Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Thursday 14 April 2016

The Battle of Mons Graupius II: An Ancient & Medieval Wargaming Re-fight

Background: For the second battle in this series, I have used the "Classical" period rules in Neil Thomas' Ancient & Medieval Wargaming book.  I have played these rules a few times but not for a while.  However, the rules are quite simple to remember and I didn't envisage encountering that many problems.  The terrain was left exactly as it was for the previous re-fight.  Typically A&MW uses less units than Polemos SPQR so I expected a more open look to the game and a more fluid battle.

Order of Battle:
These were chosen to be the closest fit from the scenario in Polemos SPQR with the army lists given in A&MW.   For the Caledonians, this meant using the "British Army 55BC - 70AD" list, but using javelinmen instead of slingers.  The Romans used the "Imperial Roman Army 25BC - 300AD" list (without changes, although I did consider that if Auxiliary infantry can be upgraded to heavy infantry they should probably be upgraded to heavy armour as well).

 2 units of Nobles (Light Chariots, Javelin, Elite, Lt. Armour)
2 units of Light Cavalry (Light Cavalry, Javelin, Average, Lt. Armour)
2 units of Javelinmen (Light Infantry, Javelin, Average, Lt. Armour)
6 units of Warriors (Warband, Average, Lt. Armour)

3 units of Auxiliary Cavalry (Heavy Cavalry, Med. Armour, Elite)
3 units of Auxiliary Infantry (Heavy Infantry, Med. Armour, Average)
3 units of Legionaries (Heavy Infantry, Hvy Armour, Elite)
1 unit of Artillery


The Romans at the bottom, Caledonians defending the hill.  The Romans have Left - Cavalry, Front Centre - Auxiliaries, Rear Centre - Legionaries, Right - Artillery and Cavalry
The Battle:
In this shot you can see the final Roman unit - a cavalry unit in the rear in reserve; the battle has just opened with an unusually effective strike by the roman artillery on the Caledonian infantry (see the blue and red counters)

Same position, different shot

The Romans advance; their cavalry have taken some losses (note red counters on the right-hand cavalry; blue counter on the left); in this battle, the Caledonian light troops have been very effective at harassing the heavier Roman units

The two red counters indicate two lost bases for the Roman cavalry; or put another way, it is down to 50% effectiveness

The Roman cavalry on the left hits the Caledonian warriors in their flank; the Roman cavalry on the right storms up the hill and hits the Caledonian javelinmen

Same moment from a different angle

The Roman auxiliaries storm forwards and eliminate two of the three Caledonian warrior units in the front rank; however the Caledonian light troops on each flank have eliminated the Roman cavalry unts;  the Caledonian chariots (bottom-right) have also eliminated the Roman artillery

Same position, but viewed from the summit of Mons Graupius to the rear of the Caledonians

The Roman infantry continues to surge forwards and another Caledonian infantry unit is eliminated; the Caledonian chariots to the right are almost - but not quite - destroyed

The sea of red markers indicate the heavy Caledonian losses, the blue counters indicate the rather less severe Roman losses; the Roman advantages in close combat (better troops, better armour) are telling...

The final position: the Romans have eliminated nine Caledonian units, including all the warrior infantry, and the game is over (the battered second chariot unit didn't quite reach the Roman baseline in time to inflict additional losses upon them whihc might have saved the game)

Game Notes:
Same set-up as the previous Polemos SPQR game: a 3'x2' table with Baccus 6mm miniatures.  The Caledonian light troops were very effective in this game: with smart play against an opponent with no missile troops, they can cause a lot of damage!  It is extremely difficult even for Roman cavalry, never mind infantry, to bring them into combat. One gets a little understanding of how Caesar felt when harassed by all those chariots and why the Britons often relied on light harassing troops against the armoured might of Rome's legions.
I used the auxiliaries as heavy infantry in this game as permitted by one of the army-specific special rules: it seemed to suit the situation.  However, this probably made the difference: heavy infantry are roughly twice as effective as warbands in these rules.  Although this didn't happen by design, the Roman cavalry were effectively sacrificial pawns in this game to allow the majority of the Roman infantry to reach the Caledonian warriors at full-strength, which almost guarantees a in fact happened!
The absence of any command and control rules didn't give a vastly different "shape" to the game but did seem to allow the Caledonian light troops to become more effective in actively harrying the Roman advance.  The Caledonian troops were also rated more strongly than in the SPQR game but as the Romans were too, it kept the qualitative difference roughly the same.
I will say more in the comparison, but Neil Thomas' rules really are a joy to play because they are so simple.  They aren't necessarily shorter games, because there is more dice-rolling and more attritional combat, but they are easy on the brain.  I think this one took about 40 minutes of playing time.

Reviews of Ancient & Medieval Wargaming:
and here

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