Sunday 29 January 2017

Migration to Kingdom - Improving the Campaign rules.

Moving forward in the timeline, the next campaign will focus on events in Hispania during the years of 409 to 429 AD. From a scenario perspective, the period can be viewed as two parts, the Vandal domination of Hispania followed by the resurgence of the Suevi. This is particularly interesting as the Alan still play a minor role in the events as do the attempts by Rome to regain control of the peninsula.

The game will have players take the Vandal or Suevi tribes and the participation of the Alan and Rome becoming a non-player function with their activation taking place during the card game exchange. This will mean both players will serve a dual role on the game board as players take command of the Alan or Rome forces. 

The immediate problem is how best to compress ten years of conflict into an evening or two as the alternative (ten evenings for each year) is not appealing. This will most likely move through a process of trial and error, but when finalised it will become a nice option for the campaign rule set opening its use for longer conflicts.

Those features developed during the previous campaign will be carried forward; inter-tribal rivalry for both Suevi and Vandal tribes, marauding parties, and plunder. There are a few situations that will need some attention, such as armed resistance by the inhabitants and piratical raids. 

Play testing should begin at the end of next week. 

Wednesday 25 January 2017

Migration to Kingdom – Moving forward.

Looking at events following the crossing of the Pyrenees in 409 AD, each of the migrating tribes (Vandals, Suevi and Alan) sought to claim a portion of Hispania to settle in. What transpired in the next two decades permanently severed Hispania from Rome leaving one of the three migrating nations to dominate the peninsula and one other to depart to the African provinces. Readers interested in this and other developments of the Western Empire I can recommend Ian Hughes’ book Patricians and Emperors; this is a well documented treatment of the era with 25 maps tracing the major turning points in Rome’s final chapter.

The next step in the Migration to Kingdom theme is how best to address the next two decades with its barbarian rivalry and feeble attempts by Rome to restore control over Hispania. I seriously doubt there are many among us who would relish playing the same theme for twenty evenings, so there will be a need to “compress” play into a manageable time frame.

Other aspects such as adding diplomacy, local resistance by the inhabitants, piratical forays and movement across seas will need to be added to the basic rule set to include the modifications made with the last project. 

The map shows the peninsula divided into the five diocese, these will facilitate movement. 

Friday 20 January 2017

Rome and the Nobades incursion.

During the winter month of January, reports were arriving to the capital of Thebais of marauding bands plundering the small communities along the Nile. The message was passed quickly throughout the province as Rome began preparations to form a punitive expedition. By March, only troops from Arcadia marched through the gates of Ptolemais, so not wishing to delay longer than was necessary the Dux marched his forces south. The mobile column stationed in Aegyptus would meet the main army later {1}.

By April the Nobades were found on the left bank of the Nile (Littoral) deployed between difficult hills and patches of dunes. Despite the Nobades having greater numbers the battle was hard fought and brief; several Roman units were mauled as Nobades foot troops appeared from nowhere (ambush) and despite a small success, the equites sagittarii sacking their camp, the Dux called for a retreat (a Nobades victory, 3 -2) {2} .

Two months were needed to reconstitute the army and proceed with the campaign yet for unexplained reasons the Nobades remained relatively quiet {3}. After a failed attempt to bring the Nobades to battle in June, it was not until the following month that the armies were to meet again.

The battlefield was a wide plain broken up with a few sparse woods and a large difficult hill. The Nobades deployed between the woods showed less cavalry which meant a good number of their mounted force were out foraging (flank march). Anticipating this, the Dux led his troops in echelon with the legions heading the attack supported by the cavalry. Auxilia protected the flanks from possible turning moves and a unit of auxilia were guarding the camp against any threat to it. The battle was hotly contested with both sides losing heavily, but Rome prevailed (4 – 3 victory) {4}.

