A Wargamer’s Guide to the Early Roman Empire – Review

I recently had a look at and reviewed Daniel Mersey’s Wargamer’s Guide to the Desert War. I am fortunate to have received a copy of Mersey’s Wargamer’s Guide to the Early Roman Empire to have a look at.

The book is paperback of 126 pages so slightly longer than the Desert War, was published by Pen & Sword Military on 4 July 2017, ISBN: 9781473849556. It is one of the range of wargame books being published by Pen & Sword. Best of all, it is on sale currently.

The book follows a now familiar format, although in this case, it contains seven chapters:

  1. The Roman Empire 27BC t0 AD284 – an overview of the history of Rome and its wars over the period of the Early Roman Empire
  2. Armies, Organization, and Equipment – covering, well, the armies, their organisation and equipment. A generalised discussion of the organisation covering the Romans; Britons; Caledonians; Dacians; Germans; Palmyrans; Parthians; and Sassanids
  3. The Key Battles – covering (briefly) the battles of Teutoburg Forest; Idistavisus; Medway River; Cremona (Bedriacum); Mons Graupius; Tapae; Issus; Lugdunum; Nisibis; and Emesa. These sections within this chapter briefly describe the battles then provide suggestions for wargaming the battle
  4. Wargaming the Battles of Rome – covering Facing the Might of Rome; Command Structures; Missile Fire; Legion versus Warbands (and Cavalry); the Role of Auxiliary Infantry; and Getting the Right Look
  5. Choosing Your Rules – a summary of a number of rules, including: Armati II; Aurelian; Commands & Colours: Ancients; De Bellis Antiquitatis; Hail Caesar; Kings of War Historical; Legio VI; To The Strongest; War & Conquest; War Games Rules 3000BC to 1485AD; Brink of Battle; Broken Legions; De Bellis Velitum; FUBAR Medieval; Lord of the Rings Battle Game; Of Gods and Mortals; Open Combat; and Song of Blades and Heroes
  6. Choosing Your Models – a look at some of the main manufacturers in various scales including manufacturers of 28mm, 20mm, 15mm, 10/12mm and 6mm. This chapter also discusses scale for each of those figure sizes. There is also a handy table of manufacturers and the ranges they cover (refer point 2 above for the ranges)
  7. Scenarios – presents the setting up of some scenario based battles to provide some variety in the games we play

There is also an index and a list of titles for further reading.

This book has found a welcome place on my bookshelf (actually, coffee table as it has become the favourite for flicking through with a cup of coffee this week). Mersey has set a standard for his Wargamer’s Guides and continues to deliver to that standard. Whilst much of the historical content is familiar to me it is good to be able to read that from another gamer’s perspective. There are 8-pages of eye candy in the middle of the book with painted figures from Simon Miller, Daniel Mersey, Barry Lee and Wargames Illustrated to encourage the reader to whip out the paintbrushes and finish off those Early Imperial Romans.

Mersey discusses the troop types against the very familiar descriptions of troops found in the old Wargames Research Group Series of rules, particularly the 6th edition. He discusses their use in battle, their formation, speed and armament.

I am now torn between completing my Desert War Armies or dragging out the Early Imperial Romans, getting them sorted then building some Britons, Germans, Dacians or Palmyrans for opponents. Hmm, now that I think about it I have some Sassanians tucked away here somewhere as well.

Well recommended for its general nature but also for the inspiration it provides.

Paint or Sell — 15mm Ptolemaic Successors

These are Muesum Miniatures and because of the way Museum package, it is difficult to give the exact figure code. However, bwlow is the list of figures in this army. There should be enough to do 400 AP of DBMM Successors. I really will never get around to painting these so the question is … paint1 or sell?

Museum Miniatures
No Code Description Infantry Cavalry Elephant
1 IE12? Elephant with howdah and crew 1
2 IE19? Elephant with howdah and crew 2
4 xC06? Heavy Cavalry 24
2 ???? Light Cavalry? 8
7 SE01? Phalangites 168
3 SE04? Peltasts with pelta running 24
2 CA01? Archers bare head tunic 16
1 SE24 Rhomphaia 12
Totals 220 32 3
Museum Miniatures 15mm Ptolemaic Successors
Museum Miniatures 15mm Ptolemaic Successors


1. Well, rather than paint, insert back into the lead pile.

Paint or Sell — 15mm Philistines

Sorting through the lead pile1 I came across some unpainted ancients. Actually, I came across a lot of unpainted lead but more of that later.

