Somewhere in Attica, 86BC

Mithridatics vs Augustan Romans


The Mithridatic forces of Archelaus had been forced back towards Athens in an earlier battle, but they were far from beaten. With over 100,000 troops on the move around Greece it was only a matter of time before they were all concentrated against Sulla. To keep the pressure on the Romans operating in unfriendly territory with few supplies, Archelaus sought to bring them to battle wherever they were found hoping to keep them on edge and hopefully wear them down. 

The Mithridatic forces came across a Roman force of two legions foraging away from the main body of Sullas' army. The scouts from both armies skirmished as the remaining forces came up... 

The Armies and the Field

The Romans had 4 commands 2 of 5 legionary bases including a 1st Cohort and a skirmisher base each (Rhodian slingers and some local Greek scum with javelins) plus a light cavalry command with one base of Numidians.  The heavy cavalry had a base of Equites and a base of Gallic MC. 

The Mithridatic forces had a heavy cavalry base of Pontic nobles, Rhoxolanii and Armenian cataphracts.  Their light cavalry featured two bases of javelin armed Cappadocians and a base of Skythian horse archers.  The infantry were divided into two brigades each featuring a scythed chariot and archers.  The heavy brigade had the Brazen Shields, two bases of slave phalangites and some unwilling Galatians.  The light brigade featured two bases of thureophoroi (peltasts), Thracians with rhomphaia, and Bastarnae with falx. 

The battlefield was fairly open in the centre with woods either side mainly closer to the Romans and a ridgeline extending from the centre of the Mithridatic deployment zone on an angle into the centre of the field.  

Initial Deployment

The Romans deployed their bases fairly conservatively with all six bases spread across the centre half of the baseline.  The Mithridatics on the other hand had deployed two bases in the open directly across from the Roman right flank bases, two behind the centre ridgeline and two outside the line of the Romans left flank. 

Early in the battle the Romans only spotted three of six Mithridatic bases (peltast brigade, light cavalry and a false leader) whereas all the Roman bases were spotted in the first turn.  Consequently the Romans were in two minds as to where the main Mithridatic forces were located.  Were the two bases on and behind the centre ridgeline the heavy infantry brigade, the heavy cavalry brigade, or both? 

In turns two and three the Romans realised they had deployed the Legions too close together and consequently the next two turns were spent just trying to sort the mess out.  A bright spot though was that all the enemy bases were spotted and it was with some surprise that it was revealed the centre bases were the heavy cavalry and a false leader.  The heavy infantry were deployed in the diagonally opposite corner!  This would, their General thought, give the Romans plenty of time to re-deploy. 

The Battle

In turn four, the heavy cavalry came together as the Romans attempted to give their Legions time to manoeuvre.  The skirmishers moved forward to engage the Mithridatic light horse and the Numidians raced around the right-hand woods to get into a better position to engage the Mithridatic lights.  The Mithridatic heavy cavalry only managed to get the Armenian cataphracts into combat and they had the worst of the combat with the Gallic cavalry though they managed to hold for at least another round. 

The shooting of the Skythian horse archers was totally ineffectual whilst the Rhodian slingers managed to hit one of the Cappadocian LC bases. 

Turn five arrived with the Armenians losing to the Gallic cavalry and routing with one strength point left straight through the Rhoxolanii nobles.   At this point the Mithridatic heavy cavalry decided to retire to the top of the ridgeline and await the arrival of the infantry brigades who were approaching, rapidly preceded by both scythed chariots and the archers. 

The Roman cavalry who now had a base badly mauled and down to strength six decided that the best course was to consolidate while the Legions moved forward.  Unfortunately the Mithridatic LC didn't want to play ball and after chasing away the skirmishers sat in front of the Legio precluding any forward movement.  The Numidians moved around to face one of the Cappadocian LC bases, which had turned to face them, but combat would still be a turn away. 

Turn 6 arrived and so did the scythed chariots and archers, now within range of the Roman cavalry. The Mithridatic infantry continued to plod towards the combat in the centre.  The Mithridatic LC pulled back from in front of the Legions with now two Cappadocian bases facing the Numidians who managed to charge the first Cappadocian base that also declared a charge with both Leaders joining in.  The ensuing combat saw the Cappadocian base damaged but able to hold on but now the other Cappadocian base was on the flank of the Numidians.  The Heavy cavalry charged each other, the Roman general feeling that it was now or never and as his Roman Equites were the most powerful base on the field he may be able to remove the Mithridatics biggest advantage. 

Unfortunately the damage the Gallic cavalry had suffered earlier now left them at a huge disadvantage against the Rhoxolanii who rode over them as though they weren't there.  The Equites fared better inflicting heavy casualties on the Pontic nobles but the lack of Roman troops close by meant the Nobles stayed to fight.  Turn six was the turning point as the Numidians routed their opposite numbers then were charged in the flank by the other base of Cappadocians and destroyed them utterly. 

The Equites won their combat against the Nobles, forcing them to rout, but were also charged in the flank by a scythed chariot as well as the Rhoxolanii.  This ruined their day entirely as they were swept away by the heavy chariots.  This left the Romans without any mounted support.  The following turns saw the Romans slowly surrounded by cavalry as they tried to use the woods as an anchor for their right flank.  The light cavalry ducked around that flank and saw off the skirmishers while the heavy cavalry moved off to the left flank to await the arrival of the infantry. The archers moved forward and peppered the heavily armoured legionaries with arrows only managing to inflict a single casualty. 

