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"Asculum OOB and deployment questions" Topic

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Comments or corrections?

davbenbak01 Dec 2014 10:35 a.m. PST

I'm planning on gaming Asculum 279BC over the Christmas holiday using my own "Battles on a Budget" rule set. My primary source thus far has been Phil Sabin's "Lost Battles" along with a French text I found through a google search (can't remember the source) for OOB and deployment. I have Pyrrhus deploying his first rank from right to left with:

Prodomori Open order Cav Unarmored melee trained
Thesslian Cav. Formed Cav Lt Armor melee veteran
Greek Phalanx Close order inf lt. armor pike trained
Greek Phalanx Close order inf. lt. armor pike trained
Oscan Allies formed inf. armored melee levy
Tarrantine Phalanx Close Order inf. unarmored pike levy
Samnite Allies formed inf. lt. armor melee trained
Bruttian Allies unformed inf. shielded melee levy
Allied Cav. formed cav. lt. armor melee trained
Tarrantine Cav. open order cav. shielded javelin mercenary
Second rank:
Companions Formed Cav. armored melee- elite

The Romans will deploy four legions in their typical four line formation (velites X 2, hastati X4, principes X4, triarii X 2) with a unit of equites on each flank. Generally I rank velites as levy, hastati as trained, principes as veteran and triarii as elite but from my reading two of the legions were recruited rapidly along the way after the defeat at Herculea so will be rated one level lower.

To reflect the fighting that went on the day before, I have not given Pyrrhus any light open order infantry and reduced the legions down to two velites units. I also gave some of Pyrrhus's allies a levy rating because I felt their loyalty to the cause may have been questionable and they were probably hedging their bets as to the outcome of the battle.

For terrain I planned on leaving the battlefield an open plain with a river along the side of the board. Maybe some woods along the back behind Pyrrhus and maybe a hill since he is reported to have rallied some of his troops on a hill to his rear.

I would appreciate any thoughts or feedback

Marcus Brutus01 Dec 2014 3:42 p.m. PST

As a pet peeve I think Triarii are the most overrated unit type in the ancient world. I do not believe they deserve an elite rating. In many game systems they represent Spartan like gods roaming the table to batter their opponent. To my thinking the Triarii reflect older men who anchor the last line of defense. Ideally they never fight. Only when disaster comes do they lower their spears and allow the rest of the Roman infantry to retire in good order. The heart the Roman infantry is the Principes who are men, presumably experienced and the height of their physical and moral strength.

TKindred Supporting Member of TMP01 Dec 2014 4:48 p.m. PST

I would rate Triarii as equal to Principes. Although not in their physical prime, as the Principes are, the Triarii have years of experience to draw upon, and in many cases, especially individual combat, experience beats strength in almost every instance.

The problem comes in the Triarii are half the strength of Principes, and although that means a shorter frontage, to my mind it allows for greater maneuverability if needed.

So my interpretation is that the Triarii are men who have proved their metal in numerous engagements in the lives, and survived. Though not having the numbers nor physical acumen as the younger Pricipes, they have cunning, experience, and are better drilled. By the latter, I mean that they, through their years of campaigning, know the drill inside out, know well what is expected of them, and how best to deal with any situation that deteriorates to the point where they are needed.

YMMV, of course, but that's my interpretation of them.

Mars Ultor01 Dec 2014 8:13 p.m. PST

Sounds like a great battle (I'm working on the Pyrrhic side of the equation, done with the Romans). Two minor suggestions (and I really do mean minor):

I don't know if velites would be different in your system from light skirmishers, but if velites are better skirmisher then be careful since they didn't make an appearance (at least in documented sources) until 211 BC (which implies they existed just a bit earlier).

You might have your principes armed with long spears, since there seems to be a pretty good consensus that they used them instead of the pilum at that time.

Agree with you guys about the Triarii… experienced, steady, but probably not elite in other ways.

Marcus Brutus01 Dec 2014 9:33 p.m. PST

The Triarii had the same frontage as the Hastati and Principes. The difference is that that Triarii only had 3 ranks of troops not the 6 of the other battle line. This in itself demonstrates that they were not seen primarily as offensive troops by the Romans since 3 ranks is a pretty thin line for the period.

TKindred Supporting Member of TMP01 Dec 2014 10:03 p.m. PST

Agree. My take, as yours, is that they were the "rally point" or reserves to fall back upon, or behind.

Still and all, it would seem to me to be rather disheartening for an enemy to force two lines back, only to find a fresh, 3rd line ready to receive your attack.

Das Sheep02 Dec 2014 1:02 a.m. PST

Oh Triarii. I have thoughts on them. I think one of the largest qualifiers for being in the Triarii in the punic wars was wealth. Time and again in Italy the legions were destroyed by Hanniabal, yet the new ones were raised and organized in the same fashion, to include Triarii. The Roman veterans on the wars in gual were with the Scipio brothers in Spain or feeding worms in Northern Italy. Or at least this is my understanding.

The men of the Triarii were probably just the wealthier soilders who had the best equipment in the majority of the new legions raised in the 2nd Punic war (and the first one after Romes vetern legions were destroyed). I imagine as the 3rd line most saw far less actual fighting than the younger or less wealthy men up front.

For me its a theory vrs reality thing. In theory they were the best. In reality after Romes vetern legions were defeated there was not some mythical pool of experianced wealthy Roman Legionares to fill the ranks of the newly raised legions, exspecially when there were probably more Triarii by the end of the war in all Romes combined legions than there had been Legionares total in her standing armies before the war began.

So I would not personally rate Triarii as elite in most situations. I think they were a hold over from the first class/ second class / third class system, abd were just the "first class" richer romans. This is just my opinion on the matter.

davbenbak02 Dec 2014 4:17 a.m. PST

Agreed, the triarii will be rated as veteran.

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