Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Battle of Dertosa (Ebro)-a solo game using Command and Colors Ancients

 Dertosa was my third and final experiment converting Command and Colors Ancients to a miniatures game.

I have always liked the CCA type rules with the innovative card systems that forces a player to make a decision every turn from limited options. My goal with the conversion was to come up with a solo system that worked. With this experiment I believe I succeeded but also believe the game could just as easily be two player.

My hex system matts are from Holtz Matts (Holtz Matts gets mixed reviews so beware). Theymatch the CCA game board in the number of hexes. I use the 3' variety to accommodate my bigger stands. I use the bigger stands because it isa better visual

This experiment was a full fledged CCA scenario from their excellent website. It is from the 2nd Punic War, post Cannae, as the Scipio brothers seek to contain Hasdrubal from joining his brother. The battle was the beginning of the Roman attempt to wrestle Spain from the Carthaginians. 

The Romans were my AI while I commanded the Carthaginians.

A friend and solo gamer with far more experience than me advised me to always "set my self up" meaning the AI has got to have a a good chance of winning.

For the purposes of this game I gave the AI an extra command card every turn.  I would always choose from the most likely to be played. This worked out well as the AI always had 6 cards plus an extra draw to chose from. I had four cards thus limiting my options by nearly 1\2.

There are other ways to do this including randomizing; but for this game it worked well enough. 

I assumed the Romans would, all things being equal press on to smash through the enemy center. Those type of cards became my AI default maneuver as long as I didn't have to pay too attention to the flanks. As it turned out I did not.

Below is the CCA description followed by the CCA map followed by my pictures of the game which went 12 turns. I will attempt describe the action.

Historical Background
After Cannae, Rome struggled to rebuild its armies, but needed time. In Spain, Hannibal’s brother Hasdrubal commanded an army large enough to possibly let Carthage win the war – if it united with Hannibal’s victorious veterans. Standing in his way, however, were the legions of two capable (at last) consuls, the brothers Gnaeus and Publius Scipio. Both knew of Cannae, but felt the only way to prevent encirclement was to quickly break the Carthaginian center. When the battle commenced, the Roman legions fiercely attacked the Carthaginian center, but , unlike Cannae, there was enough Roman cavalry to hold their flanks. Lacking cavalry superiority (and his brother’s tactical genius), Hasdrubal was unable to surround the Romans before they broke through his center. His cavalry joined the retreat, leaving the splendid heavy infantry to its fate. Rome was granted the time it needed to live and fight another day. Eight years later, Hasdrubal finally was able to march to Italy, but lost both his army and his life at the Metaurus. 

Taken from Ancients - Commands and Colors System website.
Page title: 008 Dertosa (Ebro) (215 BC) - Ancients - Commands and Colors System
Page link:

Carthaginian left\center flank. From left to right in the picture you see 4 units of Spanish Aux, one unit of slingers, one unit of Libyan Hv Spears with Hasdrubal and one elephant crewed by Numidians.

Carthaginian right\center. Anchoring the left of the line is a unit of Libyan Hv Spear, then another unit of slingers and then more Spanish Aux. The placement of the two Libyan Hv Spear was not helpful but that was part of the fun of not having total control of everything!

This is the Roman right\center. On the far left is a unit of Italian Aux with the legionnaires adjacent . One unit of velites screens the legions. A unit of Md Cavalry is in deep reserve.

The Roman right\center mirrors the Romand left\center.

Initial Roman moves pushed out the light troops.

A nice picture of the Carthaginian battle line. My idea was to delay as long as possible engaging the legionaries with my Spanish Aux. The patchy lighting is due to two large skylights in my game room.

I had high hopes for the three units of Numidian Lh and things started all right. I could not quite get around the Roman line before the legions smashed into the Spanish Aux.

Waiting patiently at this point.

Once the legions get moving they are hard to stop.

The larger base has one of the Scipio brothers (on foot) as a command stand.

I thought my best bet was to get the Numidian's out there to at least slow down the Roman left\center advance.

The Roman right was in no hurry as the Numidian's advanced on the other flank. Once the Numidians were contained the juggernaught could get moving. The mounted stand is the other Scipio brother. Leaders are critical in CCA.

I had some success damaging the Italian Aux and the Roman Md Cavalry but could not make any kills in time.

I decided to press a bit on the Roman right with the elephant unit, the Md Spanish cavalry and slingers. The idea was once again to slow down the legions from crashing into the Spanish Aux.

The Numidian's on the left of the picture are starting out well but the legions are starting to move, apparently not too worried about the flank at this point. The AI stacked up a number of center type cards and as the honest AI played them when I could to close that distance even to the point of sacrificing a flank. As it turned out the AI didn't have to sacrifice anything! 

The Italian Aux gave ground but stayed in the fight! The die means they have taken two hits out of the four needed to remove the unit.

Sadly for the Carthaginians, the other flank was a bit of stalemate. One of the things I like about CCA is the fact the maps give you a logical ancient deployment. The two units of Italian Aux deployed to either flank gave an excellent account of themselves. I think in my version of DBA they would not have stood a chance. 

More stalemate as the legions get even closer. I probably should have started to back up my Spanish Aux but I never got a card that allowed me to back them up as a group (five units).

By the time the Numidian's did get around the Italian Aux and push back the Roman cavalry I had to use cards elsewhere.This may have been Carthaginian high tide!

The legions are too close to comfort now! The elephant unit held it's own.

I did manage to push back the extreme Roman right but lost the slingers in the process. Two units of legionaries are now engaging two of the Spanish units. The Romans have the dice edge, but at this point you can see damaged Roman units. I just could not put them away for good. The card system limits your options and at this point my center was in big trouble.

It was not quite hopeless at this point.

Now it's starting to look hopeless! One Roman unit is breaking through while the adjacent Roman unit has already eliminated the oppostion.

End of story, three out of five Spanish Aux eliminated plus the slingers equaled four for the loss; while taking out only one unit of Roman Md Infantry. Hasdrubal looks a bit uncomfortable at this point and the Libyan Hv Spear might just have well been positioned on Mars!