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.

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.

Friday 16 October 2020

Gallic War Campaign Battle 4: The Revolt of the Treveri

Battle Four: The Revolt of the Treveri (57 BC)

The next battle in the campaign was quite a surprise.  After a string of defeats, Ariovistus resorted to diplomacy to gain an advantage: in this case, persuading the Treveri who had initially fought with him, then defected to the Romans when their homeland was occupied, to defect back!  They agreed to do so, immediately attacking the IX Legion which had been supporting them in the previous battle.

The Romans have been caught by surprise by this sudden change of allegiance but have just had enough warning to form a line of battle to meet the oncoming onslaught...

The Forces:
IX Legion
Commander: Geta (Inspiring, Steady)
2 bases Veteran Legionaries, 4 bases Trained Legionaries, 1 base Trained Cavalry, 1 base Trained Skirmishers

Gauls (Treveri):
Commander: Casso (Average, Cautious)
Tribe 1:
1 base Veteran/Elite Cavalry, 1 base Veteran Tribal Foot, 3 bases Raw Tribal Foot, 1 base Raw Skirmishers
Tribe 2: Sano (Average, Cautious)
1 base Trained/Elite Cavalry, 2 bases Raw Tribal Foot, 1 base Raw Skirmishers

The Set-Up:

The IX Legion has formed in the low ground, as the Treveri warriors appear on the hills

Casso decides to lead his elite horsemen in person

Sano meanwhile leads the host of Treveri foot warriors

Another view

Whilst the Treveri youth have been sent to harass the Roman right flank

Geta has deployed his main body in the centre, with his veteran cohorts and horsemen in support; his skirmishers guard one flank

A closer look

The Battle:

Given the situation, the Gauls have nothing to gain by waiting, so Casso launches his warriors into the attack!

The Gauls close in upon the Romans

Geta manoeuvres to protect his left...

Whilst seizing the initiative and launching his own charge in the centre!  The leading Gallic warriors fall to the volley of Roman pila...

The leading Treveri foot warriors have all been killed or have fled or have been pushed back up the hill

The Gallic Horsemen rout and hunt down the Roman slingers (right); the Roman Legionaries look on impassively (left)

The Gallic warriors do not give up easily, despite their heavy losses, going back into the fray against the Roman Legionaries in the centre

The veteran Roman legionaries on the left flank waver as they receive the brunt of the Gallic horsemen's charge (left)

The youth of the Treveri harass the Roman artillery and reserves whilst the main fight rages in the centre

The veteran legionaries grimly hang on (left), whilst the victorious Gallic Horsemen try to rally from their charge (centre)

The Romans in the centre are under severe pressure from the renewed attack of the Gauls; both Geta and Casso are in the thick of the fighting (right)

The overall position - the Roman left is under severe pressure, the centre is witnessing some intensive hand-to-hand fighting but on balance the Romans still have the upper hand, whilst on the right, the Roman artillery is proving more than a match for the Treveri's javelinmen

The Roman legionaries under cavalry attack are slowly losing both ground and heart (left); the Roman cavalry cannot be persuaded to charge the disordered Gallic cavalry...who are in turn resisting their commanders' efforts to restore some order

The Roman artillery is proving remarkably accurate!

The advantage in the centre has tilted irrevocably to the Romans: more Treveri warriors are in flight, fleeing over the hill (top-centre)

Some of the Treveri youth cannot bear to face more Roman missiles and run for the hills too

The last Treveri foot warriors join the flight

The Roman cavalry win the race too launch their charge before the Gallic horsemen can reform, and they are soon driven off too

Casso breaks and slaughters the flanking Roman cohort, but too late to change the fortunes of the battle...

Game Result:

The Treveri tribes have largely been destroyed as a military force, with only some of their horsemen and skirmishers left intact: but their direct casualties amount to nearly 40% of their force, with the same again fled and wandering.  The Roman casualties have been severe too, approaching 25%.  Surprisingly, despite being in the thick of the fighting, all of the leaders survived the battle and escaped being taken prisoner.

