Caesar’s Wars 56B.C.

Caesars’ Wars. (56 BC.)
(An Account of a Wargame between Romans and Gauls.)
Richard Mc Clean.

 I must admit that I’ve always had a passion for the Ancient Wargame Period. What has put me off in the past was the Rules. For some reason I just couldn’t get enthusiastic about them. So I decided to have a go myself. In the past I have used the NDWs Club Rules Warfare Within the Realms of Fantasy any time I indulged into the Ancient/Dark Ages Period. This time however I decided to experiment with the dreaded “Elements”.
What I wanted to achieve was to win Wargames by my own ability, not because I happened to win the first roll of the dice. I also wanted my troops to behave like their Historical counterparts. So it was time to experiment.

As almost everyone uses the Base Sizes from WRGs’ DBM Rules, I decided to stick with those. My daughter has hundreds of plastic 20mm Romans and Gauls, so this was my obvious choice on which to base my Rules. After two days of gluing and basing, I was ready. All my Roman/Gauls were based according to WRG 7th Edition.

I will not go into the mechanics of the Rules, as this is a description of a refight, but maybe I will publish them at a later date. But hopefully you will get a gist of them as I give an account of this Battle that was fought using them.
I can remember years ago reading a book on Ancient Wargames, I believe it was by Charles Grant. In it he described a Battle between Republican Romans under Julius Caesar and a huge Army of Gauls or Germans. Unfortunately I no longer have this book, so everything in the Scenario was done from memory.

Setting the Scene:

Caesar had pursued the defeated Gauls as far as the River Rhone. The River was full due to the melting snows from the mountains. Caesar realised that if the Tribes were to be subdued, a bridge would have to be hastily built across the River and his Army would then have to rigorously pursue them back into their Homelands.

The problem was the terrain. A small stream lay several hundred yards from the River Rhone. This was bridged without any difficulty, the Romans noticing no activity from the Gauls who were obviously lurking in the dense forests.
Two small stockades were built, one on either side of the bridge which now spanned the River Rhone. Any day now the Legions would break camp and set out to expand even further, the sphere of Roman influence.

Word came to Caesar that the Gauls had attacked Roman Settlements further to the East. Most of the Army was sent to prevent any more incursions, this was what the Gauls had hoped for. Waiting until the main Roman force was at least two days march away, the Gauls suddenly launched a ferocious assault upon the understrength Roman Army that protected the river crossings.

Caesar was in the main camp when the alarm was sounded. He realised that if the bridges were destroyed this would delay the planned invasion of the Gaul/German Homelands. He smiled, the Senate no doubt would use this as an excuse to curtail his conquests of Gaul and Germania. He knew he had to act immediately.
He sent ahead what Cavalry he had and ordered his remaining Cohorts to prepare for a force march. Luckily the Rhone was only three miles away, he would be there in no time. But would he be there in time?

So the Romans at the bridgehead have to hold out against the Gauls no matter what is thrown against them. The Gauls know that Caesar, in person, will rush to the bridgehead with what troops he has at his disposal. They have decided to ambush the Roman Relief Force as it crosses the swollen stream and try to engage it before it has time to reform. Everything will depend on timing and how much success the initial wild charge will have.

“Men and horses were fed, weapons were sharpened. The Gauls knew that this could be their last chance to remain a free people. To-day was a good day to die.” Anon 56BC.

The Armies Involved:

These were largely decided by what was available. My daughter had loads of Gauls, Britons and Barbarians from several manufacturers; as you can guess she likes chariots. Unfortunately there were only a few boxes of Romans. This coincided with the Scenario as the Romans were to be heavily outnumbered.

The Gauls were grouped in Tribal Units. Each Unit varied between 24 and 48 figures for Infantry. They were on Elements 60mm x 60mm. There were six warriors, two ranks of three on each Element. The Gauls had some skirmishers. These included, slingers, javelin throwers and archers in single ranks of two figures on Bases 60mm x 30mm. These Units were about 12/18 figures strong. The Gauls were not given any Units consisting solely of Archers. Chariots were on the normal WRG Bases of 60mm x 80mm. The Cavalry were grouped in a single rank of three figures on bases 60mm x 40mm. I decided to give the Gauls an “Elite” Unit of Warriors. These would be the same as WRG MI (close). The same Base size was used but there were eight figures in each element. This Unit was the Gaul Commanders own Tribe.

