COE Mercenary War AAR

Time to finish up several After Action reports (AAR) on recent New Year scenarios at the warren, David’s garage, and the Strategicon-OrcCon 2019 LAX convention. First AAR is an unusual Clash of Empires 28mm Mercenary War scenario, featuring defeated Carthage vs. their former hired mercenaries after the conclusion of the 1st Punic War. Before this afternoon of ancient tabletop warfare, WR must admit his knowledge of the post 1st Punic War Carthaginian wars was grossly lacking, in reality WR must state as nonexistent. So, welcome to the Battle of Bagradas River 240 B.C.

The Battle of the Bagradas River, or the Macar by another name (c. 240 BC), was fought by the loyal Carthaginian army (civic levy in most part) against former Carthaginian mercenaries awaiting payment for service after the peace of the 1st Punic War, and joined by rebelling Libyan cities. After the forces of Hanno the Great were defeated at Utica, and failed to engage the mercenaries afterwards despite favorable conditions, Carthage raised a new army under Hamilcar Barca in Carthage. Hamilcar managed to leave Carthage despite the lacking rebel blockade of the city and cross the Bagradas River (the ancient name of the Medjerda). Rebel armies from besieging Utica and the camp guarded the bridge on the Bagradas River. Hamilcar Barca, by brilliant maneuvering, defeated the combined rebel army. This was the first major Carthaginian victory of the war.

Sources for this period of Carthage are hard to come by, most could be viewed as secondary in their reporting. WR’s friend David Kometz used the following internet information for structure and background material for his COE tabletop Battle of Bargaras River scenario design. The Wikipedia article seems a good overview with some detail on this battle.

The Carthaginian army has surprised the rebels near their respective camps and marched on the tabletop fully deployed. They will set up 40cm from their long table edge with a deployment zone total width of eight feet, centered at the 16×6 table centerline. Thus they can deploy up to four feet from the table bisecting centerline, facing both enemy camps or either one individually. This is a important decision for the Carthage players to decide. The “Bridgehead” rebel Mercenary / Libyan levy camp starts near the stone bridge. All units start across the river, on the same side as the Carthaginian arriving army, placed along the river within 16″ of the bridge (either side), and cannot extend from river edge by 12″. The mercenary / Libyan units cannot cross the river via the bridge to avoid combat and are considered lost for scenario victory conditions if they cross. Units forced into the river are considered destroyed. The upriver “Riverbank” rebels start near their camp along the river near the short table edge. Like the “Bridgehead” camp, they must start within 16″ of the short table edge, measured from the table edge and river exit point. Scenario lasts eight turns with diced 50% chance for additional turns after the conclusion of turn eight. Carthage has first movement as the rebels seek to recover from their surprise reaction seeing the Carthaginians rearward approach. Victory based on total victory points calculation found in COE MRB pages 132-133.

The 16×6 foot table starting set up. Upper left deployed Carthaginian army. Upper right Mercenary /Libyan levy “Bridgehead” command. Foreground shows “Riverbank” mercenary /Libyans.

Terrain notes: A simple straight gravel road somewhat bisects the table near the center point and crosses the bridge. The stone bridge crosses the Bargaras River off-center to the table centerline by 6″ it seems viewing the post battle photos. A small riverside marsh or swampy ground is placed about 2 feet from the bridge, again view the photos for size and placement. Otherwise, the tabletop battlefield is open with scattered light bushes to break up the flatness. Note: The bridge procession is worth extra victory points if controlled by the Carthaginians or likewise, control the “Riverbank” force’s encampment tents as told to the mercenary rebellion player side. Extra victory points unknown to WR during game but I think it was 50 VP per site.

Closer view of the “Bridgehead” mercenary / Libyan command tightly camped at the bridge.

