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.

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Polemos SPQR: Gallic War Battle 4

This battle is a follow-on from the previous scenario, in which the Romans were defeated.  In this one, the reinforcements that the Romans hoped would arrive in time in the last battle but didn't have arrived, with Julius Caesar at their head, to quickly try and avenge the recent defeat and turn the strategic tables around...

The Forces:

2 x Legions (total of 13 legionary bases, 4 cavalry bases, 3 light horse bases); half of the Roman legionary and cavalry bases were veterans.

3 x Reduced Tribal contingents (total of 9 bases of tribal foot, 2 bases of cavalry, 2 bases of skirmishers); the cavalry bases were trained/elite.

The Set-Up:

The overall set-up, with the terrain the same as in previous battles.  The Helvetii are in roughly the same positions as in previous battles but are slightly weaker; the Romans are in roughly the same positions but have strengthened their Right somewhat.

The thinned Gallic ranks prepare to defend against the Roman Left

The massed Helvetic warband on the hill will still be the main strike force of the Gauls
The Battle:
The Helvetic plan is largely a reprise of their last one: charge down the hill and sweep away the Roman Right!

The Gallic cavalry move forward against the Roman Left

The Gallic cavalry have no desire to take on the masses legionaries, instead targeting the Roman auxiliary light horse (bottom-left)

The Helvetii carry out their charge, but this time the Romans advance to meet them with the Roman Horse supporting the Right (right)

Another shot.

The Gallic charge's impetus does carry the majority of them into the Roman ranks, and causes some casualties.  However, the left of the Gallic charge itself loses heavily and is stalled by the combined attack of a couple of cohorts and the Roman Horse (centre and right)

The left-hand Gauls are caught between legionary and caalryman and are cut down

A wider shot: the left of the Gallic formation has been slaughtered or routed (right) and the remainder of the Roman legion has held: the more lightly-armed tribesmen are beginning to suffere severely...

The other legion begins its attack on the enclosures, whilst more Roman cavalry moves into position (centre-left) to charge the Gallic Horse (right), which has been harried to a standstill by Numidians...

The assault on the enclosures - the might of the legions against a force primarily consisting of lightly-armed youths (although with a core of tribal warriors)

The main force of tribal warriors is slowly pushed back up the hill, whilst the Roman cavalry go off pursuing fleeing Helvetii (top-right)

The assualt on the enclosures pushes the defenders back with relative ease

Some very brave Helvetic tribesman hold their own against superior numbers of legionaries (left), but the end cannot be long (centre)...

The Roman Cavalry have swept the tribal warriors off the high ground and sent them fleeing into the river valley towards the ford

The Gallic Horse finally make their way through the swarm of spears and ride down the Numidians...

A wider shot

More and more legionary pressure is exerted on the group of warriors still fighting on the Roman Right...

...but the Roman pressure, although fiercely resisted, is inexorable...

The enclosures are cleared by the Romans...

Just as the Gallic Horse are seeing off their lightly-armed Numidian foes, they realize that the game is up

And flee headlong back for safety (right), to avoid being caught by the Roman cavalry (centre)

The last remnants of the Gallic foot warriors flees for safety (centre), uable to resist longer...
Game Notes: The recent defeat is avenged and the Romans win comprehensively, destroying the Helvetii as an organized force, with the exception of their cavalry contingent.  The game worked smoothly enough now I had got back into the swing of playing Polemos: SPQR.  The differences in strength between the two sides compared to last time explain most of the result of the battle: the Gallic army was just that little bit too weak to damage their opponents in direct charges, and Roman flexibility allowed them to find the flanks of the Gallic formations.  It is interesting to compare with what would have been most likely to happen if the battle had been fought using DBA (barring extremely low PIP rolls).  The Helvetii would certainly not have attacked, but would have maintained the high ground and widened their formation to resist the Roman cavalry.  The Gallic Horse would have tried to hit the flank of the advancing Legion on the Roman left.   I make no comment about which is the more plausible outcome, but Polemos' modelling of the clumsiness of ancient formations, in particular those of non-regular armies, produces very different decisions and results.


  1. I think the SPQR game gives a more plausible outcome than DBA. As mentioned before, DBA to me is perfect for a quick evenings game or two mid-week, which is no bad thing.

    1. Yes, very much so. Despite the occasional clunky mechanic or unclear element to the rules, I have found that Polemos: SPQR does give a very plausible feel to mid-period Roman battles.

  2. Another tick for Polemos: SPQR! They probably brought the result that a gambling man might have waged at the outset!

    1. Yes, as you say: it is no bad thing for a ruleset to go with the form...