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.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Polemos SPQR: Mons Graupius II

And as ever with this series, a good Romans versus Celts scenario is too good to waste, so once again with feeling!  The scenario details remain as before, but I slightly modified the deployment on the flanks of the Caledonians: as written, the scenario has chariots in front, skirmishers in the middle, light horse at the back.  This seemed a bit sub-optimal to say the least, so I have pushed out the chariots and put the light horse directly in support, with the foot skirmishers to the sides of the main block of tribal warriors.

Incidentally, I think Mons Graupius is one of the battles I have refought the most, I think 8 times now.  See here for the refight using these rules I did in 2016.

The Forces:

The Romans:

General - Gnaeus Julius Agricola (Average, Steady)
7 bases of Legionaries (Trained, Armoured, Formed)
5 bases of Auxiliaries (Trained, Armoured)
2 bases of Cavalry (Veteran, Formed)
3 bases of Cavalry (Trained, Formed)
1 base of Artillery (Trained, Boltshooters)

The Caledonians:

Commander - Calgacus (Poor, Rash, Unformed)
3 bases of Chariots (Raw/Elite, Unformed)
3 bases of Light Horse (Raw, Unformed)
1 base of Tribal Foot (Trained, Unformed)
10 bases of Tribal Foot (Raw, Unformed)
3 bases of Skirmishers (Raw, Unformed)

The Battle:

The Romans (foreground) look up the slopes of Mons Graupius at the Caledonians (top)

The Caledonians arrayed for battle. Note the minor deployment changes since the last refight as described above

And the Romans

The Romans begin by pushing their cavalry wings forward

The Roman cavalry has done very well: they have pushed back the chariots on the left (top-left, see the red shaken marker) and on the right (top-right, more shaken markers);  the Caledonian warriors are advancing down the hill, although fire from the bolt-shooter has halted a portion of them (note black 'halt' maker)

A closer view of the successful Roman cavalry on the left

And on the right!

Smash!  The tribal warriors run screaming into the fray and the Romans are pushed back shaken (*this was the first time I had used such deep Roman formations and I got some things a bit wrong here)

The Roman cavalry have polished off the charioteers and light horsemen on the right (top-right)

The Roman cavalry on the left-wing has pursued its beaten opponents right to the top, where the Caledonians have dispersed

The Roman cavalry on top of the mountain, pursuing

As the Romans reform, the Caledonian light horse charges the remaining Romans left-rear

The Romans have a bit of a fightback here...

But the Romans have an unlucky morale roll as they lose another base in the centre and the army collapses! Victory to the Caledonians...
 Game Notes:
Hurrah! A second well-deserved victory for the Caledonians, although this genuinely could have gone either way - a bad morale roll for the Caledonians would have reversed the result on the previous turn, it was touch-and-go.
I was doing the shaken/recoil interaction for deep formations slightly wrong but have now managed to sort things out with the author on the Polemos Yahoo! group.  At some point I will update my errata and clarification notes for the various Polemos rules I play and post them.
Jonathan Freitag in the last post queried the realism of the various "columns" achieving different combat outcomes to get that effect where some bits are recoiling one way, some bits the other and that it might be better to calculate the combat in one go.  The answer is...I'm not sure.  The same thing happened in both Mons Graupius refights so it is clearly something that is going to occur in these rules.  It is an interesting difference with the Neil Thomas rules, where there is no retreating or recoiling, and units fight and die where they stand.  I'm inclined to think this may be more realistic, in general, although there are times when pushback may have happened.  I need to give this more thought.  It was a very insightful comment!

Figures by Baccus 6mm and Rapier.


  1. I do think it is more realistic that units don't recoil. I tend to think of pushback in rules as a rules mechanism to infer positive or negative modifiers rather than representing a large physical direction backwards. That helps me resolve my internal dilemma of thinking units may not have recoiled so much in real life but they do on the table. Even in my own rules I have pushbacks so I have obviously come to terms with its representation!

  2. Yes, agreed. I think if playing proper old-school rules with singly-based figures, or the old WRG thin strips, then gentle pushbacks and recoils make some sense. But in the DBx / Polemos games with bigger element bases, then the depth seems too big and the effect too exaggerated.