Thursday 29 June 2023

Roman Tour – Parthia

After the disaster at Carrhae in 53 BC, conflict between Rome and Parthia remained relatively quiet, with each becoming involved in dynastic upheavals along their adjoining frontier. The major campaigns of the second century, that of Trajan in 115 – 117 AD and the war of 161 – 166 AD would see the capture and sack of the Parthian capital of Ctesiphon plus the annexation of territories in Mesopotamia. Rome’s final campaign of 216 – 217 AD proved unsuccessful, but would see the downfall of the Parthian Empire eight years later. 

Game one

Preparing to meet the Parthian, Rome deployed in its standard formation of the legion in centre, auxilia on both flanks with the cavalry in forming a second line. Rome’s left, protected by woods, would be the target of Parthia’s attack to be carried out by the cataphract. Horse archers would probe for openings on the enemy flank and rear.. 

Confident that artillery and archery would suffice to protect its left, the legion moved forward, closing close the space and denying the Parthian any maneuver room. 

 Facing the legion, supporting horse archers failed to make any impression, losing casualties in their attempt, however, the cataphract may just turn the table.

The cataphract rode down the artillery and its supporting auxilia and rather than setting the Romans to panic, soon found themselves surrounded by cavalry and legionnaires, ending the Parthian attack. Rome 5 – 2.

Game two

Rome deployed and awaited the enemy and soon noted the Parthian would set its main assault against the open flank. 

Scrambling to reposition troops, Rome took advantage of the indecision by the Parthian to increase its pace (both sides had low pip scores for two turns).

The situation on the Roman right became desperate as horse archers pinned Roman right wing leaving Roman troops in the centre to face the onslaught by the Parthian cataphract. 

Along the Roman front, breaches were to be seen as Roman troops succumbed to the Parthian assault. Realising the situation could not be retrieved, the Roman general signalled a retreat. Parthia 4 – 1.


In game two, Rome confident of repeating a second success, positioned its troops as before. That confidence was swept away as it scrambled to defend its right flank. Sending troops from one flank to the opposite flank is not the best way to expend pips.  

Early Imperial Roman

1 x General (Cv), 1 x equites (Cv), 4 x legionnaires (4Bd), 3 x auxilia infantry (4Ax), 1 x archers (4Bw or Ps), 1 x light horse (LH), 1 x artillery (Art).


1 x General (4Kn), 2 x cataphract (4Kn), 9 x horse archers (LH).

Tuesday 20 June 2023

Roman Tour – Nomad Arab

The Arab tribes of the pre-Islamic era roamed the arid regions from the southern tip of the Arabia peninsula to the Euphrates River. Those tribes that settled along the trade routes would eventually become the ruling dynasties of many city-states. Other tribes, made their livelihood breeding domestic animals (camels, sheep) and supplemented their wealth by plundering the caravan routes. Both types have their own sub-lists under the Nomad Arab.

Emperor Augustus found the city-states were best able to deal with the tent-dwellers of the eastern frontier, but on rare occasions, a punitive expedition would be equally effective.  

Game one

The Roman legion and auxilia formed their line on the open ground between two gentle hills to face the Arab host opposite. Eager to clash with the beardless ones, the Arabs launched its entire camel corps against the Roman left. 

This assault did not have the desired result and after incurring heavy losses among the camel mounted troops and elsewhere, Arab will collapsed. Rome 4 – 0

Game two

Availed of another opportunity, the Arabs revised their deployment. Camel riders were evenly distributed to both flanks and tribal swordsmen were placed in centre to face the legion. 

Rome held its ground and awaited the Arab assault. To avoid the missiles from bold-throwers, the Arab swordsmen drifted toward the Roman right. To pin the Roman left, the Arab right wing made its advance. 

The Arab attack on the Roman left flank proved a feint as the entire column changed direction to support the main assault. This forced troops from the Roman left to follow in pursuit. 

The Roman pursuit proved a mistake as the wily Arab changed direction again to catch their pursuers off guard. The blunder was costly and tallied with those suffered on the right forced the Roman general to call a retreat. Nomad Arab 4 – 0. 


In game two, the feigned attack on the Roman left and change of direction was an inspiration delivered by high pip scores. Realising the threat, archery fire proved effective at splitting the Arab column in two offering pursuing Romans an opportunity to catch the head of the Arab column. Mistake.      

Early Imperial Roman

1 x General (Cv), 1 x equites (Cv), 4 x legionnaires (4Bd), 3 x auxilia infantry (4Ax), 1 x archers (Ps), 1 x light horse (LH), 1 x artillery (Art).

