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 4 May 2020

Ancient & Medieval Warfare: Caesar's Landing

Miniature Wargames 371 was a particular favourite of mine and amongst many other things (there was a particularly good Conrad Kinch column in this issue) there was an interesting scenario for the Roman Invasion of Britain in the late summer of 55BCE.

 I had wanted to do a game with Neil Thomas' Ancient & Medieval Wargaming for a while, and this seemed highly appropriate.

This features the Romans trying to get ashore in slightly disorganized fashion against a growing number of Britons.  The Romans are coming ashore in two waves, so cannot overwhelm the initial opposition.

The Forces:

The Romans:

First wave:
1 x General
6 x Heavy Infantry units (Average, Heavy Armour)

Second Wave:
4 x Heavy Infantry units (Average, Heavy Armour)

The Romans also have artillery support in the form of missile throwers on their boats.  One piece has a range of 30cm from the edge of the board, two pieces have a range of 18cm from the edge of the board.  Any British unit can be attacked (as long as it isn't in melee combat) but no unit can be attacked more than once.

The Romans are divided into two-unit groups, one group for each third of the beach.  A die decides where in this third each base lands.  For the second wave, also randomize which beach each group lands in too.

Troops move at half-speed on the beaches and in the sea.  The Romans start disorganized so fight as Auxilia rather than Heavy Infantry initially.  They can form as heavy infantry as soon as they have reached the beach, remain stationary for a turn and pass a morale test.  Hills are moved at half-speed, both up and down.  Woods are impassable to horsemen and chariots.

The Roman player moves first.

The Britons

Initial Forces:
1 x Light Chariots (Average, Light Armour, Javelins)
1 x Light Cavalry (Average, Light Armour, Javelins)
1 x Light Infantry (Levy, Light Armour, Javelins)

First Reinforcements:
1 x Light Chariots (Average, Light Armour, Javelins)
1 x Light Cavalry (Average, Light Armour, Javelins)
1 x Warriors (Average, Warband, Light Armour) 

Second Reinforcements:
1 x Light Infantry (Levy, Light Armour, Javelins)
2 x Warriors (Average, Warband, Light Armour)

Third Reinforcements:
 1 x Light Infantry (Levy, Light Armour, Javelins)
2 x Warriors (Average, Warband, Light Armour)
Fourth Reinforcements:
1 x Light Chariots (Average, Light Armour, Javelins)
1 x Light Infantry (Levy, Light Armour, Javelins)
1 x Warriors (Average, Warband, Light Armour) 
Fifth Reinforcements:
1 x Light Infantry (Levy, Light Armour, Javelins)
2 x Warriors (Average, Warband, Light Armour)

The reinforcements each roll a D6 twice, once for arrival and once for location.  The British table edge and the the 18cm of each adjacent flank are all possible arrival zones - dice with an equal chance of each.  Each reinforcement rolls  for arrival: 1-2 End of Turn 1, 3-4 End of Turn 2, 5-6 End of Turn 3

The Set-Up:

The Roman invasion beaches ahead...

A closer look to the left...

And to the right...

The first British contingent in place, concentrating against the Roman right flank.
The Battle:

The Roman Centre and Right splashing towards the shore...

And the Left...

And a view of the whole thing

Just when you thought it would be safe on the beach, you meet some fierce locals flinging javelins at you...

The Britons are concentrating on the flanking Roman unit

British reinforcements arrive behind the hill on the British left

The Romans get to the beach, without suffering too much so far

Except on the Right, where they are attacked to front and flank by horsemen splashing through the water!

Casualties on both sides, but the Romans look to be hurting most...

And then their morale collapses, as the legionaries lie dead on the beach or in the waves, with the remnants dropping armour and swimming for safety...

The British warriors puff up the hill...

Whilst the remaining British warriors arrive nearer to the centre

The Roman centre tries to get off the beach, despite being swarmed by javelin throwing Britons on horses, on fott and in chariots...casualties in the remaining Roman units are trivial so far, however

A wider view

The second wave arrives, this group on the Roman Left

And this group on the Roman Right

The Roman Left reaches the grass and reforms into close order

The Britons contonue to put pressure on the Roman right flank

Cumulative casualties on the Britons, mainly from the naval missiles, are mounting

However, some nifty charioteering and javelin-throwing has caused quite serious casualties in part of the Roman centre

The Roman Legionaries'' advance pushes back the lightly-equipped Britons

And thinking that the beach defence is no longer possible, the British commander brings his men back a little, out of range of the ships.

