Monday, December 17, 2018

Conquest! Rome in Italy: Battle Report- Forced Recon in Samnium

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.

Conquest! Rome in Italy is a derivative of the Men of Bronze engine with special rules and units to help match the flavor of combat in ancient Italy. These rules cover a long period of time fromt eh founding of Rome until the Pyrrhic Wars. The rules are still a Work-in-Progress, but those familiar with Men of Bronze will have a general idea of the rules being used here. Since I ma int eh testing phase, behold my amazing paper template armies in action!

You can read all about a previous battle of the Great Samnite War here.

Rome had a three part strategy to contain the threat of the threat of the Samnites.

  1. Isolate them them from their potential allies
  2. Colonize deep into their territory
  3. Beat them on the battlefield

As part of this strategy, the Romans had to establish and build colonies deep in Samnite territory. Naturally, the Samnites did not appreciate this move to enter their territory. When possible, they would raid and attack these settlements. Roman troops would try to drive them away and secure the settlements. Many such battles will be lost to history as they were not recorded, but if Rome's settlements were destroyed, her three part strategy to defeat the Samnites would be for nothing.

Today's battle will be a Roman column coming to defend a settlement but the Samnite have all ready ransacked it and are waiting for them.


2 Hastati
1 Principe
1 Drilled Hoplite
1 Skirmisher


2 Drilled Infantry- Pila
2 Warband Infantry
2 Velites


This is a Recon-In-Force scenario. The Romans are the Attackers and trying to find survivors from the Samnite raid in the ruins of the settlement. There are six counters on the board, some are even and some are odd. The Romans are trying to touch and reveal 2 even number tokens of the 6. The Samnites are going to try to stop them. They have 8 turns.

The Set-up:
The Romans are lined up with the skirmishers on their right in a grove of trees. Then the Principes, Triarri, and the Hastati on the Roman Left. The Samnites are lined up with velites on their left across from the Roman Skirmishers. Then both units of drilled infantry, then the warband infantry, followed by the rest of the Velites.

The ruins are difficult terrain, and the fields are not.

The board has several ruins and 6 counters scattered near the middle. These counters are the objectives. The Romans want to hold two even ones by the end of the 8th turn.

Turn 1:
The Samnites generate 6 Honor points to the Roman 5. Neither side bids to go first. The Romans win the roll off.

The Roman skirmishers use an Honor Point to move through the difficult terrain of the grove as skirmishers. There is a general advance across the Roman battle line, but none of the units form Legion.

On the Samnite side, the same general advance occurs.

Turn 2:
This time, the Romans bid 1 to go first. They are unopposed by the Samnites.

Immediately, the Roman skirmishers rush forward and reveal an objective. It is a five, they find nothing of value in the ruins. The Hastati see the Velites on their side of the battle line lurking near an objective by the groves, and they form a Legion unit and advance. The second Hastati stays in open order as they approach the ruins in the center of the board. The Principes also form legion and advance seeing the Samnite horde across from them. The Triarri move to back them.

The Samnites do not attempt to interrupt. Samnite Velites use an Honor Point to skirmish up into the ruins to deny it to the Roman skirmishers. Meanwhile, the Drilled and Warband infantry continue their advance, they are not going to let the Romans claim any more easy objectives. The last Velites stay camped near the final Objective and wait for the Roman Hastati to come for it.

Turn 3:
Again, neither side bids to go first, and the Romans win the roll-off.

The Romans press forward, led by their legion of Principes. The triarri move behind them and form up at a slight angle, moving to secure the large ruins the Samnite Velites are in. The Skirmishers just consolidate around their objective, not wishing to engage the enemy forces yet. The Hastati also advance, with the loose formation lagging behind the formation in Legion.

The Samnites have their Velites secure their position in the Large ruins and the grove on their right, safely defending Objectives with their missile fire. Meanwhile, the Warband infantry press into the center ruins to deny easy objectives and possible secure flank positions. Finally, one of the Drilled Infantry units steps forward to challenge the Principes.

Turn 4:
The Romans are running out of time. They will need to move quicker to secure some Objectives. Again, neither sides bids to go first, but the Samnites win the foll-off. They are in no rush to move into Roman charge range. The Samnites make some slight adjustments to their lines, as time is on their side. They are content to let the Romans come to them!

The Romans grimace and move forward, they know time is against them and they are moving into the Samnites attack range. The real battle is about to start.

Turn 5:
The Samnites bid 2 to the Roman 0. They will be going first.

They start by declaring a charge with their Drilled Infantry who are also using a Pila attack on the Principe. The Principes decide to counter-charge and Pila attack as well. The Romans lose one Courage, but completely route the Drilled Infantry in the process. The Romans then try to steal the Initiative, but fail. However, a flank charge in support by the Samnite Warband also hits the Principes and reduces them another Courage and forces them to be disordered. However, they will also be routed with the Drilled Infantry.