Rome was literally in hot pursuit of the Nobades (August) and caught up with them near the frontier. Having little time to gather reinforcements, the Nobades were now at a disadvantage regarding troop strength {5}. Moving quickly, the Dux caught the marauders spilling out of their camp (rapid deployment). The engagement that followed did not last long as the Nobades broke and fled leaving the field littered with their dead to include heir warlord (a Roman victory) {6}.

{1} Not present were the equites clibanarii and scutarii, 2 x 4Kn and 1 x 3Cv respectively.
{2} Jan had no shortage of sixes and so used the ambush rule to great effect.
{3} Jan’s good fortune with the die did not extend to the cards; lacking activity points kept him inert.
{4} The flank march arrived on turn three, but their effect was blunted by auxilia troops. In this battle, the equites (LH) used again their multiple move to seal the fate of two Nobades foot.  
{5} With seven elements remaining, the Nobades needed two to break.
{6} The Nobades warlord displayed exceptional prowess by destroying two equites (LH) in the second battle but met his demise under the sword strokes of two units of legionnaire. As the Nobades are well known for their inter-tribal rivalry Rome can expect another incursion in two or three years.  

This was a quite a hard fought campaign which saw three battles and eight months of campaign play finished in less than 2 ½ hours. The campaign system was a new experience for Jan in which he used the stratagems to good effect.

We did not use the grouping of clans as this would have slowed the game as two of the three battles were long affairs lasting more than six turns. For this campaign a simple die cast was used to determine which terrain type would be used for battle, arable, littoral, hilly or dry.

Plunder (Draft):  Each new province in which the marauders remain uncontested would be deemed plundered. A counter would be placed in that province and at the end of the campaign, the number of counters would be debited from the defender’s total. During battle, spoils would become part of a comp’s content and could be recovered; this would remove the counter for that province. 

Wednesday 18 January 2017

Improving the campaign system – Thebais

While looking for an inspiration for our Wednesday punch up, I decided to stay within the timeline and move our conflict to the desert arena of Thebais. Briefly, the region has been plagued by roving bands of Nobades and the Dux Thebais is forming a punitive expedition to put a stop to the banditry.

This game will offer us a chance to experiment with two new features; the effects of plunder and the transportation of spoils. And to reflect the clan structure of the Nobades, the army deploys as two groups which move independent of one another; much like "allied contingents".

Looking at the Notitia Dignitatum, it lists the following number of units in the region.  
2 x cuneus equitum, 6 x equites, 8 x vexillationes Legio and from a lesser register (1 x Milites, 16 x ala, 10 x cohors). This corresponds nicely to the DBA list noted here, although the Clibanarii might be better replaced by cataphract (3Kn), see note below. 

II/78b Eastern Roman Army
1 x general (Cv), 2 x clibanarii (4Kn), 1 x equites Illyricum (LH), 1 x horse archer (LH), 3 x legionnaires (4Bd), 2 x auxilia palatina (4Ax), 1 x archers (4Bw), 1 x equites (Cv).

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

Map: The campaign map shows five of the six administrative areas of Egypt. As Roman forces are deployed throughout the provinces, the first priority of the Dux is to begin assembling troops and supplies. At the start of the year, their placement will follow roughly the distribution of troops according to the Notitia Dignitatum. 

Further, battlefields will vary between arable, littoral (Nile) and dry types.

In Aegytus: 1 x cuneus equitum (Cv), 2 x clibanarii (4Kn) {1}
In Arcadia: 1 x cuneus equitum (Cv), 1 x legionnaire (4Bd), 1 x auxilia (4Ax).
In Thebais: 2 x equites sagittarii (LH), 2 x legionnaire (4Bd), 1 x auxilia (4Ax), 1 x archers (4Bw).  

{1} Following the ND, these should represent the Ala prima Iovia catafractan, stationed at Pampene. 