The scythed chariots then did what scythed chariots are meant to do and charged headlong into the Romans inflicting a few casualties but ultimately being routed.  In the following turns the Mithridatic infantry arrived and formed up out of charge range of the now surrounded legionaries.  Because of the cavalry, several legion bases were facing left and towards the rear so their numerical advantage over the Mithridatic infantry was nullified.  

Over the last two turns of the game the Mithridatic heavy cavalry engaged the Romans facing them with the Rhoxolanii inflicting huge losses on the cohorts opposite them, while the nobles needed a supporting charge into the flank of their enemy by Cappadocian light cvaalry to win though with only two strength left.  

On the last turn the Rhoxolanii destroyed their opponents while the Nobles were removed but their opponents were down to less then half strength and contacted to the flank.  The last turn also saw the Mithridatic infantry charge while the Rhoxolanii also charged a damaged Roman base (scythed chariots) in the flank while it was contacted frontally by the Brazen shields. The end result was that several Mithridatic bases were damaged badly and would probably be destroyed next turn.  The Romans lost two bases and almost all were damaged. The difference was that the next turn would see Mithridatic bases charging into flanks or rear and two infantry bases bracing other bases. 

With five bases gone already and the prospect of more in the following turn the Romans surrendered! 


I have played quite a few games of VB and more lately and have yet to lose or even have damaged any leaders! Mind you one did roll three sixes and a 5 in turn one!

John O (Malekithau)

The Battle of Marathon Re-Fought

A battle result at Huntingdon from last Thursday involving a game that re-fought Marathon at proper scale.

Chris as Greeks had an initial successful assault on the Persian line but Paul managed to turn the Greek flanks. The battle swayed backwards and forwards with large holes appearing in both battle lines. The loss of Aemnistus of Plataea in officer casualties prevented the Greeks capitalising on the left and removed their advantage in command points. What finally decided it was that the Greek units left on the field became separated and vulnerable to flank and rear attacks. Both sides were ONE unit off complete demoralisation when a well timed volley of arrows caught a lone Greek unit in the flank and sent it careering off.

However, both armies had been sufficiently mauled that we decided Athens was safe even though she had no army left. The true victors were probably the Spartans who could pick up the pieces.

A VERY tense game fought down to the wire. My apologies to the two subcommanders whose names I can't remember.

More Greek Wars stuff anon.


850 Point Battle

Indians vs Palmyrans

We played a 850 pts game yesterday between my Indians and my friend Jos’ Palmyrans.

The Indian army was built from left to right of 4 mixed brigades of one bowmen, spearmen, elephants, heavy chariot and skirmishers each, with a separate elephant brigade and 2 cavalry brigades in support on the right flank.

The Palmyrans faced the regular brigades with bowmen and light infantry and faced the centre and the cavalry with their dreaded cataphracts and light horse in support. Since they out scouted the Indians somewhere 8 to 1 they had a flank attack of light horse and a bolt thrower base in the centre of the playing field. The flanking base would ultimately arrive at turn 3.

The battle started with an cavalry fight on the Indian right flank where the Palmyran cataphracts slaughtered the Indian levy medium horse. The Indian elephants slaughtered the Palmyran light horse and ultimately 6 bases of levy Indian horse and 5 bases of Palmyran light horse were routed. The cataphracts and the elephants still going strong.

In the centre the bolt shooters managed to kill a skirmisher base and damaged heavily a bow base before they were charged and driven off. This left a hole in the Palmyran centre to be exploited by one of the regular Indian brigades.

On the left flank the Indians were far stronger than the Palmyran light infantry and bowmen and rolled over the line with chariots, elephants and spearmen. This was quite costly in shooting damage, but in the end the charges broke through the line and dispersed the Palmyran right flank.

The Palmyran flanking manoeuvre entered on the Indian right flank, behind the cavalry and elephants fighting with the Palmyran cataphracts.

Fortunately the Indian commander had kept a regular brigade in reserve which turned to the right to stop the new threat. Unfortunately for the Palmyran horse they entered with Attack orders and had no time to change. So the light horse was met by a mix of elephants, chariots, spearmen and longbow bases and seen off.

In the end the Palmyran army would have lost all infantry, artillery and about 60% of its light horse and 20% of its cataphracts. The Indian army lost all cavalry, and had about 50% of its elephants and chariots damaged by fire and/or combat.

We concluded the fight to be a tactical Indian victory, as the next stage would have put the cataphracts on their own against an Indian army with full infantry and bow support with elephants and chariots to boot.

A nice game, thanks to my opponent (who is an experienced war gamer, but played VB for the first time) and the lessons learned:

  • Combination of elephants and chariots can be deadly. Pachyderms are
  • Good News against cavalry!
  • Bolt throwers are very bad news (he had four)!
  • Cataphracts are scary and two cataphract bases easily disposed of six levy medium horse bases.
  • If you out scout the enemy you can do some very nasty things. In hindsight, had Jos placed his infantry against my elephants and had given his flanking manoeuvre F orders, than I would have had quite a problem on my hands.

This was the second time I played VB, and the third time will be next week as my Indians will meet Achaemic Persians with their dreaded Immortals!

