Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Battle of Bibracte 58 BC Deployment decription and 2 replays

I started off replaying the Battle of Callinicum 533 AD with 11 rule sets on a 2'x2' board, switched to Zama for 3 rules (Zama was not great for a small table) and the most recent was the Battle of Heraclea 278BC with 14 rules (links to replays at this blog page).  I still have some more rules to try out and was looking for historical battle with not too many troop types and had Gauls/Celts/early Germans.

I was looking at Bibracte and did some research and set the figures up for 12 months to play the game.  I decided that Bibracte was not the battle I was looking for (Sentinum 295BC is the choice at the moment). So this post is a combined detailed scenario description and 2 replays (around the 20th) using my Ancient Battlelines Clash rules.

Internet Sources
There are the internet sources I found quite easily to help on replaying the battle.

Scaling the troops
Armed with the potential numbers of the different types of troops present at Bibracte, I could start to convert this into possible units for the replays.  While the Roman numbers are documented, the number of Gauls in Caesars’ account is in the hundreds of thousands.  I have gone with Sabin’s Lost Battles discussion that estimates around 50,000 for the Gauls.  The less the better.  Going by the actual numbers, and trying scale it down to manageable unit sizes, I used a first cut scale of about 700-1000 soldiers equals 1 figure.

6 Legions each 4000 -5,000 soldiers = figures or  6-8 figures each or  2 bases per legion (4 figures per base)
4000 allied Gallic cavalry = 6 figures or 2 bases (3 figures per base)
An unknown number of light infantry so will just assume a few thousand and 1 base.

Using Lost Battles as guide sees:
50,000-ish warband infantry = 50-70ish figures or  about 20 bases (3 figures per base)
4000-ish cavalry = 6 figures or 2 bases (3 figures per base)

Troop Definitions
General troop definitions to assist with converting to the various rules.

8 Legion bases: Heavy Infantry, close order, partial armour, pila, sword, shield
4 Fresh legion bases: Heavy Infantry, close order, partial armour, pila, sword, shield, poor at melee and/or poor morale.
2 Allied Gallic cavalry bases:  Heavy Cavalry, loose order, unarmoured, spear, shield, poorer at melee than the Helvetii cavalry
1 Light Infantry base: Light Infantry, loose order, unarmoured, javelin, shield

20 Warbands: Medium Infantry, loose order, unarmoured, javelin, shield
2 cavalry bases:  Heavy Cavalry, loose order, unarmoured, spear, shield

Warbands could be “light infantry” depending on how the rules classify the Gallic warriors.  I have left it as medium infantry to show they are not quite as heavy as the legionaries, but heavier than the roman light infantry allies.

The number of bases may vary depending on the rules.  The 20 bases would be 10 wide and 2 ranks deep and this would work fine with rules such as Armati, DBM and Impetus.  I may have to change the Helvetii base deployment to suit the rules I am testing.

I nearly gave up when I got to deployment  I realised (I think I was in denial up to this stage) that the battles starts with the Helvetii charging the Romans up hill, retreating to another hill, some allies coming to help and finally breaking.  How was I actually going to recreate all of that?  But then I noticed that all the replays and scenarios only recreate the first bit – the Helvetii attacking.   So I will go with that.  If I was running this as a one off scenario, I would introduce some rules about reforming routed warbands on a far hill etc., but as that would likely rely on the specific rules in use. I am going with only the first part of the battle.

By going with only the first part of the entire battle, I could go with either the the Lost Battles interpretation of the deployment with the Helvetii attacking across a river, or the more traditional (e.g. Dupuy) attacking from one hill to another with the river on the flank. The river does appear specifically in the account and does not feature as having any impact on the battle. I will go without the river between the starting positions of the Helvetii and the Romans.  I will also, as it saves a turn, go with the Helvetii already moving off their hill and ready to attack the Romans uphill.  If not, there is a good case if acting on behalf of the Helvetii player to just sit on their hill and await the Roman attack.

Lastly, the newly raised Gallic legions and Caesar's light troops may or may not have been involved in the actual battle.  I will put them as guarding the camp but "uncontrolled" to borrow an Armati term. Uncontrolled units cannot be ordered but can react if units get close (e.g. they are charged).  I will try wherever possible to utilise the rules within the rulesets I use to achieve this effect.

It boils down to a quite simple game of warbands Vs the legions, with a bit of cavalry on either flank.

Standard deployment - Gauls at the top, Romans at the bottom.

Replays with Ancient Battlelines Clash
I played two games with my rules.  In the first game, the warbands got cleaned up, but I released after the game that I had devalued the Gallic warbands too much after my last rules clean up in September 2014.  They went down a combat factor in September 2014 due to being classed a slow fortitude.  That was not the intent, but that's what occurred.  So I played another one fixing the Gallic warbands.  I also noted that a +1 factor for being uphill will make the uphill units invincible from similar troops downhill. I changed the rules so that uphill applied only if you are not high fortitude.

The ABC game troops
For ABC, the units translate as follows:

The Heavy Cavalry are all auxiliary cavalry
The Warbands: battle infantry, warbands, low fortitude (Game 2 I removed the low fortitude)
Veteran legions: battle infantry, some missile protection, high fortitude, line relief
New legions: battle infantry, some missile protection, low fortitude, line relief
Light infantry: auxiliary infantry.

New legions and light infantry are uncontrolled and will only react to enemy actions.

