Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Cannae I play in your shed, mister?

So here we are at last. The inaugural game in “The Shed” (note capitals). I finally settled on a double sized AMW game – 16 units instead of 8 aside – and a refight of Cannae.  I set the game up on Sunday afternoon and based the orbat and deployment on Phil Sabin’s “Lost Battles”. This is not without its problems, trying to merge Phil’s analysis with Neil Thomas’ troop types, and I had to tweak some of them to get a good fit. Without elephants Neil’s Carthaginian army list is awfully weak in the face of all of that Roman heavy infantry.

The game only used 8 foot of the 12 available on the table, but it did take most of my Roman and Carthaginian figures and a few interlopers amongst the cavalry to get the armies up to strength.

All set up, - Hannibal to the left, Romans to the right.
Due to work commitments and so on amongst the Monday night team I was only expecting Phil to turn up, so I was delighted to see NQM Chris arrive on the doorstep with a bottle of bubbly. We retired to The Shed to toast the opening, along with Mrs T, and awaited the arrival of Phil. Our wait was not that long and we were soon raising our glasses in fine style.
Phil, Chris & me stare at a blinking camera light.
When Phil arrived I realised that I may need to make the odd adjustment to the interior facilities. Some coat hooks (or a hat stand) are needed and a few more surfaces off the table for the placement of coffee mugs, books and the other paraphernalia that wargamers bring with them such as random gifts, - Phil presented me with a Warbases pillar box and telephone kiosk set to go with my Doctor Who collection).

Chris contemplates the Cannae Conundrum
Chris took the Romans and Phil the Carthaginians, the latter on the grounds that he knew what Hannibal did. Before the game as indicated above I modified the Carthaginian army list, so Hannibal’s army looks like this. Note that the number of units doesn’t necessarily represent the actual numbers of men involved but their relative fighting strength.

Left Wing
2 x Spanish horse (heavy cavalry, medium armour, elite)
2 x Gallic horse (heavy cavalry, medium army, average)
1 x African veterans (heavy infantry, medium armour, elite)

5 x Gallic Warband (warband, medium armour, average
1 x Scutari (heavy infantry, medium armour, average)
1 x Balaeric slingers (light infantry slings, light armour, average)

Right Wing
1 x African veterans (heavy infantry, medium armour, elite)
1 x Libyans (light infantry javelins, light armour, average)
2 x Numidians (light horse javelins, light armour, elite)

The changes to Neil’s classifications are that I have increased the armour classification for the cavalry and warband to medium, and raised the morale class of the Numidians and the Spanish cavalry to elite. The Scutari don’t exist in the list at all.

The Romans were more conventional, consisting of two legions side by side. Each legion is made up of the following:

1 x Velites (light infantry javelin, light armour, levy)
2 x Hastati (heavy infantry, medium armour, average)
2 x Principes (heavy infantry, medium armour, average)
1 x Triarii (heavy infantry, medium armour, average)
2 x Equites (heavy cavalry, medium armour, average)

Chris points at a legion or two
The main changes here are the downgrading of the morale class of the velites to levy and the triarii to average. Even with these changes two of these are fairly formidable, especially given the fragility of the Carthaginian warbands.

It has been a while since we’ve played AMW and whilst I hadn’t forgotten the rules I had forgotten some of the conventions of how it is played amongst our group. Hopefully these did not detract from the game too much.

The Romans started with a general advance in the centre, but holding back their right wing equites. Phil’s Hannibal (Phillibal?) followed the original plan and tried to develop the flanks whilst drawing in the centre. He bemoaned the tough task on his right where he had to contend with two fairly chunky equites with his Numidians. I had to resort to showing him Sabin’s deployment maps to convince him he hadn’t been stitched up. To be honest I couldn’t see how it could work out for him either, but he didn’t let me down and performed brilliantly with the light horse in a system that in all honestly isn’t that kind to them. Phil is the master of light horse in our group and can usually finesse any relevant part of the game mechanism to make light horse perform as they should.
Phil deploying his left wing very carefully.

On the Roman right Phil got stuck into Chris’ equites and started to give them a bit of a seeing too. However Chris had cannily drawn Phil forward so he could throw some hastati into the mix whilst shielding them with his velites.

Across the board the infantry lines closed inexorably. In the distance you can see Phil working out where to put his Numidians. Alas I have no pictures close up of this end of the board.

