Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Battle of Crimissos River 341BC

I went over to Friendless' house Thursday evening for some more Commands & Colors: Ancients gaming.

We'd previously decided to play the Battle of Crimissos River 341BC from the base Commands & Colors: Ancients game and Friendless had the board already set up when I arrived. I happened to sit down on the side of the table that the Carthaginians were on and so the battle commenced.

The Battle of Crimissos River (341BC)

Historical Background (From the scenario booklet)

The Carthaginians learned from earlier defeats in Sicily that they had to field reliable, trained heavy infantry of their own. They formed the Sacred Band, a force of about 2,500 excellently trained Carthaginians, as good or better than the best the Greeks or Syracusans could field. They formed a part of a large army under Hasdrubal, advancing eastward to subjugate Sicily. Opposing him with a much smaller army was the able tactician Timoleon. Ever aggressive, Timoleon anxiously awaited an opportunity to strike the Carthaginians a hard blow on his terms. He got that chance when, on a foggy morning, Hasdrubal carelessly ordered his army to cross the Crimissos River without bothering to send out scouts (who would have reported that Timoleon’s army was arrayed on the bluffs just beyond the river). Waiting until about half of the Carthaginian army had crossed, Timoleon unleashed his excellent heavy infantry phalanx against the surprised Carthaginians. Most who survived fled, but the Sacred Band stood their ground and were annihilated by superior numbers, (aided by a sudden rainstorm that slowed Carthaginian reinforcements crossing the river). Seeing the disaster unfolding across the river, the remainder of Hasdrubal’s army broke and fled. The loss of so many citizen soldiers had a horrific effect on Carthage. The Sacred Band was reformed, but only once was it ever dispatched from Africa again, and then only for a very short campaign.

The stage is set. The battle lines are drawn and you are in command. The rest is history.

War Council

Carthaginian Army
• Leader: Hasdrubal
• 5 Command Cards
• Move First

Syracusan Army
• Leader: Timoleon
• 5 Command Cards

5 Banners

Special Rules

  • The Crimissos River is fordable only at the five bends in the river.
  • The Carthaginian Sacred Band is a special unit. Place a Special Unit block (if playing with expansion blocks) or a Carthaginian Victory Banner block in the hex with the Sacred Band unit to distinguish it from other Carthaginian units. Sacred Band special abilities:
  • - The Sacred Band will score one hit for each leader symbol rolled in close combat. A leader does not have to be attached or in an adjacent hex to confer this benefit.
  • - The Sacred Band may ignore one flag.
  • - The Sacred Band retains these special abilities until the last block of the unit has been removed from the battlefield.
  • The Special Unit/Victory banner block moves with the unit. It does not count as a block that can be removed to satisfy losses. This block is not transferable to any other unit. If the Sacred Band unit is eliminated, this block is removed from the map along with the last block of the unit.
* I've highlighted the above in red because we were using the 1st printing of C&C Ancients and the above text only appeared in the 2nd printing of the game. As such we did not use the Sacred Band's special abilities.

Image from
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Game 1: In our first game I commanded the Carthaginians (brown blocks), while Friendless commanded the Syracusans (grey blocks). We had played this particular scenario once before, back in 2006, but I have no records of the outcome.

Friendless started by playing Line Advance to send his entire line forward. I decide to get rid of the card Inspired Left Leadership to move one unit of my choice because I have no Leaders on my left flank. I moved my Medium Cavalry forward towards the river crossing. Friendless similarly burns an Inspired Right Leadership card by moving one of his light units forward to oppose my river crossing.

I decide to Order Light Troops and send a barrage of missiles at the advancing Syracusan troops. I roll a total of 7 dice and achieve no hits. Friendless then sends his Heavy Infantry in to attack my centre with an Order Heavy Troops. In that one turn he reduces two of my Auxilia units to a single block each. My Auxilia units both battle back and score a couple of hits.

I respond by playing an Order Three Units Left to move my two Medium Infantry and a unit of Light Slingers forward. One Medium Infantry unit and the Slingers reach the river crossing. Friendless continues his attack in the centre by playing an Order Three Units Centre. His Heavy Infantry kill off one of my Auxilia units. Banner check: Ozvortex 0, Friendless 1.

I play a Coordinated Attack to order a unit in each section. The main battle is my Medium Infantry which crosses the river and attacks a unit of Syracusan Heavy Infantry scoring two hits. The Heavy Infantry battles back and rolls four blue triangles to destroy my Medium Infantry in one attack. Banner check: Ozvortex 0, Friendless 2.

Friendless then plays Order Three Units Right to have his light units shoot at my troops still trying to cross the river. Luckily the damage is minimal.