Note:  I have come round to the fact that Gauls/Celts would not really be loose order and so in the September 2014 revision I treat them as heavy infantry. I made Gauls low fortitude battle infantry, while Germans would be average fortitude but this had the unintended consequence of lower the combat value of the Gauls by 1.  So I played a second game with them no longer as brittle.  

Game 1



ABC Deployment
As per the previous diagram:

Gauls on the left, Romans on the right.
It may be an interesting game - the Romans will be uphill (+1 advantage) and they are also high fortitude Vs the Gauls low fortitude).  But there are two lines of Gauls....

The Game
Gauls move first and simply charge at the Romans.

The Gallic horde about to contact the thin red line.
The lines clash.  Warbands will be at -2 (low fortitude Vs high, Romans are up hill but Warbands get the +2 for the first contact). Three Gallic units rout, one retreats, the rest are disordered.  But most Romans are disordered as well.  Those that routed have there place filled by the rear unit.  But still not good for the Gauls.

End of the first clash, thinning out the Gauls/  Grey Javelins are disordered markers.
Disordered Romans Vs disordered Warbands are at +3 combat advantage.  In the Roman turn a few more Gallic units rout.

Gaps are appearing in the Gaul battleline.  Romans stand firm.
In the Gaul's turn lots more warband units disappear.  The combat factor difference is too great so the Romans will never rout.  Also the Romans are not pursuing any routed units down the hill (would only happen on a 5 or 6) and so become isolated and able to be attacked on the flat, and also as a single unit.  The one overlapping spare Gallic unit on a flank failed its order rolls and so cannot help on the flank.

Even more gaps.  The Gaul lose.

The Gauls have reached their breakpoint and run away.

A historical result but never in doubt due to the combat difference.  Attacking Romans up a hill was never going to end well.  For ABC, I would make the Romans average fortitude in future, just to even it up. It would make it a much closer contest.  It was also about now I realised that by making the Gauls low fortitude in September 2014 I had unintentionally reduced their combat value by 1 from previous versions of the rules.  Chagrined, I played the scenario again.

Game 2
I have also changed modifiers so that you get +1 for high fortitude OR being uphill (not +1 for both). So for this game the Romans are high fortitude and uphill and only get a +1 bonus for this, not +2.  The Warbands are average fortitude, and combat value 3, Romans are combat value 5; but the warbands will get a +2CV on first contact and a 6 will then deplete a Roman and force a retreat, with no effect to the Warband.  Still not great, but much better odds.  There are 9 Warband initial combats so they should manage at least one 6.

ABC Deployment
As per the previous diagram:

Same deployment
The Game
Gauls charge in again.

The clash.
In the last game, on contact, the Gauls rolled a lot of 1s and 2's.  This time, the first four rolls for combat had three 6s!  There were a few 1's further down the line to balance this out.

With some pursuits, and the fact the Gallic General rolled a 6 and inflicted a rout, two Romans units are routed.

Gaps in the Gallic and Roman line.  The Gauls rolled well.
But it is now the Roman's turn, and the Gauls do not get their charge bonus. Just about everyone is disordered so Romans are attacking with a CV of 4 and the Gauls are defending with a CV of 2.  Combat sees 5 Gallic units are routed, but one Roman unit routs.

Roman left is holding, and inflicting good casualties, but the Roman right has collapsed.
Gauls turn.  Not good for them.  Lots of 1's and three Gallic units routed.

The Roman left is doing really well. The Gauls in the centre failed their order roll.
Roman turn and another three Gallic units are routed. The Gallic breakpoint is reached and they lose.

End game.  
A much more fun game, and still feels historical (at least to me).  Glad I replayed it and the rules are better for it.  It was closer, but the better Romans won out as they could take the punishment more so than the Gauls. 


  1. Sounds like a good change, Shaun. Lost Battles has a few +1 for this or that (but not both) as well, and I think it works well. All the best to you for 2015, and will see you round the traps!


    1. Thanks Aaron; I seem to be reducing the modifiers bit by bit as I go. The combat mechanism does give huge advantages for even a +1 difference and I have already combined a few, this is just another one!

      All the best in 2015 to you as well. I am certain we will virtually run into one another over the year!

  2. Hi Shaun,

    I noticed that you have some of the Legions as "Veteran." You should consider that Caesar raised these legions for the campaign. They gained there experience on campaign and were not really "Veteran" until the end of the campaign. I think making them average with average fortitude would be a good idea. Of course, one can also argue that later in the campaign, at least some of the legions would gain valuable experience and might have higher fortitude, higher battle experience or possibly both!

    Thanks for the report,


    1. Good point John. Lost Battles had them as veteran, as did Peter side's in his scenario. So I went with that. But you are right in that there would be nothing wrong in making them average for Bibracte and veteran later on. Attacking uphill is never going to end well for the Gauls though, regardless of the quality of the Romans.

  3. Hi Shaun,

    Had a chance to try Art de la Guerre yet? It has a 100 pt version on a 2' board as well, though I hear you might have to scale down the moves and ranges, since they were calibrated to the 200 pt game.

    1. Not yet, I was hoping to play over Christmas with a friend, but we played Wings of War instead. And then I got out my 20mm WW2. I cannot see it happening for months but that is Ok - I was waiting 5 years for the English version! I hope they do lot let me down - I am trying not to have too many expectations :-)