The Sicily map, which I have edited in MSpaint, is from the Wikimedia Commons site.
Drepana 249 BC
The Battle of Drepana was a naval battle fought between Rome and Carthage during the First Punic War. This war was largely fought for the domination of Sicily and the arterial Mediterranean trade routes that it controlled. By 250 BC Rome had confined the Carthaginians to the western tip of the island.
In 250BC the victory at Panormus, where the bulk of the Carthaginian land forces on Sicily were destroyed, encouraged Rome to besiege the last major Carthaginian stronghold of Lilybaeum.
Rome’s fleet was to blockade Lilybaeum and prevent reinforcement and supply by sea whilst land forces invested the town. However, despite the increasing level of Roman naval acumen they were still no match for the Carthaginians on the sea. This was proved time and time again by the Carthaginian navy operating out of Drepana which, in broad daylight, managed not only to resupply Lilybaeum, but deliver 10,000 reinforcements and evacuate the besieged army’s cavalry horses as well. For the Roman’s this was nothing short of a humiliation. Something had to be done.
Publius Claudius Pulcher, one of the consuls for 249 BC, decided to mount a surprise attack on the Carthaginian naval base at Drepana. If successful, the loss of the Carthaginian fleet would put additional pressure on Rome’s prime target. Claudius made all the right preparations for the battle. He reinforced his rowers (many of whom had died in the siege lines) with fresh ones from Italy; he manned his ships with most experienced and willing marines the army could offer; he put to sea at night to avoid being spotted.
From the moment the fleet put to sea things started to go wrong. The fleet, of around 120 ships, hugged the coastline, but in the darkness the ships lost contact with each other and their line astern formation became jumbled and confused. When daylight came, even Claudius’ flagship found itself out of position at the very rear of straggling line. As the disorganised Roman fleet approached the element of surprise was lost when it was spotted by shore patrols some way down the coast. Adherbal, the Punic admiral, at once manned his ships, bolstered by large numbers of mercenary volunteers acting as marines, and set sail out of the wide mouthed harbour just before the Romans arrived.
When the first Roman ships entered the harbour mouth the last of the Punic ships were already out to sea, rounding two small islands opposite the harbour mouth, and sailing parallel to the coast, but further out to sea than the Roman fleet. Claudius tried to bring some kind of order to his fleet by signalling his ships to concentrate and form a line of battle. This entailed those ships entering the harbour to turn around, a process that caused even more chaos. Before Claudius could restore any order whatsoever, Adherbal was already forming his 130 ships into a formidable battle line in preparation for an attack.
Wargaming the Battle
The deployment map shows the Roman fleet in three scattered squadrons of five heavy quinqueremes each (A – C). Claudius’ flagship (X) is towards the rear of the Roman line astern. There are 16 ships in total. It is doubtful that the Romans were still using the corvus at this time but a lack of evidence does not prove absence.
Adherbal (X) commands four squadrons (G - J) of four heavy quinqueremes each. There are 17 ships in total.
This battle is being fought using Fleet of Battle rules published in Wargames Illustrated (# 278) December 2010. The scenario requires two special scenario rules, otherwise the rules will be played as standard:
1) Each fleet only has one flagship for all three squadrons. This has been done to emphasise the relative position and effect of the opposing admirals, and because of the relatively small fleet size.
2) The Roman player may not use Turn cards to turn ships that are not in the Entrance to Drepana Harbour square, until the Special 1 card has been played.
Fleet scale is one ship model represents approximately 7.5 ships
Trained Fleet Command: D10
Trained Fleet Deck: Replace 2 Lull Cards with 1 Squadron Action, 1 Tactical Advantage.
Command: Poor D8
Ramming and Raking: Trained
Trained Fleet Command: D10
Trained Fleet Deck: Replace 3 Lull Cards with 2 Squadron Action, 1 Tactical Advantage.
Squadron G & I Quality
Command: G & I Seasoned D12, H & J Trained D10.
Ramming and Raking: Veteran
To win, if the Roman ships are not equipped with corvus they must sink or capture 5 or more enemy ships and escape with 5 ships. If equipped with corvus they must sink or capture 7 or more enemy ships and escape with 5 ships.
Carthage must sink or capture 11 Roman ships to win.
Any other result is a draw
Models on display
The models on display are 1:600 scale. They were all produced by Xyston Miniatures. They were all painted in enamels by James Roach (Olicana Painting Service). The sea boards were kindly lent to the Ilkley Lads, for this action, by Brian Hicks of Leeds Wargames Club - thank you Brian.
I will add photos of the game ASAP after Fiasco. Unfortunately, I cannot set it up on my own table at present due to the ongoing 2nd Battle of Hispilis.
The Fall of Carthage by Adrian Goldsworthy (Cassel)
The Rise of the Roman Empire by Polybius (Penguin)
Various 'Wiki' and similar websites.