Tuesday 25 June 2019

Action, Accounting and Assessing Risk....

The Campaigning Continues:

Have been doing some pre-battle "bookkeeping" for the ongoing campaign......
One of the things about running a campaign (as opposed to gaming one-off fights) is the "shock" of how QUICKLY your army gets whittled away - not so much in battle, which one expects, but with the allocating of troops to protect lines of communication, garrisoning salient points and the drip-drip-drip of desertions (and SO far I've managed to keep my guys fed & watered.....).

Apropos; I was looking through the pre-battle "Order of Battle" for Burgoyne's army at Saratoga the other week (like you do..) and was (yet again) stuck by the comparison with the "paper strength" of his regiments and the réalité of the "effective strength"... These ranged from an average of just over half the paper strength to just over a quarter (!!!) in one case....

My legions haven't degraded THAT much (yet), but I'm watching the figures - and the relatively small portion of the map "dealt with" so far - and thinking Ummm..........

Meanwhile, back on the map....

Sepporis has fallen after a only week's seige (Yielded on terms. We can still afford to be generous). The next week is taken up with:

A cavalry probe towards (hostile, fortified) Arbela, which comes face to face with a blocking force - and swiftly comes scurrying home without engaging (Clever boys..).

Little Garis turning out to be friendly - but the settlement will need a garrison (no pun intended) to keep it safe from raids from Arbela.
More probing.. On the road to (as it turn out, hostile, fortified) Tiberias the patrol of horse are ambushed... Except where...? The nearer one gets, the flatter the country.... Help me Mr. Google....

There is an indecisive skirmish (the enemy have no horse and the ground is a bit "Meh"...).
The above is followed by a day or two of Strategic thinking (Council of War), loss assessment, redistribution of garrisons etc....

A decision has been reached that Tiberias - with its direct road connections to garrisoned Scythopolis and Garis, plus the threat it poses to friendly Pella, Gadera and Hippias - HAS to be the next target.

This being so, a plan to march a legion and supports force via Ptolemais to Bersabe to push into Galilee from the north, in concert with the two legion push from the south, in order to speed things along, has been put on hold....

One of the frustrations of campaigning... I turned my back for a moment while sorting a logistic issue and having a "Council of War" and raiders from the "soon to be besieged" Tiberias raided friendly Pella. THEN, once I got them moving, my columns ran into bad weather before they got any further in closing down this danger point... Frustrating, yes; but "real".... Chess this ain't..

The army moves. besieging Tiberias (another 8 days lost) then on to Tarichaeae (another nine days). Losses are minimal but keeping my army together is eating up the weeks.
Having taken Tiberias and Tarichaeae the army moves to Beersabe, which surrendered after three days.
Here is the balance problem: a large army can scare the enemy into surrender or subdue a town by sheer presence/numbers in a siege situation. However, this will always take at least a week (plus clear up). I can deal with more towns at a time by splitting my force, but each individual siege will likely take longer, use more supplies, leave those columns more vulnerable to ambush and could result in losses in manpower I cannot afford... Hmmm.....

Titus and the Vth have been left at Beesave. Meanwhile, Vespasian and the rest of the army retrace their steps, to Tarichaeae, then move to deal with hostile, fortified Arbela. An ambush is triggered..... 

Again, I get Google Maps up and running. The short distances involved flummox me once more...The approach from the Sea of G. is flatish - until it starts rising to the mounts, where there is a suitable looking "ambush me" gully..

However, thanks to this wonderful resource (Streeview & the 3D tool), I can see where the sources (which are so bloody vague sometimes) suddenly fit the geography...

"Arbela" seems to cover the mount itself and possibly the nearby jebel, both of which look riddled with caves, as described/hinted at in some sources, which Josephus seemingly protected with walls..

Given the small distances involved, assuming I beat off the ambush, this might turn into an interesting a "follow-up and assault" on the table, rather than a siege. Looks have to dug out me old cork bits for this one...

Meanwhile: From the Annual Annals of
Crun the Elder:

"And Vespasian, with all his arméd might, did march from Tarichaeae even unto Arbela, and on first sighting this fell hold of his enemies gathered unto himself his Legates and spoke unto them, saying  "What the frick..??!! I was expecting a town, not a bloody rock..."

Honestly, sometimes being ambushed en route is a positive relief...

Friday 14 June 2019

Some Minor Irritations...

