Republican Romans vs Thracians (350 points a side)
In the cold hills of Thrace, Cory and I set our respective Thracians and Republican Romans to battle this Saturday.
The overconfident Romans advanced quickly in three groups, with Legate Deviticus bringing up the center with his bodyguard horse. The cunning Thracian chieftain threw his light horse swarm at the right flank, swamping the cohorts and disordering them. Disaster too followed for the Roman left flank as the Italian cavalry was swept away by the skillful Thracian peltasts who then turned like wolves upon the cohorts. Unsupported and broken, the Roman left wing fled, only to die in the aforementioned cold hills of Thrace.
Sensing the desperation of his position, the Roman general was able to rally his right wing and drive away the persistent Thracian horse.
As his center made contact the Thracian horde was pushed back, giving ground slowly and stubbornly. The noble Deviticus found himself hotly engaged with his bodyguard as impudent Thracian archers dared engage him personally.
As the battle drew to a close the Romans held the center and right. Fearing the power of legions, the grim men of Thrace melted back into hills swearing oaths of vengeance.
There: an account in the best tradition of Caesar himself...although, Cory might have a different story!
What did we learn with our first crack at VB?
- Basing conventions does not matter all that much. Unlike the DBx rules which often generate 'woogie' moves for victory, I don't see those as much of a issue with VB.
- Don't charge light horse with heavy foot...well duh.
- Light horse: fast, man0ueverable, flexible...but lasts two seconds in melee.
- Orders will quite possibly save your troops.
- Brigade composition is vital.
Look forward to playing again: 500 points next time!
Prelude to Chaeronea (86Bc)
(loosely based on historical events)
Sulla had landed in the Peleponnese in response to the Pontic occupation of Greece and Asia Minor. Athens had joined the revolt as had many Greek states. The Pontic fleet, well supported by Cilician pirates, controlled the seas, for the time being. Many of the Pontic troops were either at sea or in Euboea and were moving to join the main army under Archelaus. Sulla knew this and wanted to force a battle as soon as possible.
With this in mind he took one legion plus mercenaries on a forced march ahead of the main army to force a vital pass which led to the plain of Chaeronea.
Archelaus was waiting with an adhoc collection of troops…
Thus was set the stage for my first Vis Bellica game: Mithridatic/Pontics verses Marian Romans at 350 points a side. The table itself was mainly open apart from some rough ground and the entrance of the pass (wooded hills).
Sub General (Archelaus)
- Armenian Cataphracts AV CO EHC LA
- Sarmatians AV CO HC LA BO
- Scythed Chariots AV 4H HCh .
- Scythians AV SO LC BO
- Cappadocians AV SO LC LS SH
- Brazen Shield AV CO HI PI SH
- Slave Phalanx 1 AV CO MI PI SH
- Slave Phalanx 2 AV CO MI PI SH
- Thureophoroi AV OO MI LS SH
- Thracians AV OO MI LS 2H SH
- Archers AV SO LI BO
- Paphlagonians AV SO LI LS SH
Sub General (Sulla)
- I Cohort ELT CO HI HW SH
- II/III Cohorts VET CO HI HW SH
- IV/V Cohorts VET CO HI HW SH
- VI/VII Cohorts VET CO HI HW SH
- VIII/IX Cohorts VET CO HI HW SH
- Gallic Cavalry VET CO HC LS SH
- Numidians AV SO LC LS SH
- Spanish Scutari AV OO MI LS HW SH
- Spanish Caetrati AV SO LI LS SH
- Balearic slingers VET SO LI SL
The Mithridatic/Pontic army deployed in the pass with the Romans advancing across the plain.
The game started with the Romans advancing with the light troops on the left, SubGeneral + I Cohort, legionaries then the cavalry with the false leaders on the right flank. The Pontic forces were deployed with the heavy cavalry on the right, light troops, phalanx behind and light cavalry on the left.
Both forces advanced quickly with the Pontic general realizing the pass was going to restrict the manuevrability of his phalanx. The Pontic LC moved to shooting range of the Roman Cavalry but failed to inflict any casualties. The light troops moved forward and peppered the Legionaries but were obviously using duff arrows as they also failed to inflict any casualties. The Roman Balearic slingers had better luck inflicting a casualty on the Sarmatians.
The following turns were decisive on the flanks as the Roman cavalry charged the Pontic LC eventually forcing them into combat - which of course went very poorly especially when the Gallic cavalry hit the Scythian horse archers. The Pontic cavalry on the other flank charged into the Roman lights destroying the Spanish scutari and slingers while the scythed chariot hit the I Cohort. Not a good idea. The chariot bounced straight back up the pass.
The next turn saw the legionaries charging in to the thureophoroi and Thracians with the results you’d expect: both Pontic bases lost 50% or more casualties and routed.
The Roman Cavalry had reformed facing the flank of the Pontic army as had the Pontic cataphracts who now faced the rear of the II/III Cohorts. The Romans again got the charge and slammed into the slave phalanxes. Both performed well but ultimately both routed. The Brazen Shields charged into the II/III Cohorts as did the cataphracts resulting in the best result for the Pontics in the whole battle destroying the Roman unit on the charge.
From here it was all over bar the shouting as the Roman cavalry tore through the already depleted shaken troops on the Pontic flank.
Archelaus saw that all was lost and sounded the retreat.
Post Match Analysis
Well that’s it. 350 pts a side and completed in under 2 hours.
- Leader bases and spotting. Spotting in this battle was pretty much automatic: no one failed any spotting rolls on turn one. At this point I wondered whether it was worth using them at all. The one thing I did like was that using the leader bases meant that, although the Pontics outscouted the Romans, they were unable to secure the advantage as the heavy cavalry ended up on the wrong flank. This probably decided the battle. Editor’s Note: Unless the terrain is dense, I often don’t bother with scouting rolls either.
