|Hannibal: Strategic Operations.
By Andy Daglish
So you’ve set up, you’ve remembered the Carthaginian PC in the Balearic Islands [dignified pause for those actually using this guide], and, pausing only to brush the chalk-dust off your mortar-board, you are wondering what to do next. Lets recap on what you are trying to do:
The “easy” win is to wait nine turns and end with control of as many provinces than Rome has under its control, or more. Africa and Spain can, in theory, be defended against Roman invasions but these countries represent eight out of 18 provinces and so may not afford the necessary number. Therefore control of the three non-national provinces, comprising Sardinia/Corsica, Sicilia and the city-state of Syracuse, may become important. Gallia Cisalpinia may be preserved until the final accounting since it contains two pro- Carthaginian tribes at game start. If any Italian provinces are still under Carthaginian control at the end of turn nine it seems likely that Carthage will have won. And remember, last-turn card plays cannot be countered, so keeping back a three to play as the last card of the game may prevent a loss.
Method two is successfully besieging Rome. The Carthaginians are not technically minded and salt water and siege operations are not their thing at all. Getting Rome requires rolling a 5 or 6 three times, unless the Siege train is present in which case you need 4,5 or 6 three times. It is necessary to do this rather quickly, since there are many siege-breaking cards that your opponent may use to cancel out your previous die-rolls, and because maintaining Hannibal on an enemy PC is not going to be sustainable except against a very weak Rome. The only times this is a likely strategy is after Italia has been denuded of Roman CUs, after either a serious turn 1 defeat or later on by a combination of legions sent abroad coupled with defeats at home. However it is a risky business, and time is on Rome’s side. It can last forever but Hannibal and his men in Italia most certainly cannot. And elephants really do not like the lowering damps emanating from those swamps - do they ever try to escape from Miami Zoo?
Method three is to go after all Italian provinces except Latium, where Rome stands. I have not seen this done yet, and it inevitably depends on besieging Neapolis, that together with treacherous Capua entirely represent the province of Campania. There is a certain departure from history here, because Cap was the second city of the Republic but is the least important Walled City in the game as it is the only one which is not also a Port. During the Second Punic War Hannibal spent very many years marching up and down Campania, and obviously this is just about the only place on the map where this cannot happen, despite the Capua card causing it to go over to the enemy once the rest of Italia has gone the same way. A good reason why this strategy is almost an self-contradiction is that Rome is left alone, so that consuls and five CUs a turn can always pop up there at the start of each turn to frustrate Hannibal’s campaigning, and because before this method even looked like ending in success, Rome would already be on the point of suing for peace - method four.
Method four is to cause Rome to sue for peace by the removal of more Roman PC markers than Rome has left. This happens as a result of beating Rome in every battle and causing large retreat casualties. Consequent control of provinces causes a snowballing loss of PC markers at the end-of- turn reckoning. This strategy is attractive to the Carthaginian player as he starts the game with the horribly effective double-barreled advantage of Hannibal with elephants. Hannibal is the only general who can happily give away the offensive initiative by playing lots of Double Envelopments. The elephants and his tactical rating should ensure he starts with more cards than his foe, and allows him to take the war to the enemy on turn one, given a cooperative Roman player. Indeed, this seems to be one of the two best starting strategies. The first move is always to obtain control of Gallia Cisalpinia, so Hannibal should also get one Italian ally after crossing the Alps. As Hannibal marches to war, one CU should be left behind with Mago in Saguntum, who will eventually move to New Carthage ready for the voyage to Carthage. Nine CUs causes initial attrition to be rolled on the7-9 column, which seems sensible. A lot then depends on attrition caused by Hostile Tribes and the number of CUs that Hannibal gets into Italia. Going via Liguria allows immediate entry to Etruria, and possible conversion of this province with isolation of the two Roman PCs next to the mountain passes. The downside of this route is the lack of retreat options. However meeting Publius Scipio away from Rome on Turn one and hopefully causing total destruction of his command is the ideal Carthaginian opener. Should P. Scipio be taking cowering lessons from the uncertain Titus Sempronius Longus in Rome, Hannibal can still risk an attack on the capital. If Longus is in command, a Carthaginian victory is not out of the question, 16-14 cards would be a likely Battle deck deal, given no reinforcements, five CUs from Sicilia, elephant effect etc. Eliminating all Roman CUs in this situation would definitely give the Senate hiccups. However fighting at a card disadvantage in this game is always very risky, as the effect of the Reserve cards is to even out differences in card distribution between the opposing hands, leaving Hannibal without an advantage in any category, facing an inferior enemy general who can match his every card to win. Normally an adjacent Carthaginian PC is entirely essential to Hannibal’s battles, which are best fought on the enemy turn after Interception, which gives the extra card plus the chance on the following Carthaginian turn to get away should something bad happen. It is possible for Hannibal to run out of Italia and return with more men. Reinforcing Hannibal in-country is possible too. Playing a Truce as the last card of a turn and then playing a Campaign card [which does not count as an Event] as the first card of the next turn will allow 10 CUs to sail to that Carthaginian port in Italia without rolling for naval combat, as