The Roman Advance Continues...
More movement in the "This Ain't Judea" campaign. Titus and his father had combined their two forces and moved, via the Camp near Mount Tabor, to the already-conquered Japha. Here we assessed the Butchers Bill from the Japha fight.

Legionaries of the Vth: 140 dead, 240 wounded, 220 light wounded. I tribune wounded.

20 African Horse dead. 20 wounded, 40 light wounded.
20 Gallic cav. dead 60 wounded 60 light wounded.
Gallic Infantry "The Blues": 100 dead 160 wounded 140 lightly wounded. Prefect dead
40 Syrian ("The Yellows") archers wounded. Prefect wounded.

Resting here overnight they reinforce the garrison before moving the short distance to Sepporis (one of the things that struck one when drawing up the map was the relatively "tiny" distances involved - albeit some being over rough ground. As Twain pointed out ". Palestine is only from forty to sixty miles wide. The State of Missouri could be split into three Palestines, and there would then be enough material left for part of another — possibly a whole one").

On approaching the settlement it seems as if, unlike historical Sepporis, new fortification works have taken place and the town is in arms.  The “Sortie” test shows that the garrison will try a sortie, attempting to block the Roman advance. A futile gesture perhaps, given their numbers (about 3,000 - and almost all lights), but there we are - if they had stayed put the town might have just surrendered. 

Although  Mr. Google indicates the approach to Sepporis looks pretty open once you get there, from street view there still seem to be a couple of places on the road from Japha/Nazareth where a blocking action would be feasible.  However, with the “Sally Party” being quite small,  and with the full Roman force (less the garrisons) coming up the road, this would not be a major problem for the Romans. 

Battle of the Sepporis Road

This time I gave myself the job of playing the Judeans, deploying my lads on the high ground. With only two close combat units (one light, one medium) of about 400 men each if it came to close quarters I had no illusions about the result. There were some advantages in my favour - the slope and broken ground fronting my position. 

I guessed that if the enemy did what they did last time (when I was in charge - oops..) the Rebels should at least have been able to maul their horse and missile troops again before the legions swept me off the table...

Enemy Victory conditions: to break me (causing maximum casualties) or, failing that, push though my army to clear the way for its baggage train (currently off table) within ten moves.

My job: to delay or prevent the enemy clearing a path for the baggage within those ten moves, to kill more of the enemy than they kill of mine and to end the game with at least 60% of my force alive, even if not on the field (i.e. withdrawn or broken units still count in my favour 'cos they would run back to the town).

As it panned-out the Romans did not mess about. They threw eight line cohorts and the First Cohort of Xth, plus a cavalry regiment and three cohorts of skirmishers at my 3,000 bods.

Initially they pushed out a skirmish line, but within a couple of moves rushed  their Line Cohorts forwards in pairs in a Frontal Attack, pushing though their skirmishers and up the slopes to my guys.
My missile fire cause a lot of discomfort and, as their lead units clambered up the ridge even my close combat guys managed to slow them for a couple of moves.
By move seven, however, they were right up among my guys, most were already skedaddling, and by the end of move eight their cavalry - which had kept out of the way of missiles for most of the game, charged up, taking down my Commander (captured wounded) and his staff.

That was that as far as my lads where concerned, and my last units broke and ran..

A good number of my guys got away, but casualties were bad - not least because the seriously wounded were left on the field; 639 dead/lost, 240 walking wounded.

The majority of my casualties came from enemy missiles and two disastrous pila volleys at move eight which broke my left wing, with only about 320 lost to close combat. 


Legionaries: 80 seriously wounded,  162 lightly wounded
Spanish Slings: 40 slingers dead. 120 lightly wounded.
"The Reds" Cavalry: 60 cavalry. 40 wounded, 20 lightly wounded.
Syrian "Yellow" archers: 20 lightly wounded.

Technical Stuff;
My House Rules use Random Activation (with tokens as per Sharp Practice and other similar rules systems), so we already have an element of chance.

However, for this skirmish I decided that, once both sides were set up, I would use the turn of my generic Tactical Card deck (like AH's "Caesar's Legions"/"1776" card deck)  to see what the enemy plan was, do once I had written out my own orders (which I could only change within my commander's command range or by using runners bearing new instructions).

As always, I was adapting, experimenting and tweaking, so I introduced an "Army" token for each army. This allowed the side whose token was drawn to consider all of its units activated for that move. Roman sub-commanders diced to see if they would actually move/attack, or use this activation to remove Shock..   Another "new convention" for this game was that after turn five I added a "feint" token to the Token Mix. If this token was pulled the enemy MAY have fooled me - I would test on the Feint Table to see if their "revealed tactical plan" is just be a feint, and, if so, where their real attack is coming in from...


