Author Topic: Vae Victis! (Woe to the Conquered!) Roman Units and Tactics  (Read 4940 times)

Kevin

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Vae Victis! (Woe to the Conquered!) Roman Units and Tactics
« on: November 24, 2010, 11:10:31 PM »
Rome Units and Tactics thread

I was recently asked to write this one up.  Rome kicked butt in the Ancient World for centuries, and with good tactics you can do the same on the gaming table!  

General Army Construction Principles:

Building a 2000-point Roman Army is FUN!  You do your best to reflect history: take a nice line if Principes, back them up with Triarii, a few Italian Allies in the mix.  Put a bit of light cavalry on your flanks, and skirmishers to screen your infantry.  Not just double check the point cost...

2685!  

???

:-\

More than any other army, in the standard 2000-point game on a standard map (at least one that doesn't have a huge lake walling off 1/3 of the battlefield), you find yourself with far fewer points than you feel you need, and are always making a series of painful, very ugly choices in order to get a viable army.


One unique trait of the Romans is that not one unit hits with power over 5.  While appearing to be a liability, this is really a benefit in disguise:  it forces you to learn the lesson that the way to defeat a heavy enemy unit is not to kill it directly, but to kill the unit next to it and them pinch.  

Their pila and relatively good skill for their point cost ensure that weak enemy units will break quickly somewhere so these pinches will happen.

The cheapness of so many Roman units means that a Roman army typically has more units than its opponent, especially a fantasy army.  It's not uncommon to have a dozen units!  This gives Rome some extremely useful de facto foresight, as the opponent will have completely deployed his army before the final units come down.  It's often advisable to deploy your regular infantry in the middle line of the deployment zone (2.5 inches back from the front edge), rather than in the front (Hat tip to Jaime "Mexico" for this trick!), as it will allow you to put skirmishers or Triarii in front of your line where needed.


Roman Abilities

Replacement:  this is most useful for taking a hit with Triarii, then sending them to the back of your line.  While two units constantly switching places and raining pila on the opponent sounds awesome, you simply can't afford it when using a standard-size army on a regular map: two units of Principes cost over 400 points!

There used to be some other cool tricks you could do with this ability and Triarii, but they were recently made illegal--probably a good thing.


Reinforcement:  A great ability, though it's a lot sexier to reinforce a unit which is 3/2 on defense than one which is 2/1.  That said, Rome has excellent command cards, including two copies of "Troop Rotation," so I generally avoid using this ability before the end-game, except for when I draw "Troop Rotation" or it is absolutely critical that a certain unit not fail a rout check.

A hidden strength of this ability is that, as the game draws to an end, you can often use Reinforcement to heal your units into higher colors, resulting in more scenario/victory points.


Roman Units


I'll list each unit and give a number of stars to each general role I think one might try to use it in, from 1-5.

If you have a post you've made in another thread that you think fits in this one, feel free to post it; I think it would make some sense to have everything in one place.

General guideline to what the stars mean:

*:  It looks like this unit might be able to do this, but I've found that this is a trap.
**:  In select cases, the unit might not completely embarrass you trying to play this role.
***:  The unit plays the role competently.  Generally it won't work miracles, but it justifies its points in most games.
****:  The unit is excellent at that role.  I'll try to "upgrade" other units in that role to this one if I can.
*****:  Centaurs!

Stars are points-adjusted, so you'll often see a unit that's better on the table getting fewer stars at a role, because it isn't enough better to make the points worth it in my opinion.

Roles:

Tank: This is a unit you use to soak up hits and last long enough for relief to arrive, without planning on it doing significant damage.
Other roles should be self-explanatory, or are explained in their write up.




Roman Infantry:

General comments:  All but two Roman Infantry Units (Triarii and Italian Spearmen) are armed with Pila:  javelins which hit at (3) x/6, where x is their skill.  This means that Roman infantry hits extra hard on the first turn of combat, typically doing an extra point of damage, which will make an equivalent enemy unit have to make a rout check first.  A hidden strength of pila is that, if the enemy army is on Hold (for example, if they are "standing & shooting," your units will get to throw pila twice before engaging!  

