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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Camillan Romans finished — DBA Project Army 2

The 6mm Camillan Roman DBA Army - figures by Baccus, painting by numbers!
The 6mm Camillan Roman DBA Army – figures by Baccus, painting by numbers!

I started these chaps about two years ago or so — soon after I finished the Numidians. They have been sitting, about 25% finished, just above my painting table where I could not miss seeing them gathering dust. I decided last week that to combat a large degree of stress in my professional life I would finish these off.

All that had been completed before were the velites (two bases front to the right in the picture to the left). The others had been undercoated and the cavalry was half painted.

Of course, it had been so long since I painted them that I could not remember the paints and flocks that I used doing the basing.

I managed to match them off quite well at the end and I like the way these guys look at the moment. Best of all, I can now play 6mm DBA here and finally get around to teaching the lady the game. She likes kicking my butt in chess so this should be a lay-down misère 😉

The DBA 6mm collection slowly growing. Here are the Romans arrayed next to the Numidians. These are the first two of my seven army Singapore wargames project that I should have finished two years ago!
The DBA 6mm collection slowly growing. Here are the Romans arrayed next to the Numidians. These are the first two of my seven army Singapore wargames project that I should have finished two years ago!

Just for reference and because it has been so long ago, I arrayed the Numidian figures on the playing surface next to the Romans. I built the Numidians with all options so picked 12 of the most interesting (that’s the 12 around the elephant) and then put the rest of the figures in a third group.

As you can see there are quite a few more Numidians than Romans. That Roman Army, however, has absolutely no choices except for the choice of a general on foot or on horseback. I just assumed that with the amount of close order foot there I would never really think about taking the general other than as the mounted option.

Both armies are built from Baccus Miniatures 6mm figure range — a wonderful range of ancient troops.

I still have to get around to doing camps and such but that will be later in the project.

I’m not sure what will be next under brush. Maybe the 6mm Japanese World War 2 tanks, perhaps a DBA Parthian Army (seems appropriate as I am reading Peter Darman’s Parthian Dawn at the moment – and feeling very horse soldierly as a result) or even the next army in the Singapore Wargames Project – Gauls or Spaniards.

I will leave you with a parting picture – this for the non-wargamer reading this so they can get an idea of scale.

And for the non-wargamer, a sense of size of the 6mm figures ... yes they are small and no I do not have a lot of patience, I am a grumpy old fart!
And for the non-wargamer, a sense of size of the 6mm figures … yes they are small and no I do not have a lot of patience, I am a grumpy old fart!

Strategy and Tactics – Fail Safe: Nuclear Warfare in the Cold War

ST283M-2I remember the Cold War. Seeing the title of issue 283 of Strategy & Tactics when I took it out of the envelope in the elevator heading back up to the apartment last night brought back some memories.

I can remember life in the early 1970s in particular, the Cold War was well underway and at that time it was not clear who was winning. At that time many of us thought it was better not to win the Cold War as we didn’t want to upset the other guy – after all, they were always considered a bit unstable in the eyes of the Free World.

Ban the Bomb, protests against stationing US Nuclear Forces in Britain, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and the gulags, so many memories flooding back in. Really, it had me feeling that Generation X and Generation Y never understood the stress of being a Baby Boomer.

Fail Safe ((now there is another term fresh from the Cold War that takes on a whole new meaning these days)) is a look at the manned bombers carrying nuclear weapons in the period 1945 to 1960 and the story of the doctrine that directed and restricted their use. For another view on that, I can thoroughly recommend watching Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film, Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. That really caught the mood of the time well and is a superb black comedy. The article in S&T however has some really neat photographs of some of the nuclear capable aircraft of the time – I can almost feel another wargaming period coming on!

In this issue also is a look at Saladin – not so much the chivalrous warrior this time but more the ruthless contender reaching for power.

Pontiac_conspiracy
The Pontiac Conspiracy

In 1763, after the British had won the French-Indian Wars, Fort Pitt was besieged by a confederation of Indians unhappy with British rule and the policies of General Jeffrey Amherst in particular. This was the decisive battle in what became known as Pontiac’s War. Pontiac was an Ottowa Indian and leader of the confederation.

At this battle, British officers at Fort Pitt attempted to infect the besieging Native Americans with smallpox – an early example of biochemical warfare. The plan was to send blankets exposed to the smallpox virus to the Indians and hope it caught. The article also looks at the Battle of Bushy Run where the British did manage some effective infantry tactics.

