The Game

Whenever I have possibility, I am open for testing and familiarizing with new wargames. One of such I acquired during the Essen fairs – ONUS! Rome Vs Carthage. What game is it?

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That position is a war game which is similar to miniatures games in which both sides fight an ancient battle. We have here combined concept of orders and events cards, that makes each game different and each combat becomes unpredictable. What is interesting, as we use cards as units, ONUS! can be played anywhere where flat surface is found, with a game area as large as possible but at least 100 x 90 cm.

As mentioned, units are represented by cards which have been scaled around a Century or Maniple, representing formations from 80 to 100 men for Infantry units, 20 cavalrymen for Cavalry units or 6 Elephants. Units have their own set of traits to represent permanent attributes of the unit, like Melee Combat, Range Attack, Defensive capacity, Morale and Life, and Movement capacity. On top of this, units also have their unique set of skills to represent specific abilities.

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The aspect of leadership is represented by the General figure. A General’s token represent his HQ and its own escort. In addition to the leadership benefit, a General grants bonuses to nearby units, boosting the morale of the troops and providing additional benefits.

To win, you need to route enough enemy units to break their morale.

The War

So base game of ONUS! Is focused on The Second Punic War (218 to 201 BC), i.e. the second of three wars between Ancient Carthage and the Roman Republic. That war is famous in contemporary history mainly due to the presence of Hannibal, his march from victory to victory and unbelievable resurrection of Romans who in the end managed to win that gigantic struggle after 17 years of merciless fight. Some of the battles like Lake Trasimene (largest ambush in military history), Cannae (one of largest military defeats foe Rome ever) or Zama (final face-down between Scipio Africanis and Hannibal) were inspiration for generations of generals to come.

The battle – Trebbia (218 BC)

Historical background

The Battle of the Trebbia was actually the first major battle of the Second Punic War – the Ticinus River encounter earlier that year is treated only as a little skirmish. It was a complete Roman defeat with very heavy losses – Republic causalities were about 30’000 with only 10’000 surviving and escaping to Placentia. As described by ancient historians: In this battle, Hannibal got the better of the Romans by exercising the careful and innovative planning for which he was famous. The impetuous and short-sighted opposing general, the consul Tiberius Sempronius Longus, allowed himself to be provoked into a frontal assault under physically difficult circumstances and failed to see that he was being led into a trap.

Session report

Let us see how ONUS! Recreates that battle and how the history developed.

First thing which is obvious is the fact that the scenario is not featuring the river. Two reasons for this: we have Romans which just crossed the river and are soaked in icy cold water, trembling and not ready to resist; also, a more prosaic – base game of ONUS! does not have terrain – it came later in expansion. However, the Mago ambush forces are deployed and ready to strike at the opportunity moment:

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In the game I was commanding the Romans while Marcin took charge of Carthaginians. According to history – and knowing that only quick, furious attack can change the course of battle – I charged headlong; however, at that moment Mago units appeared at my back:

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The battle was fierce and my Romans even managed to encircle couple of units but luck was not with me today – the Elephants, attacked from the rear, managed to survive:

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In the end Roman army was defeated and routed due to sustained losses – despite the fact that the core of the Consular Army (historically) survived:

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That was very difficult scenario for Republic; however, as long as I had my cavalry, I was able to give some push-back to Carthaginians – but once they were gone, my losses were three times higher then Marcin’s.

Summary

ONUS! Recreates the battle in a very interesting way and is quite realistic. You do not need to kill the whole unit to route it. The Elephants behave like a real “Ancient tank”. Unfortunately, some of the rules were pretty ambiguous and only BoargameGeek was able to solve that issue to some extent. We shall see more of that game soon!