- No officer casualties: not even one hit! And this was with Leaders happily joining in combats all over the place. Editor’s Note: Can I borrow your dice?
- Do any troops except cavalry ever catch routers? Editor’s Note: Yes!
- Did I enjoy the game - considering it was my first? Yes! But I’ve got a lot to sort out rules-wise yet.
Next game: a 550 point 2nd Punic War battle…
A Dark Ages Bash
Introduction and Special Rules
Last night a friend, Stephen, and I played a Dark Ages infantry bash.
Borrowing a few ideas from a very old article in Miniature Wargames, we used the following additional rules:
- All units start with Hold orders, deployed and in view of the enemy.
- All units start off Disordered, Shaken and with a Strength of 1.
- Command points can be spent on removing Disorder and Shaken markers, changing orders or forming up units. Each point spent on forming a unit gives it 1d6 Strength points up to its maximum. Once a unit's orders are changed to attack it cannot continue forming up.
- If a unit takes damage while forming up, its maximum Strength is reduced rather than its current. It fights and tests morale with its current Strength but is not destroyed until its maximum reaches zero.
- Sub-Generals count as a CinC and Leaders as Generals: the big guys are REALLY important!
- The problem would be getting the balance between sorting your units out and not getting caught halted by the enemy. And at what point to you get rid of the shaken and disorder?
The sides were even: each was three brigades of three bases each…
The early morning mist cleared from the river valley, and the armies of Mercia and Anglia came into sight of each other.
As the early morning air began to warm in the summer sun, the two mobs of men began to coalesce into battlelines. Each began to form into two great divisions, lead by the most trusted men from each kingdom.
To the south was the army of John the Weak-Stomach, so known because of his inability to ride in a cart without losing his lunch. To the north was the army of Stephen the Indecisive, so known for his constantly changing banner and shield designs - new banners were often only half finished before he decided he wanted a different one!
Amid much clamour of arms, shouting or oaths and insults, the two armies began to form their shield walls. By coincidence, both leaders concentrated their efforts on organising their right flank divisions, while leaving their respective subordinates to organise the left flank divisions.
John the Weak-Stomach started hostilities early by sending forward his slingers, in the hope of disrupting the enemy deployment, but these were met by enemy archers and an indecisive firefight began between these two units. A few men fell, but these men were thinking more about their crops than killing fellow farmers.
Meanwhile, organisation of the shieldwalls went on apace, again with the right flank of each army getting more attention from their leaders. Soon Stephen's right flank division began to get ready to move forward, prompting John to order his own right flank to advance, even though there were still men milling around in the rear, and indeed still arriving with breakfast around their mouths and in their beards!
This decision was to have dire consequences later in the battle.
As the two right flanks started forward, Stephen's archers decided they had had enough shooting, drew their swords and rushed forward at the enemy slingers.
These evaded back behind their advancing shieldwall, causing the archers to crash into it. This unfortunate incident caused a little disruption in the shieldwall, as the victorious warriors had to pause to remove bodies and entrails from their spears. This delay was also to cause dire consequences!
Over on Stephen's advancing right flank, the disorganised troops facing them hurriedly tried to get into formation. They were only partially successful, and when the units hit each other. The fighting was short and savage. Most of Stephen's troops crushed the semi-prepared troops facing them, but one unit fought back and broke the unit facing it. This unit then turned to engage a victorious enemy unit. Both units surged into contact in disorganised mobs and after a brief fight, John's last unit on this flank was wiped out.
Meanwhile, the Shieldwalls on the other flank had finally met. The honours were fairly even at first, but then more of Stephen's levies joined in the melee and started to swing things his way. John sent in his troops who had been delayed by the archers, but it was too late. Although they broke one enemy unit they did not have the strength to resist the enemy masses that were now all around them. John the Weak-Stomach surrendered.
Nothing is yet known of the fate of John. It is believed that Stephen the Indecisive still can't make his mind up what to do with him...
In our game, both armies gave preference to their right flank divisions, with the result that both right flanks attacked while the troops facing them were still in some disarray.
Bloody combat followed (nothing new in VB!), with some units disintegrating in the first round: levy spear units going into action with a Strength of 4 do not have a very high life expectancy! I lost by a narrow margin when my entire left flank was crushed and my right got bogged down as the enemy fed units into ongoing melees that I was not going to win.
The additional rules worked great, and we're already planning bigger games on the same lines.
Burgundian Ordnance vs French Ordnance (500 points a side)
Once again, the Evil French were trying to force the wayward Duke of Burgundy to toe the line.
The French deployed with great skill (i.e. I did it) with skirmishing handgunners and crossbowmen in a ploughed field on the left, ready to dash forward into a marshy area; Gendarmes and Archers in the centre; with more Gendarmes in reserve. The infantry held the right, with the Francs Archers trying to hide in a cornfield!
The Burgundians deployed with their Knights on the right, then their archers and crossbowmen, then their Dutch allies, and finally the English holding the left.
The Burgundian Knights started to roll forward at an angle to avoid the marsh to their front. This had 2 effects: firstly it exposed them to flanking fire from the French skirmishers in the marsh (as well as archery from the front) while at the same time masking the shooting of some of their own archers!
The French Gendarmes charged in, and soon Burgundian right was smashed, the victorious Gendarmes pursuing into the archers behind. These fights were short and one sided: soon the Burgundian centre was collapsing too.
The Dutch now became the target for the Gendarmes and archers: and these soon started to fragment and head for the rear.
What of the heroic English Allies?
They had been stuck with Hold orders for most of the game, only moving forward one unit of Longbows, but these had had little chance to do anything. The Burgundian CinC finally managed to get an order to them: "Retreat"! These were the only troops who had a chance of getting away, so off they went.
