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Posted on Nov 29, 2005 in Boardgames

Carthage – Boardgame Review

By Chris A. Cornaghie

carthagebox.jpgIn 288 B.C., Italian mercenaries who had been fighting for Syracuse seized the city of Messina on the tip of Sicily, killed the male citizens and took their wives and property. Calling themselves the Mamertines (Sons of Mars), they proceeded to raid the surrounding countryside to the distress of their former employers. By 265 B.C. Hiero II, ruler of Syracuse, had endured the bandits enough and deciding on a permanent solution, lay siege to Messina. To avoid their obvious fate, the false rulers of Messina appealed for aid to the city of Carthage, whose mercantile empire and large experienced fleet made it the major power of the Western Mediterranean. To ensure their deliverance the Mamertines simultaneously also sent emissaries to Rome, which had recently driven Pyrrhus from Italy and subjected the peninsula to its rule. Carthage responded eagerly, wishing to expand its current holdings in Sicily and so did Rome, which did not wish to aid brigands, but certainly did not want a Carthaginian port directly across the strait to Italy. The local struggle escalated into a conflict between Rome and Carthage which lasted from 264 B.C. to 241 B.C. and was the cause of two further wars between the cities. Rome’s eventual victory was the first step toward empire.

GMT’s Carthage:The First Punic War, 264 B.C.-241 B.C. (Game Design by Richard Berg), the second installment in The Ancient World, creates the conflict on land and sea with the comprehensive First Punic War scenario. Smaller scenarios cover the Mercenary War fought by Carthage in 241 B.C. and the earlier conflict between Carthage and Syracuse in 311 B.C.



The game, priced at $65.00, is loaded with four full countersheets totaling 1,120 counters, (1) 22×33 Map of Italy, (1) 17×22 Map of Africa and numerous charts and displays. Like its predecessor, The Rise of the Roman Republic, the counter and map artwork is both pleasing and functional.

carthage1s.jpg carthage3s.jpg

The first class artwork of Mark Simonitch shows in the clean map design, which while covered by a hex grid, is without ambiguities as to terrain. The scale is thirteen miles to the hex. The texture and hue of colors gives the impression of an ancient text with easily readable names and symbols. Cities in Italy even have red tiled roofs as opposed to the white buildings on the African map. But more importantly, each hex is a complete terrain type for land and sea, rivers are clearly on a hexside and coastal areas are darker blue than open seas. The only problem, which is minor, is that three road classifications (A, B, or C) are shown on the maps, but not all are in existence during each scenario. In fact very few of the roads actually are in use in the scenarios of Carthage, but keep in mind that these maps are to be used in later periods of The Ancient World.

carthage2.jpgThe counter art by Rodger MacGowen and Mark Simonitch is also top notch. Each separate group of combatants is represented by a color and distinct figure for infantry and cavalry; there are Romans, Carthaginians, Syracusans, Iberians, Libyans, Ligurians, Gauls and many more. A counter represents a certain number of strength points, each infantry strength point being 500 men, cavalry 300 men per point and 10 elephants for each strength point. No difference has been made between heavy and light infantry, phalanx and warband, or the many other types of troops in ancient conflict, but for a simulation at this level, it is not needed. The Romans, of course, do gain a benefit on the combat tables. Leaders are represented by an appropriate helmet, (that’s correct, Roman leaders have Roman helmets, Greek leaders a Greek helmet, etc.). Leaders have values for initiative, combat, mortality, guile and a campaign rating. These counters show the designers skill most, as even with all the information, the counters are clearly readable (always important for the aging gamer) and pleasant to use. All counters are two-sided and leaders are marked with a symbol for "finished" on the back to show no further operations that phase. Other counters represent quiquereme squadrons (overhead view of a rowing ship), siege engines, city defense, militia and a host of other events and conditions.

Rule Book, Scenario Book, Charts and Player Aids

The standard rule book for The Ancient World series is 32 pages long, is cleanly organized, and easily read with nice size type and interspersed with illustrated examples. The complexity level would be about 6, as indicated by GMT, and this would be appropriate given that it is the foundation for the entire Ancient World series. The rules are not that difficult to digest upon first reading, but when the scenario booklet of 27 pages of additional rules are added, the complexity rises dramatically. Further, each scenario also has some rules deleted or amended. Each segment of rules is relatively simple alone, (except for the eight page Roman political set), but when taken as a group will force the players to constantly refer to the rules or charts, and therefore requires a good deal of practice to master the basics. The player aids and charts are absolutely necessary to weld the game into a manageable work.

The rules are accompanied by several play aids and charts;
(1) Bi-fold four page player aid which covers movement/attrition, siege combat, naval transport, treachery and a couple of other tables.
(2) Bi-fold four page player aid which covers land combat
(3) Advanced Naval Rules, charts and tables, one page front and back
(4) Roman Army Display
(5) Carthaginian Army Display
(6) Roman City/Port Display
(7) Carthaginian City/Port Display
(8) Roman Political Charts and Tables
(9) Carthaginian Political and Manpower chart
(10) Augury charts

The back of Roman displays are used for Syracuse or Mercenary scenarios.

The Silence of the LAMs

Each turn in Carthage, like Rise of the Roman Republic, is a year and is divided into seven phases.

Phase A; Rebuild sacked cities and improve each Carthaginian army’s efficiency. The Carthaginians retain army commanders, so it is assumed they are more familiar with their troops over time. This phase is completed very fast.

Phase B; Strategic Decision phase-disband legions, Imperial Prorogue, A visit from Pluto, Roman Elections, Carthaginian Political climate, Force Increase Determination and Remove Raid markers. This phase is going to take a bit longer, the Roman player will quickly decide if disbanding legions is needed (the Romans can have only so many no matter their strength), whether to maintain a leader in command and roll for untimely death of some leaders. The Roman elections require blindly drawing one or two new leaders as consuls each year for major Roman commands. There are forty Roman leaders and they run the gamut from decent to incompetent, good leaders will hopefully be prorogued (kept in office another year) and poor ones replaced. The Roman political system allows a leader to command legions or fleets, not both. So the Roman player will be placed in a historical situation with regard to leadership, good leaders must make a major effort when elected as they cannot wait for a change in strategic circumstances. Further the best leader may not be elected to the most critical position. Poor leaders will try to accomplish something without creating a disaster. If things get too bad for the Roman, however, a dictator can be selected who will command all Roman forces. It can be very frustrating for the Roman player, who may be on the verge of a great campaign, to see T. Stupidus Blunderamus elected to command the best Roman Army. However, this is extremely historical and was always the Achilles’ heel of the Roman Republic.

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