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"Which rules best represent manipular legions?" Topic

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2,152 hits since 27 Aug 2012
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Midpoint27 Aug 2012 12:28 p.m. PST

A while back I asked which rules best modeled mixed units of the renaissance period. I got some interesting and useful answers.

So now I ask, which rules best recreate the manipular legions of the Roman Republic? Further, what are the key aspects that need to be recreated?

MajorB27 Aug 2012 12:36 p.m. PST

I have not found any rules that represent mainpular legions very well. There is of course the ongoing controversy – did they or didn't they deploy in a "checkerboard" formation?

I must admit, I gave up and play Hail Caesar or Lost Battles where the focus is at army level so such details become more or less irrelevant.

I do allow Republican Legions to be "Drilled" in Hail Caesar, which I think reflects the greater manoevrability and passage of lines abibility afforded by the manipular structure.

Yesthatphil27 Aug 2012 12:36 p.m. PST

Good question!

Most don't – although I think DBA can do … by being so very generic that you can have the whole legion in play.

The key, it seems to me, is that the legion must be encouraged (and rewarded) to deploy in several lines. And depth must seem a safer bet than width to the Roman commander.

I await the usual suspects grin

Midpoint27 Aug 2012 12:40 p.m. PST

Is the legion going to be represented by one unit or several? In DBA you can get away with one base perhaps – a function of size and scale.

My personal preference would be for multiple units. Anyone tried them with Impetus?

MajorB27 Aug 2012 12:47 p.m. PST

Most don't although I think DBA can do … by being so very generic that you can have the whole legion in play.

I'm currently playing a 6mm Punic Wars game using Hail Caesar. I have three legions in play. Each line of each legion (Velites, Hastati, Princeps and Triarii) forms a single unit.

6sided Inactive Member27 Aug 2012 12:59 p.m. PST

Depends what you think a manipular legion did on the battlefield. As nobody on earth knows, you might as well forget it and go with rules where you don't have to concern yourself with such matters.

Jaz – 250 blogs and counting

Dave Crowell27 Aug 2012 1:26 p.m. PST

I believe the Manipular legion lists for War and Conquest have optional rules allowing for the second and third lines to count a morale bonus when testing against joining the front line in flight.
The front rank also has an option to break voluntarily.

The lists can be found here: link

In larger scale games the best rules seem not to model the actual exchange of lines on the tabletop but rathe just to model its presumed effects on Roman fighting power and morale.

Who asked this joker27 Aug 2012 1:32 p.m. PST

Anyone tried them with Impetus?

Impetus does not do a good job at all. Both units in question have to make a discipline test. At 4+ each, that would mean a 25% chance of actually carrying out the maneuver! If there were no discipline test, it would do a decent job as one switches with another.

Any rules system that allows one line to pass through another in a simple manner is probably doing a good job of representing the line relief maneuver.

JARROVIAN Supporting Member of TMP27 Aug 2012 1:41 p.m. PST

Alea Iacta Est by Justin Taylor

Marcus Brutus27 Aug 2012 1:46 p.m. PST

Hey Joker the need to test for line relief was changed about a year ago in EI4. There is no discipline test required for Hastati and Principes to switch positions.

Chocolate Fezian Inactive Member27 Aug 2012 3:18 p.m. PST

WAB, Hannibal supplement,

Caesar Inactive Member27 Aug 2012 3:19 p.m. PST

What's your interpretation of how this was done?

(Stolen Name) Inactive Member27 Aug 2012 3:27 p.m. PST


TMPWargamerabbit27 Aug 2012 3:59 p.m. PST

Both WAB1.5 and 2.0 and COE have exchange of lines and morale bonus factors. And there is an actual unit exchange of position….so unit size/characteristics does matter.


Personal logo The Tin Dictator Supporting Member of TMP27 Aug 2012 5:28 p.m. PST

Tactica did a decent job of representing maniples.
It had specific rules for Roman tactics using them.

Who asked this joker27 Aug 2012 6:33 p.m. PST

Hey Joker the need to test for line relief was changed about a year ago in EI4.

Good to know and I am glad they stripped away the extra dice rolling completely.

Who asked this joker27 Aug 2012 6:36 p.m. PST

Arrayed for Battle did one for the best jobs in the most simplistic way. When a unit had a stand eliminated in combat, during the next move, the player could shuffle up another stand from another unit. It cost order pips to do but it worked really well. Even felt like maniples were being exchanged. The rules can be had from the Wargaming on a Budget Yahoo group. They were written for wooden craftees soldiers by Matt Kirkhart. Any base works.

Berlichtingen Inactive Member27 Aug 2012 9:37 p.m. PST

Take a look at Legio VI Macedonica ( link ), It's free. I can't say if it plays well, as I haven't tried it, but I do like Legio VI Julia Augusta

Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP28 Aug 2012 2:27 a.m. PST

I played an enjoyable game of Civitates Bellantes (related to VI Macedonia) with Simon MacDowall, the author. Although our game was c50BC, these would work for the earlier period.


