A Gaul from China (was a Roman too)
Manojix had not slept for many nights now, pondering over the map of the terrain and trying desperately to communicate his plans in bad Gaelic to the bearded Gaulish chieftains, who looked at each other and tapped their heads.After three hours of trying to explain a complicated maneuver, Manojix had allowed the Gaulish chiefs to deploy as they thought fit. He longed for his old Legions but they had all been absorbed into the empire he built in China and after Nitius' palace coup that deprived him of power, his former legionaries had developed deaf ears.
To their credit, they had smuggled him out of China, past Nitus' chinese minions and onto a junk headed for Gaul." With all due respect general," a grizzled veteran had murmured, "perhaps you should just retire now".
Landing penniless in Gaul, Manojix set to work to persuade the gauls to lead an invasion against Mohanius, now firmly entrenched in Rome.
The Gauls did not need much persuasion. The humiliating defeats by Ramius were in the past and anyway Ramius had left for the New world and had not been heard from since. While they'd heard of Mohanius , they hadn't seen him on the battle field .Their scourge was Ramius and he was gone.
And now they had a former Roman general to command them. Gaulish fierceness + roman tactics would sweep away the Imperial army and then they would pillage and plunder!!Tribesmen had poured in by the thousands and a truly massive Gaulish army had crossed the border in to Roman territory , utterly destroying the border outposts. This had encouraged the local tribes to revolt and join the rebellion, even as the older men tried to discourage them, warning them of the terrible retributions an eventually victorious Rome would impose. But to the new generation Ramius was a shadowy figure , lost in legend and Mohanius was a drunken old man, cowering in Rome and so when Manojius' recruiters came , whole towns flocked to him leaving behind deserted dwellings and cold hearths.
The Drunken Roman
When news of the Gaulish depredations reached him, Mohanius had sent messengers under a flag of truce to find out what the Gauls wanted. Manojix (as Manojius was called by his newly adopted Gaulish friends) responded by sending him the messenger's head wrapped in his entrails.
Mohanius was relaxing in his palace, watching the sunset and nursing a flagon of his favorite wine when the Gauls' response reached him. He showed no visible reaction, merely looked back at the setting sun and had started to hum a melody he had picked up during his years in exile in India.
Thus he sat throughout the night, as the darkness flowed down and the moon rose, even as rumours of the gaulish invasion swept through Rome. His legates Antonius and Fictius had hurried to the palace as soon as they were informed and waited anxiously for Mohanius to summon them.
As the first slivers of dawn broke over the horizon Mohanius made his decision.He walked out of the palace at a brisk pace, leapt on to his black stallion and started at the gallop for the barracks. Looking back at this open mouthed legates, Mohanius roared,"come on Boys!! we are going to war!!".
The Armies Deploy
The dense forests of Lutetia were eerily silent, the dense undergrowth absorbing the noises of two mighty armies preparing for battle.The massive Gaulish host had assembled in a clearing.
The infantry command was commanded by Manojix himself who anchored its right flank on a steep hill/deep forest to prevent an outflanking attempt.
The cavalry command on the left was commanded by a hulking Gaulish chief in his war chariot who communicated only in grunts and constantly fingered his two handed sword.
The cavalry deployed to protect the left flank of the infantry with the feared chariots clanking forward to destroy any Romans foolish enough to attempt a flank march..
The spear armed thanes took up their positions to the left of the cavalry, defending a gentle hill.
On a hill opposite the main Gaulish command the praetor Antonius watched his artillery men set up the bolt throwers and grinned wolfishly.In spite of staying up all night to ensure that his artillery was in the right position, Antonius was keen eyed and alert.(woe betide any man in Mohanius' army who didn't have his units at the peak of readiness!).he could barely make out the gaulish infantry deploy in 4 lines far to his front. He looked at his defenses and was grimly satisfied. His men had occupied the slopes of a gently sloping hill . On his flank and immediately to his front and to the left was a dense forest that extended almost to the Gaulish lines. He had suggested to Mohanius that he be allowed to lead a group of archers and skirmishers through that forest and attack the gaulish right, but Mohanius had looked at him as if he were daft.
