Last Tuesday I finally got to stage the continuation to Cassivellaunus’s victory over Caesar last month. Picking up where it was left off, Caesar snuck back to Gaul somewhat battered from his time in Britain; the losses of men were not so heavy, as his veterans maintained an orderly retreat in defeat; however, he’d loss prestige, and his legendary sword, ‘yellow death’!

This sword, in the hands of its winner, Nennius, followed Caesar back to Gaul. Nennius, sent by Cassivellaunus to punish Caesar for his invasion, met up with someone keen to raise the banner of resistance against the Romans, the Aeduan patriot, Dumnorix.

Readers of Caesar’s account of events in Gaul may detect that things have begun to spiral off into an alternate history, my favourite kind! In Caesar’s portrayal, Dumnorix comes across as a highly suspect individual, someone who’d tried to gain supreme power in his state (in no way, of course, resembling Caesar!). After failing to deprive Caesar’s army of supplies during the Helvetian war, he is not heard of again until just before the start of the second invasion of Britain, when he is accused of again seeking the kingship of the Aedui. After trying to escape from Caesar’s camp he is pursued by his peers, the mounted nobility of Gaul serving Caesar, and is cut down. His dying protest is that he is a free man, a citizen of a free state.

It’s possible, even likely, that Caesar’s account of this figure is not free from bias. What if he wasn’t simply consumed by ambition for self-promotion as Caesar implies, but actually something of a patriot? Well, for the purposes of this history he is a patriot, and he successfully made that escape from Caesar’s camp. Caesar set sail trying to make light of the affair and while he was in Britain, Dumnorix was hard at work preparing the revolt.

Caesar, on returning to Gaul, learnt that Dumnorix had liberated the Aedui from the control of his boot-licking Roman-loving brother, Divitiacus, who, lap-dog that he was, was serving in Caesar’s army. The Aedui, delighted to throw off the shackles of Roman oppression, had welcomed Dumnorix and purely of their own free will offered him the kingship to lead them against the Romans. Caesar, deciding that quick action was required to stop this revolt spreading, hurried south in a series of forced marches. Dumnorix had already made common cause with the Senones and brought an army up to Agedincum, modern Sens, on the Seine to meet Caesar. He was met here by Nennius and his small band of followers. Nennius’ display of ‘yellow death’, along with descriptions of Caesar’s defeat, gave great heart to the Gallic army.

In contrast to most of the major encounters of the earlier part of the war, both sides seemed eager to come to blows. There was little in the way of pre-battle manoeuvres. It is possible that Caesar lacked reliable scouting as a result of the dubious loyalty of much of his cavalry. Caesar encountered Dumnorix’s army a little north of Agedincum in an area of steep hills and woods. Dumnorix had drawn up the mass of his foot behind a wood, with a smaller warband on a hill to guard the left flank and the camp. He was with the cavalry on the right wing along with some adolescent skirmishers.

Caesar drew up his legions in a line with psiloi support facing the Gallic left flank. His left flank was drawn up in depth as a reserve and his cavalry were also in reserve to the rear.

Initial Deployment: Dumnorix on left and Caesar on the right.

On the first turn Caesar advanced his main body and his cavalry reserve. Dumnorix used 3 PIPs of his 4 PIPs to advance his skirmishers all the way to the opposing hill. With his final PIP, he advanced his cavalry.

Turn 1: Dumnorix's skirmishers use the special first turn multiple turn of psiloi to reach the cover of the BGo hill.

Caesar starts to divide his battle line, planning, perhaps to deal with the three Gallic forces separately. The force on the hill defending the camp starts to feel a little exposed. Dumnorix has only 1 PIP and uses it to advance his cavalry.

Turn 2: Dumnorix's cavalry heads for the gap between the woods and the hill.

The next turn both have one PIP, and Caesar wheels the middle of his line face the Gallic cavalry, and Dumnorix advances his middle warband.

Turn 3: Dumnorix's warband heads for the wood.

Caesar now lengthens his left flank and continues to advance on the right flank, while Dumnorix, with only 2 PIPs, starts to enter the wood.

Turn 4: The camera angle shortens the battlefield, and the trees add to this; also the 6 second exposure has some blurring—I noticed that the camera was still wobbling even with a timer delay after I clicked it. The picture when I nudged the table slightly was even better!

It’s Caesar’s turn to have one PIP, and all he can do is continue to extend the left flank. Dumnorix with 4 PIPs continues his advance into the woods (the furthest warband was out of command range).

