This battle was rather unique in several aspects. We used Ancient Warfare rules created (and actively maintained/supported) by Terry Gore. The rules are really good, and we intend to try it out more often for Ancient and Renaissance games. Rome versus Gaul is our standard game when trying out a new set of rules. The game was short and sharp, and the Gauls managed a stunning victory, a rarity in our circles.
This report made it to the 223rd edition of "Slingshot", a bimonthly wargaming magazine brought out by the Society Of Ancients.
Zen and the art of Generalship
Somewhere high in the Alps, Autumn:General Mohanius sat in the lotus position and focused his attention as best as he could under the circumstances. The object of such intense meditation such as his was rather unremarkable - a stout wooden spear about five feet long, with an iron tip at one end. Variously called "Pilum", "Hasta" and "finger of Death" by Romans, Older Romans and newer Gauls respectively, Mohanius himself called this weapon "a problem worth solving".
A Roman by birth, Mohanius had grown up to become one of Rome's best commanders, and with characteristic style had rebelled against the armchair generals of the Senate. He had last led the Roman forces in a successful battle against the Gauls, and disappeared after the battle. Mohanius had only recently returned from his self imposed exile in the mystic mountains of the East, a place known to the more educated of the Gauls as the "abode of the Snow". Harsh life in the barren and freezing heights of the mountains had taught the General the valuable skill of meditation. On return from the mountains, he had put this newly earned skill to ample practice, much to the amazement of his new followers, the Gauls of the Alps.
On this occasion, his meditation lasted but for a few minutes in comparison to the otherwise lengthy hour long sessions which were more frequent. He opened his eyes, and with a smile on his lips asked the Gauls who waited for him : "Did thou not hear the rumble of the mighty wheels of time?" The Gauls understood this to be a rhetorical question and maintained their silence. A smile still flickering across his face, Mohanius summoned his aide and asked for his personal courier.
Somewhere in the British Isles, Early Winter: Charioteer Boiorix had hardly finished his morning tasks when the summons came. It was not uncommon for the Thane to summon him, but not this early and certainly not by sending a Chariot along to pick him up. If Boiorix was surprised by the summons, he did not show it. He certainly did not even blink when the Thane shared the news with him.
"As you know Boiorix(he did not), our Allies(which they weren't) and Cousins(which they were) across the Seas the Gauls have requested a favour of us." The Thane paused for effect, and observing none, chose to continue without any further ado. "The new Chief Thane Gauls, one Ravos Mohanius, has asked for a deal with us. He has offered *Roman* Armour in exchange for fully Ten Thousand fully equipped Chariots of ours."
Boiorix stood still, for he had a premonition of what was coming. "It pleases me", continued the Thane, "to note that you have *volunteered* to lead the contingent of Chariots to Gaul". Boiorix nodded and withdrew. Experience had taught him that there was no questioning the Thane's orders. He did not mind a trip across the Channel, nor a spot of fighting, but the Gauls were not the best company and they drank beer in the evenings, not tea.
What a strange language it was! Guttural Vowels matched by Rusty consonants...
Somewhere in the Plains near Lutetia, Onset of Spring:The Shadow Valley in the Alps was the traditional meeting and feasting ground for the alpine Gaelic tribes. The Chief Thane General Mohanius had called for a feast this year, and the air was thick with rumours of some grand plan of Mohanius's to "annoy and distress" the Romans. However, none of the rumours had prepared them for what they actually found arranged in neat lines in the meadows: thousands upon thousands of Chariots, manned by strangers wearing stranger garbs and talking in the strangest of tongues. Atop one of those stood Mohanius himself, who promptly ordered all of them aboard. The Gauls who clambered into Mohanius's chariot hear him talking in that strange language to the driver("What a strange language it was", opined one of the Gauls later on, "Guttural Vowels matched by Rusty consonants") They could catch two words very clearly "Taxi" and "Victory" But before they could think further about this, the Chariots gathered speed and they watched, spell bound by the fleeting terrain.
In the Roman town of Provensium, near the border with Lutetia, Early Summer: A pale faced Roman youth sat thinking in his seat in the balcony of the Governor's mansion. He had just finished an audience with the local soothsayer, and some of her predictions had been unnerving. The old crone had mumbled something about "the return of a wandering monk, calamities and sorrow". She had muttered that "barbarians, faster than the swiftest of Roman horse would trample the Sovereignty of Rome underfoot" which had left him puzzled.
His reverie was interrupted by the arrival of a servant who announced the arrival of a messenger for the military praetor. Moments later, the messenger himself strode in, saluted and blurted out: "Ave Manojius! word has just come from the border - Gaul is in Revolt!" The young praetor started and let out an involuntary whistle. Instincts told him that something was terribly terribly wrong in the State of Gaul.
Manojius acted with haste. Without waiting for his cavalry reinforcements to arrive, he set forth to Lutetia with his two legions and whatever auxiliaries he could muster. Some three units of Spaniards who were due for discharge after a lengthy service in Italian Wars were also pressed into service with offers of better pay and loot. The poor numbers of cavalry was worrying, for two reasons. The first being that Manojius himself was an infantry man and needed more cavalry per stratagem that was normal; The second being that Mohanius was a born Cavalier who tended to perform extremely well with less mounted troops than was normal. "But, I will improvise" said Manojius to himself as he set forth. He certainly would have to.
