Monday 29 May 2017

Invasion of Hispania - campaign rule assessment

An Assessment

The most important change from the initial test of Sub Roman Britain to that of Hispania was how best to reconcile the passage of time. This was solved by changing the value of the card drawn to read the number of ‘months’ in place of ‘years’. This ensured that key events would have relevance in the game and not be quickly passed over.

Assigning a suite to represent the principle barbarian nations was easily done. The fourth suite was reserved for ‘Rome’ and later the local government officials or senators. The eventual split of the Vandals to the Asding and Siling was solved using the same suite, but an odd or even card drawn would allow that tribal group take action.

The cast of one die to determine the attacker/defender remained as did the method to determine the terrain to be used. In the seven major engagements, five were fought on arable ground, one in hilly terrain and one in a forest region.

Battles between full size armies did take place, but this was rare. The rebellion in Gallicia had six elements per side turned out to be a very enjoyable game. The same die cast used to determine the attacker/defender role and terrain also resolved the replenishment of troops for the battle. Unfortunately, the successive defeats by the Suevi meant repeatedly meeting the enemy with an inferior force.  

The game comfortably moved through two decades of play taking two days to play. To reach 429 AD, 37 cards were drawn to initiate tribal or Roman activity. Key historical events did fall into place if not by their exact month, then certainly by their correct year.

After the death of Maximus, central authority in Hispania disappears leaving local senators to negotiate directly with the various tribes. The value of the card drawn (club) determined if this was successful or not.  

I am pleased with the rule set reaching a near historical result. The Vandals and Alani did make their crossing to Africa on time. It remains to be seen if the Suevi could create their empire in Hispania given the weakened state of their army.

Next planned tests will bring my newly painted armies to the table. Each of the armies will be presented with a brief history, their painting and photos. This will give me the necessary time to design a map and write a scenario for the third campaign.


Sunday 28 May 2017

Invasion of Hispania - campaign conclusion

Key Campaign Events

420 AD
The Asding Vandals take over former Suevi territory in Gallaecia. The Gallaecians are pleased to see the departure of the Suevi but are wary of Vandal attempts at public relations.

421 AD
The arrival of the Suevi in Lusitania infuriates the Alani. Government officials persuade the Alani with gold and new territory to move south of the Tagus. The Alani move in February to Baetica bringing them into direct conflict with the Siling Vandals. The engagement was a severe blow to the Siling nobility as many, including their king fell to the Alani skirmishers and heavy cavalry (4g – 1). In October, an attempt to assassinate Maximus is foiled and he flees to Tarraco.

422 AD
 The plot to assassinate Maximus sends the government into a state of flux. Each of the tribes expand their own territories and by spring, the Siling Vandals have a new king.

423 AD
By March, the Suevi have expanded their territory to the south resulting in a number of skirmishes with the Siling Vandal escalating to a full engagement. The Suevi were dealt a crushing defeat (5 – 2) in late spring (May) forcing the Suevi to seek territory further to the west.

424 AD
The Alani seize the lands vacated by the Suevi which was accomplished before April and before year end (December), the Asding Vandals had also profited from the Suevi departure.

426 AD
Following a series of defeats over the past years, the Suevi make no further effort at new objectives for the new year (January) other than to rebuild the army. The Alani and Siling Vandals create an alliance (August) with an objective to seize key cities, especially those located on the southern coast.

427 AD
Aetius campaigns against the Franks in Gallia which hinders the search for a solution in Hispania, so local officials attempt to forestall an Alani-Siling alliance by enlisting the aid of the Asding as foederati. The negotiations end in failure (September). Events now swing toward Africa as the machinations of Boniface to usurp authority have made him an ‘enemy of the Republic’.

428 AD
Under threat by armies sent against him from Rome, Boniface seeks help from the Vandals in Hispania. In June Gunderic dies and is succeeded by his half brother Gaiseric. Aware that the Asding are employed by the ‘Rome’ the charismatic Gaiseric persuades the Asding to unite with Siling and Alan to invade Africa. 

