The Numidians were the ancient inhabitants of what is now Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. They were made up of a number of different tribes. While their interaction with the Romans can trace its history over a hundred years before Marius to the time of the Punic Wars they still continued to be both an adversary and at times an ally of Rome in the period covered by the Strength and Honour rules. During the Jugurthine War fought between 112BC – 106BC the Roman army went through a series of reforms attributed to Marius. In truth the moves towards a professional legion based around the cohort rather than the maniple had probably been taking place over a far longer period, but the conflict with Numidia clearly made Rome rethink their army. While Jugurtha was eventually defeated, the Numidians were once again going to provide a challenging opponent during the Civil War to Caesar. King Juba threw in his lot with Pompey and a joint Roman-Numidian force comprehensively defeated one of Caesar’s generals – Curio at the Battle of Bagradas River in 49BC, and gave Caesar one of his closest run battles at Ruspina in 46BC from which he was lucky to withdraw his force intact. At Thapsus later in the year a combined Roman-Numidian force was finally defeated by Caesar. Numidia was largely subjugated after this, although a rising by Tacfarinas in the 1st Century AD led to a drawn-out guerrilla campaign before finally being crushed.
The Numidians are a challenging army to play with and despite their apparently weak statistical scores for many of their units provide a very tricky and challenging adversary for a Roman opponent. The core Numidian army list consists of two units of light cavalry, one unit of spearmen and another of skirmishers. The real strength of this army is in their flexibility and their mobility. To get the most out of a Numidian force you will need to use your light cavalry to wear your opponent down in a series of spoiling attacks when the odds are in your favour before going in for the kill.
In the Numidian list the core force starts as standard light cavalry. These can be upgraded to being Numidian cavalry who are slightly more effective. It is up to you whether you’d rather have a smaller force of well- trained cavalry or a large mass of slightly less controllable horsemen. Both types can be taken as a core option and therefore most of the force can be mounted.
Light cavalry in Strength and Honour are very mobile and manoeuvrable. They will dance around the slow-moving Roman legions with ease and be able to engage where they choose to most of the time. Hitting the flanks of the enemy line with these troops will be a constant menace especially if you can pin them to the front as well. The light cavalry are somewhat vulnerable, with a mediocre Discipline statistic and a poor Battle statistic, but when they hit an opponent in the flank the odds are more even. The trick is to engage only when you have the odds in your favour and be prepared to feint and weave to draw the Romans away from the safety of a mutually supporting battle line. The best troops to do this with are the Numidian light cavalry who have the Nomadic Horsemen characteristic. This allows them to carry out a free turn without a risky Manoeuvre test or expending Movement points, they can also throw their javelins during their movement representing their swarms of well-trained horsemen continually harassing their opponents before retiring. While probably more of a nuisance from the front, against the flanks or rear of an enemy unit this can be devastating. Invariably these stinging attacks will Push Back Roman units here and there, but you’ll need to be prepared to react to a sudden Reversal of Fortune which will undoubtedly happen with a poor dice roll at the least opportune moment! Even if you get Pushed Back the Roman units will need to pass Discipline tests to avoid following up and potentially being drawn out of line and exposing themselves to further attacks while isolated.
Because all of the light horse count as skirmishers they can be Pushed Back without picking up Setback Cards. On the surface this might seem to make them invulnerable but in truth they are more likely to Retire or Rout if they fail their Discipline tests which can leave your cavalry very vulnerable. It does mean that if you are lucky you can keep attacking and being Pushed Back repeatedly without the usual consequences to your army morale. Be aware though that not all of your troops are skirmishers and therefore thought needs to go into how you use your core unit of spearmen. They provide a tempting target for a Roman opponent seeking a decisive Disaster Card and the opportunity to score a few easy Setback Cards on you. The high numbers of skirmishers in the army invariably mean Numidians have a low Army Break Score and therefore the whole plan can fall apart just at the moment when you have victory within your grasp! Having that spare Defence Dice handy for the untimely failed Discipline test can be a lifeline!
One option is to provide a strong infantry force and try to go toe to toe from a decent position and re-enforcing the line with skirmishers and imitation legions. While unlikely to hold a veteran Roman legion, against Raw Roman legions the odds are pretty favourable. Crucially they can draw Roman troops into an attack where their flank and rear are exposed and vulnerable to your cavalry and more mobile infantry. If you feel you need to strengthen that further, Raw Legions have a bit more backbone than their Numidian imitations and are available for Civil War era battles. Their Battle Training characteristic makes them reasonably dependable defensive troops especially with a few skirmishers out in front.
An attraction of a Numidian force might be the unit of elephants that can be chosen in the rare options. These are a powerful unit in Strength and Honour and can be used either as a concentrated unit of elephants packing a big punch in one place or using them as a screen of elephants to re-enforce two other units. Spreading their strength will allow you initially a bit more punch across the battl line, but there is a risk that once the elephants are killed your weaker infantry behind will be easy meat. Try not to rely too heavily on the elephants as your battle winner, but they always seem to concentrate the mind of your Roman opponent who will be considering how best to neutralise their impact!
Instead of relying on the weight of the pachyderms you might find cavalry units – representing either Spanish and Gallic bodyguards or Numidians fighting in a shock style a more effective pay off? Combined with the speed of the light cavalry even a single unit of cavalry can be a deadly battle winner.
Rough terrain can prove to be a challenge for a cavalry army, but it is here that the Numidian skirmishers hold a critical place. Grab those bits of rough ground early on and use them as safe havens to launch attacks into any Romans that expose themselves. The legions will be very cautious about engaging with such troops as they will lose their main advantages in such terrain. Slingers in such terrain can also continually harass any units hoping to just bypass them.
With just two initial Command Points the Numidian commander will need to be careful to conserve their dice carefully throughout the battle. We have found that despite being an army requiring mobility, placing Command Dice into the Movement Pool in large numbers can be wasteful. A good spread of dice tends to pay dividends. Taking advantage of a Strategy Dice to restart your deployment somewhere else and outfox the sluggish legions normally pays off, but of course leaves you one less dice for the main battle. Nearly every battle against the Numidians in playtesting has ended up as a close-run thing, so your Strategy Dice might be better off employed to remove a Setback Card or even cancel a Homunculus Est! call?