His forces shattered, the Duke of Burgundy was forced, once again, to swear loyalty to the French crown...well...at least until the next time!
- 2 x Gendarmes (veteran CO Knights)
- 1 x Archers (veteran CO HI LB and 2H)
- 2 x Gendarmes (veteran CO Knights)
- 1 x Archers (veteran CO HI LB and 2H)
- 1 x Italian Knights (average CO Knights)
- 1 x Feudal Knights (veteran OO Knights)
- 1 x Crossbows (average SO)
- 1 x Handgunners (veteran SO)
- 1 x Militia Spears (average OO MI HS SH)
- 1 x Partizans (average HI PO)
- 2 x Francs Archers (Levy OO LI LB)
- 4 x Knights (average OO Knights)
- 4 x Picardy Archers (average OO MI LB)
- 1 x Crossbows (average OO HI)
Leader 3 - Low Countries Ally
- 3 x Pikes (Levy CO MI)
- 2 x Crossbows (Levy SO MI)
Leader 4 - English Ally
- 1 x English Knights (veteran mounted CO EHI PO)
- 2 x English Longbows (veteran CO HI LB 2H)
Alexandrian Macedonian vs Achaemenid Persians
As this was our first game, we decided not to bother with leader bases but just deploy straight away.
We also deliberately chose simple tactics: the Macedonians were given Attack orders; the Persians were given Forward orders. Basically, the Macedonians would charge full pelt into contact, while the Persians would try to wear them down with missile fire.
So what happened?
The Persian cavalry soon got into long range with their bows and opened up. However, this proved to be largely ineffective: causing one or two casualties only as the x½ multiplier for cavalry firing and the -4 for the Macedonians' shields were significant. The Persian infantry used similar tactics against the Macedonian cavalry with greater success: seriously disrupting the Thracian light cavalry that were at the front of their attack.
The Companion cavalry then charged into the Persian infantry, and the Macedonian pike phalanx charged into the Persian cavalry. Now here two tactical errors crept into the game, due to it being our first. Firstly, the Macedonian light troops at the front of their attack got in the way of the pikes and Companion cavalry, and caused some disorder before getting out of the way! Secondly, "evading" was forgotten as the Persians stood their ground to counter-fire before receiving the Macedonian charge.
All the melees caused complete carnage amongst the Persians. Every Persian base took heavy casualties and routed. It then became apparent how difficult it is to rally a mass rout. In the following command phases the Persians could only rally on a roll of "2", and not surprisingly all failed. The decent Persian troops who remained were now heavily outnumbered and soon scarpered!
An emphatic victory for Alexander: he's still great!
Post Match Analysis
Okay, so what did I think about the rules ?
Did I enjoy the game? Yes, definitely.
Will I play it again? Yes, definitely.
Was it worth re-basing from DBM? Yes, definitely.
I've always struggled with Alexander under DBM. The phalanx has to be so deep to be effective that it ends up with a narrow frontage and gets out-flanked very easily. The Companion cavalry as Kn(F) could come to grief very quickly, particularly against light horse; and, apart from the levy horde, the Persians always stick around a lot longer than expected.
Now admittedly, in my first Vis Bellica game my grasp of the rules and tactics wasn't as good as they could have been, but the outcome seemed right.
I'm going to replay the same encounter later this week: after the Persians have looked up "evading a charge" in their dictionary!
Just one Sub-General and two Leaders per side: 340 points each.
- 3 x Phalangites
- 1 x Hypaspists
- 1 x Javelinmen.
- 3 x Companion Cavalry
- 2 x Thracian Light Cavalry.
- 6 x Assorted Cavalry (mostly bow/javelin armed)
- 1 x Greek Hoplites
- 2 x Kardakes
- 2 x Takabara (javelin-armed light infantry)
Anglo-Norman Civil War c. 1100
The rebel Lord Odo of Anglia and the loyal vassal of the King, Sheriff Picot squared up with their respective forces (500 points a-side, not quite canon army lists, but rather what each of had in our boxes).
Lord Odo's forces were heavy in caballeri and some mercenary crossbowmen; while the Sheriff had dragged along large numbers of reluctant Grantanbrycg spearmen who were placed at the very front while Picot stayed back with the household familia a reasonable way to the rear.
Both sides committed themselves to an all out advance with generic Attack and Forward orders.
Within a couple of turns Odo's caballeri crashed into the spearmen and and swept four companies of them into an immediate rout, disordering some of Sheriff Picot's familia behind them.
Fortunately, Sheriff Picot and his officers were able to re-organise the lines before the onrushing rebel caballeri reached them, and countercharged the following turn.
Here the fresh royalist cavalry found they had the edge over the rebels, who had suffered some casualties in riding down the spearmen, and in turn broke them and drove them back.
Sadly, the Sheriff's victory was not to be complete. On the right, the stout constable of Cambridge Castle fell in the heat of battle trading blows with the rebel swine, and the right wing of the royalist army went scampering off after their routed opponents rather than wheeling to sweep away the rebel centre.
Two squadrons of retainers were thrown into the centre to plug the gap where Lord Odo had taken his personal entourage intent on victory or death, but the lighter horse were cut down as wheat before the sickle. Only the timely arrival of the left wing and Sheriff Picot himself discouraged the rebel Lord and sent him fleeing back to his Fenland hideaway to lick his wounds and rue the folly of rebellion against one's divineley appointed king. Vivat Rex!
- Reserves are a good idea aren't they? Oh yes!
- The officer casualties rule is excellent and works really well.
- Once a unit is shaken then it really is difficult to bring it back from the edge.
- Evading is a good idea for missile troops. Bowmen countercharging caballeri is not a good idea, my son, no matter how desperate you are.
