Here's a complete (more or less) guide of openings available to Hannibal (provided you use alternative first move with Hannibal starting in Spain). Feel free to add your own.
I may be posting it in wrong sub-forum, but this one gets more exposure and a new thread every week or so :D
Note: All battle tests done on Hard.
Classic – Northern Italy through Gaul.
Helpful cards: Gallic Aid (always on hand).
Strategy: Risky because of Gallic attrition, yet the one that guarantees Hannibal’s entry to Italy with relatively large army without a battle. Gallic Aid can be activated right away after the capture of three minor cities in Cisalpine Gaul.
Battle tested: by every player countess times.
Thunderbolt – Northern Italy through Genoa.
Helpful cards: Gallic Aid (always on hand), Gallic resurrection, Romans remove 1 unit from 2 forces, Romans remove 2 units in Northern Italy.
Strategy: Hannibal moves with all Carthaginian forces collected in Spain (leaving Mago behind and taking Hadsrubal). Once Genoa is taken 2nd and 4th cards may allow you to take Placentia by storm. Losses are somewhat compensated by Gallic Aid and further recruitment (with Gallic resurrection it’s easy to control all 5 of Cisalpine Gaul cities). This strategy is somewhat risky – a lot depends on whether you can take Genoa by storm with relatively small losses.
Battle tested: I once managed to defeat both Roman armies in Genoa and Placentia (two extra cards on first turn and, if you are lucky, one of them will be Treachery card), capture all Roman cities in Northern Italy and, by using Extended Move, enter Etruria, capture Ancona and besiege Asculum. Hadsrubal was left recruiting in Cisalpine Gaul, while Hannibal was recruiting in Etruria on first move, denying the Romans their share of reinforcements. Opposing their 15 units (before recruitment) were 4 Roman legions in Rome and Tarentum. By turn 7 all Roman cities in Italy succumbed to the Carthaginians and on turn 8 I took Rome by storm after 3 years of siege.
Etrurian Gambit - Etruria by sea.
Prerequisites: Roman fleet in Ligurian sea chased to port by storm. Some immediate reinforcement cards on hand (e.g. Treachery or Reinforce Hannibal cards).
Helpful cards: Treachery, Reinforce Hannibal, Extra Naval Squadrons.
Strategy: Hannibal moves to Etruria by sea with 4+ units. If Treachery card is on hand, he storms Perusia, gets reinforced and then takes Pisa. If he has 8+ units at the end of the turn, leave him outside of Pisa. He will have to fight a battle with a large Roman army from Cisalpine Gaul on Roman turn. If he wins, you are on your way to victory, especially if he is soon joined by Hadsrubal (via Genoa) and his large Spanish army.
Be advised against leaving Hannibal in Pisa. Romans will besiege Pisa with 13+ units. Unless Senate authorizes you to invade Italy on second turn, Hannibal is on his own with a small army against overwhelming odds in a situation where his Punic Tricks can no longer help him. It may be better to leave him outside Pisa even if his force is small and use the Retreat option of the Movement card to avoid a battle on enemy terms.
Battle tested: couple of games, one won, one lost.
Campania Debauche – Latium-Campania by sea.
Prerequisites: Roman fleet in Tyrrhenean Sea sea chased to port by storm. Some immediate reinforcement cards on hand (e.g. Treachery or Reinforce Hannibal cards).
Helpful cards: Treachery, Reinforce Hannibal, Extra Naval Squadrons.
Strategy: Hannibal moves to Campania by sea with 4+ units. Provided some immediate reinforcements are available, he storms Capua (free access to Apulia, not subject to Roman card play. Least recommended strategy. Leave Hannibal outside and he may loose Capua to an attack from Etruria or Apulia. Leave him inside and you are missing an opportunity to defeat a Roman army or two piecemeal. Opportunity to reinforce Hannibal is too small here and Roman armies lurking around are too large. However, the main reason why this opening is not recommended is because a much better one is available under the same prerequisite (see Bruttium Gambit).
Battle tested: no.
Bruttium Gambit – Bruttium by sea.
Prerequisites: For an easy entry the Roman fleet in Tyrrhenean Sea or Sicilian fleet in Messana Strait sea should be chased to port by storm. For a more challenging play (if the sea is still defended by enemy forces) use Hannibal Extened March card (Movement by Sea option).
Helpful cards: Syracuse Revolt, Treachery, Reinforce Hannibal, Extra Naval Squadrons.
