Sunday 31 March 2024

After Strasbourg, 357 AD

The victory at Strasbourg (357) did not subdue the Alemanni as a further three campaign seasons were needed to bring them to heel, albeit briefly. Herwig Wolfrum, in “The Roman Empire and Its Germanic Peoples” describes the continued incursions by the Alemanni following Julian’s departure to the east.

With a newly completed Late Roman Army, we will attempt to follow Julian’s footsteps across the Rhine and engage the Alemanni. The following reports demonstrate this was no easy task.

Game one.

Rome find the Alemanni prepared for battle with their flank and rear protected by woods. Rome deploys in three lines and gaps are made so as to match the breadth of the enemy line.

The thin ranks appear vulnerable and the Alemanni rush forward to break the Roman line. The Alemanni right are hesitant and slow their pace as they face Roman Cataphracti.

As the armies’ clash, Rome suffers heavy casualties in the centre, but hold an advantage to turn the Alemanni left. To meet the Cataphracti, archers advance forward and with a rain arrows them to retreat.

Oblivious to events happening on their left and right flanks the Alemanni continue their attack forward to meet the Roman second line.

Their breakthrough is stopped by units from the second line and counter attacks by the equites hold the Alemanni in check. Seizing the moment, the Cataphracti also charge the enemy giving Rome a clear victory over the barbarians (10+2Hd-6).

Game two.

The Alemanni are reinforced and meet Rome in deep ranks positioned between marsh and woods. Rome deploys in a standard formation, but have amassed all their light horse on the right flank.

Exhibiting contempt for the Roman light horse as they proceed to encircle their left, the Alemanni rush forward to ‘die killing Romans’.

The lines clash in centre while on both flanks play out their own arena of death.

Having made a breakthrough in centre, Alemanni columns continue their attack against the second Roman line.

The battle reaches a critical state with the destruction of a second legion. Nonetheless, the scales balance with the collapse of the Alemanni left flank with both armies reaching a break point. Just then, Roman light horse thunder down toward the Alemanni warlord.

The crisis in centre is held in check allowing Roman equites wreak havoc in the Alemanni rear sealing their fate. A very narrow victory for Rome (10+4Hd – 9).  


Game two is best described as a ‘meat grinder’ as it required nine turns to reach a conclusion. The Alemanni inflicted heavy casualties at the start, leaving Rome to slog their way back and match the barbarians. Turn eight, the score reached an even 9 – 9 plus horde, 

In general, there were opportunities in the centre for elements to flank columns, but maintaining a line proved a better choice as this reduced pip expenditure on the subsequent turn.

Losing all four Roman blade in quick succession was a surprise, but the positioning of a third line staved off a near disaster. Despite the late arrival of the light horse, Roman equites performed well. 

Monday 18 March 2024

The reign of Chlodovech 481-511

The expansion of the Frankish Kingdom, during the reign of Chlodovech (Clovis), lends well to a linear campaign, beginning with the elimination of his rivals on succeeding to the throne (481), attacking Syagrius of Soissons (486), followed by the Thuringians (491), then a decisive confrontation with the Alamanni ending at the Battle of Tolbiac (496), the Burgundian civil war (500), a campaign against Armorica (501) and the wars with the Visigoths (507) resulting in the unification of the Frankish kingdom. 

This is more interesting as the Frankish army transforms from an early period (II/72d) to a Merovingian force (III/5a) supported by Gallo-Roman troops and the addition of a mounted arm. The next weeks, each phase will be played out followed by a brief report with photos. 

481 - Early Frankish II/72d versus rivals a similar list.

486 - Early Frankish II/72d versus the Patrician Roman II/82.

491 - Early Frankish II/72d versus the Thuringian II/73.

496 - Early Frankish II/72d or III/5 versus the Alamanni II/72b.

500 - Merovingian III/5 versus the Burgundi II/70a.

501 - Merovingian III/5 versus Armorica II/81c.

507 - Merovingian III/5 versus the Later Visigoths II/83.

508 – Baptism.

511 - Death.

481 – Chlodovech ascends the throne and begins a ruthless campaign of eliminating rival claimants. One such claimant fields an army of equal size and deployment and as they advance, Clovis extends his flanks to overlap the enemy. As the armies clash and lines buckle, the opposing generals are locked in battle. Light troops encircling the usurper’s line, join Clovis to help slay the enemy king, 5g-1.

