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The Siege of Jerusalem (Third Edition)» Forums » Strategy

Subject: ROMAN TESTUDOES rss

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jean-christophe coluzzi
Guatemala
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Hi, everybody. As you certainly noticed, I use testudoes a lot during my assaults and I had promised to write something about it.

Well, I know that I haven't yet finished my thread about Judean Artillery placement and that I had also promised to send my FAQ ! I'll do it eventually but I'm just more in the mood to write about testudoes just now. By the way, I already gave some correction about rule 9.13 "Firing through Towers" in my thread about roman fire support. I thought I would receive a lot of comments about this one but no! I just assume that most of you didn't read this thread entirely which I can understand as it is quite long and boring sometimes and I'll try to make this one shorter ! anyway, if you want to know about corrected 9.13 rule, refer to one of the latest posts on my previous thread.

Before Starting on the main subject (Testudoes ) let me make clear some of my own principles when I play the roman at SOJ. Note that these are just personnal preferences and that there might be some other ways, maybe better, to play the roman army. I do not qualify myself as an expert though I have some experience.

I) I do not like to spread the roman forces ! there are two schools of thinking : some try to stretch the judean thin attacking in several distant places at the same time, others, like me, prefer to concentrate the might of the four legions on a single point, especially if it has an inherant weakness !

Both approaches are valid though I think that in the first case the roman will certainly suffer more casualties than in the second. while the roman attacks on a longer front the judean will be able to use his units to the fullest for maximum effect while the roman will be able to attempt a lot of "small" attacks everywhere : some are bound to succeed but many will fail and incur casualties ! this kind of assault can go quickly though as in case of breakthrough somewhere there will very often be no judean second line of defence.

Assault on a shorter Front however will enable the roman to deal a few powerful and deadly attacks every turn that have real chance of success and will deal more casualties to the judean. Some roman units might sit back useless but the same holds true for the judean who will not be able, due to the lack of space, to use all his units at the same time. It might however take more time before a real roman breakthrough (usually due to lack of judean defenders ) and the decision very often occurs during the last turns of the battle : sometimes the roman will fail for just a one turn delay ! However, owing to my own experience, I usually take few casualties when I concentrate my attacks while the defence is more costly for the judean.

There are some times when you'll be able to stretch the judean thin while keeping your legions close by in a single area : this is even better. I also sometimes attack in two different places but always with at least two legions to get some concentration effect !

I like the legions to be able to support one another and use a lot of concentrated firepower to get things done quickly and as safely as possible. This leads to my second point !

II) In my own opinion, Roman melee has to be prepared with a good fire phase whenever possible and should be postponed otherwise, even if it means delay. There are exceptions of course (see my last session report where the XVth Legio launched a successful unprepared assault ) but I try to follow this as "Major rule".

This is especially true when trying to establish a foothold in the built-ups from clear hexes or if leaders are involved. Here, you'll see, testudoes come in handy ! I can't accept 50% chance that my cohorts end up standing in the clear in front of judean regulars especially if Titus or one of the leaders are there as well ! Most of the time I'll assault only with very good odds which means Prep Fire ! here again you'll need to have a lot of firepower available whenever needed which again means concentration of all the fire support of the four legions in the same area (more or less !).

When assaulting from breaches or protected areas (Bastions, towers, built-ups, ...) this is not so important but preparing your melee with roman fire will usually speed up things : better to lose one or two turns in preparing your assault and then be nearly sure of success than trying for maybe several turns to take a position, waiting for an unprobable continuous combat (sometimes it works though !).

Most often the only problem is to get your fire support in place safely where you need it and this leads to the third point !

III) Protect your most valuable units from judean fire using soaking units to draw judean fire where you want ! This is a job for Roman siege engines, HI on the wall and of course testudoes. Hinder judean fire so that he won't be able to concentrate too much firepower on a single target and will not be free to shoot on the target he would like ! You'll take casualties of course but only where you decide to ! (on tough targets rather than units in the clear). Think twice before sacrificing units : you've got plenty of HI while you only have a limited supply of roman archers and you really need these to support your assaults ! I'd rather lose a 5-8 than a syrian archers even if the Judean receives five times more Vps (that's a very personnal taste !).