"Have you ever seen a Gaulish warrior, Antonius?" he demanded, " They are 7 feet tall , carry a two handed blade almost as big as themselves and keep fighting till 3 minutes after they are dead. If you attack them with your Cretans and Eritreans , I will lose my archers, my praetor and the battle. What you will do, Antonius, is get up on that hill , deploy your artillery and your 3 maniples in properly fortified positions , your archers defending the flank of the hill and wait for the Gauls to come to you. Your orders are to hold the hill at all costs. Don't worry you'll get plenty of fighting and slaughter before the day is done. And once I ask you to charge (and don't you dare to move a foot from your positions before I ask you) you will charge down the hill, massacre the gauls and then we'll all go home. Dismissed."
And Mohanius had turned away to talk to his cavalry commanders.
The Battle begins
And there he was on the hill , with his legions deploying into line and the bolt shooters to the right. To his right, at the base of the hill, Mohanius was deploying the rest of the infantry,5 maniples of well trained legionaries , facing the abandoned village in the middle of the battle field .To their right the single unit of Roman cavalry and the famed Syrian horse archers waited patiently. One maniple was formed from the border troops whose battle weariness was evident. Now Mohanius was addressing them from horseback and while Antonius was too far away to hear what he said, he could almost see the courage flowing into the troops as they listened. The battle weary border guards visibly straightened and snapped to attention and by the end of Mohniaus' speech, they were cheering hysterically , begging him to lead them to battle.Antonius shook his head in admiration . Drunkard the old man might be but he knew how to lead his troops.
Meanwhile Manojix was pulling his hair out in frustration. Getting the Gauls to line up in 4 lines was an exercise in futility.With his right flank secured by the hill and his cavalry on the left, and the well trained militia guarding the hill to the left of the cavalry, the only thing left to do was to get his infantry into line and explain what they had to do. His temper was not helped by the fact that a large contingent of gaulish shepherds had landed up at his tent along with their sheep dogs and demanded that they be allowed to form the front line. Manojix had exploded in rage but above the barking of the dogs he hadn't been able to make himself heard and had finally just waved them to the front. "How have I sunk to this? " he wondered," sheep dogs against Roman legions? Jupiter have mercy on me". Finally he managed to arrange the Gauls in four massive groups facing the distant hill, with the shepherds leading, followed two lines spear armed warriors with the dreaded warbands, armed with huge two handed swords making up the last line.
The Gaulish charge
Manojix tried to explain in atrocious Gaelic that the infantry would attack the hill in four waves with their flanks being protected with the village on the left and the forest on the right, while the cavalry and the spearmen guarded against any flanking attack from the left and his archers occupied the village and picked off any Romans foolish enough to pass by. Unfortunately Manojix was a better general than linguist and his troops could barely make out what he said. The Archers understood practically nothing of what Manojix wanted them to do and scowled fiercely, trying to decipher their orders.
After a few minutes of this Manojix ran out of gaelic words and simply pointed with his sword at the distant hill and roared ""CHHAAAAAAAARGE!!!!"
And the Gaulish army exploded into action.
And the Romans didn't move, not so much as an eyelash.
The Shepherds passed the village and rushed at the hill where they could see the Romans troops calmly waiting and beside them their sheep dogs ran barking and snarling ...
And the Romans stood still.
Shouting their war cries the spearmen rushed after the shepherds, working themselves into a frenzy, each wanting to score the first kill.
The Romans didn't even blink, let alone move.
The warbands worked themselves into a berserker rage, threw off their armour, and naked, roared into the attack, with the war paint dripping of their faces and whirling their terrible two handed swords.
The Roman lines didn't bat an eylid.
Manojix watched the charge start, move forward, pass the village and approach the hill. He was pleased that the Romans seemed to be taken by surprise. But he couldn't stop a worm of doubt from wriggling in his gut . He had seen that terrible immobility before in Ostia, when Mohanius' troops had waited patiently while his Syrian skirmishers cut his whole army down. He had barely escaped death in Ostia....
He turned his horse to ask his Charioteers to move forward and support the attack when he heard a distant and terrible twang, followed by screams.
A Bolt from Rome
Antonius watched the tens of thousands of Gauls charge and suppressed a tremor. He was outnumbered at least 10 to one and the whole of the Gaulish infantry was charging his position.He blessed the wisdom of Mohanius in refusing to allow him to skirmish in the forest and roared to his men "All maniples, hold, HOOOLLDDDD!! If a single pilum is thrown before I give the order, I'll feed that man to the lions myself!!" his legionaries, heard, shivered and stood still. while Antonius was a talented enough general, he had a streak of ruthlessness and cruelty that was already legendary.
Antonius turned to his artillery and smiled "Ready boys?" he asked
"We are ready general" they roared back. These were the elite of the Imperial army, part of the new artillery wing conceived by Ramius and trained by Mohanius. They were drilled to reload and fire at such rapidity that the catapults and ballistae often seemed to fire an unending stream of missiles. These reforms had happened after Manojix had left Rome and he had never seen them in action but he was about to get a taste.
Antonius turned to watch the gauls and blinked. Leading their charge were shepherds and dogs.. ?? He rubbed his eyes disbelievingly.
Then shaking his head, he turned to the artillery and said quietly "bolt shooters aim.. Hold... "
The Gaulish charge was almost at the base of the hill now and starting to look dangerous. All Antonius could see to his front was a heaving sea of gaulish warriors.
The Gauls were starting to swarm up the hill. Seeing the shepherds and the dogs, the Roman infantry on the hill were doubled up in laughter, in spite of their precarious position. The Romans' laughter stung the Gauls and they charged with redoubled frenzy. One of the survivors would tell Manojix later ,"they were gone and laffin at us General, all except the roman commander". Indeed Antonius was not laughing. he was focusing on the white pebbles laid out well in advance to serve as range markers, and while he would have loved to wait till the gauls were in point blank range he didn't want to risk them getting too close. So, as soon as he saw the gauls charge past the line of markers that indicated short range, he turned to his artillery and quietly said ..."Fire"....
800 steel bolts, 6 feet long and glinting wickedly in the rising sun whirred through the air and slammed in to the gaulish line. Shattering bodies like chaff they passed through line after line of the horrified Gauls, in an explosion of blood and gristle and a third of the front line evaporated and the rest turned and ran , crashing into the spearmen and warbands who were trying desperately to stop their pell mell charge.
Even as the Gaulish charge clawed to a halt. Antonius could be heard roaring. "Bolt shooters on my command .... Fire..
Steel bathed in Gaulish blood...
The screams of the maimed...
Another charge obliterated....
a chaos of men stumbling up the hill
and blown away...
dragging their screaming wounded with them
The Gauls flee...
The Gauls couldn't believe what they were seeing It was as if the whole hill side had turned to steel and was cutting through them gouging, tearing and ripping their army to shreds.
The gaulish chieftain who was leading the third line of battle was outraged. There stood the Romans almost within reach and his charge had just stopped dead. he rushed forward and reorganised the lines. The stunned gauls took heart on seeing him for he had led them to many a victory in the past and so when he roared defiance at the Romans and charged uphill a good portion of the Gaulish front line followed after him.This time Antonius waited till the Gauls were about 10 paces from his front line.The Gaulish chieftain was charging directly at Antonius who was pacing his horse behind the waiting line of Roman bolt shooters.
Antonius disdained to even draw his sword. He looked directly into the charging Gaul's eyes, and smiled a gentle smile as he said...."Fire".
The steel bolt tore the chieftain's head off his shoulders and shot it high into the Gaulish army still milling around at the bottom of the hill. The rest of the charging warband simply disintegrated. There was a horrified silence among the gauls and then pandemonium broke out with some of them trying to charge forward and others trying to flee for their lives.
And still the Roman line stood on the hill, swords sheathed, pila at the ready, the sun glinting off steel armour.
When the bolt throwers fired again, the gauls simply ran for their lives and regrouped outside the range of the boltshooters. The hill seemed to mock them, lying there , bathed in sunlight, so close and yet so far....and the Roman line unbroken on the summit.....
The Romans counter attack...
Manojix charged forward like a demented man, fully expecting the Romans to charge down the hill and finish the Gaulish infantry off. He didn't know that Antonius had orders not to budge from the hill. In spite of his exhortations the gauls refused to move forward. It was all he could do to keep them where they were. He waved frantically towards the archers and and beckoned them to come forward and occupy the village..... and watched horrified as the archers stood a mile away, aimed at the Romans on the hilltops and fired...
"Fools!! .." shrieked Manojix, "how can you hit anything at that range? You'll just hit our troops you idiots..." and he frantically waved them forward again....
The archers shrugged , reloaded, and fired again !! This time the arrows fell among the gauls (the romans were too far away ),causing some minor damage.