Their drawbacks are that many are relatively fragile for their cost, and are more vulnerable to ranged fire than most.  Not all units share this vulnerability, however.

Most Roman Infantry gets a bonus of +1 to morale if backed up, but their typical morale is 1 lower than corresponding units in other armies (for example, their most "average" 200-ish point infantry has a morale of 11, while every other army's average infantry has a morale of 12  (apart from Undead & High Elves.  Umenzi warriors are like Romans, in that they're worse when outside leadership range, but when within the range Umenzi warrors have a 12 morale.).  So I prefer to think of Roman units as having a -1 morale penalty if not backed up.



Hastadi

Disposable Fodder **
Infantry **
Tank *
Overall *

With only 3 green boxes and a 10 morale (11 if backed up), they are likely to get plowed after a single turn of combat.  You also pay a premium for pila, which are likely to miss given their 4 skill.  Basically an overpriced speed bump which is best avoided.  The only exception is that, if you know the enemy has a unit which can blow through anything (e.g. the Celestial Guard), you can pair these guys with a skirmisher to hold them up for a large number of turns quite cheaply.


Veteran Hastadi

Tank *
Hurting stuff ****
Overall **

These guys put out a lot of damage for a 169-point unit, with 8 dice at 5/6 on the charge turn.  But with only 3 green boxes they're very dicey, risking being one-shotted.  It's almost always best to pay 5 more points for Italian Swordsmen.



Italian Spearmen

Tank **
Light Infantry ***
Overall ** 1/2

Basically a vanilla (5)5/5 2/1 Spearmen unit.  Like most Roman units, they hit hard for their cost.  Their main problem is their weak morale if not backed up, which means that if you put them up on their own against cavalry there's a good chance they'll run away.



Italian Swordsmen

Tank **
Hurting stuff ****
Overall ***

Very similar in role and function to Umenzi Javelineers, these units can quickly tear through light opposing units.  4 green boxes gives them adequate survivability.  Their biggest problem is vulnerability to ranged attacks.  (This is pretty much always a trade off.  If something has powerful offense for its cost, by definition it has a corresponding liability.)



Triarii

Tank *****
Hurting stuff directly *
Helping your other units kick butt **
Making a Roman infantry line practically impenetrable *****
Overall ****1/2

New Replacement rules have prevented some of their most egregious tricks.  However, Triarii remain an incredible unit at their designated role.  

One unit of Triarii typically backs up three units.  

The +1 die when backing units up is overrated:  Dwarves can spend 3 command actions to give three units the Rune of Uruz.  If you consider a command action worth 25 points (the cost of a command card), then the offensive punch you get is worth a mere 75 points (about 40% of the Triarii's cost).  Less when you consider that the extra die doesn't take effect when the unit is charging.

Tank:  At first glance, this unit appears equivalent to a High Elf Battlesquad, albeit with one less yellow and one more red box (plus it costs 4 more).  However, the Reinforcement boxes, meaning you can heal two points with two command actions, or a single "Troop Rotation" card, makes a unit of Triarii take a very long time to chew through.  (but its 3 attack dice are at 5/5 rather than the Battlesquad's 6/5, so its hit back is even more feeble).

An especially fun tactic is to let the Triarii take the charge from an enemy heavy cavalry/elephant, then use "Replacement" to send the Triarii back to the safety of the rear where it can provide backup.  An example of this is can be seen at.
http://yourmovegames.com/forum/index.php/topic,1374.0.html

What makes Triarii especially good is that, if the opponent makes a successful all-out effort to rip a hole in your line, you can move a unit of Triarii to take the place of your fallen unit, keeping the victorious enemy unit busy for quite a while while you hopefully chew a hole somewhere else.

Their only drawback is that their 3 attack dice are so feeble that they will usually lose to regular infantry, even infantry which costs 20% less than they do!  So avoid those matches if at all possible!



Principes

Tank ** 1/2
Damage *** 1/2
Overall ***

A generally solid unit.  Basically standard (5) 5/5 2/2 swordsmen but with pila and worse morale if not backed up.  



