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"2nd Punic Wars; 3 questions..." Topic

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633 hits since 10 Oct 2017
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Hobhood4 Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2017 2:58 a.m. PST

I'd like to game some small engagements/large skirmishes from this period.

Q1- What is the best source for any historical actions which could be replayed? I'm sort of aware that there isn't much written.

Q2 – Which types of troops would be used? From the Roman POV, would it be a cohort/s detached from a legion, using all four infantry types? Or, say, a few maniples of Hastati, with some velites? Any combination or type from Hannibal's forces? Sorry if this Q. is rather broad.

Q3 – Goldsworthy in 'Roman Warfare' mentions wealthier soldiers wearing 'a mail or scale cuirass' (p. 50, paperback). I have never read about or seen reconstructed the use of scale before – any thoughts?

Personal logo Chalfant Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2017 3:36 a.m. PST

As a suggestion, in response to Q1 and Q2, for a number of larger battles the opening phases were skirmishes between light troops… so while the specific skirmishes may not be detailed, in a broader sense they are described, and would have involved light troops. Especially if you are gaming small scale, picture it as a very small piece of the larger battle, where the light troops are making contact.

From there, take a smaller battle and game one wing of it, for a "large skirmish".

Just some ideas.


olicana10 Oct 2017 4:15 a.m. PST

1. Polybius and Livy. Just about all accounts of actions come from those sources. Both are available pretty cheaply in paperback. Although they deal with the major battles and events they would both be useful for providing the back drop of peripheral actions.



2. Cohorts were not used outside of Spain (where they were probably invented) or in later armies led by Scipio and they were ad hoc formations in the 2nd Punic War in any event. You should be looking at detachments of maniples, perhaps with some cavalry, especially allied. The extraordinarii (allied infantry and cavalry used for forward / special operations) might be a good jumping off point. It would depend on the scenario but you could use almost all Roman troops in any mix.

Virtually any skirmish scenarios could be converted for the 2nd Punic War because the war went on for so long, over such varied terrain, that pretty much everything probably happened at some point or another (think of looking at things like the Napoleonic Sharpe series for scenario ideas because, war is war).

3. I'd stick with mail, with the possibility of officers in bronze cuirass.

BTW> I'm not putting myself forwards as an expert, I've just gamed the period for a long time and read a few books.

davbenbak Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2017 4:49 a.m. PST

I would recommend "Lost Battles" by Sabin. While the war game rules contained in the book are not for everyone, the OOB's and tactical insights of each battle are a must.

martin goddard Sponsoring Member of TMP10 Oct 2017 5:32 a.m. PST

There are two main types of skirmish you could consider.

1. Pretty historical wherein each side is made up of a single troop type. this is because ancient units were often pretty big compared to a skirmish game figure numbers. This would include fighting for an outlying point, gathering vitals or scouting. In each case it wild be a single troop type but the games /scenarios could be authentic and interesting. Maybe create a matrix of unit tyoe that can be criss referenced with potential missions and create scenarios that way. Thus a small unit (30 or armoured cavalry might be tasked with guarding the supply column or intercepting an enemy ally general en route?

2. The second type would be more "have what you like". Bit like Sharp with his 11 men from one unit and another 25 from another. Plus 4 cavalry. In this game you might have 4 different troop types per side along with an elephant. This would be great fun and firmly in the fantasy/Hollywood genre. Good as a quick game between gamers not too bothered about history, but up for a good game time. I would not condemn this type of game at all, especially on club nights when fun is had

GurKhan10 Oct 2017 5:34 a.m. PST

'a mail or scale cuirass' (p. 50, paperback). I have never read about or seen reconstructed the use of scale

There are some bronze scales fished out of Lake Trasimene that have been thought to be Roman (or allied Italian) from Hannibal's victory; it's in a Canadian museum IIRC, and there's a photo in Russell Robinson's book, though I am not sure how reliable the reconstruction is. Ah – online at link

And there's occasional scale in later Republican reliefs. It would be surprising if no richer legionary used it; but I think there's no evidence that it was common.

KniazSuvorov10 Oct 2017 8:45 a.m. PST

To be irreverent, I suspect most skirmishes would've been fought between auxiliary forces on both sides: celts, Numidians, and Italians. These formed the bulk of the outpost and foraging troops, and would have done most of the manoeuvring and skirmishing.

A lot of them would also have been professional mercenaries, and thus better at the nitty-gritty aspects of soldiering than the citizen-soldier legions were.

olicana10 Oct 2017 9:04 a.m. PST

and thus better at the nitty-gritty aspects of soldiering than the citizen-soldier legions were.

From memory, a lot of 'citizen soldiers', although they were only supposed to serve for one year, frequently re-enlisted time and time again; in Spain they were forced by the circumstances of distance to serve for several years at a time; in effect, soldiering became the full time profession of some citizens. Many were just as good, man for man, as their mercenary counterpart.

In any event, all Principes had served in the army before and Triarii were veterans in every sense of the word. Previous military experience was a prerequisite to serve in those formations.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2017 9:52 a.m. PST

Small actions weren't written up. I am also inclined that light troops and cavalry are the most likely suspects for random skirmish engagements.