Peter Schulein

Immortals Are Indeed Immortal!

Last week I met the Achaeminid Persians with my Indians for a 700 pts battle.

The Indian army deployed four mixed brigades (spear, bow, elephant, heavy chariot) in the centre, and on the right flank two mixed brigades of elephants and levy cavalry.

The Persians deployed two infantry brigades built on two bases of Immortals with infantry and skirmisher support each, an additional mixed infantry brigade and a heavy and a light cavalry brigade on his left flank.

The battle started with a cavalry battle. The Indian cavalry was levy but got help from the veteran elephants. The Persian cavalry was veteran and average. In the end the disorders from the elephants and the shields from the Indian cavalry won the day. The mostly shieldless Persian cavalry was ground down with the loss of an elephant and an Indian cavalry base.

While this took place the centres closed and since both the Indians and Persians had kept a brigade in reserve, the reserves would decide the battle.

The Immortals advanced and turned out somewhat of an moving machinegun battalion. Strength 16, elite with bow and shield saw two of those bases chewing up a regular Indian base with bowfire in less then two turns.

The Indian commander put his reserve in the centre to give more weight, the Persian commander was obliged to use his reserves to counter the Indian cavalry and elephant force that had regrouped after seeing off the Persian cavalry, since it threatened to turn his flank.

We stopped the battle when the Persian supporting bases were routed and the situation basically ended in four bases of Immortals against the Indian army minus five bases. It would have been an extremly costly affair to finish of the Immortals, as each base that comes within bowrange gets chewed up.  We decided on an Indian tactical victory, because of the other losses of the Persian army.

Lessons learned:

  • Combination of elephants and cavalry works out well.
  • Elite HI Shield and Bow are terrible, even close order Indian longbow bases get blasted away
  • The Persian Commander should have put his infantry against the elephant/cavalry brigade.

Peter Schulein

Martial Maritals Battle It Out!

Yesterday me and my wife played a 700 pts battle between my Indians and her Parthian all cavalry force.

The Indian army deployed 4 mixed brigades (spear, bow, elephant, heavy chariots) and on the left flank a mixed brigade of elephants and levy cavalry. The centre of the Indian army made a stand around a hill.

The Parthian army advanced with four mixed brigades of two cataphracts and three horse archers each. The guards were attached to the general as reserve. One of the brigades made a flank attack and arrived at the Indian flank on turn two.

Since the flank attack arrived early and close to the Indian army, the Indian reserve brigade was turned towards the enemy and battle ensued. The flank attack was beaten off with heavy losses for the Indian brigade which lost an elephant and a chariot base.

On the left a large cavalry, elephant furball was generated with a single Parthian cataphract stopping an Indian cavalry and two elephants in its tracks while his collegue disposed of another two cavalry bases.

The Indian Commander had no reserves left and decided to attack with his centre.

The Parthian light horse was no match for Indian longbows, but were extremely nasty in flank and rear charges on existing melees. By combining bases the frontal assault on the Indian hill by cataphracts could be stopped, but the Indian bases got chewed up by extended cataphracts multi-melees at a fearsome rate.

In the end the Parthian right flank consisted of a cataphract base against two elephants and a spearman base , the centre contained two cataphracts and four chewed up light horse and the Parthian Left flank was beaten. The Indian army centre contained five bases (badly mauled) and the Guards against the Parthian centre.

We decided on a draw since the Parthians lost six of their nine heavy bases, but the Indians lost three of their six elephants, three of the four heavy chariots, and the remaining six infantry bases would have had quite a job against the Parthian cataphracts.

Lessons learned:

  • Combination of elephants and cavalry works out well.
  • Cataphracts are almost unbeatable by average CO infantry, even when the infantry survives the initial charge the -9 armour save makes cataphracts almost invulnerable for infantry in the melee. Even with a two to one flank melee, the cataphract at least chews up one infantry base.
  • If the flanking move would have arrived in turn 4, and consequently would have arrived when the contact in the centre was already established, we think the Parthians would have won.
  • Even with elephants, the Parthian army is difficult to engage when you have mostly average CO troops. 

Peter Schulein

Baby Bellica

The Full Fat Cream Cheese Snack of the Wargaming World that Doesn't Fill You Up!
(In which our gallant hero attempts to play a cut down version in the roasting sun)   

This article first appeared in the January 2005 issue of Slingshot, the excellent official journal of the Society of Ancients

Sweltering under the August heat, I turned to Number One Son and contemplated the myriad gardening tasks that I could help my wife with but was not allowed to due to a general incompetance in all matter horticultural. I pride myself as the Shiva of the Garden to her Vishnu, capable of devastating in a matter of minutes a patch of greenery which she has painstakingly worked for weeks to create. Curiously this special talent does not find favour with the Best Beloved and we were relegated to the living room while she laboured over the roses and the acer. What to do other than swat flies and draw a beer from the fridge. The answer was a wargame. Could we be bothered to get the big table out? Not really. Too hot. The coffee table, however, did not have more than its usual collection of books littering its top and indeed there was sufficient space underneath to sweep all these away in a matter of seconds. We set to work and within minutes had created a perfect but small gaming table. What rules to play? We pondered whether we could make Vis Bellica work on a small scale. Below are the results.

