Falling Sky Tactics: Roman Scout

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Following up on our earlier article on overall Roman strategy in COIN Series Volume VI Falling Sky, here is a much closer, blow-by-blow examination of just a portion of the tools in the legionaries’ and auxiliaries’ kit bags….

Scount map 1

Gaul in the Spring of 52 BC

After a year of inconclusive campaigning against Ambiorix, Caesar has been unable to put down the Belgic revolt, despite winning several military victories. Meanwhile, the aspiring Celtic leader Vercingetorix has roused most of Celtica in revolt against the Romans, and Rome’s Aedui allies are dwindling in the face of this new opposition. After wintering in Provincia, consolidating and recuperating his forces, Caesar seeks to march north to crush Ambiorix’s limping army and finally put an end to his revolt. Unfortunately, a horde of Germans invaded across the Rhenus, besieging the Sequani—an ally of the Aedui and thus an ally of Rome—and cutting off Caesar’s route to Belgica in the north. While Caesar prepares to march northward to war and another long year of campaigning, he sends mobile auxilia into German-controlled territory to scout ahead and secure a safe passage for Caesar’s legions…

In this article, I’ll be exhibiting a small sequence of gameplay in Falling Sky, with particular emphasis on Roman tactics and the interplay between the Scout Special Ability and the Battle and March Commands. In this particular session of the main scenario (which begins in 53 BC), the Roman player had a poor first year, as the Romans were unable to quell Ambiorix’s revolt; Vercingetorix was largely successful in growing his revolt and beating back the Aedui; and the Germans were unusually active, charging across the Rhine with a large army, cutting off Caesar’s supply line, and besieging his Aedui allies. To add insult to injury, these failures hurt Caesar’s political image, and now the Senate has turned further against him, in Uproar. However, while Ambiorix’s allied tribes stood firm, his army suffered many casualties, and the Romans took the time to build up their own while minimizing losses. And so, with good play and a bit of luck, the tide can turn quickly.

Card #1: Ambacti

Luckily for the Roman player, the first card up after the Winter is Ambacti, on which the Romans are first eligible to move. FALLINGSKY_card-TEMPLATEThis allows Caesar to get the drop on Ambiorix and strike before Ambiorix can rally his army’s strength back to full. Unfortunately for the Roman player, a large Germanic horde stands between Caesar’s army and Belgica, ready to inflict substantial harassment casualties should Caesar attempt to march through without intelligence. This is where the Scout Special Ability comes in handy.

The Roman player declares that the Romans are doing a Command (March), and Special Ability (Scout). Paying 2 Resources to March from Provincia, the Roman pieces can go up to 2 spaces, and up to 3 with the pieces Caesar accompanies. However, if marching a second (or third) space, they will take 1 Loss for every 3 Hidden enemy Warbands in the space(s) they’re marching through. In this case, there are 9 Germanic Warbands in the Sequani Region, and 4 Germanic Warbands in the Treveri Region, which would inflict a total of 4 Losses on Caesar’s valuable and hard-to-replace Auxilia – a cost Caesar can’t afford to bear, as he will need all of his Auxilia if he is to enact his plan.

The Roman player then moves all Roman forces in Provincia into the neighboring Sequani Region. It is at this moment that the player chooses to interrupt their March in progress and enact their Scout Special Ability, which entails moving any Auxilia into an adjacent space and then, in spaces within 1 of Caesar, flipping any Auxilia desired from Hidden (symbol down) to Revealed (symbol up) to force any 2 Hidden Warbands in the space to do the same, and place a Scouted marker on those warbands, which helps ensure they won’t be flipping back to Hidden any time soon. With a healthy complement of 13 Auxilia with Caesar and farther north, the Roman player can use Scout to a large extent.

Caesar uses Roman Eligibility (initiative) to launch a new northern campaign. He pauses his March along the way to Scout out the Germanic hordes and push a force of horsemen across the Rhenus.

Caesar uses Roman Eligibility (initiative) to launch a new northern campaign. He pauses his March along the way to Scout out the Germanic hordes and push a force of horsemen across the Rhenus.

