Sunday, 2 September 2018

The What-t'-'el of Battling Street.....

How NOT to control a Crowd..... Or Boudi and GSP get stuck-in......

In my last post I mentioned an experiment from last year (also posted on the FB Ancient & Med. and Solo Groups) reworking the Battle of Watling Street.
I don't propose setting out a Bat Rep. (I did that over a series of days in those groups), but here are some more details on the mechanics I used; with some additional notes and reflections.....
Basically this was a solo Command & Control challenge with me standing in for Boudica. (Why am I humming, to Boney M's Rapsutin,"Boo Boo Boudica, Norfolk’s somewhat cross mama...."? ). There were major issues for me to cope with:

First the nature of the forces at my disposal; their abilities and tolerance of discipline, command & control.

Bousi's force is a tribal army, made up of disparate tribes, themselves made up of disparate septs/clans/kinship groups and all (potentially) with disparate motives/motivation and objectives (from vengeance, looting or just out for the craic). Despite my hopes and plans there will be a tendency for this amateur hotchpotch of an army to just fling itself Celtic-style, possibly bit by bit, at the organised, disciplined enemy (a la Culloden etc.).

My job, if we were to have a cat in hell’s chance of getting anywhere, was to utilise what forces I had in a coordinated manner, using our strengths to best advantage. Ideally I wanted to get my skirmishers & chariots to harry and draw the enemy from their position of strength, then swarm with my numbers to swamp them.

As well as the control aspect, also working against me was the fact that the tribes that made up my force (Iceni, Trinovantes, Corieltauvi and a few Catuvellauni renegades) have, by the time of the Revolt, been officially disarmed/at peace under the (enforced) Pax Romana for over a decade. By 60AD we are NOT talking Silures & wild tribes regularly raiding & rustling from their neighbours.... Like practically everyone else south of the Trent & east of the Severn my guys were seriously NOT experienced, wild tribal warriors....

What this means in practice is that while my folk would be enthusiastic and physically fit (and presumably used to hunting, settling local issues with their fists, animal slaughter etc.) my army only recently started out as a mob of untrained, unbloodied farmhands & artisans with an smear of actually quite inexperienced "warrior" class bods in charge (and even if a guy was a fit, experienced warrior "Back in the Day" he has been Pax Romana'd for seventeen years, not likely to have held a weapon in action for 13 years and is now a nearly 50yo, out-of-practice arthritic from damp Norfolk. Jeez - he sounds worse than ME...). This means we will mainly be looking to the wholly inexperienced teens & twenties to carry the cause....

Some of my "non warrior class" troops will have acted as back-up in the storming at Colchester etc. and taken part in the subsequent massacres.
Some may have helped in the destruction of part of the 9th Leg. & its supports. But the nearest to actual “warriors” with recent, extended combat experience at my disposal will be the odd renegade/bandit and any members of the amateur upper classes who MAY have bothered to maintain levels of training and weapon use in the preceding decade (or may not) and/or have been off messing about outside the "settled zone" (i.e. the ones who presumably will have been the shock forces/doing most of the fighting in those fights my army has had thus far). 

My force therefore consisted of:

A small force of chariot and horse "elite".

5% guys with body protection, helm and shield: the social elite.

10% 2nd rate Front-line "warriors": with the kit (helm and shield) and experience and social clout to be at the front.

20% 3rd rate wanna-be warriors; with at least one piece of protective kit (helm or shield and a proper weapon.

The rest 4th rate - some with shield all with spear, club or pointy stick.

Aside from from my core of "warriors/bandits-come-good" and the above, the rest are just partially tooled-up (thanks to all the second hand looted stuff) "rioters".
What I am saying is that, basically, I didn't have an "army" in any meaningful sense of the word. I had an armed mob....

Then there are the Romans.... 


They ALL have shield, body protection, helm and top of the range killing tools.

They DO know what they are doing.

They HAVE trained.