"I'll kill them " screamed Manojix and was about to start reordering his infantry when he heard the bucinas sound among the Roman lines. The five maniples of infantry who had occupied the ground to the right of Antonius' troops began a steady march forward. Mohanius rode beside them, joking with the legionaries.. Manojix galloped back through his troops and waved frantically to the charioteers to charge the advancing Romans. Whether the chariots saw the gesture and did not understand(or chose not to understand) what their general wanted has been debated intensely by historians of later eras but beyond the charioteers, the thanes guarding the hill saw their general waving frantically in the direction of the advancing Romans and promptly charged off the hill and closed with the advancing legions.
Even Mohanius was taken aback He had anticipated a long struggle with the charioteers and had no intention of fighting the thanes on the hill , but since they had charged off the hill, he was not going to waste the opportunity. The thanes made straight for the battle weary border guards, whom they had trounced when they launched their invasion.
The border guards wavered when they saw the Gaulish charge, but Mohanius dismounted and joined the front line with sword drawn and yelled " Steady boys, steady... pilum at the ready, hold...." . Seeing their general at the front the troops steadied and drew back their pila ready to throw.
The Legions charge...
When the spearmen were almost on them , Mohanius yelled "throwwwww PILA" and the front rank of the spearmen collapsed . Before the second line of the spearmen could advance the legionaries threw their second pila and Mohanius led a charge with his men following close behind drawng their gladii (the gladius , for those who don't know is the short sword worn by legionaries). This was the signal for all the Roman maniples to charge the spearmen. Faced with the wicked short swords of the Romans, wielded with machine like efficiency, the spearmen fled back to their hill but not all of them were lucky. A full company perished. Mohanius chose not to pursue them because of the charioteers on his flanks and turned his legions to face the chariots.
Before he started the advance towards the chariots, he waved his cavalry forward, indicating that he wanted them to encircle the hill on which the thanes were regrouping and attack them.
Unlike the Gaulish charioteers, Fictius had no problems understanding the orders of his general. With a roar the horse archers surged forward and encircled the hill, shooting arrow after arrow into the milling mass of the spearmen. The chief could only watch helplessly as unit after unit routed, unable to close with the fleet footed Syrian cavalry,. Those who got off the hill alive were cut down on the plain.
The Syrian horse archers were the last straw for Manojix. He had watched them destroy 2 full roman legions in Ostia and could imagine very well the havoc they would create if they worked their way around to his rear.
Asking his charioteers to hold the Romans for a while, he ordered a retreat. The moment he realised the Gauls were retreating, Mohanius ordered an all out assault along the line.
Though the chariots fled as the mailed tramp of the legions came nearer, the surrounded thanes fought to the last man and prevented the Syrian horse archers from pursuing the Gauls. Antonius, finally let loose by Mohanius, charged down the hill and massacred thousands of gauls , but Manojix got the remaining Gauls off safely with a series of valiant rearguard actions, before fleeing for his life , even as the badly mauled gauls organised hunting parties to track him down to sacrifice to their Gods as atonement.
Mohanius followed up his victory by a series of fierce reprisals against the reeling Gaulish tribes. Antonius, in his element now, avenged the dead Romans many fold and his vengeance was so terrible that the ragged survivors, shuffling along to the slave markets in chains, whispered,
"Ramius has come again...."
Manojix got away and lurks somwhere, still nursing ambitions of revenge.
Mohanius is back in Rome watching the sun set from his balcony, pleasantly distracted by his wines and his harem...
For the moment there is peace in the Roman Empire...
1) Huge impetus runs (even on the first move) are ok as long as your flanks are protected and your army is deployed in a defensible formation. My opponent had a run of 40 impetus points on the first move, (I got 1!!) and yet the battle was still winnable.
2) A frontal attack on a roman legion is suicide (2 pila + gladius... ouch!).
3) Elite Artillery is deadly, especially if there is an extra "Elites Reload" card in the sequence deck...
4) Don't STOP in range of artillery. Either charge home or get out of there!!
5) Newbies spend a lot of impetus shuffling and fiddling with their deployment and are afraid of initiating combat!!
(Duh, I must be crazy or something, coz I see half a chance, I hit the enemy with everything I have!! Makes for spectacular battles (whether I win or lose !! :-) ).