Nomad Arab

1 x General (LH), 1 x light horse (LH), 1 x scouts (LCm), 4 x camel riders (Cm), 3 x swordsmen (4Bd), 1 x archers (3Bw), 1 x skirmishers (Ps).

Thursday 15 June 2023

Roman Tour – the Nabataean

Researching military conflicts between Nabataea and Rome has proved sketchy. From the reign of Augustus to its annexation by Trajan, the Kingdom of Nabataea remained an autonomous client state.

During the reign of Aretas IV Philopatris, who ruled from 9BC to 40 AD, Rome was drawn into the conflict between Aretas and Herod Antipas. The campaign reached Jerusalem in 37 AD, but further military operations were curtailed following the death of Tiberius.  

Succeeding Aretas, Malichus II ruled the Nabataean kingdom until 70 AD and remained loyal to Rome, even sending cavalry and infantry during the Jewish Revolt.

Rabbel II Soter, would become the last ruler of the kingdom, one source suggests a military campaign in 106 AD by the governor of Syria, Cornelius Palma Frontonianus, brought about the annexation as part of the province of Arabia Petraea in 106 AD.

Game one

The Nabataean lengthened their line by positioning two mounted units in the line’s centre. Rome wisely placed its mounted as a second line in reserve.

Rome opened the battle assaulting the Nabataean left flank.

Casualties mounted rapidly among the Nabataean forcing their commander to rashly attack the Roman legion. The effort came too late to prevent the complete collapse of the Nabataean left wing. A retreat was called for. Rome 4 – 3. 

Game two

Both sides deploying similarly as before, but the second battle Rome launched an aggressive attack on the Nabataean centre, led by the legion and supported by the artillery.

Sweeping the opposition away, the situation in centre became critical for the Nabataean general.  

 The fall of the Nabataean banner brought a wave of panic to the Nabataean putting them to flight. Rome 4+g-2.


The Nabataean were clearly out-matched by Rome lacking sufficient number of troops to meet the legionnaires. Fighting other Arabo-Aramean, Arab marauders or the Parthian would offer a better opportunity for victory.

Early Imperial Roman

1 x General (Cv), 1 x equites (Cv), 4 x legionnaires (4Bd), 3 x auxilia infantry (4Ax), 1 x archers (4Bw or Ps), 1 x light horse (LH), 1 x artillery (Art).


1 x General (4Kn), 1 x horse archers (LH), 1 x swordsmen (4Bd), 2 x javelinmen (3Ax), 5 x archers (3Bw), 1 x archers (3Bw or Ps),  1 x caravan guards (Cm).

Sunday 11 June 2023

Collision Course

The rule variant, Collision Course, simulates the force march rule from WRG 7th edition. Modified by David Lawrence, known to Fanaticus Forum members as Macbeth, Collision Course has become a regular feature of the tournament scene in Australia. I found a copy last month and gave the set a good test.

The basics.

Armies form three columns of equal size with column one placed on the table and the head of column two within a deployment zone measuring 4BW x 4BW from the centre of the army’s base edge. Column number three remains off board and enters the game board after column two is completely on table. This costs 4 pips.  

Players must give some thought to the composition and the march order of elements of each column. Costly pip expenditure may occur when deploying from column to line if slower moving troops prove an obstacle. Fortunately, there are historical examples that one may follow.

Testing (Rome vs. Judea).

In the photo, a Roman advance guard of three auxilia and an element of legionnaires are place on the board and the CinC element leading column two. Off table are the cavalry, auxilia, bolt-thrower and archers followed by the mobile baggage.

The Late Judaean place light troops and mercenary cavalry of column one on the board and similar to the Roman march order, the army CinC leads the main body of auxilia and swordsmen. Column three, consisting of more light troops, auxilia and lastly, the mobile baggage.

Roman deployment is ready to engage the enemy.

Judaean deployment has formed three separate groups in echelon, though not by design.

Battle develops in earnest and Judea loses an element of auxilia to artillery.

Roman troops surpass themselves and shred the enemy sending them in flight.


Both sides experienced little delay bringing all three columns on the board, however much time was required to shake the columns into line. This was not through a lack of pips, but improper spacing. Rome experiences less problem having fought many battles prior.

Played three test games and thoroughly enjoyed them all. The Roman Tour is half way through its list of opponents and there will be further opportunity for more tests. Rome – Parthia should be interesting.    