Turn 5: The Gallic warband all make it into the woods.

Caesar has 5 PIPs and uses them to advance on the right flank, and wheel to face the Gauls in the woods. Dumnorix, with 3 PIPs advances into the gap, stopping just short of the Roman line. He supported on the right flank by his skirmishers.

Turn 6: The Gallic cavalry advance close to the Roman line, one displaying a head captured in an earlier skirmish.

Caesar has 6 PIPs and opts to attack the cavalry. His plans to isolate Dumnorix come to little when his legionaries are forced back in bad going by the skirmishers (who, perhaps generously, Joel had attributed with the uphill advantage). Both elements are forced to retire. With only one PIP Dumnorix decides to align his warband.

Turn 7: First contact; the Gallic cavalry are recoiled.

Another 1 PIP, this time to Caesar, means he can only attack the skirmishers on the hill again. By contrast Dumnorix has 6 PIPs, and piles into the gap again, this time supported by Nennius and his warband of Britons, who attempt to remove the overlap advantage on the left of the cavalry. Seeing little likelihood of action, the rear cavalry starts to move back around behind the wood. The combat goes in Dumnorix’s favour, as recoils leave one unit of legionaries overlapped on both sides. The odds are 3-1 to the cavalry, and when Caesar rolls a 1, he sealed its doom, even though Dumnorix only managed a 1 too (this was the first round of combat for which my daughter Anna asked to do my dice-rolling).

Turn 8: Success for the mounted headhunters, the final combat dice displayed prominently.

Caesar now has 4 PIPs, and decides to commit his cavalry to support the psiloi against Nennius, who had pursued in the previous combat. Despite the unfavourable odds, Nennius is only recoiled.

Turn 9 (Caesar): Nennius gives ground grudgingly before impudent skirmishers.

Dumnorix also has 4 PIPs and returning to the fray succeeds again in isolating another element of legionaries who go down to Dumnorix himself this time. Caesar’s fabled luck is not with him in this battle, as he rolls two more 1’s, one against the skirmishers, who set up one of the overlaps, and the other against Dumnorix.

Turn 9 (Dumnorix): More success to the Gallic cavalry, as Caesar's luck deserts him.

Caesar, seeing his left flank crumble, decides he has to risk entering the woods. However, the combat on the left of the woods, where he has an overlap, gets a stick. The other combat goes sour with yet another 1, his fourth! Psiloi-supported blade in BGo against a double-ranked warband are at 4-4 odds. When you throw a 1, you have to hope the warband does too; no luck and the Romans are now close to breaking.

Turn 10 (Caesar): Fortuna continues to scorn Caesar, as more bad luck stalks the Romans. More success for headhunters, this time the clothed variety!

Dumnorix has 3 PIPs, and sends the headhunters, fresh from despatching legionaries, to attack cavalry that are close to the woods. These are only recoiled (they really don’t like being attacked by foot in BGo), and Nennius puts the wind up the psiloi, who scarper (after rolling, … wait for it, another 1!). This sets the other mounted headhunters up with double overlaps against the Roman cavalry. These are clearly disturbed at the sight of the severed heads of their compatriots (was that Dumnorix’s turn-coat brother Divitiacus spied in their ranks?) and bringing up the sixth combat 1 for Caesar they are destroyed. Such should be the fate of all collaborators! However, in the last combat Fortuna at last relents, and Caesar rolls a 6 to Dumnorix’s 1, seeing a double-ranked warband routed.

Turn 10 (Dumnorix): Success for Caesar comes too late, as a hole in his left flank forces him to quit the field.

  • Aftermath:

Well clearly this uprising had more success than any of the genuine ones. However, lasting independence would be harder to achieve. Beating Romans tended only to get them annoyed and they’d stop at nothing to wipe away the perceived stain on their honour, as Hannibal and the Carthaginians discovered. And defeating the Romans would only justify Caesar’s decision to annex them; after all they’re a threat! All very depressing! On the positive side, it justifies plenty more encounters between Gauls and Romans (though I think Joel’s starting to get keen to try out some armies).

  • What’s next:

I’m off NatCon in Wellington next Thursday for two days of DBA; it’s a series of demonstration games in which I’ll be Marcus Brutus, one of the Liberators facing the 2nd Triumvirate after the Ides of March. It promises to be a lot of fun.

