Since the capture of Legate Suetonius Porcinus in an action near the Limes where Centurion Publicus Thermae had been wounded, there had been rumours of the official being held in chains in the hall of Adawolf the Spearman, a Lord of the Chatti and former ally of Rome. A raid on Adawolf’s hall had proved disastrous in an action the details of which are lost to this chronicler; however what is clear is that the Romans at Mogiontiacum continued their search to find the missing Legate and his wife. Indeed, towards the end of the month of Sextillis records refer to Centurion Thermae conducting a mission some miles from the Rhine in an attempt to gain information rom the local population who, for reasons of fear or loyalty, had proved remarkably ignorant of events when it came to providing any intelligence which might prove useful. However, for Publicus Thermae this was not to be an uneventful patrol.
Had the eagle which serves the great and wondrous God Jupiter as he controls the skies looked down on that landscape it would have seen the ground laid out as we see below. The Romans were to enter the area from ma wooded plateau to the South West with the great river Rhenus only a few miles to their West.
The Germans were said to be assembling to the North, as they Deployment Area shows but the Centurion was aware that several potential points of ambush were available. His allied Gaulish troops had scouted the wooded and marshy ground to his immediate front but the Roman officer was still worried. From all points came there reports of shrieks and cries from the dark forest and swamps of Germania.
As if to confirm the officer’s fears, a body of German Warriors could be seen moving through the swamp to assemble on the high ground of the sand barrows there located. At the head the old warrior, Dorflaeg the Old who, it was said, fought against Caesar over fifty years before. His cries could be heard as his men sent up that reverberating, wild lowing of the reverberating baritus war vry.
Yet there was no time to hesitate. The Centurion advanced his Legionaries with the slingers to their fore, shielding off the dark woods from which the enemy may spring at any moment.
But the trials and tribulations of Publicus Thermae were made worse when Adawolf and his men hove into view, emerging as they did from the dark trees. With him was the dark witch, Kronhaeg, who capered ahead of the body of men, a skull held aloft and screaming incantations to the dark Gods who inhabited these vile lands. Alongside her was Berthold the Champion and Conrad Brown Legs. With such nobility on display bit was clear that blood would be shed.
And now on the close right flank came arrows from the woods. Shapes ran among the trees and the Centurion knew he had been right to expect trouble even so early in the day.
Rushing forwards, the slingers hurled their lead shot and the German woodsmen fell back.
Taking advantage of the space gained, the Centurion rushed two groups of his Legionaries forwards in open order to get past the swamps that restricted movement. Meanwhile, Orpio Julius Batavius advanced his Auxilia on the high ground on the far Roman left.
Yet now a cry went up. With a yell the German warriors under Dorflaeg the Old ran forwards, intent on hitting the Romans while they were disordered and emerging from the swamp.
But the attack was a wild one without form and whilst the head of the body made contact there were stragglers who failed to move with sufficient speed to add their weight to the attack. With Optio Qunitus Licinius Costco fighting in the front rank, the Romans were able to wield their shields and push back the ragged attack.
With his first group of men falling back into the rocky groups, Dorflaeg the Old watched as the stragglers now arrived to hit the isolated and thoroughly disordered Romans
Again the Romans fought and were pushed back, but the ranks broke as the two sides were exhausted by the fight. Fresh impetus was needed.
And it came in the form of a wild bunch who emerged from the main Germanic horde. Naked, drunk and on mind bending drugs the men rushed forth exhorted in their efforts by the cackling laughs of Kronhaeg. This was worse than Butlins!
But this crowd of vile, frothing Devils were not to have things entirely their own way. From the flank the Auxilia under Optio Batavius launched a hail of javelins which sent more then one wild half-man-half-demon crashing to the ground.
As the wild men ran forwards, on the Roman right Dodgitrix the Gaul was clearing the German woodsmen from the clump of forest. Where the Auxilia held the left flank he would move to secure the right.
And then the wild frothers hit the Roman line. The Centurion had been attempting to form his men um but the swamp had again disordered any attempt to create a formation with which to meet the onslaught and the Romans were hit hard. The attack came on before a single pilum could be unleashed and the ferocity drove on.
