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.

Monday 28 December 2020

Gallic War Campaign Battle 6: Battle of Lonehill Stream

Campaign Battle 6:

The struggle for the key areas of North East Gaul continued into 56BC.  Having started off the campaign season by following Julius Caesar's orders to take over the lands of the Sequani, the (now) Roman-supporting Helvetii joined forces with the Mandubi to invade the Leuci territory and clear the Gaulish bank of the Rhine of German influence.  Ariovistus could not let that happen so despite the heavy losses his warriors had suffered the previous year, he felt compelled to support the unfortunate Leuci with two contingents of his warriors, including his cavalry.

The Forces:
The Roman-Supporting Gauls:

Leader: Lostri (Average, Cautious)
Helvetii (2): 1 base Trained/Elite Cavalry, 4 bases Raw Tribal Foot, 1 base Raw Skirmishers
Helvetii (3): Sacrupo (Average, Cautious), 1 base Trained/Elite Cavalry, 4 bases Raw Tribal Foot, 1 base Raw Skirmishers
Mandubii (1): Biuito (Average, Rash), 1 base Trained/Elite Cavalry, 4 bases Raw Tribal Foot, 1 base Raw Skirmishers
Mandubii (2): Labrios (Average, Steady), 1 base Trained/Elite Cavalry, 4 bases Raw Tribal Foot, 1 base Raw Skirmishers
 The Germans:

Leader: Adalgard (Average, Cautious)
Germans (1): Adalgard (Average, Cautious) 1 base Veteran Cavalry, 1 base Veteran Tribal Foot, 3 bases Trained Tribal Foot, 1 base Trained Skirmishers
German Cavalry: Widald (Average, Rash) 4 bases Trained Cavalry 
Leuci: Branderix (Average, Cautious) 1 base Trained/Elite Cavalry, 2 bases Raw Tribal Foot, 1 base Raw Skirmishers

The Set-Up:

The centre of the battlefield: the Helvetii (top) and the Mandubi (top-left) face the Germans and the Leuci (bottom), with one flank protected by the hill (top-left) and the other by a stream and pond (right)

The Mandubi contingent take up position on the Romano-Gaul Right, occupying the hill at the confluence of stream and river.

Isolated horsemen and skirmishers of the Helvetii watch the stream and its crossing.

View across the battlefield: The main German thrust must come through the plain in the centre, so the Romano-Gauls are deployed to meet it (left).

The German forces.  The Leuci are deployed on the German Right (top left), the German cavalry is in the centre and Adalgard's own contingent is leading a sort-of echeloned attack (centre-right), with some skirmishers on the other side of the stream discouraging and thoughts of flank attacks.

The Battle:

Adalgard decides there is no time to waste and speed will work better than subtlety, ordering his German and Leuci troops to attack.  Lostri decides to advance to meet Adalgard, since the direction of attack is now fixed.

Another shot.

Adalgard leads the German cavalry charge...and is rather bemused to find that only his own Comitatus has followed him in!!  Perhaps the rest of the cavalry is only used to following the leadership of Widald.

A wider shot, showing the remaining German Cavalry having refused to charge (bottom-centre)!

Perhaps less concerned than he should properly be, Adalgard concentrates on his own sword-strokes, pushing back the Gallic cavalry (centre)

Adalgard's foot warriors and their Mandubi opponents (top-left) have both refused to charge too!

The Helvetii foot warriors display no such shyness, getting stuck in to their Leuci opponents (right)

The Leuci have a slight advantage in skill, but the Helvetii have a rather larger advantage in numbers...

Which initially pays off, forcing the Leuci back with loss

Eventually the German foot warriors and cavalry are both persuaded to charge home, the shock of impact causing some loss and confusion in the Gallic ranks

The Leuci foot warriors are beginning to suffer heavy losses in their fight with the Helvetii, but on the right (centre) they are beginning to push back their foes, despite the odds.

The German foot warriors' charge impetus carries them up the slopes of the hill; meanwhile the Mandubi's cavalry is being worsted by their German opponents (right)

The pressure on the Leuci becomes too much - half of the Leuci foot warriors start running for home!!!

The fight on the main part of the hill is almost over, with the Mandubii warriors in flight and the Germans on the summit, faced only by some skirmishing Gallic youths.

However, the fight here was quite even, with Lostri leading the remaining Mandubi warriors to victory over the other half of the German foot warriors.

The victorious Helvetii reform; they are unable to go back into the continuing melee (top-centre) because of the danger from the German cavalry reserves (off-photo, bottom).

Those same German cavalry charge home!

The battle is becoming very scattered - Lostri tries to rally the Mandubi foot warriors from their pursuit of the German infantry.