Veteran Principes

Tank ** 1/2
Damage ****
Overall *** 1/2

8 dice at 6/6, yours for a mere 263 points.  Hard to beat that!  Their 2/2 defense is relatively weak for their cost.  While their morale is worse when not backed up, it's good enough that you can sometimes risk not backing these ones up.  However, the fact that their attack at 6/5 means that backing them with Triarii gets you a nicer attack die.



Extraordinarii

Tank ****
Heavy Infantry *** 1/2
Overall ****

Basically High Elf Swordsmen with Pila for extra punch, and Reinforcement boxes to keep them fighting for a very long time.  I almost never make an army without at least one of these.

While they do not hit any harder than Veteran Principes, their 3/2 defense, 13 morale, and reinforcement boxes keep them in the fight for a good long time.  The 3/2 defense also means that they're all-but-immune to regular infantry, allowing you to play your blue cards elsewhere.

Their only drawback is if they get into a fight with something their own size or larger, and their 5 dice at only 5 power is rather feeble.



Cavalry

Unlike fantasy cavalry, Roman cavalry only has 4 dice.  This generally makes them useless at defeating all but the weakest infantry unit one-on-one, but they are still devastating when pinching.



Italian Cavalry

Fighting other cavalry  ***
Dying horribly vs. anything holding a spear ****
Pinching ****
Overall  ****

For a mere 123 points, you get a cavalry unit which can move 6 inches and pinch an opponent.  A low-cost version of Hawkshold Scouts.  While their morale is pretty weak, their 3 green boxes means that they'll usually survive that first turn of combat.  Considering they are less than half the cost of typical fantasy light cav, they are a wonderful unit--and two of these should beat a single fantasy light cav quite handily.



Equites

Fighting other cavalry **
Dying horribly ****
Pinching ****
Overall ****

These units cost exactly 25 points more than Italian Cavalry, and the only difference is that Equites are 2/2 rather than 2/1.  The dice charge made this cost often worth it, as they'll hand in there longer than Italian Cavalry.


Veteran Equites

Killing historical cavalry ***
Dying horribly vs. anything else ****
Overall **

217 points makes these cavalry night quite big enough to deal with typical spearmen, and they'll still be slaughtered by fantasy cavalry, but they'll beat Carthage's Spanish Cavalry most of the time, and have close to even odds vs their stronger Gallic Cavalry, so there are circumstances in which they're worth it.  But if there's any way you can squeeze 29 points out of the rest of your army to get two Italian Cavalry instead of one of these, do it!



Skirmishers

Skirmishers are excellent units.  They have been downgraded somewhat since they first came out; some people still consider them underpriced given their capabilities.  While Carthaginian skirmishers are better, Rome still counts itself lucker than the fantasy armies which lack these incredibly useful little units.



Velites

Screening your infantry **
Killing those annoying Balearic Slingers ** 1/2
Poor Man's cavalry ****
Overall  ***

The biggest factor between a mediocre skirmisher and a good one is whether it has 2 or 3 green boxes.  With only two boxes, it must make a "second" rout check or die if hit by cavalry.  Similarly, even at 3/0 vs. ranged attacks it pretty quickly has to make a rout check which it is likely to fail and scurry to the back of your infantry.

On the other hand, for a mere 73 points you get a unit which moves 5 inches and throws javelins.  This will allow you to extend your line, making these guys useful either as a speed bump to slow down a heavy enemy unit for 2 turns (his turn, your turn).  Better still, if your line is wider, you can send these guys forward to pinch.  Even though skirmishers don't cause the enemy to make a rout check when pinched, pinches are always nasty.



Cretan Archers

Screening your infantry ***
If only this unit were in any army other than Rome ****
But alas, they're in the Roman Army  **

77 points for a (3) 5/5 archer is a bargain.  Better still, skirmisher archers are especialy awesome because, unlike regular archers who have to hide in the rear or get butchered, these guys (unless facing enemy "fighting" skirmishers) can be deployed in front of your line, then when finally "caught" they retreat behind the line, where they can still take pot shots at large units, plug a gap on the line, and shoot freely in the endgame.

