Zama Hannibal vs. Scipio
19 October 202B.C.
Review by David Lent
Zama Hannibal vs. Scipio is a simulation of the last battle of the 2nd Punic War. If you’re not familiar with this battle watch this excellent video on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjxYJBWcS08 This game was originally in Strategy & Tactics Magazine #153. Decision Games has re-implemented it as a folio game that retails for $24.95
Zama can be played either with the historical setup or where each player determines where to put their units in any of the shaded zones. Hannibal’s separate lines cannot move forward until specific turns or until the Romans have advanced a prescribed amount. The game ends when one side has reached its disintegration level or the tenth turn, whichever comes first. If it lasts 10 turns, victory points are calculated to determine the winner.
The components are reasonable quality for a folio game. What I like the most is the map has the starting positions of the Roman and Carthaginian units printed on the map. In addition, the map has the turn track and literally every table you need to play the game printed on it. This greatly reduces the amount of time you have to spend flipping through the rulebook while playing the game.
Sequence of Play
- Missile Fire
Command and control is very important in this game. Each sub-command must roll to see if it can move during its turn. The Numidians and elephant units are fanatics, which means they must move towards the nearest enemy if the fail their command and control check during the movement phase. You can only control them if they pass their C&C check.
I played this game solo once and against an opponent twice. In all 3 games, the Romans won. However, the game is a lot of fun to play and more importantly FEELS like you are fighting the Battle of Zama even though the setup isn’t completely historically accurate.
All three games I played went something like this. The Carthaginian elephants charged forward and attacked the Roman light troops. They caused some casualties, but the light troops were able to hit many of them with missile fire causing the elephants to go berserk. The berserk elephants charged in a direction determined by a die roll. Sometimes the unit they charged was Carthaginian and in some cases another elephant, which also went berserk. After the berserk attack, the elephant is removed from the board. During the Roman phase of this turn, their cavalry charged forward and engaged the Carthaginian cavalry.
During the next few turns the Romans formed a line and engaged Hannibal’s front line. The Italian units have a lower C&C rating than the Romans, so some turns they did not roll high enough to move. However, the Romans and Italians made short work of Hannibal’s front line. In addition, the Numidian cavalry made short work of their cavalry foe and started attacking the Carthaginian second line’s flank with missile fire.
Now that the Numidians moved far enough forward, the Carthaginian second line was eligible to move. It began moving forward and the Romans were able to engage it first with pilums they had not used yet and then in melee. It was a tough fight and the Romans and Italians took some serious casualties, but were able to destroy this line within a few turns. Their heavy cavalry assisted by hitting part of the second line in the rear and the Numidians engaged them on the other flank. At this point, the Romans had rolled more successful rally roles at the end of their turn than the Carthaginians. This meant that more of their “defeated” units had come back to the battlefield than Hannibals. The numbers are now in the Romans favor.
Last, Hannibal’s third line of veterans engaged the Roman line. Hannibal’s veterans are tough and did serious damage, but the Romans have now inflicted enough casualties that Hannibal’s army is demoralized. This caused some of his units to panic and flee, while the rest had a detrimental column shift for the rest of the game. The crafty Roman and Numidian cavalry took advantage of the situation by charging both of the Cartheginian flanks. During the next turn, many of the Carthigians had nowhere to retreat to and were slaughtered.
During one of the games, the Carthaginian’s made it to the last turn and lost due to victory points. However, in the other two games the Carthaginians reached the disintegration level and were immediately defeated.
The Romans have two big advantages over the Carthaginians that helped them win each game. First, the Romans have better command and control. That meant that more of their units were available to move when needed than the Carthaginians. Second, Roman units are more likely to rally during the rally phase. Hence, Rome could get its tough units back more often than the Carthaginians.
Even though this game is lopsided in favor of the Romans, I really like it. As mentioned before, it really feels like you are fighting the Battle of Zama and the results of my games were very similar to the historical result. The Numidian cavalry were golden and the Carthaginian elephants did more bad to the Carthaginians than the Romans. It’s also a very easy game to learn, so you can play it with beginners or experienced wargamers. Since the game only takes an hour in a half to play, you may want to switch sides after the game and let your opponent play the Romans so they can win also.
Buy your own copy here.
View the components in the unboxing video below: