Monday, 27 July 2015

Romans Go Home!

I thought I would show off a work in progress and share my musings about how I want to set up my first Roman army.

The Legio Antonius taking shape (mostly Pendraken mini's)

One of my favourite subjects back in High School was Ancient History. I loved the Greek wars, especially the Persian and Peloponnesian wars, and all the galley battles. I was fascinated with Caesars conquest of Gaul and disaster when he tried to invade Albion (Britain). Since then, I have loved learning about Ancient and Medieval History.

So its kind of strange that until now I have been collecting Fantasy and Medieval armies in 10mm, and missed making any Ancient armies. So when I began planning to redress this omission, I was very blessed to be able to pick up from a fine gentleman on eBay a largish Roman Marian Republican Army. This was fantastic because I want in future to refight some of Caesars Gallic Wars. The army was originally based for Warmaster, but had the bases modified for DBA (I think). So I am in the process now of rebasing the entire army again for Warmaster. No mean feat, I tell you.

The Composition of a Roman Legion

According to my copy of the excellent Warfare in the Classical World , the Republican Roman Legion around the time of Caesar had benefitted from Marius' major reforms. Warfare in the Classical World states about the Legions after Marius:
The legion thus came to consist of 10 cohorts each of 3 maniples of two centuries of around 80 men, giving a total of c4,800. (p.153, Warfare in the Classical World, Warry, 1995)

So my dilemma in rebasing the army has been how best to represent the most basic contingent of the legion, that of the Century.

It just fells right to me that a Warmaster Unit should reflect a Century. Given that a Century consisted of around 80 men, and that I can fit 10 miniatures to a stand, this got me to thinking that the standard 3 stands of a WM unit wasn't going to really suit my desire for historical accuracy. However, if I make a unit (Century) consist of four stands, instead of the usual three stands, then there will be 40 miniatures in the unit (Century). Each miniature representing two legionnaires in real life.

How many Units to a Roman Legion?

So I'm thinking of the following arrangement for a Roman Republican Legion:

  • 1 unit = 4 x stands
  • Century = 1 x unit
  • Maniple = 2 x units/Centuries (8 x stands)
  • Cohort = 3 x Maniples, i.e. six units/Centuries (24 x stands)
  • Legion = 10 x Cohorts, i.e. sixty units/Centuries (240 x stands)

Note: Adding an extra stand to the unit increases the cost of the unit in Warmaster Ancients from 80 points to 110 points (rounding fractions up).

My eBay find currently gives me just one Century short of the first Cohort and two Centuries of the second Cohort. So its not a mammoth task to paint up these outstanding units/Centuries to give two Cohorts initially to the legion.

There is probably no way that I will ever paint a full legion of 240 stands. Practically, the legions were often undermanned due to detachments on patrol and sickness, injuries. For most battles too, I wouldn't really ever need more than two or three Cohorts to look impressive on the table as the Auxiliaries would also be standard with the legion, and these would be your standard 3 stands to a unit.

Stand and Shoot house-rule

Historically, the legionnaires at this time were armed with two Pilum, which they would throw at their enemy just prior to engagement. The pila would stick into the enemy shield and bend. This meant that the enemy would not be able to pull the pila out of their shield and throw it back at the legionnaires. Moreover, as the pila would be an extra weight on the shield, the enemies shields would be weighed down and useless to wield in defence. The enemy would therefore discard their shield. It was a highly effective strategy.

So this got me thinking that the Stand and Shoot rule for missile armed troops would work perfectly here. Essentially this reflects the Romans throwing their pila just as the enemy is about to engage. The legionaries were highly trained by this time and retained a closed order rank and file. So the enemy often came to them, or they closed on their enemies in disciplined order slowly. The pila was a fairly short range javelin and so the Legionnaries wouldn't be able to use this during the shooting phase like a missile troop unit, only when charged by the enemy. Historically it all comes together rather well. So I intend to try to playtest this idea when I can field my Roman army next.


The only consideration is that my opponent would have to agree to such changes and we would have to consider the option of suspending the Maniple rule from Warmaster Ancients, which permits stands of legionaries to Support themselves as though there were a Supporting Stand behind them in combat, if the Century becomes too powerful.

In the end it may be better to test this in a solo game and see how it pans out. If this all proves too powerful for game balance, I can always revert to the 3 stands per unit WM standard and ditch the Stand and Shoot house rule.

Still, it just seems right to me to have the Century comprise of four stands instead of three, and be able to throw their pila. I'll try to post some images of the army so far when its all based up again for Warmaster Ancients.