There is an examination of Tulagi, the August 1942 landing on Tulagi to support the Guadalcanal landings.

Other notes and articles this month deal with the birth of the Roman Navy; Japan’s rise to naval dominance; submarines in the Gallipoli Campaign; and a piece on Admiral George Stephen Morrison (father of singer Jim Morrison of the Doors fame) and one of the commanders of the US naval forces in the Gulf of Tonkin at the opening of the Vietnam War when North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked US Navy warships.

Another good read coming up over the next few nights. I do enjoy this magazine, even without the game it is good value for money and any of the games that are interesting can be purchased later anyway. In fact, after a quick read of the Cold War piece I am starting to consider that as a board game to add to the collection.

The First Decals

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So, I tried the first few 6mm decals tonight (four down, 150-odd to go). My initial reaction was that it is really quite fiddly. Tonight I put four decals on the figures and will leave them to dry overnight. Tomorrow I’ll hit them with some decal set which should soften the decal and have it grip the shield underneath (boss included).

My worries?

  1. The boss on the shield will not line up with the dot at the centre of the decal
  2. I may have put the decals on rotated 90 degrees
  3. The whole thing will crap out anyway
  4. After decal setting, the decal won’t set

I must admit, in the future, I think I will paint shield patterns, especially in 6mm. To do that, I think I’ll find some fine-tip coloured pens and use those to make the pattern.

I think were I to use decals again, especially on 6mm Roman shields, I would remove the boss before painting and leave the black dot at the centre of the decal as the hint of a boss.

More after the next step

The History of Rome

One of my favourite podcasts has been The History of Rome. I have spent many an interesting hour driving to visit my mum near Coffs Harbour or my kids in and around Canberra, listening to this podcast on my iPod as the kilometres sped past.

This has been an ambitious project of Mike Duncan, to cover the History of Rome in podcasts and currently he is up to an episode called The Broken Bow. In his own words he describes this episode as:

In the early 450s a string of deaths changed the political dynamic of Roman world. Between 450 and 455 Galla Placidia, Aelia Pulcheria, Atilla the Hun, Flavius Aetius and Valentinian III would all die- leaving the stage wide open for the next generation of leaders.

Also, an announcment [sic].

I believe the announcement is that he is completing this series around 476 – the traditionally accepted date for the final collapse of thw western Roman Empire. I shall miss this although I must admit, I am still around episode episode 120 (I do only listen to the podcasts when driving north or south from Sydney after all).

As a wargamer, I have found this series remarkable … and I am sure that the purchase of some of then 6mm Roman figures I acquired not so long ago are the result of listening to some of these episodes.

This series I can thoroughly recommend as a good primer.

The Armies – II/33 Polybian Roman

P1000974This weekend is a busy weekend. I’m meeting my old boss from Korea, CW, at 2 for a couple of beers at Changi and then this evening on to Beerfest Asia 2011. I suspect that as a result of these two cultural events, tomorrow will be spent reading … but picture books only. Saturday morning though I got on with a couple of things whilst doing the weekly washing. I managed to finish painting the base board (more of that in a later post) and also to write up the Polybian Roman Army.

The Polybian Roman army reflects the Romans organisation at the time of Rome’s struggle with Carthage and Hannibal in particular during the Second Punic War. To that end the classical symmetry of the Roman Army is reflected in the structure of this army.

Probably the best initial wargamers source for information on the DBA Polybian’s in particular is at the Fanaticus website – and in particular the notes on the Polybian Romans.

Number Type Comments
1 3Cv The general element and bodyguards
1 3Cv Roman or allied cavalry. Could also be Spanish or Gallic Cavalry instead of native Roman or Italian allies
2 4Sp The Triarii – the veterans of the Roman Army and generally those that formed the third line. Armed in the traditional way of a long spear and shield – in many respects the Roman version of a hoplite
6 4Bd These are the Hastati and Princeps – and are those that perhaps did the majority of the fighting. Armed with the new pilum and trained in its use as well as the use od the short Roman stabbing sword
2 2Ps These are the Rorarii or Velites. At the start of the period, Rorarii which were lightly armed skirmishing troops. These later evolved into the Velites, light infantry armed with shield and javelins and wearing the famous wolfskin.

There are no variations possible with the Roman army. What is listed about is the Roman Army in its only variation. IN many respects this reflects Rome well.