The fighting against the Helvetii in the centre-right continues without result as yet.

Just off the hill, Germans rally before the Mandubi, who get routed.

Finally the Helvetii foot start to give way in rout, exhausted by the epic struggle...

And are in headlong flight to the rear (top).

Some of the scattered victorious Helvetii foot rally deep in the German rear.

Whilst Lostri is still trying to rally his victorious Mandubi warriors!

Position at the end of the battle, as the Mandubi and Helvetii finally lose heart - isolated Gallic warriors have pursued deep into the German rear (bottom) but the Germans and Leuci have taken the hill, the centre and outflanked the stream position and have claimed the victory.

Game Result: A close battle, but fortune and skill swung ever-so-slightly in favour of the Germans in this battle. The Mandubi and Helvetii lost around 3000 foot warriors and 1500 horsemen between them, whilst the Leuci lost about 2000 foot warriors; of these, probably somewhere between half and two-thirds fled and deserted rather than died.  Incidentally, there was very high attrition amongst both sides leaders: only two of the German leaders and one of the Romano-Gallic leaders was still standing at the end of the fighting.

Game Notes: Quite an interesting struggle, with perhaps some shades of Sherrifmuir in the mixture of victory and defeat.  Lostri may be one of the few commanders who has led a victorious charge into the centre of his enemies' positions only to find himself on the losing side!  I don't think I had any particular rules struggles (although still not going to swear that I get everything right!)...occasionally the group movement throws up some interesting moments where one base is in charge range but the others aren't, for example; or when one base is contacted and recoiled, what can the other bases do, exactly (this happened when a single German cavalry base charged initially and pushed back one base of the opposing Gallic horsemen).

If anyone is wondering about the relatively unsubtlety of the tactics on both sides, it is just that experience has taught me that trying to do clever outflanking movements over streams and so on leads to disaster if the enemy has any chance of catching you disordered whilst crossing.  To that extent, Polemos SPQR captures exactly why period commanders prefer simple tactics on open terrain.

Figures by Baccus 6mm.

Monday 16 November 2020

Hobby Update 16th November 2020

 I haven't managed to get as many games in as I might have liked recently, although I have made some steady progress on my Gallic War campaign.  58BC and 57BC have passed, and I am well into 56BC now, so perhaps I am just past a quarter of the way through the campaign now.  I haven't done lots of painting either, a combination of work, education, family and illness.  The education bit should ease off however - I got my Masters degree at the end of October, and although I have another exam on a different subject in December, the slackening off of those pressures should lead to a little more time for games.

What I have managed to finish is a platoon of Soviet WW2 infantry, along with a couple of T-34s to support them:

These were from the Plastic Soldier Company, and they were pretty nice.  I did one T-34/76 and one T-34/85, which more or less suit for the entire war.  I will get some more vehicles to support them in due course, naturally.  I would like a few soldiers with the SVT-40  Along with the 6mm Soviets I got from 2d6 Wargaming, that puts me in a position to do any Platoon-size scenario on the Eastern Front.

Otherwise, I recently celebrated my birthday and got a few gaming-related items, all of them suggested/recommended by people on The Wargames Website:

Firstly, there was Lipscombe's recent Atlas of the War of the Three Kingdoms:

I haven't read it in detail yet, but I have spent a couple of hours browsing and it looks really nice.  It is fairly comprehensive, if not totally so (no map of Tippermuir, for example) but it has most of the actions you would expect in there, and some of the smaller ones.  The campaign movements, accompanying narrative and orders of battle aren't neglected either.  Just like his earlier Peninsular War Atlas, it is a really lovely-looking thing.

I played a game with 'Fire Fight' a few months back, which led to some comparisons and confusion with the contemporaneous boardgame 'Firepower'; I remember wishing I had this in the mid-eighties, and now I have managed to get a copy.  It looks of its time, but still very interesting and I am looking forward to getting this onto the table soon.

I try to think about my next campaigns a year or two in advance of playing them, and I was recommended 'Britannia' as a possible engine for campaigns in Britain set between the last days of the Roman Empire and the Norman Conquest.  This is more of a 'slow burn' project, but I will try to have a proper look over Christmas and see what changes I need to make to convert it into a solo campaign engine.  I believe that a new edition has just come out too.

Tuesday 10 November 2020

The Gallic War: 57BC

57BC began with Ariovistus planning a combined attack on the Treveri.  Unfortunately, his attack badly miscarried, when his flanking attack failed to materialize at The Battle of the Five Hills.  Ariovistus led the majority of his Germans back into the lands of the Leuci, although his cavalry were forced to retreat across the Rhine instead.

