Broken Legions: Fantasy Skirmish Wargames in the Roman Empire by Mark Latham is one of the latest in the Osprey wargames series from Osprey Games. I’ve really been enjoying… well… most of the games in this series. They’re inexpensive enough that I don’t mind picking them up just to see what they’re like.
I’ve been pretty excited about checking out Broken Legions for almost a year now since the Big Reveal last September. Not because I had a clue who Mark Latham was at the time or what sort of rules he’s written (though BGG informs me he is the author of Trafalgar, Waterloo, and the Legends of the Old West series of games - all from Warhammer Historical Wargames – of which I have only played Legends of the Old West, once, almost 10 years ago), but I really like the thematic setting.
I really like Cthulhu Invictus. I had though about running it with Savage Worlds back when I was playing a lot of that, but never got around to it (too many campaign settings… not enough time… or regular committed players) (you’d think I’d have been all over Weird Wars Rome, but I’m actually kind of “meh” about it…). I thought at one point I might try running them using a mash up of Song of Shadows and Dust and Fear and Faith… and I still might! But I also thought I’d have a look at Broken Legions to see how they played out and if they could potentially be adapted.
So when Broken Legions arrived I though it would be fun to try out. I didn’t have to paint a thing. I could easily have fielded multiple Roman forces (either Soldiers of the Eagle or Order of Mithras), Sons of Spartacus (Gladiators), Cult of Set (Egyptians), the Argonauts (Greeks) or any of the others. I could probably run a campaign for a dozen people without having to put a drop of paint on a figure – just with stuff I already have painted…
I recruited the kids to play a quick game Friday afternoon.
Centurion Carisius and his sacred band of Legionaries are on a mission deep into the heart of Germania to recover ancient relic the barbarians there might use to gain great power.
I decided to use Scenario 5: Darkest Before the Dawn. As written the players are to dice to determine who is the attacker and who is the defender. I simply decided that it would be the Germanic Barbarians that were attacking the Romans in their camp just before dawn. The scenario seemed simple and straightforward – there they are, get ‘em – no wandering monsters or objectives to secure…
I tried to keep things relatively simple – not try out too many different things in our first go at this. I also wanted to try and just use stuff that I had… which didn’t necessarily fit the lists exactly, but I did my best.
Soldiers of the Eagle – played by The Boy
1x Centurion (+ Tower Shield)
4x Legionary (+ 1 Pilum each)
1x Auxiliary Legionary
The "Numerus" seem like maybe they’re supposed to be hunters or scouts - they have the Pathfinder ability – but it was the only way to get an armoured archer so I could use these auxiliary archers I have (although they are classified as “light armour” even though they are wearing the same chainmail as the auxilary “legionary”)
Barbarians – played by The Girl
1 x Tribal Chieftan (+Shield)
1x Druidess (+ Miracles – Nature’s Wrath and Call of the Wild)
6x Warriors (+ javelin)
I have these six Germanic warriors that are armed with Spears… spears apparently aren’t an option for Barbarian warriors in the lists… so I said they were javelins and their main weapons were “hand weapons”)
Germans, being the attackers in the particular scenario, automatically started with the initiative.
(Remember: click on the pictures for a bigger version)
In the darkest hour before dawn, the Romans are up in their camp – alerted to the presence of ambushers by the vicious barking and howling of the Centurion’s loyal canine companion; Rex.
The Druidess accompanied by her bodyguard approach the camp from one direction.
The Tribal Chieftan led another bunch towards the camp from the opposite direction.
The Tribal Chieftan was spotted in the darkness by one of the archers who loosed off an arrow at him, missing. Another archer joined him but couldn’t make out any targets. The Legionaries also rushed to that side of the camp, leaving the other side guarded by the solitary Auxiliary soldier, and single archer and Rex, the Centurion’s warhound.
The Druidess and her companions advance through the woods – at the end of her movement the Druidess performed the Nature’s Wrath miracle – all enemies within 3” of any woods or swamp or similar feature had to make a Physique Test at -1 or take a wound – this was particularly nasty because nearly all of the table is forest! The Romans lost two of their archers and three of the Legionnaires took wounds!
Large boughs lashed out at the legionaries, bashing them harshly – and the two archers who were standing a little two close to the woods were dragged into the dark wood by animated vines as they disappeared into the shadows of the forest their cries were snuffed out…
This was a pretty devastating blow for the Soldiers of the Eagle – and on the first turn – What if she did that EVERY turn!? To perform a miracle they simply have to pass a Presence Test (d10+Presence=10+ for success – with a presence of 4 that means it works 50% of the time… brutal…).
Perhaps this was overlooked in the writing of the rules, but while I could find a place where is specifically states that a model wounded by missile fire must pass a Presence Test or be Broken and in another place it states a model wounded in melee must also pass a Presence Test or be Broken. Doesn’t say anything about wounds received due to miracles or even simply witnessing “miracles” which I think would actually be pretty dammned horrific… Ah, well…
No sunrise, darkness rules still in effect. Germans continued to have the initiative.
