We got together for a game of Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage. We had both played before, but not for a long time. Cornjob was brushing up on the rules while I got Ben ready for bed, and then we sat down to skim the rest of the rules, set up, and get started. I played Rome, while Cornjob took Hannibal and the Carthaginians.
It was a really exciting game with lots of ebb and flow, and a pretty frenetic pace.
Starting with a Bang (Turns 1-3)
I had an early advantage with some strong event cards in the first few turns, and won all three of the first battles, which had costly casualties for Chester in combat units and political control. But over the first two turns, Chester got 2 of the Carthage naval modifier cards, cutting the Roman Naval Superiority advantage in half -- and dramatically changing the complexion of the game. I had to be a bit more conservative, since Chester now had a lot more freedom of movement (or potential) than he would otherwise.
I was able to move down and seige New Carthage fairly early on, and restrict Carthage's reinforcements. Another battle loss later, and Chester was beginning to doubt his ability to come back. After losing so many units in battle, and crippling his reinforcement supplies, he was in a real tight spot.
Momentum Changes (Turns 4-6)
Things changed dramatically, as right before Scipio Africanus showed up, I had a hand of Event cards with 6 level 1 and 2 level 2 operation cards, compared to a very strong hand with naval movement for Chester. Only one of my consuls was a Level 2, the rest were Level 3. So I was only able to activate one of my consuls for the turn, but had to use both of the level 2 cards for their events... Meaning that the remainder of my turn was spent placing political counters one at a time since I could neither activate any generals and the events on the level 1 cards were either Carthaginian or simply not viable.
It was a pivotal turn, as Chester was able to seize control of Syracuse and bring Hannibal down to seige New Carthage and reclaim it. A huge turn of events, as Chester recovered his reinforcement supply from New Carthage, and gained a VP advantage, meaning I slowly started to "bleed" political control from the board.
The Thrilling Conclusion (Turns 7-9)
Scipio arrived, then, and Rome looked pretty strong again, sporting several large stacks of armies, easily outmanning the Carthage forces. But Rome's battle advantage slowly turned. Carthage won a few key battles, and Chester was able to avoid/withdraw several other battles against Scipio to draw things out.
On Turn 8 of 9, I had an amazing hand, with 4 level 3 Ops cards and tons of level 2 Ops cards. Chester and I traded blows by wiping out political control deep within each other's territories, but we both had very strong hands and turns to recover fairly easily. Toward the end of the turn, I moved Scipio from Syracuse all the way over to Iberia to support my ProConsul, hoping to split them up and move through Iberia to start to wrest political control from Carthage -- I'd probably lose one or the other, but Hannibal would have to commit to one of the two stacks, leaving the other an opportunity to plunder. I ended the turn wiping out all the political control from one of the Iberian provinces, and tied the score temporarily.
On the last round, I almost sealed up a small part of Iberia, but Carthage was able to launch a Minor and Major Campaign to create too many diversions and potential problems for me to address. With only a single CU, Mago landed in Italy and started to convert the coast. Hannibal crushed my ProConsul winding through Iberia, and Hasdrubal was able to keep Sicily under Carthaginian control. Carthage had seized the vital VPs they needed to win, and Rome saw the writing on the wall -- 3 cards from the end, I realized it would be impossible for me to win based on how Carthage had been able to spread out and take over so many areas so quickly with the Campaigns, but I was able to make it close by having parts of Africa revolt.
The Final Tally - Victory for Carthage!
The final score was Carthage 10, Rome 7 -- of the 18 total VPs, only the one section of Africa was uncontrolled at the end. If I had been able to slip in there, it would have been a bit closer.
Overall, the game was very close, and going into the last round, I really think both of us had a good chance to win, based on our card play and a few die rolls. Hard to ask for anything more than that.
Game Quirks & Observations:
- Getting 2 of the 3 Naval modifier cards in 2 of Chester's first 3 turns really changed the nature of the game. Had he gotten them later, or I gotten those cards instead, I could have been far more aggressive than I was.
