Bagradas River – A DBM Campaign in Iberia

This campaign provides some context to a DBM battle set in Spain (Iberia) during the Second Punic War. The main protagonists are the Romans and Carthaginians, however, Iberian levies feature as well.

Although I have assumed DBM the mechanisms are easily transferred to other systems.

My campaign is based on the article

Mark Alcock (1986, Nov). The Bagradas River Campaign. Slingshot, 128, p. 43-44.

The Map

The map is divided into 96 (12 x 8) squares, each of which represents a 2 foot by 2 foot section on the table top. The map depicts a river valley with scattering of typical Iberian terrain features (Rv, H(S), H(G), Wd, O, V, RGo, Rd, BUA, but not WW), including four towns.

Campaign Date and Season

The date of the campaign is sometime between 216 BC and 206 BC – this affects the available troop options available for the armies and the personality each player represents. Throw on the following table:

1d6 Year Roman Commander(s) Carthaginian Commander
1 216 BC The brothers Publius & Cornelius Scipio Hasdrubal Barca
2 214 BC
3 212 BC
4 210 BC Publius Cornelius Scipio
(later known as Africanus)
5 208 BC
6 206 BC Mago Barca and/or
Hasdrubal Gisgo

Each player should choose a season: Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn. The earlier of the two choices is the season of the campaign.

Roman and Carthaginian Forces

The Romans and Carthaginians each have 350 AP of troops.

Iberian Tribes

An Iberian tribe is located in each of the four towns located on the map. The composition of a tribe is determined randomly during play. Whenever a force moves into the same area as a town the player can attempt to hire the local tribesmen. The amount is up to the player, and there is no need to keep track of how much money has been spent. Each player can make at most two offers to each town during the campaign. Once a tribe has accepted an offer they roll at the start off each subsequent campaign day to see if they deserted to their homes overnight. The rolls are fairly artificial – as is the currency – but are intended to give “intriguing and amusing” results:

Offer in units of currency (talents?) To accept offer (1d6) To stay in army (1d6)
5 5+ Automatic
10 4+ 2+
20 3+ 3+
30 2+ 4+
40 Automatic 5+

A tribe’s composition can change during the campaign and is thrown for randomly each time they join an army. This variability reflects the fact that tribal organisation is not fixed and the size of a particular levy will depend on factors outside the campaign (internal politics and factions, seasonal commitments, etc). Most items require a die roll to determine the exact number of elements in the contingent. Negative results for any particular item are counted as zero.

  • Base contingent (worth ~80 AP)
    • 1 x Irr Cv (O) Ally-General
    • (1d3 – 1) x Irr Cv (O)
    • 1d3 x Irr LH (O)
    • (2d6 + 2) x Irr Ax (S)
    • (1d6 + 1) x Irr Ps (S)
  • Bonus selection (worth ~10 AP). Throw 1d6 to for the bonus option:
    • 1 – 3: Infantry
      • (1d6 – 2) x Irr Ax (S)
      • (1d6 – 3) x Irr Ps (S)
    • 4 – 5: Mercenaries
      • 1d6 x Irr Wb (F)
    • 6: Flaming Ox Carts
      • 1d3 x Irr Exp (O)

The Objectives


An army can move 1 square per 1/2 day.

Players can divide their forces, but each resulting army must have at least 100 AP (excluding the Iberian allied contingents) and must include the C-in-C or a sub-general.


The Romans and Carthaginians can have up to four scouting parties each (probably more accurate to give Romans only two). The movement of scouting parties is plotted at the same time as their army’s move. Scouts move two squares per 1/2 day and must remain within two squares of its army of origin.

A scouting party must be given orders to “engage” or “not engage” – this determines how aggressively they will look for information. Use the following table to determine what happens when two scouting parties meet:

Carthaginian Scouts Roman Scouts Scouting Result
Not Engage Not Engage Both get exact report
Engage Romans get exact report;
Carthaginians get vague report
Engage Not Engage Carthaginians get exact report;
Romans get vague report
Engage The scouts skirmish. Throw 1d6:
1: Both get vague report
2: 5 AP losses each; both get vague report
3: 5 AP losses each; both get exact report
4: 10 AP losses each; both get exact report
5: Romans lose 10 AP and get vague report; Carthaginians lose 5 AP and get exact report
6: Carthaginians lose 10 AP and get vague report; Romans lose 5 AP and get exact report

For example, if two scouting parties meet, with the Carthaginians ordered to engage and the Roman’s ordered not to engage, the result is that the Carthaginians get an exact report about the enemy army, and the Romans get a vague report.

If a scouting party meets an opposing army it gets an exact report.

The Player who controls an army being scouted gets to choose the contents of the scouting report including data on the location, direction of movement and AP size of the opposing army. Even an “exact” report isn’t very exact. The scouting report must be within the following bounds:

Report Type Location Direction of movement AP size
Vague Within one square (any direction) Within 180º arc 50% – 200%
Exact Exact Within 90º arc 75% – 150%


Battle can be offered when two armies find themselves in the same square, or when a scouting party gets an exact report and it is found that the opposing armies are within 2 squares of each other (so both baggage trains can be deployed on a single tabletop). If battle is offered the opponent has the choice to either accept the battle or to attempt to retreat.

Retreating is only possible at night, so determine the time of day when the encounter occurs, and check the rules for when night fall is during the campaign season:

Time of encounter Either army moved Time
AM No 0000 hours + 2d6 hours
Yes 0600 hours + 1d6 hours
PM No 1200 hours + 2d6 hours
Yes 1800 hours + 1d6 hours

A retreat is 2 squares directly away from the enemy.

The composition of Romans and Carthaginian armies are selected just before battle – unrealistic but simple and intended to retain the interest of players. Forces are selected from options that are allowed in Spain during the particular campaign year. No Allied contingents are allowed as the campaign includes a mechanism for gaining Spanish allies. Roman operations in Iberia were not plagued by the command/control problems of Italian armies so the Romans can take a sub-general in place of the Roman allied-general.

If a battle is fought the normal DBM rules are used, except:

  • The time of day and season are already determined.
  • There is no attacker or defender.
  • Weather is calculated by the difference between to dice and the campaign season.
  • Terrain placement and baggage deployment is as per the campaign map.
  • Both deploy ambushes like an attacker.
  • Roll randomly for who gets first initiative.
  • Either army can retreat at night.

After a battle the victors encamp on the battlefield for a day, and the losers camp for a day two squares away. Element loses are determined as per the DBM rules.


Mark Alcock (1986, Nov). The Bagradas River Campaign. Slingshot, 128, p. 43-44.

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