First, the Roman player sends out 4 Auxilia from Caesar’s main army across the Rhine to southern Germania, circumventing the German horde with swift cavalry, to subdue the undefended Germanic Tribes while their army is away campaigning on the other side of the great river. Next, the Roman player sends 1 Auxilia unit from Caesar’s army and 1 from the Fort in the Nervii Region (Aduatuca) to the Treveri Region, in order to protect the Fort besieged by Germans there and Scout those Warbands to ensure Caesar safe passage through. Now, once they have moved all of the Auxilia they wish, the Auxilia within 1 space of Caesar may Scout enemy Warbands in order to flip them to Revealed. They do this to great effect: 4 Auxilia flip in the Sequani Region and 2 Flip in the Treveri Region, to Reveal and place Scouted Markers on 8 and 4 Germanic Warbands, respectively.

Scount map 3

With the Scout completed, Caesar knows exactly where the German hordes are camped and can navigate around them, avoiding Harassment Losses. Now, the Roman player continues their March: Caesar’s army marches on, through the Treveri Region (depositing the 4 Auxilia that Scouted in the Sequani Region there to further garrison that Fort, as well as to stand by for the next phase of Caesar’s plan) and into the Atrebates Region to confront Ambiorix and his weakened army head on, in hopes of ending the Belgic threat in a conclusive battle and bring the head of Ambiorix back to Rome.

Unfortunately, Ambiorix has other plans. As the Belgae are next eligible on Ambacti, they are able to execute a Limited Command (a Command in 1 Region only) and immediately March away to the Veneti Region. While his allied Tribes are left undefended from Caesar’s Legions, the slippery Gaul Ambiorix and his army survive to recuperate, align with new allies, grow their host, and fight another day.

Card #2: Mons Cevenna

FALLINGSKY_card-TEMPLATEThe next card is Mons Cevenna, which the Aedui get the first move on, as the otherwise first-Eligible Romans are Ineligible after acting on the last card. The Aedui elect to play the Event, which allows them to do a March-then-Battle combination in one move (something that usually requires two). They march their largest army from the Aedui Region into the Sequani Region, where their Citadel at Vesontio and a sparse garrison are desperately defending against the Germanic horde. Due to the Romans’ thorough Scouting of the Germanic Warbands (intelligence which the Aedui allies can use), the Hidden Aedui army is able to get the drop on the Germans. They use the Special Ability that the Event allows them to Ambush the Germans, inflicting major losses while taking none themselves (as Ambush prevents the opposition from counterattacking). What was once a desperate Aedui Citadel about to fall to the Germanic horde is now a region back under the firm control of the Aedui.

Ambiorix disengages from Caesar’s Legions. The Aedui use a surprise over-mountain march to Ambush the large Germanic force threatening Vesontio. Vercingetorix responds by Entreating the Lingones away from the Aedui and Rallying his armies to tremendous numbers.

Ambiorix disengages from Caesar’s Legions. The Aedui use a surprise over-mountain march to Ambush the large Germanic force threatening Vesontio. Vercingetorix responds by Entreating the Lingones away from the Aedui and Rallying his armies to tremendous numbers.

However, an unfortunate side effect of playing the Event is that it gives the Arverni a full move, which they use to first Entreat (a Special Ability) an Aedui Ally, the Lingones, over to their side, and then to do a massive Rally, placing 12 Warbands (the rest of their Available units) onto the map, as well as allying with the Pictones Tribe. Now, Vercingetorix is fully prepared for war against Rome, and Caesar must be careful.… As he squashes one revolt, another, larger one rises up…. And if he does not address it in time he could find his Legions without corn, no Supply Line back to Rome, and Arverni hosts surrounding him.…

Card #3: Legio X

FALLINGSKY_card-TEMPLATEAnother stroke of luck for the Romans: the next card is another Roman first-Eligible card. While the Legio X event is a powerful capability, the Roman score is hurting, and they are in prime position to deliver a decisive blow. So they elect to pass on the event and instead execute another Command and Special Ability combination—in this case, Battle and Scout.

