Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Meanwhile, Somewhere in (Not) Siluria....

The battle of the Serova Hills..

With the Northern Vexillation having marched south we fight the encounter battle....

This will hopefully highlight methods used for when decision-making/activity occurs.

As with all good "Method" scenario designers (ho, ho. ) I have to go through the "What is my Motivation here" process (I always do this, even for one-off fights. This is because unless I "know" why each side is even on the table to start with I very soon get bored..). What I need to "get" is what the commanders' basic plans and intentions are. So how do I do this?

To start with, apart from any campaign factors (very relevant here), I look at the general situation (odds, army make-up, terrain etc.), I.M.P. (Inherent Military Probability) and any known character notes (e.g. we know here that the Roman C.O. - new to the job - is cautious and heavily reliant on a "cabinet" approach, plus has BIG job to do over and above this fight) or decisions (the Celtic C.O. has already decided to give battle - albeit before the full situation became apparent to him). 

The lay of the land is as below. Celts will come on at the top, Romans the bottom.


For the Romans matters are pretty straightforward. This is a "policing action" - with maximum prejudice.... "Reasonable Force" don't come into it.  Even the cautious commander knows that his career is on the line with this one. He needs to prevent further looting and disorder in the pacified zones. He needs to kill or capture as many of the hostile braves as possible, while minimising his own losses (he still has a job to do afterwards, remember?).

He has little choice but to attack.......

On the other side it is clear from the make up of the Celtic army (Light & fast. Few close combat bods.) that theirs is a raiding n' revenge force, not an "Army of Liberation". Basically all they really want to do is jollywack about the hills killing, burning, enslaving, looting and getting some heads to put on granny's mantelpiece (or to show the girls back home). All "in a good cause" of course (whacking the dupes of "The Man") but with the least possible amount of actual risk...
Numbers are pretty equal, which the Celts are never going to be comfortable with, and man-for-man the Romans are waaaaay better equipped. The Celtic army is skirmisher-heavy. The Romans have a real "divisional" mix, heavy, medium and skirmishers, plus cavalry. Basically it is fairly clear that the Celts have got themselves into the WRONG kind of fight.. The Celtic commander needs to get his guys out of this situation, but with his honour intact.

Luckily the Celtic force is in a good spot terrain-wise: on a ridge with an almost foss-like feature with a muddy stream along most of its front. Standing, making the Romans come to them, causing maximum mayhem with their slingers and skirmishers THEN retiring with honour intact will look much better for the Celtic commander than simply pulling back. 

 Taking all this into consideration I draw up a basic "decision table".
Throw 1x6D:

1: Withdraw, screening with skirmishers pull back and break-off contact.
2-3: Hold position, use skirmishers to cause casualties for a number of moves (after three moves of shooting dice per subsequent move. Throw a 1-2; retire behind skirmisher screen).
4-5: Hold position, but allow individual Formation C.O.s initiative to take the fight to the enemy where appropriate/if activated.

6: Attack.

The Celtic leader plumps for 5.  

The game, thanks to the Activation Tokens, begins with the Romans pushing their skirmishers and the Tungrian mixed cohort on their left forwards. I will take charge of the Roman side. The Celts (with their "hold" orders) will be played by the "AI".

As the Celt activation tokens come up I dice for each activated commander to see if they will be prepared to leave it (simple - 1-4 stand and await. 5-6 advance). On each occasion the Celts decide they are better off behind the stream and on the ridge, with its fosse-like valley in front, rather than risk exposing themselves to the legions and enemy cavalry. Sensible in my book..

Suddenly the Event token comes up. I throw a dice - 6. I throw another dice - 6 again! Gusty wind.... This will seriously affect any missile exchange. It MAY help the Romans, if it continues, by reducing enemy missile effect if they have to storm the ridge. I throw again - "Buggerus!!". The wind is from the east, i.e. from directly behind the enemy lines. It may disrupt their accuracy, but increases their range.....

At this the right hand mixed unit leader takes his men forward. The C.O. gets an activation, but still wants to hold the ridge. The Centre holds.

The Tungrians get activated again, and open ranks to allow their mounted section through, but get lousy dice - they all end the move in a muddle (they should have closed up earlier.. My bad...). I activate the Alpini with my Command chits to distract the advancing enemy. They advance and their slingers try some shots at the advancing enemy chariots, but to no effect..

Third move opens and my slingers get another chance to loose. Despite the wind effects they bring down a chariot. As the enemy seem reluctant to engage, and I'm worried about them breaking off, I decide to bite the bullet - and, as the tokens are kind, advance my right legion cohorts & aux. support (despite having missed an opportunity to move my centre cohorts earlier.. Silly me). Test for weather - no change. Suddenly some of the enemy react - their whole right wing moves forwards, crossing the stream, some getting delayed by the ditch and its marshy bits on the banks.. With my Tungrians still in a tangle this is NOT a good time for them to get active...

