Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Monday, March 5, 2018

Dux Bellorum battle

I was lucky enough to have Luke U-S venture down to these parts today for a spot of miniatures gaming. He'd recently taken (re)possession of a shipment of 15mm Late Romans from the homeland. As he hadn't played with them for 18 years, it would've been rude not to get them to the table.

As fate would have it, the task given to me was to defend a community of poor innocent Romano-British whose rights were being trampled upon by a rogue would-be emperor out for plunder.

As to those who spread rumours that a bit of cattle raiding may in fact have been somewhat instrumental in bringing this retribution down upon our own heads, they are not to be believed. There were no cattle, and besides, it wasn't us.

Grand schemes afoot.

The plan was for our centre - shieldwall, three units of ordinary, one of nobles - to claim the central area of the battlefield, leaning upon the hill as needed. Our right -  two units of ordinary horse and a unit of bow-armed skirmishers - were to drive off the enemy horse and thence to harass the open flank of the Roman infantry. Our left - two units of noble horse, one being companions, and some javelinmen -  were to see off the Roman horse and then fall upon the the Roman infantry from this side.

This plan did not in fact commence all that auspiciously. My right refused to move at all, and a petulant unit of foot refused to go up the hill. My javelinmen were eager to advance, but after running into fire from Roman slingers concealed in the wood, it did not seem such a good idea to send them forward after all.

Fortunately, the Romans didn't all do exactly what they were told to either.

It's all a bit hit-and-miss early.

Over the next few turns the situation crystalised: my left would be staying out of range of the enemy slingers until an opportunity presented itself to charge home; my centre would try to engage on the best possible terms; my right would continue with the original plan.

First actions. Circular markers indicate hits; any cubes left indicate leadership points (LPs) we forgot to remove prior to the 
taking photos phase...

It quickly became clear that we were in a precarious position in the centre. We would need to shore up the exposed right flank of our infantry line as best we could while we waited for our still tardy hill-huggers to advance far enough to give us a corresponding advantage against the enemy infantry line.

Fortunately, Dux Bellorum (for those are the rules we were playing) allows a person to do just that: a fellow can load up a unit with leadership points and use these points to cancel hits made upon it [actually, cancelling the hit is not quite true for our game: I feel an auto-cancel is too strong, so we used our defensive LPs to force the enemy to re-roll the successful attack]. Both sides made much use of LPs.

Over the next few turns there were various exciting and potentially battle-defining events. For one, my javelinmen on their hill were massacred from a distance by those infernal slingers in their infernal wood (okay, so I should have kept them out of missile range after all. Shoot me!). For another, the horsemen of my right proved singularly inept at ganging up upon one measly unit of enemy horse. For a third, the use of LPs in the centre kept cohesion losses on both sides to a minimum, which certainly favoured our heroes, given the advantage in numbers and position that the Roman line had.

Wherefore art thou, Romano-British javelinmen?

Come on horsemen, you're supposed to win here! 

Good job, gentlemen and cattle robbers. Hold that centre!

* Soon after this we stopped for lunch. During the break, a look at the rulebook showed that I'd missed a fairly essential rule: we should have been retreating units when they lost a combat. We resolved therefore to put this rule into practice from lunchtime onward.

It was now apparent that our left had to get involved or else we were going to lose horribly. Our noble horsemen therefore charged, and a miraculous result meant that the enemy were eliminated on first contact.

How did that happen??!

Triumph here however was tempered by the fact that we had also lost a unit of horse on our other flank.

You win some you lose some...

With leadership points now at a premium due to unit losses, our ability to influence the outcome in the centre was greatly reduced. Nevertheless, our right finally had success against the horse there.

It's still anyone's game, but our cohesion hits are mounting fast.
Over the next few turns there were more moments of triumph and disaster - but mostly disaster. We lost our leader and his companions; we lost more foot; we killed their skirmishers.

The tide turns against us!

Finally, when all looked grim, we had a 'there's no situation that double sixes can't remedy' moment.  Romans lose their outflanking unit to missile fire. Then, in melee, both central units destroy each other.

A most fortunate result - and the LP re-roll also succeeds!

Both armies have now taken 50% casualties and need to take rout tests. All units rout except for two on each side: it comes down to who has most cohesion points left on table.

It's pretty even!

In the end, I concede. The Roman still has his commander on table and his foot unit is of higher quality than our poor innocent Romano-Brits. We hand over the remaining head of cattle and both sides go home.

It was quite a game, and well done Luke. It was only luck right at the end that kept us Romano-Brits in it, but what luck it was!


  1. Looks like a good game! I had been reading a copy of DB recently and dug out my late Roman minis toying with the idea of painting some. There is also an article in WSS 70 adapting the rules for (or army lists) for the Macedonian Wars era which was quite interesting.

    1. Thanks Tony. It's a fun set of rules, but I'm not sure if the shieldwall vs warrior stats are quite balanced. Have to play a bit more before coming to any conclusions though.

      And thank - I must try and track down a copy of WSS 70. That sounds right up my alley!


    2. It would be interesting to here your analysis of the rules. I got hold of a pdf copy from the publisher for a few euros which was convenient.

  2. Tight game as it turned out. At the start, all the reluctance to advance really broke the lines up, or so it seems and then a re-consolidation of sorts. Hopefully that army of 18 years plus vintage will now see regular use!

    1. Yes, very tight. I thought I was gone for all money several times, but you couldn't really get much closer at the end!


  3. Interesting game, and the tile terrain looks good in use!


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