Risto Marjomaa
Finland
flag msg tools
As promised, here is the first part of a description of a game played between me and my brother on Cyberboard. The game is now almost over, but I have everything saved and can reconstruct the whole war. I chose not to describe all the moves as this is a long scenario and only some of them are really of importance. Also, I have made comments on the game all along and this makes the description rather long.

Here is the first posting that covers the first three years of the war. I have named the different phases so as to make the story more coherent. That is the historian in me. I hope you find the description worth reading.

Risto!

THE WAR FOR MESSANA: I PART


264 BC HIERO TAKES THE INITIATIVE

My brother began with Hiero, which is probably a standard opening. The Tyrant of Syracusa is a better man to continue than the Carthaginian overall commander Hanno Hamilcar and besieging Messana is vital for the allies. Showing remarkable coolness, Hiero secured first Tauromenium for a supply center. Only then did he place the Mamertines under siege.
Roman countermoves were ineffective. One of the puny Roman fleets was destroyed trying to keep the Straits of Messana open for Consul Appius Claudius Caudex’s army. Caudex managed to cross the Straits, but was then unable to continue. It was truly momentous for the whole game that I decided to land the army outside the walls of Messana. I feared that Caudex might be trapped inside and his whole army would be whitted away on siege attrition. The other Consul, Marcus Fulvius Flaccus, was not allowed to leave Etruria.

The status of the Italian provinces is somewhat unclear in Carthage. The rules talk of "Roman Italy and provinces" as if Italy would be a single province by itself. It is only the Extended Example of Play that shows that this not so by having Fulvius ask permission to leave Etruria. There is also the curious imperium marker for Etruria. Curious, as there is no such marker for any other Italian province. Presumably this does not mean anything, though, and markers from RRR should be used.

Hanno Hamilcar begun his campaign very cautiously taking Cephaloedium in West Sicily. This I think was a mistake as Hiero would have needed more strength and the Carthaginian failed to continue. Cephaloedium was hardly worth leaving the allied armies so far from each other.

263 BC THE LAST BATTLE OF CONSUL SEMPRONIUS BLAESUS

Both sides took naval reinforcements, Romans in Tarentum and Carthaginians in Carthage. Consul Gaius Sempronius Blaesus had chosen Sicily as Imperium for his Army of Etruria and was thus able to leave Italy without consulting the Senate. Starting early in Spring, he crossed the Straits before enemy fleets arrived to oppose him. Here his resolve evaporated, though. It turned out that he and Consul Gnaeus Servilius Caepio were outmatched by Hiero even with four full legions. The Romans had three-to-one superiority and larger cavalry for a modifier +4. But the Syracusans had elite cavalry and an advantageous position against an enemy landing for -4. With the two Consuls (historical pair by the way, although not for this year) having D and E tactical status respectively they were liable to face disaster against Hiero’s C. Especially, if Caepio happened to be in command that day.
Hiero is made pretty strong in this scenario, but not unduly so. I am not certain what his elite cavalry is supposed to stand for, but his army might be even bigger than it is. And he was an excellent strategist. Also, he did fight a pitched battle with the Romans and should thus be strong enough so that players are encouraged to try it as well.

So, not wishing to wreck ALL Roman legions at once, Blaesus decided to avoid a battle in an unfavourable terrain and instead marched off to take Tauromenium and thus deny the Syracusans their supply. This was done, but then he failed to continue. Hiero was now surrounded in his siege camp by two Roman armies and he tried to take Messana quickly by treachery. This failed nor did Hanno Hamilcar manage to take Tyndaris to provide the Syracusans with a new supply source. This also meant that the allied armies remained separate. Hannibal Gisgo brought a small Carthaginian fleet to blockade Messana and wiped out the remaining Roman triremes. Other than this, the Carthaginian fleet had so far satisfied itself with raiding Italian coasts for two years succesfully.

At this point things looked good for Rome. The Syracusans (albeit also the Mamertines) had suffered from siege attrition and two consular armies were posed to attack them. The Carthaginian army was still too far to intercept. Blaesus decided to attack being now able to do so without having to cross water. He chose to leave Caepio out of it in order to gain all the glory for himself. Adding the two armies together would have given better modifiers, but Caepio might have taken command and there was still the dreadful prospect of ruining the whole Roman military might in one battle. Never commit your last reserve, as McClellan noted at Antietam (to his cost).

