SPQR: Sentium 295 BC - Rome vs a coalition of Samnites and Senones Gauls
I am relatively new player to GBoH, having been very generously gifted a copy of SPQR, Alexander, Chandragupta and Lion of the North from a player over at Consimworld (thanks again Kevin). Unbeknownst to me my wife also purchased a copy of deluxe SPQR for me as well – no doubt she saw me reading about it online and thought she would surprise me. I played through several scenarios of Alexander and then decided to work through SPQR in chronological order. This rambling introduction leads me to this replay, which was the third in the sequence – taken from the included Barbarian module.
In this battle we saw two Roman Consular armies face off against a coalition of Samnites and Senones (Gauls from northern Italy). This was an interesting situation to game as the Samnites were organised in a similar way to the Romans (the historic consensus being that the Romans copied large parts of the Samnite military organisation) and the Senones army was a barbarian army (of the type that lived long in the nightmares of the Roman Republic and later Empire).
The two armies arrayed for battle
The inclusion of a hill on which the Samnite army was positioned surprised me a little as I had not read any accounts of any significant terrain for this battle – it is plausible that the area was not level but this inclusion does seem highly speculative.
The Roman army
Each of the Roman Consular armies are treated separately, each having their own Overall Commander. Facing the Samnites were the III and V Legions under the command of Quintus Fabius Rullianus. In SPQR these legions are regarded as Standard quality. Rullianus has a reasonably good initiative of five.
VII and XIV legions, facing the Gauls, were of lesser quality being classified as Recruits. Their commander, Publius Decius Mus, was also poorer with an Initiative of only four.
Both armies had an assortment of Tribunes and Praefects to complete the command but these were further restricted, by scenario special rules, to be able to command only those unit types they began the battle attached to. I did keep the exception from 4.52 in play, which allows Tribunes and Praefects to issue individual orders to Velites.
Fabius Rullianus and his army consisting of the III and V Legions arrayed for battle
The Samnite army
The Barbarian module rules set out how the Samnite army shared much of its military organisation with the Roman Legions. They can stack as the Romans can and their light infantry can orderly withdraw as Velites could. Their Van and Main infantry act in most ways as legionaries except they can’t use Manipular Line Extension.
The Samnite army awaiting battle – in this interpretation of the battle they are holding some high ground
The Senones Army
The bulk of the Senones army is made up of barbarian infantry – a type introduced in the Barbarian module. As you can imagine these are all about the initial charge. They get a +1 movement Impetuosity bonus which lasts until two of their units enter enemy ZOCs. But it is in their Ferocity where they strength really lies. Romans defending against a barbarian shock attack gain a +2 on their pre-shock TQ whilst the barbarians have a -1. The barbarian ferocity lasts until Cavarinus, their overall commander, fails a Ferocity check. This check is taken each time a barbarian infantry unit routs. The downside for the Senones is that the Roman legionary units are Attack Superior and so the barbarians won’t have much staying power in an extended fight.
In addition to the infantry, the Senones have a large lancer cavalry element and several Gaul chariots. These chariots can’t fight independently but can deliver their light infantry quickly to key locations on the battlefield.
Crucially, the Samnite/Senones leaders do not have the same restriction that the Roman leadership have, and with the exception that the units can only be commanded by leaders from their own side (eg. Samnite/Senones) they have a lot more command freedom.
The Senones Gauls waiting to charge the enemy…
Because the numerous leaders and command restrictions I took a few moments to record down who was with who for when the fighting got messy…
A note on the physical setting up this scenario – the unit indications on the map are very good and cut down setup time considerably.
Rullianus ordered his Velites, Hastati and Principes forward to occupy the lower slopes of the Samnite controlled hill. Rullianus’ cavalry also began to advance towards the Samnite cavalry tempting them into action – which they declined but they did respond by moving their heavy cavalry into the front line in anticipation of a Roman cavalry attack.
The advance of the Roman right wing cavalry. Soon after this the Samnite heavy cavalry move to the front of their line
Statius, a Samnite leader, ordered the Samnite light infantry forward along the crest line to their front
Rullianus stayed with his Triarii awaiting developments and Aegnatius, moved some of his Samnite units of his Van forward to cover a crest line.
Here you can see the Samnites moving to gain maximin advantage of the terrain
Decius Mus’ legions remained in place not wishing to close the distance between it and the barbarian line facing them. At the current distance the Senones would need a momentum roll to reach them in a single turn, the Romans might be able to take advantage of that… Decius then ordered his cavalry forward to join that of Praefect Equitum Corvus in preparation for the inevitable Gaul onslaught. The Senones cavalry leader, Cotus, didn’t disappoint and he launched some of his lancers forward at his first opportunity. The Senone cavalry crashed into the Roman horse and a general melee ensured…
The Senones cavalry hoped to have caused a little more damage to the Romans, but at least they tied the Roman cavalry up whilst the infantry advanced
As soon as the Roman cavalry was engaged, the first line of the Senones infantry surged forward, but they did not charge headlong towards the Roman legions as the distance was still too great, they paused six hexes from the Roman Hastati line – close enough to charge next turn but not close enough for the Romans to reach their line – not without a risky momentum roll. Cavarinus, Senones’ overall commander, moved his second line a little forward to keep in touch with the front line.
