Thursday, 1 May 2014

Rome vs Carthage at Sea - a Corvus II game

The fleets line up. Left: Carthaginians. Right: Romans.
I staged a game of Corvus II at my local wargames club for two members who hadn't played it before. Bernard commanded a Carthaginian squadron and Bob a Roman one. I acted as teacher, guide and umpire which gave me an opportunity to refresh my knowledge of the rules.

The suggested table area for a squadron-sized game using 1/600 or 1/650 ships is 3' square, but I laid down an area 3' x 4' with a couple of islands to provide a bit more challenge and opportunity. In practice the players didn't really exploit the potential of the islands, and the game devolved into three separate battles which I will call northern (furthest from camera), central and southern.

Both players deployed their ships side-by-side which made it impossible to turn unless they first moved free of one another. This is something I should have spotted and warned them about, but the best way to learn is the hard way.

Southern. I did explain that the Carthaginian ships were marginally better at ramming and the Romans at boarding  but this did not discourage an early Roman ramming attempt which ended in disaster. However, a Carthaginian trireme was set on fire by shooting.

The battle develops
Southern: close-up
Central. Aided by their corvi, the Romans successfully grappled a couple of Carthaginian ships. Taking on the Carthaginian flagship was not, however, an entirely wise move.
Central. Mutual captures occur. Meanwhile, a Carthaginian trireme from the southern battle ploughs into the Roman flagship from the flank. This is exactly the right thing to do. Unfortunately, the attempt fails and the ramming ship is wrecked.
Southern. Log-jammed on the southern front, the surviving Carthaginian ships begin to back water.
Central. The players wonder what to do next as the centre presents another confusing mess.
Southern: The Romans now begin to back away from the southern battle.
Northern. Mixed fortunes in the northern battle as the Carthaginians launch bow-to-bow rams.
The end is nigh
Squadrons withdraw when they lose one-third in points. When we added up the losses we found that both sides were only one or two points away from losing, but the situation was complicated by captures. I think it would be easier to count ships rather than points. In any event I considered the game a draw.

Of course, it's easy to know what the players should have done in hindsight: leave more room for manoeuvre, aim to ram from the flank, and redeploy to concentrate.

Shearing was only attempted once during the battle and failed. I also found it pretty ineffective in previous battles.

There are a few gaps in the rules, or, at least, in my understanding of them.

1. Grappling requires prior contact which suggests it can occur only after an (unsuccessful) ram or an engineered collision.
2. There is no procedure for ungrappling. I allowed ships to ungrapple automatically following a capture, but perhaps there should be a die throw for this. But maybe it wasn't an option in the course of a battle, especially if a corvus was involved.
3. Ships on fire are not prevented from shooting but I disallow it.

As with other simple games, there is plenty of drama and the game was enjoyed by the players.


  1. Very nice! I recently mounted the galleys that came with the SoA game and found a good sea blue table cover, so hope to be following in your footsteps soon (minus the lovely models at this stage though, unfortunately!).

    1. The SoA counters are very good. I bought two rule sets so I could use them to do a really big battle, but haven't got round to it yet. I'd really like to get some feedback about grappling and ungrappling first. Otherwise I find the rules clear enough. I've got a couple of sea cloths and ships from various eras, but none of the bases match the cloths!

  2. I don't need another project, but this might really tempt me.

    1. It's a very good game to have as a standby. Basically self-contained and easy to transport.

  3. Love these ships, a great looking game!

    1. Thanks. The painting approach was fairly simple, but it seems to have worked.