So now I am trying to decide – paint ’em or sell ’em.

Essex Miniatures
No Code Description Infantry Chariots
3 BS29 Command Chariot 3
16 BS31 Chariots 16
8 BS37 Kharu archers 8
6 BS33 Canaanite S/Less Javelins 48
5 BS??? Some sort of s/less Spearmen 40
4 BS112? Sea Peoples Infantry 32
4 BS32 Canaanite shield spear and armour 32
5 BS52? Shield tunic spear (Minoan types) 40
Totals     200 19

These are all Essex Miniatures and look good. I’m not sure of the exact composition of some of the packets but I recall when I built the stock for this I did make sure I covered everything that was needed to build about 400 AP of Philistines.

So … paint ’em or sell ’em?

Unpainted Philistines
Unpainted Philistines


1. Actually, I am looking for the British and German fleets from Jutland which I can’t find.

DBA Army for the Worlds – Selection?

I went through my unpainted 15mm stock and have listed the armies I can produce for the DBA Worlds at Cancon 2013. I need one army from Books 1 or 2, and a second from Books 3 or 4. Apart from DBA armies I also have a number of DBMM/DBMM armies in stock that I could build DBA armies out of. The stock:

Books 1 or 2


  • I/2b Early Egyptian 1639-1543 BCE
  • I/3 Nubian 3000-1480 BCE
  • I/6 Early Bedouin 1499-1000 BCE
  • I/17b Hyksos 1590-1537 BCE
  • I/59 Tullian Roman 578-400 BCE
  • II/5e Aitolian or Akarnanian (from the Later Hoplite Greek 450-275 BCE list)
  • II/45c Spartacus 74-71 BCE
  • II/76 Koguryo Korean 300-668 CE


  • I/18 Minoan and Early Mycenaean 1600-1250 BCE
  • I/24 Hittite Empire 1380-1180 BCE
  • I/29 Philistine 1166-600 BCE
  • II/19 Seleucid 320-69 BCE
  • II/20 Ptolemaic 320-30 BCE
  • II/32 Later Carthaginian 275-146 BCE
  • II/33 Polybian Roman 275-105 BCE
  • II/36 Graeco-Bactrian 250-130 BCE

Books 3 or 4


  • III/10c Rajputs 747-1300 CE
  • III/20a Sui 581-623 CE
  • III/20b Tang 618-755 CE
  • III/44 Tribal Mongol 840-1218 CE
  • III/62 (III/63) Early Polish
  • IV/01a Komnenan Byzantine 1071-1149 CE
  • IV/15 Qura-Khitan 1124-1211 CE
  • IV/17 Later Crusader 1128-1303 CE
  • IV/18 Lithuanian or Samogitian 1132-1435 CE
  • IV/22 Serbian Empire 1180-1459 CE
  • IV/28 Prussian 1200-1283 CE
  • IV/30 Teutonic Orders 1201-1522 CE (was list 151 in version 1)
  • IV/35 Mongol Conquest 1206-1266 CE
  • IV/43c Later Hungarian 1397-1526 CE
  • IV/56a Order of St John 1291-1522 CE (Cyprus)
  • IV/66 Later Polish 1335-1510 CE
  • IV/75 Timurid 1360-1506 CE

So now the interesting part – which one to choose? The Rajputs are already painted and have a good track record, running second at Cancon in 2011 so that rules them out. It should be something new for me.

Oh well, time to start asking questions of friends as I left my DBA rules in Singapore.

The decision making starts and of course, comments are welcome 🙂

‘Worlds’ Wargames Championships and Cancon 2013

January 2013 sees the ‘Worlds’ Wargames Championships being in Canberra, Australia. A range of competitions are scheduled, and if you or any wargaming buddies have any travelling plans at this time, please let them know their participation would be warmly welcomed.