They know the guys standing either side of them as comrades. They eat, share a tent, drink, bicker, train and fight together. Each man knows the guy next to him is a proven fighting soldier - and not just thick cousin Aodhan, your noisy boss who thinks he's Caractacus just 'cos he's got his dad's helmet - and that guy from down the river who tried it on with your sister, can't even manage a hoe properly and only has that ex-legionary sword because he has longer legs than you and got to it first....
I need to control my "mob". The Romans will act based on their Plan, IMP & the card deck.
Anyhoo, that was my "Problem". What I wanted was something to try to "replicate" the problems of commanding such a force. Now to the conventions/rules I used.


Basic rules are my standard Activate/Move/Fight rules; an amalgam of SP and Dux Brit. Units are activated by command figures, who are themselves activated as per standard SP conventions. However, there are, for this game, some specific "tweaks"....
Shooting rules are a tweak on SP type system with saving throws based on armour/protective gear. Chariots are moving javelin platforms & staff cars... All skirmishers will avoid fisticuffs where possible...

Combat bonuses: higher quality/experienced troops get an extra dice when fighting lower quality troops (as SP).
Saving Throws:
Basically if you have a big shield or a helmet or one other form of protection which you haven't trained with (e.g a looted maille shirt) you have a chance to turn a kill to a "shock" on a throw of "6" on a 6D.

If you have both, or good body protection that you are used to your chances improve (5-6).

What this means is the that least protected bods get killed off quickest.

If you are a fully trained Legionary with helm, lorica and big shield (and, boy, having worn about 8 different types of helmet the IstC AD Roman one is, for my money, the best helm I've ever worn - and the lorica seg. an amazing piece of kit) your chances rise to a throw of 4-6.  OK, the shock effect can build-up for the Romans, but if I have a double ranked trained-up cohort with full command still in place I allow centurions who still have all their back up (signaller & standard) to double their "shock removal" abilities (justified by "rank-swapping" training, relief of wounded front-liners and unit coherence effects).

When a chariot is hit by missile fire I dice to see if occupants or horses/ponies are targeted. If the horses; I ignore the shock aspects but a horse kill wrecks the chariot. If the fighting crewman dies the driver can go get refilled. If the driver is hit it is assumed the warrior takes over the driving, so ditto.
If both; the chariot is assumed to run off the field uncontrolled.

Roman troops employing the old "One-Two" of pilum & charge home get a first rush bonus of +1 to their charge/fisticuffs dice throw. They can also form "Cohort Wedge", which increases their "punch" (+2) and penetration power in a charge (it is assumed that, like my re-enactment group, the Romans trained NOT to telegraph to the enemy that they are going wedge charge, and thus allow for counter-measures - which is silly -  but change formation on the trot, just before charging home).

Otherwise shield wall and most other combat is a DuxBrit/SP1 amalgam, but any close combat rules could be applied.



All of my (Iceni, Catuvellauni, Trinovanti and Corieltauvi) Big Men tokens go in the Tub and activate as standard SP rules. 

Roman Big Man Activation tokens are only added to the tub/pack when the Romans are activated by the Event Cards. Until then Roman units will work on "automatic" pending a stimulus - e.g the horse and foot skirmishers stand their ground & shoot/return shot at/with enemy in range, but withdraw in the face of close-combat troops as soon as these get within their charge range. All skirmish units with officer figures will automatically use those officers to prioritise the removal of shock rather than add to fire-power WITHOUT needing Activation until their tokens go in the Tub as a result of an Event Card.

Legion and Auxiliary close-combat units will all hold position pending an Event Card Decision or an enemy close-combat unit approaching within "pilum n' charge range.
The Big Men tokens for affected units will be added to the tub/deck. All units with officer figures will automatically use those officers to prioritise the removal of shock rather than add to pilum fire-power WITHOUT needing Activation until their tokens go in the Tub as a result of an Event Card.