429 AD

The Asding Vandals do join their brethren and by May, the crossing to North Africa is accomplished. Of the barbarian tribes that crossed the Pyrennees in 409 AD, only the Suevi remain signalling the general population to take revenge and that is another story. 

Next post will give an assessment of rule changes and the battles. 

Friday 26 May 2017

Invasion of Hispania - playing the campaign

Key Campaign Events:
409 AD
The Suevi, Vandals and Alan have crossed the Pyrennees and winter in the Ebro valley.

410 AD
The Vandals moved further south toward the heart of Tarraconensis leaving the Suevi and Alani to resume old feuds and in August, the Alani caught the Suevi in the Ebro valley and forced them to do battle. Alan Overconfidence nearly cost the Alani the battle until their king changed their piecemeal efforts to well coordinated attacks; this earned them a victory (4 – 3).

411 AD
In July, Maximus had come to terms with the barbarians and arranged new areas for settlements. The tribes spent the remainder of the year trekking toward their new homes with the Alans receiving Lusitania and Carthaginiensis, the Siling Vandals receive Baetica and the Asding vandals and the Sueves receive Galicia.  

412 AD
Displeased at the course of events and ill treatment from the barbarians, the native Gallaecians rose in revolt. Starting as guerrilla activity (attacks on foraging parties, ambushes and night attacks) this escalated to a full head on confrontation in July near the river Minius.   

After a two hour battle with both sides struggling along the hill slopes, the rebels had enough and disappeared beyond the hills. Although beaten, their rebel leader survived and that meant guerrilla activity would continue. 

413 AD
The year remained relatively quiet; only the Alan were expanding their territories.

414 AD
Constantius blockades Narbo (Narbonne) and the Gallic coast, forcing the Visigoths south into Spain in late May.

415 AD
In early March, the Siling Vandals send exploratory columns south of the River Baetis. This exceeds the terms of the settlement treaty and to clarify the situation Corduba sends its emissaries to meet with the Vandals. Intent on sending the Visigoths back to Gallia, a Roman force is dispatched from Tarraco in July.  

416 AD
The Alani discontented with their location migrate south of the Tagus in early April.

417 AD
Corduba, employing the Siling Vandals as foederati,  are given the task to escort the Alani back north of the Tagus. In April, both sides inflict heavy losses (3 – 3) but the Alani did find it prudent to re-cross the River Tagus.

After a long series of negotiations, the Visigoth return to Gallia leaving the Roman military to winter in Caesaraugusta on the Ebro. In December, the Asding Vandals launch a surprise attack on the Suevi inflicting heavy casualties including the slaying of their king earning them a victory and eternal hatred by the Suevi (4g – 1).

418 AD
A new Suevi warlord is crowned in August leads them to battle the Asding Vandals. The Vandals were more than convincing in asking the Suevi to return home (3 – 1 ).

419 AD
The Suevi unanimously decide to move south and leave Gallaecia. They reach Salamantica in July

Next post will end the game at the year 429 AD.   

Thursday 25 May 2017

Invasion of Hispania - a timeline 409 AD - 429 AD

The historical events highlighted here are taken from the Vortigern Studies website. This is placed here to give the reader a sense what may transpire in the campaign game. Next post will cover what modifications were made for the game. 

Invasion of Hispania  

409 AD
Constantine III proposes an alliance against Alaric to Honorius (Fall). Vandals, Alans and Suevi invade Spain (September 28) after Constantine's troops leave the Pyrennees passes unguarded.

410 AD
Constantine III conspires with Honorius' magister equitum Hellebich and prepairs for expeditions to Italy and Spain. Constantine then elevates his son Constans to Augustus, while Rusticus replaces Apollinaris as praefectus praetorio. Constantine enters Italy while the bulk of his army enters Spain with Constans under command of Justus. They engage the Asding Vandals in Castilia, killing their king Godigisel. The Vandals are saved from annihilation when a force of Alamanni (or Alani) comes to their aid.
Gunderic succeeds Godigisel as king of the Asding Vandals.
In Italy, Honorius puts his forces under command of the Illyrian Constantius. This new threat causes Constantine to recall Constans from Spain. At probably this point the magister militum Gerontius defects from Constantine III (Fall), apparently in conjunction with the Spanish, for he elevates the Spaniard
Maximus to emperor in Terraco (Tarragona). Constantine sends the Frank Edobeccus (Edowich) to raise and army along the Rhine, and his son Constans with the praefectus praetorio Rusticus to Northern Gaul.