Your arty and siege engines have to be protected from judean sortie, especially your artillery as it is very useful for a successful assault ! here again while you keep it concentrated in a small area, it is easier to defend and with several legions attacking from the same spot you'll always have some units in the area (Cavalry, archers ...) able to counter judean threat (which is not alwys true when a single legion stretch too thin and night comes !).

IV) Use your leaders carefully where they are needed ! Send them to the Front when it's time to make the decision (especially Titus !) but only if you can attack from a safe place with good odds ! otherwise use them to rally your units and keep them in CC. However don't be shy to send them to melee as there is always some times when they'll really make the difference ! they are quite safe in a testudo or a siege engine. Once in built-ups with HI they are nearly impossible to dislodge unless flanked !

Plan ahead and try to cut judean communication lines (or make them longer) and isolate part of the defenders in pockets easy to reduce ! Take into account possible panicked units during the game (Both roman or judean !) and try to see how they would have to retreat toward refuge and see if you could not take advantage of it later (or protect yourself from the worse !).

V) Use psychology as a weapon and feel free to make comments or remarks during the game that will put your opponent off balance ! Against some of my regular opponents Beer or wine are also very efficient weapons !

VI) Most of all, be ready to transgress all of these rules while you play : do not always stick to the doctrine and be adaptable ! Think the worse beforehand and you'll avoid a lot of trouble !

VII) Take your game from time to time and train yourself.

Now that you know the way I like to play, you'll better understand the way I use testudoes, But it will be for next post as it's getting late now.

Bye, JC.

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jean-christophe coluzzi
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Sorry guys, I was without computer for the last month ! I'll try to finish that tread as soon as possible.

Roman testudoes are a useful tool for the roman player.
They come in two kinds: pure HI or velitae testudoes, both with a different use.

Testudoes have only one advantage : they are quite resistant to limited judean fire (avoid more than 15/18 FP) and nearly impossible to overcome in melee combat, as long as they retain their formation (disrupted units don't have to retreat, like in a fortress), so they offer the roman a very good defensive formation.

That's quite all they can offer and they've got many drawbacks : No melee attack (so no offensive power with the exception of the pitiful 2FP of a velitae testudo !), No ZOC (less of a factor during night turns) and above all very very slow and quite difficult to manoeuver (they'll impede the movement of all other units, will forbid retreat in their hex, are difficult to form, fresh units can only move 2 hexes when they disband and so on!).

SO, lot of roman player find them useless : too difficult to move around, never at the right place when needed, blocking the path for other more useful units, and so on ....

I don't agree at all ! they've just become a very essential part of my tactic during each stage of an assault. You have to know what to do with them :

1) Soaking judean Fire : 90% of the time, that's what you want from your testudoes, be the sitting duck !
You want them to absorb the greatest part of judean fire ! WHY???? not just for the pleasure to have some roman HI in the Deadpile but because you need to protect more fragile and valuable units : Roman archers and artillery which need to come as close as possible from their taegets to deliver the killing shot you need.

I hope you read the thread about roman fire support because it is the key to assaulting successfully ! BUT, your syrian archers and velitae are extremely easy to shoot and will take a lot of casualtie even from long range regular shot, worse if judean arty is in the area !

First, a few maths :

2 roman towers, with 7-8 atop, assaulting a judean bastion with two fresh regulars inside : That's 28 : 20 or 1:1 with -1 drm. To take the bastion, you would need a "6" followed by a "4+" which is 3/36 chance for success (about 8%). Even if you succeed, you will probably only have disrupted the 2 regulars which might come back later !

with a 7-8 on the wall to get rid of the -1 drm, you still need a "6" and then "2+" which is 5/36 or about 14% chance for success.

Even with 2 disrupted regulars in the bastion you still need a natural "6" (16%).