The Romans were in single ranks of four figures on Bases 60mm x 20mm. Each Cohort consisted of 24 figures. The first Cohort of the Legion was increased to 30 figures. This was to be commanded by Caesar himself. Their Archers/Skirmishers were based as the Gallic Skirmishers. Again these Units were about 12/18 figures strong.

In all, both Armies were based as stated in the WRG 7th Rules except that the Gauls were on double Bases. This was because I thought that this looked right for Tribal Warriors and it also forced them to operate in large Units and not in those small Units you see scurrying around on the table looking to exploit every loophole available. The troops Morale and Melee Class was different to that used by WRG. I have included the nearest WRG equivalent.

As the Game progressed, we realised that there were too many Gauls, so you can reduce the number of Gallic Units to give the Romans a better chance of success. This is a Game where the Romans will find it difficult to win. Now there’s’ something different for a start. The Rules give the Tribes a large Melee and Morale Bonus the first time they charge and engage the enemy. They mainly keep this as long as they maintain their success. Once they draw or even worse, lose a Melee, this Bonus is reduced. This is because the Tribes would lose heart if their initial attack wasn’t a complete success (my viewpoint). As long as the Roman line held, the Tribes would eventually be demoralised and start to drift away. This would become a retreat and would then dramatically become a Rout.

The Legions are better equipped to withstand surprise or flank/rear attacks whereas the Tribes normally ran when this occurred. This meant that the Romans were able to hold up against larger forces quite well. But once they were seriously out-numbered, they were slaughtered were they stood. The Gaul Commander decided after the Game that with these Rules it was suicide to take on a Roman Army of near equal strength in an open battle. His Gauls could only win by using ambushes and superior numbers. Much like the real thing I thought.

The Gauls:

Infantry: Six Tribes of 30 figures. (Irregular C). One Tribe of 40 figures. (Irregular B). Two Tribes of 36 figures. (Irregular C). Cavalry: Six two horse Chariots. (Irregular B). Two Units of Light Cavalry, 8 figures each(Grouped at the start as a single Unit)  (Irregular D). Four Units of MC of 12 figures each. (Irregular C). One Unit of HC of 8 figures. (Irregular B).

The Romans:

At each Stockade there are 12 Legionaires, 8 Archers and 6 LC. In order-Reg C, Reg C and Irreg B. With Caesar: 1st Cohort of 30 HI figures. (Reg B). 2 Cohorts of 24 HI Figures. (Reg C). 2 Units of 12 LI Archers. (Reg C). Two Units of 8 LC. (Irreg B). One Unit of 6 HC. (Reg B).

The Roman Cavalry was mainly Gallic Allies with native Romans being the Reg B types.

The Gauls had to deploy in the woods on either side of the River Rhone. The Romans drew on a Map their Order of March. As the Romans were responding to an attack on the stockades, Caesar had to wait until the start of Move 4 before he was able to come unto the table. This hopefully would give the Gauls time to formulate their plan. Here I must be honest, the Gaul Player was new to Ancients so I “advised” him on the deployment of his Army. This was done before the Roman disclosed his tactics and with his consent.

The Deployment:

Caesars’ deployment was dictated to him by circumstances and by terrain. The troops stationed in the stockades could not be placed elsewhere. I however allowed him to convince me that as part of normal patrol activity, his LC would be out scouting the forests; in search of the elusive Gaul.
The stockade Infantry were firmly entrenched behind their wooden walls.

Caesar decided to split up his relief force to make better use of the fact that there were two bridges over the stream. (A word here, the description “stream” is misleading. It is more like a narrow fast flowing river. It cannot be crossed, just like the Rhone, except by use of the a/m bridges.) Caesar led the 1st Cohort, 1 Unit of Archers, 1 Unit of LC and the HC over the Western bridge. The rest of the force crossed by the Eastern bridge.