I then judge the time is right to play Order Four Units Right to send forward my Leader, Hasdrubal, with his two units of Heavy Infantry, a unit of Light Slingers and a unit of Heavy Chariots. My attack is devastating and I kill two Syracusan units of Heavy Infantry and Auxilia. The Syracusan Leader, Timoleon, who was attached to the Heavy Infantry unit, survives a Leader Casualty check and evades back towards a unit of Medium Cavalry. Banner check: Ozvortex 2, Friendless 2.

I'm now getting very nervous. The majority of the cards in my hand are Centre section cards. In the centre I only have one severely wounded Auxilia unit which has retired to the back of the board. My tough troops under my only Leader are on my right flank. My other good Medium troops are stuck behind the river on my left flank with little opportunity to cross. I am, however, pleasantly surprised when I draw my replacement card.

Friendless then plays Leadership Any Section to attach his Leader to the unit of Medium Cavalry on his left flank. That's a threat I'll have to watch closely. I reply by playing the card I'd just picked up - Double Time. This card allowed me to move two units of Heavy Infantry and a unit of Light Infantry from my right flank in to the centre section. I had at least three centre section cards in my hand and this move put me in a much better situation.

Friendless then sends Timoleon, commanding a unit of Medium Cavalry, forward via a Mounted Attack to harry my unit of Heavy Chariots which had been left unsupported on my right flank. My Heavy Chariot unit is wiped out. Banner check: Ozvortex 2, Friendless 3.

I now use my Order Four Units Centre card I'd been holding in my hand to good effect. Hasdrubal and his Heavy Infantry destroy a unit of Syracusan Heavy Infantry. Banner check: Ozvortex 3, Friendless 3.

Friendless plays Order Medium Troops and sends Timoleon and his Medium Cavalry charging behind my lines into my wounded unit of Auxilia at the rear of my centre. He overruns the Auxilia unit and then momentum advances to attack my unit of Light Infantry which thankfully was able to successfully evade. Banner check: Ozvortex 3, Friendless 4.

I can see the battle slipping away from me. Friendless is only 0ne banner from victory. If I'm going to do anything it's going to have to be now.

I play Order Three Units Centre. Timoleon's charge and subsequent momentum advance has put him within range of my centre units and I am able to cunningly position my units such that his retreat towards his own side of the battlefield is blocked. His Medium Cavalry will now lose a block for every hex it can't retreat on a flag roll. I attack Timoleon and his Medium Cavalry with two units of Heavy Infantry and a unit of Light Infantry. All three of my units are either attached or adjacent to my Leader, Hasdrubal. That will be a total of 12 dice spread over three attacks. The first attack by my Heavy Infantry unit commanded by Hasdrubal is enough to seal the fate of Timoleon's Medium Cavalry. Banner check: Ozvortex 4, Friendless 4.

Timoleon, a Leader alone in a hex, must now evade. He's in a difficult position because he will have to evade through enemy units. He chooses to evade through Hasdrubal's Heavy Infantry. I attack and only need to roll a purple helmet on any of 5 dice. I do and Timoleon is killed. Banner check: Ozvortex 5, Friendless 4.

Victory is mine!

Final score was me with 5 banners for the win against Friendless with 4 banners.

The placement of forces at the end of the battle. Viewed from the Carthaginian side.

Game 2: We swapped armies so I now commanded the Syracusans (grey blocks) and Friendless commanded the Carthaginians (brown blocks).

I commence with an Order Two Units Right and sent my Light Infantry and Light Slinger units forward to the edge of the Crimissos River to oppose the Carthaginian crossing. Unfortunately, this put me in range of one of the Warrior units on the other side of the river. Friendless plays Order Medium Troops to send his Warrior unit charging into my Light Slingers doing heavy damage before they could evade. He also moves his Medium Infantry units and Medium Cavalry unit forward. The Order Medium Troops is the card I'd been hoping to receive in my hand in our previous game as most of the Carthaginian troops stuck behind the river were Medium units.

I play Order Heavy Troops to move forward those troops in my centre. Friendless plays Outflanked and his Warrior unit that had crossed the river charges forward and attacks one of my Auxilia units on my right flank. My Auxilia takes a hit and has to retreat. The Warrior unit then momentum advances and attacks another unit of my Auxilia, scoring another hit. My right flank was suddenly looking in trouble from this berserk Warrior unit which was now being supported by Carthaginian Medium Infantry crossing the river. Meanwhile, his Medium Cavalry unit on my right flank races along the opposite bank of the river towards the ford where it can cross and attack into my rear.

I play Order Four Units Right to try to hold back the attacks on my right flank. I score no hits. Friendless plays another Order Medium Troops to again send his crazed Warrior unit to create more devastation on my right flank. My unit of Light Slingers falls. Banner Check: Ozvortex 0, Friendless 1. Meanwhile more Medium Carthaginian troops move to cross the river and his unit of Medium Cavalry on my right flank reaches the ford.