I'm not going to calculate all the probabilities but you can see that with 2 units in a bastion and unless you risk one of your leader in a chancy attack, chances to take one bastion in a turn even with several such melee are very feable. You'll take some casualties back during the judean return fire and melee, and you can stay quite a long time trying to get through. Even with 2 disrupted regulars. It's even worse if there is a Cauldron.

Same with Built-ups or edifices, with the added effect that the punishment to your cohort that fail to enter the safety of the built-ups will be terrible (yes, Most of the time "12 in the clear"). If attacking from a breach or through a staircase it's worse. you can spend several turn and waste many HI in trying to do so !

Other exemple, Fort and Fortresses : 35FP against a FORT+ Melee will not achieve anything, even for several turns ! either you take the proper steps (70+ FP, Tituts and Lepidus ready to exploit on towers +units on the wall or breach, so that you take it in one go !) or you simply forget about it and allocate manpower elsewhere ! (unless you can flank it and reduce the place slowly).

IS THERE ANOTHER SOLUTION ?? Yes, make sure that your melee attack has nearly 100% chance for success by a good prep fire : less attack, of course, but successful ones !

With only a disrupted Reg in a bastion, your two towers with 7-8 and -1drm now have 84% chance to take the bastion, 100% if you put just one unit on the wall or use a leader (now it's no longer a chancy businness). Two cohorts in the clear against 2 disrupted regulars in built ups also have 84% chance to do the job and get a multiple attack with good odds, 100% if you use a leader ! Same for edifices If you can get a D,E result before assaulting with cohorts and leaders for exemple !

Well, no need to continue longer : you just need to prepare your melee phase before, selecting the most important objectives (assign priorities) and then strike (Big shot, melee !)
Against a bastion for exemple : Prep Fire 54+ (minimum D,E) then melee. B-ups you can attack from the clear : 1 shot at 20/24 (to get a D,D) and a few other shot at 8/12 on the adjacent hexes to weaken them for the ensuing multiple attacks. Against an edifice : 28/32 FP (you want D,E) then a big melee, with other units ready to exploit the possible multiple attacks with the help of those inside the edifices... I'll open another thread to talk about organizing your melee phase to get the most of it (order of melee, splitting your melee strenght, using the bonus drm etc..).

NOW, and that's the most important part, instead of having 3 or 4 attacks a turn with very few chance for success, risk of some casualties in case of failure, delay of several turns, you can make sure to get your most vital objectives quite quickly ! In my old playing style, I would sometimes stay two or three turn wasting a lot of good units for nothing in trying to enter Built-ups, edifices or take bastions and fortresses ! nowadays, I limit my objectives to a few important ones and I just stick to these : Once my Archers/arty are in range, I know that I'll automatically take 1Bastio/Turn (at least, because you can still lauch a 100% sure assault somewhere and have another side attack in the good old chancy way !). So, I can plan ahead : T3 Left Bastion, T4 right bastion, T5 breach, T6 two exterior B-Ups and so on. IF you're lucky it can go faster than that but at least you've got the minimum schedule.
With several legions in the same area, I usually succeed far better because in most case one of the legion can fulfill its objective earlier and help another one with more support !

SIDE BONUS : Your fire phase and melee phase are extremely deadly ! A GOOD JUDEAN REGULAR IS A DEAD ONE : better 2 dead regulars/FP than 6 D ones that might come back ! I recently calculated that while attacking the elevated hexes and exterior B-ups, each of my legion would cause an average of 3 eliminated regulars per turn, not counting the losses from melee. The judean will soon fall back to defend the elevated hexes (Bastions/Fortresses) with Militia to keep them for later, cutting drastically roman losses !

SECOND SIDE BONUS : No more judean leaders defending hinge hexes in exterior B-ups and Edifices ! It's too risky if the roman can muster between 28/32 FP on one point !

