Thursday, 27 August 2015

Campaign Events

Autumn 110 BC:      Silanus returns to Rome to celebrate a triumph over the Germans and acquires the name Cimbricus as his troops return to Macedonia. Due to his victory, he becomes quite the celebrity, although not perhaps entirely for noble reasons. As a member of a loose grouping of elitist senators who have quickly become known as the Optimates, his attitude to the people in general is rather questionable. He did make some favourable remarks during his battle in Noricum about the Socii, but these are being re-interpreted in the feverish heat of Rome as really just self-interest because he owns large estates outside Rome proper. It would appear that nothing is straightforward any more in Roman politics.

Spring 109 BC:          Another Germanic tribe, the Teutones, briefly appear in Rhaetia and then move on to Sequania in Gallia; presumably they have been scared off by Silanus' victory. Meanwhile the Cimbri retire to the High Alps to lick their wounds. The German threat is in abeyance, but for how long? Elsewhere, Metellus, tasked with dealing with Jugurtha, finally lands in Tripolitania. Metellus doesn't seem to be in much of a hurry.

Summer 109 BC: Perhaps further provoked by the Cimbric migration, another Illyrian force descends on Macedonia, and is confronted by the legions previously led by Silanus against the Germans, who also destroyed the previous Illyrian incursion. This will be the next campaign battle. I will draw up the army lists and terrain, and send them electronically to the guys at the club, who will then play the tabletop encounter. That way we can keep the campaign moving along electronically, although I'll have to rely on them to provide me with battle reports and photos for the blog. 

Campaign Game: Salinus against the Cimbri

Our campaign is loosely based on a historical timeline, although events are beginning to deviate a little from history, and some of them are turning out a bit differently too. I like this, because it means that although we are playing purely historical match-ups on the tabletop, the campaign still has a bit of a life of its own. One such event occurred on Tuesday as we played the latest battle to be generated. It is 110 BC and Consul Salinus attacks the migrating Cimbri, fresh from beating up Illyrians, in the foothills of the Alps in Noricum.
The first photo shows the deployments, Salinus to the left and the Cimbri on the right. At the top left of the field are the Socii, ably commanded by Gordon, with me as Salinus running the (Roman) right half of the army. At the top right, Willie and Andrew ran a mercenary Gallic contingent tagging along with the Germans (in other words, Willie wanted to use his newly painted Gallic figures!). Graham ran the Cambric centre, and Simon their left. Terrain in the top half of the table as you look at it was a valley across which the Italians stared at the advancing Germanic host, a combination of steep and low hills, with a wood at the far end. Apart from some rough terrain near the German lines at the their centre left, the rest of the table was bare. A game of two halves, then. Photos taken mostly from the Roman perspective, because that's where I was.
A view of the extreme left of the field as the battle begins. Italian Equites have been deployed to protect the left flank of the legions, with some Balearic slingers out front. In the foreground is the first of the two Italian legions, sitting on a nice safe steep hill with the usual screen of Velites. Gordon is already moving some of the legionaries to his left. We have ruled that for this late transition period in the Republican Roman army, a legion consists of four groups of sixteen legionaries and two units of eight Velites. No Triarii this late, and no real difference between Hastati and Principes. Not coincidentally, this comes to a total of 80 figures, which is how many will be in a Marian legion after the reforms. The idea is that the legion composition is already moving towards the pure heavy infantry force associated with Marius. In the distance above you can see some Germans lurking in the hills.
 Moving to the right, you can see the second Italian legion, the first Roman legion, and the second (rightmost) Roman legion, which is beginning to peel off even more to the right. Many more Germans in the distance. The single piece of rough ground is already occupied by a large number of their slingers, so I am going to send the Velites forward to clear them out.
My extreme right at the same time: legionaries moving in this direction, because the flank is only held, as usual, by the Roman Equites, with some help from Cretan archers. Two German war bands are coming in this direction, as are two units of heavy cavalry deployed together with integral skirmisher support.
A side view of the whole game at this stage.
My right a little later, with both sides trying to run forward with some heavy infantry to support their cavalry. The Cretan archers have time-warped in from the future with machine guns. In fact, all of the Roman shooting is exceptional, right across the field. Although it is isn't reflected in the stats, this is actually a very experienced Roman army, having also done loads of damage to Illyrians in the past before being taken northwards by Salinus in a glory hunt against the Germans. Their experience is definitely being reflected in their missilery...
A third side view of the developing battle. The German centre is advancing, but for some reason their guys on the hill aren't. This is probably not a good idea against the Romans, because it will give us time to manoeuvre our more flexible units into positions of our choosing. The secret to killing Romans with war bands is to hit them hard and fast and try to break through before they do something sophisticated. I am hoping to do exactly that because the rough ground is effectively breaking up the German line, which means that my rightmost legion has freedom to manoeuvre any way it likes.
Back to our extreme left. Gordon is taking advantage of the lack of German (or, rather, Gallic) activity here to throw his Equites wide and continue to move leftwards with his Italians. As was seen in the previous battle against the Numidians in North Africa, doing this can weaken the Roman centre, but since the Germans aren't advancing in this part of the field, Gordon is obviously hoping that he will have the time to get into prime position for when they do come forward.
His innermost Italian legion pulls some fancy manoeuvres, because it can. Still the Germans wait on their hills.
The four units right in the foreground of the photo above show my leftmost Roman legion waiting for the inevitable German attack, as Graham leads them forward. Watch the lone Roman unit to the right of the photo as it waits to see what happens - this is part of my rightmost Roman legion.
My extreme right at the same point. I have two legionary units waiting for the war bands, plus another has gone wide to counter the perceived threat from the German horse, many of whom are actually on the ground, riddled with Cretan arrows.
The whole field.
A low level shot of how the Germans on the hills look to the Italian cavalry at our far left.
Another low shot, this time showing Graham's war bands advancing on the Roman legionaries.
A third atmospheric photo, this time of the Romans waiting for the Warbands at my right.
Crunching sounds as masses of pila strike home. These legionaries are even better shots than the Velites and skirmishers. At the right of the photo, you can see that I have taken advantage of Roman organisational flexibility to angle that lone unit from the second legion inwards. That war band's flank is very inviting...
More crunching at my far right.
I have been able to commit a unit of legionaries here while still keeping the Equites in reserve. The Cretans keep firing those infernal machines.
A low level shot of my other legion in action. In the distance you can see that the rest of the Germans (and Gauls) have finally come off their hills.
Nothing is going right for the Cimbri. My legionaries swiftly eliminate one unit of heavy horse, and the other immediately fails its morale and freezes in place. Not a good place to be. I haven't even had to use the Equites here.
Meanwhile, at our extreme left, the Italians Equites are coming entirely around the enemy army's flank, albeit carrying a couple of hits from javelins.
A view just at Gordon's left centre - a nice open space for Italian legionaries to exploit. That earlier manoeuvring seems to have paid off handsomely.
More to the right, the German centre is closing on the Socii.
Pila down hundreds of Germans and their much vaunted charge fizzles. Salinus is heard to mutter some disparaging remarks about senatorial colleagues who previously ended up relying on the Italians to do all the dirty work.
At my right, the Roma Equites wait patiently for the enemy cavalry to be destroyed so that they can then exploit.
What happens to war bands flanked by Legionaries. "Run away! Run away!".
One German unit manages to achieve the distinction of receiving a successful impetus marker, but it doesn't really do them any good.
The centre is now a giant melee. Note, however, the Italian legionaries about to flank the far end of the German war bands. It's beginning to look like Cannae, only the Romans are the ones crushing both flanks of the infantry lines.
My legionaries go into the flank of a second war band.
Even my Equites get into the act, although it is a bit too late to save the small legionary unit that has been holding the war bands here.
Another shot to what happens to flanked war bands, as two more of them disintegrate.
The Italians are doing the same at the other end of the line.
How it would look from an observation balloon - a classic double envelopment.