Game Notes:

A smaller but very exciting battle. The key moment in the game happened quite early on: a combination of winning the Tempo at the right moment and then getting a decent break allowed Geta to charge the advancing Treveri host, rather than the other way around.  As Gallic foot warriors are most effective in the first flush of fighting in the Polemos: SPQR rules, this removed the sting from the Gallic advance.  The Gallic cavalry was effective but suffered from not rallying at all after their initial victory, so were unable to exploit and were eventually vulnerable to the Roman counter-attack.  The Roman artillery was surprisingly effective, the Gallic skirmishers typically ineffective.  

The way that the Army morale rules work makes some sizes of armies distinctly more tough than others. A c.10-base army is distinctly tougher than a c.20-base one, relative to its size because the assumption of armies in approximately 20-bases chunks is baked into the morale loss levels.  With this in mind, it may have been better if I had used a different multiplier to generate the scenario forces.  So far, I have been equating 1 campaign Strength Point as equivalent to 1000 troops (more or less); so a maximum 4SP Roman Legion would have about 4000 men (doesn't seem too out of kilter with campaign strength forces), plus it makes the maths easier than assuming a 1250-man SP.  But it could be taken up to 1500 men (making a full-strength legion 6000 men), or I could do that for smaller battles, making a base roughly 333 men, so this battle would have been 13 bases against 15.

The overall scenario was a delight to me, since the narrative was entirely generated by the campaign rules' mechanisms, but could have led to a genuine 'Eagle of the Ninth' scenario!  Unfortunately for my sense of romanticism, the Romans had a bit of luck and pulled this one out of the bag - but IX Legion is weaker now, and looking distinctly exposed by itself in Belgium...

Figures mainly by Baccus 6mm, with a couple of Rapier Miniatures there too.  Rules were Polemos: SPQR.

Sunday 4 October 2020

Gallic War Campaign Battle 3: The Battle of Five Hills

The Battle of Five Hills: 58BC ended with the Romans having had rather the better of the previous years' campaigning.  However, Ariovistus was in a position to attack the edge of the Roman-controlled area and thus launched an attack on his erstwhile allies, the Treveri, who had defected to the Roman over the winter in order to save their tribal lands and families.  These new-found Roman allies were supported by the IX Legion.  

Ariovistus had dived his forces to attack from two directions - a strategy which would be likely to deliver a crushing success if it worked out well, but risked his forces being defeated in detail.  His own army would pin the Gallo-Romans before the flank attack came in on their left, hopefully sweeping all before them...

 The Forces:


Commander: Geta (Inspiring, Steady)
IX Legion: 6 bases Trained Legionaries, 1 base Trained Cavalry, 1 base Trained Skirmishers, 1 base Artillery 
1st Treveri Contingent: Samo (Average, Steady) 4 bases Raw Tribal Foot, 1 base Trained/Elite Cavalry, 1 base Raw Skirmishers
2nd Treveri Contingent: Lukotorix (Poor, Rash) 2 bases Raw Tribal Foot, 1 base Trained/Elite Cavalry, 1 base Raw Skirmishers
Commander: Ariovistus (Inspiring, Steady)
Ariovistus' Warband: 4 bases Trained Tribal Foot, 1 base Trained Cavalry, 1 base Trained Skirmishers
German Infantry: Filibert (Average, Cautious) 4 bases Trained Tribal Foot, 1 base Trained Cavalry, 1 base Trained Skirmishers
German Infantry: Adalgard (Average, Cautious), 4 bases Trained Tribal Foot, 2 bases Trained Cavalry
German Cavalry:
Widald (Average, Rash), 4 bases Trained Cavalry 
The reinforcements would arrive on the Gallo-Roman Left flank on the first German phase after the first in which the Germans roll a '6'.
The Set-up:

Ariovistus' men (bottom) face the Romans (top-left) and Treveri (top-centre and right)

The Roman IX Legion ready for battle, its light infantry on its flank (left) and its horsemen in reserve (top)

A closer look at the legionaries

The Treveri's warriors on foot and mounted in the centre

The skirmishers face off on the far wing.

Another shot of the battlefield (Except the Gallic skirmishers, off to the left) from behind the Gallo-Roman lines.

And another shot.


The Battle: (I am missing a few photographs right at the start of the battle).  In essence, the Romans and Gallic Cavalry took the offensive, hoping to destroy Ariovistus' smaller forces before his reinforcements arrived and turned the tide of the battle.  The Gallic Infantry also attacked but in echelon, in order to provide some more flank protection against the arrival of Adalgard and Widald).

