Hail Caesar Romans vs Goths

This game took place in Kidderminster on a hot, sticky afternoon in July 2019. The battle was a Fourth Century Romans vs Goths contest somewhere in the Balkans using 10mm figures and the ‘Hail Caesar’ rules. Nick and Ian were the Imperial commanders (Nick was commander in chief) while Andy W and Neil W were the Goth leaders, Andy being the main man. Bryan supplied the figures and umpired the game in his charmingly idiosyncratic manner, managing to reduce most of the participants to nervous wrecks by the end of the afternoon.

Initial deployment, Romans on the right

The Roman army consisted chiefly of Legionary heavy infantry, armoured and unarmoured archers, light skirmishing troops and light and heavy cavalry (including cataphracts). The Gothic forces comprised mainly of medium infantry warbands, a substantial component of foot archers, light troops (both foot and mounted) and heavy cavalry.

Both sides deployed in traditional fashion with infantry forces massed in the centre and cavalry on each wing. The unsubtle plan of the Goth generals was to advance to contact as swiftly as possible and hope that the impetus and fanaticism of the warbands would prevail against the cool discipline of the Legions. To that end, the Gothic ‘divisions’ lurched forward as one while the Roman infantry sat back and waited. Nick had difficulties in getting his left wing cavalry units to obey orders but the cavalry forces on the right were soon in action against the enemy counterparts. Despite the presence of armoured cavalry in the division, the Romans had the worst of it in the first combat and both light and heavy components were forced to retreat, the Gothic cavalry swiftly pursuing.

The Goths begin their ominous advance

Battle is joined in the centre

As the main bodies of troops closed, light forces from both sides exchanged missile fire, but this was short-lived. It was not long before the warbands and legions were engaged in hand to hand combat in the Roman centre-left. It soon became apparent, to the chagrin of the Gothic commanders, that their foot soldiers were no match for heavy Roman infantry equipped with the pilum (and throwing decent dice!). Two warbands broke quickly and the victorious Roman units moved forward to maintain the advantage. While this was going on, cavalry actions took place on both flanks (the Roman commander on the left having at last stirred from his slumbers) and although one unit of Roman heavy cavalry was almost forced off the table, there were no decisive results.

The height of the battle in the centre

More and more units were now engaging in combat in the centre and another warband turned tail and fled after failing a break test. To add to the Goths’ woes, the second line of archers now found themselves attacked by previously successful legionary formations and two units were destroyed in rapid succession. It was only in the Roman centre-right where Gothic forces were mostly holding their own (and, in some cases, making progress) but in the next phase of combat a further two warbands were broken. There was now a gaping hole in the centre from which the bulk of the warbands had fled and the whole position for the Goths was precarious.

With two divisions broken, it was now only a matter of time before the Romans secured victory and the Imperial commanders now reorganised their forces for the coup-de-grace. This was delivered in the cavalry combat on the Roman left , the Gothic horsemen, attacked in the front and flank, were soon joining their comrades off the table.

With the demise of the cavalry, the Goths had now lost more than half their divisions and so had decisively lost the battle. A great victory for the Romans who had suffered comparatively minor losses.

Cavalry combat on the Roman right

Where have all the Goths gone?

The few warbands to survive in the Roman right-centre

The final cavalry combat on the Roman left