Sunday, February 15, 2015

Crepusculum Imperii: Adapting Lion Rampant to the Late Roman period


As I related in an earlier post, I've been considering what to do with my 3rd c. Romans. They've languished in a box for ever so long and it's time I did something with them. Though what to do is still an inchoate notion, but the leading contender is to adapt them to Daniel Mersey's Lion Rampant skirmish rules. This solution would keep my army at home, which is a good thing. I've been getting back into the period more and recently purchased a new book on the 3rd c. Roman army, Paul Elliot's Legions in Crisis.


So, to get the project rolling, I need to revisit Mersey's unit profiles and retrofit troops types from the later Roman to early Byzantine period, basically 3rd c. to 5th c., to Lion Rampant.

The Lion Rampant (LR) rules are what I've elsewhere defined as "false skirmish" rules. That means that although the figures are based singly, they function in groups/units rather than as individual figures. It is, however, possible to have some mixed-weapon units, so the later Roman practice of backing up legionarii with archers can be represented.

I found while going through the unit profiles, that a lot of what I thought I'd need to invent was already there as an option. But I did need to invent a few things. I added a special rule for pilum because it was intrinsic to Roman legionary tactics to heave a pilum in your opponent's face just before contact. Even after the pilum was replaced by a long spear (hasta), Roman soldiers used the plumbata (or martiobarbulum) as an effective pre-contact hand-hurled missile.

Not as nasty as a pilum, but it will still ruin your day
I'm not sure if the pilum rule will prove too powerful, or if I need to up the points for the unit. It's already at 6 points, which is as much as mounted men at arms in LR. We'll have to test it and see. I made the shooting 6+/6, so it wouldn't be too powerful. The upgrade to include archers, just extends the range to 12" for a cost of one point. I also added shield-wall as a special rule. For this I pretty much took the shiltron rule, but allowed the +1 armor to apply against shooting as well.

I also had to define some unit profiles for things that aren't there in LR, such as the Sassanid Asvārān and the war elephants. The former is a kind of mash-up between mounted men at arms and horse archers. The latter is, so far, just a guess.

The following profiles give each unit type along with some guidelines for which armies you'd find them in. It's not exhaustive and I used the figures I actually have (painted or not) as guidelines into what I should include.

The Sassanids overthrew the Parthians in the early 3rd c. and pretty much took over their space and continued their role as Rome's #1 pain in the tuchis in the east and continued in that role into the Byzantine period until the Arab conquests wiped them out in the 7th c. Germanic is pretty much a catch-all for everything nasty on the other side of the Rhine and above the Danube. In this period the Goths and Alemanni were the main problems, but Franks and Saxons get into it later on. The Palmyrans were Rome's best ally in the east until Zenobia thought she could snatch it all away for herself. Aurelian had to go and take it back and put Zenobia in chains.

Well, shoot. That didn't go so well...
Sarmatians were around for a long time and lasted into the 4th c., mostly acting along with Germanic tribes. Trajan depicts their cataphracts on his column. Huns come onto the scene in the 4th c. and make a real nuisance later in the 5th. Romans gave way to Byzantines in the eastern empire by the 5th c. In Britain, the Picts north of Hardian's Wall were a menace and remained on the scene after the Romans were gone until the Scots supplanted them.

Mounted units

Cataphracts (Roman, Sassanid, Palmyran, Byzantine, Sarmatian)
Cataphracts are fully armored horsemen decked out cap-à-pie in mail, scale, or horn armor, and mounted on horses similarly protected. Cataphracts are typically armed with a kind of lance called a kontos (a Greek word that literally means "barge pole"), although some cataphracts might carry a club, too.

Cataphracts mostly correspond to mounted men at arms in LR. However, I think they would be slower and less enthusiastic, so I've lowered their courage, attack, and attack value. Cataphracts were envisioned back in Seleucid days as a mounted phalanx whose full protection made them pretty impervious to fire. I took away the wild charge special rule, too. Cataphracts didn't use a wild charge (or even a tame one, really) because their attack relied on cohesion, a tight formation, and a bristling phalanx of "barge poles."

Unit Name: Cataphracts Points: 6
Attack 6+ Attack Value 4+
Move 7+ Defence Value 5+
Shoot - Shoot Value -
Courage 4+ Max. Movement 8"
Armor 4 Special Rules Counter-charge
  • Models per unit: 6
Special rules:
  • Counter-charge: Same as in the LR rules.
The armored wall on hooves

Asvārān (Sassanid)
Asvārān are armored cavalry who are primarily armed with a bow, but might also include a kontos. The riders are typically armored like cataphracts, but the horses would be less well armored, even unarmored. The Sassanids used these troops as mounted archers who shot en masse rather than as skirmishers.

