Thursday, 30 June 2016

Project Rome – siege tests

I mentioned in a previous post that sieges were not long protracted operations and many fortified towns or villages fell to a determined assault according to Livy. If the defenders offered stiff resistance then Roman command would resort to starving the Spanish out which meant the construction of forts and walls to encircle the position, Numancia was starved into submission after eleven months.    

Therefore, the siege rules for the Spanish campaign should not be overly complicated but cover the basics such as logistics, some engineering and assaults. Rather than cast a die and add or deduct factors to determine a result, I opted to use the card system that was developed for the campaign game with each suit representing a facet of a siege operation. Using the cards to build up sufficient points total would add a certain level of tension to the game and it was a system already known to players of the campaign game.

Of the changes, the most significant was the time scale, this was reduced to each turn being a week of activity as compared to a month for each map turn. This would give players four turns at the siege game before returning to the campaign map to start the new month. This meant the besieged player could organize a relief force to disrupt the attacker or the besieging player could block such an attempt.

After initial tests, the system does work well as there are enough options for players to organize their defence or prepare for an assault. There are however, a few loose ends that may need better defining and some these relate to the game at the campaign level, such as under what conditions can a defender chose to stand siege and what values should be given for defending a fortified town or village or when sacked.

More testing is planned. 

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Project Rome - the Consular army vs. Celtiberia

The number of test campaigns for Hispania did not bring Rome in contact with the Celtiberian and during a brief period between painting sessions I took the opportunity to bring the two for the first time to the game board.
Celtiberia selected two difficult hills and three wooded areas of which four were successfully positioned; Rome was able to position one difficult hill deep in a corner out of harm’s way. The Celtiberian still had an advantageous position with a hill on their right and a series of wood on the left that created a channel narrowing in their deployment area.

The majority of Celtiberian were deployed at the base of the channel with skirmishers securing the wood and hill positions.

To attack the position, the proconsul deployed the Roman Legion in centre and split the allied legion evenly on both flanks; these would deal with the enemy deployed on the hill and wood areas. Behind the battle line was a reserve formation of allied cavalry and triarii on the left, the proconsul in centre and Roman triarii and cavalry to his right forming a text book deployment.

This report is not a blow by blow description of the battle but I will highlight a number of actions that are noteworthy.

Firstly, the battle was not between even sides as Rome fielded half a consular legion with 18 elements to fight against a Celtiberian tribe of 12. This battle would typify many of the battles encountered early in a campaign year as toward the fall Roman forces through attrition would field fewer troops.

The Rome would need to clear the hill and wood of any lurking enemy before committing the centre; to keep the enemy in fixed in their position, the Roman centre advanced, but at a slower rate.

The allied wings discovered that clearing the hill and wood was not as easy as it was thought; both sides lost evenly and by the fifth turn one element of Celtiberian blade were moved up on each flank changing the dynamic on the flanks. At this moment the proconsul was getting nervous and the score was 4 – 2 for Celtiberia. The Roman centre moved to contact to force a decision.

Roman blade versus Celtiberian blade proved indecisive but with a number of even scores for combat results the Celtiberian centre was steadily being pushed back. The single Celtiberian blade on each flank were fighting as savage lions; on the hill one swept the allied auxiliary and pursued them off the hill while the Celtiberian blade on the left pursued out of the wood to be encircled by Roman cavalry, triarii and principes, yet on two successive turns all three Roman units recoiled from the effort. This was definitely heroic work but their demise was balanced with yet another loss for Rome bringing the score 5 – 3 for Celtiberia at the end of turn nine.

Now bereft of all the reserve formations, the proconsul found himself the target of a lone Celtiberian blade. This final act of desperation proved as ineffectual as the major battle in the centre and at the base of the hill. The cry of “Victoria” came when the dust settled from a small action between two skirmishing units, 6 – 3 for Celtiberia. 

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Project Rome – siege rules.

Reading Livy and Polybios we find Hispanic armies were more than willing to confront the Roman army on the battlefield, but at times lacking sufficient numbers would resort to, according to Rome’s tactical thinking, less than honourable means, such as the use of ambushes, raiding parties and night attacks. At times this form of warfare presented Rome with no other option than to deny the enemy their main source of food supply and manpower by sacking the towns and villages within a region. The majority of these, from the most humble sized hamlet to towns and cities were fortified and this brings me to the final stage of Project Rome, the design of a siege game. 