Boudi and the "Big Men":
My commander (Ms. B.of Norfolk) has six "let's call them "Command Points" (CPs) per move. When activated she can use them for moving herself about the field (6" +1x6d per CP expended), activating units, rallying or for bossing folk about within her command range as usual SP practice.... 

However, she can also "lend" Command Points to any of her Iceni  "I want to call them officers but this ain't a real army so lets settle for Respected Shouty Fellers" (RSFs aka Iceni Big Men with one inherent CP) within her Command radius, allowing them to act on her behalf that move (call it delegating along the command chain/passing orders). Once passed CPs these RSFs can do anything SHE can do re. trying to activate, rally, inspire or otherwise kick into line her recalcitrant command if passed some of her CPs. They do NOT need to be individually activated to do this.

They also each come with one inherent "Command point" of their own for Shock/Rally/Inspire purposes if activated by SP card/token (but these are not used for Activation of units; only Boudi can do that) - any CPs added by Boudi are a bonus in addition to this.

They can also "telegraph" Boudi's CPs along a line of RSFs, but at a 1 CP cost per signal passed (i.e. if they pass on an "message" they use their inherent CP in order to do so).

However, the RSFs are all Iceni (they represent the gaggle of advisors, old-timers who have seen action and gallant Icenian noble blades). While they can shout at their own kin, who will (roughly) do as they are told, but each other tribal contingent has it's own Big Men/RDFs who, while they will be prepared to take a direct order from Boudi (She is, after all, a persuasive, forceful, bit scary, possible manifestation of Andrasta.. With BIG hair....) they will need to be "persuaded" by any of the Iceni RDFs passing an order from her - i.e they will not take kindly to being ordered about (Activated) by any old Spot-bellied, Norfolk Swampcrawler....

Persuasion is simple; Throw a 1x6D for the Icenian RSF and add all of Boudi's CPs he has been lent/has in hand (but only the unexpended ones) to the dice. Then throw a 1x6D for the non-Icenian Big Man/RSF - adding 1 to the dice for each unit of HIS tribe currently routing or pursuing/following up. If the Icenian's throw is higher the non-Icenean RSF is activated/commanded as if by Boudi herself for that move. If his score is higher he will remain unpersuaded. If Boudi passes more CPs to her RSF next move he can have another go. 

The Event Card Packs: 

I will have my plans; meanwhile there is a set of random cards which will dictate what the various parts of my force (and, to a lesser extent, the enemy) will be trying to do "'cos they want to" and without orders (see below).
Rather than actually making cards this time I am using a standard playing card deck, well shuffled....

Each move, before I begin Boudicca's command moves, I throw a 6d die.

If a 5 or 6 is thrown I throw another die.

1-2 = draw 1 card. 3-4 = draw 2 cards. 5-6 = draw three cards.

Card results:


Cards 2-3: All of the Catuvellauni close combat troops will spontaneously advance towards the enemy. It is assumed that the
Catuvellauni "Better in Battle" bods who have turned up are anti-Roman die-hards, some of Cractacus's old comrades and those recalling the days when THEY ruled the roost in Southern Britain. It is assumed that their commanders understand the importance of coordinated action.
Cards 4-7: Trinovanti close combat troops will spontaneously advance towards the enemy. The Trinovantes have been Romanised/de-militarised for decades. They are not a military bunch and their behaviour will reflect this. For them This will might mean they make and an incremental, independent advance in 3rds rather than as a mass (So: lowest number card = one 3rd of them advance, 2nd lowest card two 3rds. Thereafter all the tribesmen advance). Nearest warriors to the enemy always advance first - they will be the best armed/of highest status.

Cards 8-10 = Corieltauvi as Trinovantes.


Iceni only. An incremental advance in 10ths. (rounded up) of close combat troops towards the enemy.

Dice to discover the sub-units involved (throw 1x6d. If 5 or 6 thrown the unit advances), starting with the troops furthest from Boudicca. Always start with the troops nearest to the enemy in each unit block (i.e the best armed/most "noble", as above).