At this stage, I believe at a minimum, the competitions on offer will be DBA2.2, DBM3.2, DBMM2, DBR, FoG-R, FoG-A, FoW and others.  The followinghas been posted and feel free to pass it on to anyone else.

”For those who weren’t aware, Cancon; the largest wargames competition/convention in Australia (probably the Southern Hemisphere?) has been confirmed as the ‘Worlds’ event for 2013.

Cancon is traditionally held every year at the end of January over 3 days in Australia’s Capital, Canberra, and attracts huge numbers of gamers in many different competitions, display and participation games. It is also strongly attended by traders such as Eureka, Essex Australia, and many others.

The DBMM event is currently being organised (likely to be offered in 15mm only) in conjunction with some of the local players from the Canberra Games Society, and I am strongly encouraging those of you who can travel, to consider making a holiday out of the experience and enjoy Australia.  The large contingent of British, South African and other gamers who made it to Melbourne for the 2005 IWF DBM competition can confirm that it is a lot of fun, (and apparently Aussies make real easybeats (great band though). Perhaps we are a bit too much like our one-day cricket team really. 😆

By a happy coincidence, 2013 is also the centenary of Canberra’s founding as the capital of the Commonwealth of Australia, and there will be a lot of events going on, in and around the city at that time, with something for everyone. See http://www.canberra100.com.au/ for some details.

Canberra also houses a truly world class military museum in the Australian War Memorial, and any historical gamer should find something there to appeal, whether it is the Japanese Mini-Sub trapped in Sydney Harbour, Lancaster G for George or the WW1 Aircraft.


Canberra is located a short motorway drive from Sydney, about three hours – I do it once a month on average and would recommend a coffee stop at Goulburn at the big Merino which will enable visitors to have some good teasing material for the championships. By any standards it is a beautiful city, easy to get around and a great base whether you want to visit wineries, the sea or the Snowy Mountains (although snow in January is a rarity in Australia). Late January is essentially just a little past halfway into the Australian summer, so a really great chance to warm up from the Northern Hemisphere winter – just be sure to pack your sunscreen (50+ is recommended for the Aussie sun)!  Canberra also has a thriving and extremely varied restaurant and dining scene, excellent arts facilities, national museums, galleries and so on, so there is plenty to do for partners and kids.


Canberra Games Society will be the hosts, and we will do our best to look after visitors and make sure you all feel welcome. So if you ever wondered how much a Koala could bear, or wanted to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef, why not do it to coincide with Cancon 2013 and take 3 days to have some fun games and possibly win a World’s Title!



Setup Friday 25th January 2013

Day One: Saturday 26th January

Day Two: Sunday 27th January

Day Three: Monday (Public Holiday) 28th January

A 15mm Diversion – Ancient Greeks

DSC01434A little while back Anthony and I decided that we needed a little 15mm DBA action here in Singapore. Whilst I am building 6mm DBA armies, Anthony is being a bit conservative with the old “too small, can’t see them” arguments. We shall see on that note.

So, 15mm DBA. What was it going to be? Beer was produced and a planning session started. After some discussion, we decided that Ancient Greeks offered a good possibility. We had not really decided on Early or Late Hoplite Greek, just Ancient Greek.

Anthony had an interest in Spartans, so, as it looked like the Peloponnesian War was going to erupt in Singapore, the Delian League seemed appropriate for me.

I knew Anthony wasn’t planning on painting figures but rather would buy painted. I wondered how I was going to find time to paint and so thought “nah, let’s have a look for painted figures!”

Off to eBay I went and found some light infantry and hoplites (both armoured and unarmoured). I needed about 12 elements of Hoplites but over achieved and ended up buying 32 elements (it was a good deal). Oh well, some big battle DBA coming up.

I also needed some peltasts so some more hunting and I found some 15mm Thracians. Add some Thessalian Light Horse and four elements of Greek Cavalry and I have enough for two or three Greek DBA armies now. I also ended up buying some new Old Glory 15mm Greek cavalry as a plan B when I could not find any painted ones so I may just paint those up as well.

In the typical model of megalomania found in most true wargamers, I am also considering the odd purchase of more painted hoplites to take the army up to DBMM size. I was also thinking that as the Persian War was the lead in to the Peloponnesian War that perhaps I should look for the odd Persian as well.