The COE Battle of Bargaras River 240B.C. scenario was written by WR’s friend David Komatz. Scenario assumes that Hamilcar Barca (Carthage) has crossed the Bargaras River at the river mouth sandbar and swung around to pin the bridgehead rebellious mercenary & Libyan levy against the river, near the single local bridge. Nearby another rebellious mercenary & Libyan levy force is upriver from the bridge, watching the riverbank for Hamilcar’s army, and forms a potential flanking force against the advancing Carthaginian army. Starting in their respective camps, the rebel commands have restricted movement for each turn for “forward movement” (towards any Carthaginian unit). Roll d6, if natural five or six (5-6) rolled they cannot advance unless within charge range. Impetuous rule still applies for Warband units so if natural one rolled they sally forward to seek enemy.

David’s email comments after the game to add to the scenario commentary:


Don’t know what you need for the scenario write-up but the game we played in the garage was loosely based on the Battle of the River Bagradas in 240 B.C.  It was fought during the Mercenary War which occurred shortly after the Carthage defeat at the hands of the Romans during the 1st Punic War.  Basically, we played it as a pitched battle with the Carthaginians vs. a split mercenary alliance.  The game was designed to force the Carthaginians with a third less total forces in points take on a split mercenary command.  

A couple of write-ups indicate that the mercenaries likely had twice the size of forces as Hamilcar Barca.  Using that ratio doesn’t generally lead to a balanced game on the table so that’s why the forces were scaled back for Spendius’ mercenary armies.   The alliance was forced to hold out and keep their supply points the encampment on one end of the river and the bridge at the other, from being overwhelmed and causing a panic test of their forces.  The game was fought with random limited turns to force the two sides to gain points by destroying or routing opposing forces.

In the accounts, Hamilcar crossed the river undetected and forced a battle.  It was recorded that he crushed the mercenaries. There isn’t too much said on how so there are a lot of interpretations about how he might have done so.  You can read several theories put forth in the Wiki attachment.  I didn’t think it would be fun to have Carthaginians crashing into the rear of an unprepared army guarding a river so that’s why I hamstrung the mercenaries instead by splitting them and used the old WAB rule with rolling a D6 for control.

If you have any other questions about or need any more specifics let me know.


Scenario Forces: Hamilcar Barca commands the following Carthaginian units from this roster print below:

The Carthaginian army roster spreadsheet (.xls). Total unit count is fourteen units. Note the Carthaginians have no skirmisher units, unusual for their normal army.

The Carthaginian army roster .xls file:  COE Carthage Bargaras River Roster

For the rebellious mercenary & Libyan levy forces there are two .xls rosters, one for each independent force defending along the Bargaras River. WR called them the “Bridgehead” and “Riverbank” commands. First the “Bridgehead” roster in two screen print format commanded by two mercenary captains; Spendius as overall rebel army commander, and Zarzas, a heroic mercenary unit commander. The Mercenary / Libyan roster .xls files: COE Mecenary Libyan Bargaras River Roster1, COE Mercenary Libyan Bargaras River Roster2

First of two screen prints for the “Bridgehead” command. Note the two mercenary captains are rated “Heroic Leader” and must be attached to the Sicilian veteran hoplite units.



Lower half of the “Bridgehead” COE roster screen print.



The Mercenary / Libyan Levy “Riverline” force was a second rebellious command under their mercenary captain called Autaritus. Their COE roster below:

The “Riverbank” force under Autaritus, which mainly was a Gallic force with mercenary skirmishers and supportive Libyan levy.

Second part of the “Riverbank” command roster.

With both sides miniatures deployed on the open ground, the Carthaginian player (WR) sees two separate rebel mercenary / Libyan levy forces. The main bridge defenders or “Bridgehead” force led by Spendius and Zarzas are compact against the Bargaras River, played by Doug. Upstream, the rebel force under their Gaulic general Autaritus make up the “Riverbank” command under Tim’s guiding hand. Deciding to quickly confront the rebels under Spendius, WR deploys the bulk of the Carthaginians to crush the mercenary and Libyan units at the bridge before their upriver Gallic friends can directly intervene. Little did WR know that the two Sicilian hoplite units would prove to be hard nuts to budge, let alone break their formation, with his Carthage citizen levy. For the rebels…. their deployment was tight and compressed, waiting for their first turn for movement to quickly expand their frontage.

Turn One: With no delay, the Carthaginian army marches quickly at double pace to close with their hated foes. The elephant miniatures are placed between the citizen infantry units while the two loyal scutarii units fill the open void to the delay force cavalry (Carthaginian) sent to slow up the Gallic “Riverbank” forces march. On their battle line left flank, the Gallic cavalry unit rolled for impetuous advance…. and they gladly rushed forward.

The Carthaginian battle line massed and marching forward towards the bridgehead rebel defenders. Off photo the Gallic cavalry surged forward.

Rolling their d6 dice rolls for movement, most of the rebel skirmishers willingly shift leftward at the bridge (towards the marsh), or with some hesitation, advance forward to skirmish against the closing Carthaginian battle line. Autaritus leads his Gallic mercenary rebels forward from their upriver riverbank camp while the nearby skirmishers spread out across the open terrain.

Turn one completed, Rebellion den of infantry rush forward to contest the Carthaginian advance. Facing Artaritus the single Carthaginian cavalry and Spanish scutarii unit look outnumbered.

Turn Two: Closing rapidly towards the skirmishing Numidian cavalry before them, the Celtiberian scutarii blood is up and they charge forward. Using their feigned flight rule, the Numidian cavalry trot away after sticking tossed sticks into the Celts.

Blood up, the Celtiberian scutarii charge madly forward at the Numidian cavalry. They coolly toss their javelins, score some hits, and then trot to the rear.

Carthaginian battle line closes to javelin range. Only the rebels have missile units so they slowly close the range and start to inflict token losses on the citizens or the nearby elephants to trigger reaction.

Turn Two completed. The Carthaginians close in as volleys of javelins target the massed citizen ranks or the thick elephant hides.

Rushing across the open ground, the massed Gallic ranks seek glory on the former paymasters while various skirmish units seek javelin range. Spanish scutarii cover the wider opening gap.

Turn Three: Seeing the thickening skirmish mob darting before their massed ranks, the Citizen Infantry of Carthage advance to close the distance. Most of the skirmish javelins are tossed at the elephants, giving a slight wound to one but control maintained by the mahout. Javelins are finding gaps in the shields, several miniatures drop from wooden shafts.

Mobs of rebel skirmishers dart before massed ranks of Citizen infantry. Occasionally javelins finds a gap in the advancing shields. One elephant suffers a slight wound but mahout retains control.


Only way to get some relief from the javelin barrage. Spanish scutarii charge the skirmishers and force them to evade rearward…. hopefully into the river and removal if they fail to rally.

The left flank of the Carthaginian line charge forward to force the skirmishers to evade. Even the Gallic cavalry charge with their d6 rolled one (Impetuous).

After evading, the rebel Numidian / Libyan infantry skirmishers need a 5 or less to rally. Some rally, others extend their retreat towards the Bargaras River. If they don’t rally, removal is their fate for the scenario.

Some skirmishers units rally up, others keep running towards their rear bridge or the riverbank. The rebel veteran Sicilian hoplites with their own Spanish scutarii alongside steady closed ranks.

Marching with steady pace, the Carthaginian Citizen infantry close in for the final battles. Suddenly the rebel Gallic infantry charge forth into the throwing spears of the Carthaginian center infantry. A quick and bloody melee finds the Citizen infantry winning the fight and throwing back the impetuous Gallic infantry. Score one victory for the Carthaginians.

Gallic warband impetuous charge forward into the Citizen infantry. Throwing spears lowered, the Carthaginian infantry repulse the Gallic wild charge.

Turn Four: Having repulsed the Gallic charge, the right flank Citizen infantry line charges forward to finish the battle. Skirmishers evade to avoid the denser ranks. Elephants advance alongside the massed ranks. The Celtiberian scutarii charge into the marsh to clear enemy lurking infantry. The fleeing Gallic warband infantry slow as they near the river thinking…. rally or plunge into the river water?

The right flank Citizen infantry charges forward followed alongside by elephants. The Celtiberian scutarii charge to clear the marsh edge. The short green “stick rod” are used for movement measurement, color coded for the different lengths.

Little to report about the far right fighting…. there wasn’t any of note. Some javelin tosses against the Carthaginian cavalry maneuvering to slow the Gallic large warband.

