Saturday, 27 December 2014

Big Harry Scutum's Holding Action

In this battle a Roman vexillatio of 3 x cohorts of Roman legion under the command of Maximus Horatio Scutum (known to the Britons as 'Big Harry') has to fight a holding action whilst awaiting reinforcments.

Maximus Horatio (Big Harry) Scutum says: 'Oi, I haven't even had my tea yet!'

I was the commander of the Romans this month as I had commanded the great lime-washed in the previous game.  Ian commanded the Britons.


The Roman raiding detachment of 3 x cohorts has found that their punitive raid on the local tribal villages of the Catuvellauni is not going to plan.  The last few villages have been deserted and as the Romans form up in a clearing they are aware of the sound of drumming of shields and the racket of horns being blown in the woodline opposite them.  The drumming and hornblasts grow louder and the legionaries look around nervously as the noise reaches a crescendo.  Maximus Horatio Scutum, the experienced vexillatio commander reacts quickly - sending off riders down both directions of the military road to summon local reinforcements.  Will the reinforcements come in time to prevent their destruction?

Rules used are 'Hail Caesar'.

My first effort at making a map. This was done with Powerpoint - hopefully one day I'll use the software which I found with the 100 page manual but in the meantime this will do!

Roman's Briefing
You have 3 veteran cohorts as well as a battery of scorpions.  You know there are local auxiliary detachments nearby who can help they will be thrown for from game turn 2.  They will arrive on an escalating role equal or below the game turn number.  ie. 1,2,3 on  D6 in game turn 3, 12,3,4 on game turn 4 so by game turn 6 they will arrive. You don't, however, know the strength of the reinforcements or from which direction they will come from. Big Harry Scutum has a command grade of 8.

Briton's Briefing
Wipe them out.  Turn the tables on the punitive raiding force and defeat them before the reinforcements overwhelm your own forces, Of course you can take on the reinforcements and beat them too.  Should you decide to withdraw your army at any stage with no broken brigades a draw can be claimed.

You have 3 x Brigades:

Brigade 1:   2 x Warband units, 1 x Slinger unit   Commander graded a solid 8.

Brigade 2:  1 x Cavalry unit, 1 x Chariot unit.  Commander graded a solid 8

Brigade 3:  2 x Warband units, 1 x Fanatic (naked!) Warband.  Commander graded an excellent 9

Hopefully this relates to the map clearly enough. This is taken from the left side f the board (left side of map.  Road and hill should assist orientation

Game Turn 1

The Britons deployed their forces from out of the woodline (Ian's edge of the board).  The Roman vexillatio stayed put and put down Scorpion fire.  The bolts tore into the chariot unit causing them to test and making the unit hold their ground.  Any units held up were going to be very helpful for the Romans in staving the Britons off until reinforcements arrived.  No reinforcement throw permitted in this turn though!

Scary noisy buggers with much lime-washed hair

Game Turn 2

The Britons advance their right wing, presumably to allow all their units to hit at once.  The fire of the Scorpion battery scythes into a unit of warband, halting them for the next turn in confusion.

Maximus Horatio (Big Harry) Scutum directs his men to the Military Road

'Watch your left!'

Scorpion fire rips through shields and warband alike

Game Turn 3

The Britons advanced across the board, slowly and for them, steadily.  The Britons left warband brigade was delayed by the tree copse which it had to negotiate.  To allow room for being pushed back. Big Harry Scutum ordered his men to advance up to the military road.  This would also assist in allowing reinforcements to reach them quicker.  A round of pila are launched at the Briton's light cavalry who allowed themselves to get too close.  The pila force the cavalry to retreat.  The Legion commander thought this a satisfactory outcome - so far the whole British tribe was failing against his small vexillatio.  The reinforcement throw was not so good however.

'Prepare Pila!'

Game Turn 4

An advance to contact is made as a Catuvellauni warband charge the Scorpions who had been so troublesome in the early game turns.  The Scorpions and crews are completely destroyed.  The charge of the chariots is beaten off and they pull back together with their supports.  The throw for reinforcements is again a fail - needing anything but 5 or 6 the Romans throw a 6!

The demise of the excellent Scorpions

The courageous charge of the chariots as they are bloodily repelled

Game Turn 5

The battle is now desperate. The Romans had hoped to have bought enough time to gain assistance from their reinforcements before a general engagement took place.  The full weight of the warband attacks now pin the legionaries along their line.  One cohort is pushed back but on the plus side one warband is completely broken. Casualties stack up everywhere with units reaching shaken status up and down the line.  The Roman vexillatio has held magnificently and surely the reinforcements will arrive now to save the day.  Anything but a 6 will lead to their arrival.  The throw is a......6!

