Saturday, 5 December 2009

Caesar's Matter of Loaf and Death (Ruspina 46BC) Part I

In 46BC Caesar led three legions of recruits (leavened with some veterans) out of his camp in Africa, to gather grain.  He was unaware that his former lieutenant Titus Labienus, now a Pompeian General, was in the area with a vast force of Numidian light infantry and cavalry, and several thousand veteran German and Gallic cavalry that Caesar had once counted as his own.  Worse still, another Pompeian General, Marcus Petreius, was moving up to support Labienus with another force of cavalry and a very large force of Numidian infantry.  The ensuing battle lasted the better part of a day, and Caesar came very close to being comprehensively defeated; arguably closer than in any other battle of his career.

Last week I finally finished my Numidian light cavalry and so decided, in order to christen them, to refight this battle using the Command and Colors Ancients rules.  It is a fascinating battle because the sides are so asymmetric; the Caesarians are mostly heavy infantry, and the Pompeians almost all light troops.  The Caesarians have a nightmare trying to pin down and destroy the faster Pompeians, but the latter must prevent the former from taking the ridge and moving on to achieve their grain-gathering mission.



Here is a view of the battlefield.  On the left are the Pompeians; twelve units of Numidian light cavalry, six of light infantry, and three of German cavalry "with bridles".



You may be able to make out Titus Labienus (centre on a white horse) at the head of his heavier cavalry, screened by the lighter Numidian cavalry.  Another large Pompeian army, under General Petreius, is lurking off table behind the ridge line...



And here are the Caesarian lines; twelve units of medium infantry, a very lonely-looking unit of Gallic cavalry on the extreme right, and a unit of archers scurrying up from the camp to support the line.  Caesar is the general on the round command stand, furthest from the camera.

We were playing the Caesar's legion amendment, which allows legionaries to move two hexes (but not attack) and  the Caesar rule which gives a unit that Caesar is accompanying an extra dice.  We also played a house rule to reduce the casualties that light troops take when evading; essentially troops who are faster than those attacking them only take one dice of casualties; those of a similar speed, two and those slower, three.  This was critical because under the standard C&C(A) rules, evading Numidians would have been shredded!

Victory was set at 8 units destroyed.  Any Caesarian units exiting off the Pompeian board edge (towards the Pompeian granaries) would count as one block towards the total.

Tomorrow I'll post the first part of the battle....
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