Legio Wargames

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By smacdowall, May 11 2021 08:05PM

I have been running a number of Comitatus games to test out some new amendments to the rules. These simplify the combat mechanisms using dice rather than comparing factors. This now brings Comitatus into line with my more recent rules such as Tree of Battles (late medieval) and Malbriook s’en va-t-en guerre (WSS big battles). The 2021 amendments greatly reduce calculations thus speeding up play as well as reducing the strain on my poor brain! They are available as a free download from the rules section of my website — to be used in conjunction with the original rules.

The most recent test game was loosely based on Daras (AD 530) using 15mm figures.

Perozes, deployed the Persians in 3 lines with a strong left wing and substantial reserve. Their army also included elephants. Although not entirely historical, I wanted to test out the elephant mechanisms alongside those of more conventional troops.

The relatively poor quality Roman infantry, supported by a light catapult, were deployed behind a ditch (reminder -- I need to cosntruct some ditch sections!)

Belisarius held back his left, sending Pharas off on a wide (off table) flank march on that wing with a picked force of Huns and Heruls.

Heavy horse archers, backed up by foederati held the Roman right.

The Persians advanced rapidly on their left and a swirling cavalry combat ensued with the Persians getting the better of it. When the Roman commander on that wing was killed in hand to hand combat the line wavered and it looked like a Persian victory was near.

At this critical juncture, Belisarius detached his Bucellarii to reinforce his hard pressed right flank.

Perozes brought up his reserves, personally leading the Immortals to engage the Roman Bucellarii. But against the odds, the Romans got the better of the engagement, slowly pushing back Perozes’ Immortals.

Meanwhile, the Persian right closed in on Belisarius’ refused left, bringing up the elephants in support.

It was then that Pharas rolled high enough on the dice to arrive on table behind the advancing Persian right.

The ensuing fight saw the Huns draw off one of the elephants while Belisarius and Pharas charged with their heavy cavalry, killing the Persian right wing commander in the process.

The infantry in the centre faced each other off, exchanging missiles from a safe distance until the Isuarians on the Roman left surged forward to support Belisarius’ cavalry.

It was a good, very hard-fought game with the Persians winning on their left and the same for the Romans on theirs. In the end we called it a draw with advantage to the Persians. All of the rule amendments worked well -- improving the game while retaining the feel of the original rules.

By smacdowall, Apr 16 2021 08:34PM

Having completed the renovation and rejuvenation of my Alamanni it is time to test them on the field of battle using my Comitatus rules (see rules section of my website)

I set up a relatively simple game set in the time of Caesar Julian’s campaign against the Franks in AD 356. This meant my Alamanni masquerading as Franks but to the Romans all barbarians looked the same! In truth there were probably few differences in appearance between the Franks and Alamanni and whatever differences there were are now lost in the mists of time.

The partially fictitious scenario imagines Julian marching to relieve the Frankish siege of Cologne but he is too late. The Franks have sacked the city and, under the leadership of Mallobad, are advancing further into Roman territory where they meet Julian’s army. It is a meeting engagement with two relatively equal strength forces battling it out on an open field with a few hills and woods.

The Romans have a slight cavalry advantage, deploying them all on their right flank — a mix of cataphracts, horse archers and conventional cavalry.

Facing them is Mallobad with his Comiataus and Frankish mounted nobles supported by a warband of Burgundians on foot.

The Frankish infantry are massed in the centre.

While their right is occupied by more cavalry supported by light infantry.

Facing them, the Roman left is strongly held by two legions also supported by light infantry.

Julian holds the centre with a mix of Auxilia Palatina and Limitanei deployed on a ridge.

They may not be the best fighters on the table...

...but this unit of Limitanei (Wargames Foundry Romano-British) is one of my favourite units in my late Roman collection. I love the war-weary look of the men resting on their shields.

The battle opened with a furious cavalry engagement on the Roman right. With high morale, shock tactics, and led by Mallobad in person, the initial impact of the Frankish cavalry charge could have been devastating. But the Romans fought them to a stand-still. With the impetus of their charge blunted the Franks were now at a disadvantage. Then disaster struck! Mallobad was killed in the ensuing hand to hand combat and Frankish morale collapsed. Their entire right wing disintegrated, apart from the survivors of Mallobad’s Comitatus who surged forward to chase the Roman cataphracts off-table as they sought to avenge their leader.

Bad luck plagued the Franks on their right wing also. For several turns the cavalry refused to advance, allowing the legions to close in on them. When their leader finally got them moving they had suffered casualties from Roman missiles and when they closed the legions held and they were forced to retire.

It would appear (in the above photo) than the man on foot is trying to convince his leader of the inadvisability of launching a frontal cavalry charge against formed Roman infantry!

The Romans were in a strong defensive position occupying a ridge in the centre but this was where the greatest Frankish strength lay and if they had any hope of winning the day they had to surge forward to engage.

Unfortunately for the Franks their advance began to waver from a combination of missile casualties and disorder from their rapid move. Meanwhile the victorious Roman cavalry were closing in on their flank and rear.

Julian himself then decides to take the initiative and leads the elite Cornuti and Celtae in a charge down the hill into the midst of the Franks.

The charge was successful, driving back one of the Frankish warbands as the Roman right wing cavalry were lining up to join in the fray.

By now it was clear that the Franks had no chance of winning but they still had the chance to pull back many of their troops from the centre and right to potentially fight another day. So it was game-over and Caesar Julian could now continue his advance to shore up the Rhine frontier and maybe re-take Cologne.