Well, I was right in leaving Caepio out, unfortunately. The Battle of Messana became a massacre after Blaesus fell in its early stages. Syracusan mercenaries scored a major victory loosing only 1500 men (out of 9.000) to Roman 5.500 (of 20.000). The remnants of the Roman army were routed to the slopes of Mons Aetna in a useless state. Suddenly the situation was completely turned around and Caepio, of all people, was the only hope of the Mamertines who were down to their last 500 men. But what could he do? Risking another battle with the Syracusans flush with victory would have been too risky and chances of victory remote (I did not relish the idea of loosing the game early on with my brother invading Italy!). Instead, Caepio took Mylae placing himself between the allies. This benefited him little, though, as Hanno Hamilcar marched around the Aetna to join forces with Hiero. As winter arrived, an allied army of 15.000 was besieging Messana, which was on the brink of surrender. Things looked very bleak indeed for Rome.

262 BC THE FALL OF MESSANA

I decided to disband the remnants of Blaesus’ army, which were hopelessly scattered all around the Vesuvian and to trust my luck in getting from the Senate a new army for his successor as Field Consul. This not only succeeded, but the Senate also raised another consular army as reinforcements. Rome now had six almost full legions. The Carthaginian Senate, the Gerousia, had not felt any need to raise new armies as everything had been so far going so well in Sicily.
This apparent lack of interest by the Gerousia (and the Carthaginian consuls, the suffetes) is not in fact at all illogical or unhistorical. For a Republic (of sorts) that relied on commerce it was all-important that wars disrupted trade as little as possible. Otherwise the state faced ruin and could no longer raise mercenaries. A barbarian invader from Italy operating in the Greek side of Sicily would hardly have been enough to raise alarm, especially as Hanno Hamilcar seems to be doing all right with his small Army of Sicily. I must say the Ancient Worlds system has so far been wondrously able to depict the economic and social side of these ancient empires without having any economic rules at all! This is perhaps the most surprising achievement of Richard Berg in this particular game, and I must say I had my doubts originally when I noticed that the economy is not there at all, or so it seemed.

Back to the war. Part of the reason for the sudden rallying of the Senate was that the Rome Consul Gaius Aurelius Cotta was ordered to stay at the capital as the High Priest of Mars and was thus able to affect its procedures. This event seems to in fact favour the Romans, although it would at first hand appear to be directed against them. It was only a shame that Cotta was also my best general for the upcoming year. The new consular legions in Rhegium were commanded by Consul Manius Otacilius Crassus who was able enough, though. He began the year just like Blaesus had done by crossing the Straits to Sicily before the Carthaginian fleet could leave its winter moorings. And like his predecessor he refused to be bottled up in Messana and landed outside its walls.

Unlike last year, the 22.000 Romans now faced the allied armies of Syracusa and Carthage with 14.500 men. Hanno Hamilcar immediately intercepted Crassus with Hiero as second-in-command. The Second Battle of Messana turned out to be inconclusive with 3500 Roman and 2000 allied casualties. Thus the siege of Messana continued with Crassus having already shot his bolt for the year. Once again I had failed to help the Mamertines. I finally realised my mistake, but too late. Crassus should have crossed the Straits with one legion only leaving the other at Rhegium. Thus he would have bolstered the garrison without overcrowding Messana. If allowed to continue, he could have left a strong garrison and returned to Italy to his other legion. Alas, it was now already too late.

Crassus immediately got the initiative again, but what was there to do anymore? Messana was on the brink of collapse, but another attack against the allied army would have been desperate with disrupte troops. At this point we made the mistake of thinking that my brother could win the game by taking Messana and controlling whole Sicily. This is not so. The Carthaginians would have had to take Syracusa from their ally as well. Not realising this, I wanted to assure at least some foothold on the island. So Crassus marched away and left the Mamertines to their fate. He first took Catania to have an unbesieged port, and then headed inland to besiege Agrigentum, another medium city and the only one in Sicily which had no port for the Carthaginians to keep open with their superior fleet. Despairing, the remaining Mamertines duly starved and the city fell after a siege that had lasted almost two years.
Now followed something of which I am not quite sure, if we played it right. As Messana fell, we judged that Hanno Hamilcar must now be inside with his allied army. How else could he garrison the city? So, Proconsul Quintus Mamilius Vitulus who had taken over Caepio’s old army at Mylae decided to try to trap the allied army inside Messana. As he was already in the adjacent hex, Hanno could not intercept and my brother choose not to try to flee at the last minute. We have later had second thoughts concerning this move. Did Hanno Hamilcar really have to go inside Messana after its surrender, or could he have stayed out and simply placed a garrison there? The rules seem ambiguent and we have since decided that this might not have been necessary. It seems rather silly that an army could be tricked in this way while presumably celebrating victory with a good orgy.

