After Action Report for Battle of Baecula (Command & Colors: Ancients)

It has been at least 2 years since my friend Sergey and I have started our “campaign” in Command & Colors: Ancients. C&C is a popular series of board wargames, first published by GMT Games in 2006. We love it mostly because playing a single scenario takes no more than a couple of hours on average. So some years ago we have started playing the core game scenarios one by one and tracking the results with the intent to play them all. Whoever would have won more scenarios at the end, wins the campaign. Simple.

This year we have played one scenario a month, bringing the campaign close to the finish. After playing the Battle of Baecula on the 1st of March, we are only looking at 4 scenarios left to play.

Baecula has been one of the most competitive battles so far, with probably the largest number of turns played, and with no clear winner until the very last turn. Which is a bit surprising, since Romans have a clear advantage over Carthaginians. Statistics on the official website shows a 7 to 3 ratio in favor of the former.

Most of the core game scenarios are based on the events of the Second Punic War. There is also a battle of Bagradas from the First Punic War, which we included in our campaign. And a couple of battles from earlier Carthaginian campaigns in Sicilia, which we chose not to count on the grounds that Carthage was opposed not by Romans, but Syracusans. Historically Second Punic War was gradually lost by Carthage, hence Romans get the initial advantage in the later scenarios. Likewise, Carthaginians had stronger starting positions in the earlier games.

Sergey is playing for Carthage and losing ever since his surprise defeat in the Battle of Cannae (in real life it was one the worst defeats in the history of Rome).

At Baecula Scipio Africanus was attacking a strongly positioned camp of Hasdrubal’s army. Carthaginians had the position, while Romans had the numbers. Here is how it is reflected in the C&C scenario.

The initial field of battle. Carthaginian (brown blocks) light troops are stationed on the hills in front of the camp. Some heavy troops are defending the camp behind. Roman (gray blocks) medium infantry is positioned on flanks preparing for a pincer move. Roman light infantry stands at the front within the javelin throw distance to the enemy.

Romans naturally took the initiative. Having plenty of cards that I could use for operating the left flank I have chosen to start the advance there.

Romans advance with caution. I was not yet sure if I should go for the camp and confront the superior heavy troops, or hit the flank of light infantry on the hills, that would negate my medium troops’ advantage.

Carthaginian light troops regrouped in response, determined to get the most of the advantage of the hill they had.

Carthaginians are preparing to fend off the attack on their right flank.

Before engaging in the close combat Romans launched a melee attack in an attempt to weaken enemy defenses. Delivering only one hit in damage, it was not particularly successful. One hit is better than no hits, though.

The whole line of 6 javelineer units is attacking.

Carthaginians responded with ordering more light troops to the hills. The time for a serious business had come.

Romans are outflanking light infantry entrenched in the hills.

Carthaginian maneuvers worked out well. Roman medium infantry had to face auxiliary troops, which are better in close combat than other types of light infantry. Hills negated Romans advantage even further. The Carthaginian flank held and counter-attacked. With a bit of luck with dice, they managed to put Romans into a difficult position. One medium infantry unit was eliminated with no significant losses among the defenders.

Carthaginian general gets the first victory banner in the battle.

After the series of attacks and counter-attacks, Carthage forces emerged victorious on their right flank, eliminating two Roman units, significantly weakening the other two and losing a unit of slingers in process. Carthage was leading two banners to one, with a total of six banners required to claim the victory.

Roman medium infantry has suffered three to one losses in an unsuccessful attack on the left flank.

Confused with the outcome on the left flank (and out of cards to keep pushing there) Romans switched their attention to the right flank. Carthaginians ignored those movements and continued pushing on the Roman left, building on the previous success. However, the light cavalry charge proved to be catastrophic. The whole unit was destroyed at once by Roman’s battle back, granting Scipio’s forces their second banner in a game. Roman infantry suffered more casualties and fell back.

Only three infantry blocks and a leader are left out of four full-strength units.

The situation was not looking good for Romans at all. It was time to win back the initiative. Luckily “Line Command” card was at hand. Romans started the full-scale assault on the enemy center.

“Line Command” card can turn things upside down if played right.

That didn’t bear immediate results, light infantry was not especially good at the uphill attack. However, this provided the long-needed support on the left flank. Cracks started to appear in the enemy line. And yet another “Line Command” card was coming their way.

This time “Line Command” allows activating all Roman units, except two.

Romans got another banner (now leading 3–2) and Carthaginian center was effectively destroyed, but it was not over just yet.

Carthaginian center and right are overrun, but they still have heavy infantry in reserve.

Carthaginian made a desperate attempt to turn the tide once again and nearly succeeded. Hasdrubal Barca himself led the attack of the heavy infantry on the Roman right flank. Initially, it was a great success: the whole medium infantry unit was destroyed with a single charge.

A moment ago the whole unit of medium infantry was there. The Roman commander has managed to fall back.

Romans kept pushing center, meanwhile, Carthaginian heavy infantry went on a rampage destroying yet another Roman medium infantry unit with a support of light cavalry. Something had to be done about that.

The turning point of the battle. Romans launch a counter-attack on the right.

With the help of Mars almighty, I had finally enjoyed a couple of successful dice rolls. And just in time. One — and heavy infantry destroyed. Two — and Hasdrubal fails the leader casualty check and is gone for good.

Fatal die roll for Hasdrubal Barca. Sometimes theory of probability is merciless even to ancient commanders.

Carthaginians withdrew to their camp and organized some resistance for a next few turns, but the outcome of the battle was generally decided.

Warriors of Carthage are run… ahem… retreating everywhere.

The final blow was dealt by Scipio Africanus himself. The medium infantry under his command had slaughtered the auxiliaries, defending the encampment, granting the sixth victorious banner for the army of The Eternal City.

Roman legionnaires are pillaging the camp.

The setup on the picture above is actually a controversial one. It is not quite clear if Scipio was eligible to enter the encampment and receive the seventh banner since he had already got sixth for eliminating the defending unit in the same combat situation. Carthaginian lawyers filed a formal protest immediately after. Cease and desist order was issued, making Scipio and his legionnaires to withdraw. According to the court ruling, I am legally required to include the different photo of the immediate aftermath of the battle :)

Longissimus dies cito conditur.

Sergey has to win all of the remaining 4 scenarios in order to win the campaign. All of them are extremely unfavorable to Carthage. Especially, the battle of Zama, historically a sound defeat of Carthage’s renown champion Hannibal. Will see.

Mobile Developer / Co-owner of Factorial Complexity

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