The battle of Dyrrhachium – 48BC
Here is a run through of my 1st playing of this scenario. I always like the first play of a scenario – in real life the combatants only had one chance to get it right, so, as I play both sides I’ll do what seems best at the time with no benefit of hindsight. I’ll provide more detail at the start to help anyone using this as a learning tool.
General: Initially I had a hard time grasping what was going on with the game map. However, if you take a broader view the strategic situation becomes quite clear. On this map you can clearly see Pompey’s situation. Although Caesar could not prevent Pompey's re-supply by sea, he could restrict his freedom of movement by blockading his army. This would weaken Pompey's larger cavalry by denying forage to its horses as well as make Pompey look impotent to those eastern monarchs who believed his was the winning side. Caesar began a giant contravallation which would eventually enclose the entirety of Pompey's forces. As soon as Pompey realized what Caesar intended, he began counterworks that eventually reached 15 miles in length. Caesar's were larger. Pompey was pinned with his back to the sea, but he had enclosed enough area - just - to survive. Pompey, however, next had an extraordinary stroke of his own luck. Two Allobrogians named Raucilus and Egus, who had served with Caesar in Gaul, were caught embezzling legionary pay and escaped to Pompey. They were able to pinpoint for him the weakest spot in Caesar's contravallation. At the southern end of Caesar's lines, just south of the Lesnikia River, there was a gap at the sea’s edge where double barriers were not yet connected by a cross-stockade to bar entry. Pompey planned to send 60 cohorts to attack the interior wall while a force of soldiers and archers would, coming by sea, attack both the front line of Caesar's defenses and insert themselves in the gap between the two sets of fortifications, outflanking its defenders. In early July (May by the calendar), Pompey struck. Hit in front, rear, and on the flank, Caesar's smaller forces broke and were in rout when Caesar sent Anthony and twelve cohorts to reinforce them. However, the damage was done; Pompey had breached the circumvallation and built a fortified camp (the camp not in play) just south of Caesar's works, which effectually broke the blockade.
This then will be the strategy for Pompey. With overwhelming numbers victory seems assured. However, if Caesar can keep Pompey’s legions busy at the ramparts until reinforcements arrive – it could be close, especially considering the relative weakness of the seaborne assault and the superiority of Caesar's troops and leadership in general.
Both sides roll off to see whose tribune will kick things off. It’s Caesars IX tribune (IXt). IXt orders 2 cohorts (CO) to advance towards the sea invasion, momentum is attempted but failed. Pompey can now move his formations without interference. Pompey’s I & III tribunes (It & IIIt) march their legions east with a view to advancing on the bridge across the Lesnikia river. This triggers the IX legion sentries which are placed opposing the seaborne landing (they start with 4 and 2 hits). I have placed sentries opposite the 2 marine units that are in the defensive line as the scenario rules do not prohibit placement in enemy ZOC. Ahenobarbus who was stacked with one of them makes an orderly withdrawal (OW) to a unit outside the fortifications. I will treat the situation as if the marines have advanced on the sentries. The sentries throw their pila and incur 1 hit (they are both now missile NO). The marines return fire and score 1 hit and one marine is missile LOW. Ahenobarbus issues individual commands to move the other marines to the ramparts and throw javelins (the +4 drm causes all to miss). Shock combat sees 1 marine vs 1 CO and 3 marines (2 of which are outside the fortifications, one attacking a flank) vs the other CO. The pre-shock TQ rolls see 3 marines rout while the sentries stand fast. In the clash of spears for the other combat LI-vs-vet CO is in column 5-DS, a roll of 4 sees 6 hits on the marine and 2 on the sentry. The marines rout, however, since they cannot rout through the ramparts and must rout to the north edge they are destroyed. (Well, they could potter around south of the ramparts, routing like an advance – but this would be against the feel of the game, so I’ll snuff them). Pompey activates, but can’t really do much.
Losses turn 1: Pompey ‘16’ –vs- Caesar ‘0’
Pompey will move first and legio-I advances in column. Caesar next and (IXt) moves himself and 1 CO. He attempts momentum and succeeds but Pompey trumps and moves the III CO east. Caesar’s VIII legion now enters the map traveling in column, then Alaude legion (stacked not in column – due to space restrictions). Ahenobarus rolls off against Anthony and issues orders first – advancing the 2 remaining marines east outside the fortifications south wall. Anthony simply moves himself to a good command location.