486 – Chlodovech invades the kingdom of Soisson to find the last Roman patrician deployed for battle. Seeing traitorous Franks among the Roman ranks, Clovis concentrates his attack there. Succumbing to Frankish retribution, the Roman left collapses and coupled with the destruction of the legion and equites the fate of Syagrius is sealed. He flees the field to a victorious Clovis, 5-2.

491 – The last rivals for the Frankish throne have fled to Thuringia. In his pursuit, Clovis encounters the army of Thuringia and gives battle. Employing a similar deployment, Clovis overlaps the Thuringian left while holding back his opposite wing. The situation nearly turned critical as Clovis finds himself surrounded, but his luck held finally defeating Thuringia, 4 – 2.


The only position for a warband general is in the front rank of his army as his presence can play a critical role in combat outcomes. However, this does have its risk as Clovis’ career nearly ended while fighting Thuringia.

The composition of the patrician force posed a problem, as so little is known about the kingdom of Soisson. Still, deploying four elements of cavalry and light horse would normally give the last Roman an advantage.

496 – The Alamanni invade the territory of the Ripurian Franks to. Requesting help, Clovis sets off to stop the invasion, bringing with him Gallo-Roman troops and cavalry. The armies meet west of Cologne and the Alamanni were deployed ready for battle. Clovis and Frankish cavalry form the centre, on the right, the Gallo-Romans and on the left, tribal warriors. As the centres of both armies clash, the Alamanni king fell to the axe of Clovis. Despite the loss of their lord, the Alamanni continue to resist, but seeing the havoc wrecked by Frankish cavalry, the Alamanni flee, 4g-2.

500 – A civil war in Burgundy lures Clovis to assist Godegisel against his brother, King Gundobad. The armies met near Dijon and in a surprise maneuver, Clovis approached the Burgundi full force against the enemy left flank. Scrambling to adjust their line, the Burgundi manage to force back the usurper’s contingent, but fall against the Frankish onslaught. A decisive victory, 4-0.

501 – Clovis captures the city of Nantes to serve as the headquarters for a Breton March. This overt action is rebuffed by the Dux of Armorica. Despite an initial setback, Clovis resumes his campaign and brings the Armorican army to battle. Outnumbered by Armorican cavalry, Clovis places his mounted arm in a reserve position. Armorican light horse probe both Frankish flanks by are neutralised enemy infantry. Leading a charge against the Frankish right, the Armorican leader finds himself isolated. His death brings a swift end to the battle, 3g+Hd-2.


Until his venture into Armorica, Clovis retained an unblemished victory record. A simple change in deployment was enough to undo that record, underscoring an old expression ‘don’t fix it, if it’s not broken”. Returning to a standard deployment Clovis secured an easy victory. 

507 – Seeking to liberate Aquitaine of Visigothic presence, Clovis forbids the pillaging of the land by his men to gain support among the Catholics in the domain. Fearing the influence this may have among his subjects, Alaric II meets the Franks at a battlefield near VouillĂ©.

Anticipating an impetuous charge by Visigothic heavy cavalry, Clovis formed two lines placing the left further behind the division on the right, do so would force the Visigothic cavalry to ride further and along woods held by Frankish tribal warriors.

As the Visigoths advance, the Frankish on the left wheel forcing the Visigoths to adjust their line of attack, leaving Alaric II and his nobles alone to face the remaining Frankish troops.

As lines crash, the Visigothic heavy cavalry seek to break the infantry line ahead and wheel to take Clovis in the flank. Unfortunately, the infantry mistaken as Frankish tribal warriors were in fact spearmen, ably repelling the cavalry attack sending Alaric II to his ancestors. Seeing their leader fall brought the Visigothic attack to a halt. Fearing further casualties, the Visigoths flee, 3g-2.

Note: A case of mistaken identity; calculating the combat between Frankish warband (4Wb) and Visigothic knights resulted in a recoil result for the Alaric. As the combat continued toward the wood, I realised my error, as the infantry were not warband but spearmen, resulting in an adjusted score to twice as many. Oops, poor Alaric.

This was a fun series to play reaching an actual historical end, no doubt Gregory will add much to his recounting of the story.