1 October 2014

After Action Report: Hannibal: Rome and Carthage AAR

Tim Delaney takes command as Hannibal and tries to best him by setting his goal to conquer Rome.

Published on 10 SEP 2010 11:25am by Scott Parrino
  1. roman empire, turn-based, north africa, single-player, europe

Author:  Tim Delaney

Can Carthage win the Second Punic War? Few generals have faced such an apparent strategic overmatch as Hannibal. This game sets a big challenge.

I’m going to play on Normal level. The difficulties will be greater, especially as I've learned that the AI in this game has to be respected. I mean, really respected. It is very capable and unlike any AI I've encountered elsewhere.

Turn 1

At the outset, I have a key choice: take the Standard Move that puts Hannibal already over the Alps with a substantial army, or start from Spain and hope that I can get through Gaul and the Alps with an even larger army.

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The better choice? Hmmm.

I'm going to gamble. I'll uncheck the Standard Move and let the Fates have their say!

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I'm authorized to establish two new units in Carthage before beginning my move. I'm going to choose two naval units. The Romans can build a very powerful fleet and I'll almost always be badly outnumbered, but I figure if can build enough ships and keep them concentrated I may be able to get local naval superiority at critical times.

Now to undertake Hannibal's epic movement into Gaul and across the Alps! He'll be the first unit I move, but I also want to move my naval units, which are badly dispersed and easy pickings for the Romans. Fortunately the Senate has authorized 4 Command Phases, and that should be enough. The key is to plan each move ahead, because once a leader has moved and Command has passed to another, you can't go back and move him again. That can be a real “gotcha”.

So here goes.... across Gaul goes Hannibal....

...Attrition was pretty bad. 4 units lost. Ugh! I'm down to 10 units, less than I would have had if I'd stayed with the Standard Move.

And I still have to get into Cisalpine Gaul. There are two ways to do it. I can go over the mountains and suffer Mountain Attrition, or I can try to seize Turin or Mediolanum directly. Trouble is, I'd be attacking those cities on their “strong side”. They're lightly defended, but I have already lost a lot....

Either way I have to make an Extended March. That means I'm at further risk of attrition. I have an option card I can play to take care of that problem, though.

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Option 1 lets me a “steal a march”, literally….

I’m gong to risk a direct attack on Turin.

I won’t show this battle as it’s pretty straightforward. I managed to gain the city without a single loss. So now I’m over the mountains! The trek is finished.

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Hannibal is still the active commander and I need to decide how best to end his move.

I need a quick victory over a Roman field army. That will improve my situation radically and bring in Gauls to replace some of my losses. The Roman general Sempronius is sitting in Placentia with a substantial army. He’s known to be quite aggressive (see the Strategy Notes in the game for biographical insights of this kind) and his low command rating tells me he’s not very competent. Perfect. An aggressive fool. Maybe I can lure him out and play one of my Punic Tricks on him….

I’ll move out of Turin and into the open where Sempronius can get a good look at me and end Hannibal’s turn there.

I have 3 command phases left. I’ll move my fleets near Spain and in the Mediterranean into Carthage and concentrate them.

What to do with Hasdrubal and his small army in Spain?

The Romans like to attack Spain and it's possible for them to attack my Spanish ports directly from the sea without giving Hasdrubal’s field army any chance to intercept them first. So I'm going to move Hasdrubal into Emporium to boost the garrison. I hope that will make the Romans think twice about attacking.

Finally, I want to review my Option Cards and decide if it would be useful to play one at this stage.

I've got 2 Reinforcement cards, so I'll play one of those. I'll select another fleet. I’m determined to build up Carthaginian naval power.

And that is the end of my move! I finish by drawing another Option Card – a good one, Treachery – and doing a little recruiting in Spain.

Now for the Roman response.....

After the Roman Senate finishes its deliberations, Servilius goes by sea to attack Emporium in Spain! Moving Hasdrubal into Emporium was not a deterrent after all. Servilius plays a “Roman Siege” option card, which allows him to get rid of both of my militia units. That hurts. He’s evened the odds for himself pretty nicely as you can see.

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And so on to the fight!

The battle goes 5 bloody rounds. I barely hold on – Hasdrubal has no units left but the Romans broke off at the last gasp of the defense. Whew. I think I got away with one there. But Hasdrubal will be doomed next turn without reinforcement.

The Romans next assign a command phase to Sempronius, who is nothing if not predictable. He comes out of his fortress, giving me a chance to intercept his army.

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Naturally I accept and I’m delighted that Sempronius declines to go into camp and avoid a pitched battle. It’s on!

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I have a slight numerical advantage but my real advantage is my Punic Tricks card. Only Hannibal can play these.

I click the Battle Card button and play it:

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I’ve got a nice array of choices here, all of them deadly. I have a very large preponderance of cavalry in my force, so I think I’m going to use #4, Cavalry Maneuver. This increases the attack factor of all my cavalry for the duration of the battle and also gives them added punch in pursuit.