- It looks so easy, doesn't it? Just point the troops and let them get on with it. When you roll three sixes for your command points on the first turn, the command structure looks so easy. It's when you're desperate to wheel certain units and remove disordered markers on others and one of your leaders is dead and the blasted troops are all just outside 16" that the system really bites!
I like this rule set.
I like it a lot. Thank you.
If you can recreate the tactics of the time and they have a chance at working then the rule system is fine.
I used Bremule and it had the desired result.
Second St Albans
A Clash from the Wars of the Roses
This battle report uses the Second St Albans scenario featured in the Scenarios section of the website.
Naturally I played The Kingmaker, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. I was joined on the Yorkist side by Steve, as Lord Montague. Glynn played the Lancastrians as Lord Beaufort.
Steve’s face changed from one of quiet confidence to one of alarm as his main army’s morale and discipline disintegrated. Montague got 1 command point and things looked glum.
However, Wenlock’s archers stood firm and repulsed a company of French handgunners that tried to break into St Albans supported by distant Lancastrian bowfire.
The Yorkist footmen on the end of the ridge also surprised everyone by advancing towards the Lancastrian line in a desperate bid to hold up the enemy while Montague sorted his troops out.
Montague also took the opportunity to send for Warwick for help. The Lancastrians started to advance towards the gap and sent a mercenary company on a march east round the front of the Yorkist defences.
The archers in the town acquitted themselves well routing the French handgunners and giving the retinue archers outside the town short shrift.
The second company of Yorkist archers separated from their main group and moved into the suburb gardens to engage the Lancastrian crossbowmen advancing towards the narrow gap.
The sudden appearance of a hole in the flank, though, came as a nasty surprise especially as the Lancastrians had a large regiment of foot bearing down on the Yorkist position. So far things were going according to the history book. Then things, naturally, went horribly wrong.
The Yorkist foot charged downhill to certain death. In front of them were a second company of Lancastrian mercenary handgunners. Rather than evade allowing the mercenary pikemen behind to take the attack, they stood their ground and fired. The Lancastrian shooting was ineffective and the Yorkists smashed into them shattering them instantly, forcing them back into the pike, who were disorganised, lost the subsequent battle against the foot and then pushed back into a second company of mercenary pike to the rear disordering them. Morale rolls brought shaken status to the pike.
Despite the snow, the Yorkist archers saw off an attempt to enter the town by the Lancastrian archers while those in the garden were causing major casualties to the crossbowmen and also the shire levy archers to the North.
The Lancastrian foot were redeployed to strike at the Yorkist lunatics hammering the mercenary pike and the defenders of the town breathed again.
Montague was finally getting some of his troops moving West but not enough by a long way.
The Yorkist foot won their melee against the shaken and disorganised pike and routed them, pursuing into a company of now disorganised retinue billmen that were trying to get into place.
The Lancastrian infantry were in absolute disarray especially as the crossbowmen, the only unit likely to enter the gap finally broke and ran.
The Lancastrian archers attempting to enter St Albans finally abandoned the project and sloped away. Their retinue billmen lost another melee to the Yorkist foot but passed a morale test and were only pushed back.
This allowed the flanking heavy foot finally to attack the Yorkists, who, reduced previously to strength 3, were eliminated with a cheer for their heroism.
By now, the forces of Montague were getting near to the heath and exchanging some desultory archery fire with the mercenary companies sent around the front of the works.
The banners of Warwick the Kingmaker appeared on the Eastern end of the board and Glynn decided that the Lancastrians would withdraw at this point.
They had failed to force the gap and St Albans looked as strongly held as ever.
Montague’s troops would certainly be able to hold for as long as it took his brother to advance across the field.
A ripsnorting refight that went completely the wrong way.
On later consideration over a pint, it was decided that not enough troops had been thrown at St Albans initially by the Lancastrians. Nor had the Lancastrian artillery been brought into play having been masked by the sudden melee that erupted in front of them. Just not enough pressure fell on Wenlock’s command to seriously look like breaking it.
The Yorkist advance against the Lancastrians was also a surprise. Historically, the Yorkist foot had dithered on the end of the ridge and been rolled over. Here, they took the fight to the Lancastrians and went down fighting but it stopped the main Lancastrian plan of getting round the flank dead in its tracks.
The forces of Montague were slow to react but did so eventually. They were about two turns away from actually reaching St Albans but the town was not really under pressure and would certainly have held out that long.
The long-term effects of the battle were also interesting. Henry VI remained in Yorkist custody. Warwick still held the reins of power and had no need to install Edward of York as a new King. In some ways, although their army was rolled back, the Lancastrian dynasty benefited by losing here. When Edward of York and Warwick finally fell out, it would be with Henry VI still on the throne.
My thanks to Steve and Glynn for their help.
The After Action Report from the playtest of the first scenario of Christopher TenWolde's Late Romans vs Goths campaign
At the Roman fort of Lootundburnus, the headquarters of Tribunus Lucius Limitus, the Tribune basks in the glow of victory!
“What a day! By Isis’ teats, when I saw all that Gothic infantry and cavalry march up out of nowhere in front of the fort, I thought we were going to see our ancestors sooner than we thought! But, a bit of proper fire from the archers, a good stand by my cavalry – what ho, Gaius, how’s the arm? – and then a sally with my legion – excellent form Marcus! – and it all ended up for the best! Couldn’t otherwise, really.”