Pompey goes 1st – I legion is marched SE across the Lesnikia. It needs to get across the fortifications before Caesar can reinforce closer to the sea. Caesars VIII legion moves through the fortification towards the sea. Pompey’s III legion starts to cross the Lesnikia. Caesar’s IXt moves N to be in command range of some legions in the fort. Pompey’s Mac A legions enter the map along the west edge. Caesars XI legion enters in column. Pompey’s Mac B enters the map and heads N. Ahenobarus moves still further east. Anthony passes. Pompey moves to the head of III legion & Caesar enters the map and positions himself to operate as OC/SC – he stacks with his favorite X legion.
Caesar goes 1st – VIII legion starts deploying along the fortifications. Pompey’s I legion turns SW trying to get to an undefended part of the fortifications. Caesar’s X legion presses on towards the sea. Pompey’s III legion also turns SW. Caesars IXt issues orders to that part of the legion he can command – he will get them to follow the Xth. Mac A advances South. Caesar’s Alaude legion deploys to protect the Northern fortifications. Pompey’s Mac B advances south. Ahenobarus crosses the fortifications and deploys to delay as long as possible. The crossing inflicts 2 hits on each unit. The other leaders reposition and Caesar orders 2 CO of the IX to advance towards the sea.
Caesar goes 1st. After all moves are completed we see Pompey’s I legion has positioned to breach the brim and ditch. This position was chosen for 3 reasons (i) no enemy yet positioned behind these fortifications (ii) there is a river to defend the bridgehead & (iii) the 45 odd rout points from this location should be enough to secure victory – all losses being about equal. Then again, the heroic Caesar can get some quite charismatic die roll modifications to more than one cohort each turn. Loosing him will be a disaster but using him to modify combat seems necessary. Also there are 2 cohorts of Caesars IX legion at the sea wall – these will need to be dispatched before Caesars army is routed or Pompey will get ‘0’ rout points for position. Hopefully the Macedonians can take care of this.
Pompey goes 1st and sends the mighty I legion over the ‘ramparts’. All crossing CO take an automatic 2 hit penalty for crossing the ramparts – there is also an exchange of pila with one CO – a hit is scored on both combatants plus a further hit by a lucky shot over the ramparts on Caesars CO. All units pass pre-shock TQ tests. In the melee phase we see both Pompeian units are attacking across the river – this is a 3 column shift. The shift from the rampart is ignored as position will be taken from the unit within the ramparts in this instance.
Problem: - Is this correct? There seems to be no directive like there is for rivers if one unit is attacking across a fortification hex and another not,
In any case, the roll is a 6 and the result is 2(2) - both sides remain locked in combat.
Caesar’s Legio X starts to deploy at the ‘bend’ in the fortifications. Pompey’s legio III form up to the right of legio I. Caesars IX legion pulls up behind the Xth. Pompey’s Mac A marches south. Caesar deploys legio Alaudae at the nothern most part of the fortifications. Pompey’s Mac B marches south. The tribune on VIII legio redeploys further SW. Pompey’s green Crete & Clcia legions march east. Anthony orders a CO of legio IX to engage and the already engaged CO to shock. Pila are fired and a hit is scored on Pompey’s troops. The melee sees 2 CO of IX legion –vs – 1 CO of I legion, in the pre-shock phase a hit is taken by one of Caesars legions. In the clash phase the attack is column ‘5’ (all units ate attacking across a river, but the attacker has 2-1 size advantage) a roll of 9 gives 2(3) and Pompey’s legion is routed.
Losses turn 6: Pompey ‘16’ –vs- Caesar ‘0’
At this stage Caesars sentry entry CO hold the sea end of the berms. So Pompey gets ‘0’ for position in the fortifications.
Caesar uses his ‘carpe diem’ option and allows Anthony to give a section command before Pompey gets a look in. This move is key. It will allow Caesar to get around the initial incursion and perhaps get units to the sea end of the berms before Pompey’s legions get there.
Caesars units engage legio-I’s 1st CO – a hit is inflicted in the missile phase and in the melee phase a 3(2) result in the ‘7’ column results in neither side moving.
In the roll off for 1st normal phase Pompey gets the initiative. He is able to force the rout of 2 legio X CO and 1 legio IX CO.
Caesars Legio-X receives 2 individual commands. One CO is advanced and routs one of Pompey’s CO with missile fire. In the melee phase Pompey’s legio-I 1st CO is routed, but cannot retreat more than 1 hex and is thus eliminated. Pompey’s legio III begins to cross the berms. Caesars IX tribune rallies a CO. Pompey moves Mac A south and some units reach the berms. Two CO of Mac A throw their pila and 1 hit is scored against a legio IX CO that is out of command range. Interestingly, as ZOC does not automatically extend across the berms these pila will be replenished at the end of the turn. Caesar moves no more CO. Pompey moves the Crete & Clcia legions east. Pompey’s remaining marines use hit and run tactics on a CO of the Xth legion and inflict 2 hits. Caesar removes multiple hits on a number of units.
