Tuesday, 6 June 2023

Roman Tour – Late Judaean

The Client Kingdom of Judea, frequently found themselves at odds with neighbouring entities such as the Nabataean and the city-state of Emesa during the reign of Caesar Augustus. Following the death of Herod the Great in 1 BC, Augustus honoured the division of the kingdom among his surviving sons to establish the ethnarchs of Judea, Samaria and Idumea*.

Any harmonious relationship among the heirs quickly turned to armed conflict (Josephus) drawing the neighbouring states and Rome into it.


Game one

Encamp in the Elat valley, the Judaean army were alerted to the approach of the Roman army by scouts. Forming a battleline in front of its camp, its flanks were protected by difficult hills and a village.  

Seeing the Judaean prepared for battle, auxilia and legionnaires formed a line matching the enemy. Intent on seizing the village on the enemy’s right, an assault column of legionnaires supported by auxilia made ready to attack.

The Roman assault on the village met with stiff resistance. Gaining little success, Roman attention focused on the enemy centre to create a breakthrough.

The main attack came to a halt as Judaean skirmishers fell on the Roman right flank. The well-timed counter attack frustrated each attack by Rome. To overcome the level of enemy resistance, Rome reinforced its left flank and resume the assault on the village and the Judaean right.  

Judaean troops sent to support its right effectively thinned its battle line. Sensing the right moment, Rome struck the enemy centre sending the enemy in retreat. A victory, but at heavy cost; Rome 4 - 3 

Game two

The Judaean line nearly mirrored that of Rome, but lacking sufficient cavalry, sought the protection of its flanks with rocky ground and steep hills on either side. Rome, in standard formation, placed its artillery and archers on the left and kept the bulk of its cavalry in reserve.

The Judaean launched an early attack on the hills position on the Roman left. From this vantage point, the Judaeans assault the artillery and archer units exposing the Roman centre. The plans quickly soured as accurate artillery shots destroyed a Judaean auxilia unit and those skirmishers reaching the hill suffered heavy losses.

Confident of a secure left flank, the legion crashed into the main Judaean line sending enemy formations back. As a result, many Judaean units found themselves attacked in both front and flank, to be cut down were they stood.  

The pressure became too much for the Judaean and a retreat was called for. A solid victory, Rome, 5 – 2



Both tests were long, taking 7 turns to reach a decision, this was not due to poor die throws, but many combats resulting in even scores. In error, the element of cavalry was replaced by an element of skirmishers. On reflection, I not sure this would have made a difference due to the restricted nature of the terrain which actually favoured light troops. Both tests demonstrated the tenacity of the Judaean skirmishers against heavier armed opponents, including cavalry.  

Both sides may use allies and the Judaean may have Parthia (2 x 4Kn, 1 x LH) while Rome could select from a number of options from the Arabo-Aramaean list (II/22). The Nabataean, for example, could supply 1 x noble (4Kn), 1 x archer (3Bw) and 1 x camel guard (Cm) as a counter to the Parthian presence.


Early Imperial Roman

1 x General (Cv), 1 x equites (Cv), 4 x legionnaires (4Bd), 3 x auxilia infantry (4Ax), 1 x archers (4Bw or Ps), 1 x light horse (LH), 1 x artillery (Art).

Late Judaean

1 x General (3Kn), 2 x Thracian cohorts (4Ax or 4Bd), 3 x Judaean cohorts (4Ax), 1 x Gallic cavalry (Cv), 3 x archers/slingers (Ps), 2 x javelinmen (Ps) or Idumaean hillmen (3Ax) or rioting religious mob (5Hd).

Sunday, 4 June 2023

Necessary conversions

This past week I converted a number of miniatures to fill an army list option and to make use of an unused command pack.

The first are the Roman contarii (3Kn) listed as an option for the Early Imperial Roman. The Old Glory Seleucid Xystophoroi was ideal as this required a modification of the helmet and the inclusion of a contus of brass rod.

The Roman Cavalry, From the First to the Third Century AD’ by Karen R. Dixon and Pat Southern mention equites armed with the contus wielded the weapon in combat with both hands, therefore no shield. An illustration of the tombstone of an eques of Ala I Caninafatium demonstrates this, see figure 18

The second were Ancient British light horse converted from a German cavalry command pack consisting of commanders, standard bearers and musicians. The conversion was a simple clipping of instruments and standards off the figure.

