Dave has painted a Roman legion including auxiliary infantry and cavalry units. These were pitted against my Celts in an epic battle fought over Dave’s be-spoke Hexon terrain. With a full day at our disposal we were able to fight two games to a conclusion.
The terrain chosen for the days gaming had plenty of open terrain with a river and more difficult broken and hilly ground making up one quarter section of the table.
Chris and I took command of the Celts and Tony and Dave the Imperial Romans. The Celts won the dice roll for choice of table edge and Chris and I chose the more open terrain. We figured that this would provide more movement options for our large number of mounted units if and when the Roman lines advanced towards us.
The first tactical moves saw the Celts quickly advance towards the Romans, which in response formed a line with one flank against the river and the other the table edge. It was clear to Chris and I that the Romans had established an extremely strong defensive line with the Legionaries in the centre and the auxiliary units including cavalry and archers on the flanks and our mission was to break it! To make this task even more challenging Roman ballistai were positioned on a hill slope from where they could lob projectiles against any Celtic advance.
After much deliberation Chris and I decided that with our 3 to 2 numerical advantage we should attack the Roman line with our hordes of Celtic warriors and effectively begin a battle of attrition. This hopefully would ‘thin’ the Roman lines and could potentially create gaps which we could exploit later in the game.
The 6 stand Celtic hordes crashed against the legionaries, which in response used their pilum to good effect disrupting many Celtic units and the bow shooting from the auxiliary archers also proved very effective. This first mass charge was soon broken-up with heavy Celtic losses and little if any effect on the Roman line. Warrior hordes did manage to sustain their attack on a woodland area forcing back the Roman auxiliary units, but these were soon repulsed in the next Roman combat phase.
Roman cavalry units pursued fleeing hordes of Celts which did provide an opportunity for Gaulic light and heavy cavalry to inflict some losses on Roman auxiliary units. The next Celtic attack was focussed on the auxiliary units on the Roman left. Chris launched his warriors against the line of units holding the upper slope. It was now that we needed the assistance of the combat dice and unfortunately we didn’t get much! As the Celtic warriors were forced back in retreat this second time the casualty count was more than significant. So much so that Dave and Tony started a general Roman advance both in the centre and right wing – an advance to victory?
Chris and I had deliberately held back our Gallic commanders and their bodyguards and these along with Gallic cavalry units did manage to exact some revenge upon the now advancing Romans. However, the Celtic losses, especially from the warrior hordes was so severe that the Romans now enjoyed a 3 to 2 advantage in units and the fate of the Celtic army was already sealed!
This game had proven Tony’s army stats for both the Romans and the Celts and played pretty much as would be expected historically. The Roman line, especially the legionaries withstood the massed warrior attacks and inflicted heavy losses before advancing to take the field. I feel that Chris and I made the mistake of holding in reserve our commanders and stronger units rather than using them to directly support the attacks of our massed warrior hordes.
We set up for the second game by switching the sides of the table so that this time the Roman force deployed on the more open table edge. This left the more numerous Celtic force deployed in a very deep massed formation from the river to the table edge. Chris and I considered deploying a sizeable force in the more broken terrain across the river, but eventually settled for the Celtic version of the ‘Schlieffen Plan’ with a fast powerful right-hook sprinting from our condensed deployment zone.
Tony and Dave advanced the Roman line and then again halted and formed a line. The Roman ballistai and auxiliary archers were concentrated on the extreme right of the line with the 4 units of auxiliary cavalry on the left. This suited our Celtic battle plan and we quickly advance our cavalry units followed closely by massed warrior hordes against the Roman left.
With the Roman missile units concentrated on the opposite flank Chris and I pushed the Roman cavalry back and eventually managed to eliminate 2 of the 4 cavalry units that were in effect tasked with covering the withdrawl of the Roman auxiliary infantry. Again, Celtic losses were relatively heavy but this time our advance continued, the Romans fell back on the left and our commanders were this time close to and supporting the Celtic attacks.
Eventually the re-positioned and extended Roman line was set and we took a couple of game turns to position the Celtic forces ready for an all or nothing assault. The massed charge went in and included most of the Celtic commanders and their bodyguard units. In the ensuing combat phase the Roman legionary units again performed very well sending their opponents recoiling and fleeing inflicting heavy casualties. However, the Roman auxiliary units struggled against the Gallic cavalry and warrior hordes which forced back the Roman units and captured the wood at the extreme left of the Roman line.
During three subsequent combat phases the Roman line started to buckle and break as units of both sides began to recoil or flee. The Celtic casualties were very heavy especially amongst the warriors, but Roman legionary units were also eliminated as they became isolated and surrounded. The battle of attrition had reduced the size of both armies as time, or lack of it, brought the game to a close. In my humble opinion the Celts in this second game had fought the Romans to a draw or even arguably a marginal victory!
In this second game the Celtic army performed significantly better than it had in the first, drawing on the experience gained and perhaps more significantly, making better use of its superior speed of movement. Celtic casualties were again very severe and much greater than their Roman opponents. However, the Roman units were more expensive in points and plenty of high value Roman units and generals were lost in exchange for Celtic warrior hordes that are as ‘cheap as chips!’
In summary I think Tony’s army stats worked very well indeed – the strength of the Roman battle line was clearly demonstrated, but so to were the strength of the Celtic units in terms of speed and ability to fight the Romans more effectively in broken terrain.