Commands & Colors Ancients - 2nd Beneventum
Well, it took me a while to be convinced by the hype (basically, until I played a game, at which point I wondered why I'd been so stubborn before...)
It took longer for my shiny 2nd edition copy to arrive, but it did eventually. Stickers stuck, I opened the scenario book to a middle page and chose the first scenario I saw - 2nd Beneventum.
Strangely, there doesn't seem to be a BGG session report on this battle, perhaps because until recently only the pre-pubbers have had access to it, but there's no excuse now.
This is basically an infantry battle across a featureless plain, with a river on one side (the Roman left) to squeeze everyone in a bit more. The Romans get mostly medium infantry, with a smattering of warriors and heavies; the Carthaginians get a mix of medium, warrior, and heavy. There's not a lot of cavalry - the Romans get one unit of medium, the Carthaginians two units of light and an elephant - and they're all on the flank furthest from the river. Plenty of auxilii and skirmishers, of course.
Here's the setup from the Roman point of view.
And from above, to get that linear battle feel :)
Both sides chose to open the battle on the flanks, the Romans from the hand of fate rather than choice. The Carthaginians had decidedly the better of the opening; on their left the combination of cavalry and elephants succeeded in inflicting casualties. On their right, an infantry charge smashed a Roman warrior unit (four casualties in one four dice roll).
But one of the things I like about this game is the way it can change...
Turn 2 from the Roman side:
The Romans launched a strong infantry counterattack on the right; at heavy cost to themselves, warrior infantry succeeded in forcing the elephants to retreat (trampling over some Carthaginian cavalry on the way), and a full blooded cavalry charge not only finished the elephants off but also carried on to destroy one of the Carthaginian light cavalry units.
The Carthaginians kept pushing on their right flank, bringing Hanno and his heavy infantry into play and pushing back the Roman auxilia unit.
Still, at this point in the battle (4 turns in), Roman losses were heavy: 12 infantry and 1 cavalry block. Carthaginian losses? 1 infantry, four cavalry, and 2 elephant blocks.
The Lines Clash
A short pause ensued as both sides looked to draw breath and reposition their units. The Carthaginians were first to attack again, once more with Hanno leading the way on the right. The fury of their assault forced the Roman infantry back in some disarray. Gracchus was not perturbed, however, seeing that the Carthaginian line was short. Rallying his troops, he promised freedom to all if victory was achieved. Heartened, his men rushed back into the fray with redoubled vigour, crushing two full strength Carthaginian infantry units and leaving Hanno isolated on his flank.
Still, Gracchus' move had drawn his strength away from the centre, and the Carthaginians moved forward. A band of warriors broke through the remaining infantry around Gracchus himself, and he was only able to escape by riding full tilt towards the rear with his bodyguard.
The Final Moments
At this point, the fighting by the river descended into a chaotic melee. Hanno and his men were finally slain, though not before they took many Romans with them. The bulk of the infantry on the other side never got into combat, and Mago fell back from the battlefield in good order with most of the remaining infantry. Gracchus' leadership won the day, but at great cost.
Roman losses: 28 infantry & 1 cavalry (4 units destroyed)
Carthaginian losses: 20 infantry, 4 cavalry, 2 elephants & 1 leader (6 units destroyed)