The Germans continued to advance. As the Centurion finally spotted the Germanic Tribal Chieftain lurking in the shadows, he decided to take the “Bring Him Down” Heroic Action – thus for the remainder of the turn anyone in his warband that was able to spot the Tribal leader in the darkness and made a missile attack on him did so at +1. So all the Legionaries rushed forward and threw their Pilums at the Tribal Chieftain. The Germanic warriors also rushed forward and hurled their javelins at Legionnaires that hadn’t yet thrown their Pilums – on got lucky at took down a Legionnaire that had previously been wounded by the Nature’s Wrath miracle.
Three of the Legionnaires hit the Chieftain, but he deflected all three in turn with his shield (they failed to wound). At the end of their move three had formed up into a shieldwall.
Germans still advancing towards the other end of the camp. The Druidess failed to perform any miracles this round and narrowly escaped the Wrath of the Gods!
No sunrise, darkness rules still in effect. Germans continue to maintain the initiative.
Worried the Druidess might pull off another Nature’s Wrath miracle, the Centurion ordered his men back into the relative safety of the camp. Two made it back, but the third was charged by two Germanic Warriors – locking him in combat and preventing his retreat.
At the other end of the camp a Germanic Warrior charged out of the woods and hurled his javelin at the Auxiliary soldier – missing wildly.
The Archer put an arrow through him – knocking him out of the action.
A second warrior broke from the trees and this one hurled his javelin at the Archer – taking him down!
The Berserker joined the other two.
In the melee phase the two Germanic Warriors hammered on the lone Legionary. Despite their numerical advantage and the charge bonuses – they just couldn’t take down the Legionary – Heavy Armour with a Tower Shield is one tough nut to crack… best to stick to the miracles, because a regular warrior is just not going to take one out unless he gets very lucky!
Sun came up, darkness rules no longer in effect – and the Romans seize the Initiative!
The Centurion Charged into combat against one of the Germanic Warriors and shouted at his men “TO ME, MEN!” (another “heroic action” that allows D5 of his soldiers within 6” to immediately activate and move towards him – they used this to great effect, forming a shield wall on his flanks.
The rules about these shield walls and charging them aren’t totally clear. Three or more soldier with shields and the Shield wall special ability may form a shield wall simply by moving into line and facing in the same direction – then, in addition to the benefit of the shields themselves, they also count as defending an obstacle. Now if they are charged from the side or rear, soldiers can be peeled off that shield wall and if enough of them do so it is no longer in effect. It SEEMS, though it doesn’t specifically state it, that when charging an enemy a model is to move directly towards it – otherwise why wouldn’t everyone charge immediately to the flank of it and break up the shield wall. So we said if models wanted to charge the side, they’d first have to move far enough over to the side – so that the closest direct path would be to their flank.
Despite that option, the Germanic warriors just charged straight in against the wall!
Rex the warhound charged into the wood in search of the sorceress – he can sniff out evil magic!
The Druidess fled from the vicious brute and attempted a Call of the Wild miracle – hoping to summon a pair of wolves or possibly a bear… unfortunately all she managed to summon was a raven (or, in our case, a giant bat… because that’s what we had) who only gives her the “Spy” special ability…
The Shieldwall looked particularly nasty… until the Melee Phase. Of those that charged, the Berserker had the highest agility and went first attacking a legionary to his front in the middle of the shield wall… and took him down! Now it doesn’t really specifically say when the ability is lost, but it seemed the wall was broken up and so it should no longer apply…?
The Centurion went next and managed to cleave one of the Germanic Warriors. The remaining Germanic Warrior then went and managed to would the remaining Legionary – being the only one NOT wounded by the Nature’s Wrath miracle in the first turn he still had two hit points and so being wounded and losing one of them in melee meant he actually got to take a Presence Test… and he failed it and ran away…
The Auxiliary at the end of the line didn’t get to hit anyone. One of the advantages of the shieldwall is that anyone in the shieldwall may participate in a melee and may direct their attacks at anyone in contact with the wall (which seems a little odd as a soldier at one end, it seems, could direct his attacks at an opponent in contact with soldiers at the far end of the line…? Anyway, as there no longer was a shield wall and the Auxiliary was never actually in contact with the opposing Germanic Warriors… he didn’t get to get in on the action.
Over at the other end of the camp the Tribal Chieftain and a third Germanic Warrior had joined in the melee against he solitary Legionnaire defending that end of the camp.
He tried to sell himself dearly – and managed to take down one of the barbarians – the numbers finally took their toll and the Legionary was brought down.
The Romans won the initiative. So the Druidess used the Spy special ability that her raven/bat gave her and tired to reverse that. It didn’t work.