411 AD
Gerontius or Maximus agree terms with the barbarian invaders of Spain, allowing them to settle. The barbarians decide to divide the Spanish provinces between them, the Alans receiving Lusitania and Carthaginiensis, the Siling Vandals receive Baetica and the Asding vandals and the Sueves receive Galicia.

414 AD
Constantius blockades Narbo (Narbonne) and the Gallic coast, forcing the Visigoths south into Spain.

415 AD
After a destructive march through Gaul, Athaulf moves with his Visigoths to Spain, but is murdered near Barcelona (July/August). Sigeric is king for seven days before he is murdered by Wallia, who fails to cross over to Africa (late Fall).

416 AD
The Visigoths in Spain are starving - in exchange for food they agree to a treaty and the return of Galla Placidia (early in the year).

417 AD
The Visigothic king Wallia campaigns against the Vandals under Fredebal in Baetica and against the Alans under Addac (Attaces) in Lusitania, routing them in battle. He reduces their number so much that the survivors flee to the Asding Vandals.

418 AD
Wallia is recalled by Constantius to southern Gaul, where he is allowed to settle his Visigoths in the southwest around Toulose. Death of Wallia, succession by Theodoric (end of the year).
In Spain,
Maximus is again elevated as Augustus by Gunderic, king of the Asding Vandals (end of the year). The Gallic Council is established at Arelate (Arles).
Jews are banned from the militia (the civil and armed services).

419 AD
War between the Asding Vandals and the Sueves in Spain, who are besieged in the Nervasian Mountains. The comes per Hispania Asterius intervenes on behalf of the Suevi.

420 AD
The Vandals break through to Baetica after a battle near Bracarense (Braga). Maximus is captured by the comes per Hispania Asterius.

422 AD
The Spanish usurper Maximus is executed in Ravenna (January 23).
The comes domesticus Castinus campaigns against the Asding Vandals but suffers heavy losses after being betrayed by his Visigothic troops.
The comes Africae Bonifatius (
Boniface) cedes from Ravenna.

427 AD
Aetius lifts the Visigothic siege of Arelate (Arles).
Vandals and Alans raid the African provinces. The comes Africae Boniface is suspected of planning a revolt. He is recalled, but refuses and is declared an "enemy of the Republic". Boniface then defeats an army which is sent against him, killing all three of the commanders.

428 AD
Franks invade Gaul, but are defeated by Aetius. The Saxons are invited as federates into Britain by Vortigern and the British Council.
An army is sent against Boniface under the Goth Sigisvult, who manages to seize Hippo Regius and Carthage. The comes Africae Boniface then apparently invites the Vandals to aid him and to cross over from Spain into Africa. Death of Gunderic, king of the Vandals, his half-brother
Gaiseric succeeds him.

429 AD

The Vandals under Gaiseric cross from Spain into Africa, leaving Spain to the Sueves.
Visit of the bishop Germanus to Britain where he helps defeat a Saxon raid.
Galla Placidia hastily pardons Boniface who joins forces with the Imperial troops, but the Romans are nonetheless defeated by Gaiseric.

Sunday 21 May 2017

Migration to Kingdom – Sub Roman Britain

An  assessment.

I began developing a set of ancient campaign rules one year ago today and looking back at the different versions each have merit and would certainly be used again. As our players gained experience with DBA 3.0 the campaign rules also evolved as newly collected armies would offer new possibilities.

The Quick Play Campaign system (September 2016) was designed to bring our usual three games an evening into a campaign context and using variable terrain. The game replicated a campaign season of one year whereby each player built up activity points to allow certain actions to take place. The process was simple and did not add extra time to the game as the attacker-defender roles were defined and terrain selection was resolved.

This model differs in that it was designed to deal with conflicts necessitating long periods of inactivity between engagements, the barbarian invasions along the Rhine and Danube Limes come to mind. I am confident that this set would work well.

