Cannae 216BC


The Battle of Cannae 216 BC is one of the classics of western warfare.  Hannibal after his legendary crossing of the Alps, invaded Italy with some 20,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry.  

After winning major battles at Trebbia (218 BC) and Lake Trasimene (217 BC), Rome sent 8 Legions and an equal number of allied troops to stop Hannibal at Cannae.  Despite being outnumbered by around 2:1, Hannibal draws in the Roman legions by posting his weaker Gallic and Spanish troops in the centre, and destroys them by a classic pincer movement of his 2 African phalanxes placed at either end of his line.  

The job is finished off by Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal who routs the Roman cavalry and charges the rear of the disordered Legions.  Over 40,000 Romans are slaughtered compared to Carthaginian losses of 6-8,000.

Order of Battle:

Romans under Consuls Paullus and Varro

  • 40,000 Roman regular infantry
  • 40,000 Italian allied infantry
  • 2,400 Roman cavalry
  • 4,000 Allied cavalry

- converted to DBA bases:

  • 12x4 spears
  • 18x4 blades
  • 15x2 psiloi
  •  4x3 cav

Carthaginians under Hannibal, Hasdrubal and Maharbal (commanding the Numidian light horse)

  • 12,000 African heavy infantry
  • 8,000 Spanish infantry
  • 20,000 Celtic warbands
  • 4,000 Numidian Light Horse
  • 2,000 Spanish cavalry
  • 4,000 Celtic cavalry
  • 8,000 Spanish, Celtic and Numidian skirmishers

- converted to DBA bases:

  • 4x4 blades (African phalanxes)
  • 3x3 auxilia (Spanish)
  • 12x3 Wb (Celts)
  • 8x2 Ps (Skirmishers)
  • 4x3 Cav (Celtic and Spanish cav)
  • 4x2 LH (Numidians)

Our Battle:

We played this battle using our very own Napnuts Ancient Rules designed by Napnut Boon.  Basing is similar to DBA, but the combat system - using a morale-step downgrade - is unique.  Combat is resolved by rolling a number of D6 corresponding to the number of figures on the base.  Every hit results in a morale step downgrade for the enemy base.  When the number of morale hits equals the number of figures on the base, the base routs.  But it can be rallied at the beginning of the player's turn if a sufficient number of morale pips is rolled on 1D6, and if the General is nearby.  

We feel this provides a more engaging game than DBA, while still providing a relatively short and fast-flowing game.  For instance, our Cannae game was played in one hour.

On the battle proper, Cannae is an extremely difficult game for the Carthaginians to win.  A series of bad combat die rolls in the centre on the Carthaginian right flank, coupled with very good combat and saving die rolls on the Roman side results in the defeat of the Carthaginian army.  Hasdrubal's good performance on the Carthaginian left flank is insufficient to turn the tide. The detailed report is below.

Close-up of the Roman Legions

Movement to contact.

The skirmishers fight it out while the main lines advance.

Gallic and Spanish cavalry on the left flank rout the Roman cavalry and flank the Roman line

The outflanked Roman cohorts hold while the centre cohorts break the Carthaginian centre.

Close up shot of the fighting in the centre.

Gallic and Spanish cavalry rout two Roman cohorts.

But it is too late.  Hasdrubal's cavalry success is to no avail as the Roman legions break through the Carthaginian centre.