One of the rare big, set piece battles on the German frontier, the Battle of Idistaviso in AD 16 has had a constant appeal since reading about it in John Warry's Warfare in the Classical World
(Salamander 1980). I was able to have Mike, Patrick and Scott over Friday night for a go at this battle using Hail Caesar
. So I made the tea, set up the table and off we went!
|view from the German end of the table|
The battlefield is pretty simple; a big hill with a river (the Weser) curving around one side and some woods on the other. Mike has been working on a few zillion Woodland Scenic
s trees lately, so we used those for the forest. The armies (from my 15mm collection) are deployed on either side of the hill.
|German warbands. Arminius in the center.|
|Romans. Who's idea was it to put the cavalry in the woods?|
I just followed the deployment given in Warry's book as best I could. Tacitus mentions the cavalry being sent to charge around the German flank, so Warry puts them in the forest a la Gladiator
, but they could have been operating on the flats between the hill and the river too I suppose.
Of course that is the perennial problem with historical scenarios; who ever has the exact order of battle? Warry's reconstruction calls for some 28000 legionaries, 2 cohorts of Praetorian Guards and 30000 auxilia plus allied tribesmen and cavalry. We do the best we can with the figures available. The Germans were made up from my Spanish and Goth tribesmen. I just used the unit stats as given in the Army List Book.
|Both sides advance hampered by low command rolls.|
|Skirmishers getting engaged. German left hanging back.|
|Cavalry in the woods trying to turn flank. Legionaries getting stuck in.|
The German left hung back with bad command rolls. Arminius in the center inspired the warbands around him with Hatred
of Rome and they surged forward. The German right did a bit better than the left, but the Roman cavalry turned their flank forcing them to bend their line back. The Roman advance was more steady, but the right advanced to meet the reluctant warbands and threaten Arminius' flank in the middle.
|Some times my Break Test rolls really suck.|
In the center an early disaster struck with an abysmal Break Test on my part. But the second line of cohorts was able to move up and plug the gap. The fighting then surged back and forth in the center.
|To and fro fighting in the center.|
Many warriors went down and Arminius charged into the fray himself adding 4 extra dice to his warband's attack.
|Roman supports add weight to the line.|
The Romans recoiled but the second line came up to add support and the Roman right wing outflanked Arminius in the center.
|Roman right breaks into German left and turns flank of German center.|
After a vicious fight in two directions, Arminius went down pierced by a pilum. His loyal bodyguards died fighting around him while the rest of his warband broke and ran. The German front line was a bloody shambles and the second line had taken a lot of wounds too. The left had been driven back and the Roman right was getting ready to envelope the remains of the Cherusci tribe. In the woods the fighting had been more even but the warriors had been steadily driven up the slope towards the center.
It had been a tough slog, but with Arminius dead Germanicus could celebrate a great victory and claim that revenge for the Varus disaster had been finally exacted.
|End of game|