  • Review:

This is the first time the defender has won in the 6 encounters to date between Joel and me. It’s definitely a victory for the coolness factor, as headhunters took out three of the Roman elements (and the other element fell to the command element, which though lacking severed heads, is rather cool, complete as it is with a carnyx-blowing musician!). And who knows, perhaps Caesar’s legionaries were in a sulk at not having had their bases finished! Those 1’s weren’t the doing of Lady Luck, but mutinous veterans! Another theory to explain a battle that turned on dice-rolls was the influence of my daughter, who rolled all my dice from Turn 8. This theory is popular with Anna, but doesn’t really explain all Joel’s low rolls, unless his dice suffered from an excess of chivalry!

Speaking of luck in connection to Caesar, his comments on the power of Fortuna at the end of Book 6 of the Gallic Wars is very apposite. As a deity she lasted into the Christian era, and figures prominently in Machiavelli’s The Prince. She was replaced, apparently, by Statistics, a deity popular with many, especially politicians!

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Gauls reflocked

22 March, 2010

The Gauls arrayed, cavalry in the centre, a warband in the woods and another along with some skirmishers on a hill.

Having finally sorted out a style for my new flocking efforts, I was spurred to get the Gauls done by the prospect of their meeting Caesar tomorrow. Let’s hope the flock gives them the edge!

The same army from the left.

I’ve still got as many elements again of ancients to redo (the Britons and the trial elements of Spaniards, Numidians, Italians and Romans). After that I can get onto painting new armies. I’m tossing up whether to go for a different base for the Mediterranean armies, something lighter and drier, but I’m still undecided.

And again from the right.

It’s still taking a bit of a readjustment to leaving some of the base showing; perhaps over time I’ll let more of it show. At the moment rebasing is a bit of a hassle, as I have to scrape the old flock off and paint over each figure’s base, but I reckon from scratch it’ll be very straight forward. Certainly, the extra touches, the rocks and reeds are very easy.

Fancy Flock Work

17 March, 2010

Well, I’ve finally got something to show for the weeks of experimentation on flocking (not that it’s been too intensive, just protracted!), and as Caesar is delayed by meetings, again, I can’t, somewhat ironically, get my Gallic rebellion under way, so I’ve produced this post instead.

I’ve figured out how to use static grass, after looking on a number of blogs and forums; I experimented last weekend with Woodland Scenics ‘medium green’, which was a bit plain, so I got some Gale Force Nine ‘green’, ‘straw’ and ‘winter’ from Vagabond Games. They offer a quick and cheap service and I found their grass mixed in with the Woodland Scenics stuff gets a nice result. My first experimentations were not terribly good. Straight PVA was too blobby for my taste, while the Matte Medium I’d used previously was too thin (I tried droppering it over the flock and got some fairly dispirited looking grass when I was finished). I found slightly watered PVA with a drop of detergent worked well. I painted it on and then squashed the flock on. I then inverted the base and tapped it to get the loose grass off and try to make it stand on end.

My trials were partially conducted on some long overdue scenery. I used circles of card (spare blank counters from Settlers of Catan) for the bases of some trees (Woodland Scenics bought from Stoker Models, applied my ‘Acrylic Sand Mortar’ (see previous post) and added some kitty litter stones. After this dried I used a wash. I’m still deciding whether to use the darker Burnt Umber (as I did for these) or the Raw Umber. The tube of Raw Umber doesn’t seem to thin as well, being more gritty, so I don’t trust it as much. Anyway, then I added the static grass as described above and a few clumps of shrub and reeds (‘Field Grass’ from Woodlands Scenics). The reeds would be better if I dipped the base in straight PVA as the dilute one went up the stems and made them clump too much (you can see a better clump below on the small base on the hill , which has a nicer spread).

Numidian psiloi posing in a marsh with a wood behind them.

I’ve now got some trees to make my woods look better and some little patches of rough to indicate that a hill is steep or a patch of brown is marsh. I’ve also finally finished a Numidian psiloi that has waited patiently to be made over. I’m quite pleased with the results. The motivation for all this was to make the effort put into basing produce better results. My old flock was designed to hide the base and applying it was actually quite fiddly. The results weren’t bad, but were actually quite a pain. I figure that the sand mortar will hide the base easily and be quicker to apply. The static grass then doesn’t have to be applied so fussily, as it’s not trying to hide the base, which with the sand mortar is now more of a feature. Also, now that I’ve broken with the tyranny of a single colour flock I can get more adventurous and add rocks, shrubs and reeds if I want. The trick, I imagine, will be not to overdo it!