A cry went up from the Roman ranks “RUN!”. No man could say who had made the shout, but a ripple of panic went through the Legionaries (what infamous Devil could have done such a deed?) . The Romans reeled back, their formation completely shot, yet the fight had blunted the ferocity of the charge.
With a deft wave of his vine cane Centurio Publlicus Thermae swung his front rank to crash into the remnants of the gibbering lunatics who were swept from the field.
Had his men now been hard pressed by the Germans then the battle could have been lost, but the Germans had taken advantage of the break caused by the wild combat with withdraw to reform their lines, aware that the Romans would need to come on to them.
But now stepped forth Optio Julius Batavius with his Auxilia and began pressing that the German flank and rear. With the Legionaries in disorder the great German leader decided to sweep these allies of Rome from the field. On came the lumbering mob, kept under control by their Lord but with anger in their hearts and cries on their lips. Still the vile hag pranced before them in a manner which would sicken any civilised man. Why the Emperor wanted such lands, no man could tell.
A horn blew and a cry went up and where before men had been clumped together in their bodies, the mob now rushed forward, each man making his own way and in his own time. Some rushing ahead to be the first to smite the enemy. The Auxilia evaded away, drawing their foe into the edge of the forest.
Yet it had been but a feint. Now with their foe disorganised, the Auxilia turned and hit them from the front and flank. A fierce fight ensued.
While this was going on, Publicus Thermea had been rallying and reorganising his men.
He now stepped forth with Dodgitrix the Gaul on his right. Still the broken ground would trouble him as he wanted to present a solid wall of shields to the enemy until he was ready to launch his own vicious attack.
The Auxilia were fighting on but half of their number had been driven back from the fight. Yet the young Optio had taken on a force three times his number and by skill and determination had wrong-footed them and thrown their body into disorder. Now , on the right, it was the Gaulish allies who rushed forwards and took on the end of Adawolf’s straggling force. The Gauls, long foes of the Germans who raided across the great river Rhenus, were in no mood for mercy and their swords slashed and their shields punched forwards in a violent attack, driving back the Germans.
As they pushed on, they bought space for the Legion to press on. In another push they swept aside Adawolf’s men and rushed on to take in Dorflaeg who was leading his men against them to try to hem in the Romans in the bad ground. Meanwhile Adawolf attempted to reorganise his men into a shaky line to try to take on the attackers.
Dorflaeg may have fought Caesar, but he had never fought Dodgitrix and the elderly warrior fell to the sword of the Gaulish chieftain.
Now the Romans pushed forwards through the poor ground, hoping to form their battle line before the Germans could respond. Dodgitrix was falling back, his job done, but still the Romans took the battle to the enemy who were clearly teetering in the verge of collapse.
Young Julius Batavius again rushed forwards with his men, wading through the marshy water to harry the Germans. Hitting a disordered group in the rear, he sent them routing back.
Meanwhile, Centurion Publicus Thermae drew up his men and formed into the wedge of the Cuneus.
On his command the body surged forwards in a violent charge. The Centurion himself wounded Adawolf and the German was dragged free by the men of his ‘hundred’. Their chief falling back with bloodied brow, the Germans broke. It had been a hard fight, but the forces of Rome had won. For now.
Great game today with fellow Lardy Donald who was playing the Romans for the first time having been German for the past few games. Lots to do, but the Infamy cards were used for the first time and really added a layer of intrigue and fun. We are also tightening up some of the details which get left behind when you are focussing on the big picture stuff, A great game of what are now officially called “Infamy, Infamy”, as indeed they have been since last December when we announced them on the Oddcast.
In the end, the Germans didn’t use their actual deployment area but used the terrain to their advantage. The Romans didn’t rush but ground forwards, using their auxiliary troops and allies to gain the ground for the Legion to then deliver the blow. The Auxilia are tough cookies as they benefit from being good light infantry but also packing a punch in a fight. The Germans actually chose this ground but in the end they should have stuck to their plan to allow the Romans to come on to them. Foolishly they (well, me actually) allowed the Auxiliaries to bait them and tried to take them out and paid the price. But learning lessons is part of the fun with a new set of rules.
As part of the playtest process with any rule set we develop, one of the most interesting and enjoyable phases comes fairly late in the day, that of using history as a yardstick by which to measure what we have produced. That may sound like it should be one of the first things we do,