Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Mursa, 351CE

On the Saturday evening at Berkeley I ran a game of To The Strongest! to demo the system to some new players.  The scenario was the battle of Mursa, which took place in the year 351 near what is now Osijek in Croatia.

This was only a very approximate version of the battle with my main source being Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire with a bit of help from Wikipedia.  The battlefield is described as a featureless plain alongside the Drava River.  I added a Roman road as it seemed appropriate.

On the left, the army of Magnentius with two infantry commands
closest to the river and a cavalry command on their right flank.
To the right of the picture, the army of Constantius; Infantry command
with fortified camp, central command of German cavalry, and
left flank cavalry.
The Army of Constantius right) had its right flank anchored on the river and was commanded by Josh Jones as the chamberlain Eusebius. He was ably assisted by his Pete Duckworth as Sylvanus the Frank and Owen Webber as General Gallus.

Opposite them, Benedict Sharrock took on the role of the western emperor Magnentius.  Nigel Jones assisted him as General Marcellinus.  General Decentius, commanding the German infantry in the centre of Magnentius's line was commanded by whichever of the western players finished first with their own command.

I didn't get as many photos as I'd have liked as I was too busy explaining the rules and keeping the game moving.

I'd added an extra wrinkle to the battle in the form of Menelaus who is said to have directed the archery of Constantius's troops and played an important part in their victory.  In consultation with Simon Miller I decided to treat Menelaus as a non-standard type of Hero who, once per turn, could retry any missed shooting attempt by his unit.  This seems to work OK.  It certainly didn't unbalance the game.  Sadly it didn't prevent Magnentian legionaries later overrunning his unit.

Menelaus at the far end of the Light Infantry (bow) unit.
True to history, Eusebius put his cavalry on the left.  In this case with a large command of Germanic foederati (mostly Goths) nearest the "hinge" and a smaller command of Roman cavalry (including a small unit of veteran cataphractarii) on the extreme left.

The Goths hit the junction of Magnentius's infantry centre and his right flank cavalry command.

Gothic cavalry charge their Western Roman opposites
and disorder them (hence the canted position of the latter).
On the river flank there was bloody fighting.  There was no decisive breakthrough but there was a steady trickle of casualties on both sides.

On the other flank the easterners' superiority in cavalry enabled them to break through and threaten Magnentius's camp.  With only a unit of Ballistarii to defend it, the camp looked threatened.  Its three Victory Medals would probably win the battle for Constantius.

However, the artillerymen fought like lions.  Turning to face the attack (they can do this though they can't move from square to square) they fought off the eastern equites alares.

And suddenly it was over.  Somewhere in the centre of the battlefield an eastern unit routed.  Their example was contagious.  As Eusebius surrendered his last Victory Medal the army of Constantius started to disintegrate.

And so a reversal of history.  I learned a few things from this game.

One - have two separate cups of activation counters.  It's a pain in the arse passing one cup back and forth.

Two - for a quick demo game it would probably have been better to miss the names of units off the Army Sheets. They just got in the way of players identifying the unit types.

Three - I need some specifically ancient terrain items to give the battlefield some character.


Andrew Canham said...

Looks like a fun game and an interesting battle - it certainly decided Britain's fate for the next 700 years.

Cheers, Andy

Simon Miller said...

Looks really great Richard. I keep thinking it is in a bigger scale until I see the chits, which look huge! :-)

ps. I'm back on the alticamelus again, sculpting reins and armour onto them for what could be a Praxian winter.

Phil said...

Looks nice, very nice...

Counterpane said...

Thanks for a the comments, guys.

Simon Miller said...

BTW James mentioned that you won Berkeley- congratulations!

Counterpane said...

Thanks, Simon. No one was more surprised than me. Much good luck was involved.

Simon Miller said...

Modest as ever! :-)