Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Battle of Caudine Forks 321BC using Ancient Battlelines Clash

This is game 16 in playtesting my ancient rules by replaying historical battles. Previous games used my rules called Ancient Warrior  Battles.  The latest version is on its own blog page. I am playtesting the rules by replaying all the Peter Sides scenarios from his Historical Battles books.  ABC is designed to finish in under an hour on 2'x2' tables.

Battle of Caudine Forks
During the second Samnite War, the Samnites managed to trap a Roman army in a defile.  Eventually they let the Romans go.  So this scenario is creating what happened if a battle actually occurred.

Here is a link of interest that I used to create the scenario:

Wikipedia article

Changes to the Peter Sides scenario
I reduced the Romans to a single line of spears (in DBx, Spears benefit from a rear rank but my rules the rear rank bonus is included in a single unit of troops). Note that if I was replaying it, I would give the Romans two ranks of spears using my rules.  Otherwise the odds are very much against them - the two ranks would give them a bit more of a change.   I also reduced the forces by about 1/3 to account for me shrinking the table size from 36" to 24" wide.


5 Legionaries, HI, phalanx
2 Latin Allies, LI, fortitude +1
1 Heavy Cavalry, HC
6 Skirmisher, SI, slings
1 General
Breakpoint: 8

Note that the scenario had Tullian Romans with all Legionnaires as Spears, so I have used that.


18 Samnites, LI, fortitude +1
2 Heavy Cavalry, HC
1 General

Samnite Allies (behind the barricade)
1 Spearmen, HI, phalanx
1 Heavy Cavalry, HC
2 Skirmisher, SI, bows
1 General

I do not have any of the Latins and Samnites as models. And I definitely do not have 18 of anything that could stand it for them.  So the Samnites use various Late Roman Auxilia and others.

Romans in the centre with Samnites Light Infantry on the hills and facing a small force behind the barricade to the top of the picture.
The GameSamnites move first and charge down the hill to the Romans.

From the roman side - Samnites charge down the hill into the sides of the roman line.

It will be frontal attacks and not flank attacks (although it may look like it).  For a flank attack the attacking unit must be at 90 degrees or more to the rear side of the defending unit. 

The Samnites force the Latin Allies on each flank to retreat but stop against the Legionary phalanx.  A lucky 6 on the left side of the ravine see a Legionary disordered but not the attacking Samnite unit (who is with the general). Some Roman skirmishers are also cleared. Note that a group of units, when moving, does not have to maintain the front line - some units can move a little further than others, so long as sides are still touching.

The Roman right flank after combat

...and the Roman left.

Roman turn went badly as expected.  Heavy Infantry can only wheel or move, if they do both they are disordered, very bad for a phalanx.  Best hope is to advance slightly in an inverted U to ensure any attacks will be on the front.  Unfortunately they will count as unsupported, but the phalanx CV of 5 will offset this a bit.  I must admit, the fact that the Samnite have a unit to the rear means even when they advance or pursue due to action test, that they still count as supported is good for them (unsupported is a -1 modifier to just about any test, including combat)  And a roll of a 1 saw the Legionary Vs the Samnite generals rout.

Legionary units form a U shape in the centre.  Will not count as supported but gives them a good chance of protecting the front, and next move bringing the fight to the enemy (except the game ended before then!)

Samnite turn goes well and and at the end of their turn the Roman breakpoint is reached.  Not surprising.  Overwhelming numbers and no room for Roman manoeuvre.  The Samnite tactic was to throw themselves at the Romans this turn.  Light Infantry +1 fortitude is a CV (Combat Value) of 3 Vs Phalanx with a CV of 5 -1 for unsupported is 4.  If the Samnite can cause a disorder, and they will on a roll of 3 or more, then the Phalanx CV will drop to 1 so the turn after they will be at a big disadvantage.  They managed to attack some legionary unit a couple of times this turn and gt rid of another two.

Game end.  Roman cavalry at the bottom and a couple of Legionary units in the centre.

Very fast (Samnite turn, Roman turn, Samnite turn) but a surprising amount of action went on.  And it was fun - mostly because of the unusual layout of the scenario.


  1. Good report on an interesting battle, Shaun. ABC looks to be doing the job admirably. Nice work!

  2. Thanks Aaron. I am going to do a bit more playtesting over the next 6 months to try and get it to a state where I do not have to fiddle with it. Although I haven't made any rule changes in the last two battles, I have made some minor clarifications and tightened up a bit of wording to make things clearer. I only come across these as I play out the different parts of the rules - I can see why the number one rules for rules writing is playtest, playtest, playtest!

  3. Liked this one a lot Shaun. It's always good when Rome gets beat. As for the number one rule you certainly seem to be Playtesting. 2 reports this week good man! Finally printed out your latest version of ABC and planning a game tomorrow in memory of Donald Featherstone. Will let you know how it goes.

    1. I must admit to favouritism for anybody who is fighting the Romans too! I have a third battle in the Samnite Wars coming (Sentinum) soon too!

  4. A good scenario to try with any armies available. A good AAR with excellent descriptions as usual
    It is funny how so many things get overlooked when you focus on other things. All these scenario books,and games like Imperator must have passed me by while focusing on other things.

    1. Thanks for the good words on the AAR.

      And same here, I find it hard to believe that I missed Imperator. I have a copy now. It looks really good. I am just thinking now on how to represent the armies in the game so I can easily translate battles into Ancient Battlelines Clash. I could use the units in the game, as they are similar the ABC, but I don't want to move lots of individual troops units on the board; current thinking is to just have a few armies with a set number of points that I can then use to randomly generate an army for if a battle occurs.

  5. Oh I think it's a wee bit more than favouritism on my part. But I'm from Falkirk and we Bairns are brought up knowing Rome got as far as here then Stopped!!
    Never got a chance to play last night, Old man was whipped into hospital. But on plus point your ABC rules print out clear at A5 size and the diagrams are easy to read. So Top marks for the format you used.

    1. Hope everything turned out ok with your Dad. I accept your excuse for not playing!

      When I do print out the rules occasionally, I use A5 booklet - it is why the number of pages have always been divisible by 4. Thanks for the thumbs up on the format; the two column format seems to work well.