Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Let the wolves fight and lions rise - 68AD

One of the newest visitors to the club, a chap called Richard, has a tidy little Roman army he was itching to use, and a copy of Hail Caesar he was hoping to learn to use.  Well, what else could I do?  Hence a two for one day with the Spartans, and a hypothetical battle that see Greece exploiting the chaos of the Roman Civil Wars to rise up for independence.

Each army was formed of two commands; the Romans being distinguished as one of cohorts of legionaries, and one of diverse auxiliaries, whilst the Greeks were formed in to two balanced forces combining both heavy and light troops.  The battlefield was gentle open pasture with a small farm to the Greek right and a couple of clumps of woodland.

The Greeks won both deployment and first move, in a game played without any special scenario; we opted to sweep forward in an echeloned advance.

Sadly only the Spartan phalanxes heeded this call, the allied states holding back.  In reply the Roman auxiliaries including recently recruited Celtic mercenaries rushed forward, whilst the main body of infantry in the centre stood and waited.

The advance of the Romans was enough to drive back some of the Greek skirmishers, but this only allowed the Thracian infantry to contact the Celts.  A bitter struggle began which favoured the well timed Thracian attack, and it would take the support of Roman trained auxilia to even the contest.  As to the exchange of bow-shot to their left, the Roman bows only came off worse against the well practised Greeks.

The Roman Commander decided he had waited long enough, and unleashed a single, implacable advance of all his Cohorts, some 3000 men, in the centre.  They smashed into the Spartan phalanxes, with hurl of Pilum and thrust of Gladius.

And many Spartans fell.  The retreat was only stayed by the arrival of the city allies, and the delaying tactics of the Psoiloi and Helots sweeping around the Roman flanks.

The Greeks had to throw their leaders and their bodyguards into the fray, and this cost them the commander in chief, cut down by a Roman Optio.  However the Roman general himself was an indecisive sort, and his troops stood for want of orders whilst the Greek flank attacks took some pressure off the centre.

In places it was enough the hold the Romans entirely.

In others it was only a case of diminishing returns.  The Greek Left defeated the Celts but at the cost of many Thracians, and there was little ability left, despite the ineffectual Auxilia troops before them (the Roman bow inflicted but one casualty all day), to affect a change of outcome.

In the centre the Romans did enough to seal a victory.  The Greeks had to withdraw badly bloodied, in the face of a forceful enemy, though thankfully one unwilling to risk advancing to hard, which thus allowed most of the Greeks to escape.

When we called time on the game (after about two hours of leisurely play, the club hours were running out before our enthusiasm), the Greeks had lost two Spartan Phalanxes and a unit of Thracians, the Romans only a unit of Celtic Auxilaries.  It was a clear but not comprehensive win for Rome.  Richard enjoyed the game, and quickly picked up the style of play.

So it looks like there will be more games in the future.  Pleasing, though I think the Greeks need a bit more balance to make a straight fight of it; those Roman cohorts are hard to beat!


  1. Great looking game and report. The Romans are a really hard army to play against any set of rules!