Look out KL, I may actually get to your annual DBA competition this year! 

Cancon 2011 DBMM Game 1 – Early Anglo Saxons

Cancon2011_DBMM_01_01 My first competition game at Cancon 2011 (well, at any time really) was against Dave Turner, a Canberra local, and his Book II, List 73 Old Bavarians with Avar and Western Slav Allies. This gave him a good troop mix with the Avars providing Superior Regular Cavalry (Reg Cv(S)), the Western Slavs providing a lot of Auxilia (Irr Ax(O)) which are useful for broken terrain along with some Psiloi (Irr Ps(O)) and cavalry (Irr Cv(O)). The Bavarian part of the force consisted of a large mass of warband, both Noble (Irr Wb(S)) and Peasants (Irr Wb(O)).

Using the two allies is risk for Dave as there is a chance that one of the commands will be unreliable at the battle start. However, against that is the resulting army which has a mix of a lot of warband infantry – always a problem for any opponent – backed up by some quality cavalry in the Avars and some good bad terrain troops with the Western Slavs. I was the invader in this battle so got to deploy second which was an advantage.

Dave managed to deploy some difficult terrain that allowed him to sweep around on his right flank and restricting my deployment.

Cancon2011_DBMM_01_02I had decided that I would deploy my weakest knight command (Command B – see my previous post on Cancon 2011 – the Eastern Franks) to face the Avars. I hoped that they would be able to engage the Avars and keep them busy long enough for my main strike command, Command A, to do sufficient damage to the warbands to cause some consternation for the Bavarians. In the meantime, my infantry command would act to delay the Bavarian right flan. Well, that was the plan.

The battle started very early, at 5:00 am in fact. It was a cool autumn day with a strong wind blowing from the southwest. I was facing east.

I advanced the knight commands forward as fast as I could to engage and get them involved as I was not confident with the ability of my infantry to stand too long. The weaker command engaged the Avars as planned as the main strike command closed in the warband. In the meantime the Slavs advanced quickly across the bog and started to swing in on my left.

Cancon2011_DBMM_01_03 The general’s command struck the warband and started to push into them. The Avars, however, had been shattered by now so my right flank Milites and Swabians started to swing in on the main Warband. The left flank command of the Franks was holding up the Slavs well, with the Archers in particular holding their own against the Auxilia in the bog. The spears were holding some warband back.

The overall plan worked at the Old Bavarians finally cracked and broke. I had won my first competition DBMM game.

By the time the battle had completed I had lost 5 elements of Milites and 9 elements of spears and bows. This was just over 15% of my force so by the scoring rules, I lost 2 points for each 10% of my force lost. These two points were then deducted from the 25 points awarded for each game to give a result of 23:2 in my favour.

I must also thank Dave for being a true gentleman throughout the game, even assisting me with advice at one point of time in the game.

On to the second round.

Cancon 2011 DBMM – the Eastern Franks

P1000752 I had decided to play the De Bellis Magistrorum Militum (DBMM) competition at Cancon 2011. Looking through the army lists as well as the figures I had at home I had settled on something Carolingian in appearance. I had some figures that I had acquired at a bring and buy in the UK and had never used them. This was the chance. A couple of games with Doug as a test of some army compositions (as well as an introduction to the rules) occurred and I finally settled on Eastern Franks circa 933 C.E.

This period was shortly after the transition from the Carolingian Empire to the split between Eastern and Western Franks – the Eastern Franks eventually taking the title of the Holy Roman Empire. As a result, I felt using the essentially Carolingian figures worked with this army.