The British skirmishers only:

2: Skirmishers panic. Any in front of the army will scuttle back until out of range of any enemy skirmishers/if within 24" of visible enemy cavalry.

3-5: Skirmishers will NOT engage without inspiration/orders. If being shot at will retire to the front line of the close combat troops.

5-8: Skirmishers will press the nearest enemy with shot, advancing if out of range.

9-10: Skirmishers will press to close range of nearest enemy.


2-3: Roman skirmishers pull back to behind the Roman battle line.
Appropriate Big Man tokens go in the Tub.

4-6: Roman skirmishers press to close range.
Appropriate Big Man tokens go in the Tub.

7-8: Roman Auxiliary flank troops charge nearest enemy (1x6d: 1-2 = Roman left. 3-4 Roman right. 5-6 = both flanks.). Appropriate Big Man tokens go in the Tub.

9: Legions advance (as one) to close (measured, approach to pilum range, throw & charge) OR Romans regain control of an uncontrolled charge and halt.
Appropriate Big Man tokens go in the Tub.
10: Legions uncontrolled charge... The sight of all those heads of their mates and desecrated standards we've been waving at them and the irritation from our skirmishers has got them riled. Trampling their centurions, losing all order, they rush to contact....
Appropriate Big Man tokens go in the Tub.

Colour cards:

Jacks: British only. Adjacent units follow/conform to any reacting neighbours.

Queen: British only. Spontaneous General advance.

King: British only. Bloody hell, they're doing what I want.... Whole army will conform to any single order by Boudica (uses all CPs that move). These are the ONLY cards that can be held over to another move if desired. All other cards must be played at once. Up to 4 Kings can he held, and played at will.

Joker: British only. Spontaneous Panic in one unit. Dice for location.


Hearts: British only. An Allied tribe panics en mass. (1x6d: 1-2 = Trinovantes. 3-4 Corieltauvi . 5-6 = Catuvellauni )

Diamonds: British only. Elements of Iceni potentially panic. Start with nearest troops furthest from enemy & work forward. Throw 1x6d per unit. Throw of 1 or less & unit panics. Take 1 from the dice for every 5 shock points. Take 1 from the dice for every adjacent panicking unit.

Clubs: Roman General Advance to contact (measured) OR Romans regain control of an uncontrolled charge.
Appropriate Big Man tokens go in the Tub.
Spades: Roman General Advance to contact- rapid, in cohort wedge OR Romans regain control of an uncontrolled charge.
Appropriate Big Man tokens go in the Tub.


It was a fun exercise, and epic battle (click on the pics to make 'em big) - and a
"typical Me" Solo Game.. Fairness" and predictability got defenestrated - and it kept me guessing (and swearing) from start to finish.. Chess this aint....

If anyone has any ideas or comments - all welcome as always.


  1. Did the britons ever have a Chance against a couple of thousand well trained and equipped legionairies ? I think not. The Roman war machine was so well developed by the period it was nigh on invincible..only poor Leadership led o it´s occaisional downfalls.

    "and not just thick cousin Aodhan, your noisy boss who thinks he's Caractacus just 'cos he's got his dad's helmet - and that guy from down the river who tried it on with your sister, can't even manage a hoe properly and only has that ex-legionary sword because he has longer legs than you and got to it first..."
    That made me laugh :-)
    You should do the Clades that was a Punch up.

  2. Yep... This was a bit of a "How to make a Forlorn Hope less Forlorn" exercise and a chance to play with some Crowd Control ideas rather than a "Yay!! I'm going to beat the clankies" push for victory.. Man for man the early Imp. Romans are just too well-trained and well-equipped - and, at company level at least, well-led.... In skirmishes and "bad terrain" the locals sometimes get a better chance, but in set pieces my Celts normally get marmalised.....

    One day I mean to use my "Eagles" or "Caesar's Legions" board games as a basis for some Germania fun.. Varius eat your heart out.... :) But all those TREES....!!!!!


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