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"Why Late Roman Wargaming?" Topic

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benglish Supporting Member of TMP17 Nov 2016 2:08 p.m. PST


Don't mean this to be a controversial topic. I'm very new to ancients and my interest tends to be Caesar in Gaul through to the Hadrian Wall period. But I've noticed that many -- or even most -- of the posts I see here on TMP and other sites seem to focus more on the late Roman era. There even seems to be a fairly wide (wider?) range of figures for late Roman than for EIR and earlier.

Again, this could just be 100% my noob perspective.

But I'd like to hear input on what makes this period interesting as an area of focus? What are the big battles and wars that have spurred everyone's interest? I'm guessing it games a little different from the earlier periods?

Would love to hear your thoughts. Book reccos always appreciated, too.


rustymusket Supporting Member of TMP17 Nov 2016 2:18 p.m. PST

I got into it for a while due to the Perry's figs in the Warhammer Ancients rules for the Marius period and King Arthur which more properly falls under the late Roman period.

MajorB17 Nov 2016 2:27 p.m. PST

"Why Late Roman Wargaming?"

Why not?

Prince Rupert of the Rhine17 Nov 2016 2:35 p.m. PST

Can't speak for anyone else but I just find the fall of the western empire far more interesting than its early years. There is also a sense that Rome and it's enemies were much better matched in the late era than the early empire/late republic when the Romans just seemed to steam roller everybody (the odd disaster apart).

When it comes to Romans I like Punic wars and the late era.

clibinarium17 Nov 2016 2:37 p.m. PST

Probably because of the shrinking Empire beset on all frontiers; war is fairly constant. The army is still powerful, but its enemies are strong too so its a more equal struggle. The Romans probably still have the edge on any single enemy group, but have to contend with them more frequently and sometime simultaneously, with shrinking resources. Its a more varied army too, as cavalry becomes increasingly important. The Legionary is still to be reckoned with, but his foes are too.
Germans of various types, Picts, Huns etc provide interesting enemies, plus the Sassanians provide a constant rival empire in the east.

Personally I find the Roman armies more interesting to look at, with the colourful shields and cool troops like cataphracts, plus Rome-v-Rome civil war is more prevalent than ever. The decline of the empire has a more interesting vibe for me than its ascent or its zenith. More difficult prospects of these Romans than the legions that crushed the Gauls or Dacians.

Lucius17 Nov 2016 2:39 p.m. PST

1. They have cool uniforms.
2. They have cool shields, extensively covered by Little Big Men Studios.
3. They are a true combined arms army.
4. The opponents cover a variety of tactical doctrines – Sassanids, Huns, and Goths all call for a different tactical solution.

Henry Martini17 Nov 2016 2:50 p.m. PST

I think a big part of the attraction is the blurring of the hitherto clear distinction between Roman and Barbarian and its consequent flexibility of army composition. With the constant Roman civil wars and strife between barbarian tribes you have the ability to pit anyone against anyone, with anyone else as allies or even components of your army (e.g the increasingly numerous Roman foederati units).

BelgianRay17 Nov 2016 3:18 p.m. PST

In my opinion it is two-fold : I think many of you put it correctly, starting with "clibinarium". Secondly I would considerat lso the following : because most of the people playing that era are British. This is not gamed as much (almost never) on the continent and this refers to the difference in history in the UK and the "continent". Same with the Viking incursions in England, Norman invasion, War of the Roses, even up to the American Independance War. Whe tend to go back to what is more or less "our" history. Therefore for the Romans for ex whe tend to go for Caesar, and the Gauls (not the Celts). Whe play more "down to the neighbourhood" games : Alexander, WWI and II, Napoleon, Congo tc…
That said : I really do like the period when involving the Huns and Goths.

Winston Smith17 Nov 2016 3:24 p.m. PST

Atilla the Hun.

Garand17 Nov 2016 3:34 p.m. PST

I prefer this period because of many of the above points: Rome was not as sure in the world as it was, the empire was beset, and there was more "drama" so to speak. I like the Caesarian period too, because the empire was still expanding, but most of the Roman periods I prefer are periods when the empire was not as sure a thing. My least favorite period is the Early Imperial period.


Sobieski17 Nov 2016 4:49 p.m. PST

I'm very much more in favour of the republic. Far more varied enemies, and Rome was in much more trouble at times than in the late empire (Attila was never the threat that Hannibal or Pyrrhus were). The republic succeeded, whereas the late empire fell, but I'd rather watch a fire than decomposition, which is pretty much the late period's dominant process.

