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Battle of Zama (202 BC)

By Chris Jones

The year is 202 BC - the place North Africa. Hannibal has been recalled along with his brother Mago from Italy to face the Romans under Scipio in their own backyard. The great victories of Trebbia, Lake Trasimene and Cannae must seem a long way away now - Cannae occured 14 years before and although Hannibal had not been defeated within Italy since neither had he succeeded in destroying the power of Rome. His brother Hasdrubal had followed his route across the Alps in 208 BC and there must have seemed to be hope. But the two brothers had failed to join up and Hasdrubalšs army was destroyed at the Battle of the Metaurus. Then while Hannibal roamed around impotently in southern Italy, the Romans had taken the whole of Spain from the Carthaginians and then launched an invasion of Africa.

The initial Carthaginian force was defeated at Ilipa and their ally, the Numidian king Syphax defected to the Romans. This defection, which handed cavalry superiority to the Romans for the first time in the wars, was to prove decisive. But Hannibal had returned and now stood with the forces he had been able to gather to face Rome in a final showdown. Would his genius make the difference again.

The Armies

Roman - 12xBd, 4xSp, 2xCv, 2xLh, 1xPs

Carthaginian - 4xSp (+1) African veterans, 4xSp, 2x Bd (-1) Bruttians, 8xAx, 2xPs,1xLh, 1xCv, 1xEl


Zama appears to have been fought on a flat featureless plain.

The Battle - Historical

Hannibal formed up his forces with Numidian light cavalry on the left wing and other cavalry on the right. He placed 80 elephants in front of his lines. Behind the elephant screen, he formed up his infantry in three lines. First, there were Magošs mercenary Ligurians and Gauls. Secondly, a line of newly-raised Carthaginian and African forces. Finally, a reserve line comprised of his own veterans - Africans and Bruttians.

Scipio placed his own cavalry opposite their equivalents - he had twice as many LH. He formed his infantry as usual except that the legions deployed with lanes between the maniples to allow the elephants to charge through without danger and be dealt with by the retiring velites. He also ordered trumpets and drums to be beaten to frighten the elephants.

Hannibal begen by sending forward the Elephants. The Roman tactics succeeded in scaring them so that they fell back and disordered his own cavalry on both wings. The Roman cavalry charged and drove off the Punic horse.

The Roman Hastati then advanced and overcame both the first and second line after a hard fight.

Both armies then reorganised their lines and the whole Roman force attacked the veterans. This was hard fought and hannibal appeared to be starting to win when the Roman horse returned and charged them in the rear.

The Carthaginian army was essentially destroyed; 20,000 being killed and 20,000 taken as prisoners. Roman losses are unclear but were probably around 5,000 killed out of 30,000 engaged.

Simulating Zama in DBA

Roman Order of Battle:

Right wing:         2xLh
In advance:         2xPs
1st two lines:      6x2 Bd (Princeps & Hastati)
3rd line:           4xSp (Triarii)
Left wing:          1xCv 

Total 21 elements - break on 7

Carthaginian Order of Battle:

Left wing:          1xLh
In advance:         1xEl
1st line:           2xPs & 6xAx
2rd line:           4xSp & 2xAx
3rd line:           4xSp (+1, African vets.) & 2xBd (-1, Bruttians)
Right wing:         1xCv 

Total 23 elements - break on 8


Can follow historical as described above or use free deployment to give a more interesting refight.

Special Rules

As an option, if the El is destroyed, rather than removing it from the board, it should flee 600p in a random direction away from the enemy, engaging in close combat with any element it comes into contact with.

Victory conditions

Normal, but see the revised break points above.

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Last Update: Jan. 22, 2000

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