Cassivellaunus v. Julius Caesar (Ancient Britons v. Marian Romans)

27 February, 2010

I caught up with Joel for another game of DBA yesterday, the second outing of the Britons against the Marian Romans. This time I was the attacker (the first time in our encounters; clearly Cassivellaunus was very annoyed, as the aggression ratings are 0-3 against him).

After last week’s skirmish Cassivellaunus decided to lead his forces in person and on foot; so he led 6x3Wb, 3xLCh, 2x2LH and 1x2Ps. Caesar’s order of battle differed from last week only in having an extra 2Ps instead of a 3Ax.

Caesar found a site with a large wood and a steep hill. Cassivellaunus got the edge he wanted and Caesar deployed next to the wood in line with the cavalry in reserve. Cassivellaunus set his warband behind the hill supported by some adolescent skirmishers. They made a splendid sight; Cassivellaunus and his command in the centre, his brother Nennius on the right holding a Roman’s head, freshly decapitated from earlier skirmishing, and his nephew Androgeus standing on another Roman’s head from the same skirmish. His chariots and cavalry were on the right wing.

Caesar reacted to this deployment by moving his cavalry out of reserve and onto his left flank.

Initial Deployments: Cassivellaunus on the left and Caesar on the right.

Cassivellaunus (6 PIPs) started by rushing his chariots forward, hoping to hem the Roman cavalry in next to the woods. Meanwhile, his warbands advanced onto the hill and he attempted to move his light horse across to the left flank. Caesar with 4 PIPs sent everybody forward.

Turn 1: Cassivellaunus ambitiously hopes to get his light horse to the left flank.

Cassivellaunus only has 2 PIPs and uses them to continue the advance of the chariots, while one of the light horse starts to move over to provide flank support. Caesar with 3 PIPs continues the general advance, forming his horse into line.

Turn 2: After only two turns contact is imminent.

With battle about to be joined, Cassivellaunus gets 1 PIP! He decides to retire his left chariot, which would be overlapped against blade with psiloi support. This means he is not able to get his light horse in place for overlap support on the other flank. Despite the promising match-ups, Caesar is not able to make Cassivellaunus pay; he advances his legions on the retired chariot, but only gets two recoils and has his own horse recoiled in the last encounter (the dice were 6-5, 6-5 and 3-6!).

Turn 3: The British mounted have a lucky escape.

Cassivellaunus recovers his nerve (6 PIPs) and retires his mounted, partly because his line’s in a mess, but also to draw the Romans forward and have room to make his mounted count on the open flank. By contrast, Caesar is struck by indecision (1 PIP), and can only send one of his horse out wider.

Turn 4: Cassivellaunus pulls his mounted back.

Buoyed on by Caesar’s indecision, Cassivellaunus (5 PIPs) attacks the horse out on the right flank while advancing his leftmost warband (Androgeus). This does no more than force the horse back into the woods.

Turn 5 (Cassivellaunus): The Britons begin to recover the initiative on their right flank

Caesar with 4 PIPs peels an element of blade off to attack the chariots. Hoping for a casualty, he gets only two recoils.

Turn 5 (Julius Caesar): Caesar supports his mounted with legionaries.

Cassivellaunus has only 3 PIPs; enough, however, to flank the horse and attack the blade that has no psiloi support. He manages to destroy the flanked cavalry and drive back the other two elements. After a shaky start he’s starting to get the advantage on this flank.

Turn 6 (Cassivellaunus): First blood to the Britons.

Caesar works hard to stabilize things, not easy with only 2 PIPs. He retires the cavalry to the wood, where they are actually fairly safe, as any mounted attacking them is also at -2! and he pulls another blade across to provide flank support to the one left in the open.

Turn 6 (Julius Caesar): More legionaries move over into the fight on their left flank.

Cassivellaunus (5 PIPs) retires one chariot and wheels the others, while advancing the rest of the warbands. Caesar, still short of PIPs (2), moves his two blade into line on the left flank.

Turn 7: Both sides manoeuvre.

Cassivellaunus continues to have good PIPs (5), and attacks the two blade with overlaps, but only manages to recoil them.

Turn 8 (Cassivellaunus): One light horse circles behind the line to the centre.

Caesar now gets 5 PIPs, and creates a battle line of disparate elements; it’s anchored by the cavalry in the woods and Caesar himself on the other end. Nennius, seeing ‘ yellow death’ (see the last post for details!), gets excited. Will it be enough to tempt him off the hill?

Turn 8 (Julius Caesar): The Romans face off the British mounted with anything they can get into the line.

As the two armies face off, Cassivellaunus finally gets low PIPs (2), and decides to retire his two light horse a little. Caesar also gets the same PIPs, and decides to attack the Britons, with psiloi support. Here he botches the order of his combats and has the supported blade go first. It’s recoiled, leaving the other unsupported, which is unlucky and destroyed, but his cavalry recoil their opposite number.

Turn 9: Bad command decisions by the Romans leave a hole in their line.

With 5 PIPs, Nennius is off that hill and after ‘yellow death’, while its wielder is unsupported. Despite two overlaps, Caesar doesn’t buckle. However, his psiloi are recoiled into the reserve, and he’s now 3 down.

Turn 10 (Cassivellaunus): Nennius and Caesar face off; round one to Caesar.

