So, you’ve picked up the SPQR starter set (A Clash of Heroes) and duly pledged your allegiance to Rome, relegating those nasty Gauls to storage or perhaps the bits box. Your loyalty lies firmly with the Republic… for now! In developing the army, what steps could you take to ensure their efficacy on the battlefield?
Like any good Roman, you’ve no doubt got no shortage of enemies. While the starter set gives you a great force to dive in and learn the ropes of SPQR, over time the barbarians will grow in strength, jealous of your civilisation and military might. In war, as in politics, it’s always best to stay one step ahead of your opponents. Expanding your forces is the best way to ensure Pax Romana reigns at your local gaming club, and while the main warband list is short and sweet, there’s a huge variety of mercenaries available to the discerning general!
The Roman Legions
Your trusty Legionaries can be equipped for a variety of roles. While they perform admirably as heavy melee infantry with plenty of staying power, given slings they can do a respectable job of keeping the barbarians ducking, and the pila can be a real difference-maker on the defensive. If you need a tribe subjugated or a Rubicon crossed, these lads will be the bulk of your force and should do you proud… if you lead them well!
One of the few areas of war in which Rome does not usually excel is the use of cavalry – as such, we tend not to see them too often in Caesarian Roman warbands. This is a real shame, as Roman (well, okay, Roman-employed Gallic) cavalry can be very effective on the field. Boasting the same +3 Armour as your trusty Legionaries, and an extra wound, they make an excellent retinue for a Hero with the Horselord talent, or as a fast-moving reaction force to cover the flanks of your Legion.
From time to time, you may find the barbarians trying to emulate your glorious Legions with heavy armour of their own. When pila and slings won’t cut it, and you really, absolutely must skewer the uncivilised from a distance, consider a Scorpio Team! Use the pinnacle of superior Roman engineering to cow the savages from afar, but take care to keep it well-supported – your foes are sure to seek vengeance!
Of course, the only bad thing about Romans is there are never enough of them to go around! Any general worth their salt will consider laying in some
arrow fodder / expendable chaff / valued foreign allies when they find themselves outnumbered. Due to the nature of the Empire, Caesarian Roman warbands may recruit any units from the Britain, Gaul, and Germania lists as mercenaries, although why you’d want to associate with Brittunculi is beyond this patrician. Handily enough, you’ll have some of these warriors available to you through the Clash of Heroes Starter Set (if that indeed was your starting point). Despite their moral and cultural limitations, these fierce barbarians make excellent shock troops if fielded in large numbers, and also grant access to cheap (but probably not cheerful) Tribesmen, and the fearsome War Dogs.
For the more discerning commander, there are also several mercenary units of fame and renown to be hired. From the sands of Numidia come their superb light cavalry, ideal for skirmishing with enemy cavalry and harassing missile troops, along with skirmishers on foot for hit-and-run tactics. They also have the distinct advantage of being much cheaper than their Roman counterparts (as is only appropriate)!
While your Legionaries can make capable slingers, for such a skilled craft it’s always better to get the professionals in. Trained from birth, the Balearic Slingers are lethal shots with a Ranged skill of +3 and the ability to re-roll natural 1s on their Ranged checks, there simply is no substitute in the business of throwing small rocks at people’s heads really really hard! Surprisingly affordable, but unarmoured and somewhat less courageous than “proper” Romans (obviously!), these islanders can make life a misery for enemy units but should be kept well away from marauding cavalry!
Something about growing up on an island seems to make people really good at killing folks from far away. Rome’s finest minds are stumped, but in the meantime, hire some Cretan Archers and see for yourself! Widely regarded as the finest archers in the civilised world, they provide some much-needed ranged support for your testudae as they advance. There is, of course, the little matter of the protection rackets they like to run in camp, and some reasonably well-substantiated allegations of theft from the war chest, but hey – you pay for quality!
As much as it should pain any true Roman to admit it, not all Gauls are utterly useless in battle. The Gaesatae are seriously nasty pieces of work. Not only do they fight with poisoned spears, they do it completely in the buff! Naturally, this has a somewhat deleterious effect on enemy morale, and there’s a good chance that their fearsome Battle Cry ability will cause their foe to simply turn tail and run! These absolute maniacs are the perfect disposable shock troops – use them as linebreakers while the gleaming ranks of Rome march on to another victory!
Pull on your lorica, don your helmet, and take up your scutum. It’s time to march – but whether for the glory of Rome or to her very gates is up to you to decide, General.
Alea Iacta Est!