of the Celts
By Doug McNair
Over the years, an organized conspiracy
by the BBC has programmed me to jump eagerly
on anything dealing with the Roman invasion
of Britain. Masterpiece Theater hooked
me 30-odd years ago with I, Claudius, in
which the emperor conquers the British tribes
and then pleads with his son to run away and
join them to avoid being assassinated (he
didn’t, and he was). Then they followed
up a few years back with Warrior Queen,
in which Alex Kingston’s Boudicca
kicks Roman booty with help from the deadliest
pint-sized irregulars you’ve ever seen.
Finally, on a much more factual note, the
Battlefield Britain guys did their
excellent-as-usual job with Boudicca’s
revolt, re-enacting the Battle of Watling
Street with such intensity that you could
really feel their pain when the Roman wedges
cut through the British mob.
of the Celts, the latest game from
our ace designer William Sariego, brings the
strands of my obsession together in a slam-bang
game of battles between fierce barbarians
and rock-hard Roman legions among the rivers,
swamps and hills of ancient Britain. Though
named in honor of Boudicca, the game covers
all the major battles of the Roman invasion,
from its start in the southern coastal swamps
in 43 A.D. right up to the Celts’ last
stand before the Scottish highlands in the
One of the main attractions of Queen is
the wide variety of tactical situations it
offers. Over the course of nine battles, players
get to deal with a river-crossing under fire,
sneak attacks on hill forts and Oppidia under
construction, a last-ditch suicide attack
on the Imperial Procession itself, and much
By way of introducing players to this great
new game, here’s a full list of all
the scenarios in Queen of the Celts,
with developer’s commentary from Yours
Scenario I: The Medway
Summer 43 A.D.
Plautius landed unopposed in Kent, in three
beachheads based around the Wantsum Channel.
The Romans quickly and efficiently organized
themselves for the coming campaign with no
interference from Caratacus, who had to go
back and rally the scattered tribes again.
This proved more difficult than before, since
with the Romans actually ashore many Britons
believed the chance to resist was over. And
others, having prospered via the economic
ties with Rome, were only lukewarm about fighting.
In the end, Caratacus could only assemble
enough warriors to establish a defensive position
inland from the Roman beachheads and await
their first moves.
Plautius moved out of his secure bridgehead
with the invasion already planned in successive
stages. The first stage was to cement the
conquest of southeastern Britain, and to do
this he would expand and improve on Caesar's
second campaign. He met Caratacus at the River
Medway. The War Chief slightly outnumbered
the Romans and had destroyed the river bridges,
so he felt that his position was reasonably
secure. But the resourceful Romans, using
agents among the disaffected, knew something
about the lay of the land. On their left flank
they sent the II Legion (Augusta) to ford
the river out of sight of Caratacus. On the
right the Batavian auxiliaries and supporting
troops did the same.
This scenario offers the Celts a great chance
to stop the Roman invasion in its infancy
and keep Plautius bottled-up in his bridgehead.
The Batavian auxiliaries assaulting the Celtic
left flank are far weaker than the II Legion
on the right. If Segovax’ chariots can
smash the auxiliaries fast, then Caratacus’
nine heavy barbarian infantry units can overwhelm
II Legion while the Briton light infantry
and chariots rain arrows on XIV Legion as
it tries to ford the river. But if the auxiliaries
hold, then Caratacus will have no choice but
to throw his army on both legions at once
and hope it does enough damage to turn the
Romans back before it breaks.
Scenario II: The Thames
Summer 43 A.D.
Plautius paused long enough to gather his
forces north of the river and prepare the
next stage of his advance. As Roman reinforcements
arrived from the beachhead, Caratacus withdrew
north of the river Thames to reconstitute
his own army and put out the call for more
forces. But after the retreat from the Medway
this became even more difficult, as many tribal
elders saw the futility of opposing the Romans
and wanted to salvage as much independence
as possible by cooperating with the invaders.
Doing what he could with what he had left,
Caratacus sought once again to use the river
as a shield against the Romans.
