29 January 2023

To the Strongest: Punic Wars

Slowpainter John and I enjoyed our first game of To the Strongest this week- club mate Gav hosted us and put on a massive table's worth of 15mm Punic Wars for us. Sporting a few thousand figures it was quite something to behold and shows that even in this day of cheaper plastic 28s, 15mm still has something to offer as a scale in terms of 'the massed battle look'.

Army wise John and I played the Reublican Romans with a core of 4 Legions and 2 Allied Legions, some Allied Cavalry and a small ala of Roman Horse.  Arrayed against us was a colourfully diverse group with everything from Gallic tribesman to Carthaginan Heavy Horse to no less than nine War Elephants.  All laid out on 12 foot or so of table, it was an impressive layout.

Republican Romans drawn up for Battle

Commander of the "COVID 11th Legion" - a resilient fellow!

I've watched Gavin build these two armies over the last year with great interest, and to be honest the odd needling about the extra attention he lavishes upon his beloved Carthaginians :-) Some of the details he puts into the elite units is really impressive.

Carthaginian Heavy Horse with wonderfully painted shields

We used To the Strongest by Simon Miller (of Big Red Bat Cave blog fame) which I have read something of but never seen in the flesh.

There are numerous reviews about the net so I wont go into specifics here other than to say its a gridded game that aims to play big games fast.  While we had a few questions and didnt get everything right, I quite liked the flow, and use of chits to give a 'push your luck - diminishing returns' feel

Elephants advance under cover of skirmishers - very imposing!

At this point I got involved in learning the rules and thus forgot the camera - broadly the Roman skirmishers won the screening battle, allowing the Romans to seize the initiative and start to advance in the centre. Meanwhile the Carthaginians were pushing the cavalry engagements on the flanks were they outmatched the Romans.

Skirmishers and Blades form a barrier to repel the elephants and the Carthagnian centre is desperately weakened

Seizing the initiative, the Legions advance strongly in the centre

One of the things I liked about the setup of the Romans is that each line is a single hit unit, unlike their enemies. However, on activation, the lines can exchange to volley pila from the fresh rank - giving a very thematic feel to using them. In contrast, the Carthaginian units felt more robust but less flexible/trained.

Roman allied cavalry on the left flank seeing off their Numidan harassers

Cavalry clash on the Roman right

Gaul horse finished off the smaller Roman ala

A Roman Legion advances before their flank can be turned, destroying their enemy

Like dominoes, the Carthaginian centre and left flank dissolve - Roma Victor!

It was a simple meeting engagement, but What did I like about the rules?
  • Quick Play, even with thousands of figures.
  • The battle felt like I had Command but not Control, reminding me quite a bit of General D'Armee 
  • Liked the chit system (vice dice) for diminishing returns
  • Different units felt and fought differently but without additional complexity
And 15mm offered a great massed battle look...I just don't want to paint them!

That said, I can see that for some ancient types it could bog down quickly where armies are very similar - this had been Gavin's experience to date with linear Hoplite battles. For this and many other periods though, I would be keen to try them again - perhaps with a view to our stalled Civil War project which I am keen to reignite. 

Thanks Gavin for the great game and for sharing such a wonderful table and set of armies. Thank you to my Co-Consul Slowpainter John - with our Victory, re-election for next year is all but assured!


  1. Excellent Batrep Paul! The 15mm look great, too. I've always liked TtS for the reasons you stated above - you focus on command and decision making, not so much on rules.

    1. Absolutely! Too many rules seem to assume perfect C3- even in the ancient world! Thanks for dropping by Steve :-)