Saturday 8 June 2024

Spanish Intermezzo


Wargaming and painting came to a bit of a juddering halt recently, as I was proof-reading my book. But I can now report that the proofs are safely returned and, apparently, dispatched to the printer. So in about four weeks, I believe, the printed copies will be in the warehouse and will start to be despatched to whoever wants a copy. I think you can still get the pre-release price if you are quick.

After that, some wargaming was required, I felt. I have done a bit of undercoating, but even so, the real reason for doing this stuff is to fight wargames, so here goes. My eye lit upon Varga’s The Roman Wars in Spain and I considered that I did not think my ancient Spanish troops had ever hit the tabletop. This was to be rectified.

Dipping into Varga I came across a page where the Cantabrians were raiding their neighbours. This played into Augustus’ hands as he wanted to finish off the conquest of Spain. The only holdouts were the Cantabrians, Galicians and Asturians.

So, to start off with, I decided on a raid and capture territory scenario, and returned to one I prepared earlier, The Bridge at Muchado. Obviously, the bridge became a ford while translating the action back 1650 years or so, but the rest was fairly as expected. The next thing to note was that I was using Polemos SPQR armies, which gives the Spanish a lot of skirmishers each, and a solid core of tribal foot and heavier cavalry.

The setup is above. The Cantabrians are to the right, aiming to seize Muchado, the village in the centre by the ford. The Galicians are to the left, trying to prevent the same. My idea as the Cantabrian commander was to cross the ford and seize the village, but I could see that was not going to work, as the ford was covered by the Galician cavalry and tribal foot. So the next idea was to work the skirmishers onto the flanks and envelop the village.

I had forgotten how slow skirmishing can be under the rules (which were not PM:SPQR, but are related, faster playing rules). The factors are low and the chances of causing damage are not much greater. Most of the action was the clash of the skirmishers.

The picture shows the action after quite a few turns, and skirmishing is in evidence along most of the lines. In the foreground the main outflanking effort of the Cantabrians is underway, and has caused quite a bit of damage to the Galicians light horse, one of which is fleeing (left), the other of which is shortly to join them. However, the rest of the Galician skirmish strength is closing up, and the battle is nowhere near over. In the centre, you can see the heavier troops facing each other over the ford and stream and shouting ‘Grr’ a lot. On the far side, the Galician lights are gaining the upper hand over their foes.

I should note that I have learnt some things over recent games. Firstly, armies in these ‘tempo poor’ rules when they reach about 15 bases start to need sub-generals, and these are present here, both with the skirmishers. Generals with skirmishers are very useful as they can pull damaged units out of line, revive them and send them back, hopefully in a few turns. They are, however, a bit vulnerable to the 'risk to generals' rule as if a skirmisher base with a general attached is on the receiving end of a bad roll, then the general is at risk, as the Galician sub-general found out.

Secondly, I learnt that rushing to cross the stream is not a good idea from the ECW version of the scenario. Thus there was not much action in the centre, as the Cantabians did not want to cross the stream and be on the receiving end of a charge at -2 on the dice, nor push the cavalry across the ford to be met by the Galician cavalry and take a charge from tribal foot in flank. So it was all a bit quiet in the centre.

As the Cantabrian right slowly collapsed they were able to redirect skirmishers from the centre to prop it up.

On the near side, Cantabrian left, the advance of the light troops across the stream is well underway with significant disruption to the enemy (and a bit to themselves). It is slow going but seems inexorable at the stage. On the far side, the Cantabrian skirmishers from the centre are causing a fair bit of damage to the hitherto successful Galicians.

Eventually, the casualties told on the defenders. Their right flank was under great pressure and being forced back. It was only a matter of time before it collapsed. On their left, the last Galician skirmisher base was looking very lonely against the Cantabrians. The centre was still locked up, neither side willing to commit to combat, but with the flanks more or less gone the Galicians threw a bad morale roll and hit ‘fall back’. They fought on for a turn or two, losing some more bases, and then went to withdraw mode, so they did.


That was a nice battle and, of course, very different from the ECW version. I decided not to rush the ford and stream with the Cantabrians and risk horrid defeat by counter-charge, but to work on the flanks. With more bases and a lot of skirmishers, this was a rather natural thing to do and it worked, eventually. Patience, and a lot of it, was required. The Galicians were a bit unfortunate with some key dice rolls – losing the sub-general was not helpful and some of the tempo and combat rolls went against them. Nevertheless, I am not sure what else they could have done.

Still, the scene is now set for some more wargames in ancient Spain as the Galicians do what most defeated tribes did, and go a whine to the Romans, who are always up to stamp out trouble, of course.


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