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The Orkney Wargames Club meets

in Kirkwall on Thursday evenings.


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The Battle of Tungrorum, 54 BC

The Roman World, To the Strongest, 28mm

It’s been ages since we  played an Ancients game, so .. by popular acclaim, I give you this small but decisive scrap, set near Tongeren, in the north-east corner of modern-day Belgium. In this little fracas, Sean 1 played the Gallic ruler Picanmix, while Sean 2 was the Roman praetor Titus Labius. I sort of umpired, which mainly involved looking up the odd rule. Mostly though, To the Strongest can be gamed straight off the Playsheets. In this wee game, Sean 1’s force was made up of the Tungri and Aduatici tribes, who’d allied together in a revolt against the local Roman garrison. Sean 2 had five legionary cohorts, and two alae of Allied cavalry, lined up on the fairly open battlefield against Sean 1’s six Gallic warbands, backed up by two cavalry units and a small unit of javelin-armed skirmishers. Oh, and both sides had a fortified camp. The game was played on a 6×4 foot table.The Gauls kicked off with a general advance – the old Gallic tactic of launching a wild charge and hoping for the best. Before I go on, let me tell you about the “big innovation”. In To the Strongest you use playing cards to carry out activations – moving or fighting. For this game, we tried out MDF playing card chits from Warbases. They worked a treat – no card shuffling, and much neater on the tabletop. You can see how unobtrusive they are here. Anyway, the initial clash had mixed results. First, the clash didn’t happen all along the line. On the Roman right, their Gallic cavalry got trounced by their Auduatici opponents, but the Hispanic ala was made of sterner stuff, and stood their ground, even though they kept charging the Gallic skirmishers, who kept on evading. On the Roman right though, things started to look dicey for the Romans, as they were outflanked and outnumbered. The Roman flank was anchored on a wide but shallow stream, and the Tungrian “wild boar” headed up the opposite bank, then turned to threaten the Roman III Cohort in the flank, while it was already fighting the “cockerel” warband to its front. In the end the Romans were forced to pull back towards their camp. One more hit from the “wild boar” who charged a cross the stream ands the Roman cohort broke and ran. Things though, were about to get a lot worse for Titus Labius. The “wild boar” warband was now threatening the flank of the II Cohort, which was directly in front of the Roman camp. They were holding their ground tho0ugh, at least for now. the only real saving grace was the I and II Cohorts, over on the Roman centre, were on a hill, and for some reason the Gauls hadn’t charged. Then, Sean 1 gave the signal, and two Aduatici warbands rolled forward.While this wasn’t great for the Romans, the flanks of the line were holding, although both of them were under a lot of pressure. The clash on the hill now formed part of a melee stretching all the way from the hill to the stream. Four Roman cohorts were holding off six Gallic warbands, and soon every unit involved was suffering – most Gallic warbands had two hits and the Roman cohorts had one. That meant that another hot to any unit would see it rout. In the end both sides lost a unit – the Tungrian “wild deer” warband broke, but then so too did the III Cohort, right in the centre of the Roman line. In most cases you’d pull back a battered unit and try to recover its morale, but in this melee there was no time for that – everyone was busily fighting to the death! The Romans though, had lost six victory medals – a cavalry unit and two cohorts, while the Gauls had lost one medal for the routed warband.  So, the pressure was now really mounting for the Romans. On their left the Hispanic cavalry finally broke after being hit by the Gallic cavalry, but the Gallic horse were so badly battered they took no further part in the game. This though, meant that one more loss and the Romans would lose the game. With every unit now disordered and suffering from hits, it could go either way. Still, both now exhausted sides kept hacking away, hoping for a lucky break. In the end the playing card token gods sided with the Gauls. It wasn’t this exposed Roman unit that went in the end – the one on the far right of the line. it was the ones on their left hand side, which had taken the chance of a lull in the fighting to pull back and try to rally. Instead the Aduatici “raging bull” warband charged forward and smashed into them. In the exchange the Romans took a hit, and the plucky but battered cohort broke and fled. Interestingly, at the same moment another Aduatici unit – the “red rooster” warband also broke and fled, but by then it was all over. With the loss of the II Cohort the Romans ceded the battle, and withdrew from the field, abandoning their camp to their equally battered foes. It had been a really well-balanced fight. Usually, the Gauls charge, get stopped, and then their units get chopped up by the Romans. This time though, the wild Gallic charge paid off! Photos, by the way, are courtesy of Sean2’s phone, as I lost mine last week when my hard drive died. Thanks Sean!




8 Responses “The Battle of Tungrorum, 54 BC”

  1. SEAN 2
    11th December 2023 at 6:12 pm

    It was an enjoyable game which worked well with the new counters. It certainly looked better without playing cards strewn across the battlefield. Being Roman I should have won, but the gods were against me and to be truthful I should have just stood my ground instead of advancing.

    • 11th December 2023 at 6:34 pm

      Yes, I agree. The new counters were a real step forward.
      You were just unlucky – it was all in the balance until the last second.

  2. Peter O’Brien
    14th December 2023 at 2:35 pm

    How did ye work using the counters Angus as you pull cards from a deck. Did you have them in a bag and pull out like bolt action or?

    • 14th December 2023 at 4:39 pm

      Sort of, Peter. I had the MDF counter equivalent of two packs of cards in a small metal sweet tin, one tin per side. After,each run the counters go back in, the run gets a shake, and you’re ready to go again. Fast and easy.

  3. Peter Verduyn
    9th February 2024 at 8:01 pm

    Nice report. I live down the Road from Tongeren. Ambiorix from the Eburoni ambushed 15 cohorts in 54BC, resulting in some 9000 roman casualties. The Germanic tribe of the Tungri were put in place by Julius Caesar in 51 BC, after eradicating the Eburoni in revenge. Atuatuca Tungrorum (Fortress of the Tungri?)was established there after, hence the name Tongeren.
    Happy gaming

    • 10th February 2024 at 7:40 am

      You’re a Germanic Eburoni then, or did you move to the area, Peter?
      That must make it difficult when it comes to the World Cup.

  4. Peter Verduyn
    10th February 2024 at 8:04 am

    Don’t get me started. Being from the coast, would make me Celtic Menapii tribe, then the Franks past through binging our lillies to France and a good Saxon injection a few centuries later…I really should be rooting for “Das Mannschaft”.

    • 10th February 2024 at 8:34 am

      It’s easier being Scottish, Peter. We haven’t made the World Cup since 1970. So, you just support anyone who plays against England!
      I suppose I should root for ‘Das Mannschaft’ too, as my father was a pre-war German refugee. Still, I have a soft spot for any Northern European team.

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