Thursday, 21 April 2011

The Dacians take on the might of Rome

Tonight I took my newly painted Dacian army for its first walk on the park. They faced the might of Rome - and while my strategy had been developed with the Marian Roman army in mind (heavy with legionaries), my opponent instead opted for the Early Imperial Romans (legionaries and auxiliaries).*

I fielded a Dacian list heavy with foot troops opting for the dismounted general (4Wb), 6 warbands (3Wb), 2 elements of falxmen (3Bd), two skirmishers (2Ps), and an element of light cavalry (3Cv). The Romans fielded 5 elements of legionaries (4Bd) including their general, 4 elements of auxiliaries (4Ax), one element of cavalry (3Cv), one light horse (2LH), and an element of ballistae (Art).

The Romans were the aggressors and deployed their foot in columns between the woods on his right and a steep hill on his left. His cavalry and light horse deployed beyond the hill (out of command) on his extreme left. I straddled the steep hill in my centre using the following deployment:

[2Ps] [3Bd] [4Wb(g)#] [ 3Bd] [3Wb] [3Wb#] [3Wb#] [2Ps] [2LH]

(The Warbands marked with # were supported in the rear by a second Wb element)

The first few bounds were both sides well supplied with PIPs so both armies moved forward to clear the bad going in their deployment zones. The Roman general formed a line with his ballistae in his centre and auxiliaries supported by blades on his right and blades supported with auxiliaries (and his general) on his left. The Roman cavalry (Cv and LH) charged clear of the hill and menaced the Dacian right flank as the warbands and skirmishers marched down from the steep hill.

The Dacians general continued to advance clearing the bad going and recovering the cohesion of his original deployment. The only exception was that the skirmishers on the Dacian right fell back to protect the flank of the advancing warbands, while the clearly outmatched Dacian light horse (facing the Roman Cv and LH) charged across the enemy's front to seek some tactical advantage on the Dacian left wing.

The Dacian general's plan was to use his own warband (with another warband providing rear support) flanked by falxmen as the hammer to punch a hole in the Roman legionaries facing his left flank. On the Dacian right, a pair of warbands (again with two more in support) would similarly seek to punch through the Roman legionaries to their front. Light horse and skirmishers were to protect the flanks and limit the extension of the Roman line (particularly to the Dacian left).

The Roman general sent his light horse in pursuit of the redeployed Dacian light horse (see above). While doing so, the light horse blocked the arc of fire of the ballistae – shielding the Dacian line for a turn. The Dacian general took advantage of this lull in the ballista fire to begin his final advance to a point about 400 paces from the Roman line. His warbands began to chant and roar at the steely eyed legionaries to their front - this was the point of no return! Meanwhile, the Roman light horse had neutralised the advantage of the Dacian light horse allowing a unit of legionaries to extend the line on the Roman right (below). The Dacian general knew that he had to win in the centre to neutralise the Roman advantage on his flanks.

At this point the Dacian line advanced to within 200 paces of the Romans suffering only an the occasional disruption of the line by the returning ballista fire. At this moment, the Roman general, sensing the threat the falxmen posed to his ballistae, advanced his right and left flanks to contact – seizing the initiative. His two flanks were overlapped in the centre by the falxmen – the legionaries unable to fill the gap left by the ballistae – and, despite relentless shower of bolts raining down upon them, they held firm. The Dacians general knew this was his opportunity to grasp the advantage (see below)

The legionaries on the Roman left pushed the Dacian warbands back from their defensive line – although one warband stood firm cutting down the auxiliaries they faced. At this moment the battle hung in the balance. All eyes turned to the Dacian left would they hold? Could the Dacian general and his warriors hold their line against the determined Roman advance?

If the Roman general could look, at that moment, through the eyes of the carrion birds overhead, he would have seen his line crash into the Dacian left ... hold ... then falter. A counter-charge by the Dacian general and his warbands destroyed the auxiliaries to their front and charged to contact the legionaries supporting them. With this advantage gained, the falxmen to their left cut a bloody swathe through the auxiliaries they faced. The Roman right was definitively repulsed! The Dacian falxmen to the right of their general seized the opportunity to penetrate deep into the gap between the Roman flanks and fall upon the ballistae – their terrible curved falxes made short work of the crews allowing them to seize and neutralise these engines of war.

All momentum lost, the Roman flanks received one last final charge by the Dacian warbands – and before the result was known on the right, the Romans facing the Dacian left collapsed with an element of legionaries decimated by the general's warbands (see below). The collapse led to a rout – the Dacians took the field and, no doubt, exacted a bloody revenge upon the fleeing Romans.

So ended the maiden battle of my Dacians – a 4-1 victory in about 8 bounds. I could not have been happier with the result. The hammer blow of the supported 4 Wb general flanked by the two elements of falxmen was sufficient to bring about the collapse of the Roman line. However, much of this success hinged on the security provided to the flanks by terrain initially, and then by the the skirmishing troops as the warbands charged to contact. One wonders how they would fare against the Marian Romans - but that is another day and another battle!

* I was too consumed by the game to photograph it - so here I have reproduced key moments in the battle after the fact (NB: had to use a 3Cv gen. as I lacked a fifth blade element - it never came into contact so the element type is immaterial).

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