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Subject: Asculum thrice - once with river and hills! rss

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Andrew Hobley
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Andover
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Having been away from Lost Battles for some time I decided it was time to fight with Romans (my last battles were very hoplite biased). Avoiding being caught surprised or by Hannibal I went for Asculum – Romans v Greeks, or rather Pyrrhus of Epirus and his motley crew of Greeks, mercenaries and southern Italians. This, as the other two games, were played solo.

Patrick Waterson on the Google Lost Battles Group suggested the Greek tactics. Pyrrhus pushed forward his infantry and moved his elephants and guard cavalry to the wings On the Roman left Decius and his cavalry squared up to the Greek cavalry and elephants. A long struggle followed, both sides cavalry becoming shaken.

To his right Decius' legions advanced and hit the Greeks right wing hard. It was not long (Turn 5) before all the Greeks were shaken. But despite the Romans best efforts (lots of attack bonuses) although most of the enemy ran one phalanx unit was still bravely holding on when Decius' cavalry broke and fled (on Turn 7)

Over on the Roman right Sulpicus' cavalry had double moved to hold the Greeks as far away for as long as possible. The central legions advanced, while Sulpicus himself held back the right wing to avoid being taken in the rear when and if the Roman cavalry broke. It took Pyrrhus some time to route the Roman cavalry, pursue, rally and then attack the Roman right flank (Turn 7). Sulpicus and his legions collapsed under attack from the front and flank. One of the Roman central units (who had fought somewhat inconclusively against the Greek centre) double moved to the rear to try and hold off the Greek sweep to the rear, while the other units in the centre turned to retire.

The collapse of Decius' cavalry meant the left wing was surrounded, and still that phalanx unit stopped them advancing! The lone legionary unit heroically withstood the Greek cavalry onslaught, but when his fellows retired they lost a unit and all the Romans fled. Game over and a Greek major victory, but it did take until almost nightfall before the Romans were driven off. Blaming the dice every Roman moral roll was an (adjusted) 1!

Rereading Phil's notes on Asculum in the book the inclusion of this game in LB really is marginal – the sources are contradictory and cannot even agree if this was a one day or two day battle or what the terrain was. But Phil's justification for inclusion (Hannibal's comment that after Alexander the Great Pyrrhus was the next best general) is a good one and so I decided to have another go, with some more difficult terrain.

So Asculum Mark 2 saw a river in the Greek front and hills and woods on the flanks. I used the Google Group beta Vassal module for the illustrations, unfortunately it does not seem to have the wood on its own in the terrain tiles so ignore the orphaned river in woods on the Roman right. And the very careful observers will note the Roman generals are Leaders, not as they should be Commanders (my error) - not that it made any real difference. I should emphasise that the terrain is entirely imaginary – anyone who can come up with a more accurate version from reading the sources is doing better than I and many others.

The Roman set up was as normal, legions and flanking cavalry. Pyrrhus decided to push over the river with elephants and his guard, but the Roman anti-elephant wagons (average light infantry) quickly had an effect and the elephants took a double hit and routed. The levy light infantry on their right got the idea and drove the Greek centre elephants from the river bank.



The right hand Greek phalanx crossed the river and tried to drive Sulpicus’ legions back. Meanwhile fighting broke out along the river as the Romans prevented the Greeks from crossing and the cavalry duelled among the hills.



Turns five and six saw breakthroughs as first the Greek right flank cavalry and phalanx collapsed, then the Roman legions on the left crumbled.



The Romans moved their light infantry and cavalry to surround the Greek centre and before the Greek right could intervene the centre was routed and the rest of the Greeks fled. A major Roman victory, helped particularly by the difficulty of the Greek’s combat limit being reduced to two by the river while at the same time the Romans got a +1 for attacking down the river bank and were able to have twice as many attacks.

