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Beyond Normandy




Tactics in 'Fading Legions'
Scenario #1, 'Argentoratum (Strasbourg)'
By Doug McNair
June 2006

In my last strategy article on our Alsace, 1945 game, I dealt with the World War II American offensive against the Germans north of Strasbourg. So today, the obvious thing to do is leap backward in time 1,600 years to tackle another offensive against the Germans near Strasbourg. In Scenario #1 of our Rome at War: Fading Legions game, the Caesar Julian seeks to stop German incursions into the Western Empire by taking the Gallic Army to attack the Alemannic King Chnodomar just as he is crossing the Rhine.

The Caesar Julian, known to history as Emperor Julian the Apostate.

Roman Situation

Julian has marched his army 21 miles to meet Chnodomar before the Germans are fully across the river. Each of his five legions is therefore tired and at less than full strength — they start the game on their “B” sides. Julian himself commands his army’s right wing, whose two legions are well-guarded on the flanks by cavalry and light infantry. The left wing of the army is commanded by Severus, whose Celtae legion is exposed on the left flank. This is of concern to the Romans since the Germans start the game with the initiative, and can start with two barbarian infantry units hidden behind their own line or in a patch of woods to the northeast of the Celtae. If the barbarians are able to gain the Celtae’s flank right from the start, Severus and the left wing may be in serious trouble. But Roman legionary discipline has a way of absorbing whatever barbarians can throw at it, and the Roman reserves under Florentius can come up from the rear and bolster any cracks the Germans make in the Roman line.

German Situation

King Chnodomar’s heavy barbarian infantry units outnumber the Roman legions seven to five, and each one is higher strength and of equal morale to the tired Roman legions. The Germans can also hide two of their heavy infantry at start, and putting them in the woods northeast of the exposed Roman left flank makes the most sense from a tactical perspective. Also, the Roman line is weak in the center, with light infantry, light cavalry and archers occupying two zones between the legions of the left and right Roman wings. Finally, German heavy cavalry outnumbers Roman heavy cavalry four to one, and the barbarian infantry has a special ability in this scenario to charge just like heavy cavalry if they start their activation two zones away from the Romans.

Since charging barbarians will be doubled in strength from 6 to 12 (assuming the Romans don’t damage them first), King Chnodomar should order his entire line to charge the Romans right away. This is his best shot at eliminating the light units between the two Roman wings and effectively breaking the Roman army in two. The hidden barbarians can either wait to see how the battle plays out and act as a reserve, or they can pounce right away on Severus’ legions so Chnodomar can concentrate on wiping out Julian.

Game Summary

Here’s what happened in a recent game:

Turn 1

The German player places his two hidden barbarian infantry units in the forest on the right flank of the German line, two zones to the northeast of the Roman Celtae legion. King Chnodomar has the initiative per scenario instructions, and rolls a 1 on his first activation roll. This is three less than his Initiative of 4, so he can activate himself and his son, Prince Serapion (commanding the German right wing).

As planned, the entire German line charges the Roman line, with the two hidden units staying in the forest to see how the charge pans out. Chnodomar rides forward with his cavalry to hit the Roman right. All Roman units make their morale, so the Roman cavalry guarding the end of the Roman right flank countercharge. The German cavalry scores two hits on the Roman cavalry, causing both Roman cavalry units to flip to their reduced-strength sides. The Roman cavalry do no hits in return, but the German charge is repelled and the German cavalry return to their starting zone.

The Bracchiati legion accepts the charge of King Chnodomar leading the other German heavy cavalry, and does no damage to them. Chnodomar’s cavalry is doubled in strength to 12 and then gets Chnodomar’s tactical leadership bonus of 2, and ends up rolling 14 dice. They roll five sixes, wiping out the Bracchiati legion entirely! But they do not advance into the Bracchiati’s vacated zone, knowing that Julian on their own right is unlikely to break, and not wanting King Chnodomar to be isolated and surrounded by Romans (as happened to another enemy king in a recent running of the Ctesiphon scenario).

King Chnodomar’s two barbarian infantry units charge at Julian and the light forces guarding his left flank. Julian does one hit to the incoming barbarians, who hit Julian back with ten dice and do two hits to his Cornuti legion. The barbarian charge on Julian is repelled, but then the light infantry and cavalry on Julian’s left fail their morale check and take a step loss, meaning the cavalry there can’t countercharge. The light cavalry would like to withdraw, but doing that would leave just one light infantry there, which the barbarians would likely overwhelm. That would leave Julian outflanked on both his flanks. So they accept the charge, and are happy they did, because they roll two sixes on four dice, reducing the barbarian unit dramatically in strength. The barbarians do only one hit and their charge is also repelled.

Serapion’s three barbarian units then charge the Roman left wing under Severus. The archers and light infantry on Severus’ right fail morale and take a step loss, and once again do two hits to the incoming barbarians, who do no hits in return and are repelled. Serapion himself then charges Severus, whose Petulantes Legion rolls three sixes on six dice, taking Serapion’s barbarians down to their last step and killing Serapion! Serapion’s leaderless barbarians roll only six dice and do only one hit to the Petulantes, and are repelled.

Finally, the Celtae legion on the Roman left accepts the barbarian charge but does no hits, and the barbarian charge hits at full strength but does only one hit and is repelled.

The two barbarian infantry in the woods storm out, with one moving directly forward to hit the Celtae Legion in the flank, and the other taking up position in front of the repelled German charge line to hit the Celtae in the front. The Celtae fail morale and take a step loss, but the barbarians score no hits while the Celtae score one hit on the barbarians flanking them!

The Germans have activated all their units, and Julian rolls a 2, beating his initiative of 5 by 3, meaning he and his two commanders can all activate their units. The German center-right has been weakened badly, and the main threat is coming from the three strong barbarian units on the German right. So, Julian tells Severus to refuse the left but not retreat, since doing that would give the Germans another shot at a charge. Julian himself will move right to hit King Chnodomar and his cavalry. He then orders Florentius and his reserves to move directly forward and through the hole Julian will make in the Roman center, to hit the weak German center and hopefully break their line in two.

Julian moves his Cornuti legion to the right, has his cavalry envelop King Chnodomar on the right and has his light infantry advance to envelop them on the left. His archers and light infantry do no hits to the barbarians on Chnodomar’s right. Julian’s legion and cavalry do one hit to Chnodomar, whose cavalry reply by rolling four sixes on eight dice, wiping out the Cornuti legion and killing Julian!

Florentius, stunned by the death of his Caesar, nevertheless follows orders and rushes up with his Primani legion to plug the hole in the Roman line left by Julian when he made his last move to the right. But instead of sending his light units ahead, he sends them to the right to plug up the hole left by the dead Cornuti legion. Those units take some revenge, hitting Chnodomar’s cavalry once with missile fire.

Then Severus’ units pull back and refuse the left, shortening the Roman line and plugging the hole in the center. Severus’ light infantry and archers rush ahead of the refused line on the left, screening the Roman line from another German charge. They attack with missile fire, doing one hit to the barbarians on the extreme German right.

All activations are over, and Florentius takes over as Roman commander, installing Dagalif as commander of the Roman right while Hortar is brought in as replacement leader for the German right wing.

The barbarian charge wreaked horrible death and destruction. The victory point totals after Turn 1 stand at:

Romans: 12

Germans: 23

Turn 2

All units are within their leaders’ command radii. King Chnodomar has higher initiative than the new Roman commander Florentius, and he wins the initiative roll. He then rolls a 4 and can activate one of his two formations.

He activates his own wing, pulls back from his exposed position and has his cavalry attack the Roman cavalry on the right while his barbarians attack toward the Roman center. The Roman cavalry on the right fail morale, and the remaining light cavalry unit withdraws from combat rather than being destroyed by the German cavalry, which would attack at a strength of 10 to 2. The Germans advance into the zone the Roman cavalry vacated. Then the light infantry in the center makes morale and also withdraws before the barbarians, who advance. Then the barbarians in the center hit the Primani legion, doing one hit and taking one in return.

Florentius rolls a 4, exceeding his initiative of 3, and can’t activate anyone. Then Chnodomar rolls a 4 and activates Hortar and his barbarians on the right. All Roman units on the Roman left are screened except for the Petulantes legion in the left-center, so Hortar and his barbarians charge the Petulantes. The Petulantes make morale and do one hit to Hortar’s barbarians, just missing Hortar himself on a roll of 10. Hortar’s men attack back with 8 dice and do 1 hit in return. Hortar’s charge is repelled and he retreats.

The Roman light infantry hamper the movement of the other barbarians, subtracting one from the movement allowances of heavy infantry who start adjacent to light infantry. The barbarians can’t move to outflank the Roman line, and just move to attack the light infantry screen instead. One light infantry unit fails morale and dissolves, but the other stands its ground. Neither side does damage.

Florentius rolls a 3 and can activate one formation. The three barbarian units in the German center are down to their last steps now. If Severus can move forward and destroy two of them, Florentius can then (hopefully) activate and advance to destroy the third, thereby cutting the German army in two. He orders Severus to advance the Roman left and attack. The light infantry guarding the Roman left flank do one hit to the barbarians attempting to wrap around the Roman left. Then Severus attacks Horstar, destroying the barbarian unit he was with, and killing Hortar! Severus then advances east and turns his legion’s facing northwest to gain the newly-exposed left flank of the split-off barbarian right.

Florentius then moves left to accompany the Primani legion in its attack on the barbarian center. The Primani legion destroys the barbarians and advances to gain the flank of the last barbarians on the German left. Then Florentius successfully activates the right wing, which fails to do any damage to Chnodomar’s men.

All activations are complete, and the last German leader, Vestralp, is installed as leader of the German right wing. He has his work cut out for him, as his own left is outflanked and he himself is cutoff from King Chnodomar’s command radius by the Roman breach of the German center. His four barbarian units face only two Roman legions, however, so if he is able to self-activate he may be able to outflank them.

The victory point totals after Turn 2 are:

Roman: 19

German: 28

Turn 3

Vestralp is outside Chnodomar’s command radius due to the Roman breach in the German line. Chnodomar wins initiative again and can activate one formation. He has to try to break through to Vestralp since Vestralp’s initiative is only 3, and he’s therefore not going to be able to activate his troops reliably. He also needs to reposition his own troops to avoid being outflanked by the breaching Roman units. So he activates, re-faces his barbarians to the right so they can hit Florentius, thins out his cavalry screen on the left and then rides with the two remaining cavalry northward to hit Severus’ breaching legion in the rear.

The cavalry on the extreme Roman left fails morale before the German cavalry attack and dissolves, letting the German cavalry advance into its zone and cut off any future Roman flanking maneuver. Florentius’ Primani legion also fails morale and loses a step before Chnodomar’s barbarians attack.

The barbarians do two hits on five dice, causing Primani Legion to “shrink” to a small counter. But the Romans get two hits in return, taking the barbarians down to their last step. Then Chnodomar hits Severus and his Petulantes Legion in the rear with two heavy cavalry. Petulantes fails morale and shrinks to a small counter, and then Chnodomar does two more hits to Petulantes, wiping it out and killing Severus. But as a dying gesture, Severus and the Petulantes score two hits on Chnodomar’s cavalry, wiping them out, but not killing Chnodomar. Chnodomar is left all alone, facing Florentius and his shrunken legion in the adjacent zone.

Florentius rolls a 1 and can activate two formations, all of which are very, very weak. His left wing is leaderless with Severus’ death, so all they can do is hold the line against Vestralp’s four barbarian units. Florentius activates his shrunken Primani legion to attack the last step of barbarian infantry on the German left. Neither side does damage. Florentius’ light Batavii infantry fails to hurt the German cavalry with missile fire. Then Dagalif’s light forces on the Roman right activate and hit the Germans with missile fire, and they finally eliminate the barbarians there, plus one step of German cavalry.

Chnodomar makes his initiative roll, and Vestralp rolls a 1 and successfully puts himself in command. His four barbarians spread out and advance their line, with one weak unit moving south to attack Florentius in the center, and the rest attacking the Celtae and their accompanying light infantry. The light infantry takes a hit but stands its ground and finally wipes out the weak barbarians it’s been hitting with missile fire on the extreme German left. The Celtae (the last un-shrunk legion on the board) hold morale, but are hit by two fresh barbarian infantry units plus Vestralp, at a strength of 14 to 4. Vestralp’s barbarians roll three hits, wiping out the Celtae, who do no hits in return. Finally, Florentius wipes out the barbarians attacking him.

Nevitta takes command of the sole surviving unit of the Roman left wing (the light infantry which was guarding the now non-existent left-wing flank). Then, since there are no Roman “long” counters left on the board, the Roman player must roll for Army Collapse each time he tries to activate a leader in future.

The victory point totals now stand at:

Romans: 27

German: 42

Turn 4

Nevitta is out of Florentius’ command radius. Chnodomar wins initiative and can activate one formation. He pulls in his heavy cavalry to attack Florentius and his shrunken legion. Neither side does damage. Then Florentius is able to activate one formation, and since he is in grave danger of being destroyed by Vestralp’s infantry to the north, he activates and rolls less than his initiative, so his forces do not flee the battlefield due to Army Collapse. He and his Batavii infantry try to establish something resembling a north-facing line, attacking a German cavalry unit in the process.

The cavalry makes morale and withdraws from combat. Then Vestralp activates and sends one barbarian unit to attack Dagalif’s light forces at the west end of the Roman “line,” while his other unit attacks Nevitta’s half-strength light infantry. Vestralp does no damage and takes a hit in return, while his barbarians hitting the Roman line do even worse, taking two hits with none done.

Florentius is able to activate another leader, and Dagalif does so without his forces collapsing. They envelop the barbarians to whom they just gave a bloody nose, and the barbarians take a step loss before combat. They then wipe out the barbarians, taking no hits in return!

Florentius activates again and tells Nevitta to move south and shoot more barbarians. Nevitta’s forces do not collapse, but he is outside Florentius’ command radius and he is unable to put himself in command.

The barbarians took a horrible beating this turn, and the Romans now have something resembling a jagged, crooked line, with Nevitta somewhere off to the north. The victory point totals stand at:

Romans: 32

Germans: 42

Turn 5

Nevitta is still outside command radius. Chnodomar wins initiative, and can activate both his formations. He orders all his cavalry to charge Florentius and the Batavii light infantry to the south. Chnodomar’s cavalry rolls two sixes on six dice and wipes out the last of the Primani legion, killing Florentius too! The Batavii fail morale but take no damage from the charge, which is repelled.

Vestrap’s barbarians then move south to form a line with Chnodomar’s cavalry, leaving Nevitta behind and counting on him to either fail to put himself in command or have his forces flee. The barbarians attack a cavalry unit, which withdraws from battle.

There is no army commander, so the confused Romans can’t activate this turn (they could appoint a new one in the Recovery phase at the end of the turn). They are also down 14 VPs now with only 8 VPs worth of Germans on the board, so there’s no way they can win. The Romans flee the field, and the future speaks German.

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