Ambiorix has fled Belgica. While it would have been a greater victory to capture or kill the Belgic Leader himself, now Belgica is unprotected and vulnerable. Caesar can make short work of Ambirix’s defenseless Allied Tribes, removing Ambiorix’s political base by Subduing them and thereby largely putting down the revolt in Belgica.

Meanwhile, the German host (or what’s left of it, after the Aedui assault), is across the Rhine from their own Tribes, and Caesar can exploit their vulnerability just like the Belgae’s. However, there is one problem. Despite having enough forces to carry out these numerous Battles, the Roman player was unable to fully position them across all Belgica and Germania with a single March. If the Romans used their turn for this March, the initiative would be lost and the Belgae could raise some emergency defenses to thwart Rome’s plans. This is where the Scout Special Ability takes on a new role.

While Scout’s primary function is expose Hidden Warbands, achieving a variety of goals such as preventing Harrasment Losses, protecting against Ambushes, as well as against political subterfuge such as Arverni Entreat and Aedui Suborn and more, a crucial component of Scout is its ability to maneuver the agile Auxilia (which are largely composed of cavalry and light troops) independent of whatever Command the Scout accompanies. In this case, the Roman player can use Scout to fully position his Auxilia for the subsequent Battle, making full use of his forces and Subduing the greatest number of Tribes possible.

After declaring they are doing a Scout and Battle, the Romans maneuver their Auxilia into adjacent Regions. In this case, 4 Auxilia in Caesar’s main army move to the Morini Region, 4 Auxilia in the Treveri Region move across the Rhine into northern Germania, and then the other 2 Auxilia from the Treveri Region move north to the Nervii Region. This simple deployment will have devastating consequences for the Belgae and Germans.

The Roman Auxilia Scout to position for Battle and a text-book Roman suppression of multiple tribes in revolt but momentarily undefended.

The Roman Auxilia Scout to position for Battle and a text-book Roman suppression of multiple tribes in revolt but momentarily undefended.

Now the Battle. The Roman player declares that the Romans are Battling in 5 spaces, spending a hefty sum of 10 Resources (2 for each Battle). Four of these Battle Regions are against entirely undefended Allied Tribes, resulting in a large toll for the Belgae and Germans: The Atrebates, Bellovaci, Remi, Morini, Menapii, Sugambri, Northern Suebi, Southern Suebi, and Ubii are all Subdued by Caesar’s forces in one swift stroke. The only Tribe that had any defenses was Ambiorix’s own: the Eburones. However, the single Warband would not be enough defend the Tribe from the 4 Auxilia (as each 2 Auxilia inflict 1 Loss), and thus even the Eburones are Subdued, with the Belgic Warband in that space opting to Retreat into the local woods and survive to fight another day.

In all, the widespread Battles Subdued a whopping total of 10 Tribes, boosting the abysmal Roman score of 6 all the way up to a victory-threatening 16. If it wasn’t for the last minute positioning of the fast moving Auxilia via a Scout, 5 of those 10 Tribes would still have been up in arms against Caesar and Rome, requiring Caesar to spend yet more valuable campaigning time up north in Belgica if he wanted to fully put down the Belgic revolt, while the Arverni threat continued to explode in the south.

However, these decisive Battles come at a cost. First, is the literal cost: 10 Resources, or more than half of Rome’s corn stocked in Gallica. If the Romans are to confront Vercingetorix’s revolt, they might be forced to spend time with a Seize Command first, which would enable them to forage a helping of Resources as well as Disperse (enslave) some nearby Tribes, restricting the Gauls’ ability to raise them back into revolt.

The next cost is the Belgae player’s move. By opting for a Special Ability (Scout), the Roman player opened up the Event for the Belgic player, and the Belgae intend to play it. The Event, Legio X, can be used by the Romans to buff up Caesar’s Legions’ capabilities in Battle; but it also can be used by the Gauls to do the reverse. In this case, the Belgae player inflicts revenge on the Romans for their atrocities, and now the Roman’s offensive capabilities are restricted.