Wednesday 11 January 2017

Battle of Utus 447 AD

The Battle of the Utus, fought in 447, was the last engagement between the Huns of Attila and the Eastern Roman Empire. Details about the battle of Utus are sketchy and are mostly taken from short passages from Jordanes. Attila’s army invaded the Balkan provinces for the second time in 447 and Arnegisclus, magister utriusque militiae,, marched from Marcianopolis westwards to engage the Hunnic army at Utus in the Roman province of Dacia Ripensis.

The Roman force consisted of the field armies of the Magister Militum per Illyricum, Thrace, and Praesentalis which gives a total of 90 units listed by the Notitia Dignitatum. If these were all present for the battle this could account for the 60,000 quoted by one modern source. A lower quotation of 45,000 or even 30,000 might represent a true picture of Roman numbers.

To re-fight the battle, we used two commands per side based on the DBA 3.0 army lists for both armies.

II/80a Attila’s Army 433 - 453 AD
1 x general (Cv or LH), 5 x horse archers (LH), 1 x Ostrogoth and Gepid (3Kn), 2  x Hunnic horse archer (LH) or subject warriors (4Wb), 2 x subject warriors (4Wb), 1 x archers (Ps).

II/82b  Eastern Patrician Roman 408 – 493 AD
1 x general (3Kn), 1 x equites (Cv or 3Kn), 2 x horse archers (LH), 1 x equites clibanarii (4Kn) or Gothic foederati (3Kn), 2 x legionnaire (4Bd), 2 x auxilia (4Ax), 2 x legionnaire (4Bd) or German foederati (4Wb) or archers (Ps), 1 x archers (Ps or 4Bw).

Re-fighting the battle.
The battlefield is an unobstructed plain flanked by the Utus river on one side and woods on the opposite. The Roman general Arnegisclus deployed all his infantry as his main battle line with his left flank resting on the wooded area and a reserve of cavalry held back forming a second line.

Attila deployed all his subject warriors on the right supported by the Sciri cavalry. This wing slightly outnumbered Attila’s command. On the left, Attila planned to probe and exploit the open right of the Roman army while the Hunnic subjects would keep the Roman main battle line occupied.

Opening moves.

The Roman left moved cautiously forward while auxilia moved ahead to clear the wood of any opposition. The right kept pace and dropped horse archers back anticipating a Hunnic encirclement.

As predicted, the Huns moved the subject infantry forward to lock the Roman battle line while Attila toyed with the Roman right wing.

Sensing a hesitation on the Hunnic side, the infantry on the Roman right closed the distance between them and the skirmishing Hunnic archers. On the extreme right the situation quickly developed into a skirmishing action.

The Roman left settled down to a hard struggle with both sides moving to and fro. Between the two wings, the legions supported by Clibanarii surged forward at the oncoming Gothic cavalry.

After an hour, the Hunnic right wing gave way to superior arms of the Romans; with nearly half the subject levies and all the Gothic cavalry destroyed. Sensing an ill omen, the Hunnic horse were faltering as many units fled in confusion. In the chaos, a number of Hunnic horse archers were caught by Roman infantry and these would ride no more. On the extreme left, the Huns found themselves out-matched by Roman horse archers.

Having lost control of the battle and seeing too many Hunnic horse archers slaughtered by Roman infantry, Attila had no choice but to call a general retreat giving a 9 – 3 victory for Arnegisclus.

Sunday 8 January 2017

Migration to Kingdom – assessing the game.

Designing a campaign game around a migration might not seem to fit everyone’s idea of an ancient theme, but these events did happen. I looked at alternative conflicts set at the beginning of the 5th century and there were enough possibilities; Stilicho, Alaric, and Radagaisus to name a few. However, further reading of the migration did have its share of conflict situations; aside from the pillage and plunder by marauding bands of barbarians, inter-tribal discord and ad-hoc resistance measures in the provinces there were the revolts by the Gallo-Roman aristocracy against the ruling authority.

The challenge now was how best to present these in a form that would not detract from a player’s appetite for battle.