The first test of Roman Britain ended covering a twenty year period highlighted by four noteworthy engagements. This does not rule out the possibility of other encounters in that same period, they were simply not worth the effort to record.

The card system served its purpose by defining the month and year plus the adversary; the month is particularly useful if one wishes to add weather. Plus knowing the year can help tie historical events (internal and external) to the campaign.  

In addition to the card draw, players must cast one die. This served not only to add troops to an army, but the same score would help define the terrain to be fought over. This worked well as three of the four engagements were fought in arable terrain and the fourth in hilly country.

To assemble an army players are no longer guaranteed the standard 12 element size force. In this test most battles were fought with 8 or 9 elements which meant battles became intense as they were quickly over. The sole Roman Britain victory was fought with six elements against ten Saxon, someone’s star is rising.

However, losing a battle would certainly tarnish a general’s reputation as a subsequent call to arms would be met with less enthusiasm. This occurred twice for the Roman Britain as the die casts were excellent (sixes), but having lost the previous battles took to the field with a lower strength.

There are still a few details that need work.

After a series of victories by the barbarians at what point would they begin settlements in Roman Britain? I am debating if this should be related to the number of victories or the number of years that have lapsed.     

It should also be possible for the Roman Briton to become the attacker. How this is to done should be linked with the initial card draw and/or die cast which will save a step. It is possible that this will be resolved when the role of the face cards (knave, queen, king) is defined. 

Map: Roman Britannia 410 AD

By User:Lotroo / R. Botek; Изработено от Потребител:Lotroo - Own work, Public Domain,


Friday 19 May 2017

Migration to Kingdom – Sub Roman Britain

Using a standard playing card deck of 52 cards, each suite is assigned to a barbarian (Pict, Scots-Irish and Saxon) and the fourth suite is a rival Romano-Briton or warlord. The value on the card determines the month and year of battle while any face card can influence the political or military situation. The random generated system for dating these encounters would make this campaign set useful for conflicts covering longer time periods, such as the Suevi conquest of Hispania or the Vandal invasion of Africa. This would also allow actual historical events to be used within the context of the game.

As part of the test both sides would start with six elements representing the army’s core strength and this number will be augmented by casting a die. The score not only serves for adding extra troops, but also determines on which ground battle is to be fought on, the majority being arable with a lesser chance of this becoming hilly, forest or littoral.   

Testing the rules.

414 AD
In late spring, a Pictish army cross the frontier and reached the interior of Maxima Caesariensis near Eboracum (York). Both sides were of equal strength, but the Picts seemed up for battle as their taunting shouts could be heard clearly from across the field.

Pictish archers surprised and bested the limitanei holding the wood. Despite the onslaught, the legionnaires supported by limitanei did push back a column of spearmen and chariots. Unfortunately, a second column broke through unsettling the Roman commander enough to call a retreat. Score 3 – 0 for the Picts.

417 AD
A raiding party of Scots-Irish land on the shores of Britannia Secunda and threaten Uriconium (Wroxeter).
A large force (12 elements) was assembled to meet the Scots, but with the imminent threat of a Pictish invasion this was reduced. As fate would have it, the Romano-Britain force slightly outnumbered the Scots, but as the armies met in the hill country of the Ordovices, that advantage was lost.

The battle lasted hours with the Scots simply wearing the Roman strength to a breaking point. Too exhausted to pursue, the Scots held the field with a 3 – 1 victory.

422 AD
The Scots gathered a second invading force and reached the British shore in May. Marching inland and plundering the countryside they met a near equal sized force outside Mancunium (Manchester).

Having long heard the tales of the previous expedition, these Scots-Irish were eager to better their brethren. With the Scots warriors forming the centre and chariots protecting their flank. The Scots-Irish surged forward, half recoiled from the Romano shield wall, but the other half broke through crumbling Roman resistance. Score 4 – 2 for the Scots-Irish.

429 AD  
The situation was quickly becoming grim when news came of a Saxon invasion of Flavia Caesariensis. With disastrous events in the north and west a small force was sent to meet the Saxons at a spot between Camboricum (Cambridge) and Camulodunum (Colchester).