Painting the Ancient British was a challenge as these required chequered trousers, war paint and decorative shields. All of which was a useful exercise as I will order the infantry to complete two commands.    

Ready for an undercoat.

Ready for battle

Tuesday, 30 May 2023

Roman Tour – Edessa

From 132 BC to A.D. 214, the Kingdom of Osroene was established by the Abgarid dynasty with Edessa as its capital. During the period, it came under the protectorate of Parthia, later Armenia under Tigranes and ending as a Roman province. As a client state of Rome, Edessa still maintain pro-Parthian sympathies instigating a number of revolts. The last king of Edessa, Abgar IX Severus was deposed in 214 AD with the territory becoming the Roman province of Osroene.

Test games

Though both Rome and Edessa may employ allies, these two test games were play using the standard list. The composition for the Edessan force is quite similar to Commagene, an archer core with cataphract to deliver the necessary punch. A Parthian ally would add more weight to that punch. The battlefield consisted of two rocky areas, one difficult hill and BUA (hamlet).


Game one.

Although defending, the Edessan did pin the Roman centre placing its effort to turn the Roman right flank.

The maneuver succeeds to expose both Roman flanks, leaving the legion virtually immobilised. The battle became a costly win for Edessa, 4 - 3.   

Game two.

Making use of the terrain to protect both its flanks, Rome placed the legion, archers and artillery in the open ground between. The Edessan planned a second flanking maneuver with hope for a similar result.

Rome seized the initiative early, advancing the legion against the Edessan centre, this left the task of the auxilia to fend off threats to the army’s flanks.

The legion swept through the Edessan centre to reach a decisive victory, Rome 4 – 1.


Most of the Arabo-Aramean list would have difficulty in defeating a Roman force without the use of allies, as archers do not stand well against the legion. Mobility is the best advantage for the Edessan as was demonstrated in game one. This will certainly be replayed with allies for the Edessan.   


Early Imperial Roman

1 x General (Cv), 1 x equites (Cv), 4 x legionnaires (4Bd), 3 x auxilia infantry (4Ax), 1 x archers (4Bw or Ps), 1 x light horse (LH), 1 x artillery (Art).


1 x General (4Kn), 2 x horse archers (LH), 1 x swordsmen (4Bd), 2 x javelinmen (3Ax), 5 x archers (3Bw), 1 x caravan guards (Cm).

Thursday, 25 May 2023

Roman Tour – the Commagene

The Kingdom of Commagene arose from the demise of the Seleucid Empire in the mid-2nd century BC. During the Mithridatic War of 64 BC, the kingdom became entwined in Roman politics by allying with Pompey. Since then, it has experienced a political roller-coaster through annexation under Tiberius, extended independence by Caligula and lastly re-annexation under the rule of Vespasian, the latter sending the Legio VI Ferrata to deal with resisting forces. The Commagene is listed as an enemy of Early Imperial Rome with this event being the sole confrontation between the two. You will find the army lists noted below. 

Game one.

The army’s deployment mirrored one another, using difficult hills to protect their left flank.  and positioning the heavy cavalry behind each centre as a reserve. The Commagene sent light horse and Thracian auxiliaries to probe for weaknesses on the flanks while the archers closed the distance to the Roman legion. Rome deftly countered the threat to its flanks and repositioned its bolt-shooters and archers.

The bolt-shooters brought destruction to the Commagene line forcing other archers and hoplitai to deal with the artillery. The Commagene cataphracts moved forward to fill the vacancy created by the reassigned hoplitai and bowmen.  

Impatient to engage the enemy the Roman centre charged the cataphract and its supporting archers. The battle quickly engulfed the entire length of the line, both sides losing heavily.

The Commagene, having committed all its troops could no longer sustain the battle and was forced to withdrew from the field. A hard-fought victory for Rome, 4 - 3.

Game two.

A subsequent battle found the Commagene forming an extended battle line; cataphract in centre and hoplitai and archers to either flank. Positioned at the open flank were the horse archers.

Forming a concave line, the legion was positioned in the centre with the auxilia and artillery placed forward of the main body. 

The cataphract and hoplitai moved slowly forward allowing time for archers on the right to seize the heights. These were met by two units of auxilia.

Roman auxilia quickly dispatched the Commagene archers to hold the heights. From their position they viewed the destruction dealt by enemy cataphract striking the Roman centre. Commagene archers silenced the artillery while Rome scrambled to close the gap created enemy horse.

