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: A Polemos SPQR re-fight

The battle of Mons Graupius took place around AD83 in Scotland between the Caledonians and the Imperial Romans: further details here.  This battle is one of the scenarios in the back of the Polemos SPQR rulebook and I have Late Republican Roman and British armies which I thought would be close enough, so I chose this battle for a rules comparison test, the idea being to re-fight the battle three times with three different rulesets. So, the first game using the Polemos SPQR ruleset itself.

Order of Battle:

The scenario gives the following forces:

Calgacus (Poor general)
3 bases of Chariots (Raw/Elite)
3 bases of Light Horse (Raw)
11 bases of Tribal Foot (1 base Trained, remainder Raw)
3 bases of Skirmishers (Raw)

Gnaeus Julius Agricola (Average general)
1 base of Boltshooters (Trained)
5 bases of Auxiliaries (Trained)
7 bases of Legionaries (Trained)
5 bases of Cavalry (2 bases Veteran, remainder Trained)

Romans at the bottom (no prizes for guessing that!): Left - Cavalry Front - Auxiliary Infantry Rear - Legionaries Reserve - Cavalry Right - Artillery and Cavalry

Caledonians on the slopes of Mons Graupius behind: tribal infantry in the centre in three lines, whilst each wing has chariots at the front, followed by skirmishers and light horse

View from the Roman right

View from behind the Caledonian centre on the top of the hill down onto the Romans

Same position, wider perspective

And from the Caledonian left, on the steep slopes behind the chariots
 The Battle:
The Romans attack after an ineffectual artillery bombardment; they advance their flanking cavalry, and a unit of auxiliaries is assisting them on the left: the red markers indicate the shaken Caledonian chariots being pushed back

A closer detail of the Roman left: Roman cavalry and auxiliaries push into the Caledonian right flank

And Roman cavalry do the same on the right (the other cavalry unit on this flank had refused to charge!)

The Roman pressure continues and both Caledonian flanks start to wilt...

And collapse!  the Caledonians in flight on the Roman left wing!

And the same result on the right!  Roman cavalry pursue the routed Caledonian chariots

The Caledonians attack in the centre to try and restore the situation and relieve the pressure on their flanks

Closer in; the next photos weren't usable, but showed the Caledonian infantry making some progress and routing some of the Roman auxiliaries, but eventually the tied turned when the Roman legionaries got involved and the Caledonians were defeated and routed.  The Caledonian general was killed in this combat: disastrously, as the Caledonian second line never managed to get forward to support its fellows

The Roman left flank has cleared away its opponents and is threatening the flanks of the Caledonian second and third lines

The legionaries have bolstered the auxiliaries who have destroyed the tribesmen to their front: they are now advancing up the slope; the Caledonians collapsed at this point

The position on the Caledonian left at the end of the battle: although they suffered some losses, the Caledonians were largely victorious here: you can see one unit of Roman cavalry routing, the other unit was trapped whilst pursuing and destroyed.

Game Notes:
I'll cover the comparative aspects of the game later but in its own right it was a good game, relatively brief.  Manoeuvre is very hard in this game, it is more about timing and exercising (very limited!) control.  I set up the Caledonians according to the scenario map in the Polemos SPQR rulebook, but I would never use this deployment in a game with free set-up.  The Caledonians need to be in bigger, solid blocks especially their infantry.  The tempo point costs are just too great for the general to cope with using various lines like the Romans can.

Figures are from Baccus 6mm.  As mentioned at the top, the rules used were Polemos SPQR, there are some reviews here from:
Meeples & Miniatures
Wargaming for Grown Ups


  1. Nice report, these lines of battle are splendid and very impressive, well done!

  2. Thanks very much! But it has brought home to me that I do need to raise my game on the hills to do the figures more justice...

  3. And a bit more work on the photography too!