Clash of Spears Numidians

Another Clash of Spears game ‘mirroring’ a Saga playthrough. The forces are Numidians and Romans but because the Numidians are relatively cheaper in Clash of Spears than Saga the Roman points have been reduced to match up the forces. This was achieved by reducing the number of Velites figures. In retrospect light troops are useful and the points would have been better saved somewhere else. Another approach would have been to leave the Romans alone and use Numidian noble cavalry instead of the basic version. At 21 points to 17 you get +1 to shooting and grit (morale). Anyone trying for a cost effectiveness force would find the regular cavalry more than sufficient and the elephants an expensive luxury.

Here is the position after the pre-battle manoeuvres. One of the three baggage areas contains the loot. Capturing the loot and taking it to the possessor’s table half will count the same as losing as single break point for the other side.

Both sides move up and the Numidian’s speed shows. They have won the race to all three objectives and identified where the loot is. The Romans should have risked trying for at least 1 objective regardless of the fatigue hit they would take.

Both sides divert units to the side of the battle closest to the loot. The Numidians are able to outflank the more exposed Roman right. One elephant pushes back the Roman Velites.

The Numidians pull back with their loot. One elephant is rampaging off. The other threatens the Triarii. The Romans push after the loot with whatever they can spare.

The Romans inflict 3 wounds (needing 4 for a kill) on the nearest elephant. The Triarii push into the Numidian light infantry who retreat with minimal losses. The Hastati push the flanking Numidians out of the way but are diverted from pursuing the loot by the need to keep secure flanks.

One elephant has rampaged off table the other is taken down by the Romans. The Romans are starting to sort themselves out, the Numidians pull back.

The game has run to six turns but the Romans can’t catch up with the Numidians. The Triarii make a valiant attempt to take out the Numidian general hoping to reduce the Numidian command ability and to notch up some losses. The general is too tough and the nearby Numidian units finish off the Triarii.

The Numidians pretty much ran rings around the Romans throughout the game. If it were allowed to continue for an unlimited number of turns they would have pinned the Numidians up against their board edge but this scenario runs for 5 or 6 turns. Units can take up to 3 actions in a turn and after the 2nd or 3rd an enemy unit can attempt a reaction. This led to the Romans catching nearby Numidian units on their 1st activation but losses were always light and the Numidians were subsequently able to move away. The elephants caused few losses but did tie up Roman actions in trying to take them out or at least moving to the elephants’ flanks where they could be threatened. The Romans only made limited use of their pila as these take an action to re-load and without the pila the Romans are more vulnerable to cavalry. If commanders can be taken out the owning side will count each wound as a loss and will lose the linked command points. This gives an incentive to taking out commanders but these figures are tough and take several wounds to eliminate making eliminating them a long odds shot.

Saga Numidians

In Age of Hannibal the Numidian board is based around Warrior cavalry. there are no Hearthguard; the only other basic troop choices are the Warlord, elephants (Warriors) and foot Levy. This can make Numidians one of the more expensive armies to build up because of the cost of all the multiples of 8 mounted figures. On the other hand most models of Numidians of the period consist of a loose garment, no shoes, no sword-belt and no bridle for the horses. This results in an army that would be relatively quick to paint up. Another bonus is that this style of dress could work for North African peoples from the time of Carthage until the conquest of the region by the Vandals.

There is some debate on what flesh colour should be used for Numidians, Libyans and Carthaginians. The Numidians in the Saga book look very dark. In reality they might have been quite light skinned although a largely external life style would give them a healthy tan.

For a near contemporary example of skin colours, this is the Severan Tondu. It shows the Emperor Septimus Severus, who came from North Africa, his Syrian wife Julia Domna and their sons Caracella and Geta. Note how the Emperor is relatively dark skinned compared to his family but is far from Negroid. It is thought to have been painted in Egypt where the artist would have been familiar with the relative skin colourings.

The Numidian Skirmish order activates all mounted units for a move a cost of 2 uncommon Saga dice. Any Numidian army is going to be running at least 3 mounted units to make the most of this. The units will get their free javelin throw but the order is ‘all’ not ‘up to’ so the activations take place, move or no move.