As with the Numidians mentioned previously, I am using four 6mm figures for each 15mm figure recommended in the rules for infantry. The Velites will therefore have 8 figures on the base and the Hastati, Princeps and Triarii will have 16.

The cavalry and the general are scaled to three 6mm figures for each 15mm figure recommended. The 3Cv bases will therefore have 8 or 9 figures on them (I’m still undecided exactly on how many to use).

The terrain requirements for this army are listed as Arable. This means that as I make the terrain I will need to make sure I have the following for this army:

  • Steep Hills – two are needed
  • Gentle Hills – two are needed
  • River – one needed – it should cross the entire board
  • Waterway – one is needed
  • Woods – two are needed
  • Built Up Area (BUA) – one is needed and this is one of the compulsory features
  • Roads – one is needed as this is the alternative compulsory feature to the BUA. It should be long enough to cross from one side of the table to the other

This the organisation of the figures and terrain for the Polybian Romans. The picture at the top of this is the figures and bases sorted and organised for the eventual painting

The Singapore Wargames Project – Part 6 the Materials

P1000946So I finally collected everything. I have the baseboard (thank you Doug for the idea), paint, materials for terrain, figures to make 7 DBA armies from around the time and area of the Punic Wars as well as pre-cut bases to base on it all.

A can of Tiger beer and a planning session gave me the plan. The project will follow the following order (well, that is the plan at the moment at least).

  1. Paint the base board. The reason for starting with this is that I feel it will be a basically straightforward job, fairly quick and give me something complete to look at to encourage me for the other parts of the project (especially as there is another wargaming project at the back of my brain at the moment as well).
  2. Cut, assemble and make the terrain pieces. again, something reasonably quick and there are a couple of techniques I want to play around with.
  3. Paint and base the army with the least number of figures to deal with. This will be the Numidians. Whilst they are not part of the base set, there are some Numidians present in some of the armies anyway so the extra bases will be painted at the same time. They will give me a head start to some of the forces as well as giving me something pretty to look at.
  4. Start on the main 6 armies. When it gets closer to this time I will decide on the order to take.

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OK – ready to start. As I mentioned earlier I’ll be blogging the progress as this will help force me to keep to the plan.

To the left is a close up of some of the figures. The wooden bases you can see are 40mm x 30mm in size and the figures are just over 6mm small.

Right then, to paint! Tally ho the brush!

The Singapore Wargames Project – Part 5 the Figures

I mentioned that I was going to build this set using 6mm figures from Baccus 6mm. There are seven armies being prepared over time but I thought, as it was payday last week, to buy all the figures at one time.

Two orders were therefore sent to the nice Mr Berry of Baccus (his shopping cart got overloaded halfway through the order Open-mouthed smile) and if previous deliveries are anything to go buy, a nice parcel should arrive at the office next week.

The order was for the following:

Quantity ID Name
1 AGR8 Unarmoured Hoplites
1 AGR1 Hoplites
1 AGR6 Greek Cavalry
1 AGR11 Greek Bolt Throwers
1 AGR4 Psiloi – Bow
1 AGR3 Psiloi – Javelins
1 AMA9 Theurophoros Infantry
1 AMA15 Tarantine Cavalry
2 AGD1 Greek Decals
2 AIT1 Samnite Infantry
1 ARR1 Hastatii w pilum
1 ARR2 Triarii
1 ARR3 Velites
1 ARR5 Roman Cavalry
1 ACA3 Libyan Cavalry
1 ACA5 Veteran Infantry
3 ACA4 Elephants
2 AIR6 Roman Generals
1 ASP5 Spanish Heavy Cavalry
1 ASP4 Spanish Light Cavalry
1 ASP2 Spanish Caetratii
1 ASP1 Spanish Scutarii
1 ASP3 Balearic Slingers
1 ACE1 Celtic Infantry, stood
1 ACE2 Celtic Heavy Cavalry
1 ACE3 Celtic Javelinmen
1 ACE4 Celtic Slingers
2 ACE5 Celtic Chariots
1 ACE6 Celtic Leaders
1 ACE7 Celtic Infantry, charging
2 AMO1 Moorish Infantry
2 AMO3 Moorish Cavalry

This will be enough figures to make the seven armies with leftovers.

Later I will break up the armies into their contents. In the meantime, the next step is to an email an order to East Riding Miniatures for bases for the figures. I will be using the standard DBA 40mm wide bases for this.

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.