Romans in Britain (Ancient Britons v. Marian Romans

19 February, 2010

Last night I got to try my Celts out. They were an Ancient British army facing Marian Romans, so the obvious setting was one of Caesar’s visits to their island. My army consisted of 4xLCh (1=cmd), 2x2LH and 6x3Wb. As one of the chariots had a queen on board, she was clearly the leader. To find a name I dipped into one of the most reliable, and certainly most entertaining reports of Caesar’s invasion, one recorded by Geoffrey of Monmouth, but reliant, we are assured, on a very ancient book written in Welsh, a book sadly not known to us now. Anyway, taking some licence with Geoffrey’s report (in keeping, surely with Geoffrey’s approach!), I decided that Cassivellaunus’ daughter, Tangustel (the name, actually, of one of king Ebraucus’ 30 daughters; he also had 20 sons to his 20 wives!), led a small scouting force against the Romans and was met by Caesar’s most capable lieutenant, Labienus (who according to Geoffrey was killed by Cassivellaunus’ brother Nennius with Julius Caesar’s sword, but that must have happened later! By the way, we are reliably informed that this sword was called Yellow Death). Anyway, Labienus commanded 8x4Bd (1=cmd), 2x3Cv, 1x3Ax and 1x2Ps. He was scouting too, and was the aggressor in this encounter.

The spot that the two sides met had a small wood, a road and two gentle hills. Tangustel drew up her warbands on one of these hills and positioned herself next to it. On her left flank she had two of her chariots and on her right flank her light horse and another chariot. Labienus drew up between the other hill and the edge. He kept his cavalry in reserve and had his auxilia on the hill (it emerged soon that he’d not heard it was a gentle hill! Some poor scouting there!). Tangustel swapped her light horse with her chariots on seeing this.

Initial Deployment: Tangustel on the left, Labienus on the right.

Both sides started with plenty of energy (5 and 6 PIPs respectively). Labienus advances his cohorts to anchor his flank on the woods. Tangustel advances her light horse at the lone auxilia and tries to get her chariots across to the open flank; it would have been much better not to have done that swap, as the light horse could have got to the left flank in one turn).

Turn 1: Everyone in motion.

Unaware of the true nature of the hill, the auxilia turns to face the light horse. The German cavalry also begin to move to face the light horse, while the legionaries reach the woods. Tangustel’s light horse flank and kill the auxilia (Joel was very good about the confusion over the status of this hill). This uses all the PIPs that the Britons have.

Turn 2: Auxilia outnumbered, flanked and downhill to light horse don't stand a chance.

Undaunted Labienus continues to advance his cohorts, peeling off two to support the cavalry against the British light horse. The British chariots now start to move in front of the legionaries (making rude gestures at them as they do so). One stays behind to guard the right flank.

Turn 3: PIPs galore for the Britons, who use them to align the light horse against the Roman blades.

Labienus now attacks the light horse, supported by cavalry (out of the photo). This results in one recoil and one flee result.

Turn 4 (Labienus): The British light horse scarper.

Tangustel, deciding that her chariots won’t get past the legionaries before they ZOC them decides to advance off the hill and hope to catch the Romans while their line is disordered by the light horse.

Turn 4 (Tangustel): The British warband advance.

Labienus starts to straighten up his line, moving his cavalry around to keep the light horse at a distance. He also moves his psiloi to behind his general. Tangustel uses her 3 PIPs to do a double warband move and a single move by her chariots. She hopes that the overlap on the legion will result in a break in the line. After all, the match up faces off her coolest warband, naked fanatics with one carrying a severed head; surely the head will have a talismanic quality that will cause the enemy to quail before it! Sadly not, and her hopes are disappointed, with one of the worst outcomes she could hope for: in her combat against the Labienus gets a ‘stick’!

Turn 5: Eek, Tangustel's left in contact with her support on both flanks recoiled.

Labienus continues to straighten up his line as fast as he can. In the only combat the roll is 1-6 against him; Tangustel gets a lucky reprieve and the psiloi support is removed from the Roman line.

Turn 6 (Labienus): Tangustel has a lucky escape, recoiling Labienus.

Now Tangustel is full of hope that her warbands can sweep all before them. Her über-cool warband has an overlap against a blade with no psiloi support; if it wins there will be a ‘ripple of death’ carrying along to the other two warbands, and the Romans will be routed! Sadly, on this crucial encounter the Romans hold fast and the warbands, naked and severed head and all, are forced back. The ‘ripple of death’ doesn’t eventuate and Tangustel is left horribly exposed again! What’s more there’s another damn ‘stick’!

Turn 6 (Tangustel): Run damn you! That's a severed head you're looking at!.

Labienus gets only one PIP, but it’s enough. He attacks Tangustel again and this time she’s not so lucky and is routed. Likewise the warbands that had the stick come unstuck and with their leader gone the Britons stream from the field (presumably abandoning their grisly souvenirs!).

Turn 7 (Labienus): No luck for the warbands and it's all over.

  • Aftermath

Tangustel gets away, with her pride somewhat dented. The Britons’ losses are relatively light, as their superiority in mounted troops protects their retreat. Cassivellaunus is properly annoyed by all this and promises to sort these Romans out. He sends Nennius with a larger army to rectify this loss of honour. Nennius, of course, is keen to meet Caesar and wrest his fabled sword form him!

  • Review

Well, I may have been a little unlucky, but with my superiority in mounted I had no need to rely on luck. Significant mistakes were shifting the LH to the other wing, advancing the warband before the Romans had left the woods and putting my general in a high-risk position. I can take a little satisfaction that my impetuosity was at least in character for a warband army! Next time I may go for a Wb general who’ll be safely flanked by two other warbands. I’m also thinking about taking some psiloi instead of chariots: 6x3Wb (1=cmd), 2x2LH, 2xLCh and 2x2Ps. However, psiloi aren’t as obviously useful with warbands as they are with some other foot.

This is my fourth consecutive loss to Joel; I can’t blame his figures for disloyalty this time. I’ll have to try to be more patient next time and allow the Britons’ superior mobility break up the Roman line before launching the warbands.

8 Responses to “Romans in Britain (Ancient Britons v. Marian Romans”

  1. TWR Says:

    Another very interesting and detailed battle report! You are brave to be considering using a General on foot.

    • Mark Davies Says:

      Thanks. I don’t know; I figure he’ll get into less trouble there!

      • TWR Says:

        It is the compulsory pursuit that seems to get my Macedonian general in to all sorts of trouble. However, the chance of a break through should increase a bit with the commander in the Celtic line.

      • Mark Davies Says:

        Good point, so I may yet get into trouble! I was thinking that a foot general would be more likely to be in the middle of the board and provide better command range than a mounted one that would be tempted to go off on one flank. And in the middle of a block of foot it’d also be better at avoiding overlaps, but if it’s impetuous, that’s going to remain a problem!

  2. Stephen Says:

    Interestng variation on the 2.5 kids thing we have nowadays.
    What would have happened if the cavalry on Tangustel’s right had hovered out on the flank rather than joining the battle line?

    • Mark Davies Says:

      Yes, Geoffrey took a lot of inspiration from the Bible, creating a ‘British’ equivalent in many ways, so lots of kids was de rigueur (having said that he had classical models, and Helen and Priam were a busy pair)!

      Joel made the same point; I really didn’t need to join battle so fast; I might have got lucky, but if I’d waited my mounted superiority would have been able to tell.

      • Stephen Says:

        By not waiting, you were playing the Celts historically though (at least as described by the Romans)!

      • Mark Davies Says:

        Yes, and playing in character for the description of Wb in the rules, but that’s not always a recipe for success!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: