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, 28 December 2020

Gallic War Campaign Battle 6: Battle of Lonehill Stream

Campaign Battle 6:

The struggle for the key areas of North East Gaul continued into 56BC.  Having started off the campaign season by following Julius Caesar's orders to take over the lands of the Sequani, the (now) Roman-supporting Helvetii joined forces with the Mandubi to invade the Leuci territory and clear the Gaulish bank of the Rhine of German influence.  Ariovistus could not let that happen so despite the heavy losses his warriors had suffered the previous year, he felt compelled to support the unfortunate Leuci with two contingents of his warriors, including his cavalry.

The Forces:
The Roman-Supporting Gauls:

Leader: Lostri (Average, Cautious)
Helvetii (2): 1 base Trained/Elite Cavalry, 4 bases Raw Tribal Foot, 1 base Raw Skirmishers
Helvetii (3): Sacrupo (Average, Cautious), 1 base Trained/Elite Cavalry, 4 bases Raw Tribal Foot, 1 base Raw Skirmishers
Mandubii (1): Biuito (Average, Rash), 1 base Trained/Elite Cavalry, 4 bases Raw Tribal Foot, 1 base Raw Skirmishers
Mandubii (2): Labrios (Average, Steady), 1 base Trained/Elite Cavalry, 4 bases Raw Tribal Foot, 1 base Raw Skirmishers
 The Germans:

Leader: Adalgard (Average, Cautious)
Germans (1): Adalgard (Average, Cautious) 1 base Veteran Cavalry, 1 base Veteran Tribal Foot, 3 bases Trained Tribal Foot, 1 base Trained Skirmishers
German Cavalry: Widald (Average, Rash) 4 bases Trained Cavalry 
Leuci: Branderix (Average, Cautious) 1 base Trained/Elite Cavalry, 2 bases Raw Tribal Foot, 1 base Raw Skirmishers

The Set-Up:

The centre of the battlefield: the Helvetii (top) and the Mandubi (top-left) face the Germans and the Leuci (bottom), with one flank protected by the hill (top-left) and the other by a stream and pond (right)

The Mandubi contingent take up position on the Romano-Gaul Right, occupying the hill at the confluence of stream and river.

Isolated horsemen and skirmishers of the Helvetii watch the stream and its crossing.

View across the battlefield: The main German thrust must come through the plain in the centre, so the Romano-Gauls are deployed to meet it (left).

The German forces.  The Leuci are deployed on the German Right (top left), the German cavalry is in the centre and Adalgard's own contingent is leading a sort-of echeloned attack (centre-right), with some skirmishers on the other side of the stream discouraging and thoughts of flank attacks.

The Battle:

Adalgard decides there is no time to waste and speed will work better than subtlety, ordering his German and Leuci troops to attack.  Lostri decides to advance to meet Adalgard, since the direction of attack is now fixed.

Another shot.

Adalgard leads the German cavalry charge...and is rather bemused to find that only his own Comitatus has followed him in!!  Perhaps the rest of the cavalry is only used to following the leadership of Widald.

A wider shot, showing the remaining German Cavalry having refused to charge (bottom-centre)!

Perhaps less concerned than he should properly be, Adalgard concentrates on his own sword-strokes, pushing back the Gallic cavalry (centre)

Adalgard's foot warriors and their Mandubi opponents (top-left) have both refused to charge too!

The Helvetii foot warriors display no such shyness, getting stuck in to their Leuci opponents (right)

The Leuci have a slight advantage in skill, but the Helvetii have a rather larger advantage in numbers...

Which initially pays off, forcing the Leuci back with loss

Eventually the German foot warriors and cavalry are both persuaded to charge home, the shock of impact causing some loss and confusion in the Gallic ranks

The Leuci foot warriors are beginning to suffer heavy losses in their fight with the Helvetii, but on the right (centre) they are beginning to push back their foes, despite the odds.

The German foot warriors' charge impetus carries them up the slopes of the hill; meanwhile the Mandubi's cavalry is being worsted by their German opponents (right)

The pressure on the Leuci becomes too much - half of the Leuci foot warriors start running for home!!!

The fight on the main part of the hill is almost over, with the Mandubii warriors in flight and the Germans on the summit, faced only by some skirmishing Gallic youths.

However, the fight here was quite even, with Lostri leading the remaining Mandubi warriors to victory over the other half of the German foot warriors.

The victorious Helvetii reform; they are unable to go back into the continuing melee (top-centre) because of the danger from the German cavalry reserves (off-photo, bottom).

Those same German cavalry charge home!

The battle is becoming very scattered - Lostri tries to rally the Mandubi foot warriors from their pursuit of the German infantry.

The fighting against the Helvetii in the centre-right continues without result as yet.

