The Roman forces faced a humiliating defeat at the Caudine Forks in 316 BC. Despite this defeat, the Samnites were the ones to be unsettled. The Romans were incensed to fight on to regain their honor. However, the prospect of continuing the war took time and the “Caudine Pax” took hold. Despite an official peace, the war still boiled around the edges.
In 315 BC the war started in earnest again. He war raged on until 304 BCE. During this time, the Roman army evolved from the Phalanx formation into the Manipular Army of the Triplex Acies. There were any number of battles and skirmishes between the two sides and their allies. Besides local Italian tribes and city-states, the Etruscans also became embroiled in the war between 312-308 BCE. It was a Pan-Italian conflict. The winner would be poised to control northern and central Italy.
The battle here is to represent one of the many forgotten or ill-documented battles between the Samnites and Romans during this timeframe.
I will be using some standard armies from the Triplex Acies and Samnite lists. These exact lists are found in the Sample Armies section of the book. This was a small scale action and we will be playing on the edges of Samnium. The two armies met as the Romans were maneuvering to besiege a Samnite city, and the Samnites have gotten the drop on them.
1 Drilled Hoplite
2 Drilled Infantry- PIla
2 Warband Infantry
Both sides have 38 points.
This battle will be on a 6x4 board with each corner having the difficult terrain famous in Samnium. It will be using the Attack at Dawn complication. The set-up will be a Surprise Assault mission with the Samnites acting as the attackers.
The Romans deployed in the center in marching column. The vanguard were the skirmishers followed by the Hastati, then the Principes, and the Triarri in the rearguard. They were all in loose formation for the march. Suddenly, warning cries went up from the lead officers. The Samnites had been sighted the dim, early morning light.
The way had been blocked by experienced Samnite drilled infantry, supported by Velites in the difficult terrain. On the right flank appeared the Samnite warband, Drilled, and the second Samnite warband. On the opposite flank a unit of Samnite Velites appeared to threaten any stragglers.
The Samnites want to keep the Romans penned in, while the Romans wish to punch through and off the board. Let’s see what happens.
Both sides are distributed their Honor Points. The Romans have 5 to the Samnite 6. The Samnites bid 1 for Initiative and the Romans 0.
A unit of Samnite Velites use an Honor Point to Skirmish and rush through the woods to try to flank the head of the Roman column. The rest of the Samnite force closes in on the Romans, who seem content to let the Samnite forces go about their business without trying to interrupt. The last Samnite velites rush forward eager to do a move and shoot, but they are out of range.
With that, the Romans are free to activate and not have to worry about Samnites responses. The skirmishers move forward cautiously and fan out into a skirmish screen to slow any quick Samnite attacks to the fore. The Hastati peel off and move away from the main Samnite attack, while the Principes turn to face the Velites and form Legion. The Triarri swing in behind the Roman forces and form into their Phalanx wall to hold off the approaching Samnite warriors while the rest move to escape.
Both sides pick-up their new Honor Points, and think about their plans. The Samnites bid 2, while the Romans bid 3 for Initiative. The Romans only have 2 left, and the Samnites 4.
The Romans begin by throwing in an Honor Point to charge with the Principes into the Velites. The Velites could Evade for an Honor Point, but the Samnites decide they are too close and that it would not help their situation. Since the Principes are in Legion, the Velites only real hope it to not die instantly! The hope pans out as they hold, but are wavering with 1 Courage point left.
The Samnites decide to spend an Honor Point to try to interrupt the Romans. However, the Romans win the roll off and continue activating. The Hastati continue their flight from the board, while the Skirmish screen gives them cover. The Triarri kneel down and plant their shields in the ground, daring the Samnites to come for them.
The Samnite Velite futily try to fight the Principes, but it is pointless. The main Samnite battle line closes in on the Triarri cautiously so they can laubch the charge instead of receive it. The Samnite warriors at the head of the column close in, but can not keep up. Finally, the last velite use an Honor Point to Skirmish to leave the woods, and then move and shoot to eliminate the Roman Skirmishers. Instead, they are reduced 2 Courage and are wavering.
Both sides get their Honor Points, 5 Roman and 6 Samnite. The Samnites bid 4 to the Romans who bid 3. The Samnites must speed bump the fleeing Roman troops so their heavier elements can catch up.
They start by having their lead Samnite Warriors declare a charge into the wavering Skirmishers. The Roman skirmishers are quickly routed and turned about.
The Romans spend an Honor Point and try to interrupt. The Romans win the roll-off and take control of the Initiative. They use their last point to form Legion on one of the Hastati units. Both units push towards the board edge and safety. Next turn they will escape unless something happens.
The Principes finish routing the Samnite Velites. The way will be clear for them to escape. Meanwhile the Triarri continue to hold the center.
The Samnites are now back in control of the turn as all the Roman units have been activated. Their flanking Velites will not longer have a soft Hastati target to speed bump as they managed to form Legion. They can only slow them with melee. The Samnites use their last Honor Point to charge the Hastati in the Flank. They have 7 attack dice, and need 4 to cause a Courage loss. If the dice are lucky they can do it. However, the dice are not lucky. However, they do tie them up in combat and will keep them on the board.
