Playing Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage

How to Play Hannibal: Rome vs CarthageHannibal: Rome vs. Carthage is a two-player military strategy and political intrigue game from Avalon Hill set during the 2nd Punic War, around 200 BC. You'll try to collect territories, while influencing others with a deck of cards you build. Much of the game revolves around political influence and gaining military predominance. When it comes time for battle, players use a different deck of cards for combat resolution.

Rome vs. Carthage Background

The Punic Wars were a series of three conflicts between Rome and Carthage for control of the ancient Mediterranean. The second of these wars, when Carthaginian general Hannibal invaded Italy and campaigned there for 17 years, was the time when Rome came closest to defeat. Hannibal's victory at the Battle of Cannae continues to be studied by modern military experts.

Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage Instructions

Hannibal is designed for two players and usually takes around two-and-a-half hours to complete. Game play occurs over 9 years, each year marking one game turn. On each turn, players draw strategy cards. These cards are used to either activate the card's special event, move a general (and his army) around the game board, or place a number of political control markers equivalent to the number on the card. This may or may not sound pivotal, but the importance of all three becomes evident later. If you can't trace one of your markers back to one of your armies, ports, allied tribes, or walled cities, it is considered isolated (which is really bad).

Tribes and walled cities are special pieces which are harder to convert from one side to the other, as the tribes require subjugation and the walled cities require sieges that continue for multiple turns. Generals have two values on their cards. The first is how hard it is to activate the general, while the second is his value in combat. Roman generals tend to be less imposing, while the Carthaginian generals (especially Hannibal) are better. Rome has advantages of its own, such as control of the seas, which makes moving armies over the ocean much easier and less risky.

Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage Rules

Victory is gained through the accumulation of "political control markers". Much of the strategy is isolating your opponent's political control markers, while keeping your own PC markers from being isolated. At the end of each turn, you count up how many each player has. Placing political control markers requires the use of strategy cards, the most important resource in the game, so losing PC markers is a huge loss. At the end of each turn, you'll see who controls the most politically important provinces. Whoever has less much pick up the number of PC markers corresponding to the different in provinces controlled. If at a point you can't absorb these losses, you lose the game.

Also, you can win Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage by occupying the capital province of your opponent. If Roman legions occupy Carthage, they win the game. If Carthaginian armies occupy Rome, they win. Also, if Carthage's forces control every province in Italy besides Rome, that also signals victory for their side.

Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage Strategy

If you play Carthage, you'll need to be aggressive and try to win sooner rather than later. This mimics the dynamics of the real life Second Punic War, where Hannibal marched his armies from Carthage (present-day Tunisia) in North Africa, through Spain, over the Alps, and into Italy. Hannibal defeated Roman armies, besieged the city of Rome, and generally wreaked havoc for the next decade and a half. After their initial disastrous defeats, the Romans failed to fight Carthage in one decisive battle, found ways to undermine Carthaginian power elsewhere in the western Mediterranean, and finally forced Hannibal to return to North Africa to defend Carthaginian home territory.

You'll have three options playing Carthage.

  1. Completely subjugate Iberia (Spain).
  2. Build up a power base around the Carthage-leaning tribes in the Alpine regions.
  3. Send Hannibal through the Alps and destroys Rome's power where it matters the most, destroying whatever armies Rome is fool enough to send against you.

Because Hannibal is easy to activate, you can seize the initiative against the initial weak Roman generals, but passing through the Alps will attrit Hannibal's army somewhat. It's a fool's quest to try to send Hannibal's army overseas to Italy. The Romans have an advantage in provinces to start the game, so you'll need to be aggressive in taking from Rome what you need, whichever strategy you employ.

Playing for time should be the strategy of the Roman player. This player gets to add more armies per turn, so the longer you can make the contest last, the better Rome's chances are of winning. You might equate Rome with the unstoppable power of the Roman legions, but if you use that strategy against Hannibal, your weak generals are likely to get trounced.

If Hannibal leaves the Iberian peninsula, Rome has the options of sending a Roman general to Iberia (via the sea route) and trying to cloud the political situation there for the Carthaginians. While this might not give you utter control of Iberia, you're likely to divert some of Carthage's resources to a second theater of the war and split their forces. Another option is to build up political control in Southern France. While these aren't considered politically important lands to own, it does give you a reserve of political control markers you can spend later, if Hannibal begins to take away your political influence in Italy.

A third strategy for Rome is to try to subjugate one or more of the various tribes loyal to Carthage. These tribes can be a real pain to deal with if the Carthagian side uses them effectively, though they can be difficult to subjugate, especially if Hannibal comes to Italy or the Alpine provinces.

Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage Review

For someone who loves ancient history and the most dramatic conflict in the history of the Roman Republic, Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage is a good board game to play. Most of the game is based on political strategy instead of war gaming, but the replay value is high. Both sides have advantages to exploit, which adds depth and character to the challenges of Hannibal. For those wanting an expansion, you can find the Hamilcar expansion, which details the 1st Punic War and Hannibal's father, Hamilcar, whose defeat Hannibal was trying to avenge in the 2nd Punic War.