In any case Messana was thus immediately besieged again, now with the earlier besiegers inside it! What joy it must have been to the poor Messanians. Both allied leaders managed to sail away soon enough, though. Hiero went to Syracusa where he was to spend the next decade rebuilding his remaining few thousand men into an army while Hanno took his diminished force to Panormus. The Romans settled in to besiege Agrigentum and Messana loosing heavily on attrition (prevented from drawing supplies by the Syracusan light cavalry).

ANALYSIS

This ended the first act of the first phase of the war. In retrospect I must take the blame for the loss of Messana, which turned out to be colossally important. I lost the first major battle in a big way, yes, but this should not have derailed my war effort so completely. After three years the Carthaginians were still down to their opening forces, a single small army, and the Syracusans had dwindled away on attrition and battle losses. The Romans had two consular armies in Sicily and one training in Rome itself. And still Messana fell. What did I do so dreadfully wrong? There were three occasions in which I could have bolstered the Messana garrison, but failed to do so fearing to crowd the city, which was bound to be blockaded from sea. Early on this was perhaps a sound strategy, but I should not have carried it so far as to allow Messana fall. The blame goes to Crassus, who should have gone in, instead of trying to persuade the besiegers to leave by attacking other places.

I do not think my brother made any serious mistakes and he was right in having Hiero dug in so tenaciously in besieging Messana. His other commander, Hanno Hamilcar, was probably too cautious (it is in fact, rather interesting that both were played by the same player, but ended up with such a different agenda).

The allies clearly won the first round. I was not utterly downcast at this point, however. Messana was lost, but I thought this only a temporary setback. Both it and Agrigentum were under Roman siege and the allies no longer had effective armies at field. It seemed only a matter of time when both cities would fall. Alas, it was not to be so easy.
4 
 Thumb up
0.05
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mick Weitz
United States
Iowa City
Iowa
flag msg tools
No one in Iowa City plays wargames?
badge
Yes, I like helmets...
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Hello Risto! Excellent session report. As far as entering a city after a successful siege- a Medium or Large city must be occupied by at least one Strength Point in order to be taken. After a successful siege attrition, the opposing army MAY enter the city with however many forces they desire, but are not forced to. I can think of very few circumstances where you would not want to, but the rule is there. Keep up the good work!


Good Gaming~! Mick
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
simon thornton
United Kingdom
Liverpool
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Excelent report keep it up !
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Richard Berg
United States
South Carolina
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Interesting report . . . a detailed histo-simulation designed for gamers who want to tackle the realities of conducting a war . . . complete with all of its political ramifications. Not for everybody . . . but a challenge for anybody.

RHB
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Risto Marjomaa
Finland
flag msg tools
By the way, I do know that Vesuvius is actually in Italy and Aetna in Sicily. Just wanted to see, if anyone notices.

Risto!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Eero Marjomaa
Finland
flag msg tools
Hello!

I am Risto's brother. Sorry about my English. It isn't as good as his. I thought I can give some hasty explanations for my moves.

Risto said that playing so cautious with Hanno Hamilcar was a mistake. Well. Maybe it was, but I didn't want to risk everything at the start of the game. If Hanno Hamilcar had joined his army with Hiero and then Romans had attacked and win (everything is possible in Carthage!) then I had lost Hiero and his Syracusans and my only army would have been beaten. So it would have been too risky.

Also I admit that I didn't believe that Hiero could take Messana. Accually I am little bit disapointed that I got Messana because with that (and Hiero being my ally) those "bloody" politicians in Carthage (gerousia) didn't give enough money to army!

Eero
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.