Monday 24 May 2021

A game just like in days gone by…… The Battle of the Great Grombulian Plain*

Amidst the blare of trumpets and the explosions of fireworks (plus the whir of a powerful air purifier amd the gusts of wind through the open skylights) The Burrow opened its doors to put on ‘proper’ game again, the first since March last year; a kind of wargaming test event I guess! I’m hopeful that we won’t have to go through lockdown again, although it wasn’t time wasted as I seem to have generated rather a lot (shed loads actually) of new stuff, including the Late Romans and Goths pictured in earlier posts, and who had their first outing onto the tabletop on Saturday. 

I wasn’t sure which set of rules to use. It would have been too easy to opt for Hail Caesar, but decided against them and chose to try out  a set new to me, Sword and Spear. Neil, who knows them well, kindly offered to coach us through the game until we got the hang of it, which in half an hour I think we all did. I don’t yet have quite enough opposition for my Late Romans so Conrad (Ishkabar) offered to supply a Hun contingent (Mongols in reality but not a lot of difference really) and Richard (Praefectus Carceris Claudius Ciceris) supplied some rebellious Late Romans to join with my Ostrogoths (led by Neil as their king, Swarfega) in an alliance against a Roman army led by me (Magister Militum Praesentalis and Dux Fumo Praedium, Maximus Parmo) and ably assisted by Paul (Dux Faceos Paulinus) and Nigel (Dux Nautius Maximus), who’s troops did most of the fighting and dying while I dealt with the Huns and, well, you must read on to find out the outcome.

The game was a straightforward encounter battle on a very bare table (for me anyway!) to avoid complications with terrain and stuff. The Roman plan was to use our massed heavy cavalry to attack the Huns and rive them off while our centre and right held the enemy attack, hopefully long enough for the cavalry to sweep round on the enemy rear after seeing off the Huns. It actually worked after a fashion. The photos as usual pick out the highlights of the game and hopefully provide enough of a narrative to permit the reader to follow the action.  I have to say that with a 4m long tabletop I have little idea what went on over on the other flank, or even much beyond the left of centre.

The Roman left; massed heavy cavalry supported by a few light horsemen and horse archers.
Skippio in the ruined temple, used as a marker to denote who had the initiative and in case divine intervention was needed if any kids became stuck down a mine during the game.
The Roman right under Nigel.
Massed Roman cavalry again. A bit of a gamble as there were rebellious Roman cavalry facing our right. 
One of Conrad's scratch-built yurts.

A hoard of Huns (actually Mongols but at this distance? facing my cavalry.

Lots of Goths in the enemy centre under the command of Neil.
The rebel alliance commanders.
Rebel Roman cavalry passing the old aqueduct.
The Goths had plenty of archers to soften up the Roman lines and drive off the opposing skirmishers.
The mass of Goth war bands surged forward.

Rebel Roman Legio closing on Nigel's command.
The Huns advanced rapidly so Paul partially refused his flank in case they found a way through my cavalry.

A close up of the last photo. 
Things are starting to get messy. I do not refer to my lack of a haircut in months! 

Nigel had to refuse his right to counter Richards troops who were getting very close having driven off his light cavalry.

I foolishly lent the enemy a unit of cataphracts, which went on to drive off all our light cavalry on Nigel's wing.

A vicious fight took place between our light cavalry and the Huns, with the latter initially gaining the upper hand, destroying two of our units.

Our centre waiting for the Goth onslaught.
The Goths hit our line and gain the upper hand, destroying two Legio in the process.

Neil also launched his cavalry against Paul's infantry, who only just held them!

Richard's rebel Legios close in on Nigel's now seriously threatened flank.

Our cavalry advanced and began to drive back the Hun light horse archers.

There is fighting almost along the entire front.

Four large Goth war bands locked in combat with the Roman centre.
My cataphracts charged the Hun heavy cavalry and were coming off decidedly worse in the melee, but they held.

Goth cavalry still trying to drive the Romans back.

My other unit of Cataphracts pushing the Huns back.

The Roman line had held despite loosing several units, but the Goths were also savaged by the fierce fighting .

The cavalry on our left turning the enemy flank. In the rules light cavalry are not permitted to interpenetrate when evading so several of Conrad's units were caught and were unable to escape. We might change that rule next time.

The héros of our army were Nigel's artillery crewmen. In the move before this photo was taken they had been hit by pursuing enemy cataphracts but managed to inflict a single hit which was enough to defeat them. Next turn they were sadly overrun by some of Richard's Romans.

The Huns facing my cavalry on our left had now been driven off, so we could turn our attention to the Goth cavalry in the centre.

The enemy CinC hiding under the aqueduct before making his escape. 

By this time the Huns had all been defeated and the Gothic attack had been repulsed. A quick count up revealed that the allied army had gone beyond its break point so it had to retreat. Victory for us! No doubt the survivors will regroup and try again to overthrow the rightful** Emperor!

The rules are great and I think I speak for everyone when I say we had an excellent game and a perfect way to re-open to Burrow. The rules are simple but require some careful thought when playing, are fast paced and provided many a tense moment. The activation and combat systems are simple and give an excellent game and we'd all picked up the basics after the first turn. The methodology for multi-player games is different to simple one on one games. I doubt very much they’d be as effective if we were all playing remotely as the mechanics of the rules would make pairing of dice etc more than a little cumbersome and a bit of a marathon for the game organiser.

I hope to offer another game next week so better get painting to finish off the Goths I still have cluttering up my painting table, and maybe some more Romans as well........

* Edward Lear
** for as long as it suits me of course.


  1. What a fine array of troops and isn't it splendid to have a face to face game again?

  2. A magnificent return to (some) normaility.

  3. face to face ancient games, perfect re-entry into 'normalcy!'

  4. What a spectacular looking game. That yurt is sooooo impressive!
    Regards, James

  5. Fantastic-looking game, and congratulations on real human contact ;)

  6. Massive looking encounter, yet another impressive collection, amazing! (Im jealous) Glad you guys can game face to face finally, our group has been doing that for months already where I live in the states.

  7. Im pleased you enjoyed using Sword and Spear Colin.I must admit that I think they are a cracking set of rules that give decent feel to the ancient period. Lovely looking game.

  8. A splendid spectacle of wargaming as it should be. Sadly eclipsed by your rock god hairstyle...