A wider view, with the Romans pushing onwards

The British chariots pounce on a weakened Roman legionary unit and destroy it!

A wider view: the last British reinforcements are coming into the battle (centre, top-right)

Roman forces converging on the hill on the Britons' left (top-right)

Seizing the initiative, the Britons charge, causing some losses

Meanwhile legionary and tribal warrior clash in the centre - both sides hold their own

The legionaries push forward, starting to inflict heavy casualties in close combat - the British troops are crammed a bit tightly and are struggling to withdraw...

The legionaries on the right are suffering heavily, but the remainder of the Romans are scything through the lightly-armed opposition (centre)

British chariots attempt to take the Roman legionaries in the flank in the centre

But the Roman Right has finally got the upper hand!

The Roman legionaries in the centre have suffered heavily, but they have defeated their enemies, held on, and reinforcements are just about to arrive... so...

The Romans are catching the British warriors in the flank

Whilst the Romans are also making good progress in the centre

The Roman Left is cleared of enemies

And British casualties on their Left are mounting catastrophically...

The British commander realizes that the Romans are now too strong and he must withdraw to save the remnants of his force!
Game Notes: Neil Thomas' rules usually give a good game, and this was no exception.   They are easy to get back into and easy to modify and add scenario rules to, and such like.  For those who know his rulesets, are
Plus points are the very intuitive nature of the mechanisms and the light troops are very easy to use - the opposite of DBA where it is harder to get the hang of it.  This combines with the absence of command limitation rules to make them pretty effective, because they can always be used every turn.  It creates quite a convincing "push-back" effect as the light troops try to stay within range where they can use their javelins but not be caught by the otherwise fearsome heavy infantry.  It also gives a reason for a budding Caesar to pack some Numidian cavalry or Balearic slingers, because they then become specifically useful in disrupting the enemy's light troops, far more than in any other set I am aware of.
  The negative points...I have never been particularly convinced the combat is as well calibrated as DBA or Polemos, but that is no biggie; from a gameplay point of view, more serious is that you are going to be rolling a lot of dice - this can get a bit wearing, especially towards the ends of games where units can spend a lot of time doing little or no damage. But I know lots of gamers like their buckets'o'dice and this game doesn't disappoint in this regard...


  1. Great AAR and an awful lot of action going on, which was great to see. I thought the Britons were going to hold on, but 'twas not to be. I know what you mean about rolling loads of die, especially if you tought old troops attacking down hill in the flank with a first turn bonus etc. I still prefer them to DBA as they feel more intuitive to me.

    1. Thanks very much Steve. To be fair, I don't particularly mind the die rolling when Caesar's finest attack some raw levy spearmen in the flank uphill - you might have to roll 20 dice, but you are only going to have to do it once, probably. What is pure padded sumo is Caesar's legions going frontally against Pompey's legions: each side is only rolling 4 dice per turn, with the expectation of causing '1' strength point loss. Out of 16.
      You are absolutely right about them being more intuitive than DBx, although that is pretty much true of anything: Neil Thomas' rules are the most intuitive of any rules ever, and are designed to be played in a reasonable amount of time. I mean "Charge!" is pretty intuitive too, but you are going to be spending six hours playing it. I would go further: *if* a player isn't too bothered about ground scales, figure scales and time scales etc, doesn't mind putting in the odd house rule and wants to recreate the tactical battle and *not* the problems of command in a given era, a player can't go too far wrong with any of Neil Thomas' games. The figure and terrain counts are all very achievable for any player too, even from scratch.

    2. I agree with you on the 'If' front. IIRC he does mention that you can alter things if you see fit, as the rules are not set in stone, which is nice to see and becoming more common in rulesets. I tend to add in an Average Die or DBA style PIPs to add some command and control issues for my solo games. It works for me but maybe not for others.

    3. Yes, although of course one can modify any rules to taste (I am just old enough to remember a grumpy Phil Barker criticizing the practice in the 1980s!( ). Neil Thomas' rules are quite amenable to changing stuff, especially in troop capabilities and so on, although there is a degree of caution required, because elements in his rules interact in quite thoughtful ways (I think the move distances, formation/direction changes and weapon ranges changes are all quite linked) and changing them can unravel things a bit.
      But I would very much recommend any players who want a simple, straightforward wargame to have a go with his rules.