I also tried out a "pinned" rule for (in this case Roman) heavily armoured/shielded infantry coming under intense, close range missile fire.

Any such unit receiving more than five Shock points/casualties from missile fire from within 12" in any single "volley" had to test for morale.

If they failed this test they were deemed to have halted and formed up close, in order to protect themselves from the missiles - and hence be deemed "pinned".

Next move, if still taking hits, they must test again to see if they break out of this "pinning"; either moving normally or, if the test is only just successful, moving as if in testudo - i.e. slowly.

(Rationale: I was unhappy with the Romans just marching on in the face of rapid, effective enemy fire, and thinking in particular about Roman Command teams - and their general lack of large shields. Based on my own experiences of being in a unit sheltering from incoming arrows etc. when equipped with a large shield; your vision is restricted, hearing orders is difficult and there is a reluctance to expose yourself. In addition, if the centurions, standard bearers & musicians have to hunker down behind the shields of their men because of heavy fire - their own shields being inadequate - this will have an impact on command & control).

This seemed to work quite well. 


The Sepporis garrison fled back home, the Romans in hot pursuit. An offer of surrender (unconditional) was refused, and the Romans set up a Marching Camp and prepared to besiege the town.

What with detached garrisons, wounded and desertions, despite their victories in the field, the Roman force does seem to be being whittled away at an alarming rate. Watch this space... 

Thursday 6 June 2019

And Out of Galilee.. Then back again....

The Game Continues...

As we left it Titus had realised he'd made a boo-boo in not levying supplies for the coastal cities as he marched north. He therefore decided to backtrack, spending the next week going back down the coast, levying munitions from several cities, before pushing back up to Caesarea to resting his troops.

He then pushed across the hills to Narbata, which, while hostile, yielded to his massively superior force without a fight. Leaving a garrison here he pushed on to Scythopolis, reaching this town on the 16th.

Meanwhile, as Titus shuttles up and down the coast, and despite the savaging of his rearguard, Vespasian pushes on to Japha on the 8th..

The Road to Japha:

Unlike "historical Japha" the town has not been newly fortified (Regional Card decision) but, like their historical counterparts, the defending forces decide to form up outside the town to face the Romans anyway. There are some 9,000 of them this time (as opposed to the "historical" 12,000. It might be noted that I have been tweaking the "draft" rules for this exercise. I decided the garrisons strength were too small).

To get a feel of what the terrain was like I looked at Google; finding a page all about Japha of The Galilee, and look at Google maps 3d & Street view to get an idea of the topography. Looks like the ancient town was on a ridge with a very steep slope on one side and a kind of undulating plateau fronting it on the south, with the road from the south/Scythopolis approaching up a wadi.

It seems reasonable that the locals would take advantage of this. I decided to strew the table with token "fields" - no high walls, nothing to interrupt movement, but supplying enough cover to conceal any enemy forces - and thus make my (the Romans') job more difficult.

However, I needed a way to allow the "enemy" to appear (or not) in a way to keep me guessing, so out comes the old "Pack of Cards" and Tables method again...

Japha Rules.. OK..?
The actual fighting will be as per my usual House Rules (Activation as per SP, using commander/unit tokens, plus custom tokens and command tokens).
Defending Player Entry

As dictated by the cards/dice. This side starts with three command tokens, rising to 4 once 5 units (excluding Command) are on the table. If the total of units reaches 10 another Command token is added to the mix.

Once 12 units are/have been deployed on the table an "Army Charge" token is added to the mix. If this token is drawn ALL enemy units at once charge their nearest Roman unit to assault in close combat.

Defender/Enemy Actions

No enemy units are deployed on Roman first arrival. No enemy units are in view. They may be concealed.

Throw a dice for each move where a leading Roman unit/Roman unit is moving with exposed* flank, rear or front. On the throw of a "6" draw a card from the Revealed Enemy Pack (below). Dice for the Roman unit affected if potentially more than one. Lowest "loses". In the case of a "lowest" tie ALL tying units are affected.

(*Exposed = no friendly units have already crossed the ground within ahead or to side of said unit, no enemy units are already occupying that position, the ground has not already been crossed by fleeing/withdrawing enemy troops.
If existing unit placements/range issues mean a new unit would have to be placed behind an existing unit no new unit is placed)

Also, on the drawing of a "Revealed Enemy Token" (C) from the Activation Token Draw similarly draw a card from the Revealed Enemy Pack.

