Monday, July 4, 2022

Battle of Idistaviso / Weser River (16 AD)

This is the second of two scenarios to refight the campaign of Germanicus against the Germanic tribes. This scenario was AC27, an unofficial scenario written by Alessandro Crespi and available on commansandcolors.net.

The scenario was played using the Commands & Colors Ancients rules but on hex terrain from Kallistra and using paper figures from Peter Dennis instead of blocks. 

The Battle of Idistaviso is also known as the Battle of the Weser River and sometimes as the first Battle of Minden. It was fought in 16 AD between the Roman legions commanded by Germanicus (the adopted son and heir if the Emperor Tiberius) and an alliance of Germanic tribes commanded by Arminius. Additionally the Chauci, a Germanic tribe, fought for Romans as auxiliaries.

Ancient sources identify the location as Idistaviso, but the precise location is unknown, save that it was on the right side of the Weser River, somewhere up between the cities of Minden and Hameln of present-day Germany. The battle marked the end of a three-year campaign by Germanicus to restore the Roman frontier at the Elbe that had been lost in 9 AD. The Germanic tribes generally avoided open large-scale combat, but at this battle Germanicus was finally able to force them into a major engagement. 

Both sides suffered severe losses, but the Romans were victorious. Arminius and his uncle Inguiomer were wounded in the battle, but both evaded capture. The retreating Germanic army was cut down in every quarter. Many, attempting to swim across the Weser, died from a storm of projectiles or by the force of the current. Many others climbed to the tops of trees, and while they were hiding in the branches, the Romans called upon archers to shoot them down.

Germanicus had to withdraw behind the Rhine for the winter once again. Tiberius saw no point in continuing the costly military campaigns in northern Germania and ordered Germanicus to end his campaign and return to Rome. Germanicus was granted a triumph in 17 AD. After this, Rome never again made a serious effort to conquer Germania beyond the River Rhine.

The Battle started with the light troops of both sides skirmishing in the centre. The Romans advanced in the hope of taking the hilly terrain but the barbarians got there first. There were few losses, but the Romans were outnumbered.

In the centre, the Romans took losses from the enemies' javelins and their auxilia retired. But they were rallied and advanced into the fray again.

A great contest of javelin skirmishing ensued. The sky turned dark with the javelins, initiated by the barbarians but counterattacked by the Romans. The Romans came off the best from the exchange.

After more skirmishing from both sides, the Roman centre took the initiative and advanced towards the barbarians on the hills.

The Germanic leader, seeing the perilous situation, took direct command of the four units around him and charged straight into the Romans.

One unit of Roman heavy infantry was pushed back with casualties, while the second unit under the command of Germanicus himself was wiped out, Germanicus being carried of the field seriously wounded and unable to continue in command. The light infantry evaded the charging barbarians.

In the centre, the Romans were suffering from the javelins thrown by the barbarians.

So they sent forward a unit of legionaries and one of Chauci warrior auxiliaries to attack the barbarians.

But the fight was indecisive, both sides taking fairly heavy losses.

Arminius ordered forward a fresh unit of his warriors, they demolished the Chauci auxiliaries, and charged right through them into the legionaries behind.

The legionaries retreated without loss. However the Roman immediately brought forward more reinforcements to build a battle line against the barbarians.

As the Roman centre looked impenetrable, Arminius ordered his three units of cavalry to charge the enemy's left flank.

One unit of Germanic cavalry, fled from the fight, while the other two wiped out one unit of Roman cavalry, severely damaged another as well as almost destroying a unit of Chauci warrior auxiliaries.

The Romans tried to shore up their left flank. The Chauci warrior auxiliaries attacked the unit on the hill, wiping them out and causing their commander to flee into the forest to his rear. The Roman cavalry then attacked the remaining enemy cavalry unit, causing 50% losses but were then themselves pushed back.

The barbarians then continued the cavalry charge again. They brought up both the cavalry and the leader that had previously fled.

The cavalry slaughtered the Chauci warrior auxiliaries, they charged straight through and over the hill where they fell on the remaining understrength Roman medium cavalry and its leader.  

The Roman medium cavalry and its leader were destroyed. Seeing their flank destroyed, the Roman army lost heart and retired from the field of battle. 

