Wednesday 16 November 2016

From Migration to Kingdom (The Barbarians)

The envisioned campaign will focus principally on the journey of two major groups; that of the coalition of Vandals, Alans, Burgundians and Suevi of 406 AD and second, the Gothic departure from Italy to southern Gaul following the death of Alaric. Determining the size of each group has proved a challenge and I am following the nominal guideline set by some historians to determine general numbers by factoring the number of warriors by five to arrive at a total number representing each nation. This is not infallible as the number of troops involved in recorded engagements has proven difficult as they are scarce.

Herwig Wolfram, in his History of the Goths does devote a section of his book to the “harjis” or tribal army as comprising of 3,000 warriors with generals commanding 1,000 warriors. It would not seem too unreasonable to imagine the other nations might also use a similar organization. Therefore, using the guideline we reach a tribal strength of 15,000; this is considered low by some historians while others place the number as high as 100,000. The latter figure just might reflect the sum total for all the nations involved in the crossing of 406 AD as reviewing the crossing, the Vandals were formed from the Siling and Asding groups, the Alans were lead by two kings and together with the Burgundians and Suevi could reach the higher figure.

One must imagine the difficulty of crossing the Rhine in the dead of winter, eventually forming a large number of columns spread over a wide front seeking forage and plunder. As the majority moved on foot, the Alans mounted found themselves well in advance of the columns and no doubt triggered the alarm of a new incursion. The magnitude of the incursion may not have been fully comprehended as the mobile army and many limitanei were on campaign in Italy or along the Danube (405 and 406) as local Gallic militias were incapable of dealing with the threat.  

News of the invasion reached Britain and as the political situation was in a state of flux Constantine (Roman general) seized upon the opportunity to declare himself emperor. Securing his position in Britain, Constantine III took the Britannic mobile army across the channel to counter the invasion and further extend his control over the west.

Designing the campaign
Using the migration as theme for a campaign offered a number of aspects not usually touched upon by pure military operations. The primary goal here is the preservation of the tribe as it journeys through unknown regions in search of a “home”. This is easily handled by the current rule system taking into account the slow pace set by the masses of migrants.

Secondly, despite the fact that all the nations named crossed the Rhine during the same period does not necessarily mean they cooperated with each other while in Roman Gaul. The Asding and Siling Vandals were susceptible to inter-tribal feuds and did not co-operate with the Alans or Suevi, the Suevi were a collection of Germanic tribes, possibly Quadi, Marcomanni and some Alamanni, and would take a direction in Gaul seeking territory away from the masses, as did the Burgundi and finally the Alans dispersed themselves into smaller groups to settle in differing areas of Gaul and Spain. This part will require some additional rules to cover inter-tribal conflicts, the willingness to co-operate with the other tribes and Roman resistance.

The campaign will cover nearly a three year period to start during the winter of 406 AD and end during the early fall season of 409 AD. The scenario will allow players to set their own course and tempo but all should realise actual historical events will take place, such as the arrival of Constantine III, the participation of the foederati and the Saxon raids.

Play testing the additional rules will be carried out over the next few weeks with reports and photos appearing here. 

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