 The battle is desperate as the Romans hold on for their lives

...and they are fighting well - a warband bounces back in disorder 

...But the weight of the unrelenting attacks takes it's toll.  The red cohort is forced back, disordered.  The line starts to waver!  

Maximus tries to keep the orange cohort in line

'Hold them....Hooooold them!!!!' The legion are pushed back.

Game Turn 6

The chariots rally and charge back into the fray.  The wavering red Roman cohort  break and flee. The yellow legion which had done so well are forced back.  The orange cohort fights bravely on winning their combat but warbands are now steaming in from their flank.

Oh good news...The reinforcements now automatically arrive...but alas too late. The reinforcements are two units of auxiliary foot and one of cavalry, not enough to repel the Britons - not on their own anyway.

Outflanked! The brave yellow cohort has a horde of warband steaming in on its flank!

An overhead view of the impending disaster

Desperate fighting, but breaking point is moments away...

Here they come - right in from the side

'This is just like the film '" Bridge Too Far"...we are XXX Corps and we get there just in time....oh hang on....!'  

The field clears as the Romans break

And there the game ended.  It really was an excellent game which we both really enjoyed.  The Romans clung on so well and appeared to actually look like winning the game on their own for a few minutes!  Alas they were whittled down in the end until they broke.  If only the reinforcements could have arrived sooner!  Though whether they were strong enough to take on the warband we can only guess.

The rules gave a superb game.  The legionaries are a hard target to break when attacked frontally and only broke when all the factors stacked up against them. The previous game got me back into the Hail Caesar frame of mind and it flowed much more quickly this time.  A few less units this time also meant that I could focus on the detail of fewer actions rather than too many complicated actions. 

All in all - fantastic fun! I am currently painting up the magnificent Foundry 'Gaius Suetonius Paulinus' set hopefully in time for the next game.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Rhodian Slingers

I have had some time of late to make in-roads into the ancient world again and paint a historical period I have wanted to do for a long time - the ancient Greeks.

Dense formations of Hoplites, lots of bronze armour and interesting light troops. Ancient Greece has all of this of course, and it did succeed finally in enticing this wargamer get the brushes out and make a start.

I decided to purchase some sets from the new range by Victrix.  They are simply stunning sclupts and it was a joy to assemble the Victrix plastic boxed set of Peltasts, Javelinmen and Slingers.  Once I had decided what colours to use and what method to paint them, progress was very rapid.

Getting the contrasts in the folds of the tunics was actually really enjoyable.  I used the Foundry triad system over a black undercoat (with some use of Vallejo paints too).  I tried to make the contrasts a little more pronounced as folds in clothing appear under a hot bright sun.

Likewise I tried to make the skin tones contrast again in the same manner, with highlights and darker than usual lowlights to bring out the muscle-tones.  Hopefully these now look like chaps who spend a lot of time outdoors.  The Foundry 'Mediterranean flesh tones were used but then lightened on the surfaces with normal highlight flesh.

I have never yet been to Greece but many lunch breaks at work were spent on Google Images trying to get a feel for the Greek landscape.  I am much more used to European grasslands on my basing so I wanted to make the bases look more arid without being excessively desert-like.  Hopefully the effect looks right - I used some white cat litter rocks as opposed to the grey ones for a more sun-bleached stone look.

This unit is going to be a welcome addition to my new Greek armies - harrying the flanks of the Hoplites and being a nuisance or a help depending on whose side they are on!  I will certainly be getting some more of these fellows in due course.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Somewhere near Chelmsford

A wild rush of ancient British warriors bears down upon their Roman foe

A wargame was well overdue, so Ian and I decided that it would great to see the Romans back out on the board again.  It must be over two years since they were last in battle.  If I recall correctly, my blog started out with these fellows, so it was great to see them formed up again.  The rules used were 'Hail Caesar', a favorite but truly the most complex of the Warlord Games 'Black Powder' style trilogy.

The Scenario - (inspired by my purchase of the DVD 'Chelmsford 123' set in Roman Britain. True comedy gold - I remember it as a teenager but now the jokes seem a lot more funny!)

The Romans have set out on a large punitive raid of a British settlement.  

Roman Briefing
You are Aulus Paulinus, Governor of Britain.  You directly command 1 x Legion detachment of  five cohorts and a Legion Scorpion battery. 

Your Second-in-Command, Gracientus, leads 3 cohorts of Auxiliary Infantry and  1 x Auxiliary cavalry unit.

Your objective is defeat the British field army who have advanced out of their settlement to protect their hallowed and sacred swampy bog.  This swampy bog would no doubt be later decided to be for 'Ritual Purposes' (as per the archaeology TV programme 'Time Team' - if in doubt its for 'ritual purposes').  Its real value is literally a 'bog' as it's the village toilet!

