Rome – City Assaults are Difficult

We formed up again on Friday night for another round of Roman mayhem.  We had done a couple weeks of river crossing battles and it seemed like time to try something new.  I opted not to form the game up so somebody else could decide which skirmish scenario we were going to try.  Loghound was up to lead, so he formed the game and we all joined in.


We dropped in and the teams became Loghound and Mattman versus Potshot and I, while the choice of scenario was ambush.

But, for some reason, we couldn’t play an ambush scenario.  Loghound reported that an error came up when he tried to when he selected that option.  So it wasn’t going to be an ambush evening.

The next choices was for a city siege.  Potshot and I were assigned the role of defenders while Mattman would be on the attack.

Of course, I think only I out of the bunch may have tried a city siege in the game, and I failed miserably at it, failing to take Carthage even on the easiest setting.  So this was going to be interesting for at least half of us.

We started with a low walled city on a hill.  I went with the Iceni, the Britannic barbarians, because we had had a side discussion about the Romans being something of the easiest mode of play, while the less civilized tribes were more difficult to handle.  I figured I could play with them in this scenario because I figured that the defenders were going to have things mostly their way.  Whether that was doing the attackers a favor or just adding insult to injury should they lose is up for debate I suppose.

Potshot, my ally, went with the Macedonians again, as did Mattman outside the walls.  Why?  I don’t know.  Alexander maybe?  I figured after the discussion about Romans being the most solid troops everybody would go with Rome.  But maybe Macedonia has become like home for them.

And finally, Loghound stuck with the Romans.

We got ourselves set up around the city, both inside and out and pressed the “Start Battle” button to see how we all chosen.

More after the cut.

So there we were, arrayed about the city.

First Battle Layout

First Battle Layout

My troops are in gold, Potshot’s in blue, while Loghound and Mattman share the red color.

Potshot and I just distributed ourselves around the walls, while I put a reserve force up on the main control point, which was at the top of a hill in the northwest corner of the city.

The city itself had three gates, northeast, southeast, and west.  Mattman set up his force down the road from the northeast gate, which included a detachment of covered battering rams right out of Age of Kings.  Loghound lined up the bulk of his forces facing the southeast gate, though he put his only real siege engine, a siege tower, along with some support troops, on a little knoll off on its own.  I don’t think Loghound expected them to be as off on their own as they were.  He spent a while just getting them off of there and on their way to our walls.

Meanwhile, Potshot and I just stood ready to plug any holes in the walls and let our archers pepper the approaching troops.

Loghound’s assault force was very heavy on archers as well, no doubt hoping to clear our walls.  We sent one of the spear units accompanying the archers fleeing (their corpses litter the space before our gate in the picture below), so as the archers themselves closed in, Potshot and I sent out some melee troops of our own to get stuck into them.

Get off our lawn dammit!

Get off our lawn dammit!

Several of our units spent the remainder of the battle chasing down and slaughtering Loghound’s archers.

Meanwhile, at the northeast gate, things became a scrum.  While my archers couldn’t do much to the siege rams, they did drive off some of the supporting troops, which let Potshot essentially open the gates and stand in the hole, plugging any entry and denying the rams any real target.  I pulled some troops from other areas on the wall to backstop him, but they were not really needed as progress was halted.  I passed some troops through his line to try and get around behind.  They did some damage, but in the end got slaughtered.

As we were chasing off Loghound’s archers and watching the scrum in the northeast slowly turn in our favor, the missing siege tower finally made it down from its hill, across the open ground, and up to the wall.  In the biggest advance made by the attackers, Loghound got a unit over the wall and into our city.  Granted, it was hard to hide a lumbering siege tower so I was able to smother his unit from two sides as he advanced, but at least he made it over the wall.

Eventually the attackers lost heart and ran off.  We held the city.  The game gave us a big thumbs up.

Way to go defenders!

Way to go defenders!

And then it was our turn to play as attackers.  After a moment of confusion where Loghound hadn’t noticed there was a button the swap attacker and defender roles and so tried to get us to change positions within the UI, we started picking our forces.  The city would remain the same

Everybody stuck with their previous choice except me.  I decided if I was going to scale the walls, I wanted Roman troops.  I had an inkling of how we might do this, so I told Potshot to get a lot of troops to get through an opening I was planning on providing.  I chose the onager siege engine with a mind to just knocking a hole in the wall for us to enter.  As the battle began I moved my heavy weapons forward a bit and had them open fire.