The Tribune sat down contentedly, awaiting praise. Unfortunately, his celebration was slightly marred by the fact no one seemed able to determine where exactly Flavius Floppus had disappeared to after the utter rout of his force (an incident not mentioned by any in the fort), Gaius Gallopus was barely awake, being heavily sedated with juice of the poppy to keep the pain from his wounded arm from overwhelming him, and the Frankish chieftain Friendorfoeix seemed not to be listening at all! Jupiter! Was that a Roman girl on his lap! And he could at least use a cup for his wine! The oak-solid old legion commander Marcus Manlius offered scant praise. “The day ended well enough, Tribunus, but we’ve plenty of men – and horses! – to replace, and the men who are on the living side of things will go lighter in the belly for want of beef for months to come. You would be wise to report to the Magister Equitum and let him know the Goths are on the prowl.”
“Yes, yes, Marcus, you are right, of course, but … I need time to write a proper letter. Who is that bellowing at the gate at this time of night?” And so Marcus Manlius goes to welcome an unlooked for ally …
Meanwhile … at the camp of the Gothic chieftain Grabdabag, fires burn brightly and men busy themselves with feasting on their stolen beef!
“Ah, that was a shame we couldn’t get through those Roman cavalry and get our hands on the town, but we have ourselves some good beef here for the effort! Saltalic and Bigboix, you made me proud today! We sent off those Romans in grand style, and most of us … well, lots of us, at any rate … made it back to fight another day – with full bellies!”
Saltalic was busy nodding and chewing, his two best skills after fighting and stealing, but Bigboix threw down a bone and shouted “Well enough! But what about your sister’s boys, eh? I never saw a worse lot! Oh, I didn’t expect Notsobad to do anything much, but I thought his cousin Muchtubad was made of better stuff! He went arse-end-up faster than a Greek! Ha! Well, we’re better rid of them, I say!”
“I agree! Oh, my sister will make them pay! And next time, we’ll meet up with another chieftain or two and make a serious throw for the pot. Now, where did Notsobad and Muchtubad go off to, anyway? Anybody seen them?”
And so the plot thickens for Scenario Two: Ambush!
The first game of this scenario ended in a Roman victory, 4 VP’s to 2 VP’s for the Goths, and was a see-saw affair that spread out over ten turns.
The Romans scored 1 VP for holding the Border Fort, 2 VP’s for keeping the Village Plunder safe, and 1 VP for the overall battlefield victory.
The Goths managed 2 VP’s for capturing both Herds, but at one point it looked like they would break the Romans and move on to plunder the town, so the game was far from a foregone affair.
The table was laid out according to the guidelines in the scenario, which made for a small battlefield.
The Romans were deployed with their legion detachment in the Border Fort, and deployed one False Leader in each of the two hamlets, hoping both to bluff a bit on setup and to get some intelligence of the approaching Goths.
The Goths spread their forces out evenly: Bigboix’s warband and a False Leader were on the west, going straight for Boviniusbum, Muchtubad’s warband and the other False Leader were on the east, going straight for Gallomud, while Notsobad’s reluctant warriors were sent to screen the fort in the center, with Saltalic’s cavalry behind them in reserve.
None of the Roman reinforcements arrived, and the Goths moved straight forward according to plan.
Everyone was spotted and deployed, except for the Roman False Leader in Gallomud, who was ordered to Retreat behind the village.
Notsobad’s boys made the mistake of pressing too far forward, and into Roman archery range, and a roll of “boxcars” later one of his lead units was routed, another shaken, and one unit of skirmishers to the rear was shaken from being routed through.
The Roman Auxiliary Force (a mixed force of poor infantry and good cavalry) arrived this turn, cavalry in the lead, marching straight for Boviniusbum.
The Goths pressed on towards the hamlets, and Saltalic moved towards the west, ordered to Attack the new Roman force.
Notsobad, however, could not be issued new orders, and had his already shaken lead unit eliminated through archery, and was unable to rally his shaken skirmishers. By this time, the Romans had his measure, and discounted the force throughout the rest of the battle.
The Frankish Foederati arrived this turn, heading for Gallomud.
The Goths sent archers into Gallomud and captured the Herd, deploying their battleline to the west of the town, opposite the Franks.
In the center, Notsobad sat outside archery range, and the garrison sat inside the fort, the threat of their archery causing the Goths to bunch up their attack around Boviniusbum.
At that hamlet, the Goths also sent in their pair of archers to capture the Herd, but archery fire from the auxiliary archers (another “boxcar”!) routed one of them away! Half of Saltalic’s cavalry charged, the veteran Optimates in the lead, against the Roman auxiliary cavalry, with mixed results: one Roman base pushed back, one Gothic base pushed back, and one stuck in place. The Goth warbands, however, split up and moved both to oppose the Roman auxiliary infantry and to flank the Roman cavalry. This is the beginning of what will prove to be a very confusing battle.
The remaining Roman False Leader continued its Retreat towards Lootundburnus – but I don’t think anyone was fooled.
No more Roman reinforcements!
Near Boviniusbum, although the Roman auxiliary cavalry is initially successful except against the Optimates, they are flanked by the Gothic infantry while locked in melee, and all the Roman cavalry routs off the board. The Roman levy auxiliary infantry starts looking very lonely, as Goth warbands move around the hamlet to threaten it and the uncommitted Goth cavalry moves up. Their archers, however, continue to get lucky, weakening one the Goth infantry units.
Near Gallomud, the Franks charge the Goth battleline, and end up locked in melee for its entire length, except on the flank where the overlapping Nobles rout a Goth warband. On both flanks, the Goths direct an archer unit to start leading the Herds back to safety.
In the center, all remains quiet, except that Notsobad is wounded by an archer while riding the front lines! No luck at all for that fellow …
The Roman cavalry arrive, and deploy to the west of Lootundburnus, trying to counter the Gothic advance there.
The Roman auxiliary levies near Boviniusbum, are charged, but (“snake eyes”) stand! This is the beginning of a lucky series of rolls that keeps that doomed command on the field much longer than anyone would have thought.