Asvārān mostly correspond to mounted sergeants armed with bows. I also give them a "4" armor to account for the near-cataphract nature of their protection, but I reduce their move to 10" maximum to account for being heavier than normal horse. I've also made their attack 7+ and attack value 5+ to account for the fact that they were not primarily intended as shock troops.

Unit Name: Asvārān Points: 4
Attack 7+ Attack Value 5+
Move 7+ Defense Value 5+
Shoot 6+ Shoot Value 5+ / 12"
Courage 4+ Max. Movement 10"
Armor 4 Special Rules Counter-charge
  • Models per unit: 6
Special rules:
  • Counter-charge: Same as in the LR rules.
Upgrades:
  • Kontos @ 2pts. per unit: Asvārān can be additionally armed with the kontos. Increase their attack to 6+ and their attack value to 4+.

Equites/noble horsemen (Roman, Germanic, Huns)
Equites are the standard armored cavalry. They can be line of battle cavalry, but they tended to be used as much for skirmishing as for shock. The riders typically wear chain, scale, or horn armor and might also be protected by a shield and helmet. The horses are unarmored. Weapons would be a sword, shield, and a short spear. Javelins might also be carried, giving the units a shirt-range missile option.

Equites/noble horsemen basically correspond to mounted sergeants in LR, but with the option of having javelins.

Unit Name: Equites Points: 4
Attack 5+ Attack Value 5+
Move 5+ Defense Value 5+
Shoot - Shoot Value -
Courage 4+ Max. Movement 10"
Armor 3 Special Rules Counter-charge
  • Models per unit: 6
Special rules:
  • Counter-charge: Same as in the LR rules.

Light horse (Roman, Sassanid, Palmyran, Byzantine, Scythian, Huns)
Light horsemen have no significant armor protection. They rely on speed and shooting as their main tactics/weapons. Not good in hand to hand combat, but can easily harass and inflict loss on foot and slower horse.

Horse archers correspond to mounted yeomen in LR, but with less armor.

Unit Name: Light horse Points: 3
Attack 7+ Attack Value 5+
Move 5+ Defense Value 6
Shoot 6+ Shoot Value 5+ / 12"
Courage 5+ Max. Movement 12"
Armor 2 Special Rules Skirmish; Evade
  • Models per unit: 6
Special rules:
  • Skirmish: Same as in the LR rules.
  • Evade: Same as in LR rules.
Upgrades:
  • Javelins only @ -1 per unit: Reduce shooting range to 6".
  • Expert @ 2pts. per unit: Skirmish without the -1 shooting penalty.

Horsemen (Romans, Byzantines, Germanic, Huns)
These are the general mass of unarmored (or poorly armored) horsemen that were typically found in Germanic armies, like the Goths, Alemanni, etc. They could also be found as poorly armored equites in Roman/Byzantine armies.

These troops correspond to mounted yeoman in LR.

Unit Name: HorsemenPoints: 3
Attack7+Attack Value5+
Move5+Defense Value6
Shoot-Shoot Value-
Courage5+Max. Movement12"
Armor2Special RulesCounter-charge
  • Models per unit: 6
Special rules:
  • Counter-charge: Same as in the LR rules.
Upgrades:
  • Javelins @ 1pts. per unit: Shoot at 6+ with shooting value / range of 5+ / 6".

War elephants (Sassanid)
War elephants were used by Sassanid armies throughout the period. They could be as much a danger to their own side as to the enemy.

They don't conform to anything in LR, so I've made up what I think makes sense for elephants.

Unit Name: War elephantsPoints: 8
Attack7+Attack Value3
Move7+Defence Value4+
Shoot6+Shoot Value6 / 12"
Courage5+Max. Movement8"
Armor4Special RulesHard to kill; Berserk; Smelly
  • Models per unit: 1
Special rules:
  • Hard to kill: Although only represented by 1 model, an elephant unit can take 6 hits before it disappears.
  • Berserk: When an elephant fails a courage test with a result that is less than 0, instead of fleeing in rout, it goes berserk and attacks friend or foe, whoever is in its path. Immediately roll a D6 and determine the direction as follows: 1=forward, 2=60° right, 3=120° right, 4=180° (rear), 5=120° left, 6=60° left. (It's basically going clock-wise by 60° increments.) Move the model a full 8" move in the direction indicated. If the move results in contact with any unit, whether friend or foe, conduct an an immediate attack. Every turn after, continue to roll for direction, move, and conduct any attacks until the elephant is dead or has moved off the table.
  • Smelly: Elephants are terrifying to horses. Horse=mounted troops may not attack elephants. If elephants attack horse-mounted, the horse-mounted may not counter-charge. Horse-mounted troops in combat with elephants have a -1 to their defense value.

