Monday, January 15, 2018

Romans in Hispania - Cantabrian Wars

I don't have any operational treatments of Hellenistic warfare (computer or boardgame), but AGEOD's Alea Jacta Est is a very good operational game covering a pretty broad swath of Roman-era war. At the moment I'm trying the Cantabrian Wars scenario, a ten year long series of campaigns by the Romans to subdue northern Hispania.

In many ways, Alea Jacta Est is the simplest of the AGEOD games, but it doesn't lack detail and it isn't easy. In the picture above I'm less than a year into the scenario. The primary Roman force (Terraconensus Manus) composed of Legio VI Victrix, Auxillia VII, Gallic and German cavalry and some African archers advanced from Salduba and after a siege of three months took the Cantabrian town of Segisama. The Cantabrians attempted to (unsuccessfully) relieve the siege several times.

The result is that it's now February and while the Romans control the city, their supplies are depleted (note the red bars on the baggage train units) and they've taken some casualties. The region has also been pillaged, reducing its ability to provide supplies. The Roman have built a depot in the city, though, increasing supply capacity and allowing their units there to receive replacements. Weather in the area is generally bad this month (rain and very harsh weather in the surrounding hills/mountains), and my best course of action is going to be to sit in Segisama for at least this month and probably March as well, waiting for the weather to turn and my supplies to build up.

A few months later in May the Cantabrians have moved a force to Segovia and started a siege. Unfortunately, the Roman general in charge of Terraconensus Manus was replaced and his replacement isn't very good, sporting not only lower stats but a trait that causes him to generate fewer command points and slows the regeneration of unit cohesion. Units with low cohesion are sitting ducks for well-ordered enemy forces.

I don't really want to send all or part of my that force to relieve Segovia. Doing so will uncover my base at Segisama, or at least leave me with a weak covering force there. I know that the Cantabrians have armies at Aracillum and Pallantia Oppidum - though I'm not completely certain how strong they are. The army besieging Segovia is probably at least as strong as my entire force in terms of troop count.

Instead, I'll try and starve the besiegers by cutting off their supply.

 I've detached some German cavalry from the main Roman force and moved it to Septimanca. AGEOD games have a set of overlays that provide you with useful information. Here I've turned on the Supply overlay. The brown colored overlay reflects where the Romans don't have supply. Conversely, those are areas where the Cantabrians are getting supply.

Supply for a force comes both from the region the force is in as well as the surrounding regions. Typically, the region occupied during a siege can't provide enough supply for the besieging force and it has to draw supply from the surrounding regions and any baggage trains included in the force. Moving the German cavalry into Septimanca changed military control of that region to the Romans, and deprived the Cantabrians of supply. The AI chose to lift the siege and move that army back into safely Cantabrian territory the next turn.

Three (of many) hints to playing an AGEOD game then: first, don't move if you don't have to. Attrition is a killer. Particularly in the winter, and particularly when playing with Historical Attrition turned on.

Next, don't fight if you aren't sure you'll win. Replacements are expensive. Unit elements can only be replaced at depots. Rebuilding an army takes months. If you're going to fight try and be sure you're fighting an enemy low on supply and cohesion. Don't fight fair.

Finally, pay attention to unit posture and orders. I set the German cavalry I sent out to a defensive stance with orders to retreat on contact. It was a weak force and I don't want it trying to fight that much larger army at Segovia. If I'm advancing into an enemy controlled region I'll try and probe it with cavalry set as above first, and/or make sure that my primary force is set to a defensive stance, and probably with orders to limit contact. I don't want to stumble into a fight I wasn't planning on and not be able to retreat.

While I might have relieved the siege of Segovia, the Aquitanians have rebelled now. I've had to sacrifice some VPs and engagement points to bring in another legion and supporting troops to take care of that so my main offensive in Cantabria isn't sidetracked. A consul's work is never done...

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