The Gauls decided that the best way to win this Game was to wipe out Caesar and his command and then concentrate on the two stockades. Enough forces were therefore allocated to the attack on the stockades to ensure that the Gauls would not lose this particular fight, whilst the bulk of the Gaul forces would attack Caesar. The plan was a good one, but as we will see, never expect a Warrior Warband to do exactly as you would like them to do. It almost went completely wrong.

The figures refer to the number of models in each Unit. HC = Heavy Cavalry, MC = Medium Cavalry, LC = Light Cavalry, CH = Chariots, 1st = Cohorts. From this and by checking the Armies on the previous page you will be able to determine the Deployment of both sides. It was decided not to give the Gauls any Skirmishers.

Initial deployment: The four Tribes in the lower SW Forest are 30 strong each. The two Tribes in the NW Forest are 30 & 36 strong. In the NE Forest are the LC and another two Tribes of 30 & 36. In the SE are 4 Units of MC, 1 Unit of HC & a Chariot Unit. The Roman LC (RLC) were allowed to split up into four small Units.


Map 1: Opening Moves: The battle opened with the Roman LC, that were normally in the stockades, heading off towards the Forests to set off any Gaul traps. This was a deliberate ploy by the Romans to sacrifice the LC for the greater good of Rome. Typical of the Romans, but it worked.
I believe that a good set of Rules needs Morale to make the Armies behave as their Historical counterparts. The Gauls certainly behaved like wild Tribesmen. The Roman LC entered the Forests and were immediately spotted by the Gauls, Morale was called by both sides. The Romans were heavily outnumbered, in enemy cover plus several other disadvantages. It was no surprise that all the Roman LC ran for home. The Gauls decided to chase after them.
The Roman LC raced back to their stockades, where they dismounted, rallied and were put to good use as dismounted Archers.

The Gauls in the Northern section of the Battle, in the mean time had pursued for two Moves. As no enemy were within charge range they were allowed to stop and reform. The Northern Gauls then marched steadily onward towards the Northern stockade.

In the South the Roman LC had also done their job extremely well. They too raced back to the stockade as the Gaul Infantry advanced out of the Forest, again the Gaul Commander sent a Unit after the LC. On the Eastern flank it was a different story. The Gaul C in C managed to control his Army but at the same time sent of a Unit of MC to make sure that the enemy Scouts did not return. The rest of his Cavalry were not discovered.


Map 2: Caesar Arrives: The attack on the Northern stockade could have been a disaster for the Gauls. The order was given to charge, again Morale was called. This should have been a mere formality as we reckoned it would need a score of 4 or more on 3D6. The Gaul Commander tempted fate by saying that rolling the dice was a waste of time. The Gauls in the Western sector attacked minus one Unit of 30 Warriors, the Eastern tribes lost both Units of Infantry. They had to remain where they were for one Move. As this made them unformed, this effectively put them out of the Game for Two Moves. The Gaul Commander needed to attack, the rest of the Northern Gauls pressed on.

It was at this point that Caesar lost the Game. It would take less than two moves for his troops to move from the Southern stockade to the Northern stockade. His Archers could have held the Southern end quite easily. The extra Infantry might have defeated the piecemeal attack sent in by the Gauls. The Gauls rushed the stockade but failed to carry it in the first assault.

Casualties mounted slowly, but the Gauls were able to replace theirs with the fresh troops that were now arriving. The Romans still held on as the new Units of Gauls arrived to add more pressure to the ever dwindling Roman garrison. Again if the Romans had brought those troops from the other stockade forward the Melee might have ended differently. The fresh Gauls were not fighting as well as they should have done. Because they had failed a Morale Test their confidence had sagged. They were now fighting as Irregular D Class (WRG) and/or Irregular B. Fresh Roman Regulars would have forced them back and this would have reduced them to almost Levy Status.