Caesar used the opportunity presented by this rather fortunate victory to re-organize his forces: the XIII & XIV Legions forced march to bolster the Aedui; X, XI, XII Legions and the cavalry moveed to support the Boii; and VII & VIII Legions move to Narbo.

His attempt to win on the battlefield foiled, Ariovistus resorted to diplomacy and skulduggery...which worked fine, inducing the Treveri to revolt against their Roman allies!  Yet again however, Roman pugilism remedied what Roman strategy had lost, beating off the Treveri turncoats. XIII & XIV Legions then force marched to support IX Legion in Treveri territory; meanwhile the Aedui marched to join the Mandubii.  

Realizing his position had become very exposed, Ariovistus called  further reinforcements across the Rhine to join him.  Caesar meanwhile moved his armies further forwards, the X Legion & Roman Cavalry force marching to support the Mandubii; XI Legion, XII Legion & the Boii moving to Aedui territory

Again turning to the pen (and the coin), Ariovistus used diplomacy to bring the Arverni to the Germanic side.  Not to be dissuaded, Caesar attacked Ariovistus in the land of the Leuci, hoping to destroy the revolt at source.  However, Caesar's use of Gallic allies rather than Roman legionaries, as well as Ariovistus use of a strong defensive position, meant that Caesar's attack miscarried with very heavy losses amongst the Gauls.

Despite his victory, Ariovistus army was not really in any position to take the military offensive, so he resumed his diplomatic offensive and recruited the Veneti to his cause; Caesar's military might was temporarily dissipated too however, and he instead used his powers of persuasion to end the revolt of the Averni.


 Game Notes: It was all going so well for Caesar until Ariovistus somewhat unlikely victory.  This has gained the German leader some respite to rebuild his forces, although it is very likely that Caesar will next look to seal off the Rhine frontier and make any further attacks by Ariovistus risky in the extreme.  Ariovistus had some diplomatic successes, although not perhaps large enough to counteract the Romans's military advances.

Tuesday 27 October 2020

Gallic War Campaign Battle 5: Ariovistus at Bay

Ariovistus' position in late summer 57BC had become reasonably dire.  All of his attacks had failed and although the revolt of the Treveri in his favour had caused the Romans a bit of a shock, the Gaulish tribesmen failed to capitalize on their opportunity.  Caesar was then determined to capitalize on his opportunity, and quickly marching North-East with the troops he had to hand - a mixture of Veteran Legionaries and tribal warriors, he determined to crush Ariovistus whilst he and his battered warriors were resting in the territory of the Leuci (in modern Belgium)...luckily he had encamped near a strong position - a settlement protected by two large hills, with a stream in case of such an eventuality...

The Forces:

The Romans:

General: Julius Caesar (Inspiring, Steady)
X Legion: Marcus (Inspiring, Cautious), 6 bases Veteran Legionaries, 1 base Veteran Cavalry, 1 base Veteran Skirmishers
Roman Cavalry: Publius (Average, Steady), 4 bases Trained Cavalry
Mandubii (1): Biuito (Average, Rash), 1 base Trained/Elite Cavalry, 4 bases Raw Tribal Foot, 1 base Raw Skirmishers
Mandubii (2): Rigant (Poor, Steady), 1 base Trained/Elite Cavalry, 4 bases Raw Tribal Foot, 1 base Raw Skirmishers
Aedui (1): Durno (Poor, Steady), 1 base Trained/Elite Cavalry, 2 bases Raw Tribal Foot, 1 base Raw Skirmishers
Aedui (2): Mutinos (Poor, Rash), 1 base Trained/Elite Cavalry, 4 bases Raw Tribal Foot, 1 base Raw Skirmishers
The Germans:
Leader: Ariovistus (Inspiring, Steady)
Comitatus: 1 base Trained Cavalry, 1 base Trained Skirmishers
Germans (1): Adalgard (Average, Cautious) 1 base Trained Cavalry, 4 bases Trained Tribal Foot, 1 base Trained Skirmishers
Germans (2): Filibert (Average, Cautious) 1 base Trained Cavalry, 4 bases Trained Tribal Foot, 1 base Trained Skirmishers 
German Cavalry: Widald (Average, Rash) 4 bases Trained Cavalry 
Treveri: Casso (Average, Cautious) 1 base Trained/Elite Cavalry, 1 base Raw Skirmishers
Leuci: Carantos (Poor, Rash) 1 base Trained/Elite Cavalry, 2 bases Raw Tribal Foot, 1 base Raw Skirmishers

The Set-Up:

From behind the German positions:  The German cavalry are on the high ground to the bottom-right; whilst the German foot warriors are on the high ground to the left; their Gallic allies occupy the settlement and are in reserve (centre, bottom-left); skirmishers support the horsemen (centre) and the flanks of the German foot warriors (left)

And from behind the Roman positions: the X Legion and the Roman cavalry are on the left, the Gallic foot warriors are on the right, supported by their cavalry.  Skirmishers support each flank, as well as a contingent in the centre (near the trees)

A closer look at the massed Gallic warriors, ready to advance

The X Legion: will they advance or will they hold?

