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, 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.


  1. Lovely looking game with the 6mm figures looking impressive en masse. It looks like the Germans were hampered by the lack of the flank attack, but I love games like this when plans do work out as one would hope.

    1. Poor Ariovistus! He deserved better...

      Many thanks Steve, appreciated.