Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Third Samnite War - Year One

For our first entry in Ancient Warfare Month here at Cry Havoc! we'll be playing as the Romans during the Third Samnite War, using AGEOD's Birth of Rome game.  Let's take a look at how things proceeded during 298BCE, the first (calendar) year of the war:

The Samnites have an army at  Bovianum, their largest city, and another Grumentum, threatening the Lucanians.  It was this pressure on the Lucanians that was the cassus belli for the Romans.  There is also an Etruscan force in northern Italy.  The Romans have a pair of Consular armies based in Rome, each composed of a pair of legions.

The second consular army.  Note that both armies are composed only of the legions at this point, and do not have any alae from the Roman allies yet attached.  At full strength each should have two, each ala being slightly larger than a legion.

The Lucanians, allied with Rome, also have a small field army.

I'm not keen on the Samnites having an outpost at my doorstep with the city of  Volsinii.  It's not an objective city, but I feel it's a threat to Rome and will need to be reduced prior to any move on the Etruscan territories to the north.  So, I intend to strike quickly and lay siege to the city with one of my Consular armies.  I'm also going to raise to alae of cavalry to use for scouting, observation, and raiding.

A overview of territory control at the beginning of the war.  Rome and her allies are red, the Samnites and allies are green, and the purple territory belongs to the Greek city states.

I ally with a small Latin tribe in May, giving me continuous territory from Rome in the west to the Adriatic in the east, and cutting Samnite lines of communication between the north and south via the placement of a castra at Hatria.  The Samnites take exception to this and advance their most powerful army from Lucania to Hatria, laying siege to the encampment there.

With Volsinii now under siege, I take advantage of the relocation of the main Samnite force to the north.  My second Consular army, now active, advances to Bovianum and lays siege to the city, which is the largest source of Samnite victory points.  At the same time the Lucanians move to take Grumentum, the doorway to Maleventum, the Samnite capital.  With a little luck maybe we can knock the Samnites out of the war quickly!

The Samnites have other plans and the summer is spent in maneuver, raid, and siege.   My planned siege of Bovianum has to be aborted as Flavius Maximus' Consular army and the main Samnite field force maneuver around central Italy.  By October I have Volsinii, Maleventum, and Grumentum under siege.  The Samnites continue to maneuver in Campania and hold Bovianum.  Here, I'm moving my a cavalry force to the north to keep an eye on the Etruscans and Senones.

In Grumentum, a Samnite cavalry force attempts a breakout...

...while the main Samnite army attempts to relieve the siege of Maleventum.  Neither is successful.

In November both Volsinii and Maleventum fall.   The loss of these cities is a blow to the Samnites and a boost to my victory points and national morale! Samnium is split in half and isolated from their Etruscan allies to the north.  There's been no significant battle yet in this campaign but I haven't wanted one: I'd rather cripple the Samnite source of future recruits and money, and then engage in battles to destroy their field armies when they're out of refuges.  There's no real advantage to the Romans to attacking the Samnite armies yet.

Success in November brings an influx of replacement troops in December.

Winter is harsh in the Appenines.  I quarter troops in Maleventum and Perusia.  I elect to maintain the siege at Grumentum into January since I'm on the verge of starving the city into surrender.  The harsh weather proves to be rough on the Lucanians, who experience some significant attrition and eventually have to lift the siege and withdraw back to Velia to rebuild.

The state of the combatants and objective ownership at the beginning of 297BCE. Samnite National Morale is still high, though combat power is declining and they have taken over twice the casualties as the Romans. The Romans control all of the objectives cities except the Samnite and Etruscan capitals.

Territory control at the beginning of 287BCE. Despite Roman control of Maleventum, ownership of the region is still contested.

In the coming year I intend to move on Volaterre and force the Etruscans out of the war, and renew the Lucanian attacks in the south.


  1. Very interesting. I know nothing about Rome. Game looks great. Is this the entry game you'd recommend for period?

  2. Great write-up Doug: I like AGEOD’s game design (I have BOA I) and it lends itself quite well to after-action reporting and war stories.

  3. Thanks guys! Chris, Birth of Rome/Alea Jacta Est are excellent games to get a good understanding of the operational/strategic aspects of ancient warfare. What always surprises me is how the Romans, Greeks, Carthaginians, and others were actually able to conduct quite sophisticated and geographically extensive campaigns across Europe, Asia, and the Mediterranean Basin.

    Scenarios in Birth of Rome tend to be a bit smaller (except for the massive First Punic War scenario) as they're focused on the early Republic. Most of the action is in Italy and Sicily. Alea Jacta Est focuses on the late Republic and early Empire. More of the scenarios are either civil war scenarios or wars against some pretty geographically spread out empires, like Pontus and Parthia. Still, overall until count never gets too tough to handle, thanks to how the AGEOD system concentrates units into armies. There's a ton of detail if you want to dig into it, but you can really stay up at a supreme commander level too.

    The nice thing about AGEOD's game engine is that once you understand it, you can play pretty much any of their games, and they cover some conflicts that don't get much attention elsewhere.