The Roman World, To the Strongest, 28mm
The uppity Gauls were at it again. A peaceful Caesarean Roman column was marching through Gaul, minding its own business when a horde of unwashed Gallic barbarians turned up looking for a fight. Naturally the Romans obliged. This was a straightforward encounter game, but with a slight twist. We never usually bothered with the pre-game Stratagems, but this time we decided to go for it. What a difference it made to the game – at least for one side! We both drew our Stratagem cards, and the Gauls got a “Someone has Blundered” card, meaning they could – at a moment of their choosing – activate a Roman unit, and doing what they liked with it. The Romans pulled a “Flank March” card, and so they earmarked their small cavalry brigade as an off-table flanking force. In the game that followed, Angus and Thomas played the Romans, while Mally and Gyles took charge of the Gauls. We played the game on a 6×4 foot table, with 130 points of toys per side. The Gauls had divided their force (six warbands, two cavalry units and two skirmish units) into three commands – one for each of their available tribal leaders. They had a good dusting of “heroes” too, including, as per the revamped rules, a built-in hero for each warband. They began by launching an all-out attack all along the line, No subtlety here – just going straight at it. I took the three Roman cohorts on the left, while Thomas took the three on the right. We also both had a skirmish unit to back us up. We Romans didn’t advance – we just formed a line and waited. So, it was all up to the Gallic steamroller. One of the problems with a Gallic army is that it works best if everyone hits the enemy at the same time. Usually though, it doesn’t work like that. On my side, Mally failed a couple of key movement activations, which bought time for my slingers to soften them up a bit. In the end, they did so well that a warband broke and ran. Then the Gauls hit – or rather they hit my end of the line. They did well – one Roman cohort broke under the pressure and fled the field though. Quick-thinking by my teenage co-commander Thomas saved the day though. He moved up his reserve unit, softened the enemy up with a pila shower, then charged in. This was enough to halt them and plug the line. Meanwhile, on his side of the table, his own skirmish unit hiding in some woods softened up the Gallic cavalry, and disordered a warband and a unit of Gallic cavalry.Gyles though, was nothing if not aggressive. He reformed his cavalry, then charged them straight up a hill and into the Roman line. This sort of feat shouldn’t have been rewarded by the Gods. Instead the cavalry fell to pieces on the Roman shields and swords. Back on my side of the table Mally’s’ first charge had stalled a little, but now both sides were disordered slightly – the Gauls more than the Romans – and the battle was degenerating into a hacking contest.Fate now depended on the turn of a few good cards. I was just about holding my own with two Roman cohorts against two Gallic warbands. Over on Thomas’ right flank though, he still had three cohorts, and was facing two warbands. Just about everyone apart from Thomas’ Romans were disordered in some shape of form. So, Thomas started advancing – and the Gauls began pulling back, trying to buy time to reform their disordered warbands. That, of course, was when we decided to play our “Flank March” trick. Having drawn the right cards to bring the cavalry on, we appeared behind the Gaul’s right flank with two cavalry units, and headed down towards the centre of the table. We had two options. We could either loot the Gallic camp, or steam into the back of their already disordered warbands. I went for the second option. After running down a unit of Gallic skirmishing javelinmen we set upon the back of the nearest warband, and broke it. I was all set to wade into the next unit, while Thomas was steaming forward too. At that point though, Gyles announced he’d run out of “Victory Tokens”. In To the Strongest, you get a pot of them, the size of it depending on the strength of your army. You lose one for each skirmish unit you’ve lost, two for a cavalry unit or a cohort, and three for a warband. The Gauls had now lost 13 tokens, and so they’d also lost the game. For Thomas this was his first To the Strongest game, and I think he really enjoyed it. The other guys are also building up armies – Spanish and Dacians apparently – so I can see a lot more card turning in the coming year!