Sunday 26 September 2021

Battle of Calama

Note, both commands were increased to 24 elements giving Count Bonifatius 8 mounted and 16 foot. Keeping the majority of his foot warriors, Gaiseric held back the dregs (Ps) and a unit of Alan (LH) to accommodate the contingent of Moorish troops.. 

The Battle

Straddling the road and barring the approach to Calama, the Roman army were arrayed in two lines; the first comprised of auxilia with light horse extending their line and the heavier armed equites and legionnaires were positioned in the second line. Among the latter, the vexillum of Bonifatius and his subordinate general could be seen. 

Eager for battle, Gaiseric formed his Vandal warriors in two wings with Gaiseric commanding the right and his brother in arms, the left. Positioned further to Gaiseric’s right could be seen Vandal heavy cavalry and Alans. The contingent of Moorish cavalry and skirmishers were positioned on the opposite flank. 

The battle opened with Bonifatius sending his light cavalry to deal with the Moors while the remainder of the army held their position to await the Vandal advance. 

Moving forward at a steady pace, the Vandal infantry approached the Roman line, unfortunately the light cavalry action brewing up checked the Vandal left from advancing any further. That slight delay did not deter Gaiseric as he crashed into the Roman first line with devastating results leaving half their number cut down. 

To retrieve the situation, the legion counter charge was as effective gaining time for the Roman left to recover from its setback. Roman skirmishers, among the grain fields, held the Alani in check as reserves from the second line were brought forward. 

One the Vandal left; the cavalry action ended with the Moors falling back to reform their line. Having no further orders, the Roman light cavalry did not pursue and so held their position. 

Following this, the Vandal left resumed their march to reach the Roman line, however, the loss of momentum diffused their expectations as the Roman line held its ground. 

Over the course of an hour’s fighting (4 turns), casualties mounted heavily on both sides. Seeing the inactivity of the Moors, the Illyriciani circled the rear of the Vandal horde to support the legion in their fight nearly shattering the Vandal left. In a desperate gamble, Gaiseric launched his cavalry in an all-out assault to deliver a crushing blow on the Roman left. This action was decisive as it tipped the balance leaving Bonifatius no other option but to retreat to Hippo Regius.

Final score 8-7. 

Friday 24 September 2021

Count Bonifacius and the Vandal threat

“Bonifacius, the African army, and a contingent of supporting Gothic foederati confronted and were defeated by Gaiseric near the city of Calama in 430, after which Bonifacius retreated to the city of Hippo Regius.” - Wikipedia

The Vandals departed Hispania for Northern Africa in 429, whether this was at the behest of Bonifacius or on Gaiseric’s own initiative, is still debated among scholars. I am inclined to the latter, as Gaiseric was shrewd enough to view an opportunity offered by the conflict between Bonifacius and F. Constantius Felix reducing Africa’s military strength. More importantly, a move to Africa would avoid further entanglement with the Suebi.  

Alan and Gothic troops joined the Vandal army and together they quickly overran opposition in modern day Morocco and northern Algeria. Coloma was Gaiseric’s next target as it provided a vital grain supply, seizing it would cripple the food supply to Rome and feed his own people and troops.  


The battle is described as having taken place “near” the town of Coloma which is located on a relatively open plain bordered by hills, these would likely be covered with fields of grain or vineyards. A fortified residence of a rich patrician would not be out of place on the game table and slicing the battlefield, a paved road. The siege of Hippo Regius began in May or June, which would make April as the possible month of our battle.

The forces

Using the Notitia Dignitatum to determine the units forming Bonifacius’ army would most likely have changed as troops relocated to stem the German migration or join the civil conflicts that flared between 395 and 429 AD. To simplify the composition of the Roman force, I used the DBMM Patrician list as an extra reference. This produced a greater number of auxilia to represent the border police detachments and light horse.

Patrician Roman Army (Western)

1 x General (Cv), 1 x equites (Cv), 2 x equites (LH), 1 x legionnaires (4Bd), 2 x auxilia palatina (4Ax), 3 x auxilia (4Ax), 2 x archers (Ps). 

Early Vandal Army

1 x General (3Kn), 2 x nobles (3Kn), 7 x warriors (4Wb), 1 x Alans (LH), 1 x dregs (Ps). The Later Moorish Army served as allies after 428 AD.

1 x General (LH or Cv), 1 x horsemen (LH), 1 x javelinmen (Ps).

Tuesday 7 September 2021

The Khan of Kazan vs. Muscovy

 During the 15th century, the territories dominated by the Golden Horde began to reassert their former independence. The throne of Kazan, usurped by Ulugh Muhammad in 1438, held sway over the former land of the Volga Bulgars. Throughout his reign, Kazan forces raided Muscovy and its subject lands during the reign of Vasily II. One such raid forms the basis for our historical match up.


IV/44 Post Mongol Russian

IV/47 Golden Horde and Successors


A relatively open plain bordered by woods and gentle hill. 


The forces of Kazan and Muscovy met on an open plain surrounded by woods, but did not hinder their deployment. Both sides held formidable numbers of mounted troops supported by a small number of infantry. Cavalry on both sides formed two lines with intervals between divisions allowing supporting troops to move through.

Expecting a prolonged skirmish, Kazan only re-positioned its light horse to allow cavalry from the second line to move forward. Surprisingly, a cautious Muscovy took advantage of the redeployment to move forward at a quick pace followed by a charge to contact.

Repulsed in centre, Muscovy regrouped to charge a second time forcing the Tartars to fall back.

At this moment, the distance between wood and Muscovy’s right wing opened presenting opportunity for the Kazan light horse. The immediate threat was checked by the timely intervention of the Russian general and bodyguard.

Meanwhile, on the Tartar right, light horse archers moved into action.

The cavalry fight in the centre developed into a slugging match with both side taking casualties. Unfortunately, disaster struck when both Russian flanks succumbed to enemy light horse. Seeing the collapse of their flanks and the loss of their general, the Muscovites fled the field.