The army was built into three commands, as follows:

  C-in-C Command Type AP Total ME
2 Army Baggage Irr Bg(I) 1 2 1
1 C-in-C Irr Kn(F) 19 19 4
11 Milites Irr Kn(F) 9 99 2
6 Archers Irr Ps(O) 2 12 0.5
  Sub-General 1 Command Type AP Total ME
2 Army Baggage Irr Bg(I) 1 2 1
1 Sub-General Irr Kn(F) 19 19 4
4 Milites Irr Kn(F) 9 36 2
5 Swabians or Bavarians Irr Kn(I) 8 40 2
  Sub-General 2 Command Type AP Total ME
2 Army Baggage Irr Bg(I) 1 2 1
1 Sub-General Irr Kn(F) 19 19 4
12 Spearmen Irr Sp(I) 3 36 0.5
6 Archers Irr Bw(I) 3 18 0.5
8 Old Saxon, Thuringian or Bohemian Irr Cv(O) 7 56 1
  Train Command Type AP Total ME
6 Army Baggage Irr Bg(I) 1 6 1

The rules themselves work on command/army morale being based on steps that diminish the effectiveness of the army as casualties increase. In addition, the general can take some “stratagems” to use during the battle. The remaining parts of the army list, including the total ME (the morale effectiveness) is shown below:

Aggression: 3 Army Points Total = 375
Climate: Cool Total Army ME: 84
CinC is: Normal Army Defeat Point: 42.5

The stratagems taken were Scouting and Feigned Flight.

The army itself, when laid out, looked like is shown below. The next instalment will cover the first of the games.


Cancon 2011 – The Results – DBA Competition

Whilst the first two days of Cancon 2011 were taken up with the DBMM competition (from my perspective at least), the third day was the DBA competition, and the competition that I unexpectedly shined in. The army I took was the Book III, List 10b Hindu Indian (Rajput). I had only completed the painting and basing of this army the day before leaving for Cancon and in fact, on the night prior to departure, I was still working on the Camp for the army.

I’ll provide an updated AAR with photos of each of the games later (indeed, I plan to do the same thing with DBMM when I get a chance). In the meantime (and assuming that my failing memory is working well enough), over the six rounds of the DBA competition I played the following opponents (in no particular order):

  • Jason Dickie with II/78b Late Imperial Roman (East)
  • Reon Halverson and his II/5a Later Hoplite Greek – the Spartan variety. Reon is also a junior player and if I recall correctly won the Junior encouragement award
  • Brenton Searle and his magnificent IV/33 Epirot Byzantines
  • Chris Hersey’s II/33 Polybian Roman
  • Peter Braham with a Wars of the Roses English sans artillery (Nellie breathed a sigh of relief)
  • Adrian Williams using army III/43c Khurasanian (Samanids)

After the six rounds were played I had lost only one game to Jason Dickie’s Late Imperial Roman’s – although I like to think of that game as my training game.

I must thank all my opponents for delightful games played in a good spirit and for the helpful advice provided to a n00b who really had not played DBA for 10 years. Even  better was the advice given after I had moved and then said “yes, you are right, that would have been a better move but I really can’t take this back now” only to find that once the dice had finished rolling that bound, the move that “I really can’t take this back now” turned out to be where I won the game. 😆

The final results for the competition were:

  1. Doug Melville using IV/30 Teutonic Orders 48 points scored (6 wins … but he never played me 😈 )
  2. Ian Thompson III/10b Hindu Indian (Rajput) 42 point scored (5 wins and 2 points off my losing game)
  3. Murray Woodford III/54 Early Samurai 40 points (not sure how many wins there)

So, all there is left is to display the trophy, and the second place army:


Cancon 2011 – The Aftermath – Part 1

I got back home from Cancon 2011 late last night (midnight in fact). Still, the tiredness was purely physically as my mind was still racing. I have just had three days of fun and wargaming in the best spirit. I will write more on this later but a brief summary will have to serve here.

On days one and two I played four games of DBMM with an army and a set of rules I was unfamiliar with. The result was 2 wins and 2 losses and I came exactly half way up to field of 21 (11th out of the 21 so I guess that makes me the average measure all should be measured by 😆 )

Yesterday, the third day, I played in the DBA competition – a set of rules that I have had two games with in the last 10 years. I was also using an army that I had only finished painting the day before Cancon began so I had not used before. I played six games in this competition, losing the first game then winning the next 5. At the end, I won the second place in the Cancon 2011 DBA competition.

I can recommend this competition for anyone who likes to play games, there are many games on offer and it is a major event in Canberra each year – well worth coming from overseas for as well as at this time of the year, Oz is nicely warm.

More will be written later this week as I cover all some AAR’s as well as some photographs of the games and the armies I used.