The armies engage all along the line
Near the camera the Roman right has finally collapsed and Phil is working his cavalry round to try to get an advantage. The rules as written are a bit unhelpful here, so modifications are in the pipeline.

Phil has broken the Roman cavalry on the right but some hastati are still in the way
 The rules involve rolling quite a lot of dice, so the luck evens out. Isn't that right Chris?

"So Chris, you've got 8 dice looking for 4's, 5's & 6's."
 The Romans finally started to get some real traction in the middle, destroying warbands as they went. But it was long hard work and it didn't all go to plan. Too many Roman units were being destroyed, whilst Phil was able to extract remnants of his so they didn't count as lost units. Cunning. Chris is wheeling his triarii to exploit a gap growing on his right centre, but his inability to break the warbands decisively is causing him problems by this point.

By now Phil has got his African Veterans into the game. These are elite troops that hit on a 3-6 instead of a 4-6 and are almost as good as it gets in AMW. I also have to say they are serial failures to deliver. Unable to clear the remnants of the unit in front of them they take too many hits and lose formation too quickly.

It was now getting late and Chris had to leave as he has an early start in the morning, so I took over the final couple of moves. In best AMW fashion I broke the centre decisively and sent my heavy infantry off on the sprint for the enemies baseline to force a game end. It was probably too late for this in all honesty as I was slightly behind in number of units killed,- as mentioned above Phil is good at habouring his forces and stopping units being destroyed completely. The aim of the game is to destroy 3/4 of the enemy army, in this case 12 out of 16 units. This final picture captures the moment before my final demise as the top right melee is just about to go against me.

All things considered a very satisfactory start to "Shed Life". I made full use of the fact I no longer need to tidy everything up at the end of the game.

Final note: AMW are a funny little set of rules and I like them a lot. They are not the best drafted, nor the most detailed and the armylists can best be described as idiosyncratic at times. They function best if the players don't try to break them and play "culturally". A couple of thoughts for the next game:

1) No charge move can include an about face.
2) Units can only fight to their front. Therefore any unit that gets in a flank attack gets a turn one free hack.


  1. Trebian,

    Congratulations on your inaugural game in the Trebian Shed of Fun and War!

    All the best,


  2. Bob,

    Thanks. Hopefully I will be able to host you sometime in 2013 for some "Shed Fun".



  3. Congratulations on initiating your Shed, sir.

    -- Jeff

  4. Bravo Trebian Bravo.

    Here's to the encore!!


    1. Hopefully a hum-dinger of an SCW game, using my new divisional rules, demo'd at CoW. They'll be up on the blog once we've done the game.


  5. Thanks for the game, Trebian: the shed fulfilled all its promise - warmer, (due to not double-functioning) more spacious, and already better ambiance than playing in the garage ... although I know the last phase delays caused you some frustration, I think you have nailed your project very nicely.

    The AMW game was a good idea. Though much harder work for Hannibal than the original battle I think ...


    1. Thanks for the kind words on the Shed, from One Who Has Been There.

      As for Hannibal...well I don't think he was up against an opponent as cunning as the combined skills of the Trebian & The Dormouse.

  6. Nice report. I've been playing AMW over VASSAL the last couple of weeks. I agree that it's a fun and refreshingly simple set of rules, but I wish I could figure out how to kill elephants without rewriting the factors!

    Thanks for a good read, and congratulations on the initiation of a fine looking piece of wargaming real estate.

    1. Elephants are nasty but they do only take four hits to kill. And they can run over your enemy. Hit it with lots of missiles then assail it with two units at once, one from the flanks. It has a lot of flank area to hit.

  7. Thanks for an excellent inaugural game Graham and Phil,

    Some things can be guaranteed when playing with Romans:

    1. It will go badly on the wings, (especially if Phil is involved)

    2. The Romans will march across the board and be charged by warbands playing a home fixture.

    3. At Some Stage The Dice Will Be Rubbish. (Usually when it matters.)

    4. It will still be fun.

    Kind regards, Chris

    (Who has lost more legions than Varus)

    1. You came very close. The historical deployment doesn't give the Romans a lot of choices.

      If it is any comfort to you, you had Phil really worried.

      And you didn't lose anyway. I was in charge when the game finished.

  8. Very envious of The Shed! Splendid stuff!

    1. Just wait 'til you see the "Madrid Road" write up!