In both situations apply the results below from the Revealed Enemy Pack based on the card drawn until all enemy units have been revealed.

(Note: Figures in excess of the figure-mix or the pre-determined enemy army strength cannot be placed. If other figures types are available use those based on the Reveal List. If no figures are available the opportunity is deemed lost. The only exceptions to this are units placed as a result of a Card-Token draw of Ace of Joker. Units drawn and placed of sight of the Romans are represented by a token not figures. The unit size/make-up not revealed until "seen" by the Romans).

Reveal List
; Order of enemy type reveal, unless diced for, is:

1st; Slings and bows. Once all of one type is deployed go to -
2nd. Slings, staff slings and bows. Once all deployed go to -
3rd: Javelin men. Once all deployed go to -

4th: Light close-combat infantry (start by throwing stones)

Close Combat Infantry:
1st: Light close-combat infantry (start by throwing stones). Once all deployed go to -
2nd: Medium close combat infantry (no missile capacity). Once all deployed go to -
3rd: Heavy close combat infantry (ditto)

With a card activation (only) Enemy unit placements are subject to the above restrictions plus additional restrictions on the Revealed Enemy Table and the following. Note that if existing unit placements/range issues mean a new unit would have to be placed behind an existing unit place it, but no movement/action/shooting is allowed on the turn of placement.

Card activation (only) can lead to enemy troops entering the table from behind Roman units and ground already passed over by Roman troops, but they cannot enter from any Roman Entry Zone (i.e. any point where Romans entered the table).

Enemy unit type is decided on the table below. Number per unit decided by a 10D dice throw  (1pip = 100 men, on the table the ratio will be 1 figure represents 20 men).

Defender Options DrawEnemy individual unit/commander activation follows normal procedure, with a suitable Activation Token allocated to that unit added to the Token mix once a unit hs been revealed.  Once a unit has been revealed add a Defender Options token to the Token Mix (B). The drawing of this token will prompt a draw of a card from the Defender Options Pack. This affects the enemy actions. Apply this result to all revealed units.

Roman EntryThis is deemed an encounter battle, so no units are on the table to begin with.
Initially the Roman player has three tokens and four Command Tokens in the token mix. Units enter the table when their token is drawn. Once on the table normal Activation rules apply for individual units. A further unit token is added to the token mix each subsequent move. In addition, for every 2ft of table edge controlled by the Roman Player an additional unit token is placed in the mix. Activation of individual commanders/units/formations works normally, i.e. an activated commander can command formation/s or unit/s as normal SP rules up to his command ability.

When the Roman token count totals to 8 unit tokens (all deployed unit tokens count - so even unit tokens removed from the mix due to routing/annihilation still count towards this total) another Command Token is added to the mix.

When the Roman token count totals to 10 another Command Token (total of 6) AND a Cohort Command Token is added to the mix.

Cohort Command Token (CCT): When drawn, a CCT represents either:

1) The actions of experienced, professional Roman sub-commanders off table. This allows the entry of up to four previously undeployed Legion cohorts (up to the army strength limit) onto the table (already formed up as a formation if desired) assuming there is Roman-controlled deployment space free at table edges.

Deployment can be in line, column or any mix of the two.

If there is not space for such a deployment at table edges under Roman control the token confers no new deployment advantage and NO units/formations enter as a result of this token being drawn.

2) The coordination of units on the field by experienced, professional Roman sub-commanders. When drawn (and not used as above in a move) the CCT allows any four adjacent Roman legion units/units within 4" of each other with no intervening units or impassible/hostile terrain, to be deemed activated. Such units do not need to have already been formed as a formation and not have to act as such.

Note: it is the individual units that are counted when using this counter. Units already making up a formation count as individual units for activation purposes using the CCT EVEN if they then act as a formation.

In the move after the CCT has been drawn an Auxiliary Token (AT) is added to the mix.

Every time this token is drawn either:

1) Two previously undeployed Auxiliary units enter the table as per above CCT rules.

2)Any chosen Auxiliary unit/formation may be deemed activated.

The Battle of Japha

The field is apparently empty..... I push forward my African light horse on my right as a screen and advance one of my slinger units on my left. No enemy appear..

Next move I bring on an Auxiliary cohort and an archer unit on and alongside the road. Pushing my African horse further towards the town I want to screen the road while moving my heavier troops up it at speed. But the Activation tokens are against me.

