The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

“Carthiginians! Prepare for gory!”

I got in another game (well, two) games of Hannibal: Rome Versus Carthage.

Hannibal is an odd duck, indeed. It’s a war game where you don’t want to fight. The oft-maligned battle deck works reasonably well in this regard. While I’m not sure how much skill there is in the tactical little mini-game, it does encapsulate the fact army size (and lead skill) advantage only go so far. If I get 15 cards and you get 10, I’m probably going to win, but a good deal (a few of the ‘wild’ reserve cards) negates that advantage.

In a sense, this makes it tough to review. In my learning game (earlier this year) my opponent took pains to explain that Hannibal is really an area control game … but if you start losing battles, then you lose support. In this game, War really is just a continuation of politics.

Still, a nicely realized game. The rules aren’t that difficult to explain (I probably spent 15-20 minutes on the basics, and then brought up issues as they occurred. I did have to refer to the rulebook, but for a second game after several months off, that’s expected). Now that I’m comfortable, I could probably explain the rules cleanly in 15-20 minutes.

But apart from rules, there is the play. You have an interesting asymmetry. Hannibal will rampage through Italy, but he should eventually be whittled down via attrition. The Romans gain more units each turn (and all of them can appear in Italy, while Carthage has to ship troops in), but the card deck can really give them a boost. So an ideal battle (for the Romans) would be fight a few rounds and then withdraw (so that each side suffers equal losses). But what often happens is that the Roman general gets outmatched by a few cards, Hannibal’s skill let him block any withdraws, and then a route occurs. Carthage suffers 2-3 casualties (which is several years worth of recruits) but the Roman army is annihilated.

Still, Rome can survive that.

My ‘first’ game this week was called when Hannibal died very early in a battle he had a slight advantage in. (In the new version of the game, you don’t automatically lose when he dies, but the long term effects are devastating. Certainly if he dies before the half way point, you’ve probably lost). In the second game he was more successful and wiped out one Roman army most turns (which cover several years of campaigning). Some revolts in Numidia and Celtiberia kept things close but eventually there just weren’t enough Romans in Italy to take care of business, and the game was called due to time and what appeared to be a roman political collapse.

But those two games (the second game called on Turn 6, I believe, and the first on turn 3) took less than four hours, including rules and a few interruptions. Since a game is 9 turns normally, roughly 1 game was played. With some practice, this could reasonably be a 2.5 hour game (and obviously shorter on the games where on side gets an early automatic victory).

Getting Paths of Glory or Here I Stand to the table seem remote, but this is comparatively fast and teachable, and I’m glad I picked up a copy.

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Written by taogaming

July 12, 2008 at 8:32 pm

7 Responses

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  1. In the recent wargameroom championship (best 3 of 5,) I believe two of the games were won by a Carthage that lost Hannibal. Here’s a link to one of the AARs, and the others are in the same place:

    talk.consimworld.com/WebX7@1019.h1ZgeuIdb5e.58@.ee6c980/3406

    Looking at these reports tells me Carthage doesn’t necessarily have to resign if Hannibal dies.

    Eric Brosius

    July 12, 2008 at 10:41 pm

  2. In the recent wargameroom championship (best 3 of 5,) I believe two of the games were won by a Carthage that lost Hannibal. Here’s a link to one of the AARs, and the others are in the same place:

    talk.consimworld.com/WebX7@1019.h1ZgeuIdb5e.58@.ee6c980/3406

    Looking at these reports tells me Carthage doesn’t necessarily have to resign if Hannibal dies.

    Eric Brosius

    July 12, 2008 at 10:41 pm

  3. In the recent wargameroom championship (best 3 of 5,) I believe two of the games were won by a Carthage that lost Hannibal. Here’s a link to one of the AARs, and the others are in the same place:

    talk.consimworld.com/WebX7@1019.h1ZgeuIdb5e.58@.ee6c980/3406

    Looking at these reports tells me Carthage doesn’t necessarily have to resign if Hannibal dies.

    Eric Brosius

    July 12, 2008 at 10:41 pm

  4. While I’d agree with Eric, it’s tough to lose Hannibal *early* and still win. I’ve seen Carthage win without him, but it was usually when he was lost on turn 7 or later on some risky stop-gap battle or sea move.

    My experience on playing time with the game is that it can vary a lot. Usually I can do a game on the low end of 3-4 hours, but with some opponents it can be a lot longer, and sometimes I can do all 9 in 2.5 if we’re playing quickly. Usually first-time players can double the game length though.

    I think a big mistake frequently made by the Romans is to engage Hannibal in the hopes of attritting him. I think if Rome is going to fight in Italy, it has to be a good risk and they have to be playing to win: either Hannibal has overextended his PCs and risks big losses if he loses the battle to the retreat rules, or if a good commander (a 3) is available and the card situation is favorable … of if forced to because Hannibal is about to covert his third province (although you’re better off converting a province back somewhere where he isn’t). Rome gets more troops, but not so many more troops that they can afford big losses turn after turn – they only have a 5:4 base replacement advantage, and Rome most likely has to go to Spain or Africa at some point and face those 3 CUs Carthage couldn’t send to Italy, plus a nasty situation with enemy Allies.

    Chris Farrell

    July 13, 2008 at 12:16 am

  5. Eric,

    Tbat link didn’t work for me.

    Brian

    July 13, 2008 at 11:53 am

  6. Yes, I had to try surgery since the actual link is too long for this blogging software. So here’s instructions. Go to

    http://talk.consimworld.com/

    And look for the “Go to:” drop down near the top of the page. Select the item that says “– — — Era: Pre-Gunpowder (Ancients &Medieval)” and scroll down to “HRvC”. Then make the top say “/3406” at the end.

    Eric Brosius

    July 13, 2008 at 12:53 pm

  7. Full 9 turn games with experienced players usually take around 2.5 hrs and certainly not more than 3.

    If Hannibal dies early, the standard strategy for Carthage is to basically entrench and hold Africa and Spain (8 provinces) and then hope for a late move to win a 9-9 tie. It is not too hard to defend Africa and Spain and one could just get lucky and get Syracuse and play it towards the end of turn 9 and win that way. If you don’t get Syracuse, can go for an island province or some other dangerous scheme. The game this way is fairly boring but does give Carthage a fair chance to win (like at least 10% I’d say).

    Also, Rome should really try to avoid Hannibal rampaging through Italy. The standard ‘roadblock’ strategy is to put a very large army (like 15+ CUs) blocking Hannibal from getting to Southern Italy. Hannibal then has to choose between two fairly bad options – attacking a stack getting 20 cards or dodging around by going over the mountains and taking attrition and also being vulnerable to being counter-attacked with no retreat route.

    Aaron Fuegi

    July 14, 2008 at 2:20 pm


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