Caesar with 3 PIPs plugs the gap with one of the reserve elements of blade.

Turn 10 (Julius Caesar): One flank of Caesar's command is now supported.

Cassivellaunus has 4 PIPs. He advances Nennius’ rear element across to support him and attacks the cavalry with a flanking chariot. Searching around for what to do with his spare PIP he advances his adolescent skirmishers to the end of the hill. Oops, that PIP should have been used to retire the other chariot, allowing room for recoil, as he quickly finds out, and the score goes to 3-1.

Turn 11 (Cassivellaunus): A chariot is destroyed by recoil.

Caesar has 6 PIPs and piles into the flank. However, the British horse hang tough and only recoil. And the chariot sticks.

Turn 11 (Julius Caesar): Romans get little traction on the British mounted.

Cassivellaunus has only 2 PIPs and uses it to get Nennius’ support in place. The ‘stuck’ chariot forces the Romans to recoil.

Turn 12 (Cassivellaunus): Nennius gets ready for another go.

Caesar sends his slingers across to try and mess with the British skirmishers and charges into the British line. He now gets his second victory, as one light horse are fled and the chariot is routed (dice = 6-1). However, the other light horse get a stick and in his fight against Nennius no holds are barred (dice = 6-6), and the warband gives ground reluctantly.

Turn 12 (Julius Caesar): More success to the Romans and the dice from the last combat.

Cassivellaunus has few PIPs (2), and uses them to get the warbands on the hill to ZOC the Romans facing the light horse. These light horse are in no mood to run and actually drive the Romans back (dice = 6-2). That foolish psiloi move has further consequences, as if it’s recoiled, it’ll be destroyed!

Turn 13 (Cassivellaunus): The battle's in the balance, as Nennius is in the open against Caesar.

Caesar has made a great comeback, and if he can defeat Nennius will win the battle. However, if he loses, it’s all over for him. On the right flank his slingers are driven back by the skirmishers with uphill advantage and those light horse continue to be obdurate, driving the blade back again. Caesar faces Nennius with the odds in his favour (5-3), but Nennius’ battle-fury is in full rage, and he rolls another ‘6’; Caesar can’t match this, getting a ‘2’ and sees his bodyguard dissolve around him. In the melee, as Geoffrey of Monmouth reports, Nennius snatches ‘yellow death’ from Caesar.

Turn 13 (Julius Caesar): Nennius, against steep odds gets that sword! Victory for naked guys waving around severed heads!

  • Aftermath:

Caesar’s troops are in full flight and head back to Gaul to lick their wounds. This must be the Roman invasion that Geoffrey records, but Caesar overlooks (Geoffrey records three)! Geoffrey saw Caesar as a great chivalrous leader, not an opinion of the man that I share. If I get my Gallic cavalry finished this week, the next battle will be Gauls against Marians.

  • Review:

Joel quickly regretted putting his cavalry on the left flank. Despite that, he showed how tough blade are as an element, and it was by no means an easy victory. If they’d been a spear army, my chariots would have only fled from them (and my warbands would be itching to attack them). This was a battle where psiloi did not fight as support much. That was because of the way the battle unfolded, but it was definitely an advantage for the Britons. If I’d not lost that first chariot, Joel may not have been able to get back into the battle. I was also thinking that the psiloi might have been more use on the right flank. It could have got into the woods and made quite a lot of mischief.

The warbands on the hill were somewhat ineffectual. For a lot of the game they were not keeping an equal number of Romans occupied. They also required a lot of PIPs to move, which limited their effectiveness.

Fighting with warbands is not for the faint-hearted. It seems they actually like defying the odds, though I’m reluctant to prove this by deliberately throwing them into desperate situations. However, every time I’ve set up as good odds as I can they’ve not quite managed to do it. Also the double-ranking both shortens the line and makes for heavy casualties if you lose.


9 Responses to “Cassivellaunus v. Julius Caesar (Ancient Britons v. Marian Romans)”

  1. TWR Says:

    Another excellent report of what looks like an enjoyable game. Good luck with the Gallic cavalry, I certainly look forward to reading revised version of “The Gallic Wars” in due course.

    • Mark Davies Says:

      Thanks. I think Gauls will be harder to win with than Britons—too many warbands.

      • TWR Says:

        Real Celts don’t use horses, they fight on foot!

      • Mark Davies Says:

        I’d love to agree, but warband need some sort of combined arms help or they are really in trouble. Celts loved their horses and chariots. I don’t know why the Britons get so many, but it makes them a more powerful army than their trans-channel cousins.

      • Anarchangel Says:

        Vive la Ancient British Panzer Armee!

  2. Musashi Says:

    HI there, I like the board material you’re using. Can you tell me what it is? I’m just not happy using carpet and this looks softer, fuzzier and still it lies flat.

    • Mark Davies Says:

      Thanks, it’s curtain material, I think. It’s a sort of velvet cloth. One with thermal backing is even better, as it doesn’t wrinkle as easily.

  3. Musashi Says:

    Ok now the million dollar question…where I do I acquire some thermal backing curtain material? 😉

    • Mark Davies Says:

      Wish I could help you there; I got this at a local fabric store, but since I’ve seen some thermal-backed stuff that a friend got that’s even better, but I’ve not seen any locally!

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