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

Gallic War Battle 1

I had another go at starting my Gallic War campaign, this time using DBA.

Starting in 58BCE, the first battle ended up being a combat between a pro-Roman tribe (the Mandubii) and some of Ariovistus' Germans.
What I decided to do basically was normalize the forces to DBA's standard of 12 bases per army: thus if the forces were equal, then the armies will be 12/base; 2:1 odds will imply armies of 16 bases and 8 bases; and 3:2 odds will imply armies of 15 bases and 10 bases. And so on.  The first 12 bases will be picked as a normal DBA army; any additional bases will be picked first from optional choices, and then from a second army.

Mandubii Gallic Army:
5 bases of Cavalry 
1 base of Psiloi
6 bases of Warband (4Wb)

German Army:
9 bases of Warband (4Wb)
2 bases of Cavalry
1 base of Psiloi

The way that the campaign rules work puts a premium on occupying territory.  Therefore the defender will be very reluctant to retreat, rather the attacker has the option to call off an attack, since the attacker will care more about losses.  Defeating a defender will soon have the remnants finished off, since most of the tribes do not have strategic depth.

The Set-up:
The Mandubii have positioned their main body on a hill protecting one of their settlements (right), whilst their skirmishers occupy the hill to the Left to force a commitment of the Germans away from the main axis.  The Gallic horseman are in the rear in reserve (top).

A closer look at the German left / Gallic right: German warriors and skirmishers in the foreground, Gallic skirmishers in the woods, Gallic cavalry beyond the watercourse.

The main Mandubiii force of foot warriors occupy the high ground
The Battle:

The Germans begin by assaulting the Gallic skirmishers on the hill

And despatch them in short order!

The Germans transfer their horsemen across the watercourse (bottom-right)

Germans storm across the stream to threaten the Gallic chieftain and his retinue!

The German warriors cross higher up the stream to threaten the remainder of the Gallic cavalry

The German tribal warriors move forward - but is it the prelude to a real assault, or merely a feint?

The Mandubii chieftain isn't overawed by the odds, directly charging his lightly-armed foes!

As do the rest of his horsemen...

"Sometimes, as a leader, it is more important to provide a good example than to do everything perfectly yourself", the Mandubii chieftain says to his bard: "I will expect a stirring song along those lines later on..."; The Gallic chieftain and his retinue have retired slightly in the face of the Germanic javelin volleys (left), but the remainder of his horsemen have made short work of the German warriors (right)

Oops!  The Gallic cavalry have caught the German javelinmen in the flank..

It was never going to end well for them, was it?

The Mandubii's chieftain gets involved...

Having watched the other attack badly miscarry, the Germans carry out a direct assault on the hill, hoping for a bit of luck to change the fortunes of the day...

And even make a bit of progress on the left; elsewhere, they are driven back down the hill*

The Mandubii chieftain is ignominiously pushed back for the second time today!

The position on the German left

The position on the right - one of the German warrior groups was destroyed by the Mandubii cavalry on the extreme right, and the Germans collapse!

The position at the end of the battle.
Game Notes:
All pretty straightforward stuff.  I have never agreed with people who reckon that DBx doesn't provide good game narratives and this one was no different (that isn't the same as people who reckon reading DBx rulebooks gives them a headache).  For some reason I wasn't quite satisfied with it as a campaign battle though.  I think was to do with the translation of the campaign game mechanics to the battlefield.  DBA doesn't use "elite", "veteran", "raw" and so on, limiting everything by battlefield focus: if troops are really poor and rely entirely on numbers (regardless of equipment) they will be classed as "horde".  However that doesn't really suit either of these forces.  In the campaign game, the Germans are supposed to be distinctly more effective than the Gallic tribes, and the Romans better than either, with the X Legion better yet.  In the boardgame's combat mechanics, this is basically expressed in one of two ways: 'hitting' first and having more or less strength points.  The strength points are easily incorporated into the starting force sizes, but 'hitting' first doesn't translate so well to a tabletop miniatures game.  So in this game, I did nothing, but then the Germans didn't feel better than the Mandubii in any way, having quite similar lists: depending upon your feelings about the relative merits of Cavalry and Warband in DBA, you might even consider them less good.  The problem is that DBA is quite a coarse-grained system, so adding "+1 for Germans, +2 for Romans" will mean that the Romans just crush the Gauls in every game, which is overkill.  One could just stipulate "+1 for the better force", so Romans would have the advantage over everyone, Germans over the Gauls.  The problem with this approach is that both the Romans and Germans can ally with the Gauls, so what to do then...
As ever, I used Baccus 6mm figures, this time with Timecast buildings.

*I was still using my original interpretation of the rules at this point, which is that troops set-up in blocks more than a single base wide were not columns for the purposes of rear-supporting elements following up.


  1. Good post game thoughts as always.

    1. Many thanks Steve. When I think about it, it is a bit depressing how long this campaign is taking to get to the table, when all the bits are 'there' on paper...