Game over for the Cimbri, and in spectacular style. The army of Salinus could do nothing wrong. Their missilery was superb, the pila were deadly, they stood firm against the German charges, and their gladius work was exemplary, not to mention their battlefield manoeuvres. Not much can stand against the Romans on top form!

Historically, Salinus made this attack about a year later and was defeated, so this is definitely one of those instances where things turn out rather differently. With the benefit of hindsight, if the Germans had ignored the open area to their left and instead concentrated entirely in the centre and on their right, they could have effectively anchored on the rough ground and come forward en masse to crush the opposition. But that didn't happen. Salinus is now off to a deserved triumph in Rome, and I'm off to Cheltenham. A good victory to make my last club game, although I will be back in December for a couple of battles, I should think. In the meantime, I'll continue to run the campaign remotely.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

A few Gauls for Willie

Finished one of the small jobs I had waiting:
Eight wealthy Gauls for Willie. Figs by 1st Corps.
I gave them some Gripping Beast shields I had lying around, mainly because I also had the LBMS transfers to fit. They have not been based, since Willie will mix them in with his existing Gauls to suit.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

And now for something completely mental...

As I get ready to fly south for the winter, also known as moving to Cheltenham, I am trying to get as much painting done as I can before I go. I have a few bits and pieces to finish, and I would like to do them now so that I don't need to take them with me. Some of them are for Willie, and here's the first:
This has to be the most insane thing I've ever painted. I don't know the manufacturer (Willie found it at a bring & buy, I think), but it is very nicely detailed indeed. Besides, everyone needs a giant Celtic loon. Some of the details are especially nice, such as the nut job's broken nose and false eye, relics of a previous drive in the countryside...
Here's a side view of the whole thing bouncing along at full speed. I really went to town on this, making it as over the top as I possibly could.
A rear end view, if you'll pardon the pun. The details on the tunics, believe it or not, are cast on the driver and helper.
A view of the other side. The whip is made from salvaged wire for a small notebook.
The model came with a moulded base, which even has a starfish on it. This is presumably meant to be one of the British chariots that scared Caesar's legionaries so much by thundering along a beach somewhere near Essex. Not much has changed in 2,000 years...