And you can buy two of these, with 6 dice, for roughly the cost of a 4-die fantasy archer!


More than any other unit in the game, these guys suffer from being Elite.  While on their own they appear so good as to be broken, the fact that you can only take two of them, and Rome has no other units with ranged attacks (other than short-range javelins/pila) means that they are usually not worth taking.  6 dice at 5/5 that you get from two of them is simply not enough damage to justify forfeiting the strategic initiative by doing a "stand and shoot" strategy with your army on Hold.  And if you send them marching foward they get the -1 move-and-shoot penalty, unlike the Caetrati.

Still, their 3 green boxes makes them a decent meat shield or flank guard.

-----------------
Feel free to discuss your own impressions, or discuss units and tactics, below.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2014, 09:43:25 PM by Kevin »
However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results. - Winston Churchill

Kevin

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Re: Vae Victis - Woe to the Conquered! Roman Units and Tactics
« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2010, 11:26:15 PM »
Here are the three Roman armies I took at the Council of 5-Nations 2000-point "terrain tournament" in October 2010, which I won with a 3-0 record.

In each case, the map had hills, so I "lowballed," spending fewer points than normal in order to move first, take the hills, and convert my pila to Death Pila.

Game 1 vs. Dark Elves

4 Velites, 3 Italian Swordsmen, 3 Triarii, Principes, Extraordinarii, 2 command cards.  1976 points. 


Game 2 vs. Ravenwood

3 Velites, 2 Italian Cavalry, Italian Swordsmen, 4 Triarii, Principes, Extraordinarii, 1 command card. 1969 points. 


Game 3 vs. Ravenwood,

Velites, 4 Italian Cavalry, Italian Swordsmen, 4 Triarii, Principes, Veteran Principes.  = 1976 points.


Notice the abundance of Triarii (and, in games 2 and 3, Italian Cavalry).

You can read the full report at http://yourmovegames.com/forum/index.php/topic,1687.0.html
However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results. - Winston Churchill

ZiNOS

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Re: Vae Victis! (Woe to the Conquered!) Roman Units and Tactics
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2010, 03:34:21 AM »
Convert Pila to DEATH PILAAAAHHHH!

 ;D ;D ;D

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lazyj

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Re: Vae Victis! (Woe to the Conquered!) Roman Units and Tactics
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2010, 10:43:49 AM »
This is making me long for another Historical battle... Gull! We need to throw the dice! I should quit my job so we have time once in a while.

From what I noticed playing mostly against Rome was that their cavalry was pathetic compared to Carthage. I'm not sure that if that was just me getting all giddy about the wondrous Numidians or not, but I probably wouldn't have rated any of them four stars. Though I am also of the persuasion that cheap and fast cavalry gives one a lot of options... maybe I'll agree with you there after all.

Have you really had good luck with the Velites actually defeating Slingers? I guess we haven't had too many Skirmisher v Skirmisher fights, but I hadn't noticed them as being all that great against any skirmishers from Carthage.

After reading your reports I can certainly see the consequences of letting Romans get the high ground. It's honestly something that hadn't come up in our games before. I'm sure it will next time. I would still choose sexy Carthage over the stodgy Romans any day, but my opinion is slowly turning.

gull2112

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Re: Vae Victis! (Woe to the Conquered!) Roman Units and Tactics
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2010, 08:34:13 PM »
Its on James! Me DE and you Rome. Should be cake according to Kevin. ;)
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ajax98

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Re: Vae Victis! (Woe to the Conquered!) Roman Units and Tactics
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2010, 02:38:11 AM »
Its on James! Me DE and you Rome. Should be cake according to Kevin. ;)

For Rome, a cake walk, against DE, anytime.
The (broken) Skirmishers that float around in front of the Lashmistresses and are never forced to Engage.
Then the Roman columns with all their Replacement ability and backups smack your line.

If done properly, The Romans will crush your weakest units first and then fold up the DE.

The DE must cause more damage to the Romans than the Romans have in CA to 'heal'.
That is a tough row to hoe.