In this scenario Caratacus’ army is
a pale shadow of what he had at the Medway,
so he’s got no choice but to pick a
defensible spot and draw the Romans into battle.
With nothing but coastal flatland to work
with, Caratacus takes up position on boggy
ground with his back to a dense swamp. The
soft ground keeps the Roman cavalry from charging,
and once the Romans join battle the Celts
can fall back into the swamp and use the dense
vegetation as cover. But with only a bare
numerical advantage on the Romans and far
poorer discipline, any significant damage
to the advancing Romans will be all the victory
they can hope for before melting into the
Scenario III: The
Fall of Camulodunum
Fall 43 A.D.
Politics now entered Roman military operations.
Pausing north of the Thames, Plautius sent
word to Rome that the campaign was no longer
in doubt. Claudius hit the road with a vengeance,
and reinforcements were already gathering
on the Gallic coast. Once Claudius arrived,
the Romans struck out towards Camulodunum
(modern Colchester), one of the most prosperous
and frequented seaports in northwestern Europe.
Its fall would demonstrate Roman might and
the futility of resistance.
In Scenario III, imperial pride has offered
the Britons one last chance to strike a death-blow
at the invader. The local tribes throw the
last of their forces at the Imperial Procession
itself, hoping to kill Claudius and stifle
the invasion by fomenting a succession crisis
back in Rome. But the Praetorian Guard has
an elephant, so the Celtic cavalry won’t
be much use, but if the Britons can break
up the procession and do enough damage to
prevent or delay the siege, then that’s
enough of a victory to keep resistance to
Scenario IV: Maiden
Spring 45 A.D.
Vespasian, the future emperor (and one of
Rome's finest), took his II Legion and supporting
troops into southwestern Britain with multiple
purposes in mind. The subjugation of local
tribes was of course a good thing, but he
also needed to establish a secure overland
supply route to aid Roman expansion in the
north. Sea travel around Land's End between
the English and Bristol Channels was treacherous
due to tides and winds. Vespasian encountered
only scattered resistance as he took one Celtic
hill fort after another, defeating the tribes
piecemeal. With Caratacus far to the north,
no one was able to unite them.
Maiden Castle, a massive, concentric
This scenario introduces hill forts to the
Rome at War series. Maiden Castle was
(and still is) a massive set of concentric
earthworks, well stocked with sling stones
for the garrison. Briton units defending a
hill fort area get a 25% bonus to their combat
strength and their area morale, and all Briton
missile-armed troops have a range of two areas
when firing from a hill fort. Roman artillery
fires at half strength when attacking a hill
fort, so the Maiden Hill garrison has a decent
shot at holding the Romans off.
Scenario V: Hit and
Summer 47 A.D.
The Romans spread north and west gradually,
in ordered stages. Advancing with sword in
one hand and olive branch in the other, the
Romans made one tribe after another submit
(voluntarily or otherwise). Most saw the economic
advantages of cooperating with the Romans,
so the remainder of the Roman conquest of
Britain was largely without trouble. Plautius
left the island in 46 A.D., being replaced
by Marcus Scapula. But Caratacus was not inactive
during this time. He led a guerrilla war against
the Roman occupiers and Briton traitors, gaining
a great reputation across unoccupied Europe
and the Roman Empire itself.
Here’s where the Celts get a chance
for a bit of revenge. The slow-moving Roman
supply column is a juicy target for Caratacus’
raiders, whose mission is to burn all the
Roman wagons and slaughter as many Romans
as possible before Roman reinforcements show
up. But with only a six-turn window of opportunity,
the Celts have to be as aggressive as possible,
and that will give the agile Roman light troops
a chance to outflank the Briton heavy infantry
and do enough damage to make the raid a net
loss for Caratacus.
Scenario VI: Last
Stand at Caersws
Summer 51 A.D.
