Recommend
26 
 Thumb up
 Hide
4 Posts

Lost Battles» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Pharsalus x3 rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Philip Sabin
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar


At the annual Society of Ancients Battle Day last Saturday, we focused on Caesar's classic defeat of Pompey at Pharsalus in 48 BC. I gave an initial illustrated talk and Q&A session to set the scene, and then we got on with the multiple refights using different rules sets as shown above. Pharsalus is the last of the 36 engagements covered in my Lost Battles system, so we were easily able to put on a large scale game using Eric's 28mm figures as usual. The scenario accepts Caesar's figures for the size of the two armies, even though this leaves him outnumbered by 2:1 in legionaries and 7:1 in cavalry. With Caesar's army being entirely veteran while Pompey's is average, the enormous qualitative factor in Lost Battles leaves Caesar with almost as many fighting units as Pompey (as shown below), and with a significant superiority in overall fighting value (by 92 to 77) thanks to his far better command rating.



We easily managed three very different refights, lasting around 90 minutes each. In our first battle, Pompey's cavalry surged forward and shattered one of Caesar's two Gallic horse units at the outset, but his legions were held back, advancing only in the centre. This allowed Antony to push forward by the river, while Caesar himself led three legionary units from his unengaged right centre for a devastating counterblow against Pompey's horsemen when the flip-flop was declared on turn 3. Pompey belatedly advanced his leftmost legionaries, but he still kept two legionary units back to guard against encirclement, creating the situation shown below.



On turns 4 and 5, Caesar and Antony continued to attack successfully on both flanks, and Pompey's forces there crumbled away as shown below. Meanwhile in the centre, Pompey made gradual progress, and he finally managed to shatter an enemy legionary unit on turn 7, but nemesis came the following turn when Caesar and Antony turned in from both flanks and the remaining Pompeians took to flight. Caesar had prevailed strikingly on the field itself, having had only two units shattered, but the handicap rules meant that game victory was very close indeed, with Caesar squeezing out a narrow game victory by a margin of just 3 points (122 to 119) due to most of his veteran forces being spent from the prolonged fighting.



In our second game, Caesar decided to pre-empt the risk of damage to his cavalry by declaring an immediate flip-flop on turn 2, sending two legionary units to reinforce his outnumbered horsemen and advancing all the rest to engage the Pompeian line. This had the benefit of demoralising the enemy by seizing all of their centre zones, but it meant that Pompey's legions would get in the first blow in the attritional contest. Caesar's cavalry and supporting legionaries prevailed as they did historically, and by turn 4 they had advanced and turned the Pompeian flank as shown below. However, the frontal fighting was bitter and drawn-out, with Caesar's outnumbered veterans becoming spent and having several units shattered despite vain rally attempts by Antony and Caesar himself. It was not until turn 8 that Pompey's left rear was finally overcome, and the rest of his army gave way only when he himself fell while trying to rally his troops on the following turn. Despite Pompey's fall, Caesar's army suffered a clear game defeat by 138 points to 119, showing the perils of accepting a linear attritional slugging match when using an entirely veteran force.



In our final refight, both sides were keen to apply the lessons of their previous experiences. Caesar delayed his flip-flop until turn 3, while Pompey advanced his legions all along the line. Reinforced by two legionary units led by Caesar himself, the veteran Gallic cavalry prevailed again over Pompey's horsemen with the help of two successful rally attempts by Caesar, and on turn 5 they curled round into the right rear of the enemy infantry line (as shown below). Meanwhile Caesar's legionaries held the line doggedly and looked forward to an enemy panic as the encirclement took effect.



It was not to be. The exhausted Gallic horsemen were countered by a single detached legionary unit, and by turn 7 both had been shattered and the threat removed. That same turn, Antony and Caesar finally broke the wings of the enemy infantry line after bitter fighting, but in the centre Pompey himself was prevailing, and on turn 9 (as shown below) he managed to surge forward against the remnants of Caesar's centre before the flank attacks could take full effect. The battle ended the following turn in an indecisive stand-off, but as regards game victory the result could not have been clearer - Pompey triumphed by 164 points to 105, well over double the margin needed for a major game victory.



All three refights replicated the counter-intuitive historical victory of Caesar's outnumbered flanking forces, and in none of them was Pompey able to translate his overall numerical superiority into a real battlefield victory. However, the experience did show that Caesar's army has its work cut out to limit its losses sufficiently to achieve a game victory under the standard calculation system, and this is a clear case for bidding for sides to modify the handicap as provided for in section 10.3 of the boardgame rules.

Interestingly, we were not the only people to run a Lost Battles refight at the Battle Day. Another group also used the Lost Battles system, but they tweaked this to add a more detailed refight of the crucial cavalry contest on the furthest of the three tables shown below under another rules set (Hail Caesar I believe), with the results fed back into the Lost Battles version. This obviously took longer than our own rapid multiple refights, but it is a fascinating and ingenious example of a hybrid approach. Next weekend at the big Salute show in London, we will be refighting another battle in which massive numerical superiority proved unavailing, namely the Seleucid defeat by the Romans at Magnesia in 190 BC.

24 
 Thumb up
3.00
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David Murray
United Kingdom
Driffield
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I concur -
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Andrew Hobley
United Kingdom
Andover
Hampshire
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I was Caesar / Pompey / Caesar in the battles. Two narrow victories (OK, one I did not live to see) and a shattering defeat means I think I come out on bottom. Alan, as Pompey, had awful dice in the first game, which did help my victory.

In the last game I am still not sure what went wrong - Phil said shifting troops across to bolster up a shaky sector was a bad move, but there must have been more than that. I won't forget the look of disbelief on Phil's face when he looked at the shattered Caesarean units and counted TEN! Shortly before that I had that sinking feeling of 'This is not going well - and there is no get out'

Many thanks to Phil for putting this on (and designing the system) and to Alan and Eric for being my opponents/allies.

And the final lesson - legionaries, its not enough to kill them, you have to knock them over as well!
3 
 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.