The results are shattering. On the second round I score 8 hits and 2 routs, completely obliterating Sempronius’ line. The battle is over. There isn’t even any need for pursuit.

Wow. Can’t have enough Punic Tricks up your sleeve. Any of the options can be devastating.

The victory brings instant political benefits too. The cities of Mediolanum and Patavium throw off Roman rule and come over to the Carthaginian camp. Also, I get to draw an Option Card for defeating a Roman general. It is Syracuse Revolts or Gallic Aid.

The Romans finish their not-very-successful turn with a few organizational movements that aren’t threatening. But now comes their recruiting phase. The numbers are very sobering:

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Rome has replaced almost as much as Sempronius lost. I’ve got to cut down on those numbers or Carthage will be quickly overwhelmed.

Turn 2

It's time to advise the Carthaginian Senate on this turn's strategy. I've been whittled down badly in Italy – Sempronius didn't go down without a fight – and I would like to reinforce Hannibal. But Hasdrubal is in desperate straights in Spain. He's defenceless. I have to reinforce him.

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Thankfully the Senate agrees. I give the Command Phase to Himilco in Carthage and sail to Spain with his army. After picking up Hasdrubal in Emporium, I move to attack Fulvius' little remnant.

But he refuses battle!

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The Normal level of play allows armies to refuse battle in the field and retreat to their camps, where they can take advantage of an enhanced defense. Sometimes they are outmaneuvered in the process and must accept battle in the open but usually they will succeed.

I don't like this but I'm going to attack his camp anyway. I'm hoping the defensive advantage he gets from his camp won't offset my modest numerical advantage.

On the first round of battle I score no hits and no routs. I lose one unit.

Not a good start.

The second round is worse. I lose 2 units! Fulvius has lost nothing. I’ve got to retreat. This attack was a major mistake.

I click retreat and slink into New Carthage with what little is left. Fulvius is promoted and gains an option card.

The lesson plainly is, Camp Battles are really tough. To be successful you need the right mix of forces and a big numerical advantage.

That ends my Spanish adventures for this turn.

Now to do something useful with Hannibal. I give him the Command.

I play the Gallic Aid card. This brings him instant and much-needed reinforcement: 2 infantry and one cavalry. Gallic units are great on the attack.

Next, an exercise in Treachery!

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I want to take Genoa to improve communications with Spain and make it easier to move units back and forth. There are no Roman generals present with the garrison, so the time is ripe to play this card. The result:

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That was easy. I'm going to take the card's advice and reinforce my newly-allied city with a couple of units. And then send Mago with a small force of Gauls back to Spain to recapture lightly-held Emporium.

… and Mago managed to lose a unit in this operation. Crap.  I never liked Mago.

Spain is still looking very vulnerable and I'm concerned there will be another major Roman naval movement & reinforcement in that direction. I'm going to deploy my fleet in Spanish waters to guard against this.

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That's as much as I can do. I'll play a Reinforcement option card to build up forces in Carthage and end my move.

I end with good Gallic recruiting and some Spanish additions for Mago.

What will the Romans do?

They answer quickly. Obviously the Romans learned nothing from the annihilation of Sempronius. After concentrating forces, Otacilius moves aggressively with a large army and gives me a chance to Intercept with Hannibal...

… and Otacilius makes no attempt to avoid battle. But I have no more Punic Tricks to play. Hannibal is very capable in his own right but there's nothing like Punic Tricks to create a decisive result quickly and at low cost.  I'll need some luck here if I'm going to get a fast, crushing win.

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In the first round of combat I score 5 hits to his 4. That's terrible. I've got to do better than that.

Better next time: I get 5 hits to Otacilius' Zero! That breaks him. The pursuit is on.

He unfortunately has a large number of survivors, so it will be difficult to get a clean sweep of his whole army. But here the luck really comes through. My cavalry scores 6 hits!

That's a total wipeout. There's nothing left. Otacilius is killed along with his entire remaining force.

My pleasure is tempered when I look at Hannibal's remaining force. It's small. He has only the Companions, two African cavalry, one Spanish cavalry, and a couple of Gallic infantry.

The destruction of Otacilius left the Romans with no more ideas, apparently. They make a few minor movements but nothing directed at Spain, and end their turn.

They recruit 8 units. 8! Hannibal's force seems even smaller now.

Turn 3

I advise the Senate to reinforce Italy. They agree, and give me 5 command phases.

I have captured a lot of Cisalpine Gaul and I want to defend those gains. But I can't stay put. I know that I have to keep Hannibal moving if I am going to win this game. Moving means leaving most of my gains undefended. But what I may lose in recruiting here I can gain from fresh conquests and opportunities elsewhere.

Hannibal is too weak to be very aggressive this turn and I still have no more Punic Tricks to play. Hanno is in Carthage with a useful force. I need to bring them over. There are Roman fleets at sea blocking the way. I don't want to risk attrition. But they are small fleets, and my navy is concentrated.