Dromedarii (Roman, Parthian, Palmyran)
Dromedarii are camel-mounted troops who were used mainly for scouting in the desert areas of Syria and the border-lands of the Parthian and Sassanid empires.

Like elephants, these really have no corresponding troop type in LR, so I'm winging it.

Unit Name: DromedariiPoints: 3
Attack7+Attack Value6
Move5+Defence Value6
Shoot6+Shoot Value6 / 6"
Courage5+Max. Movement10"
Armor2Special RulesSpitters
  • Models per unit: 6
Special rules:
  • Spitters: Horses didn't like camels any better than elephants. The stink and strangeness spooked them—not to mention the awful spitting. Horse-mounted troops in combat with camels have a -1 penalty to their attack value and defense value.


Cataphract camels (Parthian, Palmyran)
Cataphract camels—armored men and armored camels—were a rare thing, but might be fielded by Parthians and Palmyras.

Like elephants and dromedarii (the lesser camels), these really have no corresponding troop type in LR, so I'm winging it.

Unit Name: Cataphract camelsPoints: 6
Attack6+Attack Value4+
Move6+Defence Value5+
Shoot-Shoot Value-
Courage4+Max. Movement8"
Armor4Special RulesSpitters
  • Models per unit: 6
Special rules:
  • Spitters: Horses didn't like camels any better than elephants. The stink and strangeness spooked them—not to mention the awful spitting. Horse-mounted troops in combat with camels have a -1 penalty to their attack value and defense value.

Foot units



Legionarii (Roman)
These are the classic heavy infantry of the Roman army. Typically well armored, well armed, and well disciplined. They might be armed with short range missile weapons, such as the pilum (until the late 3rd c.), javelins, and plumbatae. From the late 3rd c. on, these would have a long spear and spatha rather than the classic sword and pilum. Shields are large and legionarii can form shield wall.

These troops correspond mostly to foot sergeants, but with better courage and short-range missile ability.

Unit Name: Legionarii Points: 6
Attack 6+ Attack Value 5+
Move 5+ Defence Value 4+
Shoot 6+ Shoot Value 6 / 6"
Courage 3+ Max. Movement 6"
Armor 3 Special Rules Shield-wall; Pilum
  • Models per unit: 12
Special rules:
  • Pilum: The unit can attempt shoot, using pila, javelins, or plumbatae, before resolving attack combat, whether they are attacking or defending. Roll for shooting as normal. Losses due to pre-combat shooting count towards resolving the outcome of the attack, when comparing losses.
  • Shield-wall: On a Move order, unit forms in two ranks with bases touching. Cannot form in rough terrain or in cover. Adds +1 armor against attacks and shooting. Must be at least 6 figures remaining in the unit. Cannot move in this position. If a combat ends with the attacker still in contact, the attacker must retreat. If the unit becomes battered in this formation, the shield-wall formation is lost.
Upgrades:
  • Mixed weapons @ 1pts. per unit: The unit has archers mixed into the formation (typically in later 3rd c. onwards). Shooting is still 6+ with a shooting value of 6, but range is extended to 12". Does not negate shield-wall or pilum.

Auxilia (Romans, Palmyrans)
These are typically lighter troops than the legionarii, but they could be as well armed and armored. The difference was typically in how they were employed.

Unit Name: Auxilia Points: 4
Attack 6+ Attack Value 5+
Move 5+ Defence Value 4+
Shoot 6+ Shoot Value 6 / 6"
Courage 4+ Max. Movement 8"
Armor 2 Special Rules Shield-wall;
Fleet footed
  • Models per unit: 12
Special rules:
  • Shield-wall: On a Move order, unit forms in two ranks with bases touching. Cannot form in rough terrain or in cover. Adds +1 armor against attacks and shooting. Must be at least 6 figures remaining in the unit. Cannot move in this position. If a combat ends with the attacker still in contact, the attacker must retreat. If the unit becomes battered in this formation, the shield-wall formation is lost.
  • Fleet footed: Same as in LR rules.
Upgrades:
  • Mixed weapons @ 1pts per unit: The unit has archers mixed into the formation (typically in later 3rd c. onwards). Shooting is still 6+ with a shooting value of 6, but range is extended to 12". Does not negate shield-wall.
  • Armored @ 1pts. per unit: Increase armor to 3, decrease max. movemet to 6".

Archers (Roman, Byzantine, Germanic, Palmyran)
Missile troops are any foot units that form mostly in mass and shoot weapons like bows and crossbows. They are not skirmishers.

Archers correspond to the same type in LR.

