Yet one more mid-week wargaming evening and another mini-campaign played! The idea was to bring to the table C&C Ancient scenarios featuring the clash between Julius Caesar and Gnaeus Pompey. That most famous Roman Civil War completely obliterated the Republic system and paved the path for the creation of the empire. As we had only as much time as one evening, we decided on 3 most interesting or prominent scenarios – the full set encompasses as many as 11 battles!

So what we have chose is here – with short comment why:

  1. Ilerda (49 BC) – very interesting battle, with hills in the middle and largest (!!!) number of Heavy Infantry in all the scenarios
  2. Dyrrhachium (48 BC) – a direct face-off between Caesar and Pompey, with time pressure on the former to salvage situation
  3. Pharsalus (48 BC) – a decisive clash of two giants, which inevitably gave victory to Caesar

Ok, so without further delay, let me invite you to the first century BC, Rome. First and foremost – Illerda!

Some of my articles regarding C&C system:
Commands and Colors games – my 3 favorite
[REVIEW] Commands Colors Ancients
[STRATEGIES] How to attack in Commands Colors Ancients?
[STRATEGIES] How to defend in Commands Colors Ancients?

Ilerda (49 BC)

Historical background

After driving Gnaeus Pompey from Italy, Julius Caesar moved against Pompey’s forces in Spain. Caesar had sent Gaius Fabius ahead to secure the passes over the Pyrenees and at the Sicoris River. Fabius succeeded, and his opponent, Pompey’s lieutenant Afranius, was forced to retire southward. Caesar followed Afranius and camped about a half mile from his enemy and the town of Ilerda.

Between the enemy camp and town there was a hillock, which appeared to Caesar as the best strategic position in the area. However, Afranius saw what Caesar intended and managed to gain the hill first, leaving Caesar’s army in an awkward position. To relieve this situation, Caesar led his legions forward, but after some initial success they pressed their attack too far. The enemy effectively showered them with missiles from higher ground.

Caesar’s veterans were in a difficult position. They were taking unnecessary losses where they stood, but would take as many losses withdrawing. Caesar ordered forward his cavalry, which relived the pressure and gave his legions the opportunity to withdraw. The battle ended in a stalemate as both sides pulled back. A three-month campaign followed, in which Caesar masterfully outmaneuvered Afranius, forcing the Pompeian army of seven veteran legions in Spain to surrender without fighting another major battle.

Session report

We started with Illerda – from game perspective very interesting set-up (hills in the center giving a VP for Caesar) as well as very bloody – just enlarge below picture and count all the Heavy Infantry units. That would be a decisive and brutal clash, as we also have a Julian Legion rule (each such unit can move up to 2 hexes) and Julius Caesar rule (units with that leader has +1 die and can move 2 hex and battle). We rolled for sides, and Marcin took Pompey while I was given Caesar.

Well, no need to wait anymore – let us plunge into the report. PS. As always, you can click on each picture to see details.

Game set-up of our first scenario, Illerda.
I moved quickly forward, avoiding the hills for now and moving toward the city of Illerda. Marcin tried to maneuver and prepare for the inevitable…
And here it comes – a Line Command order, which allows me a multi-direction attack. Unfortunately, the Auxilia which was supposed to die survives and inflict significant losses on my units!
We are now fully committed on my right / Marcin’s left. Above losses are only from ONE turn, where I press forward with Double Time. Pompey counter-attack inflicts some casualties but is not enough to change the game result.
Final situation of our first scenario, with decisive victory for Caesar (although without the hills but with looted city!)

Dyrrhachium (48 BC)

Historical background

Julius Caesar crossed the Adriatic with seven depleted legions in order to confront Gnaeus Pompey’s main army and bring the civil war to an end. Meanwhile, Antony, blown far off course, had crossed the Adriatic and landed in Pompey’s rear. Pompey, presented with the opportunity to destroy his opponents in detail, was obsessed instead about being trapped between them.