Tuesday 6 June 2023

Roman Tour – Late Judaean

The Client Kingdom of Judea, frequently found themselves at odds with neighbouring entities such as the Nabataean and the city-state of Emesa during the reign of Caesar Augustus. Following the death of Herod the Great in 1 BC, Augustus honoured the division of the kingdom among his surviving sons to establish the ethnarchs of Judea, Samaria and Idumea*.

Any harmonious relationship among the heirs quickly turned to armed conflict (Josephus) drawing the neighbouring states and Rome into it.


Game one

Encamp in the Elat valley, the Judaean army were alerted to the approach of the Roman army by scouts. Forming a battleline in front of its camp, its flanks were protected by difficult hills and a village.  

Seeing the Judaean prepared for battle, auxilia and legionnaires formed a line matching the enemy. Intent on seizing the village on the enemy’s right, an assault column of legionnaires supported by auxilia made ready to attack.

The Roman assault on the village met with stiff resistance. Gaining little success, Roman attention focused on the enemy centre to create a breakthrough.

The main attack came to a halt as Judaean skirmishers fell on the Roman right flank. The well-timed counter attack frustrated each attack by Rome. To overcome the level of enemy resistance, Rome reinforced its left flank and resume the assault on the village and the Judaean right.  

Judaean troops sent to support its right effectively thinned its battle line. Sensing the right moment, Rome struck the enemy centre sending the enemy in retreat. A victory, but at heavy cost; Rome 4 - 3 

Game two

The Judaean line nearly mirrored that of Rome, but lacking sufficient cavalry, sought the protection of its flanks with rocky ground and steep hills on either side. Rome, in standard formation, placed its artillery and archers on the left and kept the bulk of its cavalry in reserve.

The Judaean launched an early attack on the hills position on the Roman left. From this vantage point, the Judaeans assault the artillery and archer units exposing the Roman centre. The plans quickly soured as accurate artillery shots destroyed a Judaean auxilia unit and those skirmishers reaching the hill suffered heavy losses.

Confident of a secure left flank, the legion crashed into the main Judaean line sending enemy formations back. As a result, many Judaean units found themselves attacked in both front and flank, to be cut down were they stood.  

The pressure became too much for the Judaean and a retreat was called for. A solid victory, Rome, 5 – 2



Both tests were long, taking 7 turns to reach a decision, this was not due to poor die throws, but many combats resulting in even scores. In error, the element of cavalry was replaced by an element of skirmishers. On reflection, I not sure this would have made a difference due to the restricted nature of the terrain which actually favoured light troops. Both tests demonstrated the tenacity of the Judaean skirmishers against heavier armed opponents, including cavalry.  

Both sides may use allies and the Judaean may have Parthia (2 x 4Kn, 1 x LH) while Rome could select from a number of options from the Arabo-Aramaean list (II/22). The Nabataean, for example, could supply 1 x noble (4Kn), 1 x archer (3Bw) and 1 x camel guard (Cm) as a counter to the Parthian presence.


Early Imperial Roman

1 x General (Cv), 1 x equites (Cv), 4 x legionnaires (4Bd), 3 x auxilia infantry (4Ax), 1 x archers (4Bw or Ps), 1 x light horse (LH), 1 x artillery (Art).

Late Judaean

1 x General (3Kn), 2 x Thracian cohorts (4Ax or 4Bd), 3 x Judaean cohorts (4Ax), 1 x Gallic cavalry (Cv), 3 x archers/slingers (Ps), 2 x javelinmen (Ps) or Idumaean hillmen (3Ax) or rioting religious mob (5Hd).

Sunday 4 June 2023

Necessary conversions

This past week I converted a number of miniatures to fill an army list option and to make use of an unused command pack.

The first are the Roman contarii (3Kn) listed as an option for the Early Imperial Roman. The Old Glory Seleucid Xystophoroi was ideal as this required a modification of the helmet and the inclusion of a contus of brass rod.

The Roman Cavalry, From the First to the Third Century AD’ by Karen R. Dixon and Pat Southern mention equites armed with the contus wielded the weapon in combat with both hands, therefore no shield. An illustration of the tombstone of an eques of Ala I Caninafatium demonstrates this, see figure 18

The second were Ancient British light horse converted from a German cavalry command pack consisting of commanders, standard bearers and musicians. The conversion was a simple clipping of instruments and standards off the figure.

Painting the Ancient British was a challenge as these required chequered trousers, war paint and decorative shields. All of which was a useful exercise as I will order the infantry to complete two commands.    

Ready for an undercoat.

Ready for battle