Saltalic begins massing his cavalry, half of it still fresh, to oppose the newly arrived Romans.
To the east, the Franks slowly erode the Gothic position, routing another warband and moving into position to flank the others next turn. Seeing the writing on the wall, Muchtubad starts to retreat towards Notsobad with his remaining archer unit.
On the left flank, the amazing stand of the Roman auxiliary infantry continues, though they are pushed back and shaken.
On the right flank, the Franks flank and crush the remaining Gothic warbands, leaving them in sole possession of the field around Gallomud, except for a solitary archer unit fleeing towards Notsobad’s position.
East of Boviniusbum, the massed cavalry of the Goths and Romans meet. Roman luck holds, and the levy auxiliary cavalry hold the line, while the fresh Roman heavy cavalry drives back the worn Optimates and even wins on the flank despite being overlapped. The success of the Roman levy cavalry to delay the fresh Gothic cavalry, and the matching of the fresh Roman heavy cavalry versus the worn Gothic cavalry, will prove to be the key to the battle.
The Roman levies continue to stand, with one lone infantry base remaining, and three cavalry bases still holding up the Gothic cavalry.
The Roman heavy cavalry rout their remaining opposition, and place themselves in position to flank the other Gothic cavalry. The remaining two units of Bigboix’s uncommitted infantry face them, eager to dispatch more Roman cavalry, but the Roman fort garrison sallies out and faces them, leaving the fort and Notsobad’s forces to the tender mercies of the advancing Franks.
Things start to look very bad indeed for the Goths, who two turns ago were hinting at plundering Lootundburnus!
The last of the Roman auxiliary infantry is eliminated, thus entirely eradicating that force, but its cavalry and infantry had delayed and weakened much stronger Gothic forces, allowing the Roman cavalry and legion to come into play.
The Roman auxiliary cavalry is pushed back and partly routed, but the heavy cavalry flanks the remaining Goths and begins to drive them from the field. Likewise, the legion advances on Bigboix’s infantry, and the Franks menace Notsobad.
The Goths begin a withdrawal.
Turns Nine and Ten
Before the end, half of Saltalic’s cavalry and all save two units of Bigboix’s infantry are driven in rout from the field, although Notsobad actually manages to withdraw in what passes for good order.
Gaius Gallopus, the victorious Roman cavalry commander, was dealt a serious wound on the last turn of the game!
1. Both of us thought that we could have made more imaginative use of our False Leader bases, but they served the Romans better than the Goths.
2. There seems to be little the Romans can do if the Goths want to grab both Herds, barring the early intervention of the cavalry force, however doing so spread them a bit thin. In retrospect, the Goth player would have sent Notsobad to grab some cattle and massed everything else on one wing.
3. The random nature of the Roman arrivals promises to make each game a little different! There seems to be good replay value, especially with the game so small and easy to set up.
4. Melee is more dangerous than it looks! Instigated by a charge with immediate melee, and then followed by another round of melee the next turn before any Leader Points can be used, there is little the leaders can do except hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Once shields are locked, good morale or lucky rolls can keep a line locked for two to three turns, however. Overall, we liked the combat system – a mixture of fluid and stable outcomes, a mixture of hands-off and possible leader intervention. Even average forces, however, are usually only good for one go – if they are matched against fresh opponents they are hard pressed to stand. Has anyone ever considered a way to get strength points back? Perhaps a 1 SP winner bonus?
5. We both felt that the Gothic forces were a bit too easy to control, although critical Leader Point rolls were ones and two often enough. I am considering making “irregular” forces have only the commander’s Comitatus command “under his direct command”, with all other commands considered either “not under direct command” and/or “allied”. The same would go for Roman Foederati. There seems room to play with this, and with Command Spans, that could be interesting.
6. After carefully setting up the game in centimeters, we proceeded to use inches for play! This resulted in a much more free-wheeling game than otherwise, which makes me think the table in centimeters would have been too large. Just food for thought.
Thurlac is inspired by Time Commanders!
After receiving inspiration from Time Commanders, we placed an Ancient British army against an Augustan Roman on a 4'x3' table with a sloping hill flanked by woods at one narrow end and the rest of the terrain open and good.
The Romans (with Laurence as Paulinus) set up on the hill with the cohorts to the front flanked by the Auxilia and a cohort in reserve.
The Iceni (with Yours Truly wearing the moulded breastplate of the Queen) set up with slingers to the front, the warband behind and cavalry and chariots on the flanks. We naturally sent a flanking force round the left flank but it did not arrive until turn 5.
The battle started with the cavalry trying to work their way through the wooded hills to get round the flanks. In this they were not particularly successful. The Auxilia moved to block them and it looked like stalemate.
In the centre the Celts advanced until the slingers reached the bottom of the hill and let rip. The effect on the Roman cohorts was negligible. However, the Roman commander decided that this was the perfect chance to charge downhill into the Celtic skirmishers only to see them leap backwards and evade.
This was the key mistake of the battle. The cohorts were now clear of the Auxilia defending their flanks and the greater number of the Celts were able to tell as the warbands hit the sides as well as the front of the Romans.
It was also at that point that the Celtic flanking force arrived and tied up the Auxilia on the left preventing them from intervening.
Four cohorts including the Primum Pilum and the standard broke and ran: the Roman was centre collapsing.
On the Celtic left the flanking force had managed to force back the Auxilia and broken them as well. Only on the right had the Auxilia managed to crush the Celts struggling through the woods.
As evening drew on (my wife indicated that she would like the table back to serve dinner please) it was decided that the matter had been a clear Celtic victory but at least not a massacre.
Paulinus recognised his main error had been coming down off the hill without ensuring his flanks were covered adequately. The Celts just felt lucky that their flanking force had arrived at the right time to stop the Romans from correcting their initial mistake.
