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.

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Another Brief Interlude – On the Painting Table

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Velites on the right, test sea bases in front and Triarii and Equites towards the rear – 6mm Baccus figures

I decided that there were a couple of things hanging around near the painting table that were just gathering dust so before I started on the next step of the Khmer/Burmese/Aeronef/WW2 Russians/WW2 Hungarians whatever, I should tidy some of this up.

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The sea base using Vallejo Water Effects – starting to look more like the business

One of the items was a part painted Polybian Roman army for my 6mm DBA project – remember, that was the project I started about two years ago when I first got to Singapore. I have the Numidians completed and the Romans half done and frankly, the dust layer on the Romans was thick. Out with a brush last night then to clean up the figures and then start some more painting. At this point, the Velites are finished and ready for basing whilst the Triarii are nearly finished. The cavalry are about one night’s worth of painting away.

The other item part done was mucking around looking for an effective sea base for the naval projects. In the photo above you can see two efforts. The one on the left was using white glue (PVA) and the left hand one using Vallejo Water Effects paint.

After some layered painting the Vallejo Water Effects base looks somewhat like the ocean. I think I will need to finish that model now (yep, another aircraft carrier I do not need) to see the final effect.

Tonight however, after leftovers for dinner, it’ll be more 6mm Roman painting.

The Singapore Wargames Project – Part 3 – the Armies

Yesterday I detailed the terrain to be purchased for the project. I mentioned earlier as well that once I started looking at possible armies, one of the campaign sets popped up as an obvious choice. The 2nd Punic War campaign has a good group of armies all of which are fairly competitive and that together will make some interesting combinations for big battle games.

Of course, given the usual wargamer’s megalomania, I could not just leave it at that six but decided to add a seventh, just for interest sake. All these armies will be made with Baccus 6mm figures and based on 15mm sized bases.

The armies:

List Number Army  
II/9 Syracusan  
II/32 Later Carthaginian  
II/33 Polybian Roman  
II/39a Spain The Iberian option was selected rather than the Celtiberian or Lusitanian options as the Iberians fought with both the Carthaginians and the Romans
II/11 Gauls  
II/8a Italy  
II/40 Numidian This is the extra one added to the set – purely because it just makes sense for some variety. Interestingly I also have a Numidian army to paint for Polemos Ancient

OK, these then are the armies to be purchased and painted.

Cancon 2011 DBA – Rajputs v Polybian Roman

P1000718 Game three saw me pitted against Chris Hersey and army II/33 Polybian Roman.

Whilst on the surface of it, the Romans look fairly vulnerable, they are really quite a good, general purpose type of army. It is true that my knights would “quick kill” most of his infantry but if he played well, his blades in particular would prove quite deadly against my bows and his triarii, backed with one of the Psiloi would also be able to stand up to the knights quite well. His force consisted of:

  • 1 x 3Cv – the Cavalry General
  • 1 x 3Cv – more cavalry
  • 6 x 4Bd – the hastati and the princeps
  • 2 x 4Sp – the triarii
  • 2 x 2 Ps – the velites – some light troops to both back the triarii and work the bad going.

Once again, I rolled low on the aggression dice (his aggression factor is 1 to start with whilst mine is 2) so I ended up being the defender again. I placed the now obligatory wood, rough ground and boggy ground, Chris rolled for sides, deployed and then waited for me. I had decided this time to take the all knight option so my general was mounted on a horse for this game rather than his elephant. I’d decided that over the six games I’d use the elephant general three times and the knight general for the other three games.

We advanced on each other. I’d deployed my blades in the boggy ground on my left flank to protect the archers coming forward and my psiloi on the right where the rough ground was near to where I expected to encounter the Romans. My bows, with the blades supporting were facing blades but the knights were facing his cavalry, general and some blades. My Psiloi would eventually ensure that his spears did not get at my knights.

My blades moved forward to cover the bows (who were really not going to get involved in this fracas at all).

