Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Alesia Part I - Construction of the siege lines...

'The circuit of that fortification, which was commenced by the Romans, comprised eleven miles.'
Caesar, The Gallic War, VII. 69

This Sunday at the Hall of Heroes, the usual suspects met up to refight the Siege of Alesia, 52 BC, using Hail Caesar rules. The game was the culmination of getting on for 2 years planning and preparation, for which, I hasten to add, I can take very little credit!

It was an awesome project - we recreated both the lines of circumvallation, enclosing the Gallic stronghold of Alesia...

and also the lines of contravallation, built to hold back the inevitable relief force...

The project was Philip's idea, so he was the natural choice to take on Vercingetorix's mantle, commanding the Gauls within Alesia.

Vercingetorix gazes at the Roman lines of circumvallation from his limestone fastness...surely a relief force will come?
Command of the relieving force, well, that wasn't so simple, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Today's tale is of the project preparations!

The usual suspects, L-R: Bryan, Gav (Romans)(Boo hiss!), Craig and Philip, (Gauls)(Hooray!), Vic (Roman), Jim (who brought his tribe all the way from Canberra to help raise the siege), and Terry, another Gaullist warrior hero!

Contravallation in the foreground, and the interior of the circumvallations in the background.
The game was set out on two tables. The smaller table, a mere 6 x 4, portrayed the interior of Alesia itself, hemmed in by Caesars circumvallation,

Looking out from the circumvallation wall to one of the camps on the Alesia plateau.
whilst the larger table, 12 x 4, held the contravallations erected by Caesar to defend against any Gaullic relieving force:

Contravallation exterior.
Contravallation interior - a satellite cavalry fort can be seen in the right background.
One of the numerous additional forts dotting the perimeter was also modelled, as a base for Caesar's allied German cavalry.

Just as it seems Roman Legionaries could turn their hands to anything, our mob's engineers produced all of these amazing models themselves.

Its hard to do justice to the care that was taken with the detail and finish of these pieces in my photos...

Even the doors in the gateways were magnetic and could be opened!

From the siege lines, our Roman Chief of Engineers, Primus Pilum Bryanus Squareonthehypotenuse Sallensius declaims about the work his team of roadmenders did for the siege:                                              Before taking up wargaming I would have said that logistics and engineering are possibly more important than morale and weapon types, so this battle got me more enthused than I had any right to be. In the lead up and over the weekend a lot of people asked about the wall so here are a few pics to show the process:
Some of the Vacuum Cast resin sections being undercoated

Early on it became apparent that a cheap solution would not suit. I decided that Vacuum Cast resin was probably the best material for the parapet and Gavin and I felt that expanded foam was the material for the rampart. Here you can see an original wicker section made from wood and, well, wicker, as well as the later original for the tower using resin wicker and wood.  

From these originals, moulds are made from which the sections are vacuum cast...

The expanded foam sections are done using a mould which has a lid with vent holes in it (not shown). When a small quantity of mixed foam resin is poured in, it expands to fill the mould. In the photo in the cut section you can see that the inside is aerated whereas the surface sets quite hard and takes on the detail from the mould.

This is the pile of moulds (not including Gavin's one) used on the project:

Thank you Primus Pilus, that will be all. Well as you might expect, Bryan's and Gav's attention to detail was second to none, even the towers were built to exactly fit the bases of our model scorpions!

Once the terrain was set out, easier said than done, the troops were stood to in their various locations and assembly areas...

The various Roman cohorts were unable to man the walls completely, more on this anon...

However, as more and more Roman units were unpacked the Gallic team became a little despondent!

But I daresay the view from the top of the wall wasn't too reassuring either! We had eleven 'divisions' of Gauls, each of 4 large warbands, 2 skirmish units....

and most divisions also had a specialist engineer unit to help breach the walls...

The ladders weren't simply for recognition, if 3 ladders were placed against a wall, it was determined that the engineers and warbands had filled or otherwise negated the effect of the ditch...

Well I think that's all your scribe has for you this evening, the next instalment will cover -

The Assault on Alesia!


  1. Lovely terrain. However; not one pic of Philip with a mug of tea in his hand. I don't like it! It's not natural.

    1. Good point mate! I shall have to see if that can be rectified in the sequel!

    2. Love your work though guys!

  2. Really very impressive, and looks like a fun game. Looking forward to the next instalment.

    1. Thanks Lawrence - yes it was a fun game, next instalment soon!

  3. As always looking good.
    ppppssss Don't mention the war.

  4. A wonderful and inspiring wargames project.

  5. Wonderful post yet again. Fantastic to see what a group of like minded wargamers can achieve when working towards a project of any kind that can culminate into a spectacular tabletop affair. Very much looking forward to the next report.

  6. Thanks Carlo. Yes it is a privilege to be associated with such an enthusiastic and resourceful group of wargamers. And to have such a great FLGS reasonably close!

  7. That is simply superb Ralph! Well done to all the 'heroes' involved!

  8. Wonderfull work! I can't stop watching this! And all looks so well overthought! Looking forward to the next pictures!


    1. Thanks Peter - Most kind! Hopefully will have the next instalment up this weekend.

  9. A seriously grand undertaking. The engineers etc have performed wonders.

    von Peter himself

  10. Thank you most kindly your vonship!