ALL this to say that the effect of concentrated roman fire support completely change tactics on both sides ! 2 shots at 24 against 2 bastions followed by melee attack don't have a high chance of success : you might need 2/3 turns to get only one bastion (1 chance in 6 to get a D,E result during the prep fire ) whereas 48FP followed by a good melee will surely mean one bastion every turn, with heavy judean losses, and 50% chance each turn to simply walk in the vacated bastion (E,E !) with your velitaes ready to exploit the following fire phase (Yes, I mostly use bastions as firing platform in the built-ups below !). Same with built-ups/edifices : one heavy shot followed by a melee phase with several multiple attacks will achieve more than three waves of unprepared all out assaults !

I Just hope you've been convinced and that you'll try it ( Need some practice to get what you need where you need each turn, but after a while it's OK !).MASSIVE FIRE SUPPORT (like when you play squad leader where 80% of your men are used during the prep fire to allow the shock units to do their job!) IS THE KEY !

A Legion which has lost Half his HI but still retain is Arty train and Archery can still fight efficiently. A Legion that has ALL its HI, But lost its fire support is as helpless as a child and quite worthless ! : don't sacrifice your archers !

SO, Now we come back to the main subject : testudoes ! how are they going to help ? simply by taking the judean fire and protecting your most valuable syrian archers, ballista and other onagers that need to get as close as possible to the built-ups/elevated hexes you're targeting ! IF your Arty/syrian archers can reach the breach and your velitaes and feoderatti safely take position in the bastion and on the wall, you'll get into the built-ups next turn no matter what the judean has prepared behind it ! Even a stack of zealot cannot stand a 36+ shot in built-ups (indirect fire) and a savage melee with two cohorts and a leader ! there will be no leader or commander to try and stop you unless the judean wants to have it killed by roman fire !
No Matter you only reach the breach on turn 5 (because of militia slowing you etc...) because you will be in the built-ups by turn 6 for sure, and not only one but usually two or three at the same time because there is going to be several multiple attacks !

BUT, the big question is : how are you going to bring that necessary fire support right where you need? how is it going to survive the one turn you need to rally your arty ?

The answer is : SOAKING judean fire with tough mandatory target ! your Fire Soaking units just need to survive one complete turn and avoid to panick otherwise your assault will have to be postponed ! of all the possible units you can use for that purpose, Testudoes stacked 4 High with a leader or titus, are the best !

There are other units useful to SOAK judean fire (esp Rams !) and next post will see the different uses of each ones and the way to have a good and efficient screen of such mandatory targets.

For today, Just remamber : Your testudoes only job is to bring your fire support to the breach and enable your archers/Arty to deliver that preparatory fire that will be exploited by your fresh cohorts ! your testudoes themselves will most of the time suffer losses and be broken (though very often only D,D result instead of real kills !) but that's their only purpose !

THERE IS NO SENSE in sending testudoes in a breach for any other purposes ! IF not to allow you a key Fire Phase, better to send directly cohorts in the breach and chance a melee !

The idea is : 1) Testudo in the breach and Arty/Archers just one step behind. 2) Archers shoot to diminish judean fire. 3) Judean return Fire (not too deadly if you've disrupted enough regulars) 4) Judean move and melee the testudoes for no results (especially if stacked 4 high with leader) 5) Judean fire again on the testudoes with new units mayby breaking one of them ! 6) Roman Fire back with Archer/Newly rallied Arty and cause havoc in the Built-ups (unless you're like me and you keep rolling "1" when it's important ! 7) Testudoes/Broken testudoes disband and survivors retreat out of the breach, IF your fire was successful and you're sure your melee is going to finish the work, you can move your fire support to a new position, While Fresh Cohorts in reserve move in for the kill ! 8) Exploit the melee phase to the fullest (other thread !).


This can sometime not work if you do things half-heartedly ! it's like taking a fort: either you do it properly or you don't even try ! Be sure to know the results you need for a 100% chance to take 2 built-ups ! If you need a D,D result on one of the stack and only bring along 8FP that will fire with indirect fire -1 drm, you might be disapointed ! take all the proper steps and always think that part of your arty might refuse to rally even with leader close by ! take More than you need, use units firing from the wall, bastions, towers, AT etc.... Don't be shy !

