As my regular opponents know I love infantry, and infantry with a 4+ save and the shieldwall rule hold a strange attraction, some would say obsession for me. So the Southern Italians were of particular interest.
What are their strengths. Well their standard troops are cheap as chips - Hoplites. They are Phalanx and not trained Phalanx but I have never thought that 2 points per base for having a trained phalanx was a good trade off. They can get the Light Armour upgrade to add to their large shield as standard. The downside is their cohesion is a 'huge' 5!. Cohesion tests are not their friend, although the two charges I had two face from elephants and scythed chariots were both passed with a 5. (So it can be done!). They have excellent light troops and their open order warriors have throwing spear and can get a large shield (and every other unit can have light armour). They can also make an excellent skirmish unit. They can get some Oscan cavalry, and whilst they are Superior Fighters they only have a defence of 4. So not quite heavy cavalry, but can be great at the right moment. The more observant will notice the lack of missile fire (13 javelin shots do not really count!)
So 6 units of Hoplites, 2 of Warriors in open order, 1 Oscan horse, 2 skirmishers and six commanders comprised my force.
How did it get on?
Game 1 - was a challenge against some Pontic's. They had four units of superiors shooters and three other blocks of bow. They did have a phalanx and some Theureophori types that were hidden away and never saw action. It was a slow slog to stop my army being shot to pieces whilst trying to close with a mobile and slippery opponent who did not want to stand up and take six of the best. I did mange to get to grips with one of his bow units, but it was not worth a great deal of points. The game came to an end before I could force my opponent to engage. A bang on draw.
Game 2 was against Early Imperial Romans with some Armenian cataphract allies (that were to prove my undoing). Given that his cavalry would annihilate mine if they met I decided that the tradition of denying a flank should be honoured and set up to then expand out at a leisurely pace. It all went very well for at least one turn! (maybe two). I was then trying to block off a path round some words to stop one of the cataphract units getting into my flanks. Foolishly in my haste to get all my units into position I moved up a unit of warriors behind them that would prevent them from falling back if they were forced to do by the combat result. Five attacks from the cataphracts hitting on 4's saving on 5's , with then 8 attacks back hitting on 4's saving on 2's, what could go wrong! I didn't do the correct statistical analysis and didn't allocate any momentum tokens, my opponent did! The phalanx had to fall back and couldn't so fled instead! That triggered three other units to flee the field! Once of those took another with them at the start of the next turn. It was all over pretty quickly after that. Whilst I lost it was a lesson learnt and a good game.
Game 3 was against some Selucids with scythed chariots (but not ellies as I recall). Again a denied flank and then a long drawn out combat in the centre between pike phalanx and hoplites. My opponent had to throw his theureophori into the line and they were chewed up and spat out. One scythed chariot did for my cavalry but the other one failed to press home his attack and evaporated. The game ended with my troops on my opponents flanks and about to make merry, but when we added it all up it was a draw. Again another good game where I could not be too gung-ho on the flanks otherwise I would have had skirmish horseies doing terrible things in my rear.
Game 4 was against a Late Carthaginian army. It was a short game. My opponent had some veteran Celts and Ligurians in open order that had to attacks two pf my phalanxes. After he had rolled his dice to hit me he rerolled them using his veteran ability, it did not help. The warbands had shot their bolt to no avail and it was a question of time (which was not a lot if truth be told) before I had skirmishers behind them preventing them from falling back. When another phalanx passed their cohesion test for being charged by the ellie it was all over and a big win for the Southern Italians. I enjoyed the game, and I hope my opponent did, although he must have known it would be a hard ask with his small, but veteran army.
The last three games were enjoyable (win, lose or draw) I think because in part there was so little shooting and it was all about getting stuck in and trying to get the right match ups. The challenge was keeping the general in the centre of the battle line to impact as many units as possible with his leadership, and that meant I couldn't throw him into combat. One bad dice roll and he would not be coming back! The lack of shooting certainly helped to speed up the games and I did not really miss it too much.