I respond by playing Outflanked. This gives me two orders on each flank. I try to pull back some of my wounded units on my right flank. On my left flank I charge my Medium Cavalry into the Carthaginian unit of Heavy Cavalry. I destroy it. Banner Check: Ozvortex 1, Friendless 1.

Friendless plays (another!) Order Medium Troops card. His Medium Cavalry unit enters the ford at my rear. More Carthaginian troops cross the river to my front. I play Order Three Units Left and set up a nice attack on Hasdrubal and his Heavy Infantry. I attack with a unit of Medium Cavalry, a unit of Auxilia and a unit of Heavy Infantry commanded by Timoleon. I will have the opportunity of rolling 11 dice against the Carthaginian Leader. Unfortunately, on my first throw of the dice I roll two flags thus allowing the Hasdrubal to retreat to safety and take no further attacks. What a pity!

Friendless continues the fight in that section of the battlefield and plays Inspired Right Leadership. His unit of Heavy Infantry (the Sacred Band) attacks my Medium Cavalry but does little damage as it evades. Hasdrubal and his Heavy Infantry attack my Leader, Timoleon, and his Heavy Infantry. In the attack and subsequent battle back each unit loses two blocks.

I want to finish what I started so I again play Order Three Units Left. Timoleon and his Heavy Infantry wipe out Hasdrubal's Heavy Infantry. Banner check: Ozvortex 2, Friendless 1. Hasdrubal evades alone back towards his board edge.

Friendless now plays Move-Fire-Move. One of his Light Infantry finishes off the Heavy Infantry of Hasdrubal on my left flank. Hasdrubal evades and attaches himself to a unit of Auxilia. Banner check: Ozvortex 2, Friendless 2.

I Order Light Troops on my right flank. My wounded unit of Auxilia finally kills that Warrior unit that had been giving me such grief. Banner check: Ozvortex 3, Friendless 2.

Friendless plays Order Two Units Left. Another of his Warrior units on my right flank kills off my Auxilia unit. Banner check: Ozvortex 3, Friendless 3. The Warrior unit momentum advances and attacks my Light Infantry unit which evades - right next to the Carthaginian Medium Cavalry unit which has now crossed the river to behind my lines. My poor Light Infantry unit is then attacked but does manage to evade to the back edge of my board with only 1 block left.

My entire right flank has crumbled. I play a Line Advance to move my centre units forward closer to what is remaining of the Carthaginian Centre. It's now a race to see who can break who first.

Friendless responds by playing Order Three Units Centre to straighten up his line and send some missiles my way to no effect.

I then come up with a brilliant plan. A plan which, if successful, would win me two banners and the game on my turn. I play I Am Spartacus and as a result of the dice rolls am allowed to order two Light units, a Medium unit and a Heavy unit. On my right flank my lone unit of Light Infantry with only one block remaining moves forward to place itself behind the Carthaginian Medium Cavalry and next to a Carthaginian Warrior unit, thus blocking the retreat of the Medium Cavalry. I only have to roll a single flag on two dice to wipe out the Medium Cavalry.

Meanwhile, on my left flank I order my unit of Medium Cavalry, a unit of Heavy Infantry and Timoleon and his unit of Auxilia to attack the Carthaginian Sacred Band of Heavy Infantry.

I roll the attack of my Light Infantry unit on my right flank first. It has the opportunity to totally kill a full strength unit of Medium Cavalry by rolling at least one flag on two dice. I roll the dice but sadly do not roll a flag. The Medium Cavalry battles back and wipes out my Light Infantry. Ah well, it didn't go my way, but I was pleased with my cunning plan of blocking off the retreat of the Medium Cavalry. Banner check: Ozvortex 3, Friendless 4. Oh no, he's only one banner from winning!

I now roll my attack against the Sacred Band on my left flank. My rolls are good and the Sacred Band is massacred to a man. Banner check: Ozvortex 4, Friendless 4. It is any one's game.

Friendless plays Order Three Units Centre. He attacks a unit of my Heavy Infantry with a unit of Medium Infantry and a unit of Warriors. My Heavy Infantry unit is unfortunately decimated. Banner check: Ozvortex 4, Friendless 5. Victory to Friendless!

Final scores were Friendless with 5 banners for the win and me with 4 banners.

The placement of forces at the end of the battle. Viewed from the Syracusan side.

The final total score of both games was me with 9 banners and Friendless with 9 banners. Both games were very close, very tense and extremely exciting. When Friendless and I next meet we will play the second scenario of Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #1: Greece & Eastern Kingdoms - Himera 480BC.

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