line-exchange rules in "Even Stronger"? They redress the balance with pike (somewhat). Best, Simon

    1. I was reading these last night and kicking myself for not implementing them for this game. It would have made breaking the Roman centre a lot harder.

    2. What is this "Even Stronger?" Great looking game!! I'm going over to the Baccus site to see what's available ;)


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