Arminius celebrated his victory, by drinking Roman Falernum wine, part of the spoils discovered in a tent previously belonging to a Roman general.

Arminius - by MW


Saturday, June 18, 2022

Angrivarii Rampart (16 AD)

This is the first of two scenarios to refight the campaign of Germanicus against the Germanic tribes.

The scenario was played using the Commands & Colors Ancients rules but on hex terrain from Kallistra and using paper figures from Peter Dennis instead of blocks.

Following the catastrophe at the Teutoburger Wald, Augustus dispatched a series of punitive expeditions into Germany. In 14 AD, Tiberius became emperor and assigned his adopted son Germanicus Julius Caesar to the German province. In AD 16, Arminius decided the time had come to destroy another Roman army. He deployed his Germanic army to ambush Germanicus at a point in a plain between a forest and a deep, broad stream. His infantry waited behind an old boundary rampart while he deployed his cavalry in the woods, waiting to charge out onto the Roman rear. 

Germanicus was a far better tactician than Varus. He scouted well and did not fall for the trap, sending auxiliary infantry into the forest to occupy the German cavalry while his legions attacked the ramparts. The first Roman attempt at the ramparts was repulsed, so Germanicus ordered forward his engines and light troops to soften up the Germanic position. The second attack broke through the rampart and the Germans behind the ramparts fled. The battle then shifted to the woods where the fighting went on until dusk. Arminius withdrew in the darkness and the Roman cavalry pursuit was indecisive. Germanicus had won a tactical victory with little strategic impact. Arminius had survived with a depleted but intact army to continue the fight. In the following year, the Emperor Tiberius decided to abandon Germany and fix the limit of the Roman Empire at the Rhine. Roman expansion was at an end, and the Germanic tribes remained free, with dramatic implications for the future of Europe.

The battle commenced when Germanicus ordered two units of auxilia into the forest, and the ballistae on his right flank to advance.

The barbarian skirmishers rushed forth, threw their javelins, and then retired back to safety before they could be attacked. The Roman light infantry on their left flank and the legionaries in the centre took casualties.

The Romans acted on both flanks, advancing their infantry to build up for an attack. The ballistae opened fire on the far right but without success.

The barbarian leader took his unit and four other and attacked the forest.

The Roman legionaries and the barbarian warriors both took losses.

The Romans didn't want to loose the forest, so the pushed back into it and attacked.

Both sides took losses, but despite having the initiative, the Romans came off worse.

The barbarians pushed forward into the forest.

The lone Roman legionaries were destroyed and their light infantry took losses.

Following their leader, the Romans advanced two units from their centre. 

The legionaries destroyed a unit of barbarian warriors and their supporting light infantry fled.

Thinking that the Romans were busy in the forest, the barbarians charged out of their ramparts at double time and attacked the Roman front line.

The Romans lost heavily but did manage to inflict some casualties in return.

Inspired by their commander, the Romans attacked.

With slight losses to themselves, the pushed back the barbarians and caused 50% casualties to their right flank unit.

The barbarians decided they had been a little too impetuous when the advanced out from the safety of their ramparts, so they double-timed back to the fortification.

The Romans attacked yet again in the forest.

And still not having learnt their lesson, took heavy losses.

While at the same time on their right flank, the ballistae went into action. 

Loaded with iron tipped bolts, they shot at the depleted unit of warriors with their leader standing in front of the tree.

The barrage of ballistae bolts destroyed the unit, and one bolt killed their commander outright.

The barbarians in the forest, wiped out the Roman light infantry to their front. Ignoring this, the Roman line advances towards the ramparts.

The barbarian commander ordered a mounted charge in the forest, wiping out all Roman resistance there and even almost eliminating the supporting unit of Roman allies.

While the Roman commander was preparing for an attacking the the centre, the barbarian commander ordered a second mounted charge from the forest.

This wiped out the Roman allied warriors and caused the supporting light infantry with their commander to evade.

The Roman commander ordered the three legionary units in his centre to attack the ramparts.

The Roman legionaries stormed over the ramparts and eliminated the barbarians defending them.

Seeing their fortifications captured, the entire barbarian army lost heart. Demoralised, it fled the field leaving the victorious Romans to pick up the spoils.