Being equipped with javelins the mounted Warriors have a defense of 3 against melee and shooting. This means they are particularly fragile. They do get a +1 when charging into combat (unless the opposition close ranks) but limited help from their advanced Saga abilities. Support can add defense dice and Relentlessness forces their opponents to re-roll 6s in melee saves. Stampede gives a bonus based on the opposition’s fatigues.

Adding elephants gives the army some punch. The only battle board ability to specifically help elephants survive is Support. Elephants are infantry so if running 2 elephants this gives some benefit to running them as separate units. Having resilience 2 a single elephant would be lost on 7 hits. A unit of 2 would take 8 hits. As odd hits are rounded up when converted to fatigue and melee inflicts 1 additional fatigue; elephants need careful husbanding.

The free javelin shooting activation Halali, Hail of Missiles and Incapacitating shot do give the Numidians an advantage in shooting but that will always be a long shot at winning as shooting saves are 4+ in the open and 3+ in cover. For both shooting and melee the Numidians may have to rely on their basic Saga dice combat bonus.

At 4 points a Numidian army might be 3 Warriors and 1 elephant. At 6 points 2 elephants, 1 Levy and 3 Warriors or drop the levy and go with 4 Warriors. As the points go up there will be less space for the mounted troops to hit and run and more chance of the elephants getting where they want to be. The army in the report below is mostly Victrix plastic. The Levy are metal from Newline and the Warlord from Warlord Games although he appears rather too African for the rest of the army.

For elephants there is the issue of running them with or without towers. There is evidence of the use of towers from Julius Caesar so we can be certain that the local elephants could support towers. 100 years after the sack of Carthage (146 BC) Caesar fought the forces of Pompey including their ally Juba of Numidia. Juba had a substantial elephant force making use of towers. The African Wars, Julius Caesar, Chapter 30:

‘At the same time Scipio daily drew up his troops in order of battle, about three hundred paces from his camp; and after continuing in arms the greatest part of the day, retreated again to his camp in the evening. This he did several times, no one meanwhile offering to stir out of Caesar’s camp, or approach his forces; which forbearance and tranquillity gave him such a contempt of Caesar and his army, that drawing out all his forces, and his thirty elephants, with towers on their backs, and extending his horse and foot as wide as possible, he approached quite up to Caesar’s intrenchments (sic).’

There are examples of elephants on Carthaginian and Numidian coins but none depict a tower. While it is relatively easy to swap out the elephant crew in a tower to use the beast for different nations removing a tower between games is not so easy. Although the tower structure could be balanced or magnetised all the supporting ropes and blankets are probably modeled in place. Note the coin below where the elephant has no tower and the King boasts European features.

Coin of Juba (60-46BC). The head is Zeus-Ammon, the inscription Punic

In this scenario from the Book of Battles victory is based on massacre points but the total counted is capped on the number of enemy objectives still in play. It is hard to see any rational in this but it does force both sides to move into the enemy side of the table. If no enemy objectives are destroyed the cap is 10 massacre points. That works out as 2 complete units of 8 warriors destroyed. The objectives themselves are relatively hard to destroy as Saga abilities cannot be used against them in shooting or melee. Some consolation is that they do not fight back and combat does not inflict a fatigue on the attacker.

The Numidians begin by moving up their elephant and Levy block, most of their Saga dice being used to load up the battle board.

The Romans use Levy and Warriors to try to take out an elephant but only inflict a single fatigue.

Moving all the mounted units the Numidians move up, casting javelins on the objective with zero result and begin to outflank the Roman line.

A concerted attack with Levy javelins, Warriors and Hearthguard eliminates one of the Numidian elephants.

The Numidians turn their javelins on the Roman Warriors, results are disappointing.

The Roman Warriors about face and eliminate the flanking Numidian cavalry. At the far side of the table the Roman Hearthguard approach a Numidian objective.

The Numidians sort themselves out and whittle down the Romans.

The Roman Hearthguard try to destroy the Numidian objective but constantly bounce off.

The Numidian Levy are wiped out.

In the final turns the elephant destroys the Roman objective and the Romans continue to bounce off the Numidian objective.

There are more Numidian losses than Roman but only a single (Roman) objective is destroyed so the Roman massacre points are capped at 10. The Numidians squeeze 11 massacre points and a tight win.