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Herdonea (210 BC)

A Scenario by Bill Sumruld Inspired by Livy

If Livy is right, there were two battles fought near this Lucanian town in central Italy. The first battle he describes took place in 212 BC and hardly deserves the name "battle." According to Livy, a Praetor named Gnaeus Fulvius was besieging the town. Herdonea, after the defeat of the Romans at Cannae, had become one of Hannibal's allies. In the first battle, Roman discipline was so lax that, according to Livy, the Romans began to flee almost as soon as Hannibal's army raised its battle cry.

In the second battle in 210 BC, another Gnaeus Fulvius, this time a Proconsul, fought and lost a much more credible battle against Hannibal. As a textual critic, of course, one has to wonder if Livy separated two different versions of the same event. Afterall, he was dependent on earlier sources. These questions are matters for scholars, not the game table.

The following scenario is based on Livy's account of the second (?) battle of Herdonea, found at the beginning of book twenty-seven of his History of Rome. According to Livy, messengers had been sent to Hannibal, warning him that some in the town wanted to switch sides and open the gates to the besieging forces of Fulvius. In response to this, and the news of Marcellus' capture of Salapia (a coastal town on the Adriatic) Hannibal, leaving his baggage behind, force marched an army to attack Fulvius.

Hannibal achieved complete surprise. The Carthaginians were already in battle formation, relatively near the Roman camp, as the Romans were trying to form up. According to Livy, the Romans were not only out-classed in this battle. They were also out numbered.

Terrain and Camps

No need to represent Herdonea, as it played no role in the battle. However, this section of Italy has hilly terrain and, at that time, some forests. Place at least two gentle hills and three sections of bad going. The Roman camp, however, because Livy said it was in a spot that was not very defensible, must be at the table edge and away from any bad going. According to Livy, the Carthaginians were traveling light, so they have no camp.

Special Set Up

Romans place their camp first. Carthaginians set up anywhere at least two and a half feet (for 25mm) or one foot and four inches (for 15mm) from the Roman camp. Romans must place up to one Ps element, one Cv element, and two Bd elements (represents the fifth legion and ala of cavalry) somewhere between the Carthaginians and the camp. Other Romans must exit from the camp, any, or all, of its three sides in column formation after the Carthaginian's bound. The Carthaginians move first.


Gnaeus Fulvius' Polybian Romans: 2x3Cv, 2x4Sp, 6x4Bd, 2x2Ps.

Hannibal's Forces: 2x3Cv (Gauls and Spanish), 2x2Lh (Numidians), 4x4Sp (Carthaginians and allies), 2x4Ax (Spanish Scutarii), 2x3Wb (Gauls), 2x3Ax (Italian Allies), 1x2Ps (Spanish Caetrati), 1x2Ps (Balearic Slingers)

Victory Conditions

Normal DBA, except that the breakpoint for Hannibal's army is 5.


This is not a fair game. It is not supposed to be. The more experienced player should graciously agree to be the Romans.

Gamer Feedback

Chris Pagano: The Herdonea scenario by Bill Sumruld looks very interesting. I'm not bothered by how lopsided it is. DBA affords playing two games in a relatively short period of time. So the best way to play scenarios like this is to have each player command each side and see who can lose the fewest elements over the two games. For this particular scenario however, the Carthaginian elements lost should count double, since Hannibal has such an advantage and his losses are much harder to replace.

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Last Update: May 4, 2000

My thanks to Bill Sumruld for this scenario. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome. Send them to Chris Brantley at IamFanaticus@gmail.com.