These fortified spots had similar characteristics in that they were positioned atop hills, their walls were made of stone and within its walls structures were set close to one another offering a maximum amount of shade but also created defendable spots if the walls were breached.

Source: Iberian People, Joanmolar blog. 

The number of towns captured during a successful campaign, according to Livy, could reach totals in excess of a 100. There are a number of reasons why so many were taken; the fighting men may have been away with the main army, the town elders may have thought it prudent to submit and come to terms with Rome or in some cases the inhabitants did not wish to submit and took their own lives.

Designing a set of siege rules should have the above possibility integrated as options and include others such as supply and the construction of siege works. With the exception of Numantia, sieges did not last long and the design of a rule set should reflect this. From a good basic set it would not be too difficult to expand the scale to simulate the sieges of Saguntum, Syracuse, Carthage or Numantia.

The siege game will use the card system that was developed for the campaign and have the four suites represent four stages or phases of a siege operation and these might be diplomacy or negotiation, the construction or engineering works, supply and lastly, the assault. Each phase will have a list of options for both the Roman and Spanish player and a number of stratagems gleaned from Books III and IV of Frontinus. 

We shall be testing these next week and will post our observations a day or two later.   

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Project Rome - optional weather rules.

I have been asked if weather would have a role in these campaigns and my answer would be most definitely. At the moment this is a work in progress as the information sketched here must be integrated in some manner to the maps and the record card. This issue will be resolved with further play tests.

Climate Conditions in Spain (Wiki)
Spain has three main climatic zones and these can be distinguished by their geographical situation and orographic conditions given here. The strategic map could have each square coded with its climate condition.

  • The Mediterranean climate, dry and warm summers and cool and wet winters, dominates the Iberian Peninsula, susceptible to summer droughts but the far northern part of the country.
  • The oceanic climate is located in the northern part of the country, especially in the regions of Basque Country, Asturias, Cantabria and Galicia.
  • The semiarid climate is the region of Murcia and in the Ebro valley. In contrast to the Mediterranean climate, the dry season continues beyond the end of summer.

To simplify the use of weather in the campaign we can arrive at an average temperature level for each month. This can vary as explained below.

Spring  March (cold), April (cold), May (warm).
Summer June (warm), July (warm), August (dry).
Fall     September (warm), October (warm), November (wet).
Winter December (cold), January (cold), February (cold).

The climate description given in parenthesis is from the DBM section covering weather and players could factor these in their battle or siege games. My preference would have weather influence strategic planning, for example inclement weather decreasing movement or a prolonged dry period reducing forage to name two examples.    

This could be done with the draw of a card to determine if the weather remains unchanged for the new month or move up or down a level. For example, April’s weather could remain unchanged for the month of May to advance to a warm period in June. This part requires further work.

Time of Day or Night
According to the DBM rule set, Spain falls under a warm climate region which gives us the following averages for sunrise and sunset during each season.

Spring 0600 to 1800, Summer 0500 to 1900, Fall 0600 to 1800, Winter, 0800 to 1600.

Livy does note the time of day when certain battles took place and this is useful for players wishing to create a historical scenario or include this as an option for their standard game. However, in this campaign rule set the time of day or night will become useful when devising stratagems that need to take place at a certain hour.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Project Rome – a campaign assessment.

While waiting for responses from other play testers I can say from our own tests I am very pleased with how well the game played. The use of cards to resolve campaign issues during each phase offered enough tension as players overcame or undermined each other’s strategy.

For example, Rome using her diplomatic skills gains a native tribe as “friend” and the Spanish player on his bound can attempt to convince friend to return to a neutral status, there were even moments when the Spanish player foiled Rome’s diplomatic mission and turned a neutral tribe into a “hostile” one. Players moving through each phase can generate a lot of card play, but of course players are not obliged to play a phase even if holding the appropriate cards which adds a nice level of suspense to the game. With the frequent use of cards in the “bidding” process, the card deck is generally re-shuffled four or five times during a campaign year giving both sides opportunity to accumulate good cards.

The game is fast pace and the quantity of counters needed to signify successful activity steadily grew; I found it expedient later to have both sides labelled with positive or negative outcomes. Movement on the map of a Roman command or a hostile tribe counter does not require the use of cards but can help modify its move distance in certain situations; guides can help locating fords or passes to negate otherwise a movement penalty to cross as an example.

Supporting each province of Ulterior Hispania and Citerior Hispania are two consular armies of 36 elements each, which at first glance may seem excessive, but not so when one considers each of the 90 plus squares across the frontier contain are the home of an army of 12 elements. Following Livy’s description of the campaigns the consular armies were split into two equal sized columns with a proconsul or propraetor generating four independent columns. This increased the potential to make new allies and gain valuable resources. 

During the campaign test year we experienced five battles, four of which Rome won and the fifth involved an inter-tribal conflict. The initial battles between Rome and a native tribe, the proconsul could field superior numbers of 18 elements versus a hostile tribe of twelve. Rome would win, however each victory however was bought at a cost such that by the third battle it was no longer prudent to fight as the risk was too great. 

The best strategy for the Spanish player was one of attrition, such that by the end of the summer period Roman columns would be sufficiently weakened so to ensure a victory in the fall season. To do this, the Spanish player needed allies.  

The stratagem options listed in this rule set and are taken from the writings by Frontinus and Polybios and were easily adapted for the DBA 3.0 game. In time the number of options may increase, but I do not see that as happening anytime soon.

Looking to the win/loss columns for the year 197 BC.
Ulterior Hispania:
3 battles won, 3 tribes made “Friend” and 1 tribe remained hostile at the close of the year.
Citerior Hispania:
1 battle won, 1 tribe made “Friend” and 1 tribe remained hostile.

Further, other factors such as the losses incurred on campaign and additional resources generating revenue earned for the proconsul of Ulterior Hispania high marks; but not enough to earn a triumph in Rome, but would bring honour to the family name. 

Further discussion of the rule set or suggestions I would invite readers to join us at the new Fanaticus DBA Forum given at the link below. Look to Building DBA Armies at the forum page for the topic thread.   


Project Rome - Fighting in the mountains, the Sedetano.

Troops of the Third legion were not happy to drill during a hot summer’s day, but they were determine to make this battle as short as possible and find some decent shade. Rome deployed as per drill book with the allied right wing sweeping the hill of skirmishers while the legion would make mince meat of the Sedetano army facing them.

Roman formations noticed the enemy was extending their line as they came to within 100 paces.

Roman allied cavalry moved forward as battle joined up and down the entire line.

In less than an hour the drill was over, 4 – 0 for Rome.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Project Rome - The fall of 197 BC

September proved an uneventful month for both proconsuls and this sparked the Spanish into activity.
However, each attempt to change pro-Roman sentiment among certain tribes failed as did the skirmishes meant to disrupt supply and gold shipments.  

Events in Ulterior Hispania were developing toward a confrontation with the Lusitanian tribes. Forewarn of the threat, the proconsul ordered the Fourth legion to leave the Corduba mountain region and join the Second legion; these had not seen action yet and would welcome a fight. The Fourth legion was joined by a contingent of loyal Iberians and after a hard struggle; they beat the two armies of Lusitania and Iberia. 

Battle report can be found here

Meanwhile, south of the Ebro valley the Third legion moved against the Sedetano tribes that were threatening the gold and silver mines located nearby. The Sedetano were defeated with little loss to the Roman force.

With a string of victories, all four columns returned their winter quarters; the troops would be making repairs to their equipment, swap stories and enjoy the local entertainment while the proconsul’s would be writing their reports to Rome.

Those Spanish tribes that remained openly hostile would make new plans for next spring; hoping the winter chill will not dampen their fervor for a fight.

Project Rome - Surprise attack, the Lusitanian and Iberian.

Rome faced two tribes, the Iberian troops on the ridge to front and lurking about the woods were the Lusitanian tribe that had earlier taken a thrashing by the proconsul in an earlier battle. The propraetor focused therefore on dealing with the Iberians as defeating them would give the Lusitanian very little reason to remain on the field.

To do this, the Fourth legion deployed facing the hill with the allied legion split with each half positioned on either flank of the Fourth. The Loyal Iberians were placed in the reserve second line along with the cavalry.

