A few weeks ago a mighty battle was fought between the army of the failing Roman Empire and Saxon raiders bent on plunder and conquest. The armies were paper soldiers printed out from the Junior General website and the rules used were from the book “Ancient and Medieval Wargaming” by Neil Thomas. I acquired the book in 2008 and produced the paper armies to use with it at about the same time. I then played an enjoyable game using the rules and the paper flats back in the same year. Sadly they did not see any further use until recently. Indeed they would still be unused if it were not for a WWII miniatures game that did not eventuate. My opponent for the day was an all-round splendid fellow called Craig.
The Roman army consisted of a unit of horse archers, a unit of heavy cavalry, and two units of auxiliaries, one unit of militia and one unit of legionaries, along with a unit of regular infantry archers. The Saxon host was made up of one unit of mounted nobles (a little anachronistic but necessary to make up the Saxon army strength), one unit of noble infantry, four units of spears and one of bow armed light infantry.
The battle opened with both sides conducting a general advance. The Roman heavy cavalry, with support from the horse archers, raced ahead from their position on the Roman left to try and catch the small force forming the Saxon right before it reached the relative safety of a minor hill to the front of their starting position. The mounted Saxon nobles moved off from their position on the Saxon left and rode hard to intercept the Roman cavalry.
The Saxon right reached the hill and the light infantry archers let loose on the Roman cavalry which then veered off to engage the oncoming Saxon nobles. The Roman horse archers turned about and rode back around to the rear of the advancing auxiliaries to provide support. As the two lines moved gradually to contact, the cavalry clashed in the centre.
At this point we had a break and partook in a splendid lunch of cheese and nachos with salsa and sour cream. This was followed by whiskey wings and washed down with cider. Having been suitably fortified we returned to the fray.
Both of the opposing cavalry units took heavy casualties in the melee and from supporting bow fire. The Saxon nobles broke first and were removed from the field. However the victorious but much depleted Roman cavalry were in turn broken by the arrows loosed by the Saxon bowmen upon the hill.
The Saxon war bands moved quickly to join up with the right of their line and then, with the threat of cavalry gone, they continued their advance. The entire Roman line kept up their own advance. The auxiliaries, supported by the horse archers, headed for the middle of the Saxon line where a second war band of Saxon nobles stood. The Roman legionaries on the far right of the Roman line endeavoured to out flank the left of the Saxon line, while the regular archers tried to whittle down the Saxons with continuous archery.
The Saxons formed a shield wall just before the Roman auxiliaries hit them. The auxiliaries with their furious onslaught did some damage initially but could not break through the shield wall. The flanking manoeuvre of the Roman legionaries was halted by a Saxon war band that had turned to meet them, resulting in a fierce melee as each tried to eliminate the other. The Roman militia bravely went forward to support the auxiliaries in their attack.
The battle hung in the balance for some time as neither side could gain any real advantage. Then the legionaries engaged against the war band protecting the Saxon left flank broke and were eliminated. The auxiliaries unable to make any further impression on the Saxon shield wall were slowly ground down and eliminated after the unengaged right of the shield wall wheeled into them. The victorious Saxon right then launched themselves on the flank of the Roman horse archers that had been supporting the auxiliaries. The horse archers having ventured too close to the Saxon battle line were quickly slaughtered and eliminated, and with their loss the last Roman units broke and fled the field.
The “Ancient and Medieval Wargaming” rules proved easy to grasp and provided a reasonably fast and historical game. The paper flats definitely have an aesthetic appeal of their own (in addition to a pecuniary one). It all made for a very enjoyable game with congenial company, and that is of course the ultimate goal of battle games for pleasure.