Feeling indolent and fat, we both opted for Normans and about 300 points, about half the normal recommended daily allowance for Robert Avery's splendid Ancients rules and about quarter the size of the big battles we run with the sterling gentlemen of the Huntingdon club. This was a small scale, fun affair.

I opted for four squadrons of familia knights, three companies of foot sergeants, a company of crossbowmen, a company of light archers and a mob of feudal peasants: ten bases in all. Number One Son, with the impetuosity of youth, opted for five squadrons of knights, three companies of foot sergeants, and one company of crossbowmen.

We worked out that one piece of terrain each would be about right for the table size and, indeed, was more than enough for our turgid mental processes to handle. I placed a nasty, tangly wood on the right flank. Number One Son placed a collectable pile of burnt out villages on the left (well, we were playing Normans). Deploying on the base line, we both arrayed our knights in the centre. On my left lay two companies of foot and on my right the remaining infantry. Number One Son placed all his foot in front of the wood.

Orders were given and Number One Son sounded a general advance, only to look at his dear Pater with surprise as my knights continued quaffing on the base line with Hold orders (it was after all too hot to charge) while the right flank foot trudged forwards into the woods to take advantage of the shade. Onward came the enemy knights of Number One Son, leaving their own foot behind. As they rumbled forward on Attack orders, dark suspicions began to form in the enemy commander's mind. As soon as they crossed over the half way line, the devious parental trap was sprung. The foot in the woods turned left and the now refreshed knights spurred their horses forward. Additionally, the commanders placed themselves at the head of their knight, unlike Number One Son's nobles who preferred to keep a better overview of proceedings behind the lines (rank cowardice I call it). Seeing his predicament, Number One Son raced his infantry forward trying to close the gap between them and his now isolated horsemen. They particularly wanted to clear the woods of the missile troops peppering the flanks of his knights as they continued thundering past. Sadly it was now too late to rein in his knights and bring them back. With a thunderous roar, well a heat exhausted grunt anyway, the lines met. The first blood went to umber One Son, whose knights rode into a company of sergeants scattering them but in turn were hit by my supporting knights and broken.

In the centre, with my officers committed to the melee and inspiring their men, my knights pushed back and broke Number One Son's while a deeper formation of sergeants on the far left bounced his last squadron who fell back with the rest. As the dust settled, one of my nobles was injured but still in the saddle, the rest had miraculously survived.

There then followed an ignominious retreat with Number One Son desperately trying to rally his knights while his infantry finally reached the woods and drove my light archers and crossbowmen away only to agree that the rest of the battlefield was lost. An exciting romp done in just over and hour.

Vis Bellica seems to work well at a simple cut down level as a light snack game as well as a serious evening's vehicle of mayhem and carnage. We were moderately pleased with the results and can recommend them to any gamer looking for a robust and flexible set of rules.


Edington Re-Fought

Inspired by the arrival of my Slingshots, I set about doing a quick refight of Edington (Saxons vs Vikings) as done for a range of other rule sets in one of the issues.

The armies came out as:


1 Subgeneral
2 Huscarles
1 Berserkers
5 Bondi (front rank HI)
1 Skirmisher


1 General
2 Nobles
6 Fyrd
3 Peasants
1 Skirmisher

The points were more or less even, using the revised point system (about 270 each). I limited each army to a single commander, to limit CCC in a realistic way for this era, and made Alfred a General to give him a bit more clout.

The armies deployed on an 7 unit front, plus the skirmishers were posted on the hill and spent the game shooting at each other, having a private little war of their own.

Both armies had their Huscarles/Nobles facing off in the centre, flanked by Bondi /Fyrd.

The Vikings had their Berserkers in front of the Huscarles, aimed at BOTH Saxon Noble units. The Saxons had 1 Fyrd and the 3 peasant units in a reserve line.

The battle began with the Berserkers smashing into the Saxon Nobles, bouncing off and heading for the rear (what was left of them, anyway), and promptly rallying behind the Huscarles.

Then the 2 lines met. The Vikings got the upper hand on both extreme flanks, while in the centre both commanders pushed back the enemy facing them (ie Alfred with the right hand Noble unit and the Viking leader with the right hand Huscarle unit both pushed back the enemy facing them), with the losing Saxon Nobles routing - the defeated Berserkers had made a nasty dent in this unit already!

Now the second line of Saxons came into play, a Peasant unit going in to shore up each of the extreme flanks while a unit of Fyrd and another of Peasants charged against the victorious Huscarles, routing them, thanks to the God of Dice!

The battle on the flanks between the Bondi and the Fyrd and Peasants now degenerated into a slow grinding match, in which the Vikings slowly gained the advantage, but the battle was decided in the centre.

Alfred's winning streak was cut short by the Berserkers who charged to the aid of their comrades, their combined efforts breaking Alfred's Nobles.

These 2 units now squared off against the 2 Saxon units that had beaten the other unit of Huscarles - a battered Fyrd unit and some peasants. Bolstered by the arrival of Alfred, the Saxons managed to destroy the remainder of the berserkers, but they were no match for the Huscarle meat-grinder, the few surviors fleeing, Alfred being killed in the rout. (I used my house rule that leaders that are with units that rout from melee automatically take hits, and this was Alfred's second rout!)

A very entertaining game which showed that VB can do a very good job of representing this style of warfare, which many other systems struggle with.

John Hills

Romans Come A Double Cropper!