the Roman navy is non-belligerent during Truces. Even during active war, Mago can move to the southern Italian ports from either of the Carthages with some security so long as Syracuse, Macedon or a naval victory is current. It is not worth waiting for these to come out, however, since a Truce/Reshuffle can occcur every turn! Moving to provincial islands is also possible, especially the minus one ports in Sicilia, but the big problem faced by Hannibal [and perhaps the game] then becomes apparent in miniature - entry is easier than escape. The second Carthaginian opening move is to do nothing, save rallying Idubeda [and Cisalpinia] to the cause, and using a possible “Sicilia”, “Syracuse” or “Sardinia/Corsica Revolts” card at turn end. This way a lot of strength can be built up, with which to weather the game until turn nine. Having Syracuse revolt late in the game is a big advantage to Carthage in an otherwise even position, simply because Rome will be distracted in the closing turns and may not have enough time to besiege the city successfully. If the card comes out earlier on, the siege can be frustrated by landing in Sicilia. The Carthaginian do-nothing strategy may lure a Roman player [controlling more legions than he knows what to do with] into unwise foreign excursions to Africa or Spain. Destroying these will at least remove some PCs. Isolating Roman troops in Africa with the Cato Counsels Rome card is rather funny. Getting all four elephants together can be psychologically discouraging -would you go up against the whole menagerie? It is not always worthwhile rolling for the elephants though, a little thought in this regard is worth taking. Should the Elephant Fright [causes two CUs to be lost] card come out, or any other bad event, remember that withdrawal is possible before any Battle cards are played, and then battle can be re-initiated on your turn without the offending Counter Events cards affecting proceedings.
After the Roman player has recovered from his total knock-knee’d fear at the disagreeable prospect of facing Hannibal in battle, he may reflect on his advantages. He gets lots of men, five CUs each turn, two of which can go anywhere, whereas his opponents reinforcements are dispersed. He gets lots more men via events. Italy is an island protected by the Roman navy by sea and the Alps by land. This same protective wall that protects Italia will also trap Hannibal once he has traversed the barrier. Access to two of the three non-national provinces is by land, across the Straits of Messana. He controls the sea. Strategically Rome enjoys the most extreme form of interior lines versus an unforgiving version of exterior Carthaginian lines. The Roman player can [nearly] always escape by sea if necessary and virtually all spaces are only two moves away from the long arm of Rome. Even if Rome is losing in mid-game, Scipio Africanus turns up to revivify Rome’s fortunes. Should a few cities need liberation, Rome has just the men to do it in the shape of Marcellus and Africanus. Disadvantages which an nullify all this are present in the form of the bad consuls Varro and Longus. Varro, however, is accurately represented as being very keen to get into combat - it is just that he is not very good once the actual fighting starts. Longus is by no means completely useless, but a poor Consul, so he often spends the game as “proconsul for life” or for as long as chance allows.
Rome wins by taking out Hannibal. This is so very much the easiest method that the game for Rome can be defined as a constant endeavor to reduce Hannibal’s own army by any means possible, including losing long battles to him that result in heavy battle attrition. If the Carthaginian player cooperates by placing Hannibal in the “killing jar” of Italia, his men can be seen to, in isolation from any support. A campaign allows Hannibal to be attacked three times, with two attrition rolls before the third attempt. Any card-based attrition is of the greatest benefit, softening up Hannibal’s army for the Big One. The only problem is that Rome starts a little weak to resist a turn one invasion, and that Hannibal must not be allowed to convert many provinces, as then he does become unstoppable in combat. However even PC marker conversion causes Hannibal to divide his army, though his ability to intercept reduces this disadvantage. Hannibal can be attacked, or at least brought almost to battle, in the relative safety of Spain, using the “ultracamp” tactic. If the Roman player moves ten men on a campaign to the Baetican port of Malaca, Hannibal will hurry back through a 100% blue Spain to crush them. But if Proconsul Longus then brings across five more men to Malaca on a “3” card, Hannibal will find himself facing 15 Roman CUs which may equal his own strength. Neither side can take more than ten men into the attack, but can defend with any number. With such a foothold, Rome can begin conversion of Baetica, possibly taking Gades which would be unlikely to revert to its old allegiance. However, when the Hannibalian attack does come the Roman player cannot take chances. Playing out the Probes is a commonly pursued tactic, denying Hannibal his special ability. When facing Hannibal it is necessary to stick to playing your longest card type, as the ability to play cards may not last long. Frontal Assault is more of a sensible choice to play than in We The People. Experience has shown what a very clever mathematician may be able to work out, that even when Hannibal enjoys a two- or three-card advantage, he will eventually lose if a string of such battles are fought. And this in a system where having one more card is a bigger advantage than in We The People. In Italia Hannibal can not afford to lose, unless it is a very rare battle where casualties are minimal. Fighting attritional battles against Hannibal might cause PC loss but this can be offset by developing a pool of unimportant PCs around Massilia and the adjacent port. This gives control of the synonymous province should a battle be fought there. The Carthaginian player can also take advantage of this tactic but it helps to scale the walls of Massilia first, though this can be a secondary objective if circumstances disallow an attempted move into Italia on turn one.