The Velites on the right fall back into the woods, while the Velites on the right charge into the Roman Skirmishers. The Skirmishers try to evade, but it is not far enough. The fighting pushes the skirmishers back and causes the Romans to fall into disorder. However, both sides took casualties.

The Roman Hastati charge the warband infantry in the center ruins. However, the terrain forces them out of Legion formation. The Samnite warriors manage to push back the young Romans and cause 1 Courage loss.

The Roman Triarri keep marching to their objective, as do the Hastati on the Roman left. The Samnite Velites melt before their approach.

The remaining Samnite Drilled infantry passes their morale check after seeing their comrade defeated by the Roman Principes.

Turn 6:
With their loses, the Samnites only generate 4 Honor Points to the Roman 5. The Romans need to recover their Principes before they get charged and bids 3 Honor points. The Samnites also bid 3. The Samnites win the roll-off.

The Samnite Drilled Infantry immediately declare a charge which will use their Pila. The Romans are disordered and can not spend Honor Points to Counter-Charge or use their own Pila this time. It is a bloody fight in the center. The Principes are pushed back and the Triarri behind them get caught up in the melee as well.

The Samnite Velites and the Roman skirmisher continue to battle to a stalemate in the edge of the ruins.

The Hastati in the center ruins and the Samnite Warband are at a standstill with neither side gaining the advantage.

Finally, the Hastati on the Roman left manage to charge into the Velites in the woods and push them back. The Velites took two Courage loss and the Romans none. However, the Romans are no longe rin Legion due to the terrain.

Turn 7:
With everyone in melee, both sides hold on to their Honor Points for re-rolls and the like. Samnites win the roll-off.

The battle turns for the Samnites as the Drilled Infantry in the Center manages to put the main Roman force to rout! The Principes and Triarri decide to run for it in the confusion of the battle. The Samnite Velites also manage to rout the Roman Skirmishers.

Meanwhile, the battle in the center ruins and continues to be a stalemate. However, on the Roman left, the Hastati are whittling away the Samnite Velites to secure the objective. Next turn they should have it.

The Hastati units pass their Collapse test.

Turn 8- Final Turn:
The Samnites have 4 Honor Points and the Romans 2. The Samnites bid 1 to go first and win the initiative.

The Drilled Infantry and Velites on the Samnite left try to swing around to support their colleagues. However, they will not get their in time to make a difference.

On the Roman Left, the Hastati route the Velites!. They mange to find some Roman colonists hiding in the woods. That is one even objective!

In the center, it is a stalemate again. The Roman Hastati have been denied their objective there. That's the game. The Samnites have won the battle, but at a terrible cost.

The Samnites won. However, I am still unsure if the Roman Legion rules are overpowered or not. When the Principes routed the Samnite Drilled Infantry in one round by dealing 5 Courage loss to 1 Courage lost in return, I was a bit nervous. However, the additional flank charge and managing to disorder them to lose the legion rules really mattered. To break a unit in Legion, the Pila rule is a must.

I also learned that the Samnites must make use of terrain in a defensive manner to boost their own Armor ratings and to deny the Romans their Legion rules. They also have to make use of the flanking and support attacks. If they do that, they can beat the Romans as they greatly improve their own sticking power.

In this scenario, time was not on the Roman's side. The Samnites had the luxury of delay and stalling, while the Romans did not. They had to move aggressively, and that allowed the Samnites to set the terms of the battle. Overall, a good time.

Perhaps next time I play Conquest! Rome in Italy I will try out some of the other army lists such as Etruscans vs Romans? The Etruscans did get involved in the Great Samnite War as allies of the Samnites. We will have to wait and see what happens.


  1. Hi Eric. This looks like a really smart idea and I will follow with interest. I've just brought some Victrix Samnites and wasn't quite sure what to do with them so will eagerly wait for further news on this project.

    1. I think I am going to get some of those Victrix Samnites too!

  2. Hi Eric,
    I am very interested in your wargame "men of bronze" since I was looking for a long time for a skirmish game on Greeks and Romans.
    therefore I am even more interested in this Roman version.
    It would be great to have specific lists also on Gauls (with gaesati and chariots), Etruscans, Apulians, Aequi and volsci (in other wargames named as hill tribes) Syracusans and Carthaginians (and Thessalians for men of bronze, of course).
    just one note: attention to the names, the velites are only Romans!!! :-)
    I will follow with great attention and interest.

