Gladius & Axe: Roman Early Imperial Legions Vs. Dwarven Axedwarves

This is a battle report from the old Warbard – Corey

Neil and I had a very interesting FR! battle on Sunday – 1000pts of Dwarves vs. 1000pts of Romans. These are the two ultimate Handweapon armies – fairly small battlelines of really, really good troops. My Dwarves had a Light-Artillery equipped Battlewagon, a flying Small Monster, 1 Elite HW, 8 regular HW and 3 crossbow units. The crossbows had stakes, and the regular HW all had Bombs. Two Traps filled out the list.

Neil’s Romans were an entirely ‘straight’ historical early Imperial army – a line of Elite HW Legions with throwing weapons, backed by bow-armed Skirmishers, with some throwing-weapon equipped Mobs and Light & Heavy Cav as support, and one light artillery piece.

What was really unique was that the Romans had no magic user at all, while the Dwarves had a Level 2 War Cleric. As it turned out, this mattered less than you might think. The Romans stubbornly refused to believe that magic was really happening, it seems – using just their Army Pool, and some luck, they stopped the bulk of my spells in their tracks!

The battlefield was quite crowded – a very large hill and a pair of smaller hills dominated the center of the field, with a river and small forested area off on one flank.

Roman setup had the Legions, skirmishers and light arty. together in line, at the back of the large hill. The mobs deployed along the bottom of the large hill, and the cavalry deployed farther out along the flanks, the bulk of it on the right flank.

Dwarven setup was my standard Dwarven setup – a line of 6 HW, with refused flanks of crossbows & HW and a pair of HW behind the main line as reserves. The battlewagon was on the right flank with two of the CB units, facing down the Roman cavalry. I`ve found that this double-refused flank with reserves setup works very well with Dwarves, and helps protect this slow-moving army`s flanks very well.

Both armies advanced slowly toward each other, the Dwarven light arty getting a couple of shots in, but the Roman artillery being masked by the bulk of the hill they were behind.

The Dwarven wargod`s Avatar, summoned by the War Cleric, howled forward and engaged the Legion`s righthand units, being banished shortly but throwing that flank into terrible disorder. Down on the flat, the Dwarven CB deployed their stakes and faced down the Roman cavalry, with both Traps holding units stationary for turn after turn, securing the flank. The battlewagon had charged forward to attack the cavalry, being eventually surrounded and destroyed but fighting grimly for many turns and leaving the cavalry in disarray.

The first clash of the infantry battlelines was thunderous – Dwarven Bombs versus Roman pilum and shortbow, with the bombs destroying the center of the Legion`s line, including the light artillery piece. Although the Dwarves were fighting uphill the whole time, they generally prevailed, gradually grinding the Legion down, although not without cost.

One notable (although temporary) setback for the Dwarves came when a valiant Roman mob beat a Dwarven HW unit twice, throwing it back off the hill in disorder, although not destroying it.

On the left flank, the Dwarven flying small monster (a small Silver Drake) had flown forward and destroyed the only Roman Light Cavalry unit on that flank, while HW & CB units slowly flattened the Roman mobs.

The Dwarven general challenged a Roman Hero to a duel, but the craven Roman, muttering something about `…being an officer, not a duelist, dammit…` went and hid in the rear ranks. The Roman general had more guts – and, as it turned out, more skill, slaying the Dwarf general in epic single combat. The Dwarven axers where not much dismayed, however, and continued to battle it out with the Legions, although both armies where now very much in disorder. (Both armies had been chasing each other down the moral clock, with the Dwarves hitting 4 first, then stopping at 3 while the Romans continued to fall…)

The turning point came when the Dwarven Silver Drake shook off it`s fatigue and soared over the Roman lines, terrifying and then destroying first a unit of skirmishers and then a Legion HW unit, while at the same time the Dwarf War Cleric convinced the wargod to return, slaying one of the trapped Roman Heavy Cav units. Dwarven axers continued to fight grimly, and some sembelence of order was imposed on sections of the Dwarven line.

All of this was too much for even valiant Legionnaires to take, and the Romans fell back, ceding the field to the Dwarven forces!

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Thoughts on ‘Magicless’ FR! Games: I’m not going to claim that magic had no effects at all on this fight – the Dwarven wargod’s Avatar was instrumental twice, although he didn’t stick around a long time. Part of this has to do with the peculiar nature of the War Cleric’s spells – the bulk of them are far more subtle and tactical, so that while they can change the outcome of the game, they’re not going to do it single-handedly. Even if you had a more distructive spellcaster – the Fire Shaman comes to mind – the deciding factor of the battle is always the actual clash of units, and usually the clash of battlelines.

It also shows off, I think, the integrity of the FR! ruleset – the tactical, combat part of the rules are sound enough, and the magic is not generally overpowering, so that a pure tactical combat army – which is what Neil’s Romans were – can still give a magic-enhanced army a stiff fight. This game, as I said in the report, was neck-to-neck almost right to the end. A really great game!

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