The “do-nothing” strategy can work for Rome too of course, though here it is more a case of shoring-up the position from inside, rather than penetrating it from outside. One big advantage is that lots of CUs are stockpiled, which ensures that Africanus can have ten men all to himself. This might help negate a “bad consul” turn. Even bad consuls can Subjugate tribes, and taking out those in Cisalpinia or Bruttium is not a bad idea when faced by a passive Carthage, and might even spur the enemy into unwise activity. But remember, a consul with a strategy rating of “3” is not a good candidate for this role, but I’ll bend all my pila if Fabius is not often sent to subjugate the Boii, with presumably the simultaneous mission of stopping Hannibal’s entry to Cisalpinia. Send Varro or Nero on this mission. Syracuse is going to reassess its attachment to Rome sooner or later, hopefully not with Sicilia revolting at the same time. Having excess CUs allows Rome to put in garrisons to nullify the effects of the revolt cards. Also, “garrisons” of two CUs or more force the enemy to stop on entry of their space, and allows an adjacent consular army to intercept and subsequently fight with more than ten men. When besieging Syracuse having two CUs just outside at Enna really hangs up the poor Carthaginians! Even if interception onto Enna fails, an attack can be made in the next turn from Syracuse without possibility of Carthaginian interception. Even Carthage may wish to garrison Numidian provinces though this is a less useful tactic. Bear in mind that faraway single Carthaginian CUs are worth overrunning, following a sea move. If Idubeda is contested on turn one, and this is always a good idea, those Carthaginian CUs put in to effect conversion are an interesting target on subsequent turns. For example, if a five-strength army overruns two single Carthaginian CUs and then is defeated is a battle that causes a further loss to the Carthaginian side, Rome will have come out on top. This type of attack is worth doing.
Unwise foreign expeditions I:
Carthage and Africa are tricky. Cavalry won every ancient battle and the best came from Numidia, hence the enormous advantage that accrues from obtaining control of these special provinces by taking them off the enemy. A straight voyage to Carthage is all very well but it is the most dangerous space on the board for Rome, the one place where Carthage is able to concentrate most strength. And there is no retreat. Converting Africa to Roman control first is preferable but you can become bogged down in just doing this, rather than going for the capital. Gaining and keeping control of the Numidian provinces is more difficult as the enemy will fight harder for them. Carthaginia cannot be attempted until Numidia is controlled and is then unimportant anyway. So everything revolves around the Numidian provinces that only have two ports, both in the west. Overall Africa is a needlessly risky project but many Roman players possessing the right cards will feel they must have a go.
Unwise foreign expeditions II:
Which means Spain of course. Idubeda is a possible foothold in the sense of providing an ally card if Turn one ends with it in Roman control. As a landing site it is better for raiding than starting a war, as it is a large province, boxed in by Walled cities and hostile Gallic tribes. Early landings are best as there will be few CUs under Hasdrubal at this stage. More than one general is required for PC conversion or for siege purposes. The best landing site is Malaca, however. Taking Baetica reduces Carthaginian reinforcements [in Spain] by one, which is very welcome. This presence nearly always upsets the Carthaginian player who hates to carry on operations with this knife in his back. Taking Gades promotes this greatly, and the sense of Carthaginian unease. A force march from Baetica is very useful, and can allow a number of single CUs to be dropped off for conversion later on, as well as providing a moving Scipio with a besieging opportunity if he ends on New Carthage. Although isolation of PC markers is not a very common occurrence in this game, it is worth ensuring that an opportunity is not overlooked. However the campaign against Hannibal in Italia cannot be given full attention whilst fighting continues in Spain.
If possible, the Baleares should be taken. The Force March 3 card is useful for the quick deposition of a CU to effect the conversion. Its amazing how often the Slinger card comes up and these very welcome extra men are then denied to the Carthaginian player. We rarely see fighting in Corsica, a bad general can usually clean up what is a very foolhardy and wasteful destination for Carthaginian forces. Syracuse and Sicilia are going to be fought over, though at least these battles keep Carthaginian forces away from Italian provinces.