A view of the Roman left flank - Caesar is obviously leaving a tempting whole and an infantry flank slightly 'in the air' to tempt a German attack - will Ariovistus take the bait?

The local warriors defend the local settlement from the advancing Romans...

The Battle:

Feeling that advancing across a stream with formed troops against massed cavalry was unlikely to bring success, Caesar instead ordered an attack by the Gauls on his right; naturally the German foot warriors have counter-attacked!  The Germans push the Gauls back slightly, as their lead warriors fall...

The Gallic horsemen charge in their turn, catching the German warriors in the middle of the stream...

The impetus and ferocity of the Gallic charge carries their cavalry through the stream and onto the opposite bank

Ariovistus' attack looks to have miscarried, as the Gallic foot warriors, encouraged by the success of their mounted chieftains, renew their assault on the Germans and push them back!

A wider shot; the supporting Gallic cavalry (on the German side, top-left) have refused to charge!!!  The omens for Ariovistus again look poor...

Finally Casso gets his horsemen into motion and they charge home against the advancing Mandubii and Aedui, causing heavy losses in their front ranks...

This successful charge pushes back the Gallic foot warriors, and also inspires the German warriors to renew their own attack (Centre-right), pushing back their opponents: the Gauls have suffered heavily being pushed back across the stream

A wider shot of the stalled Gallic attack - although their horsemen have made some headway (top-right)

Slowly but surely, as their bravest warriors are killed, the Gauls are pushed back from the stream (and some of the less stout-hearted begin to run away...)

And the Gaulish foot warriors collapse under the onslaught of German foot warriors and opposed Gallic cavalry!

The position near the close of the battle - with the Gallo-Roman centre-right collapsed, the morale of Caesar's Army was too shaken to seriously continue the struggle.  Ariovistus was not inclined to press the pursuit too hard however, fearing that the powerful Gallo-Roman cavalry might yet turn his victory into defeat.

 Game Result:
A convincing victory for Ariovistus this time: he might well have felt that at last some justice has been done, since he did require some luck to hold on early on.  The losses fell most heavily on the tribal foot, with the noble cavalry, professional legionaries and young skirmishers on all sides barely losing a man!  But some c.6000 Gallic foot warriors were killed, wounded or ran away, as opposed to 'only' c.2000 Germans. Gaulish leaders Rigant and Mutinos were both killed during the battle, as was Filibert of the Germans.

Game Notes: 

It felt like quite an interesting battle this - probably since the forces were slightly unusual.  Ariovistus got lucky with the terrain rolls, which allowed him to construct a strong position without many obvious weak points.  Caesar's mistake was probably to disperse his Gallic cavalry into two small groups rather than one big one...but even then, that might not have sufficed, since Ariovistus could probably have covered this move.

Perhaps I wasn't in quite the right mood, since I found this battle interesting, generally enjoyable, but occasionally a little frustrating (I can usually tell the symptoms: it is when I start thinking during the game that I should stick to playing Neil Thomas' rules from now on...).  I think this was a rules issue, and I have spent a little time trying to express what it is.  It is to do, I think, with the complexity of the interactions possible in the Polemos: SPQR rules, regarding how individual bases and groups interact with each other, especially since those groups can contact each other at varying angles and with various depths of formation, with quite a wide variety of possible outcomes in terms of recoiling, breaking, following-up and pursuing.  There was definitely a good reason why DBx uses alignment rules, to make this kind of thing much simpler.  For instance, when the right-hand unit of Gallic foot warriors initially pushed back their German opposite numbers, who had attacked at c.35degree angle, which line should the Gallic warriors follow-up on?  Straight forward or in full base contact with the Germans?  How should their supports then act? It isn't necessarily that the rules for these things are bad - for instance, the recoil rule with rear supports is really good (i.e. if the support is unshaken, then beaten-up forward units can recoil through them, but not if the support is shaken) - but in some cases they are not too intuitive.  I think I need to devote a little time to refreshing my understanding of these kind of issues in the rules. But, all in all, pretty good.
I also need more command figures!!

Rules were Polemos: SPQR, figures and buildings by Baccus 6mm.