Saturday 24 October 2015

Remote Campaigning

Since I am still between two countries, I've been setting up campaign battles from my Cheltenham bolt-hole for the guys in Glasgow to play. This will help keep the campaign going. At the moment, all of my gaming materials are still north of the border, although I am painting more of Caesar's Romans to keep my hand in, you know. This is the report of the first game they played, a couple of weeks ago now: Scordisci against Late Republican Romans.

This is something I didn't know about at all, really, but it turns out that historically the Romans had a really hard time pacifying and then protecting the northern reaches of the province of Macedonia after they destroyed the Macedonian state itself. One of the main troublemakers/freedom fighters/looting loonies was the Scordisci, a decent-sized confederation of Gallic tribes who had settled in Illyria, probably during the same wanderings that produced the Galatians. The Scordisci don't seem to have liked anybody very much, especially the Romans, but then who can blame them for that. They raided, invaded, and incited or paid other people to do the same things. It is possible that Mithridates of Pontus got in on the act and sent them money and materials because he hated the Romans as much as they did. This battle comes in 109 BC, just before his time, but we think it gives a flavour of the kinds of things that were going on.

Here is Gordon's report, somewhat edited, as head honcho of the Scordisci:

No doubt the usual lies have been or are about to be promulgated by the Roman commanders (who are firstly politicians) in respect of their encounters with the Illyrians. What really happened was this.

From the Illyrian side the field lay as follows: to the left was a range of steep hills. Towards the centre there was a line of low hills somewhat nearer the Illyrian deployment than the Roman. On the east/right on the Roman side was a further low hill.
The Romans deployed 4 legions each in a double line. Two Roman legions were in the centre with an allied legion on either flank. Facing the Illyrian left they had archers and slingers. On the other wing were two units of cavalry.

The Illyrians deployed 3 large peltast units on the steep hills and massed their warbands in deep formations to their left. The remainder of ther army (thureophoroi from the town dwellers, 2 units of heavy cavalry, 3 of light cavalry, and  a unit of peltasts) formed up on the right of the warbands. [Gordon did provide a diagram, but it didn't transfer to blogger, so I have slightly rewritten his text instead.]

The Illyrian plan was clearly to deliver a massive blow against the two legions facing their left while fending off the other legions.
The Romans advanced, forming an arc towards the Illyrians who with little manoeuvre drove straight into the two targeted legions. The Roman first line fought poorly and the Illyrian assault was particularly fierce and effective so that before long the Roman second line was forced to commit units. At this point the peltasts began to intervene against the end unit of the Roman first line and also against the second line, preventing it from supporting the units in front.

While this was going on the unengaged Roman legions and cavalry pressed forward. Eventually they caught the Illryian cavalry and thurepohoroi, whom they largely destroyed.
By then however both of the targeted legions had been utterly destroyed with remarkably light casualties to the warbands. The Roman army was close to its break point but the lateness of the hour prevented the Illyrians from pressing their advantage to a conclusion

In an email exchange, I remarked how tough the Illyrians can be, since their warbands count as higher than usual quality, which meant that their initial charge went home with enhanced ferocity. Gordon replied that this was the case, and also that the Roman flank was relatively unprotected, which was why he was able to get his peltasts into the fight as well. In addition, Simon did a great job of keeping the other legions off the inner flank of the warbands, albeit at the cost of most of his command.
Photos, provided by Gordon:

The first photo shows the right half of the table, from the Illyrian perspective. Legionaries and Equites are advancing en masse here.

Number two is taken from off to the extreme right of the Illyrian army, and shows the bowed Roman line. The masses of warbands can be seen in the distance
Crunch! The onset of the warbands.
Rather fuzzy, but shows the warband attack from the Roman side. Note the peltasts menacing the flank.
The Romans advance against the Illyrian left. menacing the screen. The warbands can just about be seen in action at the top.
Next comes Graham's version of events:

Report to the Senate

I have to report to you that the army entrusted to me by the Senate has engaged a numerically superior Army of the Illyrians and has inflicted major damage upon them, sadly also sustaining major losses to our own forces.

We met the Illyrians on a plain with a some low hills breaking it up. On our right were the foothills of the mountains, which were high, steep and rocky, meaning only our lightest troops could be effective there.

The Illyrian deployment from their right; Warbands at the top of this photo.

The Roman Army, taken from the Roman Left. The Blue shields are a Latin Allied Legion.             Maximus sits behind his command looking uneasy.

I deployed our Roman Legions in the centre with the Allied Legions outside them. Our cavalry I massed on our left flank, partially hidden from the enemy behind a low hill. Our mercenaries I put on the right flank where I hoped they could exploit the difficult terrain.
A closer view of the Romans from their left. The barbaric-seeming chaps at the front are standing in for Velites; this is a transitional army and Graham didn't quite have enough skirmishers (I think!).
The Illyrians massed their warbands supported by multitudes of light troops on their left, They held back some cavalry in the centre to support their regular civilised infantry. On their right they deployed their cavalry and more light troops.
I placed my subordinate Maximus on the right, commanding the two right hand legions and the mercenaries. I gave him orders to keep his men in check and to prepare for the onslaught of the enemy.

As the battle commenced the Illyrian Warbands surged forward. Sadly Maximus disobeyed his orders and gallantly marched out to meet them. I manouvred my forces to ensure they were in the best position to crush the Illyrian right wing, and advanced one legion towards the enemy's civilised foot.
The massed Illyrian Warbands heading for the rather incautiously advancing Romans. These are the Roman right wing legions and supporting skirmishers.
The Illyrians facing me were obviously disinclined to face our bold Romans and their allies, and tried to keep away from me. On my right Maximus threw his legions forward with enthusiasm but little skill. They suffered heavily from the Illyrian charge while inflicting only moderate casualties. Only the superb deployment I had put them in kept our Principes in the fray
The Illyrian Right wing skulking in the distance. Germanic mercenary cavalry supporting a Latin Legion.
Despite their skilful attempts to avoid me I was able to place my troops in combat with those facing me. I quickly despatched the enemy light cavalry and infantry facing me. The Civilised infantry in the centre put up some resistance before they were routed, The cavalry they had in the centre retreated rathe than face us.
Thanks to Gordon and Graham for sending the reports and photos! This makes a nice change from my usual reports, since this time we see the viewpoints of both commanders. In campaign terms, the result is some rather stinging attrition for the Roman forces stationed in Northern Macedonia, and a load of Scordisci going home happy. I'm sure they'll be back at one point. Next up we move to the west, as another load of invading Germanics plays havoc with the Gauls: Teutones against Sequani. That should be fun; we haven't had two warband armies clashing for a while now.