From a later time period, when Caesar sent out a reconnaissance in force, it was the allied Gallic cavalry who got assigned to the job since they had the speed.

A fun scenario with Roman soldiers would be if an enemy foraging party, or deliberate raid, attacks a road or outpost under construction. The work party would be Roman soldiers in tunics, plus a smaller amount of armoured troops and light pickets on watch.

MajorB10 Oct 2017 10:35 a.m. PST

Yup, see "Lost Battles".

whitejamest10 Oct 2017 3:52 p.m. PST

I would agree that Polybius and Livy are your best bets for mentions and descriptions of the actions. It's not the kind of thing that archaeology alone is going to discover after the fact, so the old sources are not going to be improved on in that sense. That being said authors like Goldsworthy and Lazenby are very helpful in getting a view of the debates over the various mechanics of the combats themselves. Some scholars doubt that some of Livy's battles even happened, judging that they have too much of the air of propaganda or consolation stories.

I would also cast my vote for gaming out skirmishes and raids with light troops and cavalry. Raids were a very important part of Hannibal's strategy, both to capture supplies for his army and deny them to the Romans, and to terrorize the countryside and convince Rome's allies that those alliances were not working for them, because Rome could not protect them. Hannibal's Numidian cavalry seem often to have ranged pretty far from the main army while raiding.

We should probably assume that the Romans reciprocated in territories that had gone over to Hannibal. I can't imagine they didn't carry out punitive raids in the neighborhoods of Tarentum and Capua and the like.

Certainly both sides tried to kill off the other's foraging parties where they could. One question for me is how heavily protected would foraging parties be when operating in the vicinity of the enemy. Hannibal seems to have invested a lot of his strength in protecting his foragers in the weeks leading up to Geronium, as it was essential that he lay in enough supplies to last the winter.

Perhaps you could get some meatier skirmishes out of that last situation, especially with the extremely aggressive Minucius commanding an autonomous half of the Roman force.

GurKhan11 Oct 2017 1:13 a.m. PST

The death of Marcellus might be a good action to fight out if you like cavalry skirmishes:

Between the Carthaginian camp and that of the Romans there was a wooded hill which neither side had taken possession of, for the Romans did not know what that side of it was like which fronted the enemy, and Hannibal regarded it as better adapted for an ambuscade than for a camp. He accordingly sent a force of Numidians during the night to conceal themselves in the wood, and there they remained the following day without stirring from their position, so that neither they nor their arms were visible. It was being everywhere remarked in the Roman camp that the hill ought to be seized and strengthened with defences, for if Hannibal seized it they would have the enemy, so to speak, over their heads. The idea impressed Marcellus, and he said to his colleague: "Why do we not go with a few horsemen and examine the place? When we have seen it for ourselves we shall know better what to do." Crispinus assented, and they started with 220 mounted men, 40 of whom were from Fregellae, the rest were Etruscans. They were accompanied by two military tribunes, M. Marcellus, a son of the consul, and A. Manlius, and also by two prefects of allies, L. Arrenius and Manius Aulius. Some writers assert that whilst Marcellus was sacrificing on that day, the liver of the first victim was found to have no head; in the second all the usual parts were present, but the head appeared abnormally large. The haruspex was seriously alarmed at finding after misshaped and stunted parts such an excess of growth.

Marcellus, however, was seized with such a keen desire of engaging Hannibal that he never thought that their respective camps were near enough to each other. As he was crossing the rampart on his way to the hill he signalled to the soldiers to be at their posts, ready to get the baggage together and follow him in case he decided that the hill which he was going to reconnoitre was suitable for a camp. There was a narrow stretch of level ground in front of the camp, and from there a road led up to the hill which was open and visible from all sides. The Numidians posted a vidette to keep a look out, not in the least anticipating such a serious encounter as followed, but simply in the hope of intercepting any who had strayed too far from their camp after wood or fodder. This man gave the signal for them to rise from their concealment. Those who were in front of the Romans further up the hill did not show themselves until those who were to close the road behind them had worked round their rear. Then they sprang up on all sides, and with a loud shout charged down. Though the consuls were hemmed in, unable to force their way to the hill which was occupied, and with their retreat cut off by those in their rear, still the conflict might have kept up for a longer time if the Etruscans, who were the first to flee, had not created a panic among the rest. The Fregellans, however, though abandoned by the Etruscans, maintained the conflict as long as the consuls were unwounded and able to cheer them on and take their part in the fighting. But when both the consuls were wounded, when they saw Marcellus fall dying from his horse, run through with a lance, then the little band of survivors fled in company with Crispinus, who had been hit by two darts, and young Marcellus, who was himself wounded. Aulus Manlius was killed, and Manius Aulius; the other prefect of allies, Arrenius, was taken prisoner. Five of the consuls' lictors fell into the hands of the enemy, the rest were either killed or escaped with the consul. Forty-three of the cavalry fell either in the battle or the pursuit, eighteen were made prisoners.

(Livy XXVII 26-27)

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