July was unseasonably warm and hopefully the Roman commander had planned to catch the enemy in a fatigued state. Those plans however quickly dissipated as he viewed the enemy lines (the Romano-Britain assembled 6 elements to meet the Saxon 10).

Forming two wings, the shield wall on the right, the mobile force on the left, and the Roman commander would use his mobility to out manoeuvre the Saxon horde. An excellent plan, however this failed as a unit of equites suffered horribly to Saxon skirmishers and luckily the equites Dalmatae in a support role narrowly escaped a similar fate.

By now, both sides were committed to a serious test of will and the Romano-Britain struck first. The shield wall held with the exception of the extreme right flank, but the timely attack by the equites decided the day. Score 4 – 2 for the Romano-Britain.

Next post shall cover an assessment. 

Thursday 18 May 2017

Migration to Kingdom - Roman Britain 410 AD

Returning to the Migration to Kingdom project I had planned to continue the barbarian invasion as it unfolded in Hispania (409 AD). Unfortunately, I had struck an impasse as the campaign rules, as written, would not adapt well to the arrival of the barbarians and two decades later, the departure of the Vandals for Africa. As fate would have it the solution came elsewhere, the barbarian incursions of Roman Britain.

The situation in Roman Britain was very much different. The Roman general Constantine usurps the throne and departs Britain to deal with the barbarian invasion of the Gallic provinces. Leaving only the garrisons behind he takes with him the field army to arrive in Northern Gaul in the spring of 407 AD.  It is not clear if Constantine had appointed a replacement or if local officials selected their own candidate, what does follow after his departure are an increased number of incursions by the Picts, Scots and Saxons.

As written, the campaign rules now needed to track the long period of invasions (decades) by a greater number of barbarians confronting the Romano-Briton, the Picts from the north, the Scots-Irish from the west and the Saxons from the south-east. The time frame per turn therefore must change from its current monthly interval to possibly years. After further consideration, the time frame between invasions should occur at random intervals, but this begs the question by how many years?

Next, we have the problem of which of the barbarian invade first? A simple casting of the die could resolve this. Also to consider, the Romano-Briton as defender would have ‘arable’  as home terrain, yet we find other geographical areas that would certainly qualify giving the defender the additional choice of hilly, forest, or littoral; some certainly preferable if fighting at under strength. 

I enjoy the simplicity of the  DBA system as with the cast of one die you can resolve a number of issues. Keeping this in mind I searched for one step that could  resolve the issue of year, opponent, at what strength and terrain type.  

Next post, testing the campaign game. 

End of Roman Rule Britain 383 – 410 AD {1}


By my work - Based on Jones & Mattingly's Atlas of Roman Britain (ISBN 978-1-84217-06700, 1990, reprinted 2007); Mattingly's Imperial Possession ( ISBN 978-0-140-14822-0, 2006); Higham's Rome, Britain, and the Anglo-Saxons (ISBN 1-85264-022-7, 1992); Frere's Britannia (ISBN 0-7102-1215-1, 1987); and Snyder's An Age of Tyrants (ISBN 978-0-631-22260-6) — the sources are cited in the image legend — Locations of towns (fortified and unfortified) are given on p. 156, with tribal civitates and coloniae specified on p. 154, of Atlas of Roman Britain. Specification of the Romanized regions of Britain are also from the Atlas, p. 151. The "Departure Dates" are found in the cited sources, and are generally known. The Pictish, Saxon, and Scoti raids are found in the cited sources, as is the date of the Irish settlements in Wales. Frere suggests (p. 355) that it was the Irish who sacked Wroxeter c. 383. The locations of the Irish settlements is from the locations of inscription stones given in File:Britain.Deisi.Laigin.jpg as of 2010-10-11, which cites its sources of information.The topographical map is from a sub-region of File:Uk topo en.jpg, with the copyright notice {{Bild-GFDL-GMT|migration=relicense}} and original date of 7 July 2006, copy made in 2008, with the annotations removed by myself., CC BY-SA 3.0,

Friday 5 May 2017

Historical Match - Sassanid vs. the Alani

By the 3rd century the Alan tribes had become scattered with the majority moving west. Those that remained north of the Caucuses Mountains formed a minor kingdom and would invade through the Caspian Gates plundering the rich regions to the south.