Just off the hill, Germans rally before the Mandubi, who get routed.

Finally the Helvetii foot start to give way in rout, exhausted by the epic struggle...

And are in headlong flight to the rear (top).

Some of the scattered victorious Helvetii foot rally deep in the German rear.

Whilst Lostri is still trying to rally his victorious Mandubi warriors!

Position at the end of the battle, as the Mandubi and Helvetii finally lose heart - isolated Gallic warriors have pursued deep into the German rear (bottom) but the Germans and Leuci have taken the hill, the centre and outflanked the stream position and have claimed the victory.

Game Result: A close battle, but fortune and skill swung ever-so-slightly in favour of the Germans in this battle. The Mandubi and Helvetii lost around 3000 foot warriors and 1500 horsemen between them, whilst the Leuci lost about 2000 foot warriors; of these, probably somewhere between half and two-thirds fled and deserted rather than died.  Incidentally, there was very high attrition amongst both sides leaders: only two of the German leaders and one of the Romano-Gallic leaders was still standing at the end of the fighting.

Game Notes: Quite an interesting struggle, with perhaps some shades of Sherrifmuir in the mixture of victory and defeat.  Lostri may be one of the few commanders who has led a victorious charge into the centre of his enemies' positions only to find himself on the losing side!  I don't think I had any particular rules struggles (although still not going to swear that I get everything right!)...occasionally the group movement throws up some interesting moments where one base is in charge range but the others aren't, for example; or when one base is contacted and recoiled, what can the other bases do, exactly (this happened when a single German cavalry base charged initially and pushed back one base of the opposing Gallic horsemen).

If anyone is wondering about the relatively unsubtlety of the tactics on both sides, it is just that experience has taught me that trying to do clever outflanking movements over streams and so on leads to disaster if the enemy has any chance of catching you disordered whilst crossing.  To that extent, Polemos SPQR captures exactly why period commanders prefer simple tactics on open terrain.

Figures by Baccus 6mm.


  1. As I was reading, I thought the SPQR rules were allowing a very natural unfolding of the battle, with the hill assault proving an added interesting element.

    But do the rules have what we might think of as a 'army break point' to allow for a 'decisive' result or is it possible for a side to have won in one part of the field and lost in another, with victory being a bit more subjectively assessed?

    1. Yes, the SPQR rules do have a breakpoint. Actually, there are two definite 'schools of thought' within the Polemos family of rules about how this happens. In SPQR, ECW and at least the first edition of the WSS rules, each army has an army morale level, which gets reduced by losses. After these losses, a die or two is rolled (the exact mechanism differs slightly) and the 'mood' of the army may change, normally worsening slightly but sometimes improving (i.e. if a poor die result led to a large fall in morale, subsequent tests on additional losses may lead to morale actually rising slightly). As morale worsens, the army becomes less capable of doing things, fewer troops will charge home, etc. Like many things in the Polemos series, the fundamental principle is a little like DBx, but with added complications in. In the Napoleonics, ACW and American Wars sets, army morale is based on formation morale - i.e. formations test as they take losses, and when enough formations break, the army will break too. Both are generally pretty good mechanisms, although both can have their quirks, too.

    2. I like the 'mood of the army', a superb sentiment for rules.

    3. It is a pretty good idea. I have a couple of qualms about its execution, and also how it is explained, but it works pretty well in the end, generally. I may get around to writing up a blog post about the systems at some point.

  2. Great game with lots going on, which is good. Your tactics felt right as any fancy flanking manouevres would seem at odds with the period and its command and control. Glad that you're feeling at home with the rules too.

    1. Thanks Steve, much appreciated. Polemos SPQR basically emphasizes six things in combat:
      Troop type
      Personal Leadership
      Order (or not being disordered, anyway)
      Width and Depth (tactically equal in value, but depth is easier to manouevre)

      If you *can* pull off a flank or rear attack, that is great, but it is very hard to do and terrain makes it even harder. Effective flank attacks, like in the War of the Three Kingdoms, seem to be a result of victory rather than a mechanism to achieve it (i.e. it happens if one of the flanks has been caved in).

  3. Really interesting game and a good example for anyone considering the rules. After the initial contacts it seems to have broken quite rapidly into smaller, separate combats, which seems appropriate.
    Regards, James

    1. Many thanks James. That breakdown definitely does happen, and seems plausible, which is good. I think one of the issues I have with the rules is that this breakdown can end up being quite complicated because the interactions become exponentially more complex between the bases once the big initial groupings break down. This seems to be by design, since the Tempo mechanic kind of implies that when things get confused, the commanders should not have sufficient TP to micromanage the whole battle. This may be an important part of the battle and it is a bit of a signature part of the rules - OTOH, having better handholds through the process within the rules might have been very useful.