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The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


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Setback on the Scaldis, 57 BC

The Roman World, To the Strongest, 28mm

I missed out on a game last week as I had a veterans’ meeting, but this week we were back, and off to modern-day Belgium. This encounter game was set near Ghent, on the small Narkin River, a tributary of the Schelde, or the Scaldis in Roman times. A small Roman force (commanded by Sean) had set up a marching camp close to the river. They were then set upon by a slightly larger force of Belgeae, some of them Atrebates, but others the more Germanic Eubones from the eastern side of the Scaldis.The Romans had five legionary units, two units of cavalry a scorpio unit and a unit of skirmishers. I led the Belgae into battle, as my  alter ego King Semtex. I had six warbands, two cavalry units and two skirmish units in all. So, the two sides were fairly evenly matched. However, in the pre-game ‘chance’ draw, I got the chance to steal a march, and used it to outflank the Roman right, along the banks of the Narkin. The Belgae made good use of this, led by the Atrebatean cavalry. the only Roman units on that side of the river were the cavalry, and the two cavalry forces clashed. In the fight that followed, one of the Roman allied cavalry units broke, while the other fled back across the river towards the Roman camp. It took time though, to swing a bunch of Gallic tribesmen around and get them across the river, into the Roman flank. Too long…Meanwhile over on the Roman left, the unit of bolt-throwing artillery wiped out my skirmishers at long range, and then drove a warband back over the river. Once there, the scorpios moved forward to get back into range, and wiped the unit out with some spot-on long-range fire. That was three victory points in the pot, compared to the two I’d got for wiping out the cavalry. So, it was all still to play for.While all this had been taking place my Eubonean warbands began crossing the river towards the Roman flank. However, a few fumbled activations by the Belgae bought time for two units of the white-shielded Romans of the VIII legion turn and refuse their right flank. So, it would come down to a head-on clash. The battle that followed was fierce and bloody, with both sides taking hits, and becoming demoralised. it was really all about who could deliver the knockout blow and destroy an enemy unit. On the other side of the field things had settled down, mainly as the Roman scorpios were moving forward, in search of fresh victims. Off at the back of the Roman right, a unit of Spanish cavalry took on the victorious Atrebatean one, and again, both sides wore each other down. then, the Belgae got the edge, and the Spanish broke and ran. The Atrebatean horsemen though, were then wiped our by Roman skirmishers, who withdrew into the fort, then shot at them from there! Meanwhile the hack-fest in the centre continued, with Chief Semptex, carried aloft on a shield, right at the fore. Honestly, it could go either way at this point. I had reserves, behind the river, but activation problem,s made it hard to bring them forward. the Romans were also fighting on a shorter line, as the battle had switched from the alone the table to up and down it. So, a tighter frontage, but one that was packed with screaming Gauls and sword-wielding Romans! The king, Semtex – that’s him above on his shield (shades of Asterix and Obelix) tried to spur his warriors on, but it was really all down to the toss of a card. Actually, although ‘To the Strongest‘ uses playing cards rather than dice, we opt for playing card counters, from Warbases, which are both neater and easier to use. So, it was really all about the turn of a counter! Sean though, commanding the Romans, was the same though – nothing left but luck! Then, like a house of cards, it all started to unravel. A cohort of the VIII legion broke, which left a hole in the Roman line. I shoved two units of Belgae through the gap, but Sean pulled back his line, and reformed it using his one reserve cohort. Meanwhile the two red-shielded and veteran VII legion cohorts had also moved forward, and were propping things up,. So, when Sean’s next cohort went, it was countered by me losing two of my warbandsThe writing was in the wall for both of us. Either of us could lose the game if we lost another unit. Rashly, I threw my remaining Gallic cavalry against the VII legion unit holding the Roman left flank – which was isolated by events on their right flank. They were demoralised by the Atrebatean horse, then – amazingly they were broken., So, the hard-fought game ended then and there, with a win on points by the Belgae. It really was a game to remember! Gallic or Belgic wagon laager…





2 Responses “Setback on the Scaldis, 57 BC”

  1. Peter Verduyn
    22nd April 2024 at 8:56 pm

    We just call them “de oude Belgen”- the old belgians. I bet there was lager in the laager for the victors. Another great set up and report. Benchmark stuff.
    How would you compare To the Strongest vs Hail Caesar? Would you expect similar results as I believe both have a similar level of uncertainty in command?
    Happy gaming

    • 23rd April 2024 at 9:22 am

      Thank you for the Belgian background Peter, and the lager gag!
      I’ve used both rules, and they both have their merits.
      On the whole though, I much prefer the ease and speed of play of To the Strongest.
      Actually, both have increased when I switched to playing card chits rather than actual cards.
      there’s no need for shuffling, they look less intrusive on the tabletop, and they’re fast to use.

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