Next go: My legionaries continue moving, but two cohorts (out of my direct command radius and with no set orders, so dicing to make their own decisions) swing to the left of the pond and "double-up" instead of holding the line, because of the Thracians in the way. My Tungrians are STILL in a mess, while the enemy skirmishers rapidly move through the woods on their flank. The enemy chariots sweep past my Alpini and chuck some spears, but not before  my chaps' slings take out another chariot. However, the enemy skirmishers in the centre are now (thanks to the wind) getting the range of the Thracians & the Alpini, causing upset & casualties. Despite opportunities/temptations the main enemy force stays on the ridge. If we have to fight our way across the marsh I won't be happy.....

The weather tries, but STILL doesn't change.

Move 5: The legion cohorts advance, but so do the skirmishers on the enemy centre - these being protected by the pond and the marsh - exposing two of my Legion cohorts to flanking fire.

I activate my main cavalry unit on my right and bring it forward.

My Alpini disperse into skirmish mode, close - in order to negate the enemy range advantage - and exchange missiles with the enemy skirmishers and chariots forward from the main enemy line. Shock and casualties on both sides despite the wind. Another chariot is disabled - the formation chief with it. The chariots withdraw. My Thracians also expand into skirmish mode, and move forward. On my right my "Yellow Shield" Gauls also advance, leaving my commander (who seems to have his slow-boots on today) to follow on in his own good time.

The Tungrians FINALLY get themselves out of their muddle, but make little progress, just pushing their horse through the gap between the two southern woods. They have not seen the skirmishers on their flank in the southernmost woods yet......

But these lads have seen them. This is a real "target of opportunity" and the Celts have 2CPs in hand. I feel that only a real morale fail on the part of their leader will prevent them from taking advantage. I throw a 6D - anything above a "1" and they will skip to the wood edge and shoot. They don't bottle-it, and a mass of arrows, javelins & slingstones whack into my cavalry, causing casualties and shock..... End of the move, and things are getting messy.

I need to close to contact - and ideally use my cavalry to trap the large number of lightfooted enemy, in case they decide to make off - but the bog, pond and terrain are going to both slow me and leave my cohorts' flanks exposed to missile fire. I want to totally eliminate this raiding party, to prevent it going off into another zone and causing havoc there, but the Celts are NOT playing ball...... And, indeed why should they...?
Sixth Move: And first activated are two of my cohorts. I'd LOVE to hit the enemy skirmishers wit
h pilae, but the wind is against me, so we charge. The lightly clad enemy skip out of the way - but only just.... 

On my right my med. Gallic cavalry (milliary) unit breaks into a canter, but the chaps are funnelled & slowed by the farmstead. 

Meanwhile the Tungrian cavalry contingent break away from their infantry lads and make for the enemy main skirmish line, while their foot supports start flushing the enemy skirmishers out of the woodland. As elsewhere on the field, the enemy skirmish bods are quick on their feet and there is no contact. The Thracians skip forward, but still no contact their either.....

Then the enemy wake up. On their left a flurry of stones and arrows hits both my Gallic infantry (casualties and shock) and my right hand Gallic cavalry; killing their Prefect (the perils of leading from the front). On top of this their charioteers move forward, make a decision check, debus and CHARGE MY CAVALRY ON FOOT (!!!), bringing their close combat guys with them. My cavalry cannot evade (they have already moved - and anyway cannot turn, hemmed in as they are by the farmstead) and with their leader down and taking hits in the confined space they recoil....!! This NOT how things are supposed to work.

 My left hand Legion cohorts push on, led by the Alpini - to little real effect. However, the pressure of my guys pushing forwards has freaked out the enemy C.O.  The cohorts, against which he has no effective close combat counter in the middle, are getting too close, and his skirmishers are getting edgy about being trapped against that cliff-like slope. He sounds a general retreat - EXACTLY what I don't want with my cavalry in disarray.....

Looks like move 7 will be the last, as I cross my fingers for some opportunities to actually cause some damage...

The Gods are with me - my two right hand Legion cohorts rush the skirmishers in front of them, who evade, but not all are quick enough, and they take casualties. At this point the enemy C. in C. withdraws himself from the field.  My Alpini loose shot at the enemy skirmishers in the enemy centre, then the Tungrian cavalry move in. They are slowed by the ditch and so cannot charge, but trotting in, against the scattering skirmishers they do well, cutting more down at no physical loss to themselves. Meanwhile their infantry contingent pushes through and out of the woods.

But things do not go all my own way. On the enemy left the infantry ignore the call to pull back and follow up their earlier success, charging my Gallic horse again. The cavalry are in too deep a formation to easily evade, and with command & control gone they are confused. There is a melee. Exchanges are pretty equal.

