After what feels like months of painting (well, a few months on and off, and interspersed with the odd Royalist regiment) the Romans finally took to the field of battle in a Hail Caesar game – and damn good they looked too! Their opponents were Reds Greeks – Hoplites a-plenty, not a very historically accurate matchup, but good visually – who were slightly fewer in number so I opted to just use what was fully painted. Given our inexperience with both the rules and our forces we chose to fight out a pitched battle encounter, setting up in an authentic looking way and rolling off for first turn, the winner would be the first army to break its opponent.
Red’s Greeks seemed more numerous than last time I saw them, but on that occasion I don’t think he used the full might. This time he had four units (regiments?) of Hoplites to call upon, heavy infantry standard in size and each in a phalanx formation and numbering around 16-20 models. They had light troops in their droves to support them, with five units in total, some ranked up light infantry, other smaller skirmishing units. They were all lead by a single nameless Greek who fought in the front rank of the leading phalanx, and meant the Greek army was a single division, 9 units strong.
My Romans were able to field two divisions; the first was lead by the newly named Tribune Julius Farqaard (the army general), and consisted of my heavies; 4 cohorts of legionaries, plus an artillery battery of scorpion bolt throwers and a small slinger section. The other division was commanded by an unnamed tribune, leading the bulk of the auxiliaries – two cohorts of medium infantry, one squadron of cavalry, two sections of slingers and a small artillery battery.
Red opted for his Hoplites to lead in the centre, with light infantry on their wings. I had my legionary cohorts facing them, with the auxiliary division out to the legionaries left.
Early doors: Tribune Farquaad won the roll off and marched his legionary cohorts off towards the Hoplites. The auxiliaries decided the Romans could win the battle without foreign help and refused to move, while Farquaads own slingers turned and blundered off to the right somewhere leaving him a little red in the face. No such worries for the Greeks, who advanced their Hoplite phalanxes towards the legionaries, and, without stopping to consider if it was a wise idea charged, headlong.
The legionary cohorts took the impact and refused to run , although their artillery was swept away. However, they were gradually battered backwards towards their own table edge in a series of breaktests and retreats. Some of the Greeks light infantry assisting on the Hoplites left flank, the rest copied the auxiliaries by just watching from afar. The auxiliaries seemed quite happy to let the legionaries do all the work, something which it quickly looked like being beyond them!
The Middle Ground: The legionary cohorts fell one by one, despite their skills with their pilum evening the odds often, but at least they provided an education in the mysteries of the proximity rules in Hail Caesar. The auxiliaries waited for an age, failing every command role while the legionaries suffered, and then, as soon as the first couple of cohorts had been wiped out they sprang into action, both medium infantry cohorts charging into the Hoplites.
At this point the battle had truly become messy. The Greek light infantry was too far away from their leader to hear his desperate pleas for them to get stuck in and had no effect upon most of the battle. The Hoplites bore the brunt of most of the fighting, eventually wiping out all four legionary cohorts without loss, but sustained plenty of damage in doing so. This meant that when the medium auxiliary infantry cohorts finally arrived they were the ones being forced backwards while they tried to recover from shaken results. The damage was done by two unlikely sources however. Firstly the auxiliary cavalry squadron, which destroyed the first and second Hoplite units (yes, ‘Follow Me’ was used by Tribune Farquaad – a man now minus a command after the legionaries had gone), then the slingers were finally galvanised into action, and their stones saw off a third, before the auxiliary cohorts got rid of the last of the Hoplites for the loss of a single cohort.
The End: The battle was nicely balanced, and with the heavy infantry of the legionaries and Hoplites gone it was down to the light Greeks, and the remaining auxiliaries to slug it out, and it was the auxiliary cavalry squadron which was the clincher. Another ‘Follow Me’ saw it charge up a hill into the exposed rear of a formed up light infantry unit, destroying it and another skirmishing unit at the same time, taking the Greeks below their half way point and winning the battle (just) for the Romans.
First things first – that fully painted army looked good on that battlefield! The last time I fielded an army that close to completion was at Vapnartek (FOW, Feb 2010) or my Bretonnians previous to that (circa 2006??). Onto matters of tactics and battles and the Hoplites and Legionaries were evenly matched, with the Romans having the better of the initial clash, then the Hoplites starting to wear them down. The Greek heavies proved the stronger in the end, but it weakened them before my auxiliary wing finally decided to join in, while the Greeks own lighter troops were too far away to intervene or help. An addition of at least one more officer/commander for Reds troops is a must!
As a first outing for the troops we didn’t do too badly in getting the rules right – and nothing came across as too odd. The proximity rule took a bit of reading, and getting the Hoplites to run away took some more surrounding the concept of breaktests and phalanx formations. Finally a legionary cohort trapped with its back to a wood took far too long to be worn down so I’ll have to look that up and check we got it right.
|The initial deployment, Romans on the left (auxiliaries far left), Greeks on the right with the Hoplites in the centre.|
|The Hoplite phalanxes.|
|The Greeks wasted no time in getting stuck in to the Legionary cohorts.|
|The legionaries are pushed back and fragmented by the Hoplites brutal assault.|
|Fortunately the auxiliaries finally work out which muscles work their legs and begin their attack.|
|Counter-attack in full flow, and the Hoplites are now on the back foot, glory beckons for the cavalry, if not for the cohort in front of them.|