The Romans slowly spread like a disease throughout
the island. The followers of Caratacus dwindled,
though the Great War Chief did not give up
the fight. His strategic maneuvering caused
Scapula to split off the XX Legion among the
Silures while Scapula continued his Welsh
campaign with the XIV Legion. With the Roman
general’s forces thus depleted, Caratacus
offered battle at the hill fort of Caersws.
Scenario VI could be Caratacus’ finest
hour, with the last of his heavy infantry
ready to break Scapula’s XIV Legion
when it hits the hill fort walls. But Scapula
can sit back and wait while the Roman cavalry
and light infantry pick at Caratacus’
flanks and Roman artillery lobs fire and misery
into the fort. Caratacus has to find a way
to lure one of the Legion cohorts into an
exposed position, then send his wild-eyed
Druids out to whip the Celtic infantry into
a frenzy and smash the Romans before fading
back into the Welsh hills.
Scenario VII: Hell
Hath no Fury . . .
Summer 60 A.D.
By the summer of 60 the entirety of what
is considered England proper was under Roman
rule, but Scotland was still not subjugated
and Wales was restive. In the latter province
the current governor, Gaius Paulinus, was
campaigning in an effort to destroy the Celtic
Druids in their stronghold.
The Iceni were one of the many tribes who
had submitted to the Romans and had prospered
somewhat by that association. When the Iceni
king died, the Roman administration saw an
opportunity to put an end to their charade
of self-rule and took over the tribal lands.
When the wife of the late king strongly protested,
she was beaten and her daughters raped.
escaped to foment rebellion that had been
smoldering underneath the surface of Roman
rule. Warriors flocked to her banner and Roman
cities were sacked and their inhabitants put
to the sword. One by one the cities fell,
and Paulinus hastily rushed back to meet the
last great threat to Roman hegemony.
Boudicca unleashes Hell’s fury at this
scenario’s start with a massive chariot
charge at the Roman line. If the chariots
can break one of the Roman flanks they can
easily get into the Roman rear and cause severe
damage, forcing Paulinus to pull in his flanks
and wrap his army into a tight schiltron.
Boudicca needs to isolate one of the legions
fast and destroy it before the Romans can
secure their flanks. Wiping out a legion will
give Boudicca the victory she needs to show
the Romans can be stopped, and the consequent
political capital to raise even more tribes
to throw off the Roman yoke.
Scenario VIII: Search
Winter 73 A.D.
By this time resistance had all but collapsed
everywhere but in the north. Venutius would
lead a brilliant but ultimately futile irregular
war against the Romans. Attacking isolated
garrisons and ambushing foraging parties were
the limits of his reach as the Romans slowly
pushed north. Ultimately, his battlefield
successes were too small-scale to disturb
the pacification of the island.
Once again the Britons are reduced to hit-and-run
raids, this time against auxiliary troops
constructing a small fort. The rampart surrounding
the fort protects the flanks of the Roman
long units, meaning the Britons can’t
get bonuses for flank and rear attacks until
they actually breach the rampart walls. But
Roman reinforcements are close again, so the
Celts have to hit hard and fast and do enough
damage to make the raid worthwhile before
Scenario IX: Celtic
Summer 84 A.D.
Rome pushed farther and farther north, and
organized resistance became more and more
futile. The newest governor, the most able
Julius Agricola, marched into Scotland with
two legions well supported by auxiliaries.
Opposing him was the last Celtic force under
arms that could be called an army. Under the
chieftain Calgacus, nearly 30,000 warriors
made a last stand before the highlands.
The world comes to Scotland in the final
act of this tragedy. Two Roman legions plus
Batavian, German and Thracian auxiliaries
and cavalry (and even some British traitors)
face down the last Celtic leader willing to
make a stand. A battlefield victory is beyond
hope, so all Calgacus can do is fight the
highland way, looking for an opening and doing
all the damage he can before running for the
hills to fight another day. Resistance is
at its last gasp, so even small successes
on the battlefield will be enough for Calgacus
if he can keep his army together.
of the Celts
is coming soon, so order yours now to get
in on the action.