Saturday, 21 March 2015

From the German viewpoint

Graham sent in some photos of last week's game, taken from the German perspective:

A load of Germans waiting patiently before being ordered forward to crush Romans.
A massed advance upon the legion at the right of the Roman line.
And some of the action at the other end of the field.

There was one other photo, a nice close-up, but the giant yellow pipe cleaner being dragged along to indicate casualties seemed somewhat out of place!

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Marian Romans: An Experiment

We haven't been playing at the club for several weeks now, because getting us all to coincide while at the same time avoiding the local football traffic hasn't been easy. I had cancelled last night's campaign battle for these reasons, but then I became involved in a text conversation with Graham as I was going home from work. Since he doesn't live all that far from us, I offered to fight his Germans with my newly minted Marian Romans, as a test game for the campaign. So at the last minute, a game was on. And then when I got home, Gordon phoned to say that Billy really wanted a game too, and since they both live locally, we all ended up playing at my place.  Some hasty tidying later:
The right wing of Graham's German host: a couple of units of powerful cavalry plus some large warbands. The pictures are surprisingly better than I had thought, which is just as well because this is the first time his Germans have fought as Germans instead of proxies for somebody else, and it is the first time new Marians have appeared.
A couple of loose formation warbands are lurking behind a long but narrow central wood, with youthful javelin chuckers out front ready to do their thing. At the right of the picture is a smaller elite warband.
Their left speaks for itself. So this is where the weight is, then. This photo is a bit blurry, but I think it gives a good indication of what is coming. Graham ran the right half of their army, Gordon the left.
Our left: all of our rather mediocre cavalry with a few javelins out front, and a trained but as yet untested legion in triplex acies - in fact, all of the legions deployed in the famous three lines.
Our centre; a couple of raw legions. The one to the left is facing the wood and the one to the right is trembling on a hill.
Our right: another trained legion, whose flank rests on some rough ground. This army must have been rather hastily raised in response to a German incursion. I ran the cavalry and the leftmost legion, while Billy had the other three legions.
Initial movements at my end of the line. I have a couple of units of rather useful Spanish auxiliary light horse, so I throw them forwards to be a nuisance. My javelinmen shoot especially well, but all that does is annoy one of the warbands.
A view of the rest of the field to my right at the same time. Warbands infest the forest, and loads more can be seen pouring towards our rightmost legion. The German leader here finds a metal helmet and wonders at such wizardry.
More maoeuvring on my wing.
Billy insisted!
Action.
On the other side of the field, Gordon sends his cavalry on a wide sweep around our extreme right flank past the rough ground, while the warbands advance to pin the legion there in place.
A close-up of my legion mixing it with large hairy warriors. The casualty markers are courtesy of Simon Miller, the famous Big Red Bat.
I throw one unit of those middling Equites forwards to slow down the enemy heavy cavalry. My gutys perform surprisingly well, and the Germans almost entirely miss. Maybe they were just amazed at seeing Roman cavalry actually attacking someone. I use my other unit of cavalry to slow down the German warband here - basically, foot may only charge formed cavalry from really close, and even then only if they pass a morale test. This keeps the large mass off my legionaries for a little while.
Billy attacks the woods (his name is Billy Woods!) and the hill, while the Germans go into the far right legionaries.
Things are developing on my wing. My front unit of cavalry is still there, while the other has retired, hoping to reform for further use later on. I don't know if the photo makes it clear, but at the front right foreground my eagle cohort has attacked the side of one of the warbands while it engages the other legionaries to its front.
The Hand of Billy - delighted at his raw legionaries destroying the warbands to his front, albeit at great cost to themselves.
And here they are, taking the woods.

No more photies! Basically, the German cavalry eventually hit our rightmost legion in the rear, and then the next one in disintegrated due to casualties and poor morale, breaking the Roman army. This happened at exactly the same time as the German army reached its breakpoint - a draw.

The whole point of this exercise was not just to play an ad hoc game, but to experiment a little with different types of legion. I'm pretty sure I did a few things wrong, such as legion breakpoints and so on, but the game plus some discussion afterwards firmed up some ways to run the professional legions when they appear in the campaign, which is now not too far off. These suggestions have been written to be as rules neutral as possible:
  • Rome may raise up to four legions from the capite censi in a single season, always bearing in mind the cost! Such a legion will initially be counted as raw, i.e. it will comprise 9 cohorts of fresh recruits counting as medium militia. The eagle cohort will be a step better, fighting as heavy militia. The legion breaks on 44 hits.
  • The army may move on immediately, or it may spend the season training. In this case each legion pays an extra point per figure, giving a trained legion of 9 cohorts of heavy militia and an eagle cohort of veterans. Such a legion will still have 44 hits. A raw legion may use this training rule at any time - it just takes a season and costs cash.
  • In order to simplify campaign book keeping, a legion is lost when it is broken on the field. If, however, it survives and either draws or wins the battle, it automatically improves as follows. A raw legion beomes trained. A trained legion becomes veteran, with an elite eagle cohort and 58 hits. Legions that survive will always come back in effect at full strength.
  • Should a veteran legion survive in this way for another two battles, it becomes elite, with a legendary eagle cohort (think Caesar's Tenth). It will have 66 hits.
  • If an elite legion loses a battle it is reduced to veteran status.
The idea is to give various levels of legionary experience, which should help to make them much more interesting. I might keep track of individual legions' campaign records, just to add some flavour. The one thing I did notice during last night's battle is that playing with raw and trained units against the Germans is a tense experience - they just won't last the way veteran legionaries do! This system also raises the possibility of having a multi-legion army composed of several different levels of legionary experience. Just like the real thing?