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Battles of the Ancient World Volume II» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Battle of Carrhae - After Action Report rss

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David Gómez Relloso
Dobro (Los Altos)
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This was one of the worst defeats of the Roman army, and it had important consequences for the Late Roman Republic. Marcus Licinius Crassus, member of the First Triumvirate (along with Pompey and Julius Caesar) erroneously decided to attack the Parthian Empire, and he died -with thousands of his men- in the battle of Carrhae (in the southeastern Anatolia). This caused the end of the Triumvirate and the resulting civil war between the other two triumvirs.

Historical context


In this scenario Romans have very few cavalry, while the Parthian army is entirely made of mounted forces. Roman infantry is deployed in a large square, with several separated units on the right. Parthians are deployed in two lines, with archers in the front and heavier cavalry behind them.

This a battle where Roman forces are three times their enemies, so the Parthian player must play wisely and make good use of his abilities to win: all his cavalry may disengage in combat, archers are more deadly than usual (they may eliminate enemy units instead of just disrupting them and they may fire in the middle of their movement) and units may abandon the map through one edge and return later through the same edge.

Summary of the game

Turn 1: The Parthian player must take decisions from the very beginning of the battle. I decide to be aggressive and try to eliminate the enemy cavalry to reduce his mobility. Enemy archers are my other objective, because if they impact on my troops they cancel my disengagement ability. Attacking means risking units, but I think that it is worth it. The charge is successful and I eliminate all the cavalry and archers (nine units in total). Meantime, I send three units out of the map to come back later and possibly outflank the enemy.

The Roman player tries to hunt down as many enemy units as possible using the infantry’s pilums, so there is a general advance looking for contact, and the remaining cavalry units are also used to charge and fix enemy units. Success is unequal, but overall the results are good: on the right nothing is obtained, but on the left six enemy units are eliminated!
(Parthian losses: 28 / Roman losses: 26)

Turn 2: The losses of the previous turn have been higher than expected, so the right flank, in front of the Roman square, must be abandoned. On the left all the vulnerable enemy units except one are destroyed.
Romans advance towards the Parthian camp, and two enemy units are eliminated: one, thanks to the cavalry –that avoid enemy retreat before battle- and the other due to a desperate attack by the last surviving unit on the right! At the end of this turn, things seem really bad for the Parthian player, as his forces are only 8 points from demoralization.
(Parthian losses: 42 / Roman losses: 39)

Turn 3: Finally the Parthians achieve their first deadly shots (archers destroy their enemy with a die roll of “1”, but that result has not been rolled until now). Mounted archers opt for abandoning the map after shooting. The stronger cavalry charges against the Roman vanguard and it is a disaster. Parthian losses are in 48.
Romans continue advancing towards the enemy camp and one surrounded Parthian cavalry unit is eliminated. This time there is little success with the pilums, but it is unnecessary. Another enemy unit is surrounded and destroyed, so Parthians arrive to their disintegration level: 60 points. Game over with a clear Roman victory.
(Parthian losses: 60 / Roman losses: 58)

Conclusion and comments about the scenario

History was not repeated and things would have been quite different for the crumbling Roman Republic: what could have happened if Crassus survived and won the battle of Carrhae? That is an interesting “what if?”

I am a bit surprised with the quick end of the scenario and the resounding Roman victory. I had played the battle only once many years ago, and I remembered an easy Parthian victory. The Parthian army has several advantages, but it is fragile, and cannot afford the loss of too many units. Romans have an overwhelming numerical superiority, and the key towards victory is being able to catch the evasive enemies.

Probably the initial Parthian charge was a mistake, but I thought that eliminating the archers was a good idea. Arrows and pilums are useful to disrupt enemies and prevent them for avoiding combat.

Parthians have a highly mobile army and their archers can cause losses, but they cannot win using only ranged weapons, they must also charge and eliminate Romans in close combat. This is a difficult task, because it involves risking the precious units against enemy cavalry, archers and the javalins.

Definitely this is an interesting –and different- scenario, and I would like to try a different approach with the Parthians. Meantime, Roma vincit!
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