    1. Excellent comments.

      I do have some basic lists for the Apulian, Aequi, and Volsci but I pretty much just lump them all into Italic Tribes or Rival City-States such as the Capuans. Etruscans were a must as were the Gauls. When you read the semi-legendary accounts of these ancient battles the authors make them sound very grand as if they are from the later Roman era... but I can't shake the feeling that they were actually little more than cattle raids and low level skirmishing. LOL. Therefore I feel like the Men of Bronze "scale" of units is a better fit than Heirs to Empire's "scale".

      As far as Velites, you are absolutely correct. The term is purely a Roman one. However, in my rules it is an abstract term for semi-professional skirmisher unit with a bit of armor... sort of like a Greek Peltast. When possible, I try to use generic unit types to make army building a bit easier.

      Also, it is interesting you mention the Carthaginians as I have been doing a lot of research on them recently. These rules end at the Pyrrhic Wars so do not have much on the Carthaginians, but I am tempted to make a set of rules focused on the Carthaginians and their enemies instead of the usual Punic Wars stuff. A different perspective if you will.

  3. Hi Eric,
    Thank you for your quick reply. I hope you will excuse me for my bad English.
    I perfectly agree with you: the first battles of the Romans were little more than raids. The story of the Fabi at the river Cremera makes it very clear.
    Even the clashes with Volsci and Equi had to be very similar. Therefore I also think that a skirmish game is perfect for these clashes.
    As for the velites, I understand what you say (and I imagined it was), but I personally would try another term: "velites" is really too specific, I would prefer a psiloi or similar elite. my opinion obviously.
    I really liked the idea that you wrote about rival cities like Capua: a band from the latter would be a wonderful mix of elite cavalry, "Greek style" hoplites and light bell infantry (Samnite).
    Finally, according to my personal opinion, in this expansion for the Roman conquest of Italy, I would see well:
    - Romans
    - Etruscans
    - Celts
    - hill tribes (volsci, aequi, hernici)
    - Greeks of the Italiote cities (Taranto and others)
    - apuli and messapii (I would distinguish them for the high number of light and heavy cavalry)
    - Samnites and similar peoples: with some specific units and limited number where needed, for example hoplites for Lucanians and Campanians.
    - A list for the Ligurians would be nice too. Even today, I understand that not much is known about the warrior style of this people. However, a good list had been made in the supplement on Hannibal by Warhammer Ancient Battle, also thanks to a student I met (Federico Frasson) who had done research and then obtained a doctorate on them. The list had a fantasy flavour, but it was very characteristic.
    Last but not least.
    The pyrarian wars, the greeks and punic wars and the first Punic war would also be very interesting. the different perspective that you propose would make it even more interesting.
    A curiosity if possible: what do you mean by warband for the Samnites? Usually the term warband is used for Celts and similar troops, while for sannitis and other italics a generic category of light or medium infantry is used. how do you use this term?

    thank you
    and good job.
    For now I will attend april for Men of Bronze with curiosity and many expectations.

    1. Dang! You clearly know your stuff!

      I found it rather difficult to get much info on the militaries for the enemies of Rome and they required much more extrapolation and educated guessing. If you have some sources in English I could look at it would be much appreciated!

  4. Unfortunately, it is a subject that has been little discussed and studied.
    To start, you'll be able to suggest it:
    Duncan head, armies of Macedonian and punic wars
    Ivo fossati, gli eserciti etruschi (it has English translate At the bottom of the volume)
    Connolly, Greece and Rome at war
    Salmon, samnites

  5. That looks great! If this period really interests you, may I suggest that you read 'Early Roman Warfare' by Jeremy Armstrong - absolutely backs up the thing about early Roman warfare being all about small-scale raiding and personal booty. Also proposes the theory (common among current historians, apparently) that Rome never used a traditional Greek-style phalanx and that the manipular formation evolved from when the clan-based war band armies began recruiting from the Roman populace in the early 4th century. It's a compelling argument and has convinced me! It also proposes that the early Roman civic militia (the very earliest version of citizen hastati and principles) would have used dual-purpose spears and javelins, gradually taking on various early types of weighted pilum-type things as these became more common in Italy during the 4th century BC. It also proposes that, in the 4th century BC, the troops that later evolved into Triarii would have been the clan nobles fighting with long spears in hoplite gear, but in a quite individualistic 'heroic' style common in Greece prior to everyone taking up the phalanx idea.Thus early manipular tactics involved a range of units in a range of armour and weaponry, in quite informal 'dense cloud' formations akin to early Spanish fighting styles. It really is a very good and compelling read and might help with your ideas for this period for your rules. Good luck!

    1. Interesting. Non-academic resources on this period are hard to come by! I will see if I can track it down and give it a read. Thank you.

      One of the terrors of writing historical rules is someone always knows way more about it than you. however, it is great when they teach it to you.