The Centurion charged into combat against the Berserker – thinking he’d have a better chance against it than the Auxiliary that was with him… and by charging the Berserker it prevented the Berserker from getting the bonus attack he gets every round in which he charges.
The Tribal Chieftain then went and challenged the Centurion to a “Clash of Champions”. The Centurion decided to ignore the hairy barbarian fellow that was shouting at him in Ancient German (but would suffer a -1 to his presence for the remainder of the turn for doing so…)
Other charges were made and there was a mess of melee combats. Everybody battered on each other with zero effect. What ended the game was the Druidess. She finally performed another Nature’s Wrath miracle – both the Centurion and Legionary – who were within 3” of woods managed to pass their Physique Tests! Unfortunately, Rex the Warhound failed… and that brought the Soldiers of the Eagle to 25% of their original strength… which triggered some “All is Lost” rolls in the Recovery Phase. Both the Legionary and Auxiliary failed their Presence Tests and decided that all was indeed lost and fled the battlefield (“removed as a casualty” says the rules) leaving only the Centurion. We called it at that point – saying he fled the field as well. Heroes are pretty hard to beat – they have multiple hit points (four, in the case of the Centurion) and the Centurion had Heavy Armour and a Tower Shield which is really, really hard to beat when trying to wound. He probably could have lasted the remaining three turns, but the writing was on the wall and he would not have taken down the entire remaining barbarian force single-handedly (he may very well have failed his All is Lost roll the next turn…)
There is a bit of a campaign system – which is always fun – but we only went as far as rolling to se what became of those injured in the game….
The two auxiliary archers that were dragged off into the woods by the animated vines in the first nature’s Wrath miracles on the first turn actually survived. They were bound to trees, but manage to get their daggers free and cut their way out… but not before the rest of their unit was massacred… The other archer that was punctured by the javelin died of his wounds. He probably died right there in the middle of the action. Only one of the Legionaries actually died… I don’t remember which one it was. The Auxiliary soldier also died – he was one who fled in the last turn. Probably turned to flee and was run through from the back. Oh, and the Centurion died… as we said he gave up, we considered his “removed as a casualty” just as anyone else failing a All is Lost Check. He was probably captured by the Germans and was taken back to their village and sacrificed as part of some dark ritual before his remaining legionaries could regroup and organize a rescue…
The Dog was also never seen again. Maybe it died - that's what we rolled - but The Girl wasn't happy about killing a poor dog, so we decided that maybe the Druidess has a new animal companion…
Of the Germans only one of the Warriors died.
All things considered it was a pretty fun game and we didn’t get bogged down having to look up rules or anything. It would probably go even a bit quicker after a few more plays.
I can’t seem to wrap my head around the campaign system. It seems experience point are gathered individually based on who took out what stuff and whether your side won. The Soldiers of the Eagle, having only taken out 4 henchmen and lost the game would have gained ZERO experience points. The Barbarians, on the other hand, would have gained 8… or maybe 11…? Now these experience points can be saved and when individuals gain enough (3 for henchmen and 5 for Heroes) they can “spend” them to roll on a table for a chance at some sort of benefit. The points can alternatively be pooled and converted into points to recruit new members for the warband… I just can’t grok the economy of it all. It seems like it would be really, REALLY hard to just keep the numbers you have let alone expand your warband and have the experienced gain new abilities…? I guess I’d have to play it and see how it worked out.
There are Auxilia – mercenary heroes you can hire for your warband – which I didn’t bother with for this game. They have a point cost to hire them at creation or to add to your warband later, but they also have retainer you have to “pay” in points EVERY GAME to keep them!? I’m not sure how you’d be able to keep then around without wiping out your opponents every game and not ever giving your guys any advances…!?
Again I guess I’d have to play more to see if it works out.
Will I play more…?
I don’t know.
If I didn’t have loads of other games I like better I’d totally play this more. It’s a slick little game that plays fairly quick and has some fun elements and a campaign system and with a few rules clarifications and/or house rules to clarify things it would make a fine little game….
But I DO have loads of other games that I happen to like better (I still love Song of Shadows and Dust – and could mash it up with some elements from Fear and Faith and/or Advanced Song of Blades and Heroes to make a pretty cool skirmish game for a similar setting, but I get a lot of others don’t dig on the level of abstraction in the Ganesha Games Song of… Series, so…)
What I REALLY need to do is NOT explore any of these options and get back on track with the Great War projects and finish up the Regina Trench terrain! I will revisit the dark shadows of the Roman Empire after next April… (or maybe over the Holidaze, if I need a break in December…)
Coming soon on Tim’s Miniature Wargaming Blog:
Could be a post about our annual 30 Games in 30 Days September Challenge (Broken Legions was Game #2 for the 2nd of September…) or possibly pics of the next Battalion of Canadians I’m just finishing up – YES they are a battalion that I need for the Regina Trench game!! I AM doing some work on that!!