“Quinctilius Varus, give me back my legions!”
– Augustusmy last post I mentioned my recent interest in wargaming ancient Roman conflicts, specifically those on the Germanic frontier, to find some temporary respite from the pandemic and my own internal issues. The journey grew into one of the more satisfying diversion strategies to keep my mind off various anxieties and help me relax. Like abandoning one’s self in a good movie for two hours or getting absorbed in a good book, immersing ourselves in an entertaining activity can help us escape so we can face life’s woes with renewed energy and a fresh perspective. Goodness knows I have plenty of diversions at hand – roleplaying games, board games, miniature and chit-and-hex wargames, plus books both fiction and non-fiction to read and re-read – but I have many interests to tempt me into new endeavors, even among these existing forms. So I embarked on a journey back to ancient Rome, on the frontier with Germania Magna along the river Rhenus (Rhine), perhaps at the fortress town of Moguntiacum (Mainz, which I’d visited long ago on a family vacation), preparing my Roman soldiers to sortie into the dark Teutonic forests. A Wargamer's Guide to the Early Roman Empire on a lark; his approach of covering numerous gamer-oriented aspects of the period fired up my latent curiosity in ancient Roman history. He starts with an overview of the Roman Empire from 27 BCE to 284 CE, followed by a description of armies, organization, and equipment. The “Wargaming the Battles of Rome” chapter summarizes 10 battles against various enemies (including other Romans during times of political upheaval) and offers notes on bringing these to the tabletop. Several chapters outline published rules to use and the modeling portion of the hobby. The “Scenarios” chapter provides detailed notes on running four scenarios and a mini-campaign idea beyond simply lining up two opposing armies and going at it across the battlefield. These mirror some of the historical engagements and integrate some challenging elements and varying victory conditions. I was particularly attracted to “The Supply Wagon Massacre” since it used some non-military objectives and, with some further research reading Osprey books (see below), related to the fighting withdrawal of Varus’ legions at Teutoberg Forest. Mersey has published several other guides to wargaming different conflicts (including the Norman conquest, Anglo-Zulu war, and World War II desert battles); if I weren’t already somewhat familiar with most of those wars I’d orient myself with his books.
|Revolutionary War soldiers under|
construction on the craft table.
|My newly constructed Romans pose|
for a group shot with my new dice.
After all this reading, gluing and cutting, and dice-ordering I was finally ready to start playing. I smoothed out my 9x9 gridded green felt mat (three feet on a side), opened up Cordery’s Developing The Portable Wargame to the ancients rules, set up some stylized hills, swamp terrain, and some stands of trees, and prepared to set my forces loose in the forests of Germania...the subject of “Paper Romans in Germania, Part II.”