Caesar moved quickly to join Antony and simultaneously threaten Dyrrhachium, Pompey’s logistical base. Pompey marched to defend it, but Caesar joined Antony and occupied Dyrrhachium first. Caesar audaciously began blockading Pompey’s larger army against the sea by constructing a line of forts. Pompey retaliated with his own line of counter-fortifications.

Pompey finally decided to break Caesar’s line at the southern end of the fortifications, where Caesar’s ramparts were not quite complete. Pompey’s plan was excellent, as he landed a contingent of marines and light troops from the sea and at the same time stormed across the river with several of his best legions toward Caesar’s weak point in his line. The defenders held for some time against this combined force, but finally were pushed back.

Pompey built a new camp near the shore that secured access for his large cavalry arm to the grazing lands to the south. Caesar, desperately short of supplies himself, was forced to withdraw. Pompey’s troops and the host of Senators accompanying the army began to see themselves as more than a match for Caesar and his veterans. It was this fatal overconfidence that compelled them to advance and do battle later at Pharsalus.

Session report

That was great session to remember! Marcin’s Pompey Troops were getting one Victory Point for each unit which exited the board on my left section. I had Caesar on map but be was far away while most of my troops were dispersed. A really close game with as you shall see, with pretty historical outcome!

Game set-up of our second scenario, Dyrrachium.
The race to my left flank started immediately. Marcin was moving his best legions quickly while I decided to bring Caesar forward.
And then we faced each other – Marcin managed to maul my two Heavy Infantry units (each was left with 1 block) while I dispatched one of his Medium Infantry units.
Of course, things escalated. First a great play of Double Time by Pompey Units.
Followed-up by my “Spartacus Card” which gave me 3 banners.
The game was decided in the end by the ability of Pompey units to exit the map – that was a small Caesar defeat – but still, quite similar to what historically happened. Congrats to Marcin!

Pharsalus (48 BC)

Historical background

After Dyrrhachium, Julius Caesar pulled back to regroup his army. Gnaeus Pompey failed to follow up his victory and pursued slowly. After a winter of maneuvering through Thessaly, Pompey encamped at the foot of the mountains near Pharsalus and was persuaded by the senators in his camp to settle the issue with Caesar once and for all.

Pompey had a numerically superiority but inexperienced force. Caesar’s army was much smaller, but still composed of crack, veteran legions. As the fighting began, Pompey’s cavalry charge rolled over Caesar’s horse. However, when confronted by Caesar’s reserve, this mounted force was thrown back in turn by legionaries using their pila as spears. The Caesarian legionaries who routed the Pompeian cavalry now turned their attention to the exposed left flank of the Pompeian infantry line, pushing back some of Pompey’s better legions stationed there.

With his cavalry defeated, his left flank turned and the center and right hard pressed, Pompey fled back to camp, leaving his army to disintegrate. Most of the survivors surrendered to Caesar the next day. Pompey fled to Egypt, where he was assassinated by Ptolemy XIII. Caesar was now clearly ascendant, but mopping up the remaining Pompeians would still require much hard fighting in the east, Africa, and Spain.

Session report

The time has come for last scenario for the evening. It had most unexpected turnaround – in large extent due to very high mortality of my leaders!

Game set-up of our third scenario, Pharsalus.
I advanced twice with “order Heavy” and hit hard, killing two units outright. Great beginning!
But then things deteriorated, especially on my left. I managed to kill two units there, reduce two to 1 block but my whole contingent, including leader was obliterated.
I fared no better in center/right section. Event without cavalry, superb numbers and cards of Marcin allowed him to withstand attack of my Heavy Infantry and gain a one point victory! A most unexpected outcome!


That concluded our 3 scenario, mini-campaign. We played with great pleasure, having fun both from gaming experience but also reenacting history. We also tallied the scores:

  • Marcin (Pompey) 16 – Michal (Caesar) 17

The result was pretty bizarre 🙂 I won with small points 17-16, but Marcin had a victory in 2 out of 3 games, including the most important one, Pharsalus. The set-ups – as expected – proved to be a fantastic battles, with tons of action, high casualties and numerous tactical opportunities. I think we will continue further!

More session reports to come!