Move four; still no show on enemies part - but ditto re. my cohorts; presumably they're still struggling up the wadi.

I still want to push my light troops forward - but suddenly the ground to my front left and right is alive with enemy. Arrows and slingstones rain down among my sling troops. Some casualties are taken, but the enemy have opened at long range. We reply, but, leading from the front, I will have to look to Vespasian's safety if they move any closer.

Over on the right the missiles from some 700 enemy slingers and bowmen tear into my horsemen, bringing down their Prefect and taking down a several score troopers. One my left I face another 600 assailants.

Next move: again, my Activation options are torn away from me - and more missiles pile in; reducing my cavalry to a fleeing scatter . Five moves in and I already have a broken unit.

Next move I get the chance to bring on another unit, but the road is already choked with an Auxiliary unit. I bring up a Legion cohort on my left. More missiles bring down more of my slingers. They reply, but to no effect.
Meanwhile A token draw reveals/forces enemy action - Seven card: "
Enemy missile troops deploy/redeploy to engage the head of any leading advancing force and engage at effective to max. range only". The enemy left moves to comply - basically following my fleeing horsemen. But suddenly my luck changes. I get a chance to rally my slingers and push the Auxiliary cohort and archers forward. All looking more positive.. Until....

The enemy commander emerges from the town. Whether inspired by his presence, some prearranged signal or the pulling of a Token (OK.. It's the token) enemy missile troops spring from cover and open fire on (test for unit).... Oh, no - my bloody archers... To make matters worse ALL of the enemy slings & bows are on the field and now a thousand javelin men swarm up from the concealing slopes on the flank of my archers and lob their deadly pointy-sticks.. OK - at effective rather than close range, and the effect is basically shock, but I do NOT need this... We return fire, but given that it started well, this has NOT been a good move..

Over the next few moves things don't get much better. My African horse and the archers bolt for the table edge and I am forced to pull back my slings before they do the same. A couple of Legion cohorts arrive, but so do more enemy, then an enemy close-combat troop rushes the Auxiliary cohort, breaking it.

A couple of Legion cohorts arrive, but so do more enemy, then an enemy close-combat troop rushes the Auxiliary cohort, breaking it.

Over the next few moves there is a lot of "wave effect" action. I push cohorts forward. Enemy close -combat troop charge - and get pushed back, but the enemy missile troops and stone throwers (light close combat enemy can chuck rock - "They've got them up there, lying around on the ground..") batter my Legion lads, not causing many casualties, but inflicting severe shock - to the degree that one cohort actually breaks, only to be rallied by Vespy himself, and I have to pull them back to allow recovery...

A token-dictated Card decrees the enemy try a mass attack. This get thrown back, but my bacon is only really saved by a "Cohort Token".  Four fresh Legion units enter, soon to be followed by two cavalry troops. 

Although enemy casualties have been relatively light (except among those foolish enough to come within gladius range) the pushing/withdrawing of their close combat guys is having an effect on their Army Morale...

One good attack by my leading cohorts, coupled with a repulse of a counter attack and the catching of an enemy unit on front and flank at the same time is enough. The Home Side reaches breaking point.

I send my cavalry rushing forward to hack up all they can reach, but my foot troops are exhausted. Most of the enemy flee north and east, with only a couple of units running for the town. A mere scatter (approx. 240) enemy skirmishers get into the town, with my horse at their heels. The town falls....



With Japha destroyed a Marching Camp is established on the ruins. Leaving a garrison of the Xth Legion and attached auxiliaries here, plus the wounded, to recover from their exertions, Vespasian takes the remainder of his force into the Decapolis.

Gadara, Hippias and Pella are only too keen to open their gates and supply support. By the 17th Vespasian is back at Scythopolis. From here the two armies proceed to Japha together, then on towards Sepporis... 

One useful aspect of this campaign is that it is helping me test/hone my House Rules for larger actions. The addition of the “Cohort Token” and  “Enemy Reveal” and “Enemy Actions” tokens/decks seemed to work well. The effect of mass missile fire/stone throwing on the legion cohorts was interesting; really piling on the shock but with (relatively) few casualties. I feel that some kind of “forced withdrawal” mechanism as a result of mass stone-throwing/rapid slings at close range might be worth trying. Watch this space....

In Other News....

My Table... The last couple of days I've had a number of queries online regarding how I made the table shown in the recent battle report...