Tuesday 27 September 2016

Severan Army vs. the Nobades

During the 3rd century the Nobades displaced the Meroitic-Kushite sending those eastwards giving Rome new raiders to contend with  along her southern frontier.  Historically, the Nobades did maul a Roman punitive expedition but this remains an isolated incident.

II/64b Middle Imperial Roman (Eastern)
1 x general (Cv), 1 x cavalry (Cv), 1 x horse archer (LH), 4 x legionnaires (4Bd), 3 x auxiliary (4Ax), 1 x auxiliary archer (4Bw), 1 x Clibinarii (4Kn).

II/55b Nobades
1 x general (Cv), 2 x cavalry (Cv), 1 x archers (3Bw), 2 x spearmen on camels (Cm) 2 x spearmen (Sp), 4 x archers (3 Bw or Ps).

Game one
Constricted by the rough ground in front, Rome deployed her legions in the opening between them and placed auxilia on both flanks, cavalry were held in reserve.

The Nobades sent her bowmen to harass the auxilia as the spearmen marched alongside in support. Seeing the hilltop cleared of Nobades bowmen, the commander ordered the mounted troops forward. 2 – 0 for Rome.

A sense of panic struck the Roman command as gaping holes quickly appeared along the battle line with Nobades spearmen moving through them and camel mounted troops were seen swarming over what remained of the left flank. Score 2 – 4 for Nobades.

Game two
This time Rome was caught in the open by an awaiting Nobades army with difficult hills protecting their flanks.

Roman auxilia cleared the hill on the left of any Nobades troops allowing the legions to move their line forward.

Both lines met and the Nobades line was seen to buckle, but the effort cost Rome some legionnaires.

The battle was hard fought on both sides and skilled archery brought down a unit of cataphract, this with other casualties gave the Nobades the advantage to claim victory. Score 4 – 5 for Nobades.   

Game three
Rome deployment remained unchanged with the only exception being the addition of the cataphract in the first line. Nobades countered by placing all mounted on her right flank leaving the infantry positioned opposite the Roman line.

Rome seized the initiative to attack the Nobades infantry but this developed into uncoordinated assaults. As the attack stalled the Nobades took advantage of this by moving her camel corps against the open flank and sending the cavalry to encircle the Roman force.

After a long struggle, the Roman battle disintegrated leaving isolated units to surrounded and cut down but not without a high cost to the Nobades. Score 4 – 5 for Nobades.


  1. The main battle lines here are the Cataphract, two roman cavalry, and 4 roman legionnaires. They match up against 2 camels, 3 cavalry and 2 spears-which fight equal as legionnaires as long as they stay next to each other. Depending on who hits whom, the Romans might have ONE advantage matchup in the main battle line, a 4 knight versus a 3 cav. Of course, if the knight wins and advances it could then be at 2-3; and the camels quick kill the Cataphract at 3-4, same odds as the Cataphract killing a spear.

    So, maybe the Cataphract doesn't belong in the main line, but out on the flank he is going to run into archers; so maybe he has to suck it up.....

    So, the Main Battle Lines are about equal. What's left over? on the Roman side, 3 aux one LH and one bow; and on the Nobades side, 5 fast archers.....In another post I mentioned that the Roman Aux are solid, so only move 2 BW in bad going. This means the bows are guaranteed 2 rounds of fire, and maybe a third before the aux can hit; and the bows also are a menace for the LH and the solo Roman bow, who is also solid and moving at 1 BW per turn in bad going.

    Paradoxically the Roman Aux would be better off in good going where at least they might be able to move into the Bowmen as a group for one pip, instead of single element moves in the bad going.

    This game highlights a major change in the movement rates for Solid Aux....they do NOT fight bow well, even with their big shields!

    This explains why the Nobades were able to conquer Rome so easily in the 2nd century AD.....

    Just my opinion.....

  2. Michael,

    Thank you for the observations.

    The historical matchup series, the loser of the last game becomes the defender in the following using the same terrain items.
    Game three, as Rome deployed first this worked to the advantage of the Nobades.

    Deploying the cataphract in the main battle line was an act of desperation as they saw so little action in the previous games and they paid dearly for their impetuousness.