Ancient Warfare magazine

Monday, April 6, 2015

DBA Campaign II: Rome and the Gauls! (Part I)

Another campaign has begun! This time  we decided to have a go with my newest addition to my collection - the Gauls (II/II)! Going against them will be my favored Polybian Romans (II/33).

Besides trying out a new army, we decided to give some of our newest additions to our own campaign rules a try. So far I am quite happy with the basics of the whole system (very simple). This time around we are testing some new ideas - that of some post battle random events. Basically, the loser of a battle gets to roll on a small table to gain some advantage over the enemy (things like swiping the enemy battle plans, poisoning the enemy general, or even causing enemy allies to be a bit reluctant to fight, etc.). Little things really, but interesting none the less. The winner of the battle gains a simple "laurel of Victory" (as I call it at the moment) which allows him to re-roll any single combat or pip roll once in the next game. Again, simple.

The campaign itself is a five battle mini-campaign. Campaign victory points are gained for winning battles, sacking camps, getting a decisive victory in a battle, or winning a victory against the odds. Things like that. The side that has the most victory points at the end of five battles wins a victory (the level of victory will determine how well a side has won, or even if the campaign was so close that another sixth battle will need to be played!). However, a side winning three battles in a row automatically wins the campaign. So a campaign can last anywhere from three to six battles.

Battle One: The Sword is Drawn!

The Romans

My army was pretty standard for me. I like to have lots of blades, although having the allied (aux) elements is real handy as you can have a little tactical variety in your army by including them.

1 x General (3Cv)
1 x Equites (3Cv)
5 x Hastatis/Principes (4Bd)
2 x Triari (4Sp)
2 x Velites (2Ps)
1 x Allies (3Aux)

The Gauls

This army was new for us in DBA. It has quite a few hard hitting warriors (4Wb) along with a couple warriors that were "fast" warband types - again, hard hitting but a bit more mobile. Having the advantage in cavalry would also be of some benefit over the Romans - one would think. Mobility was a key for this army if they were going to have success against my Romans.
1 x General (3Cv)
2 x Cavalry (3Cv)
6 x Warriors (4Wb)
2 x Warriors (3Wb)
1 x Skirmishers (2Ps)

We rolled off to see which side would be the invader in the campaign. Both sides have an aggression factor of three so it could go either way. After both of us rolled a d6, the Romans turned out to be the invader - no surprise! - and thus would be the attacker in the battles to be fought (unless some special rule from the campaign kicked- in). At this point all was set and ready to go; the campaign would begin!
We had decided that although the Romans were the invader, the Gauls had made a rush from the mountains in the north to quickly begin burning and raiding the Roman northern provinces. To stop this my army was sent to crush these interlopers. I would in fact be leading the Romans on a mission to drive these barbarians from Roman civilization. A lesson had to be taught and class was about to begin.  With some sacrifices to the Gods, we marched. Aiding us would be a small contingent of Thracians (3Aux). Thracians?! Yes! Thracians indeed. (I was never a fan of Thracians. I have never used such troops in any of my battles - only to fight against.)

As the defender, the Gauls laid out the battlefield (arable). I wasn't surprised to see the first piece be a BUA (a bad going edifice -  temple in this case). This was followed by a wood (bad going) and a small gentile hill (good going). Looking at the layout I decided to let the Gauls have their wood and chose the side with the slight rise in ground - might come in handy considering how dangerous warbands can be in an open charge). I was a bit concerned however at having two decent sized bad going pieces arranged to either side of my deployment. It's a good thing I have my velites, and yes, Thracian Aux.
An army of Gauls approach the deployed Romans!