The past few weeks we had two games of Early Republican Romans vs Ancient Spanish.

The first game the Spanish had a good win by barely holding in the centre with skirmishing action of the light troops (closely supported by scutarii), while a combination of medium cavalry and the light troops streamed around the left flank of the Romans rolling it up at the end. The Roman cavalry on that particular flank was initially weakened by Spanish slingers and javelin fire and finally broken in hand to hand - opening up that flank! The Romans would have done better by going earlier into melee with their cavalry instead of standing stationary while the slingers took potshots at them! Win to the Spanish! 

PS I graded the Romans average and not veteran to help the Spanish a bit - obviously the Romans actually need to be veteran especially against the very effective Spanish troops.

In the second game the Spanish won again but not without heavy losses themselves, and the Romans could actually withdraw some of their troops out of harms way. Again the superior fire power and skirmisher troops gave the Spanish a big advantage against the Romans! The slingers were very effective and the Romans had no effective reply against them! The slingers by themselves took out an entire base of legionaries. When charged they just evade: leaving disordered legionaries in their wake susceptible to being charged by supporting Scutarii behind the slingers!

The Roman army needs to use their Velites in the front to screen their legionaries, which none of us did in these two games! The Romans must use more Italian medium infantry to protect their flanks and cover the bad terrain especially against the Spanish with many effective troops for bad terrain!

Both games were great and finished within 10-12 bounds (about 3.5 hours including setup)

Petrus Jansen

The Struggle for Southern Italy

We played our third Vis Bellica game - a Byzantine army vs. Normans set in Southern Italy in 1180 AD - on May 21, 2005. We used 15mm troops belonging to Jim Pitts.

The General Situation

Gathering his forces together, Duke Robert Guiscard, fresh from campaigning against the Arabs in Sicily, turns his attention again to forcing the Byzantines from their possessions in southern Italy.

Duke Robert has allied himself with the Pope, promising riches and lands for the Papal See once the campaign is successfully concluded. Commanding the rather large Papal contingent is Bishop Rudolfo Valentino, the strong right arm of the Pope. Robert's forces slowly close upon the Byzantine provinces in southern Italy, determined to win through any defenses to take the port of Bari.

Basil, the Katopan of Langobardia, getting reports of Robert's preparations, sends to Constantinople for reinforcements. Expecting them to arrive at any time, Basil begins to organize his army to repulse Robert's attack and, hopefully, go over to the offensive himself to retake all of southern Italy for the Roman Empire.

Basil, marshalling his territorial forces, moves out to meet Robert, intent on defending as far forward as possible to give his reinforcements as much time as possible to arrive.

Special Situation: Norman Army of Duke Robert Guiscard

As commander of an allied force, the Duke Robert has a specially delicate problem. The Papal commander, Bishop Rudolfo Valentino, is known far and wide for his contempt for anyone who does not pledge full faith and loyalty to the Pope. He has been reported as saying that he doesn't fully trust the duke to fulfill his part of the bargain (which Robert had not planned on doing anyway). Duke Robert doesn't trust the Bishop. After all, a man as gaunt and ascetic as that churchman is must be up to no good.

The Duke has a good force of Normans and allied Italians under his immediate command. With Roger, Bohemund ,Richard, and Tancred, he is completely satisfied. With Pandulf and Rainulf, Robert must have his doubts, but so far they haven't done anything obvious to incur his displeasure.

The striking power of of the Norman knights gives this army an edge in any conflict with the Byzantines. After all, what can stand against the might of a good Norman knight, blessed by the Pope himself!

The Normans' Victory conditions:

  • Capture road leading to Bari - 3 x D6 Kill or Capture Basil - 2 x D6 Each destroyed Byzantine unit 1 x D6 Defeat Condition:
  • Big Man down - if Robert is killed, then you automatically lose!

Special Situation: Roman Army of Basil, the Katepan of Langobardia

Basil knows that he has reinforcements only a couple of hours away, maybe even closer. But until they arrive, he will have to make do with what you have. Still, the Byzantines solid infantry core of scutatoi and psiloi, plus thier incomparable klibanophoroi and kataphraktoi cavalry should be more than enough the hold that Italian and Norman rabble at bay.

Basil is not too sure how loyal the Russ infantry and Steppe cavalry are. But their leaders have been paid immense sums to fight for Rome. Basil can only hope that the hated Papists can't buy them out from under him.

The Byzantines' Victory conditions:

  • Retain road leading to Bari 3 x D6 Kill or Capture Robert and/or the Bishop 2 x D6 Each destroyed Norman unit 2 x D6 Each destroyed Papal unit 1 x D6 Defeat Conditions
  • "Hamburger Hill" - if you lose control of the road to Bari, then you automatically lose! Big Man Down - if Basil is captured by the Bishop's Papal forces, then you automatically lose!

A Special note from the umpire to Bishop Rudolfo Valentino Commander of the Papal Army

You're not sure you can really trust Robert. After all, he's just a Norman barbarian, descendent of Vikings. And we all know how heathen they are!

Just in case, you've brought plenty of gold and dispensations to lure Princes Pandulf and Rainulf to your control, if necessary.

But the main threat is still those heretic Byzantines! You'd really like to capture Basil and burn his heresy out of him at the stake. You might even overlook Robert's machinations to be able to do that.

