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, 15 December 2017

Wargaming: An Introduction - Gallic War Pre-Emptive Strike

A second go at this scenario, this time using Neil Thomas' Wargaming: An Introduction rules.

The Scenario:
See the blurb for the Polemos version of this game.  The only thing that needs to be taken into account is for the settlement/hill fort, since the W:AI rules don't include any rules for settlements or forts in this period.  I gave all bases inside a saving throw of 4-6 against missile fire, and counted troops defending the perimeter as wearing heavy armour.

I considered treating the settlement as a proxy wood, but that didn't seem quite right.  However, looking back, perhaps there is a justification for that.

The Orders of Battle:

The Romans:
4 units of Legionaries (Heavy Infantry, Heavy Armour, Elite)
1 unit of Light Infantry (Light Infantry, Light Armour, Javelins, Levy)
1 unit of Light Cavalry (Light Cavalry, Light Armour, Javelins, Average)
1 unit of Heavy Cavalry (Heavy Cavalry, Medium Armour, Average)
1 unit of Artillery

The Gauls:
Force One:
1 unit of Chieftain's Bodyguards (Warband, Light Armour, Elite)
2 units of Warriors (Warband, Light Armour, Average)
1 unit of Skirmishers (Light Infantry, Light Armour, Javelins, Levy)
1 unit of Noble Cavalry (Heavy Cavalry, Light Armour, Elite)

Force Two:
1 unit of Chieftain's Bodyguards (Warband, Light Armour, Elite)
2 units of Warriors (Warband, Light Armour, Levy)
1 unit of Skirmishers (Light Infantry, Light Armour, Javelins, Levy)
1 unit of Noble Cavalry (Heavy Cavalry, Light Armour, Elite)

Force Three:
3 units of Allied Warriors (Warband, Light Armour, Levy)
1 unit of Skirmishers (Light Infantry, Light Armour, Javelins, Levy)
1 unit of Allied Noble Cavalry (Heavy Cavalry, Light Armour, Average)

Adjust orders of battle and troop quality and armour ratings to taste...

The Battle:

The Romans coming out of the forest...

 And marching towards the settlement...

The light troops face off against each other.  The Numidians cause some casualties amongst the Gallic cavalry (top)

The Numidian horsemen continue their good work: half of the Gallic cavalry is out of action and they turn back towards the settlement; Gallic javelinmen try to delay the Roman advance...

The Gallic skirmishers are overmatched by Roman skirmishers and Numisian  horsemen, however

However, the first set of Gallic reinforcements arrives!

Just at the moment that the Gallic horsemen and javelinmen have been pushed back beyond the settlement and the legionaries begin their ascent of the slope.

The Romans make the final adjustments ready for the attack

However, the Roman general has had to detach some forces to hold off the Gallic reinforcements.

The Roman assault goes in, whilst the cavalry fight continues at the bottom of the slope.

Can a unit of legionaries stave off the tribesmen's advance?

The fight around the settlement continues; the Gallic warriors are holding on, even if they are taking the heavier casualties

A wider view, so the two distinct areas of action can be clearly seen - note that in the background (top) further Gallic reinforcements have arrived...

A closer view of the reinforcements

The armoured legionaries seem to be making short work of the Gallic tribesman and skirmishers, although the Roman cavalry (left) has taken heavy casualties

The grinding fight around the settlement: the Romans are winning, but are they winning quickly enough?

The Romans fighting the delaying action have been steadily worn down by superior numbers

The furiously fighting Gauls are still holding on to the walls...just! Roman casualties are starting to mount...

The Gallic defenders are beginning to crumble at last, but have they held on long enough?

The Roman delaying group has nearly been destroyed...

A wider shot: the Romans are nearly masters of the settlement, but the delaying detachment has nearly been destroyed and there is very little now to stop the final tranche of Gallic reinforcements

Only a few Gallic warriors are still fighting, in the bottom-right corner of the settlement

But the way is clear for the intervention of the final advance of the Gauls

Gaulish fighters start fighting the legionaries just outside the settlement as the the last Gallic warrior within the settlement falls...

