A wild rush of ancient British warriors bears down upon their Roman foe
A wargame was well overdue, so Ian and I decided that it would great to see the Romans back out on the board again. It must be over two years since they were last in battle. If I recall correctly, my blog started out with these fellows, so it was great to see them formed up again. The rules used were 'Hail Caesar', a favorite but truly the most complex of the Warlord Games 'Black Powder' style trilogy.
The Scenario - (inspired by my purchase of the DVD 'Chelmsford 123' set in Roman Britain. True comedy gold - I remember it as a teenager but now the jokes seem a lot more funny!)
The Romans have set out on a large punitive raid of a British settlement.
You are Aulus Paulinus, Governor of Britain. You directly command 1 x Legion detachment of five cohorts and a Legion Scorpion battery.
Your Second-in-Command, Gracientus, leads 3 cohorts of Auxiliary Infantry and 1 x Auxiliary cavalry unit.
Your objective is defeat the British field army who have advanced out of their settlement to protect their hallowed and sacred swampy bog. This swampy bog would no doubt be later decided to be for 'Ritual Purposes' (as per the archaeology TV programme 'Time Team' - if in doubt its for 'ritual purposes'). Its real value is literally a 'bog' as it's the village toilet!
"For Ritual Purposes"..hmmm!
You are the British tribal leader Badvoc. You command your Trinovantes who form 3 x warband unit along with a unit of slingers.
You also have the help of you Second-in-Command, Mungo. Mungo commands the quick element of your force, 2 x chariot units and a unit of light cavalry.
You have the assistance of a Northern Tribe. The Brigantes have sent Cartimandua to throw out the Romans (this is clearly before she changed allegience!...I don't yet have a Boudicca figure so Cartimandua it is!) Cartimandua has 2 x warbands with one being naked fanatics(!) Must be too cold up north surely?
Your objective is to repulse the Romans and sent Aulus packing!
A view from behind the Roman right
Slightly odd angle but it gets most of the battlefield in. The Roman Centre on the hill and the Legion on the left are now visible as are the British warbands facing them
As commander of the British, there is only one thing that can really be done when commanding warband...I ordered a general advance. Ian responded with an advance also. The Roman Auxiliaries opened up with their bows and the Scorpion let loose a volley. All ineffective so far.
Aulus Paulinus orders the Legion forward!
Roman cavalry on the extreme right wing line up to face the advancing chariots
Badvoc exhorts his Trinovantes forwards
Cartimandua leads the Brigantes, ably advised by her chief Druid and bodyguard
Both Badvoc and Cartimandua had rolled high to establish commander ratings with both graded as '9'. This lead to their successful issuing of a charge order and a triple move in the next turn. The warbands crashed into the Legion on the 2nd game turn. One Legionary cohort broke immediately, but the others held, even forcing back one of the Trinovantes warbands.
The advance to contact quickens as the Roman line draws closer
Utter mayhem as the forces collide. The orange shielded cohort breaks under the onslaught
Badvoc's skirmishers sidle into wood on the British right
In the centre the hill is contested. Two British units strike a Roman auxiliary unit who decided to stand and fight to gain time
The battle in the centre was bloody for the Romans as a small auxiliary unit of archers made a gallant stand. The Britons had to advance up hill into their fire. The naked fanatics were disordered but it was not sufficient to worry them unduly. The auxiliaries broke and fled.
Mungo leads the charge of the chariots...Hurrah for Mungo!
Light cavalry follow up in reserve
The Roman cavalry hold their nerve as the dustcloud of the chariots draws closer
The Romans reacted well to the threat. A barrage of pila from the legion forced the British skirmishers out of the wood and the Roman cavalry charges into the British chariots and force them to give ground. The battle is a fierce struggle and it was only the end of Game Turn 2 at this point!
The British commence the third turn by continuing the battle on top of the hill. Brigantes against Auxiliary infantry. The Brigantes force the Romans back.
Clearing the hilltop of Romans
Chariots attack back into the fray
Racing down the hill another Roman unit is hit and forced back
The Romans opted to hold the cavalry in position following their successful fending off of the chariots. Mungo lead his men forward again, keen to reverse the reverse! This time the Roman cavalry faltered and were pushed back.
At the same time the Brigantes consolidated their success on the hill. Wheeling off to the Roman right. a warband hit another auxiliary cohort, forcing it back towards the cavalry fight. Neither the cavalry or the Infantry cohort could afford to retreat again now.
Pushing the Romans back
The naked fanatics retreat in disorder
The Romans recovered the situation well on the hill by making the naked fanatics run with their tails between their legs (!) in an unexpected reverse. Their mounting casualties telling against them.
A bloody stalemate - Legion locked in combat with British warband
The units might be static but the casualty numbers keep piling up
In the end we just ran out of time. The three game turns played were very hard fought and the action rolled from one end of the board to the other. The Romans conceded defeat based on lost units and the way that their right wing was being pushed into oblivion. However the Legion was holding out well. In Hail Caesar the British warband are at their strongest in the very first turns of combat. After that the odds turn against them. It is possible that the Trinovantes might have broken eventually because of their mounting casualties. Units were starting to become shaken all over the place.
It was a superb game and great fun. The length of time since the last outing of Hail Caesar made it difficult to remember some of the rules. It shares many similarities with Black Powder and Pike and Shot. In fact, enough similarities to thoroughly throw me since Black Powder has been used much more recently. Hail Caesar has a lot of dice throwing, even for supporting units and the sharing out of excess casualties to the supports after a unit collapse went out the window because I just forgot to do it. Nevertheless it was very enjoyable and a pleasure to see so many troops on the board. I just need to play it again and soon!