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Subject: Ilipa x 3 rss

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Philip Sabin
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At the Cavalier show in Tonbridge last Sunday, our usual team of Eric, Alan, Mark and myself ran participation games of the Ilipa scenario - Scipio's final key Spanish victory in 206 BC when he famously deployed his legions to outflank the more numerous Carthaginians, while holding back his Spanish allied centre to tie up the strong Punic centre. The picture below shows the starting line up.



We played the usual three games, each lasting 90 minutes with a half hour break in between. In all three refights, Scipio chose to flip the turn order immediately (a key stratagem available to a brilliant general), so as to pocket the strong Punic centre ASAP and avoid any problems with the prohibition on successive attacks from the same zone.

In the first game, the Roman flank attacks went like clockwork, with the Punic left and right centre zones being seized pre-emptively on turn 2 and the Spanish moving forward into the Roman centre zone but refraining from entering the cleared Punic centre zone. The Roman cavalry quickly prevailed on the flanks into the bargain, and turned in against the Punic infantry wings in their left and right rear zones, as shown in the picture below. The Carthaginians fought back doggedly, while turning their unengaged centre and feeding reinforcements to their right as quickly as their limited commands allowed. This was offset by reinforcements for Silanus from the Spanish in the centre, and by a truly heroic performance by the Roman veteran cavalry, which inflicted no fewer than 7 hits throughout the game! Scipio broke the enemy left on turn 5, and Silanus broke the right the following turn as the Spanish moved up to complete the encirclement. The three remaining Punic infantry units in the rear zone withdrew voluntarily to their camp, and the Romans won a clear game victory by 19 points.



Our second game started off very differently, with no Punic units being shattered anywhere on turn 2, and with the Carthaginian main line moving forward in the centre and right. Scipio belatedly seized the enemy left centre zone on turn 3 despite a brief rainstorm, while Hasdrubal pushed boldly forward into the Roman centre zone against the outmatched Spanish, as shown in the picture below. The fighting then degenerated into a bloody slogging match all along the jagged front, with the Carthaginians being handicapped by fatigue as they became increasingly spent. The veteran Roman cavalry broke through and curved round behind the right of the Punic line, but they were countered and eventually shattered by an infantry unit held back for this very purpose. Finally on turn 6 Scipio cleared the enemy left rear zone and Silanus shattered yet another unit on the Punic right, prompting the remaining Carthaginians to flee on a morale roll of 1. Although the Romans were much more battered than in the first refight, Hasdrubal's men had also suffered severely in the bitter fighting, and the Romans gained a narrow game victory by 4 points.



Our final refight was different again. Scipio and Silanus quickly seized the Punic left and right centre zones, but the strong Punic centre again advanced boldly into the pocket between them, while the Carthaginian cavalry on both flanks held out a lot longer than in the first game. Persistent rain began on turn 3, hindering both sides but especially the poorly commanded Carthaginians. Scipio's wing nevertheless became entirely spent, and his Spanish centre was starting to crumble, but on turn 6 the veteran Roman cavalry shattered a Punic unit and the heavy morale penalties faced by the surrounded Carthaginian centre meant that it withdrew from the field despite still being almost entirely fresh, closely followed by the remnants of the Punic wings. (This was a rare instance of light infantry panic proving contagious, because of the sheer number of skirmishers in the Punic centre zone.) Because the Carthaginians had been less damaged than in the other games, this refight was actually the closest in terms of game victory, with the Romans only barely ahead by 1 point.

All three refights were very satisfying, and they mirrored nicely the core dynamics of the real engagement, despite the detailed differences among them. Yesterday I refought Cannae in class to show my BA students these dynamics, and the game which I ran myself was incredibly tense as the legions pushed into the withdrawing Punic centre to try to crack the exhausted Gallic infantry before Hannibal's encirclement could take effect. In the end the Romans failed to shatter a single Carthaginian unit, but they still inflicted enough damage to win the narrowest of game victories by 111 points to 110!
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