There is only one possibility for DE and it is iffy. I'm sure you will figure it out.

gull2112

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Re: Vae Victis! (Woe to the Conquered!) Roman Units and Tactics
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2010, 11:00:32 PM »
Quote
There is only one possibility for DE and it is iffy. I'm sure you will figure it out.

Oh, I believe I have my friend, I believe I have.

and along the admonition against bringing a knife to a gunfight is the phrase "that's like trying to bring lash mistresses to a punic war!" ;)
"Rules are only as good as the book they're bound in."
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Kevin

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Re: Vae Victis! (Woe to the Conquered!) Roman Units and Tactics
« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2010, 11:37:49 PM »
Quote
Have you really had good luck with the Velites actually defeating Slingers?

You're right.  It's a bit iffy; I just downgraded that to 2.5 stars, but it's still the best shot you have.  Even a hit by fast cavalry leaves Balearic Slingers in the green, whereas Velites can actually force slingers to stand there and get slaughtered.

The problem is their miserable 2 green boxes and 10 morale.  There's a good chance that slingers can force a unit to take a rout check on the way in, especially if they both target one unit, and one Velites will lose to 2 slingers which pinch it.  But one-on-one the Velites should win at least 2/3 of the time.

Quote
Me DE and you Rome. Should be cake according to Kevin.

Never have I claimed that beating DE is a piece of cake!  Based on my experiences battling them, I'm convinced that any time the DE show up the opponent should get at least 5% extra points if you want an even fight, but that's another story. 

And I'm not sure why folks are so grumbly about the Lashmistress vs. skirmishers.  Yeah she can't suck 'em in for the one-turn kill, but she still gets (5) 6/5, which makes her (at 313) about equal at killing skirmishers to the 335-point Ravenwood Bowmasters, and better (once they're in range) than the 360-point Longbowmen.  Three shots should annihilate any skirmisher; 2 shots if you get lucky.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2010, 11:43:30 PM by Kevin »
However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results. - Winston Churchill

lazyj

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Re: Vae Victis! (Woe to the Conquered!) Roman Units and Tactics
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2011, 06:26:47 PM »
Hey when is this gonna sticky?

Niko White

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Re: Vae Victis! (Woe to the Conquered!) Roman Units and Tactics
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2011, 07:48:41 PM »

Nag nag nag.

gull2112

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Re: Vae Victis! (Woe to the Conquered!) Roman Units and Tactics
« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2011, 09:06:10 PM »

Nag nag nag.

I have a native american friend who says his wife's indian name is "Many Horses" (nage nag nag). Yeah, he's a real comedian.
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RushAss

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Re: Vae Victis! (Woe to the Conquered!) Roman Units and Tactics
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2011, 10:58:54 AM »
I like it!

Say, I always wondered how the Cretan and Moorish Archers have the same points cost even though the Cretans had a higher courage.  All other stats are the same.  I know it's practically a non-factor, but shouldn't that be worth a point or two?
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As a disembodied spirit I am dead and yet unborn
I have passed into Olympus as was told in tales of old
To the city of Immortals, marble white, and purest gold"
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Chad_YMG

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Re: Vae Victis! (Woe to the Conquered!) Roman Units and Tactics
« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2011, 10:54:10 AM »
I like it!

Say, I always wondered how the Cretan and Moorish Archers have the same points cost even though the Cretans had a higher courage.  All other stats are the same.  I know it's practically a non-factor, but shouldn't that be worth a point or two?

It should.  I wouldn't rule out error, although it's possible we tweaked one for faction considerations.
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RushAss

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Re: Vae Victis! (Woe to the Conquered!) Roman Units and Tactics
« Reply #13 on: March 23, 2011, 10:59:21 AM »

It should.  I wouldn't rule out error, although it's possible we tweaked one for faction considerations.
Yeah, I thought so.  Don't worry, it's not exactly unbalancing the game or anything like that  ;)
"I have memory and awareness - But I have no shape or form
As a disembodied spirit I am dead and yet unborn
I have passed into Olympus as was told in tales of old
To the city of Immortals, marble white, and purest gold"
-Rush, Hemispheres