The problem was, I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it.  I started firing at the gate with flaming shot, but that didn’t seem to be doing much.  I switched to a section of the wall  near the gate, without much change.  Finally, I swapped back to the standard shot, which actually started doing serious damage to the wall.  Eventually I was able to knock the big hole I was looking to create in their nice wall.

The door's open boys!

The door’s open boys!

However, that took a while for me to get sorted, but which time Loghound and Mattman were able to concentrate enough troops behind the hole as to block it with a sea of bodies.

We pushed out troops into the gap in the wall, and at our high mark had managed to carve out some ground on which to deploy, but the weight of defenders pressing in on three sides eventually destroyed our units one by one.  The siege was decided before the 20 minute mark hit.  The defenders won again.

After that battle there was a moment of disruption as Loghound got disconnected from the game.  In trying to get ourselves sorted, I formed a new game and everybody joined.  The first item on my list was to change cities.  I had had enough of that little town on the hill.  I wanted to fight on something more grand.  It was our turn to defend again, and Potshot and I would defend Rome itself.

Rome with its mighty walls, wide boulevards, arena, and hippodrome. (I am reliably informed that “hippodrome” is not the preferred term for the snack aisle at Walmart.)

I went back to my blue skinned Iceni, amused to have the barbarians defending Rome, while everybody else held to their choices.

The avenues of attack for Rome are somewhat limited, so Potshot and I split up out forces while I put a reserve in the middle of the city.  Archers were on the walls while foot troops were behind, ready to plug any hole with their bodies.

Loghound and Mattman went with a two pronged attack again.  Mattman went with the siege tower option at the front gates, while Loghound came up the side of the city with some gladiators supporting a detachment of onagers.

Mattman moved first, his siege tower trundling alone towards our wall ahead of his troops.  I ran a group of spearmen out to harass this lone siege tower, in what was a more surprising than effective attack.  I couldn’t really do much to the tower, and while it looked like I ought to be able to simply slaughter the guys pushing the beast, that did not seem to be the case.  The tower made it to the wall where he was able to deposit troops.  Then a melee battle began up there between our archers and his assault force.

It wasn’t exactly clear how to get up and down from the wall.  In the last town the walls were simply sloped on the inside so you could run troops right up.  In Rome, with high vertical walls, such was not an option.  Eventually I just took one of my reserve melee units and told them to get up on the wall and watched them go to the covered stairs at the bottom and then appear up at the top.

While that was going on, Loghound first moved to the Quirinal Hill, which looked for all the world to be an opening he could just pass though, but which turned out to be a gated community that doesn’t let gladiators, Iceni, or other riff-raff enter.  Failing to get through there, he moved on to a gate way around the back of the city which had only a single unit of my ranged troops guarding it.  He set up his onagers and let fly at the wall, but apparently had the same ammo choice issues I experienced.  I hadn’t shared my discovery that going with standard shot was the answer if you wanted to break down a wall.

So he attacked the gate, killed some of my archers, but really only managed to scuff up the walls a bit.  He ran his troops up to the gate to see if they could do anything, but by that point Potshot had joined me on the wall with some archers and we took a toll on his troops.

Loghound at the gate

Loghound at the gate

You can see the gap in the wall there that looks like you could pass right through.  You cannot.

Troops dejected at this setback, Loghound went to walk around to the front of town to try and link up with Mattman and his limited success.

Dejected Gladiators

Dejected Gladiators

I ran some troops out behind Loghound to slow him down while I sent another force out ahead of him to block his progress and keep him from linking up with Mattman.  My following force got chewed up, but slowed him down so that he never made it to the blocking force.

But Mattman had managed to get another couple units up the siege tower and on the wall, one of them even making it to the stairs  and down into the streets of Rome.  However, as heady as this success was compared to the past games, Potshot and I had enough troops on the ground to corner and destroy the attackers that broke through.  In the end, the defenders won again.  The troop budget for attackers does not seem big enough relative to defenders.

There was time for another battle.  Potshot and I would be on the attack, and I chose a different city because… well… Rome was bigger than I expected.  I chose a different Roman town, smaller, but with similarly high walls.  I went back to playing as Rome to attack, and went with about the same load out as before, onagers to put a hole in the wall, foot troops to pour in through the gap.  But this time I had a plan.

So did Potshot.   And combined, it looked like it might work out.  After we set up out troops and the game started, this was our layout.

Two prong siege

Two prong siege

Potshot was in the north with his troops and an onager detachment, while I was in the south similarly armed. (The red troops are just the troops we could see, not all the enemy troops in the city.)  If we could just punch holes in the walls at both ends of the city, we might have a chance to get inside the walls and actually take a control point.  By this time in the evening, just doing that would be a minor victory.

