Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Alesia Part II - The Assault

"By the immense number of their missiles they dislodge the defenders from the turrets: they fill the ditches with clay and hurdles, then clear the way; they tear down the rampart and breast-work with hooks."

Caesar, The Gallic War, VII. 86

Our Hall of Heroes historical gaming group met to refight the battle of Alesia, 52BC, a week ago. The previous instalment of this AAR, describing the project as a whole and the construction of the terrain, may be seen here: Alesia Part I - Construction of the siege lines. 

Alesia is an interesting battle in that it was fought between, and from, 2 sets of fortifications. Briefly stated, Caesar was besieging the Gallic strong hold of Alesia; within which Vercingetorix was immured with his starving followers; these fortifications were the circumvallations:

Romans besieging Alesia...

but was at the same time defending himself to prevent another Gallic relieving force, led by Vercassivellaunus, breaking through to Alesia. These defences were the contravallations:

Romans being besieged by the rest of Gaul...

I was on the side of the good guys for once, part of Vercassivellaunus' relieving force - we had 8 'divisions' of 4 large warbands each, with ample engineer and skirmisher support.

In common with my colleagues, my command was of 2 such divisions:

My Gallic comrades were Jim, Terry, Craig, and last, our warrior chieftain himself, Philip, or the Big V himself.

These gentlemen gamers are shown in this picture as listed from left to right, and a great team to serve in it was too. But would we succeed in foiling the evil Roman's masterplan to take over the world?

Well not if Gavin, Bryan and Vic had anything to do with it! These examples of Roman virtue and dignitas are pictured below, where they spent the game between the two tables, the far one of Alesia, the near table the contravallations.

Gav has the evil grin, Bryan is pointing with suitable gravitas, and Vic is making some last minute adjustments to the defences...

On the Gallic side, we did actually come up with a plan, and it was a good one.

It was dashed by Philip, however, in his guise of game organiser, when he informed us that it was 'un-Gallic' for us to be too coordinated, and we would not therefore be able to us our Army commander to issue orders to the entire force at once...Merde!

Oh well, it was back to the old 'mindless charge with extreme violence' tactic that had gotten us into this mess in the first place then!

First let us visit the camp of Alesia, where Philip had mustered the hungry troops and lined them up for an assault against the inner circumvallations...

Unfortunately the alert Romans were fully stood to:

with a double size Cohort standing just inside the main gate to go to any trouble spot:

But the Gauls had a go anyway...

Outside, on the other side of the lines, the relieving force pressed forward too, but hampered by varying success with our command die rolls, it was a disjointed advance - my force only made one move forward.

To my left, Craig was hampered by the proximity of the Roman Cavalry fort, where a force of Germanic Roman Auxiliary cavalry could have debouched at any moment. Thus he was constrained to hang back with some of his force.

On my right, Terry and Jim were making much better progress forward:

The view from inside the lines was probably quite nervy for the Romans:

as some of our warbands closed to the ditch and wall:

The wall had a 'stamina' defence value of 12 which are engineers could assault against and eventually whittle away...

And every time an assault went in a ladder was placed against the wall - 3 ladders against the same 6 inch section of wall would result in the ditch being filled.

The assaults went in, one after another, at horrendous cost to Roman scorpion and missile fire...

And across on the Alesia table Philip continued his assaults...

He described the action on his table thus:

Since Vercingetorix could not communicate with the relief forces, I could only throw my warbands against the defenders to force a break out.  By the end of the game, the interior gate only had 2 points (out of 9) left and the defenders were slowly being worn down (one Roman unit was even shaken).  

I launched over fifteen assaults, filling in most of the ditches and even creating a gap in the defences after killing a unit of skirmishers, but it was to no avail.  In one round of combat I lost an entire division!

Assault after assault went in, but in a seemingly disjointed manner:

my divisions were pretty much unscathed, but hadn't succeeded in even laying any ladders...

And waiting for the German cavalry to make their move on our flank, whilst fruitlessly attacking the formidable defences was getting frustrating!

Then all of a sudden a great cheer went up right along the army of Gaul!

It had not all been in vain - almost at the same time a section of ditch was filled...

And then two breaches were made!

And then a third!

Now you will recall that my two divisions were as yet fresh - frustrated, but fresh!

So into the breaches they poured!

With seemingly little in their way to stop them taking the Alesia circumvallations in the rear!

These seemed to be the crisis of the battle - even Vercingetorix left Alesia to come and have a look!

But Caesar had not been idle whilst the breeches were collapsing - he had brought his reserve legion over to opposite the point of danger...

And these promptly charged the interlopers...

The ensuing combat was short and sharp - Caesar was only physically restrained from throwing himself in the fray by his legates - or Gav being worried by losing the game if Caeser fell in combat!

Since the Romans were attacking for once they couldn't lock shields, so we had a chance...

But the Gods were with Rome that day, and the high point of the Gaullic incursion was bundled back out of the fort! Game over!

A fantastic game, with all the careful and tireless preparation, frustrations, and excitement of war! My Gallic comrade Terry took a philosophical view of defeat as we were marched off to Rome in chains:

"After my initial shock and awe of the Roman fortifications the game was excellent and either side could have ended up as victor."

But the last word belongs to Philip, the chief instigator of this huge project:

"The game was a repeat of the historical outcome, with Caesar being in the right place at the right time.  If only the Gauls had managed to achieve more than one breach… Still, a gallant effort by the Gauls and a disciplined defence by the Romans.  Well played all round. I look forward to crossing off more of my bucket list wargames with such a great wargaming group and at the best venue in town (Thanks Matt)."
[Matt ist the genial, and giant, proprietor of the Hall of Heroes, Campbelltown, NSW]


  1. Cracking good show!!!
    I miss you chaps

    1. Thanks Troy - you are missed likewise! Hope you can get down for Gettysburg but appreciate its not easy!

  2. Fantastic report on a really cool looking game. Thanks!

  3. Good to see those Roman scorpion's in action.

    Over heard by a Rome soldier guarding some Gaul's as they marched back towards Rome "What have the Roman's ever done for us ?? Barring the Aqueduct, Sanitation, Roads, Irrigation, Medicine, Education, Wine, Public baths??

    1. Cheers Barry! 'Yes yes allright!, apart from....'

  4. wow - that was an amazing game - very impressed

  5. Very impressive, by Toutatis!

  6. Quite the sight my Dearest Sparkles. So many Gauls! Great quantities of earthworks!!

    Great to see that the game was in doubt to the end to keep the chaps happy. A great game with a good result ... says the man with a Late Roman army (albeit mostly unpainted).

    von Peter himself

  7. A magnificent visual feast! Must have been marvellous to play.