Redemption is my intention. Redemption for past associations, deeds and events. Karma."
Two days of forced marches later, the Roman army had reached the vicinity of Lutetia. already there were some fractures developing in the command chain. The most serious drawback was the little or no knowledge of Spanish the Legates had. Unfortunately for Rome, the Spanish speaking centurions had all been allocated elsewhere while the soldiers waited for discharge. To add to the woes, some of the Legates, one Titus albinus Longinus in particular had developed a severe distaste of the Spanish. Manojius grumbled, grunted and decided to press on. Entering Lutetia gave him a feeling of Deja Vu, though he could not finger exactly what caused it...
On the Calends of March, the Roman column camped near the foothills just outside Lutetia, just a few miles from where Mohanius sat in the lotus position and explained the principle of karma to the bewildered Gauls. "Redemption" He said, "is my intention. Redemption for past associations, deeds and events. Karma."
The War Within
The view from atop the hill was beautiful, if not encouraging. As Manojius watched from his vantage point atop a rock, the smooth green of the rolling Celtic plains was marred by some jarring sights - metal shining through, and wheels rolling through the meadows. The Gauls were assembling. The general noted that the Gaelic battle line was uncharacteristically thin, with far too many chariots than was customary. The Roman aristocrat in Manojius dismissed chariots as mere circus toys "they might amuse the people, but that is about all they can do". But there was a side of him which advised caution. Manojius knew that his opponent was far too crafty to be dismissed easily. In the end, he decided on a conservative plan. He would cover his flanks and hit the Gauls in the centre where the foot had amassed. The flanks would be held by the Roman cavalry on the left, and the Italian cavalry on the right under (Manojius cursed) Titus Longinus himself.
He gave the orders to deploy.
The mail shirt wouldn't have mattered much in unit level close combat; but an army had to prepare itself as best as it could, and there had to be discipline. Unfortunately, the first - and the only - disciplinary measure had to be the harshest
On his side of the field, Mohanius remained strangely calm while his army deployed. He had commanded Romans in battle before, and knew that the Gaelic infantry were no match for the Romans in a pitched fight, especially in open terrain. He had therefore decided to hold the less armoured of his foot in his centre until the Romans had been blooded by the chariots and cavalry. The plans had had been made with this and many other factors in mind. The instructions given. The chariots and cavalry would try to turn a flank, and prevent the Roman foot from reaching his, without themselves taking a beating first. He had personally seen to it that the best of his infantry were carried in chariots and wore mail shirts, something which raised a hue and cry among the more orthodox and wild of the Gauls. The protests ended only when Mohanius proved his point by pinning(no pun intended - scribe) the leader of the opposition to a tree in a pilum duel with himself wearing a mail shirt and the Gaul wearing none. "The mail shirt wouldn't have mattered much in unit level close combat," wrote Mohanius in his memoirs years later, "but an army had to prepare itself as best as it could, and there had to be discipline. Unfortunately, the first - and the only - disciplinary measure had to be the harshest" . Manojius himself came across this later on and said that he couldn't agree with it more.
The Gaelic skirmishers had been deployed ahead of the formation; they would go out first with the chariots packed with armoured foot and the cavalry. When everything had fallen into place, Mohanius ordered his cavalry and chariots forward. Most of them stood against the Roman right flank, and rolled forward without fear of any serious opposition. The centre of the Gaelic line was noticeable still. It remained stationary until later.
Join the Army, they said...
Legate Titus Longinus held his head high as he observed the hills seated on his horse, his whole Italian cavalry behind him. A land lubber and a farmer in civilian life, Longinus had been accorded the job of Legate by some thankful Senators whose cause he had financed during the Italian wars. After those costly mistakes, "equality" and terms like "Italian citizens of Rome" had become very fashionable, with people like Longinus riding the good will wave. His train of thought was interrupted by some sort of noise to the left. Longinus turned around to investigate. To his surprise, he saw the NCO of the Spanish Troops (whose flank he was on) was shouting something at him. "Senor! Senor! Stay close to the flanks! The Gauls are coming!" He said it in Spanish, and Longinus blinked. A lot of gibberish, coming from one so lowly as a trooper, a Spaniard to boot! He considered it beneath his dignitas to take notice and turned, ordering his troop forward. The shouting became more animated and frantic, as the hapless Spaniard tried to tell the Legate that the flank was not secure enough. But Longinus was soon out of shouting range, and the Gauls were getting within...
A few thousand feet away, seated in a fast moving chariot, Etix Ambiorix was enjoying every minute of the day. He and his friends were being treated to a good ride. In fact it was so engrossing that he and his friends failed to notice that they had drawn very close to their foe. Normally such an event would have elicited an instant charge from them. But as it happened, they finally rolled to a halt and the magic of the ride started to lift. After a few minutes of waiting, Ambiorix got restless. He tried talking to the driver and his mate, but it didn't work. Their sullen stares made him all the more irritated. "Can't you men *do* something? If not fight, then give us a ride, by Toutatis!" At which one of the Britons sneered and said to his colleague "An undisciplined lot, I must say. They could use a bit more of training at the schools".