"For Ritual Purposes"..hmmm!

British Briefing

You are the British tribal leader Badvoc.  You command your Trinovantes who form 3 x warband unit along with a unit of slingers.

You also have the help of you Second-in-Command, Mungo.  Mungo commands the quick element of your force, 2 x chariot units and a unit of light cavalry.

You have the assistance of a Northern Tribe.  The Brigantes have sent Cartimandua to throw out the Romans (this is clearly before she changed allegience!...I don't yet have a Boudicca figure so Cartimandua it is!)  Cartimandua has 2 x warbands with one being naked fanatics(!) Must be too cold up north surely?

Your objective is to repulse the Romans and sent Aulus packing!

The Game

A view from behind the Roman right

Slightly odd angle but it gets most of the battlefield in. The Roman Centre on the hill and the Legion on the left are now visible as are the British warbands facing them

As commander of the British, there is only one thing that can really be done when commanding warband...I ordered a general advance.  Ian responded with an advance also.  The Roman Auxiliaries opened up with their bows and the Scorpion let loose a volley. All ineffective so far.

Aulus Paulinus orders the Legion forward!

Roman cavalry on the extreme right wing line up to face the advancing chariots

Badvoc exhorts his Trinovantes forwards

Cartimandua leads the Brigantes, ably advised by her chief Druid and bodyguard

Both Badvoc and Cartimandua had rolled high to establish commander ratings with both graded as '9'.  This lead to their successful issuing of a charge order and a triple move in the next turn.  The warbands crashed into the Legion on the 2nd game turn.  One Legionary cohort broke immediately, but the others held, even forcing back one of the Trinovantes warbands.

The advance to contact quickens as the Roman line draws closer

Utter mayhem as the forces collide. The orange shielded cohort breaks under the onslaught

Badvoc's skirmishers sidle into wood on the British right

In the centre the hill is contested.  Two British units strike a Roman auxiliary unit who decided to stand and fight to gain time

The battle in the centre was bloody for the Romans as a small auxiliary unit of archers made a gallant stand. The Britons had to advance up hill into their fire.  The naked fanatics were disordered but it was not sufficient to worry them unduly. The auxiliaries broke and fled.

Mungo leads the charge of the chariots...Hurrah for Mungo!

Light cavalry follow up in reserve

The Roman cavalry hold their nerve as the dustcloud of the chariots draws closer


Following up

The Romans reacted well to the threat.  A barrage of pila from the legion forced the British skirmishers out of the wood and the Roman cavalry charges into the British chariots and force them to give ground.  The battle is a fierce struggle and it was only the end of Game Turn 2 at this point!

The British commence the third turn by continuing the battle on top of the hill. Brigantes against Auxiliary infantry. The Brigantes force the Romans back.

Clearing the hilltop of Romans

Chariots attack back into the fray

Racing down the hill another Roman unit is hit and forced back

The Romans opted to hold the cavalry in position following their successful fending off of the chariots. Mungo lead his men forward again, keen to reverse the reverse! This time the Roman cavalry faltered and were pushed back.

At the same time the Brigantes consolidated their success on the hill.  Wheeling off to the Roman right. a warband hit another auxiliary cohort, forcing it back towards the cavalry fight.  Neither the cavalry or the Infantry cohort could afford to retreat again now.

 Pushing the Romans back

The naked fanatics retreat in disorder

The Romans recovered the situation well on the hill by making the naked fanatics run with their tails between their legs (!) in an unexpected reverse. Their mounting casualties telling against them.

A bloody stalemate - Legion locked in combat with British warband

The units might be static but the casualty numbers keep piling up

In the end we just ran out of time.  The three game turns played were very hard fought and the action rolled from one end of the board to the other.  The Romans conceded defeat based on lost units and the way that their right wing was being pushed into oblivion.  However the Legion was holding out well.  In Hail Caesar the British warband are at their strongest in the very first turns of combat.  After that the odds turn against them. It is possible that the Trinovantes might have broken eventually because of their mounting casualties. Units were starting to become shaken all over the place.

It was a superb game and great fun.  The length of time since the last outing of Hail Caesar made it difficult to remember some of the rules. It shares many similarities with Black Powder and Pike and Shot. In fact, enough similarities to thoroughly throw me since Black Powder has been used much more recently.   Hail Caesar has a lot of dice throwing, even for supporting units and the sharing out of excess casualties to the supports after a unit collapse went out the window because I just forgot to do it. Nevertheless it was very enjoyable and a pleasure to see so many troops on the board.  I just need to play it again and soon!