The same psiloi with a 'steep' hill behind them.

Plodding along

11 March, 2010

Things have been a bit quiet on the gaming front for the last while. First, Joel’s been away on a school camp, so the Gauls are still waiting for their first outing. Then, having avoided a cold that got the rest of the family a few weeks back, I came down with it last week; I guess once the thesis was finally finished my body decided it could let its guard down. On top of this it’s the start of semester and fairly full on at work.

I’ve made a start on a number of figures, the Carthaginian and the Spanish cavalry; I guess they’re slightly over half finished. I’ve also started on the camp figures, which are at a similar stage.

Otherwise, my energy has gone into cleaning up some OG15 Italians that I got from Rudy Nelson; they will allow  my Bruttians to morph into Campanians, Apulians and Samnites. Rudy does a great service in breaking up OG15 packs for DBA armies, and his prices are very reasonable.

I’ve also decided to get a little fancier with my bases. Perhaps it’s the MDF bases, or perhaps it’s the Spanish camp that I’m working on, but I’ve decided to get some Acrylic Sand Mortar from an Art Shop. The brand is Pebeo, which I’ve found fairly reasonably priced for varnish and paint for bases. I’ve made a mixture of this sand mortar and Raw Sienna, Yellow Earth and Raw Umber that seems pretty satisfactory; I’ve used this on one base and added kitty litter stones, but am now waiting for some static flock to finish the whole thing. This could lead me down the path of rebasing my ancient armies (and perhaps in time the medieval ones!).

I’ve been fairly restrained so far this year with figure purchases, just a few CB figures to round out the Celts and Spanish, and those OG15s, but if I start to paint some of the Hellenistic armies that I have, I could be tempted to get some figures from either Essex or Black Hat to round them out. Perhaps I should aim to finish the Carthaginians and Spanish first, but it’s fun to see how the first figures of an army turn out, and I’ve yet to do any of those Macedonians and Greeks.

Meanwhile, now that the thesis is submitted, I’ve got a bit more spare time for reading, so while I wait for Joel to get back, I’ve started reading Caesar’s Gallic Wars again in the Latin; it’s a pity that there’s really no literary equivalent to his work that relates the war from the point of view of the Gauls. He’s a masterful stylist and great at obscuring details that show to his discredit.

Gauls

1 March, 2010

After a short break to get my thesis submitted I celebrated by finishing the Gallic cavalry last weekend. I really like these figures. The command element has a lot of character and the severed head bearer is a real cracker. I used some Xyston Gallic shields for these figures, as they have spines on them. Unfortunately, these are the small shields, of which I’ve used the lot, as the large round one is in my opinion too large.

Gallic cavalry; three elements of 3Cv, the army's spearhead.

The rest of this army is ready to go, as the warband and skirmishers are from the Ancient British army, as are the Chariots if I choose to use them. However, as I plan to field a later army, I’ve opted to have a mounted command, even though the army list doesn’t allow for this (beats me why). I’m hoping to try them out against the Marian Romans, who have fled back from Britain with their tails between their legs. I expect the Gauls to be harder to win with, but they do have the maximal amount of headhunters, which must count for something!

Headhunters, proudly displaying their trophies. I'm very pleased with the last head I did; I used 'Rotting Flesh' for the eyes, and it's worked well.

Carthaginians

1 March, 2010

I’ve now painted 10 elements that can be used in a Carthaginian army (though only 7 at the same time), and I’m yet to paint a Carthaginian! I’ve done three 3Wb (Celts), four 2Ps (Spanish, Numidian and Libyan skirmishers), one 3Ax (Spanish) and now two 2LH (Numidians). All that’s left are the Carthaginians: 2xEl, 3x4Sp and 2x3Cv.

Numidian mercenaries, light horse and foot skirmishers.

I spent quite a bit of time creating my own flesh colour for these Numidians (Dwarf Flesh, Vomit Brown and Dark Brown), only to find that it matched the Tanned Flesh I already had. I may try again using just the two browns. I tried undercoating these figures with a wash of ‘Klear’ (‘Future’ In America). One thing this does is show up the figure’s highlights. It also shows up the flash lines I missed when I was prepping the figures. It also gives a gloss surface to paint on, which has its advantages, but as I use fairly thinned paints this means I would need to adjust how much I thin my paints, as on a glossy surface the thinned paint tends to go into the folds too much.

Gallic mercenaries; note the shield on the left that has a peeling transfer—damn!