Meanwhile the skirmishers on the enemy left, just behind the cavalry fight, cause some serious casualties and shock among my Yellow-shield Gauls. Things are not looking good here. The Vexillation Commander rushes over as the cavalry pull back to regroup, shouting them into some kind of order.

In centre left my two other legion cohorts move forward, one crossing the stream/ditch, the other moving forwards, not as quickly -  since the commanding Tribune has chosen to lead the faster cohort personally - but nearly outflanking the skirmishers on the enemy far right.

The move ends. There are still fighting enemy on the field.

Move 8: The enemy right pulls back, but don't get enough momentum to cross the ditch... The fight seems to have gone out of them, but they are too far away for me to do them any damage.

Over on the enemy left the dismounted charioteers take advantage of the Roman cavalry withdrawal to sweep through the farmstead, intending to take my Yellow-shield Gauls in the flank. Luckily for me their dice are rubbish, and they fail to contact. Their skirmishers shoot at these Gauls again, but with little effect this time.

Meanwhile, the Alpini run over to back-up the Tungrian cavalry, only to get caught in the (bloody!!) ditch.. THAT small water feature has been a real pain (only takes three dice pips to cross it, but it has swallowed pips JUST when you need them...).. 

My right hand legions swing round towards the enemy left, causing the skirmishers from the enemy centre to evade right off the table, just as the skirmishers fighting the Tungrian cavalry also make off. The move ends with nearly half the enemy already making their way out of my reach. This is NOT good...

Final move - or not as the case might be.... The Alpini and the Tungrian cavalry get in among the "running away" skirmishers in the centre, but most of them scamper away. But that's about it for this move...

Finally, finally: despite the Tungrian inf. pushing forward, the enemy right withdraws is good order (no doubt shouting challenges as they go..).
In the centre the enemy have pulled out completely.

Over on the
enemy left/my right our Roman C.O. takes charge of the wavering Gallic cavalry, dismounts some of the turmae and advances to engage the enemy at the farmstead.

There is an inconclusive bit of bashing, then the Yellow Shielded Gauls turn
to face the huts, the enemy now have to contend with my lurking cavalry, the dismounted lads and the foot Gauls..

This is enough for the local enemy commander.. Having made his name by driving back my cavalry -  and his flank threatened by the Gallic foot he pulls his men away, remounts his chariots and exits the field, taking his men with him. 

The Roman C.O. orders "General Halt" to be sounded.... The enemy wounded who haven't run off are - um - "treated". Battle ends. Game over... I have failed in my objective and the enemy has escaped......

Or have they......?

This a part of a campaign. The enemy are still in view, albeit off table. The Romans have light troops and cavalry. Whatever happened to "Continuous Combat"? Why should I think there's a final whistle....?

Well there ain't.....

The Roman C.O. has a quick option sheet drawn up and throws a die (maybe the other officers are shouting "Why the "pardon my Greek" have we stopped!!!!!"). Options are:

1 - Halt and regroup.

2-4: Ummmm....... Hang on I'm thinking (Cautious commander, remember? What if the enemy turns, and he loses his cavalry to all those missiles? The main task is still the campaign....)

5 - All light troops and cavalry pursue in good order.

6 - Pursue, with just the cavalry (what's the Latin for "Tally Ho!"?).

And I grit my teeth while he thinks for three moves (THREE!!!) before sending off the cavalry...

I do an off-table "pursuit", with Activation Tokens in the tub as if troops were on a table, to see if the Romans get close enough for action (in which case I''ll fight it out on the Table with bods.).

As it happens the cavalry - who have been chafing at the bit while the boss dithered, race off with speed; but with the enemy having a three move head start they've got some catching up to do. Things start well, but suddenly the weather changes. First the wind drops, then, after two reasonable moves, the heavens open and a storm hits. Visibility and movement affected. Things (and the dice) go pear-shaped...  In the pouring rain, the enemy slips away........ Oh how very dear........

The Butcher's Bill:


Yellow-shield Gauls: Tribune dead, 40 dead, 46 lightly wounded
Legion Cohorts: 20 dead, 62 slightly wounded
Alpini: 20 severely wounded,
25 light wounded
Gallic Cav. (Mil) - Prefect dead. 25 wounded.
Tungrian Cav. : 22 slightly wounded 20 wounded.

(Dead: 71. Wounded: 219)

1 chief wounded, 30 chariots lost, 20 charioteers dead, 10 wounded,  40 warriors dead, 51 wounded lightly, 200 dead or missing skirmishers, 211 lightly wounded skirmishers.

(Dead or missing; 260. Wounded: 273 - a
ll wounded are lightly hurt/walking wounded. The more severely wounded were left on the field or dropped during the pursuit). 

The Day is done.. The Celts move off unmolested.....

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