Deploying his forces first, the Gauls spread out in a central position with their cavalry and hard hitting warbands making up their battleline. In the wood to their right was deployed a couple "fast" warbands. To his left were the skirmishers. My concern right away was he was deploying to take advantage of the bad going terrain on both flanks. There was no way I would fall for that trap. I would have to lure him out and strike hard at his center.
Like my army composition, my deployment was pretty standard for me. I spread out in a double line with the Triari in reserve along with my bold general. The camp was kept safe behind my forces and the high ground - a nice central position. To my left I placed my cavalry and some velites who I planned to strike out ahead of my army early. On the right I placed more velites as well as those curious Thracians, whose task would be to watch the temple grounds for the enemy and harass any who approached that flank.
The Gauls would have the first bound. Right from the get go pips were low. Both sides rolling ones, twos and threes. Not a good start at all!  It was at this point I started to think the Gauls would hold back and wait for me to come to him giving up my my strong position on the high ground. He did manage to get some warbands and skirmishers in to the temple grounds however. I didn't let such moves distract me for the moment. Prefering to focus on luring his right flank out and away from that wood, beyond which lied the Gaul camp itself. With that in mind I began to advance on my left while maintaining my position along the high ridge. I advanced some Triari of the reserve up along the hill position to fill the gap left by my advancing left flank.
(Rules Note: I made a tactical mistake here. By advancing far ahead of my general I failed to take into account the hill! This reduced my command distance for my general to 4BW for those units opposite the hill! Fortunately I would catch this soon after before any problems developed.)
While the Gauls move into the Temple grounds, the Romans advance their left forward to draw the enemy into a fight. Some Principes support the advance.
As I advanced on my left I noticed (one bound later) that I had left the hill between my general and forward elements on the left. This of course  limited my command range from my general to these lead elements to just 4BW! I quickly fixed this by moving up my general to support my advance. Little did I guess that such a move would bring my general into the heaviest fighting of the day.
In the meantime, a high pip roll allowed me to strike quickly on the right  flank of the advancing Gaul battleline. I quickly seized the moment and engaged with all that I had - and both sides generals would soon get sucked into this little drama on the flank. Unfortunately this would only begin a long see-saw battle that would last almost the entire battle. I would end up losing my velites (Ps) in the initial attack!

As the Gauls move forward, the Romans strike! Velites and cavalry rush the enemy battleline supported by legionaries.

Both sides on my left would engage and get flank attacks. However only the flanked side would get any success - recoiling the attackers. This continued for several bounds. At one point the Gaul general himself got involved but still could not slide victory over to his side.

The velites are destroyed! just as the Gaul warbands move out of the wood to flank the Roman cavalry!

A critical combat develops. The Roman cavalry have a factor of two, while the Gaul general has a four: a two point advantage to the Gauls. in addition, if the roman cavalry recoils, they will be destroyed due to the warband making flank contact with them!

... A TIE! Both sides in the combat score a seven! Stand-off!
As combat develops on the far left, the Thracians and velites move into the temple grounds.

None the less, my lines were intact and holding. I was down only one element in the battle so far (my velites) and had to get a kill somewhere quickly before the Gauls were able to reach my main lines. I continued to pursue an attack on his right. If I could grind his momentum down and bring a halt to his advance I would soon be in a position to actually strike with my main line off the ridge. A risk perhaps. But the little adventure to lure his troops out of the wood had preoccupied both of us. What was a small distraction soon developed into something much more critical; both sides throwing more and more effort into that flank.

Heated combat develops along the left. More Gaul cavalry engages the hastati. Both sides have factors of three. However, after rolling and adding an extra d6 the Romans win by one point!

Over on my right there was somewhat of a stand off  going on as my Thracians and velites held some ground in the temple. Facing them was two Gaul warbands and some skirmishers as support. Obviously they were distracted by the wonders of a Roman temple!

My opponent had a somewhat puzzled if not frustrated look about his face at this point. Perhaps commanding such an army of barbarians puzzled him - he prefers Hellenistic armies with all their fancy pikes, elephants, and suicidal chariots! Either that, or my tactics were proving to be quite challenging. I myself was convinced his "puzzlement" was simply a ploy; something to throw me off. I new my opponent well and the forward rush and assault was not all his style - at least not without a hefty pike block to lead the way.

Here is a mistake we caught early. The Gaul cavalry element lost the combat with the Roman cavalry and recoiled as a result. However, because the Gaul element was contacted on its flank by my Triari, it should have been destroyed. So we removed the Gaul element instead.

With the Gaul cavalry element destroyed, the warbands wheel forward to engage the Roman general and triari.

As the brutal back and forth combat continued to distract both of us, my general committed to an assault on his center. Destroying one of his cavalry elements, I pursued further and drew the attention of his main battleline. I have to admit I was a bit worried at this point. Fear of  the barbarian charge? Perhaps. I steadied myself putting faith in my triari supporting my general. Onwards the Gauls came.

It was about this time that the fighting on both flanks became intense as well. I managed to take out the Gaul skirmishers in the temple who were supporting their warband friends. Both sides on that flank would soon after settle themselves to nothing more than shouting insults and hurling stones at one another - with no real effect. I was not about to be distracted from what was really going on further down the line.

Over on my left, little did I know what fate would have in store. The Gauls were obviously frustrated at this point, pushing hard to break my left flank assault force - even with their general leading the way.