Here the Carthaginian cavalry retire to reposition themselves and avoid the massed Gallic infantry rank advancement. Upper left has the Carthaginian side Spanish Scutarii chasing skirmishers.

So, back to the main battle. The rebel Gallic warband fails to rally from their fight with the Carthaginian citizens and they plunge into the river to flee, following several rebel skirmisher units fleeing from the rebel left flank. These leaves only the rebel veteran Sicilian hoplite units and a supporting rebel Spanish scutarii unit at the bridge holding their ground, while two skirmisher units try to hold off the approaching Carthaginian Gallic cavalry. Not looking so good for the bridge rebellion defenders. But the battle gods think otherwise….

Scene as the rebel Gallic warband about to plunge into the Bargaras River following several skirmisher levy units. Clearly the Sicilian hoplites hold the bridge position with steel nerve.

View on the other side of the bridge. Better at resisting the Carthaginian advance.

Turn Five: Clash of the battle lines. A Carthaginian Citizen spear line impacts with the Sicilian hoplite unit. To their left a sole elephant thunders into the other Sicilian hoplite unit defending the bridge entrance. Hamilcar Barca cheers his men forward to overthrow the rebellious mercenaries threatening their city-state.

Hamilcar Barca leads his Civilian Infantry into the Sicilian hoplites, stationed near the bridge. Alongside them, the other Sicilian hoplite faces the charging elephant.

Out on the near left flank the Gallic cavalry charge with the end Citizen infantry spear unit to finally clear the last of the skirmishers. Can they wheel right to engage the rebel bridge defense quickly? Numidian cavalry dart near the river bank, seeking an opening for open ground.

Out on the Carthaginian left flank the formed ranks with the Gallic cavalry chase into the river two more Libyan skirmisher formations…. if you could call them formations. Numidians look on.

The melee goes on. Almost the entire front tank of Citizen infantry miniatures drop from the Sicilian hoplite veteran shield shoving counterattack, as their own ranks fall from the heaved spears. As this battle leaves fallen miniatures, the lone elephant attack fares badly for the Carthaginians. Only one Sicilian hoplite is crushed underfoot, as they inflict two wounds on the madden elephant in reply. Having lost the fight the mahout quickly loses control as the elephant turns and runs amok towards the advancing supportive Citizen infantry. WR has seen this storyboard too many times while playing ancient wargames.

Bodies fall in savage combat as veteran trained Sicilian hoplites stab into the ill-trained Civilian ranks. The elephant crushes one hoplite but suffers two wounds, tests, and bolts to the rear.

With elephant running amok, the Sicilian hoplites try to finish the battle and rout the depleted Citizen spear before them. Hamilcar Barca sees his front line slowly breaking as he tries to rally the nearby units to the fight.

Hamilcar Barca holds with his personal bravery the Carthaginian Civilian infantry. But they are being cut down in droves and cannot take the butcher’s bill for long. They finally break and rout.

Still the rebel flank Riverbank command rushes forward towards the center, slowed a bit by the presence of the Carthaginian cavalry unit. The Spanish scutarii will turn to enter the marsh soon.

Turn Six: Turn of impending disaster grips the Carthaginian ranks. The wounded elephant turns about and vers leftward thus crashing into the supportive Citizen infantry second battle line. Nearby, the pushed and battered Citizen infantry suffer the weapon skill (4) of the veteran Sicilian hoplites. Too much for these untrained soldiers, they break and rout, taking their rear supportive elephant with them.

The Citizen infantry are cut down by the Sicilian hoplites, causing their rear supportive elephant to run amok in the survivor stream of humanity.

One pulped Citizen unit gone, two elephants running amok, and Hamilcar Barca tries to hold their last of his central battle line. Both the veteran Sicilian hoplites bear down on the remaining Citizen infantry fighting their own crazy elephant.

Keeping firm control, Spendius orders the bridge Sicilian hoplites to retire back to defend the bridge. His veteran Sicilian hoplites form closed ranks and retire while maintaining solid phalanx formation. Seeing the battle going favorably for the moment, the rebellious Spanish scutarii charge into the next exposed Citizen infantry formation. This time the gods of war favor the Carthaginians as they cut down the Spanish infantry without mercy. Breaking bloody ranks, they rout and flee towards the river without stopping, causing the nearby rebel mercenaries to test morale. Spendius holds his men with a calm iron control. Even the Numidian cavalry, worming its way through the Carthaginian lines, pays little notice to the routing Spanish.

