|This isn't something you see everyday.|
This past Saturday - yesterday- the Hamilton Road Games Group saw too games. A WWII armour game hosted by Wayne with Kevin and Bear playing. I didn't get to see much because I was involved with the other game - Imperial Romans vs. Germans using Warlord Games' Hail Caesar! rules. The bunch of us - Ralph, Andy, Mark, Matt, Brian, and I - were play testing a scenario for play at the next gaming convention in the area. It is based on the battle of Teutoburgerwald or the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD (9 CE, if you so prefer.) The Roman general, Publius Quinctilius Varus lost his life along with 3 legiones and their accompanying auxilia (6 infantry cohorts and 3 cavalry alae) as well as civilians and slaves. The Roman losses totaled between 15,000 and 20,000. The German leader, Arminus, had been a Roman auxiliary officer and held Roman citizenship. His forces numbered between 20,000 and 32,000 by best guess. The Romans were caught in march order... on a forest road... under the protection of a soon-to-be-seen-as-treacherous ally... headed for the site of a fake rebellion cooked up by Arminius... with Varus - noted for his cruelty and possible bone-headedness - in command. This is NOT a good combination.
Ralph set up the table according to Warlord's campaign guide on the German campaigns. The Roman units were set up randomly along a road running down the centre of the table. The three commands were mixed and the generals were not placed on the table until turn #2. The Germans were in three commands (9 infantry warbands, one archer warband, one cavalry warband, and two handfuls of skirmishers) were set up to either side of the road, again randomly. Matt, Brian, and I commanded the Germans with me as Arminius (a.k.a. "Hermann the German") Ralph was Varus, and Mark and Andy served as his subordinate generals. The Germans get a free move as they come screaming out of the forest which ended 8-12 inches on either side of the road. The Roman commands were mixed up, but the troops were in battle order. The mixing of the "brigades" made command issues problematic for the Romans. Their victory conditions required them to get as much of the army as possible off of the board via the road they were marching on. Each unit escaping gave so many points and each warband destroyed netted a number of points as well. The Germans were to take out Roman units with special attention to a single wagon. There were supposed to be civilians but no body had the figures. Speaking of figures, Andy supplied all the Romans while Ralph supplied the Germans, but more were needed, so my Gauls became Germans for a day as well as supplying Gaul cavalry for the Romans.
|The view from my seat. One of my warbands and one of Matt's attack the Roman column.|
|My archers. The Roman unit in front of them is "Distressed."|
According to the scenario, Roman units are reduced in size when they hit their "stamina"
level for the first time.
|the view from Brian's side. His skirmishers had tried to attack the wagon, but|
it ran away from them. My German cavalry - Andy's figures - prepare to make mischief.
|The wagon early on in the game - moving quickly up the road. The playing card was the|
marker for random deployment.
As the German warbands whooped in to the attack, those attacks were on the flank of the Roman units. This put them at a disadvantage although not too much since their +1 for Pilum negated the -1 for fighting to the flank. As the battle wore on (All three turns!), the legionaries turned to face the warbands and actually flanked some. The Germans were considered "wild fighters" which means they can re-roll up to three misses in the first round of combat... HOWEVER the scenario limited that to the first turn of the game only. The scenario also carried the proviso that Roman units driven into the forest were destroyed. This also held for German units... who had just entered the board from the forest. More on that later.
The game turned out to be a costly Roman victory. They destroyed my division, killing half and chasing the rest into the forest where they vaporized. Matt held his own and was on the verge of wiping out two legionary cohorts. Brian was just about to have his division run off when we called the game. He got flanked a few times by Roman units pushed off the road by my warbands. Mark and Ralph's Romans were able to get to the end of the road and plan on a summer in Italia. Andy's dice did not cooperate (SOP for Andy's dice, sad to say) and some of his units were left to their own devices.
|Andy's Scorpion stands against Matt's warband|
|Ralph's legionaries actually charged my German cavalry. Unable to counter charge,|
they were caught flat-footed and were driven back into the forest, where they melted away.
|A little earlier in the game.|
My cavalry was too wide to actually fit into the gap but they tried to charge the
wagon, which hit the "warp speed" button and jetted away.
|Matt's warbands chase the tail end of the Roman column.|
|Mark's Gallic cavalry unit turned to face the Germans, but eventually discovered|
that "discretion is the better part of valour" and headed off the table.
|My Gallic fanatics - the Gaesatae - serving as Germans under Matt's command.|
All naked and tattooed and everything.
|From Andy's viewpoint. The Roman column is caught in a not-to-tight vice.|
|Matt's view point|
|Brian seems to have a cohort mouse-trapped.|
The blue-cloaked Praetorians soon made a flank attack on the far right warband.
My thoughts on the game:
- The scenario is flawed. We all agreed that it was probably rushed into print.
- I felt (and I still feel) that the Roman troops should be in road column at the beginning of the game. It would be a huge confusion factor for them. The addition of a light infantry auxila unit (or two) could screen some of the column and hold up the screamin' Germans for a turn.
- The Germans might do better if they were allowed to use their "wild fighter" special rule at the beginning of any combat. Not, of course, in the second round of combat.
- The big rule book permits a unit to break into open order to enter bad terrain. Why couldn't the Germans fall back into the woods, regroup for a turn, come out of the woods (on turn #2 of this sequence) and reform into close order in turn #3? It'd take a while and it might not be practical, but it'd keep the Romans honest... and sweating. Of course, that rule would apply to the Romans as well. Having said that we might remember that the Germans own the woods and the Romans might not get time to regroup before they suffer from what ever is in the Teutoburgerwald. (Who knows? Ents maybe?)
- The reallocation of Roman commands to each player on the second turn makes the first turn most confusing and reflects the problems of being ambushed. With no command present or quite distant, there is a much larger chance of failing command. I don't know what I prefer in this case. What would best reflect the incredible confusion and command issues of being ambushed on a forest road by people you thought were your allies? (Arminius had been an auxilia officer and knew the Roman's organization, tactics, and temperament quite well.)
- The edge of the forest should be exactly defined with a chalk line or a piece of yarn or something visible.
- Should the gap the road is set in be wider or tighter? Scenario says the distance between forest edges should be 18"/45cm±. Ralph suggested 24"/60cm±. Infantry only moves 6"/15cm. Of course that makes the distance from forest edge to road only 9"-12"/22-30cm. With a free move by the Germans allowed by the scenario, they could still mess up the Romans seriously. I suppose play test will tell.
The game was a bit hard to figure out at times. Our general unfamiliarity with the rules didn't help. (Most of the Warlord rules use similar mechanics with period appropriate specifics. It's the specifics that mess us up.)
I'll play this again. My Gauls love to be taken out of the box!
|Arminius in all his Gallic finery. I realize he should be a German,|
but as a former Roman auxilia officer, maybe he wore Roman kit.
|Some of Andy's legionaries.|
|A screamin' Celtic warband. Lots of unmatching plaid.|
|The Praetorians or at least veteran legionaries|