It is apparent that deciding on which side of the berms Pompey’s leaders should be on at any point in time is quite tricky. LC need LOS to units in command range. Rallying also needs LOS.
Caesar and Anthony are great in the support roll. They have a large capacity to rally and remove hit points as quick as Pompey’s troops can inflict them.
Losses turn 7: Pompey ‘24’ –vs- Caesar ‘0’
At this stage Caesars sentry entry CO hold the sea end of the berms. So Pompey gets ‘0’ for position in the fortifications.
Pompey moves 1st. Pompey’s 1st legion tribune is now unable issue effective legion commands as the tribune has no LOS to units outside the berms. However, at this critical stage its better for the tribune to move the units within the berms and hold off Caesar until legio-III can engage. In a small engagement between 2 units a few hits are exchanged. Caesars legio-X pushes 3 CO against Pompey’s legio-I. After a few close collapse rolls one each of Caesars and Pompey’s legions is routed. However, many units are at high hit levels. Pompey moves legio-III across the berms. Caesar moves legio –IX forward. Pompey attacks the sea end of the berms with Mac A and routs one of Caesars CO – to the loss of one of his own conscript CO. Scipio’s legions move east and make contact with the berms at the northern gate. Mac B crosses the berms. Caesars lines are now fully swamped in the west and the fortifications in the north cannot be weakened of Pompey’s will gain a foothold near the IX fort.
The 2 marine units move in to support legio-I. Anthony removes some hits for the X & IX legions. Pompey is unable to halt units routing past him and 2 are eliminated. Caesar moves to give moral support to those fighting at the front. For Caesar to win now it will have to get personal.
Losses turn 8: Pompey ‘38’ –vs- Caesar ‘0’
Pompey’s position in the fortifications 2224 = 46 points
Caesar is loosing by 8 points.
Caesar moves a CO from legio-X into melee. In the ensuing combat between legio-X and Pompey’s legio-I, 3 of Pompey’s CO are routed – legio-I’s tribune routs with one of the CO. Pompey attacks with legio-III, fresh and armed with pila, they are able to rout 3 of Caesar’s CO. Two of them, unable to rout out of enemy ZOC are eliminated. Caesar moves the IX legion forward to support the Xth. Pompey routs the last of the IX sentries with Mac A. Legio –Alaude chucks a few pilum Scipios CO at the gate – and scores 2 hits. Mac B is now fully in the berms and Scipio’s legions are at the northern end of the fortifications. Pompey’s legio-I tribune rallies the CO he’s stacked with but fails in his attempt to rally another. Caesar and Anthony remove cohesion hits and rally one CO. In the rout phase another of Pompey’s CO is eliminated.
Losses turn 9: Pompey ‘45’ –vs- Caesar ‘14’
Pompey’s position in the fortifications 2123 = 44 points
Caesar is loosing by 13 points.
Pompey’s legio-III attacks the Xth – but 2 of its CO rout in the face of Caesars heroic leadership. Caesar Xth attacks Pompey’s IIIrd legion and forces the 1st CO to rout. Mac A is pushed forward over the berms and chases down the routing CO of IX legion. They are now heavily disrupted from all that berm jumping. Remembering the effectiveness of veteran troops against conscripts legio-VIII’s tribune, who’s been biding his time sees an opportunity; the orders all CO in his command range to sally forth across the berms. Those that can, do so, and butcher the hapless conscripts of Scipio’s Cilician’s. One unit from each side is routed. Scipio attempts to get a better position with the Cilician’s but they are stuck between 2 groups of woods (cir hex 3129). The have to loose precious cohesion to prevent flanking, but, stuck where they are it looks like a disaster in the making, they are able to rout one of legio-VIII’s CO. Caesars Alaude legion is out of section command and so holds fast to see what develops with the Cilician’s. Pompey pulls legio-I from the assault on Caesar’s X and IX legion and moves them North to intervene if the Cilician’s need help. Caesar’s IX legion crosses the berms south in an attempt to get behind Pompey’s legio-III or hit the weaker Macedonians that have crossed both berms. Anthony and Caesar rally and regroup units.
Losses turn 10: Pompey ‘50’ –vs- Caesar ‘28’
Pompey’s position in the fortifications 2122 = 43 points
Caesar is loosing by 21 points.
