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, 21 December 2017

Polemos SPQR: Battle of Bibracte II

Second time around for this one - scenario details identical to the first game.

Again, I won't repeat the blurb, I will just list the orders of battle again, for reference:

The Forces:

The Romans:
Commander: Julius Caesar (Average)*
12 bases of Legionaries (Veteran, Armoured, Formed)
2 bases of Legionaries (Average, Armoured, Formed)
1 base Skirmishers (Average, Slings, Unformed)
2 bases Cavalry (Average, Unformed)**
2 bases Cavalry (Raw, Unformed)**

* - Sabin's book rates generals by the battle rather than as an overall consideration of their careers.
** - Gallic allied cavalry, hence unformed.

The Helvetii
Commander: Divico (Poor)
16 bases of Tribal Foot (Average, Unformed)
1 base of Cavalry (Veteran, Unformed)
2 bases of Cavalry (Average, Unformed)

The Game:

The toy soldiers don't even have time for a cup of tea and a fag (or should that be raisins and wine?!) back in their boxes before they find themselves stood to again!  Romans on the hill (foreground) facing the oncoming Helvetii on the hill on the opposite bank of the watercourse.

Once again, the veteran Helvetii horsemen try and get across the stream quickly (in order to reform before the Romans can get at them)

Some of the Romans begin to lumber forward to get closer to that all-important stream...

The Helvetii horsemen on the other flank peer at the crest of the hill facing them as the first hooves being to splash in the stream...

The Helvetii foot warriors begin their move forward (top-left); whilst the cavalry has (mainly) crossed the stream on both flanks

This time Caesar's cavalry gets the better of the melee and the veteran Helvetii are routed back over the stream

Again the cavalry clash on the other flank too - the delay in crossing the stream initially gave the Romans the advantage, but the Helvetii here defied the odds to push the Romans back up the slope in equal disorder

With the cavalry clashes ongoing, the tribal foot warriors approach; Caesat detaches a unit of legionaries to go and support the cavalry on the right

The Roman cavalry on the right gets its act together and starts to push the Helvetii back down the slope

The Roman cavalry pursues its foes over the stream and threaten the Helvetii right flank

The Helvetii warriors haven't managed to cross the stream here before the Romans arrive; the remaining Helvetii horsemen are hanging on by their fingernails! (top-right)

A miracle!  It is the Romans who break first and scamper back up the hill!!

The other Helvetii flank has been well and truly turned however. Divico tries and get his reserves around to cover

Eschewing subtlety however, Caesar just rallies his men then charges straight in, routing one base of warriors immediately; unfortunately there were no decent close-ups but if you look to the right, you will see that the Romans on the right have re-turned the tables and eliminated all the Helvetii on that flank.  With both flanks turned, the Helvetii morale collapsed.

A closer view
Game Notes:
Very similar to the last battle really - the Romans made less mistakes in this one and had more luck, which led to a slightly easier victory, perhaps.  But I'm not sure which strategy to adopt which would be better.  Leading with a foot attack over the stream against veteran Legionaries is just asking for it.  And doing clever reversals and feints and so on is really difficult with these rules - if you get close, you either get stuck in or you don't, you can't really manoeuvre.  This is a good feature of these rules!  But perhaps I am suffering from solo play here and I am trapped in my own modes of thinking, hopefully someone else can see exactly what the Helvetii should be doing...

Hopefully readers will have observed by now that the tribal leader simply cannot order a general advance - he or she will simply never have enough tempo points to do this, and thus there is no choice but attack in contingents.  Contrast this with DBA, which actively encourages one to use as few manouevre blocks as possible (since all blocks cost the same number of PIPs to activate).  Does anyone have any thoughts about the respective historical accuracy of each of these approaches?

Anyway, both very enjoyable games.  Figures by Baccus 6mm.


  1. I have no thoughts on the respective approaches. I guess each ruleset is portraying the battle unfolding in different ways; Polemos by waves of attacks at different times due to lack of tempo points, DBA all at once but then broken up as pushbacks occur. Which is more historically accurate? No idea :-)

  2. No, me neither. I can visualize both and I'm not well-versed enough in the period to have a worthwhile view of my own. Where the DBA set is more convincing is in that the basic idea of being able to order a simple all-out charge with a large body seems like it should be possible; where Polemos convinces is in thinking that if the line being broken was what concerned Roman generals, it kind of implies the tribal foot trying to break specific areas of the line rather than a general advance.

  3. I vaguely know how tempo points work, have only played a DBA demo once and furthermore know little of ancient warfare but in my ignorance, it seems to me that it would be simple enough for a tribal leader to give a general attack command but next to impossible to exercise much control after he's let slip the dogs of war!

  4. Perhaps, I am not sure. If we suppose that each turn lasts for 5 minutes, then a slightly disjointed beginning of an advance might be the thing, and then bring all the troops together during the advance as the leading elements move more slowly as the others catch up (which is possible in Polemos) - in some ways this might make sense given the limited means of transmitting orders.