Unit Name: Missile troops Points: 4
Attack 7+ Attack Value 6
Move 6+ Defence Value 5+
Shoot 6+ Shoot Value 5+ / 18"
Courage 4+ Max. Movement 6"
Armor 2 Special Rules -
  • Models per unit: 12
Upgrades:
  • Armored @ 2pts. per unit: Increase the armor value to 3.
  • Elite shooters @ 2pts. per unit: Increase the shoot to 5+ and the shooting value to 4+.

Levy infantry (Sassanid)
Despite their reputation, these troops were a bit more than the sweepings of the gaols and taverns they're made out to be—but not too much more. In Sassanid armies that were predominantly mounted, levy infantry formed a solid base to hold a position that the horsemen could rally on.

Unit Name: Levy infantry Points: 3
Attack 7+ Attack Value 6
Move 6+ Defence Value 5+
Shoot - Shoot Value -
Courage 4+ Max. Movement 6"
Armor 4 Special Rules Schiltron
  • Models per unit: 12
Special rules:
  • Schiltron: The same as in the LR rules.

Warriors (Germanic, Pictish)
The mass of Gothic, Alemannic, Saxon, etc. forces relied on a fierce charge of massed infantry. Not well protected, though leaders might have armor.

Warriors correspond to fierce foot in LR.

Unit Name: WarriorsPoints: 4
Attack5+Attack Value3+
Move6+Defence Value6
Shoot-Shoot Value-
Courage4+Max. Movement8"
Armor2Special RulesFerocious; Wild charge; Counter-charge vs. foot;
Fleet footed
  • Models per unit: 12
Special rules:
  • Ferocious: The same as in the LR rules.
  • Wild charge: The same as in the LR rules.
  • Counter-charge: The same as in the LR rules.
  • Fleet-footed: The same as in the LR rules.

Foot skirmishers (Roman, Byzantine, Sassanid, Germanic, Pictish, Palmyran, Parthian)
Foot skirmishers are javelin men, slingers, skirmishing bowmen (rather than massed bow-shooters). These troops kept their distance and harassed the enemy, avoiding close combat.

Foot skirmishers correspond to bidders in the LR rules.

Unit Name: Foot skirmishersPoints: 2
Attack7+Attack Value6
Move5+Defence Value6
Shoot5+Shoot Value5+ / 12"
Courage4+Max. Movement8"
Armor1Special RulesHard to target; Skirmish; Evade;
Fleet footed
  • Models per unit: 6
Special rules:
  • Hard to target: The same as in the LR rules.
  • Skirmish: The same as in the LR rules.
  • Evade: The same as in the LR rules.
  • Fleet-footed: The same as in the LR rules.

14 comments:

  1. Thanks for the great info, David. With the smaller numbers of figs required with LR, I may someday have to build a Late-Roman force.

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  2. What a terrific job! This combines an understanding of history with the fine eye of the dedicated gamer. Be sure to let us know how these adaptations work as you play test them.

    Jerry

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  3. Really interesting.I am a big 3rd century roman fan and have enjoyed Paul Elliot's earlier book too.
    That combined with Sidebottom's novels and the super figures available make this a "must do " for me when time energy allow. I will root amongst the detritus in the shed and see what the lead mountain will offer up. I'v e a mind to do some gaming around Elagabalus and the east. Do you know the novel "Family Favourites " by Alfred Duggan?
    Thanks for your inspiring post.
    Alan
    p.s I will email back soon

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  4. Lovely idea, I hope you have fun!

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  5. Alan: I'm familiar with Duggan, but I haven't seen Family Favorites. Any novel about Eligabalus is bound to be a wild read. I'll keep an eye out for it. I've got Iron & Rust by Sidebottom coming from the UK. I should have got here by now...

    In Sidebottom's King of Kings there's a small action against the Persians that looks perfect for a Lion Rampant scenario.

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  6. What a fascinating post. Lots of hard work gone into this.

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  7. Great post! Really like the idea.
    Just one question... if germanic warriors are the equivalent to fierce foot, their defence value should be 6, right?

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  8. These ides look excellent, I'll be trying them out this weekend with a 4-way Lion rampant game.

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  9. I'll be curious to hear how it goes.

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  10. we will test this units soon and post a battle report! great work!!!!

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  11. Great write up. I am now repurposing my Late Romans for this.
    Scott A.

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  12. Great work. I have been thinking about playing ancients with these rules. Is you work available in PDF format somewhere? The ratings for the units, etc.?

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  13. I'm pleased to have found these ideas. I'm considering using Lion Rampant to game actions between Germano-Roman authorities and Armorican Bacaudae inspired by the Aetius chapter in Tim Newark's Medieval Warlords.

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