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.

Saturday 27 March 2021

Gallic War Campaign Battle 9: Battle of the Garumna

Situation: In 54BC, Caesar finally turned his attention away from the Rhine frontier and the areas of the Helvetii, instead moving to pacify Southwest Gaul, which had become progressively more rebellious.  The previously quiescent Santones tribe had joined the Ariovistus and Caesar moved to quell this new rebellion, taking the IX and X Legions on the expedition.

The Santones originally blocked Caesar on the line of the Garumna river.  Lacking a viable bridge or ford, Caesar was forced to cross downriver, then move back along the opposite bank, committed to attacking the Santones in a strong position on a narrow front.

The Forces:

The Romans:

Commander: Julius Caesar (Inspiring, Steady)
Geta (Inspiring, Steady), 1 base Veteran Cavalry, 1 base Trained Cavalry, 8 bases of Veteran Legionaries, 2 bases of Trained Legionaries, 2 bases of Raw Legionaries, 1 base of Veteran Skirmishers, 1 base of Trained Skirmishers, 2 bases of Artillery
The Gauls:
Commander: Aviacos (Average, Steady)
Vindiorix (Average, Rash), 2 bases of Trained/Elite Cavalry, 2 bases of Trained Tribal Foot, 6 bases of Raw Tribal Foot, 2 bases of Raw Skirmishers

The Set-Up:

The Santones occupy the line of hills and a settlement (top); the X Legion (right) and IX Legion (left) approach

Vindiorix positions himself with the cavalry (left), with half of the tribal foot warriors within the wood on the hill; Aviacos commands the foot warriors around the settlement (right)

IX Legion (right) and X Legion formed up ready to advance.  Two cohorts of IX Legion form a reserve, as does the Roman cavalry, whilst the bolt-throwers are attacked to X Legion.

X Legion in a deep formation, ready to attack towards the Gallic settlement...

...whose warriors will attempt to defend it to the last

A closer shot of the foot warriors in the woods

The Battle:

As expected, the battle begins with a Roman advance, except on the far side of the stream (top), where Gallic javelinmen advance to skirmish with Caesar's slingers.

The remainder of the Gallic javelinmen attempted to delay and disrupt the X Legion, but in the confusion of battle, the Legionaires advance quickly enough to catch them...

...and rout them in short order, unsurprisingly.

Decision time for the Santones: do they wait on the defensive, or counter-attack? Vindiorix decides that there is no point in waiting to accept battle on Caesar's terms and seizes the initiative, ordering his foot warriors to advance from their hiding place in the woods (top-left) and ordering his cavalry, with him at their head (bottom-left), to charge the leading cohorts of the IX Legion (right)

The charge is completely successful!  The leading two cohorts are routed or killed in a few moments...

However, the slingers attached to IX Legion (right) coolly stand their ground and their missile fire breaks some of the disordered Gallic cavalry (centre), whilst the remaining Gallic cavalry are about to suffer the same fate at the hands of the remain Legionaries (top)

The Santones turn the tables again!  The charge of the foot warriors breaks the two remaining cohorts in the front line, who have to be reinforced by the Roman foot reserve.

However, these reserves again turn the tide and the Gallic right is now in full and headlong rout.

In the background, Caesar's X Legion has cleared the approaches to the settlement and is about to storm it, when the remaining Santones lose confidence and decide to withdraw hastily.

Another view of the position at the end of the battle.

 Game Results: A surprisingly close this one, since both the Santones and the IX Legion suffered heavily, although Caesar triumphed in the end. The Romans lost just over 1,600 legionaries (and a few slingers), whereas the Santones lost around 1,800 dead and wounded, and about 2,300 dispersed.

Game Notes: As ever, both the mechanics and calibration of Polemos: SPQR really encourage Gallic armies, with their mixture of cavalry and tribal foot, to attack - it is simply a better option than trying to defend in nearly all circumstances.  The downside - being caught disordered in pursuit after an initial victory - is just a risk that has to be taken, since otherwise they will simply forfeit their advantages to the Romans.  Vindiorix was probably justified in his actions therefore, although they led to defeat.

The set-up for this one was quite interesting.  Using the terrain generator in the rules (as I do for all these campaign battles), I managed to generate an unworkable battlefield (!).  This happens because it is possible to generate a river between the two armies with no crossing points.  Instead of rolling again (I hate doing stuff like that), I instead generated more battlefield at the 'top' of the original and changed the direction of the attack: the stream, track, the hill on the settlement and the hill above the stream were all created in this way (I assumed that the overall terrain would be more thick than in the original placement).

Obviously it has been a little while since I got one of these games to the table: time hasn't much changed my opinion of the rules!  They give a decent game with believable results, but sometimes feel a bit harder work than Neil Thomas or DBA.  Anyway, whatever, it was just nice to be able to get a game in and get the campaign moving on a bit.

Figures by Baccus 6mm, buildings by them and Timecast.


  1. A lovely looking and close game, but the terrain generation bit about the river is a tad mad! You're solution seemed sensible or maybe add some fords or make it fordable along it's length due to high summer or something similar?

    1. Many thanks Steve. And yes, that would have worked fine too. To be fair, I have used the terrain generators a lot and this is the first time that this quirk came about.

  2. A really attractive looking game - and a costly victory for the Romans!

    1. Thanks. And you are quite correct, although the Romans won, strategically it was almost a defeat since Caesar cannot afford those losses in taking over a relatively weak Gallic tribe.

  3. The slightly odd terrain quirk led though to a plausible and interesting narrative set up for the game.

    Incidentally, have the Romans lost any of these battles. As a Gallophile :-) I don't recall one.

  4. Thanks, John.

    Yes, the Romans lost this one: , and their allies have lost a couple more. But there hasn't been a battle where a large Roman force has been swept away by the Germans and Gauls, no. That would be pretty unlikely given the campaign set-up (the Romans are both better and more numerous in their legions than any German or Gaulish contingent). To beat the Romans like that, Ariovistus would have to concentrate his forces, which might still not work, but more importantly, would be a huge opportunity cost since he couldn't be doing the small attritional things which will win him the campaign...