Your private Victory Conditions:

  • Capture Basil 4 x D6 Each destroyed Byzantine unit 1 x D6 Defeat Conditions
  • Big Man Down - if the Bishop is killed or captured, then you automatically lose!

The Game

The troops in their positions at the start of the game. The Byzantines are on the left and the Normans are just barely visible on the right

The troops in their positions at the start of the game. The Byzantines are on the left and the Normans are just barely visible on the right

Some Byzantine psiloi archers and slingers hide in the woods on the right flank

Some Byzantine psiloi archers and slingers hide in the woods on the right flank

The back side of some of Jay Stribling’s Byzantine klibanophoroi cavalry in the center of the line

The back side of some of Jay Stribling’s Byzantine klibanophoroi cavalry in the center of the line

Ed Sansing’s Norman infantry heads up the road toward the waiting Byzantine enemy

Ed Sansing’s Norman infantry heads up the road toward the waiting Byzantine enemy

This picture shows the right center of the Byzantine line with scutatos in front backed up by psiloi slingers and archers on the hill

This picture shows the right center of the Byzantine line with scutatos in front backed up by psiloi slingers and archers on the hill

Ed Sansing's infantry moves up the road. On the left Travis' infantry. On the right Mark Gilbert's cavalry. Note the blue command point dice next to each command stand. This is a reminder of how many command points each officer received at the start of that turn. This is the number of units that he can motivate.

Charge: Mark Gilbert's Norman cavalry moves to try and turn Sean's flank. The reserve Steppe light cavalry has been called forward by the Byzantine commanders

Ed Sansing has deployed his Norman infantry units. Both columns have bowmen in the front and are trading shots with Sean's Steppe light cavalry. On the left the Italian Allied infantry are advancing in support

Travis and Bill advance slowly toward the hill. Travis' infantry head toward the town

Sean deploys against Mark's cavalry

Jay's cavalry moves up to keep the flank secure


Comments by the Game-Master

This was our third game using the Vis Bellica rules. We have the problem of not having the games often enough so that we can remember the rules or come up with tactics. I enjoyed the game, but I need more practice with this rules set.

The battle itself was a draw with a Byzantine "strategic" victory. I believe that I set the forces up too far apart so we never really closed into hand-to-hand range before we ran out of time.

I may try the same scenario again with the forces deployed closer together at the start and more emphatic instructions for the Norman players. I feel that they didn't really get into the traditional Norman's aggressive mind-set.

We hope to play more Vis Bellica games!

Words by Jim Pitts; photos from Ed Sansing

The Roman Revenge

This afternoon, almost 600 points of Early Republican Romans took on the strength, might and glamour of the Seleucid empire. The Romans under Maxocephalus Destructos defended an un-walled border town against Sell-u-Cheapis, the new Seleucid King.

The Romans had 2 victory conditions: kill or capture the Seleucid king, or destroy at least 50% of their army. The Seleucids had to take the town. We unfortunately ran out of time, within 2-3 more bounds the Seleucids may have taken the town because of a big outflanking move by all their heavy mounted troops supported by slingers, but as the Romans always say "we won through valour and the might of our arms" -  even though they sometimes lost battles!

The Romans lost no bases, but a brave leader was sacrificed for the glory of Romei.e. got taken out by javelin fire. With more time the hard pressed right flank of the Romans would have been very hard pressed to hold the heavy Seleucid cavalry. If that flank collapsed the town would have been lost!

The Seleucids lost all three of their elephants, one base of Thracians, and one base of Greek peltasts (expendables:  lots more available across the border for the next campaign!) and two bases of Skythian light cavalry and two bases of Asiatic light cavalry.  All the cavalry actually died unnecessarily - they charged skirmishers that evaded, and impaled themselves on the legionaries behind the skirmishers! Not quite the right way to use skirmishers, I think!

The Romans were very successful in breaking up the pike phalanx's advance by using light infantry to lure them out of formation! Within 3-4 more bounds the Romans might have ripped the disordered pikemen to shreds if bad weather (too little time) hadn't interfered!

All in all a very close run thing but still a long-awaited victory for Rome.

Next game we will deploy closer to one another to get into melee faster and upgrade the elephants a bit - I do think they need to be a bit more effective! All in all a very enjoyable game! 

VB gives the most realistic effect of all the rules I have ever played. This IS the rule set for historical gamers that wants realistic tactics to work the way they should!

Petrus :Maxocephalus Destructos" and Corrie "Sell-u-Cheapis"

The Society of Ancients Games Day 2005

Just back from the SoA Games Day and AGM in Harpenden: and a great day it was too!

As last year, I brought enough terrain and figures to run two games simultaneously. Unfortunately, as it was just me (!) I could only run one game at a time. No matter, as both the day's games were really, really good!

In the morning, two lads and their dad playing the Egyptians fought Gordon, who had bought the rules but never got around to playing them, playing the Babylonians with a strong Lydian allied contingent.

The Egyptians put all their infantry on their right flank, and all their light troops on their left flank. When, therefore, thing came to the crunch, the battle neatly swung around until the two sides were playing left to right rather than the usual back to forward!

In the end, the Babylonian cavalry spent too much time disposing of the weak Egyptian left flank and, by the time they got back to the centre, all that was left of both sides was a line of four Egyptian CO archer bases. Not fancying being turned into pin cushions, the Babylonians withdrew!