- I dominated the early battles, but once Scipio arrived, the only battles I won were overwhelming odds (like 13 cards to 6) -- Chester had a strong showing at the end.
- Chester only failed 1 Naval movement roll the entire game (of about 5 or 6)
- Chester had horrible luck sieging early, then got the Siege Engine and that was the difference maker in reclaiming New Carthage
- I tried subjugating a tribe (sieging it) to convert it to Roman control and wasted 5-6 die rolls. My fatal flaw - I should have given up, moved on and focused elsewhere
- Chester's elephants rampaged twice, and only succeeded once, costing me only 1 battle card
- In one battle with Scipio, when trying to seize initiative, four of five dice I rolled were 6's... I only need to roll 1-4 on a d6 to take initiative, but I kept failing. That was a pivotal battle in Sicily
- We both dislike the Messenger Intercepted card, which lets you steal a card from your opponent, giving you a big card advantage. We each got that card once, which was nice.
- We each suffered very, very mild attrition both from winter and from crossing mountains
- We both missed a few opportunties on the timing of defensive cards - not bad luck as much as bad observation.
- I think overall Chester had the advantage with higher level operations cards, but I was able to use more cards as beneficial events -- so that was a wash
- With repeat playing the game time could get better -- we started just after 7 PM and didn't wrap up until 11:30 PM... Hopefully it could get shaved down to about 3 hours with greater familiarity.
It was a lot of fun, and I hope Chester is up for a rematch some time down the road.
Jay left out what I thought was one of the thematically ciritical events in the game. Both Hannibal and Scipio Africanus had mustered "full" armies on the last turn, with Scipio terrorizing Italy and Hannibal scrambling around trying to hold off two armies. In terms of winning the war, it was actually Mago's 1 CU army that landed in Italy and was able to convert two provinces from Roman to Carthaginian control that made the difference. That was a 4 VP swing. After Mago's intentions became clear (late in the hand) and it was also clear that there wasn't a Roman general in striking distance to stop him....the war was all but decided.
There was still some intrigue to take place in Africa, as one of the Carthaginian provinces there became traitorous.
But the thing I loved was that Hannibal chose that moment in the war, with the outcome no longer in doubt, to clash with Scipio. It was our biggest battle of the game in terms of total cards. It was also the only meeting of the two heavy-weights. Scipio had tried to attack, but Hannibal had fled for Spain and avoided battle. Anyway, it just wouldn't have been right to go the entire game without meeting in battle.
Hannibal never crossed the alps. He tried to sail back to New Carthage
once, but was returned. Otherwise, no sailing for him.
I'm not sure Carthage had higher OPS or not. It would have been nice to
track. Having Hannibal really helps, because any card can be used to
activate him....which really enriches the hand for Carthage regardless of what they get.
I like the balance between playing military moves and manipulating influence markers. I'm looking forward to playing again. My only quibble is that the Battle Cards are a bit cumbersome. It takes a lot of shuffling to expect a reasonably random distribution each time. We had a couple odd deals, and I'm not sure if that was an anomaly from our poor shuffling or just the edge of the normal curve. I do think there is some great room for a bit of psychology and some true strategy in how you play your Battle Cards, which is a lot more interesting than rolling a couple dice.
I think if we played again today, Rome would probably be more choosey in
where to besiege....looking for places with even bigger political
ramifications (like Syracuse). Carthage would try to benefit from having
more generals by splitting up sooner. It was Mago's tiny strike force that made the difference late...and there is no reason I couldn't have done that sooner.
I'm not sure Carthage had higher OPS or not. It would have been nice to track. Having Hannibal really helps, because any card can be used to activate him....which really enriches the hand for Carthage regardless of what they get.
That's a great point.
Somewhere along turns 3-4 all my Consuls and ProConsuls had Leader Ratings of 3 (except Marcellus during Round 4 was Leader Rating 2), meaning they could only be activated with a level 3 Ops card (or Marcellus with a 2)...
It could have just been a mis-perception based on several turns where I spent far more actions using cards as events and political influence, since I wasn't in a position to activate my leaders, while Chester was able to use lower value cards to activate his leaders.