We used Command and Colors to play Zama, with the three lines which you can see in the below photo. C&C are a simple set of boardgame rules, but adapted very well and proved very accesible.



Cheers, Simon

Lucius28 Aug 2012 7:02 a.m. PST

Another mention for Tactica, if you can find a copy.

The only drawback is that the rules were designed for maniples to be twelve figures instead of a more standard basing of 16.

Rumor has it that Tactica II uses a standard base size, but it has been delayed so many times that we may never know.

Emilio28 Aug 2012 8:21 a.m. PST

Try Warrior. It has special rules for legionaries, so roman formations can exchange ranks, units, reinforce melees, and more things.

John Leahy28 Aug 2012 11:40 p.m. PST

While Arty C. is one of my favorite authors it's good to keep in mind that the next version of Tactica was originally called Tactica 2000. That provides a little perspective. grin



Tarty2Ts29 Aug 2012 2:46 a.m. PST

Impetus do a good job I think……unfortunately frown. I've just started painting an ancient Spanish army.

lapatrie88 Inactive Member29 Aug 2012 4:51 a.m. PST

The manipular legion is fascinating, and I still prefer to think the Romans actually did enter combat in this formation.

Saga (Terry Gore's) Ancient Warfare rules can represent manipular legions in checkerboard formation, because it allows units with a couple of WRG stands to compete with larger formations. If you scale your maniple to be 2 WRG stands in 2 ranks, you can field 1 legion (25-30 units) vs. a massed phalanx or barbarian warband in a few much larger units. Ancient Warfare is a 1990's vintage game so takes individual figure casualties and morale tests by unit--but this old-fashioned mechanism has its advantages if the low-level maniple tactics interest you.

I'm thinking about getting Phil Hendry's Augustus to Aurelian rules. He seems to be interested in some of the tactical detail, so I'm wondering if these can be adapted to the manipular legions, although written for the cohort legion period.

Scenarios that are scaled to represent a force of less than a legion size, such as frontier skirmishes with raiding barbarians, would allow more incorporation of tactical detail than grand full-army battles. If you are comfortable playing the role of a tribune or senior centurion as senior field commander, you should be able to adapt your favorite rules so that the typical unit size represents a maniple, or a cohort. For example, Basic Impetus has enough color for the Roman period to make this work.

Barca Dax Inactive Member29 Aug 2012 6:38 a.m. PST

I think Impetus tries to reflect manipular movement successfully? Not entirely sure – at least EIR lists contain three or four elements which can interpenetrate each other so you have different stats and properties for hastati, principes and triari which are grouped together in legions – as previously posted, the double test for line relief has been updated (I never had a successful line relief before the change) but you can also just use legions as large units, where casualties come off the back ranks which is probably just as good – and at any significant level probably equally accurate….. I very rarely use early Romans for Impetus on account of their troops being so expensive, you struggle to get a decent force of them on the table…

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP29 Aug 2012 11:07 a.m. PST

Depends what you think a manipular legion did on the battlefield. As nobody on earth knows, you might as well forget it and go with rules where you don't have to concern yourself with such matters.

Actually, that we even know that there was such a thing as a manipular legion is from the ancient texts, so 'no one knows' is painting with a mighty broad brush.

While there are few texts that describe the manipular legion, ALL the texts agree on several things:

1. The legion fought in three lines, Hastati, Principes, and Triari, with a fourth line of light infantry

2. The lines could relieve each other during battle by one line somehow falling back and the second replacing them and there is some evidence that the maniple's two units could relieve each other depending on the situation.

3. That they could and did deploy in a checkerboard formation, the name of which escapes me at the moment.

Now, the rest is open to anyone's guess, but if we are actually portraying history, the rules should portray those three points.

The games such as Tactica and Ancient Empires have maniples running around independently, flanking the enemy and never maintaining a line at all. which they never did. All maniples in each line operated as a single line based on the sources.

Now that is all made up with no historical sources to support such mechanics on the battlefield.

Caliban Supporting Member of TMP30 Aug 2012 1:58 p.m. PST

I found the original Tactica's maniple rules really annoying too, however Tactica II makes them fight in proper multiple lines, and in standard base sizes. However, as mentioned above, the rules have not been released…

Monk de Wally de Honk Inactive Member31 Aug 2012 8:30 a.m. PST

3. That they could and did deploy in a checkerboard formation, the name of which escapes me at the moment.

I think that was called Triplex Acies (triple battle order). IMHO the chequerboard maniple system was used as a movement formation. Once facing the enemy the Hastati and Principes would close ranks to form a solid wall of infantry (the Triarii acting as a reserve) You wouldn't want elephants, chariots and the like running through your lines and getting into the rear, would you? I have to agree with Barca, though. In Impetus the Republican Legions are too expensive and to field a decent force with four legions and support (at least 1000 points) means your opponent can field a massive army.

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