For Germanicus, this victory came in the nick of time. The Roman left flank was in trouble, the barbarian cavalry was exiting the forest and about to pounce on the lone light infantry unit. But when the ramparts fell to the legionaries, even this cavalry turned and left the battlefield.


A very exciting game, that hung in the balance until the last turn. It could have gone either way! 


Sunday, June 12, 2022

The Roman Invasion of Britain - Scenario 10

Mons Graupius (84 AD)

This is the tenth and final scenario in our campaign representing the Roman Invasion of Britain based on my own campaign rules

The scenario was played using the Commands & Colors Ancients rules but on hex terrain from Kallistra and using paper figures from Peter Dennis instead of blocks.

The Roman commander addresses his men - by MW

After years of campaigns in northern Britain, Gnaeus Julius Agricola subdued all the tribes except the fierce Caledonians. Agricola maneuvered to bring the Caledonians to open battle. Determined to restore the security of his Highland home, the Caledonian chief, Calgacus, gathered a strong force of about 30,000 and awaited and the Romans at Mons Graupius. Calgacus occupied the high ground with his main force and posted a line of chariots on level ground to their front. The Roman army was of roughly equal size. Agricola deployed his auxiliary infantry and cavalry in the main battle line and held his legions in reserve. The battle opened with Agricola’s cavalry charge against the barbarian chariots while the infantry moved forward and engaged in an exchange of missiles with the enemy. When the charioteers began to give ground, the Roman auxiliary infantry closed to hand-to-hand combat, which drove the enemy line back. A desperate attempt to outflank the Roman line was turned back by another cavalry charge.

The Set-up

This is scenario 410 from Commands & Colors Ancients - Expansion 4. The Romans have 2 glory points from the previous scenario and the Britons have 1 glory point. Glory points in our campaign rules are an addition to the standard C&CA rules.

The Romans had initially planned to keep their legionaries in reserve and let their lighter troops do the work. However the Roman commander immediately changed the plan, and brought forward his legionaries, positioned in the centre behind the light troops.

Coordinating his troop movements, the Caledonian commander ordered his light infantry to occupy the woods on his right flank and joined the Cavalry to advancing on his left centre.

The Roman general ordered his light troops into action, the bowmen to remain stationary and shoot while the auxilia and light cavalry advanced and threw javelins.

On the left flank, the Caledonian leader inspired his cavalry and chariots to charge the Roman light cavalry.

With very few losses to themselves, the Caledonians eliminated first the light cavalry and then destroyed the medium cavalry supporting them (although allowing their commander to escape) and finally caused the auxila to retreat.

The Roman commander order his cavalry, auxilia and light infantry units to attach the Caledonian mounted troops. The light infantry got behind the rear of the Caledonian cavalry.

Although the Romans took heavy losses, the attack we a success. The Caledonian cavalry unit and one of the chariot units were wiped out and their leader killed. Even the remaining chariot unit took casualties.

The Caledonians advanced two units in their centre, preparing for a new attack.

The Roman general ordered his flanks into action. On his right flank, the auxilia and light infantry cut of the retreat for the chariots and attacked. On the left flank, a warband of allied southern British warriors charged into the Caledonian infantry. 

The chariots were wiped out. Half the Caledonian infantry were killed, but the southern British warriors took losses too.

In the centre, the desperate Caledonians charged into the Roman line, the warriors were eliminated without causing any enemy losses and the light infantry fled without doing any damage.

With a Clash Of Shields, the warband of allied southern British warriors charged into the Caledonian infantry, wiped them out and then turned on the chariots who desperately tried to evade but without success and even they were destroyed.

The victory was complete, the Caledonians were demoralized, all thanks to the brave and valiant charge of the British warriors.

The outcome was considered remarkable because solely auxiliary forces had achieved the victory. Following the battle, Agricola proclaimed that all tribes in Britain had been conquered.


Scenario Result 

Roman Victory: Romans 6 - Britons 2


Campaign Result 

  Victories     Banners  
  Romans       4     49
  Britons       6     51


Final Result

BRITISH CAMPAIGN VICTORY

Queen Boudica, speaking at a feast later in her life, described this campaign as a "the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life", a quote that was stolen, many years later, by a general with funny boots.