In the South Caesar crossed the stream He saw the Gaul Infantry pour out of the Forests and then he committed a fatal error. He stopped to deal with them. Caesar had several options here, he could have let his Cavalry harry the Gauls as he raced to the Stockades or he could have ignored them altogether and let his entire force march on.
Once he stopped just over the stream he remained stationary for two Moves. The Gaul force in the East left the confines of the Forest and made a general advance towards the Roman Relief Force. Caesar still could have reached the stockade if he advanced his Infantry and let his Cavalry slow down the Gaul Cavalry.

Caesar saw that he was heavily outnumbered, he gave the order to form into a large hollow square. His troops waited for the storm to hit them.

Meanwhile in the North, the Gauls at last managed to sweep aside the heavily outnumbered defenders and charged over the bridge in a mad frenzy. The bridge was narrow and this helped to neutralise the large number of Gauls. Unfortunately the Gaul Infantry and Cavalry Units that had chased the LC away were now in a position to attack the stockade as well. It was only a matter of time before the gallant Romans fell, doing their Duty to the last.


Map 3: The Death of Caesar: In effect the Game was over but Caesar reckoned that he could salvage some pride if he managed to re-cross the stream. Once across, he could defend the bridges against any amount of screaming barbarians.
As he started to retire the Gaul Commander realised what was happening. Every Unit under his command was sent into the attack. The first wave was beaten back after two close rounds of Combat. But those Gauls that were forced back were replaced by others.

The Roman Cavalry were slaughtered by their Gaul counterparts. Caesar dismounted his HC and used them as extra Infantry. The Roman Archers were doing great harm, but Caesar didn’t have enough of them to influence the outcome of the Battle.

The Gauls regrouped and threw themselves forward yet again. This time they managed to even the fighting, they were not pushed back this time. Roman dead began to mount as a cry went up from the Northern end of the battlefield, the bridge and its’ stockade had fallen. Caesar had three maybe four Moves, before more Gauls appeared. The Roman square disintegrated as all the Roman Units made a dash for the bridges over the stream. Caesar now had no thoughts of regrouping, he had to reach the safety of the Roman Army that he knew was only  thirty or forty miles to the East.

Caesar didn’t see the fatal blow that struck him down. His faithful 1st Cohort was hit on three sides by Cavalry and Infantry. The Casualties were enormous and several Officers were killed. Because he was now deemed to be a part of  that Unit, Caesar had to run the risk of being one of the Officers killed. It was here that the luck of Caesar ran out. He fell from his horse and disappeared beneath a dozen hacking blades. His body was never recovered nor identified.

The pursuit was a slaughter as the victorious Gaul Cavalry repaid past Roman atrocities several times over.

For the Romans it was a disaster, but within six months a massive Army under Pompey had claimed revenge on the exact same spot where Caesar fell. But that is another story.

Aftermath and Discussion:

The initial deployment couldn’t be faulted on either side. The Gauls had simply too many troops. The next time, if we replay this Scenario, the Gauls would lose two of their 30 figure Units. This would force the Gaul Commander either to weaken his attack on the stockade or run the risk of Caesar fighting his way to the bridgehead.

All Caesar had to do was to reach the stockades. The Gauls would never have managed to defeat Roman HI Regulars behind a stockade. Then the Romans would just have had to wait for the Roman Army to head back from its’ operations in the East. It was only sheer weight of numbers that defeated the stockade defenders. Caesar should have sent the Romans on the Southern end of the bridge to the Northern end. They might not have won, but the Gauls would have taken much longer to overcome them. Remember in these Rules the longer the Gauls take to overcome their foes, the better the chance that their fighting ability will decrease. The majority of those Gauls arriving from the North had already dropped one Class (WRG).

The Rules we were using are still in their infancy. They will not be available for several months. If you have any problems with this Scenario write to me at the NDWGC or via E-mail.

Editor: Since writing this Article, I have decided to stick with my Fantasy Rules with the help of  a few adjustments. I “invent” Army Lists each time I fight an Ancient/Dark Age Battle. I still get what I consider to be a “Historical Result”, what ever that is. If anyone is interested in these Rules, then send me an e-mail to see if they are still available.