The Roman World, To the Strongest, 28mm
This was another “learning the system” game, using my Gauls and Caesarean Romans. It was a fairly straightforward little clash, fought out in reasonably open ground on a 6×4 foot table. the odd patch of forest sat on the edges of what was otherwise an open plain, dominated by a Roman marching camp. Sean and Lindsay played the Gauls, while Gyles and I took the Romans. In this one, Gyles and I split our small Roman force in two, with each of taking three cohorts. On our right was a small cavalry force of two allied Gallic units, backed up by artillery – a ballista. We also had a couple of skirmish units, one of Balearic slingers and the other of Spanish javelinmen. Our big edge though was leaders – we had four leaders, including Crassus, our leader. Each of these was detached, which meant we could whizz them around to wherever they were needed. The Gauls did the usual thing – six warbands steaming towards us, with a sizable cavalry force on the right flank, backed up by another warband of naked fanatics and two skirmish units – one of archers and the other of javelinmen. The fanatics were Lindsay’s pet new unit, and my ardent hope was that I could slaughter them before they developed a winning streak. The Gallic tactics were simple. Line up and … CHARGE!After the Gaul’s last fiasco though, they played it well, and coordinated the assault, so that everyone hit the Roman line at the same time. Well, almost everybody. Those much-vaunted fanatics held back, as did the Gallic cavalry. We advanced a bit, to give us some space in front of the camp, and then formed our own supported battle line. All we could do then was to brace and hope for the best. The Gallic charge hit us like a steam train. None of our pila seemed to hit anything. So, it was down to hand-to-hand combat, with the Gauls bolstering their attacks with their disposable “heroes”, and with their three attached leaders setting an example from the front. We held – just – but by the end of the first turn or two most of our units had been disordered. So had a few of the warbands, but they take three hits before they disperse, and our cohorts took two. So, things were looking decidedly grim for Team SPQR. Gyles’ solution was to unleash his cavalry. His two units led by Crassus’ son slammed into the left-hand warband of the Gallic horse, and disordered it. Then the next unit managed to get itself embroiled by charging the Gallic archers – who evaded – and slamming into another warband behind them.So, we were locked into a melee that wasn’t going to end well, as we had no cavalry reserves – and our charge had blown itself out. In the end we landed up losing both cavalry units, in exchange for the archers and one of the warbands. By now the battle was really heading up. One of Gyles’ three cohorts bucked under the pressure and broke, as did his slingers. All we had to show for it was three warbands within a card-turn of breaking themselves. Over on the Roman left the Gallic cavalry finally turned up, supported by the still-hesitant fanatics. Without anyone else to charge the first cavalry unit hit the far left of the Roman line, and the Romans stood fast. This ended with the cavalry unit breaking, and the one behind it pulling back with a hit marker on it. In my left I lost a unit, while a warband ran over Gyles’ ballista unit. Things were looking pretty serious now, as we’d lost 11 of our 13 victory tokens, while the Gauls still had 6 of theirs. Things were looking very bleak indeed. That though, is when the run of cards started. Both Gyles and I started pulling some pretty nifty saves, and actually fought back with more gusto than we’d shown.First of all, in the centre, we broke a warband. Then the fanatics charged home – and got wiped out. Ha! That though, is where we had to end the game. Both armies were on the ropes, and only needed to lose another unit to lose the game completely. However, while all of the Gallic warbands had two hits on them, and so were on the verge of breaking, only one of our remaining cohort had a hit left on it. We’d also got one more victory token left. Still, by any definition this game was a draw, which is exactly how we called it. That, of course, is the joy of To the Strongest. The games are always tense and hard-fought, but also great fun. There’s something about turning a card rather than rolling a dice that ramps up the tension, and we had dramatic card-turns in spades during the game… or hearts, clubs or diamonds. This was only the first time that Lindsay had played the rules, and Gyles and Sean only had two games under their belt. All three of them though, reckoned this was excellent entertainment, and vowed to play again .. and paint up armies of their own. I see that as a real result – and an excellent comment on the rules.