Strategy: In game, Bruttium is one of the two most attractive provinces for Hannibal. No other province in game allows Hannibal to recruit so much while investing so little. His mere presence in the province allows Hannibal to recruit one unit (you have to spend a card to do the same in Cisalpine Gaul), while the capture of the minor city fo Consentia allows the recruitment of the second unit. If Hannibal finds himself in Bruttium on the first turn, his main army in Spain is spared the losses from Gallic attrition. And while Hannnibal builds a second army in Southern Italy, drawing Romans like a magnet, Hadsrubal is ready lead the main Carthaginian force to Northern Italy, when the opportunity presents itself.
Where Bruttium Gambit becomes virtually unstoppable is when you get two Macedon Aid cards from the beginning. Bruttium’s proximity to Apulia allows a player to quickly pick Brundisium, get Macedon army (Macedon navy becomes irrelevant at that point) and proceed to storm Tarentum and, possibly, another city or two that houses a Roman general with a small garrison. Card’s are being harvested at a quick rate at that point and by midgame at the latest that outcome is no longer in question. Be warned: Romans can counter Macedon Aid with diplomatic efforts of their own, so do not spare standard Macedon units, they will come back as separate reinforcements, if Macedons remain in Italy.
Battle tested: I’ve tried this strategy on numerous occasions and won most of the games. Latest game with Macedons in Italy took 11 turns and ended with Rome stormed after the brief siege.
Hold Ground – Hannibal remains in Spain or leaves for Africa.
Helpful Cards: none.
Strategy: Holding ground does not necessarily mean staying on defensive the entire game, although it may appeal to some alternative history geeks (after all, Hannibal failed on offensive, so what if..?) Instead, one may wait for a more fortunate circumstance (meaning either better cards or improved position) to leave for Italy. For example, Roman fleet will leave Ligurian Sea after the first turn, thus allowing for this opening to transfer into Etrurian Gambit. Storms may finally chase Roman navy from Tyrrhenean Sea or Messana Strait allowing for Bruttium Gambit. If Hannibal leaves for Africa he may be able to sail to Apulia on the next turn, provided the right circumstances present themselves. In short, this is the kind of strategy that allows a player to break out of the routine and seize the opportunity in places he hasn’t dreamed about before.
The drawback is the loss of time, thus allowing Romans to consolidate their forces and drain Italy of recruits. On another hand, Roman expeditions to Spain and/or Africa will surely meet a disastrous end with Hannibal commanding the defense of these provinces – these victories may compensate the Carthaginians for the lost turns.
Battle tested: two Roman armies 20-unit strong annihilated in Spain with a loss of 4 Carthaginian units. Hannibal “escapes” to Bruttium, reinforced by numerous cards. The key was defending Emporium and Utica with an overwhelming numbers to channel Romans to besiege New Carthage. From there you can win cards by either relieving the siege of by sailing to New Carthage and sallying out. Even if Roman army survives, you can finish it off with an attack on the camp and win another card. Be warned: cards accumulate rather quickly with this opening.
Umbrian Gambit – a variant of Classic, Umbria via Gaul via Cisalpine Gaul.
Helpful cards: Hannibal on the Move, Extended Move.
Strategy: Moving to Umbria on the first turn prevents Roman recruitment in this rich province and places Hannibal in the striking distance of every Roman province sans Bruttium (still reachable with extra movement cards or attrition risk). This move also saves Macedon Aid card (to be used when a second Macedon Aid comes along). Gallic Aid can be invoked later if needed when Syracusae Revolt/Gallic Aid card begin to show up.
The idea is to abandon Cisalpine Gaul to Romans in favor of Umbria. You are not missing much. Roman recruitment in Gaul is weak and the province remains under threat of consequent Carthaginian invasions from Spain (by Hadsrubal), Gaul (provided this is where you left Mago) and Africa (by Himilco via Genoa).
Battle tested: once, victory by turn 6. Got lucky with early second Macedon Aid, but it was obvious from the start that the Romans were not at the best when presented with this move. I did not assault Rome right away, my house rule is to always besiege Rome first, giving the AI a chance to counterattack. Nor was the early strike possible, since Rome was heavily guarded. The relief force (18 units counting the garrison) failed to raise the siege (17 units with Hannibal) on turn 5 and left Rome with only two units on turn 6.
< Message edited by nalivayko -- 4/28/2011 9:30:02 PM >