Pike vs Pilum
A pretty village dominated the centre of the table with a ford at the South end of the table and a vital supply road to the North in this tactical clash. 10 VPs were to be awarded to whomever held each of these key points by the end of the battle.
The Romans (under Laurence) set up in classical formation with the cohorts going for the village and the Auxilia on the flanks to contest the ford and road.
The Macedonians (under Tim) sent a flanking force consisting of all the Companions round on the left, two phalanxes plus a few hypaspists to contest the ford, the main phalanx to contest the village, while the light cavalry and skirmishers went over to fight for the road.
The battle lasted 8 turns: brought to a close by the arrival of dinner.
Although the Roman cavalry arrived first at the ford, they were driven off by the Hypaspists. The arrival of the Companions in the Auxilia's rear led to their extermination and it was quite clear that the Macedonians had marked this as their key area.
In the centre, the two foot units met in the village with much disorder. The cohorts drove back the phalanx but it was a slow grind. The Macedonian commander's (SubGeneral) presence served to bolster the pikemen's morale. Slowly, though, they were driven back out of the village and it was felt that the Romans had at least partially secured it, and they were awarded 5VP.
On the right, the Macedonians rapidly secured the road with their light cavalry but, oddly, failed to advance their skirmishers in support. The Roman Auxilia advanced and attacked firstly with their cavalry, which was overwhelmed by superior numbers, but then kept up the pressure with their Auxilia and archers. The Greek cavalry broke and ran and the Greek light troops were several turns away so it was felt that the Romans had clearly held the North road.
Casualties were roughly equal with the Roman Auxilia at the ford being balanced out by the loss of the Greek cavalry on the right.
The battle was given in Laurence's favour by 5VP. Tim realised his main error had been to leave his cavalry on their own without missile support from the lights. He also felt that sending all of the Companions off on a flanking march was a bit of a waste when all they achieved was a flank attack into already pressured Auxilia by the ford. Had they been in the centre on the North road it might have been a very different tale. Laurence's Romans seemed fairly happy except for their Auxilia getting rolled up by the Companions but against that there seemed little prospect of success. Indeed, Laurence decided to get on and take the objectives rather than worry about the arrival of the Heavies. The imbalance between the phalanx and the cohort was noticeable. The Macedonian classification as Av MI versus Roman Vet HI meant that they never really stood a chance of winning going forward. However, had they had support from the Companions it might have turned the tide.
Sassanid Persians vs Seleucids
This was a set piece battle fought on a plain dotted about with low hills (rough) and whose only significant terrain feature was a wood (difficult) mid-way across the battlefield just to the Sassanid left of the centre line.
Both sides were at approx. 550 points and fielded five brigades.
The Sassanids had two brigades of four cataphract bases each; one brigade of ally horse archers; and two brigades of levy infantry. Click here to download their army list.
The Seleucids had a brigade of four pike bases (two Veteran); a brigade of four heavy cavalry bases (two Companions); a brigade of reluctant Greeks (two peltasts, two hoplites); a brigade of skirmisher bowmen (three bases), and a final brigade of three Elephant bases. Click here to download their army list.
The Seleucids set up first. From left to right: the Elephants, the cavalry, the pike and the Greek allies. Significantly, the Greek allies were the other side of the central wood.
The Sassanids placed their cataphracts in one huge line in the centre, opposite the enemy pike and horse; sent their horse archers to molest the Greeks; and formed their levy troops up opposite the elephants on a hill.
The battle opened with both lines moving steadily towards each other. On the other side of the wood, the horse archers moved quickly into bow range and began peppering the Greeks with arrows.
Soon frustrated by their own lack of missile weapons, the Greeks charged the horse archers, causing them to evade out of range, but drawing the Greeks even further from the main action. This pattern was repeated throughout the battle: each time the Greeks tried to move back to the centre, the horse archers would turn round and snipe away at their flanks and rear. Each time the Greeks charged, the nimble horse archers would spur their mounts away, keeping double their number of points worth of enemy troops occupied for the entire battle.
As a note, however, towards the end of the battle the horse archers were beginning to run out of room (the table top not being suited to an everlasting Crassus-in-Parthia kind of situation), and the Greeks starting to finger the edges of their swords and spears in an evil fashion as they gradually cornered their prey!
Meanwhile, in the centre, the two lines closed to charge range.
The Sassanids had planned to charge the enemy cavalry and shoot their bows at the enemy pike - the rule that gives steady pike a x2 bonus for receiving cavalry at the halt fresh in their minds! This all changed, however, when it became apparent that the Pike weren't going to hang around and be shot at. Both lines declared a full charge on the other, and the sixteen bases came together in the centre with an almighty crunch!
Questioned afterwards, the Seleucid commander confessed that in the heat of the moment he'd totally forgotten about the pike receiving at the halt bonus and was just keen to kebab the cataphracts as fast as possible.
The initial impact gave neither side a significant advantage: casualties were not high enough (because all were either heavies or extraheavies) to break the losers of each of the eight melees, only to push them back and perhaps shake them. It must be said that if anyone did have an advantage, it was the Sassanids: the dice were rolling well for them at this stage.
Now the Seleucid plan became evident. Up came their skirmishers, poised to charge into the melee next turn and surely turn the tide in the Seleucid favour.
Then, however, came officer casualties.
Carnage! Both of the Sassanid brigade Leaders were badly wounded, and the Sassanid CinC reduced down to one command point. Matters were worse on the Seleucid side: one Leader was killed outright, and the CinC wounded. Most significantly, though, the horrendous death of the Seleucid pike Leader rendered two of their skirmisher support bases shaken: they wouldn't be joining any melee next turn!
On the right, the elephants moved ponderously towards the Sassanid levy foot, who had moved slightly forward off the hill to protect the flank of the cataphract line.
