Sunday, October 25, 2015

Adrianople, 378CE

Note: edited 28/10/15 after Andy reminded me of an incident I'd omitted from the original account.

Today's Saturday Afternoon Wargame (TM) saw Arthur Woodward and Phil Gray as, respectively, Emperor Valens and Bacurius the Iberian, take on a Visigoth army led by Jamie Crawley and Andy Sangar.  The game was based on the account of the battle of Adrianople written by Ammianus Marcellinus.   The battle was fought in 378CE in what is now Bulgaria.

The battlefield was particularly marked by a large, though gently sloped, hill on top of which was the Gothic waggon laager.

I didn't have a suitably sized half-hill so I marked the position of the slope with Scenic Effect clumps.  The Three squares of the camp were highest, with the surrounding seven squares than being lower but still higher than the rest of the area.

Only Andy had played before so we started off with a run-through of the rules and then it was straight into the action with deployment.

The Goths started out with only one command, all infantry, on the table.  This command consisted of six units of Javelinmen (two of them deep units), four of bow-armed light infantry, and one General (Fritigern, the Goth overall commander).  The presence of but one general in the initial force would prove to be a problem for Jamie as we will see later.

The Romans, meanwhile, had a much longer battle line with all of their forces deployed on-table from the start.  They followed the usual pattern of a strong infantry centre flanked by cavalry wings.

The Roman left wing cavalry prepares to advance

The field of battle with the armies deployed.

The Roman commanders radiated quiet confidence
My scenario had the Goth cavalry arriving on both flanks on the player turn following the first Roman unit occupying one of the hill squares beneath the Gothic laager.

The Romans advanced across the field in a well-ordered array.  The Goths waited.  And waited. Largely as a result of Jamie's first three draws of counters being ones!  As a result, the first hour of the afternoon saw arrivals, one of them delayed, and a teach-in on the rules, and still got two game turns completed!  Andy, whose late arrival doomed him to the twin role of the two Gothic cavalry commanders, was an interested spectator throughout.

The Roman army advanced...

... and advanced some more, finally crashing into the Goth infantry at the base of the hill.  From now on the action would be concentrated in a narrow ban at the base of the hill.  So far all so historical.

The Roman left wing cavalry about to swing round onto the flank of the Goth army

Goth skirmishers about to be ridden down by Roman cavalry

At this point it became apparent that, while I'd told Andy that his cavalry would arrive when any Roman elements reached the slopes below the camp, I'd forgotten to give the same information to  Jamie, who was defending perhaps a little too far forward.

The Romans stopped below the hill to concentrate their attacks on key points in the Goth line, unknowingly delaying the arrival of Fritigern's rescuers.

Eventually, however, Jamie saw the merit of fully occupying his fortified camp and withdrew some units thus drawing the Romans on.

In the foreground the Roman cavalry have turned to face along the Goth line. Goth javelinmen face them.
The units off-table to the left further back are those actually manning the camp
squares in front of them.
At this point the Goth cavalry arrived; four units on each flank, behind the Romans who had started to envelop the camp.  This led to confused cavalry melees on both sides whilst Arthur's Roman infantry still tried to force their way into the camp.

Early in this fighting, Bacurius the Iberian (the commander of the Roman cavalry on the left) killed by a Gothic spear.  As a result of this and other casualties, Bacurius's command became demoralised and could no longer charge enemy units.  Unable to take the initiative, Phil started to withdraw his men to save them for future battles.

Meanwhile on the other side of the field, in a typical piece of TTS! play, Phil drew a 4 counter to manoeuvre these two Roman cavalry units (below, left) into a position where the front one could charge the Goth cavalry (right).  He then needed to draw a 5 or greater to make the charge.  He drew a one.  "Never mind", he said, "The General's with them; I can draw again!"  Alas he drew another 1.

This was the last straw for Phil.  He decided to withdraw his cavalry to fight another day.  This left Arthur on one Victory Medal.  If he lost one more unit the battle was lost.

On the other hand, the Goths were down to just six victory medals.  With camp squares worth three Victory Medals each, if the legions could just fight their way over the wagons...

And they did!  With one third of the camp taken the Goths were down to just three Victory Medals.

Unfortunately for Arthur, at this point one of his remaining units was lost and with it the last Victory Medal. The Roman host began to disintegrate and the battle was lost.

I'm very pleased with how this game went.  All of the players seemed to enjoy it and I think it will play faster next time now that we have a number of players who know what's going on.  I plan to run another game as November's Saturday Afternoon Wargame.

Thank you to all of the players for making this a most enjoyable afternoon.


Simon Miller said...

Looks like a corking game Richard! I'm busy collecting Goths to play this one in 28mm. :-)

Re the Aces, I wonder how the the game would play if one took four of the 8 chits out of the bag? It would certainly help with the opening manoeuvres, but might have deadly unanticipated consequences elsewhere. I might give it a try for a couple of games.

Phil said...

Looks like a great game, Romans will come back!

Counterpane said...

I need to order some more chits. I split then between two containers to speed up the game but it became apparent that at that level people were beginning to take decisions of a knowledge that certain numbers were all out on the table.

I don't think it mattered on this occasion. The Goths could afford to sit and let the Roman come on. How often will you have an attacking force that has only one General?

Counterpane said...

Thanks, Phil. These Romans will be back for November's game. I'm beginning to have thoughts about maybe trying Chalons - but that might be a bigger target for a later game.