The Senones barbarian infantry moved forward in preparation for a fearsome charge
Rullianus sent his Velites forward to exchange javelins with the Samnite light infantry on the ridge. Rullianus’ Roman cavalry extended their line so they could receive commands more efficiently.
No significant action yet in the Rullianus vs Aegnatius battle – just minor skirmishing. Both commanders were awaiting the charge of the barbarians on the other side of the battlefield to see how that developed
Over on Decius Mus’ side of the battle his cavalry saw off the initial Senones cavalry attack – and as they were previously engaged could not pursue. Praefect Equitum Corvus in charge of the cavalry attempted a momentum roll to try and catch the routing enemy but with an initiative of only three he predictably failed.
Senones cavalry routed by the heavier Roman cavalry
The Samnite army address their lines but did not make any significant movement, Rullianus followed suit and despite some skirmishing amongst the light troops this side of the battlefield was relatively quiet.
Facing the Gauls, Tribune Antonius considered pulling back the Velites but decided to let them stand to hinder the barbarians advance. His low initiative of only three disuaded him from attempting to charge the Senones infantry as it would require an unlikely momentum success in order to reach their position. Instead he drew the Hastati into line.
The Hastati of VII and XIV legions moved into line
Decius Mus reformed the ranks of the cavalry who have just seen off the Senones horse undoing much of the damage caused by Gallic cavalry – he attempted to gain momentum in order to ride down the fleeing cavalry but failed. Senones cavalry leader, Cotus, took advantage of the situation and managed to rally two of the fleeing mounted units, however the other two rolled too high and were removed from the map – the first casualties of the battle.
Whilst that was taking place the first line of barbarians charged… The Roman Velites took the full force of the charge and paid a terrible price, but initial barbarian charge was blunted. The Senones leader, Ducarius, attempted a momentum to keep the charge going but failed. The patient Hastati to their front now awaited their turn.
The predictable result of a horde of barbarians crashing into the lighter Velites. This photo, pre-rout movement, shows that the Velites had causes some cohesion losses to the barbarians but most importantly had protected the Hastati from the initial impact
Cavarinus, the overall Senones’ commander, seeing his first line of barbarians thwarted left the second line and rode forward urging on his warriors using individual commands. They made some progress on their left but Cavarinus needed a momentum roll to push the attack home – a die roll of seven meant his missed that by one. The first routing Senone unit forced Cavarinus to take a ferocity check which he passed.
Cavarinus rode forward to urge on his men but only managed to inspire a few units on the left of his line
The situation at the end of turn two
Praefect Sociorum Spurius stationed with the Triarii of Decius Mus’ army attempted to rally some of the fleeing Velites, despite his low probability of success he managed to rally two units (I was not sure if that was allowed in the rules as the scenario restricts leaders to only issue commands to the unit formation they started the battle with. It is clear that such leaders cannot issue commands or instigate shock combat to other units – whether this included rallying I was not sure?)
Tribune Antonius then took the initiative and seeing that the barbarian charge had been slowed launched his Hastati line into the faltering Senones infantry. As the barbarians still had their Ferocity bonus the Romans had to withstand that before their Attack Superiority became ascendant. The Roman pila caused some difficulties for the Senones and fighting was fierce all along the line. The result of the combat was four barbarian units routed to two for the Romans. The close order drill and use of the Gladius by the legionaries being decisive. Cavarinus failed his Ferocity check and to add insult to injury Ducarius was so involved in his personal combat that he could issue no orders that turn (rolled a two in response to a leader casualty check). Antonius rolled for momentum to push home his advantage but the gods were not with him on that die roll.
The Hastati had neutralised the initial barbarian charge
Praefect Equitum Corvus spent time reforming his Roman cavalry who were now back to full strength. That was just in time as Cotus sent another wave of barbarian cavalry against him. This time the fight went better for the Senones but heavier Roman horse was waiting ready to counter.
The Senones pushed their horse forward again…
Decius Mus ordered the remaining Roman horse forward before riding over to the Hastati line to encourage them in their combat with the Senones infantry.
Decius Mus after ordering some cavalry forward rode over to the Hastati
The cavalry predictably pushed back most of the lighter Senones horse. The fighting in the centre of the Roman line saw both sides with multiple routed units. The Hastati with the Attack Advantage did enough to break many of the barbarian units but were left with high cohesion which with their 5 TQ meant many subsequently broke and fled. Decius gained momentum but was trumped by Cavarinus as he attempted to wrestle back the initiative.
Cavarinus was very active, rallying many units before riding back to the second line of Senones infantry and ordering them forward.
For better or for worse the Senones army was now fully committed…
Over on the other side of the battlefield, Rullianus arranged his legion on the lower slopes of the Samnite hill and the minor skirmishing between the Velites and the Samnite light infantry continued. However, Aegnatius looked across to his right and was not sure his Senones ally was going to carry the day and so decided that it was time for the Samnite army to advance.