One amusing fact of the battle was that at one point there were so many spare Egyptian officers (they having lost all their center and left flank troops) that five of them were gathered together in the centre of the field doing nothing...except being ridden over (for no casualties) by the Babylonian cavalry!

A win to the Egyptians, despite some Pharonic arguing between the two lads as to who controlled which bases!

The second battle saw me, myself (and I) fielding my favourite Sassanids against a Successor army full of men with nasty sharp sticks and disordering elephants. My opponent was Matt, who hadn't played the rules before (cries of "shame" from the gallery), but used the Sassanids regularly under another game system (that shall remain suitably nameless) and was currently engaged in writing a long and learned article for Slingshot that would neatly render my troop roster incorrect! Surely his insider knowledge of the Sassanid war machine would count for something?

The field was fairly featureless except for a large wood right in the middle. As neither side wanted to get tangled up in it, on the first turn, the only troops that moved were my ally horse archers! On the second turn, however, the Successors started their line forward, splitting their army in half around the wood. Not only this, but rather than advance in a full line, they split their four phalangite and four heavy cavalry bases into four mini lines of two bases each. Their light troops and elephants were far on the right flank.

That was all I needed. Quickly changing the Clib's orders (they were in a long line across the bottom of my end of the field), four of them shot to the right and smashed two heavy cavalry bases off the field. Meanwhile, one set of Sassanid Levy engaged the Companions (briefly, let me assure you: almost a case of "did you feel a bump, Stavros?") but this gave the Clib's time to re-order and smash them off the field too.

On the left, my Levy had got rid of his light troops, leaving the elephants to be disposed of in a Riders of Rohan like charge. This left only his phalangites on the board in the centre, now verses about six bases of Clibinarii and three of horse archers. Rather sensibly they decided to down pike for the Successors and offer their services as mercenaries to the Sassanids!

The battle was less one sided than the above suggests, I hasten to add: at one point I was a bit worried about getting trapped against my baseline!

Two great battles on a great day out!

Robert Avery

Half A Battle Report From Huntingdon

Visited Huntingdon last night, where Chris and Steve kindly put on a 6mm Vis Bellica game for me to play in.

This is only HALF a Battle Report, because we only got to fight half the battle! But I enjoyed myself anyway.

The fight was between (if I remember rightly) a whole Republican Roman Legion complete with cavalry, and some revolting Gauls, all on an 8 X 4 table.

The number of Gaul infantry numbered slightly more than the Romans, (about 3:2) and they were of fairly high quality with a good proportion of Veterans, also two groups of Elites. In addition the Gauls were strong in mobile elements with plenty of Chariots and Cavalry.

Up to now, all the VB games I have played have been historical refights, but this was a "made-up" battle, which gave me a chance to experience some of the other aspects of the game, i.e. the leader base and spotting rules.

The Romans deployed from their long side (and from the Gaul point of view) about 2/3 along from our left. The terrain was interesting. In front of the Romans, and between them and our Gauls, a semi circle was described by a variety of rough and difficult terrain pieces, hills, a large marsh and woods. The spaces between these natural obstacles were not large enough to pass bases through so all had to be crossed over. On the extreme right, a small fortified town with a small wood in front of it (on the Roman side). A road ran around the outside of the semi circle of hills and woods.

I was given the left flank with a group each of cavalry and chariots plus two warbands each of five bases, and a sub-general. All had to be deployed behind the road. Chris had two warbands plus two bands of Elite Gaestati and a group of chariots under his sub-general, all on the right hand side. All were initially deployed as leader bases so Steve and Paul did not know the real bases from the dummies. However, as the Gallic plan was a simple "keep them busy at the front while we send the chariots and horses round the back" Steve could make a shrewd guess where my mobile bases were (the extreme left) and deployed most of his Velites to guard his flank and rear as his main force advanced onto the table.

I must admit I placed my dummy leader bases without much imagination.

Chris placed some Gaestati in the town with some more behind it, with everything else directly in front of the Romans but behind the road and the large hill in front of it. (I wondered, what do naked Elites actually DO in a town when they are waiting for battle? I imagined them idley cutting their toenails and holding pubic hair-counting contests).

The game began. Everybody moved forward on Attack Point orders. 

Second turn some of our bases started to be within spotting range and after the neccessary Dice were thrown our bases started to be unmasked as real or fake. In this particular game, this feature did not seem to have much value, but in a different scenario, maybe? On the right handside there was some debate between Paul and Chris as to just what was visible of the town, there being the wood in the way and the raised ramparts, but by the next turn his Elites were all exposed anyway.. My cavalry bogged down in a wood, got all disordered. Steve moved his two groups of velites forward and placed one lot on the hill and the other in a wood directly behind it. These were both in between me and the main body of Romans. He also turned his cavalry round and aimed at me. My marching infantry were still a long way off. I didn't want him to get his cavalry on the hill.

Chris was now on top of the hill with his chariots. He charged down the hill and hit the Roman horsemen in the flank but did not achieve the complete annihilation we hoped for. Still, it stopped him getting on the hill. Chris' Elites were now advancing out of the town and preparing to fight Paul in the small woods to the front.

My infantry were poised to charge the hill. My mobile bases had poor dice rolls and could not remove all their disorder as they came out of the wood so the cavalry became split as some bases raced ahead.