If it fails anyway, start again the whole process but this time simply with HI on the breach : Now your arty batterie is already ready and the combined effect of roman fire phase+Melee of this turn should have weakened the regulars in the built-ups and your HI and leader in the breach should survive the turn nearly as well as if they were testudoes ! try again the following turn !

THAT's all for today, as i've got work to do. There are other use for your testudoes and we will see that next time !

Bye all, JC












 
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Alan Lipka
United States
Wilmington
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Hi All –

IMHO, JC has given the single most important step for Roman success in this wonderful Game. His suggestions for the usage of Roman Testudines are powerful. If you have not printed out his posts for consideration and review, I encourage you to do so !

As in any complex game, especially one that seems “unbalanced” (for one reason or another), I always look for the subtle element of gameplay that brings things back to a level playing board. In this, I trust the competence of the Designers as well as the Playtesters. Having read many articles and posts written by Fred and Steve, and with a second hand respect for Bruno, I gotta figure that the Game IS balanced. I just haven’t figured out how to make it so. JC’s insights on Testudo usage have given me a vastly better handle on Roman tactics and I thank him most sincerely for sharing them.

It might be a good idea to summarize these tactics. Mark Nixon has proposed a very useful philosophy in his articles about ASL, and I would apply it here to good effect. That being that there are certain approaches that are successful. The details are many and varied, but certain concepts will prove to be successful if employed consistently.

In that vein, I propose the following regarding Roman tactics, drawing heavily on JC’s insights.

Step 1: Concentrate Missile Fire. From Turn 1 onward, the Roman Artillery and Archers are the single most effective way to reduce the Judaean defenders. Stack them and move them so that they get a killer shot.

Step 2: Soak off. Mandatory targets limit Judaean Missile Fire. The Roman must advance in such a way as to put his best protected units in the Judaean LOF so that his Concentrated Missile Fire can take its toll unhindered. Towers, Rams and Testudines are the best defensive formations and should be used to this effect.

Step 3: Melee with the certainty of capture. Be it Fort, Bastion, Wall or Built up, make sure that Roman combat benefits from CMF and follow up Melee. Use Cohort integrity. Use Titus as many times as possible.

Step 4: Capture strongpoints. Proper application of steps 1.2 & 3 will ensure the capture of Walls and Bastions in a single Turn. This is critical on the shoulders of Breaches.

Step 5: Spread out. Cohort integrity (with its +1 drm) makes exterior Built ups more vulnerable; Elevated hexes as well, and forces the Judaean to stretch his line. Work to get the flanks so you can spread out !

Step 6: Shoot for Kills. Eliminated Judaean units cannot rally and return to fight another Turn.

Step 7: Maximize Melee effects. This is something JC has promised to explain, and I will leave it to him (and Aaron). There are some subtle applications here. Continuous Combat is an important factor in the Roman assault. Getting the most out of Melee is vital to Roman success !

I think this captures the key elements of what JC has written. I know that my own Roman assaults will be guided by these principles. I am confident they will get me to Phase III. Against the Temple … well … I have less confidence. cry

Best to all –

Alan




 
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jean-christophe coluzzi
Guatemala
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hi everybody.

I'm writing from a cybercafe in san cristobal de las casas (Mexico, Chiapas). Just to tell you that I'm sorry but I'm still having big problems with my computer and I had to return it to the repair shop in Guatemala : I'm not sure I'll be able to get it back soon !

I thank alan for summerizing my ideas in his post : it is very well done and it's quite clear ( I just tend myself to get lost in details.)

I haven't yet finished with this thread : I need to explain in details how to best soak judean missile fire and also give you some other tricks about using efficiently your testudoes. there are also a few other uses for them than simply soak judean fire !

But you'll have to wait for it untill I get my computer back (sorry again) because I really can't do that from a cybercafe (that wouild take too long !).

SO, I'm not deserting this forum, I'll be back !

Bye and enjoy your games,

JC
 
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