Sicilian hoplite units reform or retire under their General’s direct orders. They watch the Carthaginian elephant fight against the Citizen spear. No luck for the rebellion Spanish scutarii. They are crushed and rout away from the battlefield.

Battlefield seems quiet….Only four rebel mercenary units remain near the bridge. Two Sicilian hoplites, one Libyans skirmisher, and the Numidian cavalry. Hamilcar Barca wonders how to defeat these veteran hoplites.

Turn Seven: Can it get any worse for Carthage? Seeing the elephant fighting the citizens of Carthage, the Sicilian hoplites charge home alongside the mad elephant. The fight was short, to the spear point so to speak, as the Citizen infantry rout away from the killing blows. They disperse across the rear open battlefield, heading for the river sand bar crossing, and then hopefully their homes in Carthage. Meanwhile, a lucky skirmisher toss inflicts wounds on another elephant, causing it to run amok parallel to the battlefront.

Charged by mad elephant and now Sicilian hoplites, the Citizen infantry break ranks and flee from the battlefield, leaving many dead bodies in a bloody trail behind them. Note another elephant wounded by rebel skirmishers behind the Sicilians.

Out on the left flank the loyal Gallic cavalry charge the emerging Numidian cavalry. To their training form, the Numidians feigned flight and avoid the Gallic cavalry charge.

Two Citizen infantry units retain formation and slowly turn to face the bridge position. Numidians avoid the charging Gallic cavalry with ease, darting away and behind the Carthaginian infantry.

Elephants running amok everywhere. The battle looks far different from the first opening movements.

Turn Eight: Last scheduled scenario turn unless favorable dice god roll. On the tabletop little happens since both armies are out of position. The rebellion clearly still holds the bridge with one Sicilian hoplite unit. The other Sicilian unit, joined by one routing skirmisher, and the Numidian cavalry hold the former Carthaginian center position. For Carthage their two untouched Citizen infantry blocks slowly turn and march towards the bridge, leaving the Gallic cavalry to chase the Numidian cavalry. Three elephants run amok across the battlefield, each going in their own uncontrolled direction. For the open Carthaginian right flank, the large Gaul warband under Autaritus approaches with some supportive skirmishers, but they are several turns removed from the bridge battlefield.

Arturitus and his large Gallic warband nears the marsh. Carthaginian cavalry turns to run down a chasing skirmisher unit. The depleted loyal Spanish scutarii hold ground in the marsh.

At the bridge the final positions at scenario end.




Scenario conclusion: At first glance either side seemed to have won this ancients scenario. The Carthaginian army was battered, with elephants running amok in several directions, while their civic bodies laid on the open stony ground. For the rebellious mercenaries and their Libyan levy, losses or shattered units dotted the riverbank, while the “Riverbank” force under Autaritus, save one skirmisher unit, was totally untouched. So to the victory point calculation…. adding up the VP for destroyed units and possible terrain capture. Carthage came out ahead by a slight margin so slight victory for history’s debate was deemed the player group choice. So say “minor” with a little “m” is the call.

Thanks for David presenting an excellent ancient scenario, different from most ancient games WR played over the years. WR will have to read up on the Mercenary war period. The 28mm miniatures and terrain mostly David’s. WR supplied a few Citizen spear units to fatten up the Carthaginian army. Till next time David, Tim, and Doug…. maybe another ancients game in April to start the 2nd quarter.

Cheers from the North African shore.


7 thoughts on “COE Mercenary War AAR

  1. Hey Mike, I know you’re a financial guy but I have a question. Curious as to how long does it take you in hours to do your fed and state returns? Thanks John 

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

    • John. Afternoon at best for both returns (long form 1040 included with five to six schedules) since I collect the filing information material starting in Jan and have on hand by March. I also do my returns by hand and don’t use a computer system so I know all the numerical values each year and aware of year to year changes.

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