My first Command phase goes to an Admiral. I send him and 6 units into the Ligurian Sea and attack the 2 Roman naval units there. I'm hoping not only to open the sea lanes so that I can reinforce Hannibal but whittle down Roman naval superiority.

It's a middling victory. I rout both defenders on the first round and they scurry into Pisa to hide.

Should I stay at sea? Storms are always a worry; but the worry is lessened as I have a port in the Ligurian sea. The greater worry is that the Romans can easily concentrate a larger fleet and counterattack. I have to be careful to keep my navy intact. I'm putting the Admiral into Genoa.

With the fleet in port, Spain is undefended.

Hannibal can do something about that. I give him the Command, reinforce him with one unit from Genoa, and send him into Etruria to burn villas and ravage crops. Doing so can make the Roman more inclined to keep his forces at home.

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Then I bring Hanno by sea into Genoa and hold.

My last move is to bring Himilco from New Carthage to Carthage.

My reinforcement phase brings two more Gauls to Hanno, and a Spanish infantry to Mago.

And now to await the Roman response.

Apparently losing Sempronius and Otacilius back to back has left Rome at a pause. Not much happens in their turn. But they don't need to do much; they can sit back and recruit and recruit until their power is overwhelming. This turn, they bring in another 9 units. To offset this incredible depth of resources I have to destroy a major Roman army every turn. I don't think I can do that, especially without Punic Tricks.

Turn 4

The Senate would have me reinforce Spain. So it shall be. I'm tired of Fulvius malingering in my back yard. I want him gone.

To get this done I have to do some intricate marshaling of units. Units are sparse. I give Himilco in Carthage the command and send him by sea with a cavalry unit to New Carthage, where he picks up another cavalry unit and moves again by sea to Emporium, where he assumes command of Mago's army. I have a little numerical superiority over Fulvius now and move to attack.

But Fulvius is a fox. He declines battle. And, after my last experience attacking his camp, I don't think I'll try it again.

Should I leave my army in the field? No; back to Emporium.

I've got 3 leaders in Spain now, too many. Time to send one home. Hasdrubal goes on the slow boat back to Carthage.

Now to Italy, where I've got to get things moving.

I'm going to attack Pisa straight off.

I take Hanno from Genoa with his army and pick up some good Gaulish infantry from Hannibal's field force, then attack. It goes two rounds and I take losses but Pisa is mine. I should get some good recruiting now and even up the VP totals a little. Hanno gives Hannibal back his troops before ending his phase.

Another motive for attacking Pisa was to flush the little Roman fleet that had harbored there after eluding me last turn. Another chance to defeat the Roman navy in detail!

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A naval sally, and the situation in Etruria

Ack! Once again the Romans slip away without loss. Very frustrating.

I don't feel that I'm moving fast enough but I've done all I can do for now. I end the move and draw an Option Card. A Punic Tricks! Perfect. Now I'm ready for whatever the Romans throw at me.

Recruiting is good too now that I've captured Pisa. I have two Italian units to add to Hanno's force. And there's a little help in Spain. Nothing in Gaul because I have no general there any longer.

The Romans waste no time with their move. Marcellus aggregates his forces and moves out of Rome and the battle is on. I drew the Punic Tricks card not a moment too soon!

Marcellus is a good general, however. On the card “Ambush” and “Surprise” are grayed out. They don't work on a commander of his caliber.

So I fall back on Cavalry Maneuver. It worked before!

And it does once again. Marcellus' force is shattered after 2 rounds and the pursuit takes out the rest. It's all gone and Marcellus is KIA. This is my third “total annihilation” victory!

Perusia is impressed. It switches sides!

Any hope I had that this defeat would blunt Roman aggression was misplaced. Utterly. Fulvius goes on the attack in Spain. He attacks New Carthage – I knew I should have left my army in the field to intercept this sort of thing – and after playing a Roman Siege card takes it. My consolation is that I whittled down his army a little.

But this is pretty humiliating. Hannibal has just lost his Spanish birthright!

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Fulvius has his moment of glory. Can no one rid me of this man?

There's more. Gracchus goes amphibious and attacks Utica in Africa. He takes it easily and then plays a surprise:

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Strengthened thus, Gracchus proceeds to trash the province of Carthage, burning everything he can. (The graphic effects are fun.)

I've had about enough but now it's Varro's turn to avenge Marcellus' calamity. He takes a small force into Cisalpine Gaul and recaptures Mediolanum. I can't let that bother me too much. He next attacks Patavium but, lo, he fails to capture it! I'm delighted.

There's word of a change in Syracuse but it doesn't entail a change of allegiance, alas.

And that's it for the Romans. I'm pleased to note that their recruiting is way down this turn. That is a very good sign.

Check back soon for the conclusion to this AAR.