Tuesday 7 November 2023

Rome vs. the Marcomanni

During the reign of Emperor Augustus, the Marcomanni become a dangerous threat and plans eliminate the kingdom of Maroboduus were made. The campaign would commence with Tiberius leading 12 legions across the Rhine, unfortunately, the Illyrian revolt postponed those plans.

Good fortune however, presented itself when war broke out between Arminius, the victor of Teutoburg Wald and Maroboduus in 17 AD, forcing the latter to withdraw to Bohemia. The long period of peace that followed ended when the Marcomanni, together with the Quadi and Sarmatae tribes crossed the Danube in early 160 AD, initiating a 14-year long conflict.

The wars of the Marcomanni are represented as two sub-lists in the DBA3 rulebook; an early period one, ruled by Maroboduus and a second one with Ballomar as king. This test series, the Marcomanni use the first sub-list as it offers ‘warriors trained in the Roman fashion’ or 4Bd, making the Marcomanni a formidable opponent.


Game one

The battle took place on open ground between forest and thick scrub, offering sufficient room for the infantry to deploy, the cavalry however, took a position beyond the scrub essentially creating a separate battle.

The Marcomanni began the battle and approached the Roman line at a steady pace. The legion remained in place while beyond the scrub, the Roman equites launched their attack against the German cavalry. The scrub separating the two conflicts quickly became a pivotal location as this became ideal cover for Roman auxilia.

Accompanying the auxilia was a cohort of archers and from their position, began harassing the rear of the barbarian columns.

At the Roman centre, the artillery discharged a hail of bolts disordering a number of columns. Those columns that did reach the Roman line were able to force a breach. These were quickly filled by units held in reserve.

Sensing the Marcomanni assault had reached its high-water mark, four auxilia moved out of the cover of scrub to assault the Marcomanni centre. Adding to the pressure, the Roman equites overpowered the opposing German cavalry. Sensing victory was no longer possible, the Marcomanni warlord called for a retreat; Rome victorious, 10 – 4.


Game two

Gaining valuable insight from the first engagement, the Marcomanni made changes its deployment. The Roman deployment remained unchanged.

The Marcomanni horde advanced and on its flanks could be seen the disciplined ranks of the trained infantry (4Bd). At their centre and in the first rank was their leader.

As the two lines collided, the Marcomanni cavalry began its encirclement of the Roman line. The flank attempt was stopped by the auxilia infantry and equites defending the Roman left.

The battle raged on in the centre, casualties falling on both sides and Rome quickly filled the breaches with units held in reserve.  

With severe losses incurred on both sides; the battle lines disappeared to evolve in many isolated conflicts. Both sides smelled imminent victory as the score reached break point, 8 – 8.

Quick off the mark, the Marcomanni cavalry, led by their sub-general, launched a desperate attack, breaking the Roman equites and secure a narrow victory. The Marcomanni 10 – 8. 


The first battle developed as per text book; adequate reserves, a strong cavalry wing matched by a strong wing of auxilia positioned on the opposite flank. The artillery performed well, disordering the barbarian phalanx, forcing them to make piecemeal attacks. 

However, the second battle was truly a slugging match (8 turns) and progressed throughout with both sides levelling the score each turn. Both sides reached break point on the same bound (turn 7), but the Marcomanni were blessed with pip score of 6, making an end to a long hard battle.    

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