Caesars Xth legion attacks legio-III , even with Caesars leadership 2 CO rout. Its starting to look hopeless. Pompey moves legio-III in for the kill, and himself over the berms to move troops on the outer – Caesar is now in the thick of it standing toe to toe with the enemy, despite the hero’s leadership another of Caesar’s CO is routed. Caesars VIII legion presses its attack on the Cilicians – it routs 2 CO to one of its own. Pompey redirects legio-I into the rear of Caesars VIII legion – one of Ceasar’s CO is eliminated as it has nowhere to go when routed. IX legion is now located to the south of the berms. The Cilicians attack the last of legio-VIII’s CO that crossed the berms – it is surrounded and eliminated – but at the cost of 2 CO routed. Mac A & B reassemble across the berms. Scipio has all the charisma of a toilet sponge; he is unable to rally any of the fleeing Cilicians – this close to the river it’s a major problem. Anthony rallies a few units and Pompey clears a few hits and tries for momentum, but fails. Caesar now initiates combat with the Xth – all units will use his heroic (+7) modifier to die rolls. Caesar routs 2 of legio-III’s CO, he tries for momentum and succeeds. Two of Pompey’s legions are eliminated. Caesar tries again for momentum and succeeds and is able to remove all hits sustained by the Xth in the previous 2 actions. This turn just goes to show what Caesar can achieve when he’s under the hammer.
Losses turn 11: Pompey ‘79’ –vs- Caesar ‘41’
Pompey’s position in the fortifications 2014 = 34 points
Caesar is winning by ‘4’ points.
Caesar’s Xth legion, having brushed aside Pompey’s I & III legions have clear passage quite a way west. The legion has outrun its tribune so a few of the units within his range are ordered to defend the berms against Pompey’s probable counter attack. Legio III does counterattack and one unit crosses the berms. Hits on the Xth are light. Mac B moves down thru the berms to support Legio-III. Legio-I positions to assault at a gap behind the Xth. Anthony and Caesar remove some hit points. Caesar rolls for initiative, but fails.
Losses turn 12: Pompey ‘95’ –vs- Caesar ‘53’
Pompey’s position in the fortifications 2118 = 39 points
Caesar is winning by ‘3’ points.
Mac B engages the mighty Xth and gets a bloody nose – these conscripts can’t budge them. When the Xth return blows, 3 CO of Macedonians rout. At the end of the turn this will be the best spot Pompey could obtain.
Losses turn 12: Pompey ‘106’ –vs- Caesar ‘67’
Pompey’s position in the fortifications 2018 = 38 points
Caesar is wins by ‘1’ points.
So Caesar wins a ‘surprising’ victory. Why?
Caesar’s leadership was able to have a significant impact on combat results.
Pompey had trouble getting his commanders to be in the right place at the right time in or out of the berms, however, Caesar’s commanders were always where they needed to be.
Pompey’s leaders failed to rally troops when it mattered.
Pompey screwed up the beach assault attacking 2 CO head on with LI.
Unofficial personal clarifications (I’m happy to be challenged on these)
If a hex is vacated due to cohort pila attack can the attacking cohort advance if in another enemy ZOC?- It doesn’t say you can’t only that you may.
Solution: No, the unit cannot advance.
Reason: Use the rule for advance not allowed if hex vacated due to pre shock TQ test, and still in an enemy ZOC 8.41(exception).
How is combat resolved when not all units are attacking across a fortification hex side?
Solution: Treat like a river. Reduce shift to 1L if not all attacks are across the fortified hex side.
Reasoning: It seems likely that a river would affect combat in a similar fashion to fortifications.
Can leaders cross fortification hex sides?
Leaders use cavalry movement. However, cavalry movement is prohibited across fortification hex sides.
Solution: Leaders pay the infantry cost of crossing a fortification hex side.
Reasoning: Leaders can move with infantry when the leader issues an IC to a unit he is stacked with. 5.23(2). It thus follows that they should be able to move into any terrain accessible by any unit they might be stacked with. They should pay cavalry cost where possible, but can pay the lowest other cost where this is not.
Does changing facing in a hex constitute movement?
If a heavy unit changes facing in a hex thus placing an enemy unit in its ZOC it is important to know if this constitutes movement for compulsory shock attacks as per 7.25.
Solution: No it doesn’t.
Reasoning: A unit may only move into a hex to its Front 7.11 & In order for a unit to change facing it must pivot within its hex 7.12
When Pompey’s units rout between the berms in Dyrrhachium where do they go?
Units cannot retreat across the berms as they are fortifications, but must try to get to the north map edge. There are no gates!
Solution: In the scenario ‘Lesnikia’ units are allowed to rout across the berms, so it is also reasonable to assume this is the case in Dyrrhachium, so, as an alternative, allow rout over the berms. See play note at the end of ‘Lesnikia’.
No one in Iowa City plays wargames?
Yes, I like helmets...
Hot Damn! Nice session report. I agree with your interpretations as well. Would like to see more of these!
Good Gaming~! Mick