Filibert leads the German horsemen against the legionaries

Ariovistus leads the German infantry forward, knowing that tactical offence plays to the strength of his warriors, even if grand-tactically he is defending.

The lines meet - the Gallic warriors led by Samo charge into Ariovistus' host, the Germans being distinctly shaken by the ferocity of the Gauls' charge

The legionaries hold firm against the German cavalry

The Romans relieve the first cohort which has been under a lot of pressure (centre-right), whilst Filibert is killed in combat with the central cohort.

The front ranks of the German tribal warriors have suffered severely under the swords of the Gallic horsemen as they broke and routed...

The German infantry fall back under severe pressure from Samo's horsemen...

Obviously disheartened by the loss of their chieftain, Filibert's horsemen ride for the rear...

Fearing the tides of battle are turning against him, Ariovistus seizes the initiative and launches a direct assault into the IX Legion...

Inspired by the example of his ferocity and skill, the German warriors cut the left-hand Roman cohort of IX Legion into pieces...

Samo's cavalry have the clear upper-hand against the remainder of the German infantry however...

The echeloned Gallic foot was adancing when, despite the odds, the remaining German foot warriors launched a charge, despite the 3-to-1 odds against them!  This was not only arrogance however - taking advantage of the slopes, they knew that they must gain time for Adalgard's troops to arrive, otherwise defeat was almost certain...

The Gauls overcome the shock of their initial losses and gain the upper hand against the now vastly outnumbered Germans...

Both sides made slow work of defeating their respective enemies: the rear cohort was pushed back but not defeated by Ariovistus' men, whilst the remaining German horsemen defied all the odds against the Legionaries...(left)

Samo's cavalry see off the last of the German foot warriors opposing them...

The last German warriors on the centre-right valiantly hold on too...

The Gallic skirmishers start to get the better of their German adversaries on the far flank

The few remaining German warriors on the centre-right give way and start running!

The last remaining German cavalry do likewise (bottom-left); Ariovistus has triumphed, but now finds himself almost surrounded!

A closer look

The legionaries give way, and disorder the Roman horsemen behind them too

However, Geta has turned the remainder of IX Legion around and is attacking Ariovistus' warband in the rear - this can only go one way...

The German warriors with Ariovistus in the thick of them cause heavy casualties to the Roman horsemen, but the warriors behind them, attacked in the rear by the legionaries, have fled - the remainder form a circle and prepare to sell their lives dearly...

The position at the end of the battle - the German last stand is on the hill (bottom-left)

Game Notes: A very interesting battle.  Ariovistus was on the strategic offensive (to destroy the Gallo-Roman in its advanced position), the grand tactical defensive (because Geta calculated his best chance was to destroy Ariovistus before his flank attack arrived) and the local offensive (because soldiers in SPQR generally, and tribal armies particularly, function a lot better when attacking).  Of course, ultimately the battle was decided by the German flanking attack simply not arriving, but even in the course of the battle, there were a couple of moments when it might have gone the other way.  Ariovistus' attack worked, but it took much longer than it should have done due to skilful Roman resistance; Samo's attack was not lucky to have broken the leading German foot warriors but was very lucky to break the second line so quickly - that could have, and maybe should have, gone the other way.


The Polemos SPQR rules generally worked fine.  I think this battle worked better than the two previous ones since I had reduced somewhat the amount of cavalry available to both sides.  The only query I had was about the concept of 'groups' which are one of the basic elements of the game.  The rule is:

"Groups of bases are formed when bases touch, side to side or front of the rear base to the rear of the front base.  Any base in such contact with another is counted as being in a group with it, unless the base is shaken or halted as a result of a combat outcome.  Groups may be formed of several ranks.  Within a rank, the troop types must be the same'.

This implies that:

a shaken base can never be part of a group.

a group might, or might not, retain its integrity as a result of combat outcomes.

I don't think it is always clear when troops recoil or break which troops should follow up and pursue and which shouldn't.  As written it seems that flanking support units follow up recoiled units but rear support units don't; but all units which took part in a charge (whether they made contact or supported) will pursue if the target base routs.  If so, I would disagree with the first part, since the factors in close combat imply that the rear support units are pushing forward with the forward troops.


Figures by Baccus 6mm.