Following on from my recent Punic Wars gaming, I found myself stuck at home having to self-isolate. Tom WD suggested a Zoom game to cheer me up so I got organising. Of course, this meant that I’d just have to use my own collection, so I plumped for the fascinating campaigns of Viriathus.
Left: Viriathus and his bodyguard cavalry fight a losing battle against the Principes.
Viriathus (Viriato in Spain and Portugal) was a charismatic Lusitanian warrior who caused serious problems for the Romans during their occupation of Hispania in the 2nd Century BCE. He comprehensively defeated a Roman force under Praetor Caius Vetilius at the Battle of Tribola (we gamed this in 2017 at the Hereward Wargames Show in Peterborough using Simon Miller’s To The Strongest rules – game report, historical background and photos from this one can be found here: https://mogsymakes.net/the-battle-of-tribola-147-bce/ ).
I set up a simple scenario based around the Tribola battle, with the Romans attacking a Lusitanian force in the open but with some of the Iberian warbands being concealed on the flanking hillsides and appearing later on during the game. Tom WD messaged me his deployments for the Spanish, while James D (playing the Romans) just adopted a standard triplex acies formation as Vetilius deployed his troops for battle. He was aware that it was hostile territory so kept the cavalry and Triarii handy to cover any sudden appearances!
We were playing my own Midgard rules again (still testing out ideas) and were experimenting with a couple of new concepts for this game. I’d reduced the Spanish warriors’ attach dice but increased their speed to create a slightly different dynamic to the warbands given their reputation for guerilla warfare, and the ‘Replacement’ trait for Roman manipular formation was also due for another run-out. However, I imposed a penalty on the Triarii to simulate the fact that, if they got into combat, the Roman army would be in trouble. The game uses Reputation to record victory and defeat, and I decided that the Romans would forfeit a Reputation token if the Triarii got into combat, or double that if the combat occurred before any of the Hastati and Principes in the legion had seen action.
I don’t think that James was particularly surprised when some Lusitanian warbands and caetrati under the command of warleader Ambon appeared on the hillside. Marcus promptly wheeled part of his legion to the left to cover this flank, which was an easy manouvre thanks to the Romans’ drilled trait.
The flank attack on the Roman left stalled due to poor leadership, with units not carrying out their orders and Ambon (only a Level 1 Hero) unable to do much about it. This resulted in a combat on Roman terms, with casualties on both sides. Ambon was killed by a Roman pilum and the warbands started to sense defeat.
At this point, the second Spanish ambush (on the Romans’ right flank) was unveiled – two units of slingers emerging from the rocks and trees. Vetilius despatched a pair of units of Velites to deal with them.
Tom committed Viriathus to the fight, hoping to break his way through Marcus’s legions to the Triarii. However, the Lusitanian cavalry suffered badly and were cut down to a man. Viriathus survived, losing a point of Reputation for having his guard killed around him!
The big fight in the centre continued apace, with the Romans beating back the Spanish. The flank attacks had failed to create the disorder that Viriathus needed for a breakthrough and his men were now being ground down by Roman pressure.
With teatime being called in all our houses (between Suffolk and Nottingham), we had to call it a day. The Romans had won a clear victory, killing warleader Ambon and retaining 6 Reputation tokens to the Lusitanians’ 1. Had we played another turn, there is no doubt that Viriathus’s army would have broken.
The new rules had worked pretty well. The replacements trait was used on a couple of occasions to shore up the Romans trying to hold off the left flank attack and was instrumental in pulling damaged units out of the line and replacing them with fresh ones. As Viriathus tried to break through. Marcus sent a unit of Triarii in to replace a damaged one of Principes and was justified in doing so – despite the loss of Reputation, the veteran warriors saw off the Spanish in short order.