The Iberian and Lusitanian were not inclined to meet the Romans on the open plain but would wait at their current position and fight on favourable ground.

As the Roman formation approached to within 160 paces, the light troops of Iberia and Lusitania moved forward.

The skirmishers with overwhelming number destroyed a Roman unit, but this did not stop the legion from advancing up the hill. These steadily pushed back the Iberians and taking down a number of units. 2 – 1 Rome.

Sweeping the Iberian warriors off the hill animated the supporting allied legion to redouble their efforts to destroy two more units to bring the score 4 – 1 for Rome

Seeing the Iberians in flight the Lusitanian also left the field leaving their dead on the field. The Loyal Iberians were impressed by the day’s outcome.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Project Rome - Battle against the Lusitanian.

July 197 BC.

The proconsul looked across the field and saw the Lusitanian force covering the 400 paces of ground between two wooded areas and clouds of dust behind that line denoted the presence of cavalry. Taking into account the woods contained more troops; the proconsul placed his Roman legion in centre and split the allied legion to cover the flanks as they could sweep the wooded areas of any hidden enemy.

Seeing skirmishers lining the forest edge, the Roman legion moved forward as a spear point aimed at the heart of the Lusitanian line.

Lusitanian skirmishers positioned against the left flank rushed forward to attack the allied legion which was the signal for Lusitanian to issue out from concealed positions in the hills; these struck the support unit defeating it. Responding to the surprise attack, the proconsul sent his Roman cavalry to deal with the ambush while the battleline moved forward albeit at a slower pace.

The Lusitanian skirmishers kept the allied legion busy while the main Lusitanian force moved slowly forward so its cavalry could position itself on the flank. The melee in the foothills took a serious turn as a second group sprung up to add their weight to the fight wiping out the Equestrians. 2 – 0 Lusitania.

To balance the situation, the proconsul order ordered a general attack bring both the Roman and allied legions to battle. The allied cavalry were moved forward to cover the gap created between the Roman legion and the allied left now heavily engaged with skirmishers. The proconsul sent the triarii held in reserve to deal with the threat in the rear while the proconsul and guard would help the allied left to move forward. 2 – 1 Lusitania.

The proconsul’s presence attracted the Lusitanian nearby and added their weight to the general mayhem. Meanwhile, the Lusitanian centre was recoiling from the steady effect of the Roman killing machine. 2 -2 even.

The proconsul could feel victory nearing as Rome gained control over the melee taking place on the left and the Roman legion steadily made gaps in the Lusitanian centre. The allied cavalry swept clean all Lusitanian caught wandering in the gap brining the final score to 3 – 5 Roma.

This was the proconsul’s second victory in five months and although there pervaded a feeling of jubilation throughout the camp that evening in the proconsul’s tent there was a moment of silence as many of his officers looked upon the leather bag filled with gold rings.


This battle marked the first successful employment of a stratagem as the Spanish player won the bidding during the Roman player’s fourth phase. Selecting the ambuscade option up to three elements could be held off board and appear later from any bad or rough going feature. The system is adapted from the Lurker rule (HOTT) but costs more. In this battle, the Lusitanian player hid two elements to appear in successive bounds. There have been many attempts to employ stratagems but these were foiled during the bidding process. 

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Project Rome - The summer of 197 BC

During the summer months of June through August, both proconsuls were finding their stride despite the oppressive heat; diplomatic missions were encountering success in both the Ebro valley and the Lusitanian frontier. Revenue also increased with the discovery of valuable resources and lucrative deposits of gold and silver. Auditors were able to track down the source of lost revenue and recover missing coin.  

 New treaties were signed bringing a total four tribes into alliances with Rome. Both proconsuls experienced a relatively quiet month with no hostile action from uncommitted tribes. Next month all Roman commands would march to new territories.

Diplomatic missions sent from both provinces failed in reaching their objectives and reports sent to both proconsuls inferred that trouble was brewing. In Lusitania, the proconsul planned a preemptive strike against a hostile tribe and defeated them in a brisk engagement [1]. Defeated but unbroken, these fled to the coast and Rome moved in pursuit.