II/69a Sassanid vs. II/58 Alan 50 AD – 1500 AD
Steppe to include two gentle hills, two rocky ground and a river.

Game 1
The battlefield had a river coursing its way between gentle hills and rough ground and it was on the left bank that the Alani deployed for action.

The Alani remaining stationary merely extended their formation. In that moment the Sassanid moved forward and wheeled their formation to increase their frontage.

The combat that ensued had both sides moving back and forth and it was at this moment Ardashir suffered severe injuries and needed to be taken off the field and despite the loss of their king, Shapur spurred the Sassanid on to continue the fight (high pip scores). The heavy casualties on both side attested to the grim determination of each to win. Score 5g – 4 for the Alani.

Game 2
The second battle found both sides with room to deploy as rough ground and hills were situated to one flank.

This time the Sassanid was able to use the nobles and Asavaran cavalry to better effect.

The Alani line buckled leaving gaps which the Sassanid quickly took advantage of giving them a much needed victory. Score 4 -1 for Sassan.

Game 3
The final engagement was fought on an open plain flanked by low hills and a river.

The Alani spent their first moments extending their formation allowing the Sassanid to advance forward.

During the ensuing battle, the Sassanid centre broke through causing casualties for the Alani. The right flank had met with stiff resistance and could make no headway, but the left gave way to a hail of Alani arrows. Score 4 – 2 for the Alani.

Monday 1 May 2017

Historical Match - Sassanid vs Middle Imperial Rome

Alexander Severus launched a three pronged attack against the Sassanid. One column passed through Armenia who supported the war, a second moved toward the eastern part of Sassanid territory while Severus kept the main column in the centre under personal command (Herodian 6.6/Alexander’s Persian War).

II/69a Sassanid vs. II/64b Middle Imperial Roman (Eastern) 190 AD – 324 AD
Arable with one field, one gentle hill, one wood and river.

Game 1
The battlefield offered a generous amount of space for the Sassanid to deploy. The extended cavalry line was flanked by light horse columns with a unit forming a reserve directly behind Ardashir. The Romans placed all their infantry as a first line and cavalry forming a reserve line.

Rome moved forward in echelon formation, well aware of a flanking manoeuvre, the Roman infantry pressed on.

With the two battle lines less than 20 paces from each other, the Roman commander moved his cavalry reserve to support the general assault.

Like a thunder clap that echoed for a time, half of the Roman battle line disappeared. Unnerved by the oncoming banners of Ardashir and his knights, the Roman commander called a retreat. Score 4 – 1 for Sassan.

Game 2
For the second engagement Rome took advantage of some constrictive terrain. This forced the Sassanid to form in three separate groups with a light horse column deployed across the river and a second column on the opposite side of a difficult hill.

Ardashir, optimistic about the success of his flanking columns moved slowly forward. To his surprise, the Romans seemed equally optimistic and moved off their hill position to attack the main Sassanid body.

The flanking column soon discovered how deep the river was and proceeded to simply out manoeuvre the auxilia defending the opposite bank.

The Roman commander positioned on the hill could survey the entire battle. On his left, despite the loss of a unit of auxilia the Persian light horse were being held off and on the right flank the Persians seemed contained. Gaps were seen among the Sassanid main body as Roman bows were taking their toll.

 Seeing the right flank in serious trouble (losing two elements) the Roman commander moved to stave off a disaster (3 – 1). Ardashir called for one great effort and launched his cavalry against the Roman legions. Rome held firm recoiling Ardashir and his cavalry, but Shapur broke through victorious. Score 4 – 1 for Sassan.

Game 3
The last engagement found the Romans caught in the open facing the Sassanid in battle formation occupying a hill.

The main Sassanid battle line moved slowly forward giving time for the left wing to roll up the Roman open flank.

The Roman line buckled under the weight of the Sassanid lancers. With heavy losses and their commander pursued by Ardashir, Rome broke. Score 4 – 0 for Sassan.