The first scenario, 407 AD, revealed the shortcomings of the requirement to move an army. The Roman player need only move one army while the barbarian player had his hands full with three. Gaining no activity points by the barbarian player forced the migration to stay in place and became less of a danger. Not quite what I had in mind.

By the last scenario, 409 AD, the barbarians could exchange their army for marauding columns which could move at no cost to an adjacent province. This meant the civilian component of the horde required an activity point to move and this compromise worked.

Limiting the amount of plunder that could be culled from a province in any given month meant two marauding columns in the same province would need to fight one another to claim it or one column would be returning with spoils only to be caught while on the march. Either way this generated a number of small actions.

So long Constantine III won battles no one dare challenge his authority. By the second year the barbarians were still in Gallia which had his image of "saviour begin to lose its lustre. In scenario 409 AD a number of revolts were planned but as the cards were played, all three occurred in the same month and in different parts of Gallia and Hispania. This really livened the game.

Was history changed?

Partially, as not all the barbarians would make the crossing into Hispania by the end of the game, but the majority would do so before spring 410 AD, and Constantine III kept his head for another year. 

Saturday 7 January 2017

Migration to Kingdom – play testing scenario 409 AD.

During the winter months of January and February discord among the Vandal tribes reached a boiling point such that the Asding and Siling groups formerly split. Alan marauding parties were seen further south in the region of Viennensis. The Suevi were content to remain in the lower province of Maxima Sequanorum away from possible reprisals.

Many of the landed aristocracy who voiced their discontent at the intolerant situation the previous year were now talking rebellion. The debate among the provincial senators March produced not one but three candidates that ironically all stepped forward seize the throne in the same month.  

Constantine III marched on Lugdenensis III to deal first with Gerontius. Constantine III’s forces, though outnumbered by Gerontius quickly moved forward to engage his main battle line. Locked in combat, the Alan appeared in time (flank march stratagem) to see Gerontius in full retreat leaving a full third of his force dead on the field.

Occupied with suppressing revolts, the barbarians were able to raid unmolested most of Lugdunensis in the month of April. After his victory over Gerontius, Constantine III returned to central Gallia in May. Here, the presence of the army formed a breakwater forcing the Vandals steer northerly course and the Alan a southerly direction.  

By the first week of June, Constantine III marched his army north to suppress a second rebellion taking place in Armorica. The speed of his approach caught the army of Armorica completely off guard (rapid deployment stratagem). In less than an hour victory had been achieved with a goodly portion of the former army of Armorica now marching south with a new paymaster.

Events heated up in July as Constantine III confronted a Siling marauding party and defeated them. Likewise, an Alan column caught and severely handled an Asding raiding party capturing their camp and spoils. Similar operations continued in August and September, the effect of which channelled the Vandals in a southward direction toward Hispania. 

The Asding Vandals had crossed the Pyrenees in October with the Siling hard on their heels. The Germanic group known under the collective name the Suevi would settle in lower Gallia. The Alan were also content to settle in Gallia. Having served well as allies, Constantine III moved a number of tribes to Armorica to keep order there. Others found new homes with their cousins the Sarmatae who settled in central Gallia some generations earlier.

By winter all the Vandals with some Alan tribes had made the crossing into Hispania. Maximus, who was quick to rebel, would now have a tough dish to swallow come spring 410.

End of game.     

Thursday 5 January 2017

Migration to Kingdom - scenario 409 AD

The migration of the Vandals, Alan and Suevi continue their westward course, but not in the massive numbers that had crossed the Rhine during the winter of 406 AD. Dissension and power struggles among the barbarian tribes would continue into the new year creating a division objectives. Some would continue their raids and plunder while others would establish communities within various parts of Gaul. Two such groups of Alans are now occupying regions near Paris and southern Gaul with the remainder accompanying the Vandals. Of the German tribes, the Burgundi had found refuge in the southeast region of Gaul and the Suevi would continue their journey with the Vandals to reach Hispania.  

