Wednesday 25 October 2017

Fighting the Battle of the Tagus, 220 BC

Carpetani scouts brought word that the Carthaginians were no longer in their camp and had crossed the Tagus during the night sent the Iberian troops tumbling out of their make shift tents. Stirred to a frenzy all had but one thought on their collective mind - pursuit. 

The Tagus offered little problem to cross, but a strong current did slow their pace. Those Iberian troops that had reached the far bank called for their comrades to hurry as the Carthaginians could be seen 1,000 paces away.

To the Iberian right Numidian light horse and Balearic skirmishers moved forward to confront the Carpetani. The remaining Carthaginian line moved slowly forward, a wall of shields bristling with spear points. Further to the left,  Gallic cavalry and skirmishers could been followed by the dreaded elephants.

The Carpetani were the first to form a battle line followed by the Olcadians. The columns of Vaccæans on the far left were nearly out of the water when they saw the elephants approaching their troops.

Hannibal could be seen behind his spearmen as they were pushing the Vaccæans back toward the river. Vaccæan skirmishers were dealing as best as they could against the elephants, but they too were steadily pushed back toward the river bank. Fatigued by the crossing and a missed meal, the Vaccæan resistance collapsed and they were the first to break with many losing their lives attempting to cross the river. 

Hannibal calling for his Gallic cavalry and skirmishers to cease their pursuit redirected their presence toward the centre. Here, half of Mago’s command was containing the Olcadians while all his Numidian light horse and skirmishers were holding the Carpetani at bay. In the centre, the Gallic warband supported by loyal Celtiberian troops were gaining the upper hand on the Olcadians.

Redoubling their effort, Mago’s spearmen tipped the scale to send the Olcadians fleeing back to the river and thus ending the game.

Two Iberian commands were broken bringing the total number of elements lost to more than thirty percent. Surprisingly, Carthage lost none. Suffering from poor pip scores, the Carpetani made little impression in the battle. 

All three Iberian commands did form battle lines on the south bank, but these lacked an effective coordination which  was the effect envisioned. Raising the number of Iberian commands to four would convey an impression of ‘mass’; giving them a two to one advantage of number, but doing so would create considerable congestion on the far bank when trying to deploy (the actual playing area was 1 ½ times the standard board size).  

Alternatively, one could increase the number of columns for each command from two to three, but then the Carthaginian deployment should be moved closer to the centre line (3BW). This would generate a faster game, however, this particular test needed less than an hour to play. 

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