So back to the original version again. Asculum Mark 3 saw the same Greek tactics as before; wings of cavalry and elephants advancing slowly to envelop the Romans. But I had asked Patrick for his suggestions for Roman tactics to prevail against his own cunning Greek plan. He suggested advancing the Roman infantry, but pulling the cavalry back behind the Roman lines. The Greeks are then vulnerable to a flank attack on their own flank force, while the Romans hope to hack through the centre of the Greek line in time before they themselves are attacked. And facing Romans what the Greeks don’t have is time.



Pyrrhus took a leaf out of King Selucius’ book from Ipsus and fast marched his elephants to block the Roman cavalry. This did not quite work when the Roman left flank horse routed the pachyderms and then threatened the Greeks right flank cavalry force. The whole business of moving up the cavalry up the flank and turning took time. By the time Pyrrhus and his men were ready to attack the Roman flank the Greek infantry line was looking ragged. Heroic exhortation (combat bonuses) from Decius and Sulpicus had shaken many Greek units – but no breakthrough.

The surviving elephants duelled with the Roman cavalry, eventually sending them off the field. Pyrrhus’ cavalry force battered at the Roman flank; Decius following his father’s heroic actions at Sentinum rallied his men many times to hold off the cavalry and inflict losses on the Greek infantry to their front. On the other flank the Roman cavalry had driven off the Greeks and by now (Turn 7) the whole Greek infantry line was shaken, but would not run.



Turn 8 saw breakthroughs on all sides. Pyrrhus finally overran the legions - Decius finally failing the rally the last unit and leaving the field – and the Greek elephants advanced into the Roman rear. On the Roman left the Greeks fought back magnificently (three Roman units shaken in three die rolls from a tile of completely shaken units!). However Sulpicus double moved a cavalry unit to the Greek rear and when his tired men attacked a Greek phalanx unit was shattered and the rest of the Greek right and centre fled.



Almost night (turn 9) and both sides still had all to play for. Pyrrhus sent his light cavalry into the Roman rear and sent the elephants further down to threaten the Roman left. The Roman centre resisted his flank attack. Sulpicus sent the cavalry along the Greek rear, and one legionary unit from the centre turned and routed one Greek left flank infantry unit. This was enough to rout the other infantry. As the sun set Pyrrhus desperately tried to break the Romans, but despite losses they held (one legionary shattered, moral roll of adjusted 3, so they held). The anti-elephant wagons (average light infantry) found their target and drove off the elephants; the light horse withdrew and the Greek allied heavy cavalry routed. Technically that was the end of the game (three or fewer Greek units left), but one more Roman attack saw Pyrrhus’ guard cut down, and the King himself fell with a gladius in his side (well, it had to be done!).

A major Roman victory, but hard fought - every Roman legionary left was shaken. But close; so close worth repeating the same tactics but at some other time. Asculum is not just a walkover for the Greeks, and making up your own terrain makes life even harder. And thanks to Patrick for some better ideas for tactics than my normal ones (makes note to self– must avoid actually playing him )
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Roger Taylor
United States
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Virginia
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Nice AAR, Andrew. What program did you use?
 
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Alexandros Boucharelis
Greece
Drama
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ubi bene ibi patria // vidi perfutui veni
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thanks for the aar and the pictures as well! keep them coming!
 
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David
New Zealand
Auckland
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May the Great Spirit Bless all who read this.
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Thanks, and as usual, another great session report has prompted me to get out my copy and play this battle.
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Germany
Osnabrück
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Thank you for the AARs, I have linked it from the wiki page together with a link to the following discussion in the Yahoo Group

rtaylor wrote:
Nice AAR, Andrew. What program did you use?

This is from the new Vassal module, see my recent message in the Yahoo Group.
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Roger Taylor
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Thank you, Thomas!
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Jason Winter
United States
Manistee
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I soooo want to play this game. at $250 or more to buy, owning it seems a fantasy. my wife would have me sleeping on the couch with my new war game and as much as i love games... well you know. some day, I hope.
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Andrew Hobley
United Kingdom
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Thanks Thomas, answered all the questions before I had even seen the review was posted !
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Ted Stanfill
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Flint
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Awesome AAR! Thank you so much for sharing! I have to get this gem back on the table.
-Ted
 
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