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Albinus Encounters Jugurtha

Campaign game. Albinus, Governor of Africa with proconsular imperium, moves in response to massive provocation from Jugurtha, not to mention anguished cries from the Equites whose business interests are under threat. Albinus marches to the northwest from Leptis Magna, following the ancient coastal route. His reverie is shattered one morning, though, as scouts report that Jugurtha has arrived on the hills to the left of the Roman route of March. The terrain is quite hilly and broken, but rather than take any chances Albinus orders the army to shake out into battle formation. Initially, all the Romans can see are elements of the Numidian host.
First up is the view from the left of the Roman army: some of Jugurtha's skirmishers, with light infantry lurking in the distance.
The centre is a large ridge. Albinus' veteran Socii commanders advise him that there will be a lot of people hiding there. All they can see at the moment is a column of foot and some more skirmishers.
Jugurtha's left, though, is in full view: elephants, light infantry, light cavalry and skirmishers.
Above is a full side view of the whole field, Romans to the right as you look at it. The centre of the Numidian deployment is sheltered by that long ridge. The Romans are deployed in typical battle formation: two Roman legions at the right of their line, with the two Socii legions at the left. Velites out front. Equites to the flanks, with a few mercenary skirmishers to help out.
The view switches to the other side, since I'm a Numidian for the evening. Simon is running the right half of the Roman army as Albinus. He responds to the large contingent of elephants and friends on the wing by sending one legion and the Equites diagonally to his right.
The other Roman legion holds in place.
Gordon, the commander of the Socii legions for the evening, advances them in parade-ground style.
Back to the view from the Roman side of the field: the Numidians show themselves.
Three large medium infantry blocks advance onto the ridge. I am in command of the right half of the army.
The column the Romans already knew about is joined by two more. Graham is running this half of the army.
At his extreme left, Graham advances the elephants and their friends, while holding back the light horse in case an opportunity presents itself.
Another side view of the whole field. The Numidians have entirely revealed themselves.
A close-up of Numidians on a hill. This is the first time the army as a whole has seen any action, although bits and pieces have made cameo appearances in other games.
A shot from Graham's viewpoint on the Numidian left as the elephants advance to engage the Roman legion here.
The other Roman legion still maintains position. It's beginning to look rather lonely.
The Socii continue their impressive advance.
At the far right of the Numidian army, my light infantry move to engage the Equites.
My foot stay on their hill for the moment - the view from the other side for a moment.
Another shot of Graham's columns.
The Roman view of Graham's elephant corps.
The side view shows the relative positions at this point. The vast numbers of skirmishers have, as usual, cancelled each other out.
Graham's jumblery goes in and starts to squish Romans. Even his light infantry beat up the legionaries here - Simon's dice are atrocious. Or maybe his Romans are scared of the nellies.
Seeing an opportunity, Graham's columns attack the other Roman legion. By extending his deployment to our left, Simon has left this legion a bit isolated. A calculated risk, of course, but since his Romans are leaving brown lumps behind them every time they hear an elephant, it doesn't seem to be working...
Gordon has used his legionary flexibility to send some of the Socii wide to threaten the open right flank of my infantry blocks. As with Simon's situation, this leaves part of one of his legions a little shallow, so I decide to take a chance and try to crush them before their pals swing in and wipe me out. Both sides are taking risks in search of the all-important breakthrough.
A sideshow: Gordon's Equites against my light infantry. I have some slingers left to pick off any stragglers if he gets lucky.
Combat is now raging across the entire field.
A close-up of Graham's nellies stomping legionaries.
A low-level shot of the infantry of both armies.
Suddenly a gap appears in front of Graham as large numbers of Roman legionaries run for it - a catastrophic series of morale rolls.
At the same time, his columns start munching the other Roman legion.
At the far end of the field, my lights have finally seen off the Equites, at great cost to themselves. At the top left of the photo, though, the extra unit of Socii legionaries is ready to go into the flank of my massed foot.
The whole field at this point. Nasty.
Local success for Graham's foot columns.
My foot just fails to break through the thin white line of Socii  legionaries, and pays the price as I am rolled up from the right. The shot above shows the gallant allies marching to the rescue of those crappy Roman legionaries.
A last shot of the Romans barely hanging on.

In terms of points, this was a creditable victory for Albinus. However, the loss of most of the Roman legionaries is used as political capital by his opponents back in Rome, and Metellus gains appointment as the new proconsular Governor of Africa. Jugurtha retires to lick his wounds; he has known Metellus personally for a very long time, and is calculating that he can skirmish a bit until the latest Roman goes home to claim a triumph. In any case, it will be some time before Metellus arrives with his newly-raised army. In the meantime, Salinus attacks the migrating Cimbri in Noricum; that will be our next game, in two weeks' time.

Quote of the night from Gordon, commander of the Socii: "If ever there were a case for political representation in the Senate, this is it". There is a bit of a pattern emerging in these very late Republican battles: the Italian allies seem to perform much better than the Romans, and are beginning to resent their continuing inferior status. This will bear bitter fruit in the future as the campaign broadly follows historical events. We have now reached summer 110 BC.