Next turn I charged the hill. Took light casualties, the velites gave way. On the other flank, Elites met Paul's Velites and pushed them out of the woods. In the continuing melee inside the "ring" of terrain, the Roman cavalry were effectively destroyed, the survivors routing. But the brave Gaul chariots that had bought me time were
also no longer worth much.

Chris by now had all his warbands in line along along the top of the large hill to the Roman front. Steve's Hastati began to fan out into a line with the Triari in column behind, to meet them. The main battle was brewing.

My Chariots and cavalry, at last in good order and moving fast, were wheeling around the small hill where my Gauls were fighting and approaching the roman rear. My infantry had pushed down the other side of the hill and preparing to charge into the second group of Velites in the wood behind, where some of the first lot had taken
refuge without fighting.

My second warband would have no option but to follow them over the hill, rather than travel through the large marshland between the small hill and the large hill at the front. Everybody had avoided the marsh.

Paul didn't seem to have much to do on the extreme right corner but had been holding all this time at the edge of the wood with fatalistic determination.

Next turn I charged the wood behind the hill and Steve's Velites surprisingly countercharged in a very Un-Velite way. They held, I took more casualties and fumed in frustration.....

My mobile bases approached the Roman rear flank. Steve had assembled a line of Hastati to face them. At the front, Steve's main force was advancing in line towards the large hill. Chris was preparing to charge down the hill.

In real life we were fast running out of time. We had completed maybe 6-7 turns, there was only time for one more.

The last turn, and everyone charged. I could only get 2 chariot bases and 2 cavalry bases into his flank troops. Oh, what carnage!

Chris charged down the hill, Steve countercharged. They met at the foot of the slope. Both lines held but not without losses. Gratifyingly heavy casualties all round. That will teach those Romans a lesson....we never had time to even resolve the melees, it was closing time.

So that's it. This battle raised many points and let me see a side of VB I had not seen before. There were many instances where interpretation was in doubt and we just worked through these sensibly in the way we all agreed was most likely. I could see that some folks would not like that approach but that is VB I guess. I like it.

James Forrest

Chris Lowe adds:

A quick note is that although the troops were deployed as per a single legion vs some Gauls, the figure ratio was about one 6mm figure to about three men, so there were around 1200 points per side. That's 2½ times the size of a standard evening game!

Seleucids vs Republican Romans

We had a great battle this afternoon between two very evenly matched Seleucid and Republican Roman armies. Both armies was about 600 points a side with a sub-general and five leaders in each army.

The Seleucids had four light cavalry bases (two bow armed, two javelin armed), two heavy cavalry bases, three elephants, two archer bases, two slinger bases, two veteran pike bases, four pike bases and two peltast bases.

The Romans had eight legionary bases, four velites bases, two Italian medium infantry allied bases, one slinger, one archer, two medium cavalry and two heavy cavalry bases.

The battle field was very cramped with terrain, with two thick woods, a marsh, a impassable cliff, a town and a few gentle hills.

The Seleucids ambushed two light cavalry bases in a wood as well as placing the other two light cavalry bases in the same wood visibly at the rear. On that same flank the Romans ambushed two velite bases with two visible velite bases in the open. The ambush was behind the crest of a gentle hill a few hundred meters from the wood with the Seleucid cavalry. The Romans obviously deployed their heavy infantry in the only open patch on the battle field being opposed by a very deep phalanx, two bases deep across their front. The Seleucid phalanx was supported by two peltast bases, three elephants and all their cavalry. The other flank of the battle field, opposite to where the woods were, was limited by a marsh containing the 2 archer bases of the Seleucids protecting that flank. These were supported by the 2 slinger bases forming the extreme left flank of the battle line. The Roman Italian infantry opposed the archers, supported by the slinger and archer base. The Roman cavalry (four bases) were kept back to the rear in support of the light troops and covering that flank: it's difficult to describe this without pictures!

Any way, the battle commenced with the velites taking on the light cavalry in the woods on the one flank and on the other flank a early shooting match started between the Seleucid archers and the Roman archer and slinger base. After a long struggle the Roman velites broke three of the light cavalry bases, after losing a base themselves! They could not prevent the remaining light cavalry base charging the rear of a legionary base already in frontal combat against Thracian peltasts. The peltasts were destroyed in melee while the Roman legionary base just evaporated from the rear impact of the light cavalry in the same combat.

On the other flank the Romans succeeded in eliminating the two archer bases with a combination of missile fire and pressure by the Italian infantry and cavalry support. The Seleucid slingers were forced into the wood by two Roman cavalry bases and "contained" while the other two cavalry bases went right around that end of the Seleucid flank unopposed. At this point the centre phalanxes and Legionaries were in heavy melee combat. The Romans managed to break through the elephants, routing most of them as well as a heavy Seleucid cavalry base and some pike bases.

At this point the Seleucids surrendered with about eight bases destroyed or routing and the Romans lost about three bases. A well deserved victory for the Romans!!! The entire battle took about four hours and was excellent!!!!! A much better game than WAB or DBM or DBMM etc. etc. I have tried them all!

The only criticism I have is a few unclear situations not covered by the rules! We managed to use our own initiative to resolve this but I do think some points need more clarity, illustrations or descriptions!!! I will later on bring some of these points up for discussion.

But, all in all, it was great!

Petrus Jansen