The final and likely largest cost, however, has yet to manifest. By dispersing his Auxilia from the main army in order to maximize the reach of his offensive, Caesar has exposed his Legions. The cunning Vercingetorix, now leading a revolt larger than any Caesar has faced, is spoiling for a fight and intends to exploit this weakness. The carnyx sounds as Vercingetorix marches north to face the Latin invaders….


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7 thoughts on “Falling Sky Tactics: Roman Scout

  1. Thank you to the designers for this great AAR. I wondered precisely how the COIN system could be adapted to show the dynamics of ancient campaigning. I must say that it seems to work very well. The narrative that resulted from just a few moves is really convincing.

    Question 1: why did Ambiorix choose to retreat to the Veneti region instead of towards northern Belgica where he could protect at least some of his allied tribes?

    Question 2: May I hope to see one day a COIN game on the fall of the Roman Empire?
    I think it would be the best way to deal with the chaotic and fragmented events of that period. I’m aware of your work on “Pendragon” with M. Gouyon-Rety but I’m much more interested in the general picture.

    • Hello Tristan, thanks!

      On Question 1), I’ll have to let Andrew answer why he wrote Ambiorix’s decision that way. I will pass him that question!

      On Question 2), we can both hope for that! I expect that Marc G-R’s work with show the way: a beautiful thing about Pendragon is that it lets us experience gradual systemic transformation, from Roman Empire to Dark Age warlordism. His design achieves that with clever drivers and effects of an Imperium track and evolving victory conditions for certain Factions. We could some day do the same for other parts of the decaying imperium–or for all of it.

      Volko

    • Hello Tristan, thanks!

      On Question 1), I’ll have to let Andrew answer why he wrote Ambiorix’s decision that way. I will pass him that question!

      On Question 2), we can both hope for that! I expect that Marc G-R’s work will show the way: a beautiful thing about Pendragon is that it lets us experience gradual systemic transformation, from Roman Empire to Dark Age warlordism. His design achieves that with clever drivers and effects of an Imperium track and evolving victory conditions for certain Factions. We could some day do the same for other parts of the decaying imperium–or for all of it.

      Volko

      • Thank you for the prompt and kind answer.
        It’s great to have first hand reports on the games in development and discuss them with the designers.
        Compliments to Gene Billigsley for the idea of “InsideGMT”. I wonder why there are still relatively few comments from the gamers.
        Tristan

  2. Hey, Tristan! Thanks for reading and responding!

    To answer your question: There are several reasons why the Belgae player would make that move in this specific case, or have Ambiorix leave Belgica in general. First, the Veneti Region was totally unoccupied, which means it is fertile ground to both establish Belage Control (which is one of their victory conditions), and rally new Allied Tribes to their cause (which is the other component of their victory condition). In this specific case, it was a more effective path of flight for Ambiorix, as retreating further into Belgica (or even into Britannia) would leave Ambiorix more vulnerable to the Romans, as rather then breaking out of the Roman encirclement when he had the chance, moving into say, the Morini/Menapii Region would be further entrapping himself in it.

    And while there are also several positives to moving Ambiorix and his Warbands further into Belgica, (as it protects the Morini and Menapii Tribes even at the risk of Ambiorix getting trapped), the real reason Ambiorix chose to retreat rather out rather then further in is because, ultimately, I was trying to set up a situation that would show Roman Scout and Battle to its fullest extent.

    -Andrew

    • Thank you, Andrew. I think I’ve seized the logic behind that move now.
      In future posts I’d like to know more on how the types of operations changed from the previous COIN games.
      Falling Sky in the first COIN game to attract my attention. I’m not interested in counter-insurgency but I’m fond of ancient and medieval history and I think that the COIN system would be a brilliant way to deal with the non linear nature (often sporadic, scattered and decisive only in the long term) of most pre-modern warfare.
      Thank you for bringing the system to the Roman times!
      Tristan