Next turn the weight of the Sassanid extraheavy cavalry began to tell on the Seleucids. The pike and horse, now short one Leader, began to fall back. The situation was not helped by the fact that the Sassanid levy infantry managed to overwhelm the poor enemy elephants: having them in their own army list, the Sassanids were able to deal with the enemy Nellies without too much difficulty.
Eventually, the Seleucid pike and horse began to break...and that was the end of the battle!
PS I also used my new Vis Bellica Command Baton for the first time. Fantastic stuff: and I'm sure waving it around really de-moralised my opponent and brought me luck with the dice!
Seleucid Elephant Carnage!
Marian Romans vs Seleucids
Vespasian 28 looked over the dusty plain towards the Seleucid army moving into position. Having lost two previous encouters due to the twin threat of heavy cavalry and elephants, today Vespasian had a cunning plan to reverse the situation.
Having positioned his heavy infantry in the centre of his line, he sent his light troops (the light cavalry, slingers & spanish Scutiarii ) to his right flank. To avoid the disruptive Seleucid elephant corps he positioned his cavalry behind his infantry: the aim being to deploy on the opposite flank to the annoying pachyderms.
Finally the Seleucid deployment became clear, the centre a block of pike with the Seleucid right anchored on a low hill by peltasts and Taratine cavalry. The surprise was on the Seleucid left: heavy cavalry, Scythians, Arad levy and the elephants.
Vespasian ordered his line forward trying to send his cavalry against the Seleucid right. The Seleucids came forward with their cavalry and elephants, the infantry line on hold. The initial clash on the Roman right went against them . A combination of line cavalry, and morale tests initiated by the presence of the elephants led to complete route of the flank forces.
The Roman cavalry finally made contact with the Seleucid line routing the peltasts and Tarantine cavalry. The pike block advanced. The Roman heavy infanry line was disrupted by an attack by the Agema and Companions. The Agema destroyed the opposing heavy infantry whilst the Companions took out the opposing infantry after two rounds of combat although they routed after a flank attack by a third heavy infantry unit.
At this point Vespasian , faced by the advancing pikes (4 pike plus two Argraspids vs 4 heavy infantry), cavalry and elephants advancing on his disrupted right flank decided to withdraw to try and work out how to face up to the threat of the elephant corps.
Seleucids vs Lysimachics
This was our second battle using Vis Bellica, and was played at 500 points a side.
It was a very close battle, with a marginal victory eventually falling to the Lysimatic troops.
The battle opened with the Seleucid right wing (cavalry & elephants) destroying the Lysimatic cavalry opposite them.
On the Seleucid left, however, Thracian forces returned the compliment, and then joined the pike battle in the centre of the field, leading to the Lysimatic victory.
Elephants had a major impact in influencing morale tests: proving a good support for the Seleucid cavalry.
We like the rules: they flow better than DBM.
500 Points In Under 3 Hours
Marian Romans vs Seleucids
The fourth in our series of clashes testing the rules and we are getting quicker all the time finishing 500 pts in under 3 hours despite numerous interruptions from my 3 yr old!
Fought over a mostly open plain with the Roman left flank having some scrubby terrain on the far side which did not impinge on the battle at all. The Romans elected for a couple of Cretan bow units, as well as the obligatory Balearic slingers, to try and inflict some longer range damage on the inevitable elephants. As it turned out there was only one jumbo supported by Scythian Light cavalry, Greek MC and peltasts facing the Roman left which consisted of units of legionaries. The Seleucid centre was a solid line of pike facing more Roman legionaries and their right the cavalry Companions, Agema, Line cavalry and Tarantines. The Romans had here their Gallic, German and Numidian cavalry supported by the aforementioned Cretans and Balearics.
The Seleucid rolled forward as usual with their cavalry leading the way, the Roman left being held back to prevent outflanking by the more mobile Seleucid right. The Roman centre came forward slowly, always conscious of what the superior Seleucid cavalry could do on their right.
The initial clash developed here with the Numidians evading an early charge by the Tarantines and line cavalry but then the Agema and Companions charged home against the Gauls. Without the looming presence of a Seleucid elephant the Gauls did well to hold their own against the Companions but became shaken against the better armored Agema. Disaster then struck with the Numidian leader becoming badly wounded and the Gallic cavalry leader being killed which led to the rout of one Gallic unit and the other becoming shaken. Effectively the whole Roman right was leaderless but the general threw in his bodyguard and personally ordered up the German cavalry reserve.
Meanwhile the two centres were closing, with some casualties caused by Roman skirmishers, and the Seleucid right was coming up to try and outflank the Roman left, which caused a gap to develop in the Roman lines as they edged left to block this move off.
Next the Seleucids drove off the Numidians as the reserve of fresh Romans and Germans went in against the Agema and Companions at the same time as the centres clashed home. The fresh cavalry had the upper hand against tired Seleucid cavalry and saw off the Companions and drove back the Agema.
However all was decided in the centre as, despite stiff resistance from Veteran legionaries, the Seleucids outflanked the Romans on both ends destroying the centre.
A much closer result than before as the elephant only came up against Legionaries and was easily seen off. One difference in all these games is how the Seleucid line always matches the Roman one whereas in other rules Seleucid pike depth is achieved at the cost of a shorter line. Also we have tried a local rule allowing LS at exclusion zone range of 3 being at short not long range. This actually caused the odd casualty to be inflicted forcing some units to charge and chase off skirmishers rather than just sitting there invulnerable.
Also noted under the current order structure is that skirmishers with long range weapons can be forced to attack if the proportion of units in a command falls below the acceptable ratio of alternate orders. I cannot see any situation where a skirmisher with a bow is going to throw himself onto a pike block despite what his orders are!