On the far left the Romans and Gauls pull-back from almost constant combat. As the Roman general prepares to meet the warband assault in the middle, the velites and Thracians engage the Gauls in the Temple - the Gauls losing their skirmishers as a result.

Eventially both sides on my left pulled back from the heavy fighting - to regroup. One more Gaul assault perhaps. However, it was in the center that my general had managed to draw the attention of the Gaul main line. I formed up my triari supporting him and waited on their assault. Would this tell the tale of the battle?

Things turn dire for the Romans as the Triari are swept away by a murderous charge. The general is almost surrounded on all sides and must fight a desperate battle with no support. Is his factor two enough vs. a factor of only three for the Gauls?!? The dice are rolled...

The Gauls slammed into my general with complete abandon! The triari were quickly swept away and before I knew it, my general had been all but surrounded! Calling upon the Gods my general held his ground. Two bounds of fighting, two bounds of Gauls being recoiled. Jupitor was with us indeed.

The Gods are with us! The general recoils the Gauls! Take note of the Gaul General and warbands on the left. They are about to risk all in a headlong charge on the Romans before them.

Things were tight at this point -desperate even. I was down three elements and my general was at great risk. The Gauls had lost only a cavalry element and a psiloi element. It was a long hard battle with both sides charging and counter-charing trying to gain a flank or any other advantage they could.  The Gaul general led one last charge with his warbands against my left assault. My troops held firm and I found an opportunity to flank them! The Gaul general had recoiled from the fighting by my hastati, I quickly swung them in to gain a flank and trap the rushing barbarian warbands currently engaged with my cavalry! Little did I realize that victory was at hand. Two elements of charging barbarians destroyed by my cavalry and a flanking element of hastati! A good thing as well. My general had moved back away from the rushing Gauls whom almost over-took him after slaughtering my triari.

Defeat! On the far left can be seen the Roman cavalry supported by some legionaries. Together they defeated (destroyed) two warband elements. This ended the battle.

The Gauls and Roman light troops stand off after some indecisive fighting in the temple.

The Roman general escapes an almost certain death.

The battle had come to a brutal conclusion. My Romans had endured countless charges by the Gauls. Even their general could not make victory take his side. My plan it seemed, worked.  I never abandoned my strong position on the hill however - their was no need. I have to admit, I was somewhat surprised by this. When victory came, it came quite sudden and quickly. The determination of my legionaries was to be commended. There would be much celebration in the camp tonight.

The battle had ended with a Roman victory: 4-3. Close, but quite dramatic. It was a good start to the campaign. I would gain 2 VP for this victory (pretty standard actually).

Campaign Score
Rome: 2 VP
Gaul: 0 VP

The losses. The Gauls lost four elements, the Romans three.

All that was left now was to determine what elements come back for the next fight. As it turned out, I would get back all but my triari (4Sp). The Gauls would get back two elements as well and these turned out to be the cavalry (3Cv) and a warband (3Wb "fast"). With that done we were ready for the next battle Of course we will also check for some random event type things. But I will save the results of that for the next write-up ;)

Observations: This was a fantastic and very intense battle. There was a lot of individual element moves as we both tried to out maneuver each other for tactical advantage. Almost everything was decided on my left flank. I have to admit I didn't expect that. Both sides were bouncing off of one another bound after bound. Very intense. Even with flank attacks elements managed to survive and throw the enemy back (recoil). The Gauls just didn't have it in them.

One thing I tried hard to do was avoid a straight up fight with his warbands. It isn't hard for them to get a quick kill on my blades, I was quite cautious about this. I did try to engage his cavalry wherever I could, managing to kill one.

I was quite surprised at how both generals managed to stay alive. We both committed them very early in the battle - something rare for both of us actually.

Anyway, was a very enjoyable battle. Great first run with the Gauls. Certainly not as crushing as the first battle in my last campaign!

Stay tuned for part II coming shortly.

Check out my other campaigns and write up in the Battle Reports link above to. Lots of good stuff there for DBA and more.

Some disinterested Roman camp followers.


  1. Very nice! Great pictures, great minis, and splendid camp!

  2. THanks Phil. Appreciated. Can't wait for the next battle.

  3. Awesome after battle report! marvelous figures/units and love the terrain along with lots of photos! Great!


  4. Thank you. It was a blast to try out the Gauls (well, play against them anyway). And yes, terrain adds so much to a battle. I love it! More to follow.

  5. Hi Kurtus, as someone who is just starting to explore DBA 3.0 I am very grateful to you for faithfully recording your battles and experience. Your battles look great too and I am already looking forward to your next report :-) Are most of your games solo? They have a good narrarive quality.