Ivan DBA17 Nov 2016 5:23 p.m. PST

Sorry, but I think the OP's perception that Late Romans are posted about more often, and have more figures than EIR is just incorrect. EIR is incredibly popular.

Who asked this joker17 Nov 2016 5:30 p.m. PST

Atilla the Hun.

Atilla was a punk compared to Aetius! wink

Kevin C17 Nov 2016 6:39 p.m. PST

Also Sassanian Persians vs. Late Romans make for a really cool looking battle.

Timotheous17 Nov 2016 6:44 p.m. PST

The Notitia Dignitatum (sp?) for primary source material for painting shields. That's why it's popular with wargamers.

Piquet Rules17 Nov 2016 6:54 p.m. PST

Because the cool people are always fashionably Late.

Coyotepunc and Hatshepsuut17 Nov 2016 8:04 p.m. PST


Emperorbaz17 Nov 2016 9:13 p.m. PST

Both Late and Early Imperial armies interest me, they are equally popular but are very different armies to game with. I am not a scholar and don't really know if this difference is historically accurate, but the early imperial armies tend to have very strong legionary "mincing machines" at its core. If you game a lot, it is often very predictable. With later armies, you get a much wider variety of troops to play with, cavalry in greater numbers, interesting barbarian troops to supplement the core, and I think less predictable outcomes. Most interesting to me though is the transitional 3rd/4th century era, lots of in-fighting between rival emperors! Read Harry Sidebottoms throne of caesars trilogy and you will be inspired!

warwell18 Nov 2016 3:36 a.m. PST

Defending civilization against the barbarians

Oh Bugger18 Nov 2016 3:41 a.m. PST

What Clibinarium said and the sheer variety of tactical challenges is hard to beat. We also have loads of excellent figures available and mountains of books.

Personal logo Shaun Travers Supporting Member of TMP18 Nov 2016 4:56 a.m. PST

I am with Kevin. There is something about Sasanian Persians Vs Late Romans that I find hard to resist and cannot walk past. I love these two in battle.

It has nothing to do with the fact that my first painted army for Ancients was Late Romans. And my second was Sasanian Persians – well, it was 20 years ago and so they were actually Sassanid Persians :-)

Marcus Brutus18 Nov 2016 6:27 a.m. PST

I think the Late Roman army is easier to model and represent in ancient rules. I don't there any set of rules that really does justice to the Roman legions at their prime. As others have said, the later Empire has a wider variety of opponents with differing tactical approaches than earlier periods (the mid Republic is also an interesting time but the early/mid Empire less so.) Because of this the later Empire and their opponents are more interesting to game with.

Duc de Limbourg18 Nov 2016 6:49 a.m. PST

There is one problem though; they don't look like real romans

Martin Rapier18 Nov 2016 7:10 a.m. PST

Perhaps I'm in a minority, but I have to say the Late Romane Empire doesn't grab me at all. It all starts to look a bit like Dark Ages.

I prefer Republican & maybe EIR, Punic wars in particular.

For me, anything AD doesn't really feel 'Ancient'.

benglish Supporting Member of TMP18 Nov 2016 12:34 p.m. PST

Thanks to everyone. All the responses were great and very helpful. Love the variety of opinion.


Gennorm18 Nov 2016 1:02 p.m. PST

I found that Late Romans were ubiquitous under WRG 7th Edition under which the legionaries danced around the table out-maneuvering, out-shooting and out-fighting all-comers, ably assisted by the super-gimmick cataphract scythed chariots. The legions of Scipio Africanus, Caesar and Trajan were dung in comparison.

maverick290918 Nov 2016 1:29 p.m. PST

No one is gonna admit it, but a large part of the popularity on these boards is due to republican and early imperial Roman lists being terrible under DBx rules. The Late Imperial Romans are much more diverse and have a wider selection of troop types. Republican and EIR is a bunch of blades that get their arses kicked by most everything else.

This will become less of a problem the further we move away from the DBx system.

Gennorm18 Nov 2016 4:03 p.m. PST

Agreed Maverick2909. The late republic to early empire armies continued to be poor in DBM despite carving out a massive empire. A reason I moved on.