The last Roman remnants on the plain are eliminated

The already exhausted Romans are too weak to fight effectively against the fresh Gaulish warriors and the Roman army is defeated!  The remnants will escape to the bottom-left...
Game Notes:
A good, fun game this one - a credit to the scenario designer, who obviously has a keen understanding of how to get force balances right in Gallic Wars scenarios!  The key difference with the Polemos version of the scenario was that this time all the Gauls turned up and turned up a bit sooner, so that in itself weighted the scenario differently.  On the other hand, Roman legionaries are straightforwardly superior troops in W:AI, whereas as I explained in my last AAR, in Polemos well-handled Tribal Foot have a good chance against the Romans.
I think that the rules for the settlement worked okay but I would really like to know more about how such attacks panned out in reality before picking a firmer solution.
In contrast to the Polemos rules, there are no command rules as such.  Neil Thomas is sceptical about such rules, and I think this game showed why.   The Polemos game was slower, since the commander had to spend more command effort organizing and rallying troops, rather than just moving troops from A to B.  But the logic of the game and the troop types always provides more of a framework for how the battle will play out.  So although the Polemos rules do feel more realistic, the broad strokes are captured even by the simpler rules; this leads us to the same question I asked in the previous blogpost - how much is the slightly greater accuracy in effect worth in heavier game mechanics.
I think perhaps a greater problem in the Neil Thomas rules is that, broadly speaking, troop types are twice, three times or four times more effective in combat than each other.  It is difficult for them to be, say, 20% better (not impossible, but you would have to know what you were doing in probability terms by adjustments to the armour and morale values).  I am looking forward to getting into Lost Battles next year, to see what it makes of the whole issue.

Figures by Baccus 6mm, buildings by Timecast.


  1. Here is a link to a blog in which the blogger is a great fan of Lost Battles and interestingly from your point of view, although he does the typical big battle thing with them, his last 3 post have been about a more tactical level Gallic game about supply wagons.


    1. Thanks very much Norm, that is very interesting to me.

  2. Great reports of battles using two different rules. I continue to ponder "this leads us to the same question I asked in the previous blogpost - how much is the slightly greater accuracy in effect worth in heavier game mechanics". I think "greater accuracy" is the key as it varies a lot in the eye of the beholder. And by "worth" I am assuming you mean enjoyment or at least meeting expectations of why a person games.

    I have not thought a lot on this really (not much past when I bought this up last week). There is a line with rules that is different for different people and also depends on what they want out of a game that evening. Is is a game first and some semblance of historical accuracy (very variable between people!) or is is a mix of game and historical accuracy, or is it historically accurate and a game. Historical accuracy I am not equating with complexity or detail but with "does it meet a persons view of the outcomes during the battle"; it may also be extended to meet the processes during a battle (I am thinking of the DBA example where much of the process of a battle - missile fire,skirmishing etc has been subsumed into combat outcomes). Some people want the process and the outcomes. I will leave it there as I may start to ramble even more!

    1. Yes, very much so. I'm still thinking about this one but feel that I have made some progress - so I'll either add a fuller reply in the next few days, or incorporate those thoughts into some future game notes.

    2. Conrad Kinch has a recent post where he also makes a point about rules and enjoyment. I read it early this week but have not had a chance to post the link to you. It is in the text between the image of the two players at the sub game and the Christmas tree. It is about levels of complexity to investment in a rules system to drive a narrative a player is seeking.

  3. Thanks Shaun, it is a very wise observation on the part of Conrad Kinch. And I think that Neil Thomas' rules are designed almost to be the game that covers most of the bases in the simplest way and give a great game. It challenges (indirectly as a thought experiment!) other rules to ask them - is the extra complexity justified by the results and by the desires of your players? Given the number of gamers who say explicitly or in so many words that "the game is the thing", then I'd think there would be many players who would really enjoy it.