The Samnite army began to advance on the Roman legions opposing them
End of turn three. The Senones Gauls, on the right, are bringing up their second line of infantry – the decisive assault was about to begin. On the left, the Samnites were also advancing on the Romans
Praefect Equitum Corvus ordered more cavalry to join the fight with their barbarian adversaries. Once again, the heavier Roman cavalry got the better of the fighting with one cavalry unit pursuing its quarry almost into the mass of the remaining Senones cavalry.
The pursuing Romans would soon find themselves in a difficult situation
Praefect Equitum Corvus rolled for momentum and instead of riding to rescue the impetuous cavalry unit addressed his lines and rallied some troops. Tribune Antonius, who last turn ordered the Hastati forward to engage the Senones infantry, could not issue a line command as his forces were scattered. Having only three Initiative he had to move and ordered individual units forward. However, the Hastati were weary from repulsing the first wave of barbarians and did not fight well. Tribune Cassius thought now was the time to commit the Principes and brought them forward making contact with a few of the remaining first wave of Senones. Failing a momentum roll, Cassius’ men fell short of engaging the main Senones line but Decius Mus was soon to ride to this part of the battle…
The Principes were committed. With the number of Roman routing units due to leave the map at the end of the turn, the Triarii would be free to act next turn
Decius Mus then took the initiative and ordered the Principes forward again before the Senones could advance, despite taking cohesion loses for moving twice in a turn they caused serious damage to the Senones infantry. Decius tried for momentum to finish the job but Ducarius trumped him. The fighting on the Senones right was intense and despite some serious Gallic losses the Roman left broke. A failed second momentum attempt by Ducarius stopped him taking full advantage of the situation. A further blow to the Senones was that Cavarinus, the overall commander of the Senones, was caught up in the fighting and was flipped to his finished side.
The Roman left was in disarray but with Cavarinus caught up in the fighting the Roman right was holding firm
One the other side of the battle the Samnite closed in on Rullianus’ legions. Praefect Rebilus & Spurius deployed their Hastati as the Samnites advanced – they decided not to order them forward as the enemy still occupied a ridge of high ground. The skirmishing between the Velites and Light infantry continue with a few units now routing from the engagement.
The extended Hastati line extended in anticipation of a Samnite advance
The Romans facing the Samnites did not have long to wait. The Samnite commanders ordered the Samnite Van forward but were hindered by many of the remaining Velites who held their ground.
The first Samnite push…
The second Samnite push…
Rullianus moved the Triarii forward, gained momentum, and reordered some of the ranks of the Hastati who were beginning to lose their cohesion.
The battle at the end of turn four. On the right the Senones were in trouble as they were just eighteen points off their rout limit. The inability of them to recover more than a single cohesion hit per recovery order and that their depleted units were eliminated when they routed was reducing their fighting prowess at an alarming rate. Opposing them, Decius Mus’ army was now at 65 out of 120, enough to release the Triarii. On the left it was harder to tell who had the upper hand – both sides had failed key momentum rolls which would have allowed them to grab the initiative
An interesting observation was how important the Velites had been so far in this battle. They really blunted the Senones attack who had no similar troops with which to counter them. The Samnite attack was also hampered by some stubborn Velites who broke up the Samnite line formation sufficiently during its initial attack.
Over on the Decius Mus and Senones front, the Romans send their Triarii forward feeling victory was within their grasp. As much of the barbarian cavalry was still in good order, Praefect Equitum Corvus reorganised the Roman horse into a semblance of a line. Tribune Cassius reorganised some of the disrupted Principes and then rode across to his right to inspire his men there to drive the Senones infantry back. However he underestimated the size of the task as the barbarians there were still reasonably fresh, more Roman units broke than Senone.
Corvus underestimated the Senones resistance and his right flank began to crumble
Brennus, in charge of the Senones chariots decided to move into a more central position and slid his units across the battlefield.
The Gallic chariots were readying themselves for action
On the Senones’ right Ducarius urged his men forward and they pushed back the Romans. He tried desperately for momentum but the Dice of Doom dictated the turn ended early!
Just as the Senones appear to get a break the turn ends early – now they have their flank dangerously exposed to the Roman cavalry. Next turn the Romans will activate first – will they charge the barbarians in the flank or guard against the advance of the Senones cavalry?
Over against the Samnites, the Roman Principe held their position as the Hastati on the left of the Roman line continued their struggle with the Samnite Van.
Praefect Sociorum Rebilus, on the Roman left did well and cleared the small rise on which the Samnites had gained a foothold
Betinius brought up the Samnite reserve in case it would be needed for a final push. But the turn ended before either side could get to grips with the other…
By this point in the battle routing units were beginning to reach their map edges and so count towards rout totals. As the Romans had not been moving forward their units were reaching their map edge first. The rout total situation at the time was: Samnites 19/120, Senones 99/110, Rullianus 48/130, Decius Mus 107/120 (Decius Mus’ army would have exceeded their total if it were not for the woods to their rear. The ending of the turn especially hurt the Senones who were poised to spend much of the latter half of the turn rallying routed units.
End of the unexpectedly short turn five
Thanks for reading. More to follow…