By smacdowall, Mar 28 2017 04:00PM

The second battle of our celebratory wargames weekend was a re-run of the Eagle in the Snow game I first staged a couple of years ago. This was a re-creation of Wallace Breem’s fictional account of a Roman last stand as the barbarians crossed the Rhine mid winter AD 406.

After playing out several strategic moves by email we ended up with Maximus, the Roman commander taking a stand at the ‘30th Milestone’ after falling back from Mainz. We played it out on a table sprinkled with snow for atmosphere (although we could have used a bit more) using my Comitatus rules and miniatures from my 15mm late Roman collection.

Maximus sends out a messenger to the horde Suebi advancing out of the woods
Maximus sends out a messenger to the horde Suebi advancing out of the woods

After sacking Koblenz, Rando, king of the Suebi, cut a deal with Tibatto, leader of the Roman rebel Bacaudae. In an exchange for a share of the loot the Bacaudae led the Suebi through hidden paths to bypass other Roman garrisons and emerge to the immediate north of the 30th Milestone.

Rando challenged Maximus to personal combat. A Roman champion met the challenge and killed the Suebian king. This resulted in a furious but doomed assault by Rando’s comitatus against the Roman fortifications.

Roman reinforcements arrived along the road from the north, causing the Vandals, who we’re advancing from east to west, o turn to meet them. In a short fierce engagement Quintus, the leader of the Roman reinforcements was killed, the Romans were flanked and their line broke but Gunderic, king of the Asding Vandals also met his end and Fredibal, leader of the Silings was wounded.

Meanwhile a contingent of Alans who had taken service with the Romans arrived on the southern tale edge. They, together with a Roman cavalry unit, were the survivors of the sack of Worms by the Burgundians. The Alans, led by Goar, were quite happy to take advantage of Maximus’s difficult position to squeeze more tribute from the Romans.

After regrouping the Suebi, supported by the Bacaudae, surged forward for another assault on the Roman fortifications as the Vandals closed in from the east. There was a fierce back and forth combat around the west gate with the Romans only just holding on.

Meanwhile the Alans extracted yet more tribute from Maximus in return for charging in against the bacaudae and Suebi who were threatening to break through.

More troops arriving from the West raised the hopes of the beleaguered Roman garrison that the Gallic field army had come to their rescue. As it turned out it was Artorius, magistrate of Trier, who had gathered up the civic militia to do his bit for the glory of the Republic.

The Suebi prepare for a second assault
The Suebi prepare for a second assault

In the end the Suebi, Vandals and bacaudae were thrown back from the fortifications. The Alans turned against their Roman employer and took as much loot as they could carry before heading off to the West.

Maximus held the 30th Milestone but it would have been cold comfort as at this point the barbarians would have bypassed him to march on Trier which was now undefended. Tibatto of the bacaudae would no doubt carry on ruling his patch of territory in the Rhine/Mosel valleys like a prototype Robin Hood.

By smacdowall, Nov 3 2016 03:44PM

I have found it rather enjoyable getting back into Ancients after a bit of a pike and shot interlude. I will be returning to the latter before long, however. My French and Spanish armies for the Battle of the Dunes still require a few more units.

Warlords & Rebels game at the SoA conference
Warlords & Rebels game at the SoA conference

I think it was the Society of Ancients conference that inspired me to get out my 15mil ancients and Comitatus rules again. Before long I will do a full report on the battle I staged there, set in Gaul, 5th C AD.

Roman infanty in entrenchments with Huns out in front
Roman infanty in entrenchments with Huns out in front

Earlier this week it 15mm figures again but the game was set a century later (AD 530). The Rast Roman General Belisarius was defending Daras from the more numerous Persian army commanded by Perozes.

We used the Comitatus scenario which can be downloaded from my website here. This plays out only the action on the Roman left wing. It is an enjoyable scenario if you like lots of cavaly (I do) . I have played it several times with both Persians and Romans winning on different occaisions. We used Comitatus rules with the optional ammunition supply rule.

I introduced a couple of tweaks to keep add to the fog of war. One was the addition of a unit of Arabs in the Persian army with one or two of them riding camels. This made the Roman player nervous in case his horses shied when they came close. However, I had decided in advance that there were not enough of them to scare the horses.

The same was true for the lone Persian elephant. He was untrained and therefore not fit for combat or else he would cause as much or more damage on his own side. He was there for show only.

The Roman player was allowed to keep Pharas and his Heruls hidden until the after the third move when they could appear on the Persian right flank. Belisarius and his bucellarii were off table in reserve.

Deployed in three lines, the Persians opened the battle with their first line of mostly light horse archers delivering some devastating volleys.

The lance armed Roman foederati were shot to pieces and Hermogones, the Roman commander on their left was killed. This sent his shaken bucellarii charging out to avenge his death — a noble act with resulted in the death of every man. Such heroism will be long remembered around the campfires.

As Roman archery and countercharges began to tell against the first line of Persian cavalry, some pulled back as the second line of heavier troops advances.

Amongst the second line were heavily armoured cataphracts who never actually made it into combat.

The clibanarii of the Persian second line move up against the Roman heavy horse archers who evade out of the way after shooting a volley of arrows.

Swarming around the flank of the Romans, the Persian light cavalry, inspired by their commander, swoop in for the kill.

By the time Pharas’ Heruls and Belisarius’ reserve came onto the table there were very few other Romans still standing, apart from the infantry safely behind their trenches. We decided that at this point, Pharas would have turned to find the nearest other Roman army while Belisarius would have withdrawn the infantry back into Daras and prepare for a siege.

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