P1000719We finally closed and after some melees that saw some of my knights recoil, Chris then lost an element of blades and this evened out the combat between generals. I rolled well, he didn’t and the result was his general becoming hors de combat and it was game over.

Another 8:1 victory to me. Another general eliminated.

The photo to the right is the conclusion of this game.

It was now lunchtime and after three rounds I had amassed 18 points from a possible 24. This apparently saw me in the top part of the middle of the field and meant that after lunch I would be facing a number of other two game winners, including some more very good DBA players from the Canberra area. Canberra has about 4 DBA tournaments a year so the players there are quite experienced.

Cancon 2011 DBA – Rajputs v Late Imperial Romans

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The first DBA game I played at Cancon 2011 was against Jason Dickie’s Late Imperial Roman Army. Jason was using the East variant of this list, enabling him to take more knights.

I had rolled lower than Jason for my aggression dice which when the rolls were added to our aggression factors ensured I was the defender. I laid out the tropical terrain of a wood, rough ground (the brown area) and boggy ground (the blue area).

Jason deployed a Late Roman army from list II/78b:

  • 1 x 3 Cavalry (the General’s element)
  • 2 x 4 Auxilia
  • 2 x 2 Light Horse
  • 2 x 4 Knights
  • 3 x 4 Blades
  • 2 x 2 Psiloi

I deployed my army, using the elephant general option. Jason then swapped two pairs of elements from his deployment and it was game on. As this was my first game with the Rajputs, I wasn’t sure of how the mix of troops in the army would work together so kept to a simple plan of engaging his knights with mine, trying to get my elephant general into contact with his knights as well and holding his blades on my right flank until the knights and elephant had done their business.

Jason managed to get a light horse in front of the elephant and matched his knights and general against my knights. The melees in the centre then flowed one way and the other until eventually my knights started dying against his knights. I managed to remove one of his knights as well but try as I might, my elephant could not despatch his light horse and get into his camp. I eventually lost four elements and my first game.

The scoring being used at Cancon DBA was 8 points for a win, and one point for a loss plus, on the loser’s side, one point for each enemy element destroyed. The element destroyed count was kept for both sides as well as camps sacked and generals eliminated for count-back purposes. So, 2 points to me and 8 to Jason.

This meant that for the second game I would be facing another first round loser.

Romulus and Remus et al

image I’m suffering the need for another quick ancient diversion. Yep, as if there is not enough on my wargaming plate (DBMM for Cancon 2011, the Mongolian DBA campaign sets, Italian WW2 in 6mm, bucket loads of 1/3000th ships, Aeronef, Land Ironclads, 6mm Polemos Napoleonic, English Civil War and Great Northern War) I managed to get myself distracted again.

There was a bright shiny object over there and like a moth to the flame I went to look. The bright shiny object was Lo hobbi.t.studio Early Roman figures. The flame was a series of podcasts I was listening to whilst driving back from Mum’s last weekend.  The podcasts covered the history of Rome from Aeneas and Romulus and Remus. Imagination fired, beautiful figures seen – all over red rover, Thomo hooked on another DBA set.

It occurred to me that Early Rome spent a lot of time warring with the neighbouring states, Latin, Etruscans, Hill tribes, Umbrian and so on. In fact, brawling with the neighbours was something the Early Romans were very good at. What a great idea for a simple campaign set. Here we have well balanced opponents for each other in DBA. So, the set will be:

Romulus and Remus et al

A campaign set for early Rome use DBA rules. The following armies are the six armies for the set:

  1. I/55b Roman 650 – 578 BCE
  2. I/55a Etruscan 650 – 600 BCE
  3. I/55c Latin 650 – 401 BCE
  4. I/55e Umbrian 650 – 290 BCE
  5. I/36 Italian Hill Tribes 1000 – 290 BCE
  6. I/52i Italiot or Siciliot 668 – 450 BCE

Most of these armies have a reasonable chance against each other with terrain being important for the Umbrian and the Hill tribes.

A nice balanced set for a DBA Campaign and one that I will write more of later as I collect the figures and get around to painting them. Of course, you may need to wait a while for that  😆