Good Plans need Better Execution for the Best Results
Both sides had got off to a good start. Manojius had deployed what little cavalry he had on either flank, with his infantry lined up between them. The skirmishers had been sent out to cover their advance. Things were going more or less as planned. His flanks advanced a bit and held their positions, while his center tried to push forward...
... and to their surprise found that chariots, even fully loaded ones moved much faster than foot, proving this by reaching the hill to their front, and by passing the Roman right flank as if the Italian cavalry was non existent. This forced Legate Longinus to bring his troop to a screeching halt and he stood dazed as chariots milled about within charge distance of him. The Italians' duty was getting more and more perilous as they tried to cover their own flanks first.
The battle was suddenly going where Mohanius wanted it to go. Seeing the chariots do well, Mohanius sent his cavalry to try and turn the Roman flank while the chariots faced off the Romans and the Spanish auxiliaries.
Manojius was not unaffected by this new development. Rather he lost focus on his original plan. The security of the flank, coupled with the presence of such men as the Gauls and Longinus became the chief worry. When Manojius started focusing on the flanks, the advance in the center ground to a halt. Shouting at the top of his voice from as close as he could get, himself, Manojius ordered Longinus to retreat and plug the gap in the flanks. Longinus turned, scowled at the Spaniards(Manojius was surprised. Why was this man scowling at the Spaniards?) and retreated, but overstepped the limits - he fell in too far behind, leaving the flank of the Spanish unit exposed.
Before Manojius found time to react, the Gaelic cavalry had seized the position which was earlier occupied by the Italian cavalry. Swearing under his breath, Manojius realised his mistake and ordered the Triarii in as a back up for the flank. The Triarii marched at the double, but the events were developing too swiftly for them to arrive in time to be of any assistance. Meanwhile, the officers tried to get the Spaniards to wheel and cover their sides. Shouts, cries, yells, screams and several other primal noises emanated from both sides as the command tried to get the idea across. "Legate! Get them to wheel! Turn man! Wheel! I swear, by Mars...*****! Are you DEAF?" Finally, the language barrier was lowered enough for the Spaniards to understand. They started to wheel...
Things would have gone at the same pace or even slowed down had it not been for Ambiorix the Gaul. He had had enough of the Britons, the Romans and the Gauls around him. "Everybody was sitting so damned still!" Ambiorix had given up reasoning with the Briton. Now he took things into his own hand. Seizing the charioteers javelin, he jumped out of the chariot and flung it at the Spaniards...
General Mohanius was nearing the Chariots when the first javelin went flying. The spirit caught on and several hundred went flying in a matter of a few seconds. Most of them bounced off the locked shields of the enemy, but some did find their mark. Mohanius however was very angry. Spurring his horse into a gallop, he raced at Ambiorix who stood whooping with joy. Mohanius grabbed Ambiorix by his hair, kicked him in his stomach and threw him into the chariot like a bundle, all in one sweeping movement. Pulling his horse to a halt, Mohanius glared at his troops. "I swear by Belenos that I'll personally chop the head which as much thinks of disobeying my orders!". There were no more throwers.
Still looking murderous, Mohanius ordered his cavalry to go ahead with a flank charge. There was no point in wasting any more time.
Even as the Gaelic cavalry charged, the Triarii continued to march at the double towards the Roman flank. The advance in the center having long since stopped, the reserves were now being pulled to the flank. The hastati and principii stood waiting behind their skirmish screens, preparing for impact as chariots to their front on the hill started disgorging their deadly cargo.
As Mohanius stopped to watch his charge develop, Manojius was trying to do several things at the same time. And it became despite his optimism that the battle was beginning to end...
That the Gaelic cavalry charge had found its mark was made evident by the horrendous thud which came when horse and man clashed in a tangle of metal, leather and flesh. Longinus watched stunned as the charged passed the front of his unit, a reserve unit of Gaelic cavalry waiting for him to do something. The Spaniards buckled, broke and routed. The fleeing Spaniards caught glimpses of the passengers spilling out from the Chariots yelling their war cry which could be heard above the din. In the far distance, every single Gaelic unit was being ordered into the attack by Mohanius...
As their right flank ruptured, the whole Roman army started to give way. The chariots now stood empty, their passengers fighting battles on their own. Fighting back was impossible for most roman units. The Triarii held their ground for a while before being crippled and overwhelmed.Longinus was de horsed and captured. This was one Prisoner the Romans would not negotiate for, said the fleeing Spaniards.
The disaster was complete. Manojius managed to extricate barely half of his army, minus all of his Italian cavalry, most of his Spanish troops and many of the heavy infantry units. For Mohanius, the end had proved a concept of war which he had been thinking about for ages. The exile in the mystic mountains had done him well intellectually as well as spiritually.