In the End of the turn, the Roman Skirmishers and a unit of Samnite Velites are removed as routed. Only the Samnites could see their Velites rout, but all units in LOS passed their Discipline Check.
This time the Romans get 4 Honor and the Samnites 5. Both armies lost a unit. The Samnites MUST catch the Romans! The Romans bid all 4 Honor Points to escape, while the Samnites do not bid any since they need Honor Points to launch charges.
Romans activate first. The Principes march to the board edge in their Legion formation. The second Hastati unit makes it off the board edge. The Samnites do not interrupt. The Hasati engaged witht eh Velites attack them. The Velites are reduced to 2 Courage and are waivering. One more turn and they will be routed. The Triarri stand firm.
The Samnites declare charges across the board. However, two of the units fail to connect and end up wavering. However, Samnites warriors swarm the Triarri in the center. However, some bad Samnite attack rolls leave them only reduced 1 Courage!
The Samnite Velite fail to scratch the Hastati, and they are pushed back the maximum amount! The Hastati and Velite combat is at the very board edge.
If the Principes or Hastati escape the board this turn, the game is over! The Romans collect 3 Honor Points and the Samnites 5. The Samnites bid 4 to make sure they get to control the initiative. The Romans are wise to this plan, and choose to bid none in case they need the re-rolls or interrupts.
A Samnite Warband manages to catch up to the Principes in the rear. However, because they were wavering they could not use the last Samnite Honor Point to charge. They simply moved to contact and tied the Romans up.
On the other side, if the Samnite warriors move in they will be supporting the all ready weakened Velites and risk routing with them. However, without their help the Hastati will easily rout the Velites and escape. They also move into contact and support the Velites with a rear attack, so +4 dice! However, no Charge bonuses since they could not use the Honor Point as they too were wavering.
The Velites attack the Hastati with the Samnite Drilled infantry in support! They use the last Samnite Honor Point to re-roll an Attack dice. They only score 3 hits, not enough to cause a Courage loss to a unit in Legion! Man, the Pila rules or a charge would have been helpful there, but the Wavering made it a moot point!
In the Center, the Samnites battle with the Triarri. There the Samnites reduce them another Courage down to 3, but they pass a Discipline check. The Romans take back over and start with a Triarri counter-attack! The Romans have a bad roll, and contemplate using Honor Points as re-rolls, but decide to hold onto them until the important fights!
The Hastati manage to break the Velites and cause them and their supporting Samnite Drilled Infantry to Rout! That was the danger of having the Velites be supported by the Samnites!
Finally, the Principes fight with the Samnite wraband that moved to attack them in the rear! Here the Romans use 2 Honor Points to re-roll misses. The Samnites lose 2 and are wavering.
In the End phase, the Samnite Units that were routing were removed. In addition, the Triarri are pushed back as are the Samnite Warband.
The Romans get 3 Honor Points, to the Samnite 3. There is nothing the Samnites can do to stop the Romans from winning the battle. Therefore, the Samnites bid 0, and the Romans bid 1.
The Roman Hastati unit moves off the board! That means 16 points have succeed in leaving the board and the Romans have won! However, we decide to play out the last two battles for fun.
The Roman Principes dismantle the Samnite Warband they are fighting and cause them to rout!
The Triarri counter-attack the Samnites and reduce the Drilled infantry 2 Courage, but lose another Courage point themselves. They are again pushed back but stay in the fight.
The Roman forces were able to skillfully withdraw from the Samnites trap. They were able to maneuver deeper into Samnium, and the Samnites withdrew before them. This gave the Romans the space they needed to construct a fortified camp in which to harass the Samnites in their own territory. The strategy to slowly encircle and cut-off the Samnites from potential allies was working.
I expected the Romans to turn and come at my lines. I did not expect them to flee the opposite table edge! My initial Samnite deployment was heavy on one flank, and the lone Velites on the opposite side were to take opportunistic rear/flank charges. The Romans turning towards them and charging them instead my main force did not cross my mind. I was really lucky to catch up and make a game of it at all!
One of the key things I wanted to determine was if the Legion rules were too strong. After this game, I am not sure. Velites were unable to even scratch the Romans in Legion, and I am not sure this is bad. My Legion busting rules like “Pila” never came into play due to lack of Honor Points, Wavering, or the wrong units being able to engage. I was not able to “crack” a Principe or Hastati Legion, but I also wasn’t using the right tools for the job once it became a matter of catching up with them first.
The Romans only “lost” their Skirmishers and took damage to a unit that uses Phalanx instead of the Legion rules. The Samnites lost 2 Velites, 1 Drilled Infantry , and 1 Warband Unit. On paper, it looks like a pretty lopsided Roman victory with the Legion rules being overpowered. However, the reality is my opponent just out played me. I was constantly on the horns of a dilemma with the Samnites while the Roman path was clear and straight forward. So, in the final analysis I was outplayed in this scenario and it does not necessarily mean I need to re-work the Legion rules. I will need to playtest further to know for sure.
I tweaked a couple of Stat line here and there to fit the timeframe a bit better. Those should be in the new Conquest! Rome in Italy rules now. I am unsure how long they will be up on the blog, so it you are interested you might want to grab them now.
If you have tried the rules and know more about this topic than me, I would love to hear your thoughts on the Messageboard Here.