Constantine III, having expanded his control over most of Gaul proposed an alliance to Honorius to deal with Alaric and his Goths. Honorius, a victim of court intrigue and abandoned by Sarus recognises Constantine III as co-emperor. As quickly as Constantine III’s star rose it began to fade as the Roman inhabitants of Britannia and Armorica feeling abandoned in their fight against the barbarian invaders and Saxon incursions rebelled. Elsewhere, rebellion against Constantine III’s authority spread to Hispania in late 409 establishing Maximus of Hispania as emperor the following year.

Barbarian player
Of the Germanic tribes, the Burgundi (Suevi) now settle in Maxima Sequanorum and the Alan has dispersed to settle in two areas of Gallia. This leaves the Vandal nation representing the Asding and Siling tribes (represented by two counters). Any replenishment of troops for either Vandal army will be filled by Suevi and Alan contingents, representing those that continued their migration west.

The barbarian player’s sole goal is to bring the Vandal command and inhabitants safely into Hispania before the end of the season.

Roman player
At the start of 409 AD, the Franks are content to remain within their territory leaving Constantine III with one army to deal with the Vandal migration and eventual rebellions. As Constantine III’s authority now erodes any replacement of troops are must also come from allied troops; the Alan or Suevi (Germanic tribes).  

Game map three.

Map three shows southern Gallic provinces of Novempopulana, Narbonensis I and II, Viennensis, Alpes Maritimae, and Tarraconensis of northern Hispania. 

Monday 2 January 2017

Migration to Kingdom - testing scenario 408 AD

During the winter months of January and February Constantine III was able to increase his reserve of activity points. By springtime (March), Constantine III marched an advance force under Gerontius to secure the Alpine passes. He further offered an interesting proposal to the Suevi chieftains; namely ensuring a safe passage to Maxima Sequanorum in southern Gallia; a tempting offer that would be considered by the tribal council.

April, Stilicho’s advance forces lead by Sarus {1} had breached the Alpine pass and would meet Constantine III’s troops. The confrontation the following month (May) left both armies bloodied (4 – 3) but Sarus held the field at the end of the day. Awaiting further orders both sides used the following month to recover their strength. A build up of activity (and points) within the barbarian camps did not go unnoticed. 

Fresh orders arrived in July and Sarus resumed the conflict against Gerontius. Unconcerned as to the outcome of the engagement, the Vandal and Alan armies with their people moved into Belgica II. The army of the Suevi moved into Maxima Sequanorum leaving their folk behind in Belgica I. This move was now seen as a threat to both Roman camps.

Sarus’ rapid march caught Gerontius in the open and the battle that followed was hotly contested. Shortly after the two armies were locked in combat Alan allies appeared  and struck Sarus’ exposed flank facilitating a decisive victory (4 – 0) for Gerontius.

In August, the Vandal and Alan would continue their march westward while the Suevi held their course southward. The participation of the Alan in the last battle was not lost on Constantine III and diplomatic missions were sent to the three tribes to re-establish the former treaties with a goal toward hastening their journey further west to Hispania or the creation of settlements within Gallia. The death of Stilicho in August brought welcome relief as Honorius lost one of his most able commanders. Sarus was recalled to help stem the Gothic threat to Italian territory.

For the next two months (SeptemberOctober) no further military operations were conducted as the migrating hordes seemed content to remain in Belgica II. Operations in November would cease until the following spring and Constantius III moved to Lugdunenesis I and winter quarters.  

{1} Sarus would march against Gerontius when either player drew a King (any suite). In a two player game, the barbarian player would command the army of Sarus. 

All barbarian tribes had migrated to an adjacent province giving the barbarian player a taste of victory. Accumulated activity point score for the end of 408 AD is one compare to ten for Constantine III.

The barbarian player was not as fortunate with the cards as the Roman player was. Something to think about - to assist the barbarian hordes, I may revise the movement rule for the barbarian folk and give them a free passage each season to an adjacent province while moving the military counters would still require an activity point.