Rich’s New game video and big question

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Captain Reid
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Re: Rich’s New game video and big question

Post by Captain Reid »

Centurions moved legion to legion quite often, and it wasn't unusual for centuries to have more than one Centurion (it wasn't normal but it's not vanishingly rare in the record either). Indeed legions sometimes had two men ranked as primus pilus. There's a lot we don't really know about the actual way command and rank worked. But seniority wasn't a prerequisite for promotion, and there was, especially as time went on, heaps of opportunity for graft.

As for the game, the Optio fits in just fine at 1:2 figure to man ratio, making 4 Groups a slightly understrength century and making the unit footprint fit well with groundscale. Of course that means a Signifer and Cornicern should be de rigeur too.

But as the Romans seem to have regarded the cohort (albeit often heavily reduced in strength due to detatchments) as the basic infantry 'tactical unit' (ie
the minimum that you'd send if fighting was at all likely), the game probably pushes things a bit by reducing that to a century (or part-century if going 1:1)
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Re: Rich’s New game video and big question

Post by Waterhorse »

Centurions moved legion to legion quite often
I can see that where one or more Legions were stationed in proximity, or on campaign where "vacancies" were handily created via mortality but surely there wasn't some form of succession planning where someone in Syria got the opportunity for freezing his assets off, when Dubious Sextus slipped off the walkway on Hadrians Wall one dark night?

Graft on the other hand is far easier to understand! 😄

Yes 1:2 ratio fits for Optio. The chances of every Century having 80 men are a bit slim and I dare say the Romans practiced Equalisation any way.

Although, unless you follow the now unfashionable practice of having different figure ratios between foot and horse, I'm not sure what a 12 man cavalry unit is.

At least 6x5=30 is as close to a Turmae as you are likely to get and we are supposed to be fielding Decurion.

BTW:
making the unit footprint fit well with groundscale
There's a groundscale?

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Re: Rich’s New game video and big question

Post by Captain Reid »

The groundscale for CoC, SP2 and Infamy is around 4 yards to the inch, or 12" is about 50 yds.

If you have 2 groups of cavalry at 2:1, that'd be 24 men, which would be a slightly understrength turma. Cavalry units were probably more likely to be understrength than infantry because mounted troopers would be generally handier to detach for escorts, messenger services, etc, as well as the sick issue affecting horses as well as men.

The Romans may have equalised centuries within a cohort for combat, but they might not have done. I think a lot depends on the view you take as to how formalised their approach was. I tend to the view that it probably wasn't as formalised as we have tended to think and certainly the various 'unit returns' that we have seem to show a very haphazard breaking up of units (for example one of the Vindolanda tablets shows one centurion being left in sole command of nearly three hundred men while the others swan off with the governor or with smaller numbers of troops on various duties). Granted these were troops in garrison, but it was clearly felt that a centurion and (presumably) an optio or three would be capable of handling about four centuries worth of troops if necessary. It'd be fascinating to know how they might have gone about that, and it's entirely possible that senior, capable or ambitious men might have taken temporary command roles - then again they might not . . .

I find the optio fascinating. Here's a man who is second in command (if we can use that term) of his century. And yet he's appointed by his centurion. So what happened to him when his centurion moved on and the new bloke wanted a different optio? At least if you were a signifer or cornicern, your status was assured and not dependent on the whim of a new commander. But an optio could be lording it over his mates one day and back in the ranks the next. That wouldn't give him much incentive to be overly hard on the men he was supposed to be helping to keep in line.
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Re: Rich’s New game video and big question

Post by Waterhorse »

The groundscale for CoC, SP2 and Infamy is around 4 yards to the inch, or 12" is about 50 yds.
Oh! Is that in TFL canon? I know its quoted in CoC, what about the other two (don't own SP2).
If you have 2 groups of cavalry at 2:1, that'd be 24 men, which would be a slightly understrength turma.
Yes, sorry, I was thinking only in terms of single groups. A bit silly as I prefer to operate cavalry in twos for Support.
The Romans may have equalised centuries within a cohort for combat, but they might not have done.
Well I have to confess I have a pretty wide assumption on Equalisation, based more on the 19th Century but I've always assumed that if you were in an Army where drill was a major part of fighting, it was part of the deal in order to make things like manoeuvre run smoothly. Maybe if you always need to just get within arms length of the opposition, its not quite the same as firing drill, or whatever.

I didn't appreciate the Optio was a mates appointment. Was there some oversight or comeback? If he turned out to be a waste of space did it bounce on the Centurion? You would imagine so. Also where does the Tesserarius fit in to this little arrangement.

I gather that the Optiones and other Principales had their own schola. I wonder if that had any influence on appointments? Optios being slid in and out of that too readily might have caused a bit of friction.

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Re: Rich’s New game video and big question

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A lot of issues with our understanding of the Roman army come from a (very understandable) association with C19 army organisation - especially the British thinking that the Romans were basically Fred Roberts and Redvers Buller in togas with centurions as the 'three sergeants' of Kipling, Batavians = Gurkhas, Germans = Sikhs, etc etc.

Putting aside comparisons is really hard, and in fairness sometimes they can be very useful but we know that, for instance, the Romans didn't believe any special training was necessary for military command - they didn't have 'military men' in the way the Victorians did. Even the bookish Cicero led troops in Cilicia and seems to have performed adequately in his first ever military role in middle age, commanding probably the equivalent of two legions.