I started right away working on the wall, successfully punching a hole in it pretty quickly, having stuck to the right ammo.  I had some troops positioned to rush through and hold the way open.

Through the hole and into the city

Through the hole and into the city

Loghound had gone for the maximum number of cheap troops in order to plug any gaps with bodies if needed.  However, this is where the solidity of the more expensive legionaries began to pay off.  I was into the fray, engaged with melee and ranged defenders, but was able to hold my ground with minimal losses as my onagers turned a few degrees and broke another hole in the wall.

The second hole appears

The second hole appears

I had two more units ready to pour in, their progress screened on the right, my general joining them.  This caused a bit of panic on the part of the defenders, who started pulling troops from all over the city to cover the second hole.  Now, if Potshot could break through and come at them from the other side, we might get somewhere.

Unfortunately, while my not sharing the whole “how to break through the wall” ammo strategy saved us some trouble as defenders, it also meant that Potshot had to figure it out on his own as well.  As I looked over to his side during the battle, I saw he was shooting flaming shot at the walls, which annoys the defenders, but which won’t break the walls.  I asked him to switch, but it was too late.  He had already expended most of his ammo and was only able to crumble a bit of the wall before running out.

Potshot's Siege engines

Potshot’s Siege engines

I had also, at the last minute, put a detachment of my own troops over with him, so rather than having that much more weight inside the city walls, they ended up getting chopped up by ranged troops in skirmish mode that came out to harass us on the north.

At that point our initial success started to look like it was going to fall apart.  While there were some pitched battles inside the city, the forces arrayed against us were able to wear us down.  My units fell apart one by one, fighting from block to block in the city.  My command group almost managed to capture a control point by racing off by itself.

Actually capturing something

Actually capturing something

However, a fresh unit of spearmen showed up and drove them off.  Eventually all of my units were run to ground and dispatched.  Meanwhile, Potshot was trying to get in through the gates that had opened up to let some troops out to attack his units.

Potshot's last stand

Potshot’s last stand

Under fire from ranged units and facing fresh troops, Potshot’s units eventually gave up and fled the field.  We were defeated.

But it felt like we could have won, if things had gone right.  And we extracted quit a toll on the forces of Mattman and Loghound.

End stats

End stats

The game declared it a “close defeat,” meaning that the winners paid a big price to hold on to their town.  The one thing that is missing from the end stats is an accounting of how many troops are still alive, thus not counted as “kills,” but who were demoralized and had run off the field.  I, as an example, had literally no units left, but there were 10 of my guys who got away.  I am going to guess they were with the onagers, as everybody else was in the city and fought to the end.  Loghound and Mattman’s losses do not look all that bad, but there were a number of their units that simply folded under the weight of my legions and fled the battle.  It would be interesting to know not just how many were killed, but how many effectives were left in the aftermath, as I suspect Loghound did not have ~900 troops lined up and ready to fight when my last legionnaire died.

Something for the suggestion file.

Anyway, that battle was close enough run that I was ready to play it again.  However, the hour was growing late, so we decided to call it a night.  But I suspect that we will be back to city assaults again next time.  Maybe an attacker will even successfully capture a control point!

3 thoughts on “Rome – City Assaults are Difficult

  1. SynCaine

    Back when I was playing, I would almost always bring heavy amounts of siege and ranged units to any battle, siege or not. Set up some melee in front, and watch as the siege units devastated everything. In all but the largest battles, they had more than enough ammo to keep shooting until either the enemy was dead, or they had charged into us.

    For sieging this was even easier as defenders tend to sit on the walls, so bringing them down also causes them casualties, and if not you can always keep raining fire on units inside a city. With weakened units and lowered moral, a hard push through the many holes in the walls generally resulted in quick and easy cleanup.


  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @SynCaine – Maybe they have changed the ammo load-outs since you played? My onagers had almost exactly enough ammo to punch those two holes before they were out. (We also learned pretty quickly to just move troops off of the section of wall that was being hit.)

    Of course, we are also playing with the smallest budget possible, so I can only buy one unit of siege weapons if I want to have any troops left over the actually go through the holes in the walls and take the city.


  3. SynCaine

    Ah yea one unit is the issue. I’d normally have 3-4, with another 2-3 of the smaller siege units (the big bow-looking thing) as well.

    I could see just one siege unit running low on ammo after a single wall is down, especially the bigger walls.


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