Early Imperial Roman
The Alans made their debut the other evening with an impressive 20 – 4 win over Nigel’s Early Imperials.
Nigel’s force consisted of 3 CM Cavalry , 6 FP Legionarii, 4 FL Auxilia, 1 T Sagittarri, 2 S Sagitarrii, 2 S Archers and
one Expert General.
My Alans were composed of 3 CP Nobles, 10 CL Warriors (half upgaded as Veterans) and 4 S Archers. I deployed
three commanders one Expert, one Fair and a Poor.
Nige was defending and initially deployed three woods and three hills. I moved two of the woods from the centre to
on top of the flanking hills. I figured that this may dissuade him from putting Legionaries uphill. However, I feared
that he might use a wooded hill to anchor each flank.
Nige deployed his Auxilia, and Sagittarii in front of his Legionarii with his cavalry massed on his left flank and his S
archers protecting his right. I was actually quite relieved as I had feared the Legionarii would be leading with the
support troops behind.
I deployed my Expert General with 6 CL Horse archers and four units of skirmishing archers on my right. I took the
risk that he wouldn’t use the woods for ambush purposes and so placed a horse archer unit in ambush in the woods
(Again! Unbelievable. Some people never learn! ) on his left flank along with two units of skirmishing archers.
My centre left consisted of an Average General, 3 CL horse archers and a unit of CP Nobles.
As a reserve I deployed two units of CP Nobles and a unit of CL horse archers under command of a Poor General.
My plan was to keep the expensive VD CP units out of the action in reserve and advance the horse archers, and to
initially harass the centre then expand and envelope the flanks and use the ambush to attack the centre and camp.
Nige’s Romans advanced steadily forwards and I rushed horse archers to occupy his centre. One early set back for
me was that the reserve command threw ‘snake eyes’ and ended up as Incompetent. Luckily I threw a 'deadly
double' only once for the command in the game and his incompetence had no appreciable effect. What luck.
The three horse archers on the left then rushed towards his cavalry and evaded when he tried to contact.
One unit of horse archers from the reserve even managed to get into a flank position. The three units which had
evaded then opened fire.
The arrow storm of the four units caused fearful casualties. One turn later and both units had been routed. Luckily
Nige had kept his third unit of Roman mounted back as a reserve. It was just a matter of time though outnumbered
five to one.
In the centre the horse archers evaded every attempt of Nigel’s at firing and took no losses. Nige kept advancing
trying to shorten the room for manoeuvre. A steady rate of casualties were being suffered by the lightly armoured
Auxilia. These units now tried to interpenetrate the Legionarii to hide away from the attentions of the hose archers.
Unfortunately they were disordered and failed to rally for several turns. My horse archers now moved toward the
Roman left and suffered an embarrassing loss when they couldn’t evade some skirmishing archer fire and rolled a
six on their cohesion test wiping themselves out.
It was but a minor setback however. Soon the two units of Roman skirmishing archers covering the Roman left were
also routed, one by bow fire the other when charged in the flank by horse archers and therefore unable to evade.
The Roman left was now open. Worse still my horse archers hidden in ambush appeared from the wood to the
Meanwhile, in the centre two units of Auxilia had finally been routed by bow fire but the remaining Auxilia and T
Sagittarii had managed at last to interpenetrate the massed ranks of Legionarii. The Roman right was now
outflanked as the last unit of Roman cavalry was routed by bow fire from its flank and front.
One unit of horse archers sped off to loot the camp whilst the other four units galloped round the rear of the Roman
The Legionarii were on the advance though and the horse archers found that their bow fire was suddenly nowhere
near as effective as against the Auxilia.
The steady advance of the Legionarii had however ensured that the Alan heavy cavalry now lost control. One unit
piled into some Veteran A class Legionarii which had just taken its first casualty, depriving it therefore of pila, and
was disordered. The Romans fought well though and the combat was drawn. In Nige's turn he managed to double
move a unit of adjacent Legionarii into their exposed flank and the next turn the Alans were routed.
The writing was on the wall now as three more units of out of control Alan heavy cavalry were bearing down upon
the Roman line. The A Class Legionarii, disordered and weakened by their previous melee, were routed and the
battle was won!
Nige admitted he didn’t really know what he was up against and that horse archers seemed incredibly flexible and
powerful. Which is undeniably all true. However, his Auxilia and cavalry were deployed without too much thought
on his part and suffered the price. More homework needed Nige.
I think the big issue with facing a mass of horse archers is that without plenty of cavalry to threaten and chase, any
mistake in deployment, disorder, or manoeuvring is immediately pounced on and ultimately punished. They are a
very unforgiving enemy to face. You have to be on the top of your game to beat them.
The key is getting them to be disordered somehow, which removes much of their flexibility. By their very nature their
commands often fragment and getting them disordered and out of command radius is vital to dealing successfully
If you allow them to close and fire, then evade any charges or any missile fire they will wear you down very quickly
They can be a very nasty enemy to face but equally can be very difficult to use properly…some of us just have the
I have promised Nige a rematch where we will swap sides so that he can try them out. Should be interesting.
All figures by Essex Miniatures painted by yours truly.
|Romans Deploy. Cavalry on the right, skirmishing archers on the left, archers
and Auxilia screening the massed ranks of Legionarii
|Alan deployment. A mass of CL horse archers with CP Lancers in reserve on
|Roman cavalry look impressive but....
|...They are easily disordered and take heavy casualties from the Alan horse
...So too are the Auxilia and archers
|The Roman left is outflanked and Alans appear in the rear
The right flank is also outflanked as the whole army suffers from a double envelopment.
|Praetorians in combat with Alan heavy lancers