This often leads to people presuming therefore that the legates and tribunes were really kind of figureheads and the actual tactical nous resided in the centurions, especially the senior centurions. But that is making a big presumption about the need for professionalism in the army in a long term sense - something that we presume necessary (and yet in WWII many men with no previous military experience proved adept while other men of vast experience performed more poorly). Centurions seem to have led by example: an example of aggression and sometimes outright recklessness. Again, we don't like that, we expect them to be like stereotypical RSMs rather than the kind of lunatics who'd leave their ramparts to fight against superior numbers of enemies for no reason other than to prove who was bravest (Pullo and Vorenus), or who'd charge single-handed a mob of Jewish Zealots (Julianus).

The optio 'outranked' the signifer and tessarius (who seems basically to have been a clerk responsible for producing the duty rosters and making sure men were sent to their necessary duties in camp), and yet the latter two positions from which men could not be demoted except through some offence while the optio was just any ranker whom the centurion of the moment wanted to be his number two. This seems bizarre to us, and that itself is I think instructive: we are not Romans and we cannot simply project what we think is sensible onto their institutions (or we can, and people made very successful careers doing so, but it means shovelling heaps of uncomfortable evidence beneath the carpet). It is entirely possible that as time went on the position of optio became more 'fixed'. But we've no evidence to suggest it did.

Then of course there's the whole question about the 'tradesmen' in the ranks (the immunes) and, as I think I've wittered on about previously, the fact that they were often absent doing their various jobs. Given the evidence we have, substantial numbers of men from a legion seem to have been on detached duty or otherwise unavailable for good periods of time. This must have had some effect upon their state of readiness, and rather gives the lie to the old idea that the legions were the 'shock troop reserve', maintained in being in their fortresses behind auxilia outposts and ready to sally out and crush incursions through their unparalleled drill and iron discipline.

Much as the legate seems to have pretty much been a petty tyrant over the legion, the centurion seems to have lorded it ion the same way over his century. Of course various things restricted both ranks, appointments could be made to the legion over which the legate had little or no say and a centurion would probably be well advised not to abuse his authority too much less the efficiency of his command suffered (equally it seems plausible that a legate or tribune could appoint men to a century, possibly to fill various positions). But how efficient was Roman military structure in the first place? Corruption seems to have been fairly rife (appeals to parents for money to improve their lot 'nothing can be done without money' appear in our limited sources). But then again, was corruption so commonplace that men just accepted it? So what for us would be an intolerable state of affairs in a military unit that would have grave consequences on its ability to perform in the field, might not have made much odds to the Romans.
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Re: Rich’s New game video and big question

Post by Waterhorse »

Oh Yes, the Victorians have many, many, things to answer for! 😀

Then indeed there was corruption but that was a natural as breathing with the the Roman state in general, was it not? Something, somehow, must have worked regardless, within the military, or they enjoyed far more luck over the centuries than I do on game nights! 🤣

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Re: Rich’s New game video and big question

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There's a school of thought that says the Romans didn't so much 'get there fustest with the mostest' as were just more willing to expend more lives to achieve victory in a campaign and more able to spend enough money to maintain armies in the field than any of their opposition. In essence bureaucracy was what won it, not superior military ability. I wouldn't go that far, but the Romans certainly took defeats in their stride and it was highly unusual for anyone to be punished just for losing a battle (as opposed to not displaying bravery, regardless of the result).

Certainly down to the 1st Century BC the seemingly limitless manpower reserves of Italy meant multiple disasters could be shrugged off and new armies assembled quickly. By the end of the Illyrian (Pannonian if you prefer) Revolt, manpower does seem to have become a serious issue, despite a vastly reduced number of men under arms as compared with the numberless crises of the preceding century (hence, partly, the fuss made over the slaughter of three legions in Germany shortly afterwards, which would have been regarded as a rather minor disaster hitherto).
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Re: Rich’s New game video and big question

Post by Peter »

Not unlike the British Empire. Or the American expansion, come to that. See the response to Isandlwana or Greasy Grass.

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Re: Rich’s New game video and big question

Post by Archdukek »

Fascinating discussion on how little we know about how a Roman Legion really operated.

To answer your question on ground scale Waterhouse, in Chain of Command it is 12”:40 yards, in Sharp Practice it is 12”:50 yards. There is no stated ground scale in Infamy, Infamy! and I don’t recall Rich enlightening us as to his intent. The good Captain’s suggestion is strictly speaking a well educated guess, but nought wrong with that.

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Re: Rich’s New game video and big question

Post by Waterhorse »

In essence bureaucracy was what won it, not superior military ability. I wouldn't go that far, but the Romans certainly took defeats in their stride and it was highly unusual for anyone to be punished just for losing a battle (as opposed to not displaying bravery, regardless of the result).
That's a position that does bear some thought. After all the bureaucracy that held Roman society together certainly gave them the edge in organising trade and wealth creation that no one else could match for centuries and kept up production of food and materials to keep on equipping the aforementioned manpower.

As well as making sure the civil population did keep ticking over and received their bit. Although that was obviously a pretty tenuous link from time to time. "Would you like Bread with your Circus, citizen?"

However, it does have to be said that the upper echelons of command would have defiantly fared less well under the Stavka. :lol:

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