Monday, 6 February 2017

Res judicata, causa finita.

(From Neidersachen-tourism, with than ks.)

On Saturday, February 4, the Hamilton Road Games Group did another play test of the Battle of Teutoburgerwald scenario, something we plan to host in a few months at the premiere wargames convention in Southwestern Ontario. Some "tweaking" was done in set-up, play, and setting.

The game worked very well. One could even say "excellent" or "optimam" or even "ausgezeichnet" you prefer. Both sides had to sweat it right to the end.

The table was set up in just about the same manner as the week before - a dirt road flanked from one end of the board to the other with dense forest. The Roman force was stretched out along the road and the German tribes attacked from the forest. The Germans received a "free move" to start the battle. Points were awarded for surviving legion units or German warbands, for units destroyed, for units making it off the board, and for the baggage train getting off the board.

What differed this time was the fact that the Romans were in march column at the beginning of the game. In the prior game they had been deployed in battle order. When the Germans attacked, the Romans received a disadvantage for being flanked. Here the Romans fought back from march column and received only one d6 to defend themselves. (Usually Roman legionaries use 6-7 dice to fight in the first turn of melee.) The Germans still received the "Wild Fighter" bonus on only the first turn of combat for that unit. The Roman command was still confused (rightfully so!), so when Varus assigned his subordinate generals to their commands, there were two command values - an "8" if the unit has originally been assigned to that general and a "7" if the unit had had to be reassigned to that general's command. Varus was assigned an "8" at the beginning of the game. The German commander, Arminius ("Hermann") was given a "9" by the scenario. Another difference was the deployment of the German warbands. If the table were divided into thirds, a German player was assigned a separate third for deployment: in the prior game, two players were deployed in the same third on either side of the road. The Roman vanguard was unapposed and was able to scoot off the board OR turn around and attack the attackers.

Steven, Matt, and I officered the Romans. Andy, Eric, and Ralph ran the Germans with Rich taking over for Ralph part way through the game. Ralph and Andy are preparing to be game-masters for this offering at the con, so Ralph stepped back to take that roll. Andy and I took the photos. I used my phone, but Andy used his real camera on a tripod. He took a long-ways photo at the beginning of every turn.

Looking down the line of march. I think this was before I arrived.
Somehow, the rumour mill had put me down as sick for the day.

A closer view.

The "veteran" cohort using Praetorian Guard figures.
My friend, Dr. Mike Pavkovic of the Naval War College, has taught me to have little
respect for the Praetorians, who were described as both parade ground soldiers and the
city of Rome's fire brigade.

The vanguard of the legionary force -
my command, Andy's figures

The Germans get revved up for the battle.
Can't you almost hear the Zulu chant from Gladiator?

The baggage of inestimable value
The centre one with the scorpion bolt thrower was Ralph's.
The two hay wagons are from my wife's collection. (Used with permission)
The German warbands (with the exception of the cavalry who balked) slammed into the side of the columns and damaged them all. Some were reduced to small units, and most had to give ground. In giving ground, they could turn to face their attackers. The German warbands took some damage as well, one even evaporating on the second turn.

Turn one... taken from orbit.

Turn two. Steven looks SOOOO bored.
Trouble for the Legion! One of Andy's warbands hits one of my cohorts.

More of the same.

Ralph's charge against Steven's marching troops.
The playing cards were used to randomly deploy the Romans.
Since their commanders didn't appear until Turn #2, the confusion was multiplied.

Matt and Eric's end of the thing.
Eric's cavalry balked but Matt's cavalry alae took a beating from the infantry.

Ralph needed one more warband to complete the army.
These Germans were my contribution to the lead on the table.
The amazing standard for the Germans is "not safe for work" as it were.
You really can't see it here.
The baggage train was not attacked directly and it sped down the road. At the end of the road, the way was blocked by an intact warband and the wagons attempted to do an end-run... but they were caught, sorted, looted, destroyed, and names were taken. The warbands attacking the cohorts kept pushing and finally pushed some of the Romans into the woods, destroying them. Other Romans pushed the warbands into the woods with the same effect. Varus' bodyguard of auxiliary archers was one of the first to end up in the woods, although Varus had attached himself to a cohort on the road.

Turn #3  Rich is now sitting in for Ralph while the carnage continues.

Turn #4  Some of my Romans are teetering on the edge of the woods. Andy was pushing hard.

One cohort. ready for battle, is about to flank a warband.

The sideways stand of figures indicates the unit is disordered and cannot receive a new order.
They can fight, but at a slight disadvantage.
The single die in it's little throne shows the number of casualties taken by the unit.

Ralph makes a point.
In all honesty, the German archers - who were actually javelinmen, were more
annoying than effective.

The wagons begin their race to the table's edge.
That's Varus on his horse behind them, by the way.

A warband mouse-trapped! If I recall, they were destroyed.

Eric and Steven check the rules for something, I don't know what.

The wagons leave the road to pass the warband.

Another charge.
This unit of legionaries was tough as nails and kept fighting right to the end.
Turn #5  the wagons set a scorching pace.

Turn #6  The wagons skid off the road only to face the warband.

Turn #8   No more wagons!

End of game   Here's roughly how we left it.
At the end of the game, the Romans were scattered all over the board while the tribes had suffered quite a bit as well. When we totaled up the points. The Germans won by about 4-5 points. Had the wagons pulled free and left the board, it would've gone the other way. In any event, no Romans fought free of the ambush and left the table - the ultimate goal.

I found the game to be tremendously enjoyable and it was a nail-biter at times. There were a few small details I'd have done differently, but too few to mention. The road column beginning and the confused Roman command required the Romans to really scuffle to keep things intact for the early turns. Once they could turn to meet the warbands face-to-face, their quality and staying power showed. Historically, the barbarians were seen as tough to stop initially, but they had no staying power. There were a lot of supporting units in this game, more on the Roman side, but that made sense considering the Romans were drilled and more used to supporting other units.

I think we intend to play-test this scenario at least one more time before the con, so expect more dispatches from the Rhine.

"You can smell 'em as they charge."
These Romans are in trouble - disordered, close to their "shaken" point of 6 casualties, and no let-up from the barbarians. 

Two of my cohorts and one of Steven's , with Varus in tow, manfully ignore the German skirmishers.


  1. Very nice report John and I'm glad you enjoyed yourself. I did too. I think we'll run this again just prior to Hotlead just to get the wrinkles and the cobwebs out.
    One minor point, The Praetorian Guard were perhaps "parade ground" soldiers but they were not the firefighters of Rome. That responsibility belongs to the "Vigiles Urbani", who were a combination firemen and civil police. The Vigiles supplanted the older ineffective system of slaves staying up all night to watch for fires. After a small violent civil spat between Tiberius and Sejanus, the Prefect of the Praetorians (this was nicely illustrated in "I Claudius") Tiberius made the Prefect of the Vigiles the new Prefect of the Praetorian Guard also. This might account for the confusion.

    1. Thanks for the information.
      Since the Praetorians were the only armed force allowed in Rome itself, they were "Kingmakers" because they were there, not because they were any good. Constantine finally ended them.

  2. If you go down to the woods today, you're in for a big surprise...

    ...great stuff squire. Good to see you at the table.

    1. Thanks, sir! No "Teddy Bear's Picnic" on the table that day. The Germans would've eaten them!