Capitalising on the chaos, the Commagene cavalry broke through the Roman defense and rout the army from the field. Commagene, 4 – 2.


The second battle exposed the vulnerability of artillery against bows. However, in general, I am pleased at the overall performance of the bolt shooters. Very low pip scores plagued the Roman for the final four turns. Fortuna was certainly elsewhere.

With five elements of archers, this leaves very little flexibility for the Commagene. The Commagene must rely on the timely employment of its cataphract and blade to create enough enemy casualties to force a victory.   


Early Imperial Roman

1 x General (Cv), 1 x equites (Cv), 4 x legionnaires (4Bd), 3 x auxilia infantry (4Ax), 1 x archers (4Bw or Ps), 1 x light horse (LH), 1 x artillery (Art).


1 x General (4Kn), 1 x cataphract (4Kn), 2 x horse archers (LH), 2 x hoplitai (4Bd), 4 x archers (3Bw), 1 x Thracians (4Ax), 1 x javelinmen (Ps).

Tuesday, 16 May 2023

Roman Tour - the Batavi

During the early campaigns of Nero Claudius Drusus on the lower Rhine, he met the Batavi and later the Frisii in 12 BC. In this series of games Rome invade the Batavi homeland bordering the Rhine filled with marsh and woods. 

Deployed at the edge of and open field, the Batavi were in a good position with the Rhine River to their left and right flank secured by marsh. At the field’s opposite end, Rome formed deeper columns to compensate for the limited space. To solve this, Rome would need to advance further to deploy adequately. Adding to Rome’s plight, Batavi warriors could be seen landing ashore beyond the marshland to their right.  

As Rome moved forward, a unit of auxilia was sent to deal with landing threatening the right flank. The Batavi easily advanced through the marsh area overrunning the auxilia. Not stopping to plunder, the landing party charged the legionary cohorts held in reserve. 

To Rome’s surprise, the assault put a number of cohorts in rout. To contain the adverse situation, Roman cavalry charged the barbarians. The Batavi proved resilient, not succumbing to the cavalry attack and this encouraged the rest of the army to come to grips with the remaining legion and auxilia. 

The battle quickly became a shambles forcing the Rome no other option but to withdraw and recover the debacle. A victory for the Batavi, 4 – 3.

Refurbishing its losses, Rome encountered the Batavi on a field allowing adequate room for deployment.  Facing them, the Batavi gathered all its forces in deep columns for the final battle. 

Half the legion advanced with the remainder forming a second line as a reserve. Auxilia troops were positioned on both flanks to support the main assault.

On the Roman right, auxilia cleared the wood of enemy skirmishers while the equites maneuvered around the enemy position to assault other units on that flank. This done, the legion made its advance toward the Batavi centre, but eager for a fight, the Batavi struck first.  

The battle in centre quickly heated up prompting its commander to join in to contain the barbarian tide. 

The battle swung in favour for the Romans when auxilia and equites destroyed the Batavian left flank exposing the Batavian centre.

Retiring to a position alongside the artillery, the bolt shooters laid down a devastating barrage sending the Batavi to rout off the field. Rome victorious, 4 – 2. 



The success of the littoral landing was helped by a generous pip score, resulting in the quick elimination of the auxilia guarding the Roman right flank. On the following bound, a low pip score by Rome enabled the Batavi to cripple further the use of its reserve. The timely assault on Rome’s forward elements sealed a Batavian victory. 

Rome did salvage its prestige in the second battle with effective use of auxilia infantry and cavalry. As expected, Roman casualties were greatest among the legion, but its second line did recover the situation. Without exception, the artillery has proven their value throughout the tour.


Early Imperial Roman

1 x General (Cv), 1 x equites (Cv), 4 x legionnaires (4Bd), 3 x auxilia infantry (4Ax), 1 x archers (Ps), 1 x light horse (LH), 1 x artillery (Art).


1 x General (Cv), 2 x heroes with long spear (4Wb), 7 x warriors (3Wb), 2 x skirmishers (Ps).


Historical note.

The II/47d list can be used for either Batavi or Cherusci. Historically, the Cherusci may use the Suevi as allies and not the Batavi.

Tuesday, 9 May 2023

Roman Tour – the Alani

In retaliation to recent Alani incursions, Rome gathered an army and crossed the Danube. Against the advice of senior officers, the expedition marched deeper into the steppe heartland to find the encampment of the Alani.

