Monday 27 February 2023

Sanguis Arvum, Britannia, AD46 – with Soldiers of Rome

A big, one-off, pitched battle using 'Soldiers of Rome' as my legion faced the ever-troublesome Britons. There were a lot of Celts, thousands of them…a hairy, half-naked, horde.  

After some thought and one selected army list and a defensive battle plan that was ditch in favour a simple one. I would play to the Roman strength in heavy infantry, to grind it out, go on the ‘all-out attack’, with 10 (all we have) Legionary Cohorts, deployed 3 on both flanks and 4 in the centre, supported by small units of auxiliary archers and blocks of spearmen, either flank would have a cavalry squadron to guard it and try to quick engage skirmishers, who have a tendency to run away faster than the cohorts can advance. That was it, led by my Legate, Minimus Decimus Meridius, their feted commander. So, go forwards, as fast as heavy infantry can, march and charge, and get into them as quickly as possible. I was expecting a lot skirmishers, slings and archers etc, and so, being engaged in melee would be the best defence. So the order was simple, drive forwards and kill anything ahead, no prisoners…

The Britons plan was to harry both flanks, with many slingers backed by warriors and, on their left, fanatics. Their centre was their strike force, allied mounted nobles with chariots, lot of them in support and more warriors with dismounted nobles too. It filled the table edge in a mob of Celts, and was led by their fearless queen, chariot-mounted, red-hair flowing, a chosen champion of the Gods. She had to die – bring me her red-haired head!

The first turns saw both sides advancing towards the centre of the tabletop, on the Celt’s right, their horde of stone-throwing slingers unleashed volleys and the first Disorder began to build, but Roman armour can resist stones. In response, the auxiliary cavalry did their job and, at the gallop, spurred in (no spurs actually, I know) and charged some slinger-youths, routing them. Worth it, but the accurate returning stones and arrows from the village overwhelmed the cavalry and they couldn’t be rallied and saved and also broke. But, they had bought some respite from the hail as the legion cohorts crawled forwards. The Celts in the centre seemed less keen to get to grips, as the Roman line of steel approached. Their leading cavalry paused. On the Roman right, the advance also saw the other auxiliary cavalry have to deal with some scary dogs… javelins at close range eventually did for that annoyance, but again, the slingers took their toll on the cavalry and they had to rally. Over here, the marshy ground was impeding both sides advances.

The big clash in the centre was approaching, whilst on the left the Celts, having rushed forwards, now fell back into the village, behind more arrows and sling stones. Then, with an ‘impetuous cavalry charge’, played by the Romans, the Celt’s chieftain cavalry charged… into the veteran praetorians, too eager. Now, the big fight in the centre was on. In melee now, the Celts decided to go for it and rushed their chariots up in support as the other allied cavalry charged in too. Suddenly, javelins and pilum flew and both side’s gathered Disorder down the line. Furious spending of action cards followed, as the Celts rallied to fight again. The Romans, cohorts like immovable objectives, started the grind – rotate those front ranks, step-on, stab, step-on, stab. Could the best the Celts had hold the cohorts? Tbf, they had a damn good try and forced an important Rally on the centre, but the discipline was good, and the cohorts held the initial impact. That was ominous, because in a long melee grind, the cohorts really excel.

Break for lunch, tea and bacon butty, and the Celts were, it was agreed, looking in some trouble. The Romans were on the attack and had seen off the worst of his skirmishers without too may losses. The cohorts were either in a melee, or close to it. The Celt's Disorder was building fast. The afternoon’s play would see the true carnage though.

It did, as all along the line the Romans were fully engaged in melee, left, centre and right were spending cards to rally, charge, melee, loose (often into the melees by the Celt slingers and my own archers behind). It was no holds barred for a few turns. Crisis’ came and went. The Celts brave chieftain cavalry finally broke, leaving the chariots to fight on, but in the Roman centre two of four cohorts also broke in the mayhem, a big dent in Roman morale. It was close and the Celts, from looking in trouble at lunch, had clawed it back. Heavy use of Fear cards had helped them, a strong suit for the barbarians.

But Roman steel is tough… and the veteran cohort on the left was holding against his mercenary warriors, more warriors in support and a flank charge by slingers. Almost surrounded, they held on. The chariots were now losing in the centre and soon, they broke too, but not before his leader had seen a chance at glory and charged my Legate, leaving them in one-to-one combat. Neither side wanted to lose that fight, it would be costly, and so cards were expended to stay in it. She hit me, I hit her, and then both rallied it off. Why won’t she die? On the right, my cohorts were mired in the marsh, fighting naked men, and not doing too well. But, the handy auxiliary spearmen, having already dispatched more dogs, got into the flank of the Celts and turned the fight my way, when the fanatics died, in a bloody massacre, the writing was on the wall. The Celts were very close to breaking. Except, so were the Romans because, using her 'fearsome reputation', the Celt’s queen scared off my Legate! What? … he ran-off!  So much for the ‘feted leader’, his loss was costly in MV, leaving the Celts with 2 MV left, and the Romans with just 4. It would be a tense last turn then.

That turn was, by good fortune on the cards and dice, for the Romans – Mars was with us. The cohorts did their gladius-work, and broke more of his warriors. It had been very close, but it ended with the Celts fleeing and Romans with just 2 MV left, a narrow win. But bought at a cost, we had lost our feted commander… and three cohorts had been broken (along with some less important auxiliaries). What a fight… I was exhausted… the Celts had fought tooth and nail and pushed my Legion to the brink of defeat, but in the end – Roma Victor! (just). We can add this little part of Britannia to the empire.

Shots of the action… 

The bloody field, the Celts have their village and crop fields, Romans coming to get them.

The mob in the village, slingers, archers, warriors and armed civilians.

Celt's centre, a fast moving strike force of mounted chieftains and chariot support.

Celt's right, more slingers and fanatics, with more chariots, they love a chariot...
Roman right and centre, cohorts backed by small units of archers, for supporting fire, even into melee.

Far left, cohort with cavalry support, to chase off the skirmishers, who run away faster than the cohort advances.

Far right, same as the left.

Roman advance begins and the cavalry, having already seen off some slingers, take the brunt of the incoming shooting.

The hairy horde on the Celt's left wade into the marsh - they ain't got no clothes to get wet anyway. 

Slingers, caught by the Roman advance and massacred... a good start, lots to go though.

Steel wall in the Roman centre, rumbles forwards, a steady advance, no gaps...

Approaching the village as the Celts fall back (run-off).

The centre all kicks-off, after a rash cavalry charge. One in, all in...

Auxiliary cavalry javelin dogs to death, they are very annoying, scaring the horses.

The Roman right about to engage, just one more charge card required.

Charge! The spearmen deal with more dogs, before getting into the exposed flank.

Your small wattle fence won't save you...

Big melees in the centre, both with 'Charge!' cards behind them, so the fighting is fast and furious. Four cohorts engaged and spearmen in support. 

Struggling in the marsh, this cohort would eventual be broken by the fanatics crazy attacks.

My Legate makes the rash decision to get stuck in...

And finds himself in one-to-one combat with the Celt's queen (on her chariot of course).

The centre's work is almost done – enemy cavalry, dead. Enemy chariots, dead. Now on to these guys, more tribal chieftains, and their noisy horns. 

The Celtic queen's 'Fear' card sees my legate run... but it's not quiet enough to win the day. Behind, Praetorians still at it, archers lending support, but the Celt's centre is largely gone.

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