Spudeus18 Nov 2016 5:19 p.m. PST

I like LIR, but always figured it was the ugly stepchild to the more popular (whether Hollywood or miniature makers) Caesarian/EIR.

For me, the period is just a fascinating mixture of the ancient and medieval, on the cusp so to speak. Cavalry can play a decisive role, but no tactical system is completely dominant. Christianity holds sway, but various offshoots and pagans compete with it. The sense of irreversible doom in the West, but the Eastern empire survives. And of course, a good variety of colorful/interesting armies.

rvandusen Supporting Member of TMP18 Nov 2016 8:21 p.m. PST

One key element to the popularity of LIR is the availability of Ammianus Marcellinus' history. Not only was he a man of the 4th Century, he was a soldier and an eyewitness to a number of events in the reigns of Constantius and Julian, most importantly the Persian War. He also gives fairly detailed accounts of a number of battles, including Adrianople. Thanks to Ammianus and the Notitia Dignatatum, we know quite a bit about the Late Empire.

The details of the 5th century become a bit fuzzy, yet compelling, but then Procopius fills in the details of much of the 6th century, though this might fall under Post-Roman, at least as far as the West is concerned.

Sobieski18 Nov 2016 9:42 p.m. PST

Those who think there are more varied enemies for the late empire clearly haven't paid any attention to what the republic was up against.

Diocletian28419 Nov 2016 6:05 a.m. PST

For me is has always been a historical period of great interest to me. A time of great change, transition, and transformation. There are great Roman personalities like Diocletian, Constantine, Julian, Theodosius, and Aetius just to name a few. Just Constantine the Great alone with his conversion to Christianity, setting up a new capital at Constantinople, and setting the foundation of the Byzantine state had a massive influence on world civilization.

From a military perspective you have combined arms, a variety of foes, and a crisis all along the frontier. The Notitia Dignitatum gives a wide variety of shield patterns. A wide variety of equipment and troop types. A wide variety of enemies, and challenged resources to face it all.

This period is my single favorite period to play.

Leadjunky19 Nov 2016 2:33 p.m. PST

I like them both for the different reasons already stated. Curious though. When does Late Rome in the East become Byzantine in army appearance and function?

Lewisgunner15 Dec 2016 1:59 p.m. PST

I think it ts a matter of wargames history. 50 years back we used to pkay games with EIR, Hannibal period Romans, Caesarians Hoplites and Persians, Pike armies, Hannibal, Celts and other Great Wars in the Meciterranean armies. They were the first armies that figures were produced for and that you could get illustrations of. There were also readily available translated sources, in Penguin editions that we could afford. ( remember everything was much more expensive then)?. We could get Polybius, Livy, Herodotus, Arrian, Caesar, Gallic and Civil Wars, Plutarch, Thucidides, Xenophon. But one could not get Ammianus, Procopius or a translation of Maurice's Strategikon. or Anna Comnena, or Paul the Deacon. The LIR was really discovered by Phil Barker in the late 60s . He found Ammianus (the Loeb translation) and wrote it all up in Slingshot. A pretty similar story with the Sassanid Sasanians. The first figures for them were produced in the late 60s by Minifigs . The first Late Romans were a small range of Belisarian Byzantines tgat one could convert to LIR by flattening the helmet plumes and painting the lower leg as bare flesh rather that the Byzantines' boots. The LIR were the 'go to'army in the first WRG. rules. These favoured troops with multiple weapons (darts, javelins, spears and the range of troop types that they could field which gave them more flexibility that EIR, though nowadays we know that they too could field more varied forces. LIR are rather like the Germans in WW2 games, they get the benefit of rule designers inbuilt bias in their favour.

French Wargame Holidays17 Dec 2016 10:12 p.m. PST

I have four Roman armies, early republican, caesarean, early imperial and late.

The reason late are popular is because of the Nottia Dignitatum, this gives a base line and time shot for making a army.

My largest army is my late because of the huge variety of troop types and research that was accessible (with a bit of Latin ) I have posted my collection on my blog here



Elenderil27 Jan 2017 3:06 p.m. PST

I have used Late Imperials since the mid 1970s under WRG 3rd edition IIRC. When I started using them they weren't the super killing machine they became later because there were no WRG army lists to convince us all that they carried multiple weapon systems into combat. That started with 5th edition I think. So what got me interested? A friend at university had an army and the shield patterns won me over. Once army lists came around they were a good combined arms force.

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