Approaching the camp, Rome deployed the legion and auxilia infantry on the forward slope of a hill and to protect both flanks of the army, the cavalry were positioned there.

Despite the rough ground in front of their camp, the Alani dispersed its deployment around it bringing most of its force to face the legion.

Advancing at a steady walk, the Alani intended to pin the Roman troops on the hill’s while light horse probed for weaknesses on both enemy flanks. To counter the threat, Rome extended its line on both flanks.

The action on both flanks were repulsed with the Alani suffering the majority of casualties.

Further attempts to reinforce the attacks on the flanks were repulsed by archer and artillery fire. Incurring more casualties, the Alani broke off the battle and wait for a better opportunity. Rome 4 – 1.


That opportunity came when Roman forces were caught on open ground. Amassing its nobles in centre, the Alani would turn one flank bringing the main assaulting on the Roman centre.

Anticipating the flanking maneuver, auxilia infantry and cavalry adjusted their front to meet the expected threat while the remainder of the Roman line held its position.

Roman archers moved forward to provoke the enemy. This worked and standing their ground they fired with deadly effect causing casualties among the enemy cavalry. Elsewhere, the auxilia lost their cavalry support, but fresh troops were sent to help restore that part of the line.

At that moment, the ground shuddered with the pounding of hooves as the Alani lancers bore down on the legion. The effect was devastating sending a shock wave throughout the army to send them off the field. The Alani 4 – 1.

 Early Imperial Roman

1 x General (Cv), 1 x equites (Cv), 4 x legionnaires (4Bd), 3 x auxilia infantry (4Ax), 1 x archers (4Bw or Ps), 1 x light horse (LH), 1 x artillery (Art).


1 x General (3Kn), 3 x nobles (3Kn), 7 x horse archers (LH), 1 x peasant archers (Ps).

Tuesday, 2 May 2023

Roman Tour – the Dacians

In the third test match of the series, Rome invaded the homeland of Dacia to find the Dacian army arrayed across the valley floor with its flanks secured by a river to one side, steep hills on the other.

Rome was forced to reduce its normal frontage as the valley floor offered no more than 400 paces of open space. 

The battle began with the Dacian probing the Roman left from across the river with Rome responding with a unit of equites to face the threat. The Dacian skirmishers no longer a threat, Rome advanced its infantry forward with the artillery keeping pace. 

Once in range, the artillery had the desired effect of stinging the Dacian army into action launching its entire line forward to engage the Roman infantry to its front..

Holding its ground on the left flank, the legion on the right, were able to cut through the Dacian line. 

Gaps in the Dacian grew as the legion continued their blood spree forcing the Dacians to abandon the field. A well-earned victory for Rome, 4 - 1. 


Swapping deployment areas for game two left Rome in the same predicament as before with a contracted battle line; the legion in two lines, auxilia positioned on both flanks and all the mounted units in reserve in a third line.  

Auxilia infantry were moved to higher ground on the left, securing that flank as the legion advanced on the enemy. Enemy troops at the other end of the valley floor remained motionless but the heights to their right were filled with enemy activity, improving their defensive position. 

In a surprise move, the entire Dacian right overran the Roman held hill, destroying its defenders and causing alarm to the Roman commander. 

Ceasing the advance, Rome countered the threat to its left moving reserve cavalry and legionnaires to restore order. Taking advantage of an immobilised Rome, the remainder of the Dacian army joined the general melee. Pressed on two sides, Roman casualties quickly mounted forcing its commander to withdraw from the field. Dacia the victor, score 4 – 1. 


The original plan to use the Sarmatian option did not materialise as cavalry played no role in the first battle. 

In the second battle, the four units making up the Dacian right, assumed at first a defensive position on the perimeter of the hill. As the game progressed, a high pip score for the Dacians was too nice a gift to let slide. This allowed the right wing to overwhelm the Roman left and move the main army, including its general, to strike the Roman line.

Could Rome have won? In hindsight, interspersing the cavalry in the line would certainly have allowed the placement of more auxilia to secure the hill. 


Early Imperial Roman

1 x General (Cv), 1 x equites (Cv), 4 x legionnaires (4Bd), 3 x auxilia infantry (4Ax), 1 x archers (Ps), 1 x light horse (LH), 1 x artillery (Art).


1 x General (Cv), l x horsemen (Cv), 6 x warriors (3Wb), 2 x falxmen (3Wb), 2 x javelinmen (Ps), Second test, 1 x falxmen exchanged for Sarmatian (3Kn).