We got the idea for this siege from the Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy magazine (#39, Dec 08). They did an article about a Barbarian horde that had to attack a Roman fortress. And since many of us already have the 'siege & conquest' supplement for Warhammer Historical, it had to happen someday.
We asked the fellow members of Militia Brabantia to gather as many barbarians as possible to play this scenario. And they gladly helped. Read below how the siege went.
Imagine a Roman fortress in the second century, somewhere on the northern border of the Roman empire. There are strong. They are invincible. They are proud. With their superior arms, tactics and technology they fear no barbarian. And they know that the barbarians do not have the technology to build siege engines. So they are relaxing. After all, they brought civilization and taxes to these barbaric places.
But than, in the early morning of the third of January a guard in one of the watchtowers sees something steering in the distance. Just beyond the edge of the woods wild warriors appear. Horns are blown and then an enormous warband starts running towards the lazy Roman settlement.
We had about 400 barbarians on foot that attacked the Roman walls. Celts, Iberians, Illyrians and Thracians had by some kind of miracle joined forces against their common enemy: the Romans.
The Roman legionnaires amounted to less than 150 men that were able to pick up arms. They had to defend no less than fourteen pieces of walls and towers!
Although the Barbarians had no siege towers, or ballista, they had two things that might give them a change: Ladders and warriors. Lots of warriors. And these warriors were lead by the most fearsome chieftains that WAB has ever seen.
A fast as they were able, the Romans manned the walls, closed the gates and loaded their war machines. Then the nerve-racking waiting began, while hundreds of roaring Barbarians advanced...
A massive attack
For the defenders the options were scarce. They did not have enough men to counter attack. So they aimed their ballista's at the enemy and planned to defend the wall stubbornly.
At the gates they placed their new recruits, with the easiest of the coming tasks. The recruits only had to keep their shoulders up against the gate and prevent it from breaking under the weight of the barbarian attack. Oh yes, and above the gate they had prepared boiling fluids to throw over any barbarian that would come too close to the gate. That should teach them!
All they could hope for was that the Roman Gods hadn't forsaken them...
The Barbarians were under the spell of the mysterious shamans. These druids had inspired their followers with dangerous beliefs of immortality or a guarantee of an afterlife. So some units became fanatical warriors, while others became blinded by an enormous hatred against the Romans.
The Romans were totally unacquainted with the powers of the druids. They did not understand them, and they did not reckon these ancient symbols of Barbarism could do them harm. If only they knew what these shamans were capable of...
The Romans fired all long missiles weapons they had towards their enemy, but to no avail. There make quite a few casualties, but there were simply too many to make a lasting impact. In the second turn they had already reached the base of the walls...
Taking the Walls
Taking the walls is the most dangerous military action possible. Hundreds will die before even one soldier gets on top of the wall. The Barbarians had to choose to let their chieftains be involved or not. The warlords knew that they would loose many a good soldier, but then again: the less local chieftains, the less chance of a local uprising. So maybe that had made the decision easier, because the first attackers that showed their heads on the walls were almost only chieftains.
In WAB the dangerous part of the storming of the walls is interpreted by the inability of the attackers to fight back the first round, always attacking as last and having a penalty to hit... until they win a round of combat. Then they can put more men on the walls and the slow step by step taking of the walls really starts.
The barbarians can also only attack with one person per ladder, and you need a frontage of 2 models to place one ladder. So that makes it even harder. But the Barbarians could attack round after round, and the options for the defenders are much smaller. They basically only wait and fight back. After a while the enemy is bound to win a combat, and then the difference in numbers will take its toll on the defenders.
For a few turns the Barbarians had more than ten units attacking the walls. Units that lost a battle were pushed back (FBiGO) or fled, to rally at the deployment zone of the Barbarians and restart their attack. But is was very difficult for the Barbarian horde to get a foothold. Only two of the twelve Roman units had to take a break test until round seven. Luckily they were stubborn and held their ground.
The attack on the gate is another thing. The gates are attacked with a maximum of three attacks every round, and the gate is weakened by half these attacks. So you can calculate that it does not take too long to break open the gate. The Romans had boiling liquid to pour on the Barbarians, but they had made a 'tortoise' to shield against such attacks.
In the end both gates were forced open, one was even totally destroyed. The enemy poured through the gates. But the clever Romans had one more trick prepared. As soon as the Barbarians broke through they were attacked in the flank. This unexpected trap broke down their morale, and the fled back the way they came. One warband was even cut down to the last man before it got back through the gate.
For a moment it seemed that the Barbarians were going to loose once again against the mighty Roman Empire.
But it was all to no avail. By turn seven, two Barbarian units were on the walls and three other units were about to enter the castle through the now undefended gates within the next two turns. The situation was hopeless for the defenders. The Romans were going to loose...
It had taken 5 hours to conquer the Roman settlement. The two commanding tribunes of the Romans (Dennis and I) surrendered to the three Barbarian warlords. All citizens were carried of to be sold as slaves. But these Barbarians - being civilized gentlemen - prevented murdering or raping and ravishing of nice models of Roman buildings. So we could go home that evening with all of our models intact. (Lucky us.)
The Barbarians won the day due to their blinded hatred of everything that has to do with civilization and culture. (Though they claim it to be a victory for freedom for all mankind.)
Don, Paul and Frank are now the proud owners of the first Militia Brabantia challenge cup (or should I say challenge stone???). It stands proudly on the small display case at GameForce, while Dennis and I only have these pictures to remember the battle...