The oppressive heat brought the diplomatic work to a snail’s pace and taking advantage of the moment a second tribe in Lusitania declared against Rome and would support their brethren. Feeling his supply line would be cut; the proconsul moved his force back to a position near allies. The hostile army comprised of two commands moved off in pursuit. In the southern mountain region of the Ebro valley a Celtiberian tribe rose up in revolt. Next month would surely bring renewed conflict for both proconsuls.  

[1] Battle report to follow. 

Friday, 3 June 2016

Project Rome - campaign test, April and May

197 BC

April (Roman Player)
Both proconsuls redoubled their efforts to improve their negotiation skills and this did deliver a new tribe as “Friend of Rome”. Evidently the tribes of the Ebro valley were not impressed and remained aloof to further dealings with Rome.

Perseverance did pay off as the proconsul in the north did gather some extra income.

Neither proconsul could generate any further activity for their turn and “passed” on their remaining phases.

April (Spanish Player)
Attempts to sway some tribes to fight against Rome failed and neither Spanish player could make use of the next phase and therefore passed.

Supply lines are critical to the Roman player as without supply there can be no movement. The Spanish player made a bid to wreck Roman supply in the south and this failed, Rome was vigilant.

No bid for the final phase and the counter moves forward on the tracking sheet to May and the start of Rome’s turn.

May (Roman player)
Both proconsuls were able to garner new friendships among the certain tribes and new counters were place signifying “Friend of Rome”.

The momentum brought with it two successful discoveries of additional revenue. The situation in the south was definitely improving.

The following two phases were not acted on and therefore passed.

May (Spanish player)
 Lacking the proper cards to play the diplomatic phase, Spain moved on to create some skulduggery in the finance sector, this had the opposite effect as Rome gained extra revenue.

Rome remained vigilant and thwarted attempts to sabotage her supply.

The Iberian tribe which took a thrashing by Rome early this year decided to even an old score with a neighboring tribe now declaring itself as Friend of Rome.

This brought the campaign its first battle among rival tribes and battle report will follow. 

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Project Rome - a battle against the Iberians.

In late March, allied scouts brought word of an Iberian column advancing toward the proconsul’s column and should arrive the following day. While the legions set up camp, the proconsul and his escort would scout the area for suitable ground to fight on. The spot chosen offered a deserted village flanked by woods and hills, though not dominant enough to discourage the Spanish from attacking, but of sufficient size to protection for at least one flank.

At dawn and after a good meal, the proconsul deployed the Roman legion in two lines on the right and the allied legion in two lines on the left. The allied cavalry were set further back as a reserve and allied skirmishers secured the crest line of the hill.

Somewhat surprised at the small number of Iberians approaching the proconsul’s first thought was to look about for a hidden force lurking about, but that idea was dispelled as there were no terrain features that could hide such a force.

Rome moves forward in echelon leading with her right wing.  The Iberians on their bound begin wheeling their groups to the right and will meet the legion head on..

Turn two, Rome wheels her right wing to meet the Iberians. Skirmishers from the second line are sent forward to eventually flank the Iberians. Meanwhile, the Iberians move forward and contact the allied legion taking first casualties, 1 – 0 for Iberia.

Turn three, Rome brings her right wing into combat and the measuring stick shows the result of Iberian Ps recoiling through friends luring the Roman Bd forward. Iberia gained another small victory destroying Roman velites on the left flank, but lost one Ax to Roman blade. Score 2 – 1 for Iberia..

Turn four saw Roman reserves from the second line brought forward to add pressure to the Iberian centre and on the right flank brought victory within sight as two elements were destroyed, 2 – 3 for Rome.

Iberia encouraged with her general fighting in the front, brought forward troops to support the centre. The Iberian general and devotio savaged the Romans in front bringing the score to 3 – 3 even.

Turn five, not wishing to be upstaged by such a display, the proconsul joined the fighting in the centre and brought forward the right wing to add pressure on the Iberian. This last move sent the Iberians back on the heels and with the proconsul’s help, the Iberians broke. Victoria 3 – 4 for Rome.


Despite the victory, the proconsul could not afford to lose Roman citizens so early in the campaign season. The losses incurred by the allied legions could be filled with mercenaries from the friendly tribes, but not the Roman. This thought had cast a dark shadow over the day’s victory.