Thursday, January 13, 2022


Apparently Republican Roman Legion Maniples could withdraw from melee to be replaced by Maniples from behind. No one knows exactly how this was accomplished. 

One guess suggests tired individual soldiers in the fighting line withdrew and were replaced by individual soldiers sent from waiting unengaged Maniples in the rear. 

Others say, no, an entire forward Maniple would withdraw to be replaced by a reserve Maniple from behind. The latter would move in filling the gap to continue melee. The following shows how the latter concept might work.


Two Numidian Masses (72 each) with mixed missiles and swords preceded by an Archer Screen (24). 

Our Numidians are late 19th Century Hadendowah Tribesmen who resemble ancient Numidians closely enough. The Archers are 18th Century Indian Sub-Continent warriors who look the part. --- We use what we have.

In the distance Legio II observes their arrival. Two more Hastati and three Principes Maniples were left out of the test game. Reason: Fewer Romans wanted.

Remember the bold Roman skirmish screen advance in the 1960 motion picture Spartacus? Here the Roman Javelin Screen (20) by card draw moves first with a throwing range of 8"  closes to 6". The foe chose to not move. 

Next by a new card draw, the Romans threw missiles first taking out one archer. The archers (24" range) replied with 24 -1 = 23 bows taking out three javilineers.


The Numidians got to move first in Turn 2. Their archers split to flank the Roman open order screen while the two masses advanced. Once the latter came within 6", a Roman morale check was triggered. They fled 12"+3D6 = 25" to the rear....  

Passing through intervals in the first line of Hastati Legionaries (black plumes). To the rear 36 Principes (green plumes) and 24 Triarii (red plumes) wait.

Roman Javelineers are 25mm Miniature Figurines from the mid-1970s. Ancients indeed! Legionaries are 1st Corps with Little Big Man shield transfers available from 1st Corps. The latter provides consistent superior service.

During the Roman portion of Turn 2 movement, the 36 Hastati closed up. No combatants were in arc, range or available to fire missiles.


The first move (black card) allowed the Numidians to move first. Their archers moved to give flank fire into the Romans while the two masses moved to within javelin range.

Legio II moved next. Their Javelin men did not rally and continued routing (green arrows) through intervals. The heavy infantry elected to advance (3 tan arrow markers) rather than stay in place. Had they remained in position, the sun would have been  blotted out by enemy missiles.

The three Maniple Hastati body (36 black plumes - top center) charged forward throwing Pilums before contact.

To the left and right, two Principes Maniples charged enemy archers.

The Numidians lost 14 warriors to Pilums. Surviving native missilemen cost Rome 3 Legionaries. Then the Romans marched forward into hand to hand combat.

Left Principes Maniple charging enemy archers. Action on the right is not shown.

Both Principes Maniples forced archer morale checks when coming within 6".  Both archer units fled. Had they made morale, they could have shot arrows and evaded. 

Turn movement is finished. 

Numidian archers are fleeing in the distance as the melee begins (center). Two Triarii Maniples (red plumes) marched forward supporting the Principes Maniple (green plumes --- center bottom). 

Melee Results

The Numidians filled in their losses from the rear meleeing with 48 warriors. The Roman Hastati body fought with 36 - 3 = 33 Legionaires.

Numidians: -14 warriors. --- Rome: -16 Legionaries. 

Losers suffering the most melee casualties are forced back 6" followed by opponents. Losers now check morale needing a 2D6 modified result of 6 or more to hold. The throw was:

2D6 = 10 + 1 Charismatic Leader + 1 Veteran -2 Under 50% -2 Most melee casualties = 8.

The hugely depleted Romans held.

Total Losses So Far:
Archers: 1 KIA + 23 Routed = 24  --- Warriors: KIA = 29 --- Total: 53 lost 

Javelins: 3 KIA + 17 Routed = 20 --- Legionaries: 19 KIA --- Total: 39 lost

A Second Round of Melee Commences Testing
The NEW Maniple Withdrawal Rule

The first move card was red and therefore Roman. Green arrows show withdrawal routes for the three heavily reduced Hastati maniples after passing a Morale Check for each to withdraw. Failure would have caused a Rout.

Next in the same movement phase, two red plume Triarii and one green plume Principes maniples move into the place vacated by the Hastati. On the flanks two green plumend Principes Maniples charge into the flank of the enemy mass. The Numidians are ruled disordered/disorganized. Reason: They were just in a melee.

Green plumes throw pilums taking out 12 Numidians. Red plumes have non-throwing thrusting spears. The Numidians throw afterwards taking losses into account. Their remaining missiles take out 4 Romans.

The Romans won the melee. The above image shows the Numidians pushed back 6" followed by the Legionaries. Losses in the simultaneous melee were, Numidians: 23, Romans: 8. It is hard to fight well when disordered if the D6 Disordered Throw is high. They could have thrown 1s in which case they would barely be disordered.

Since the natives lost the melee, required morale checks were thrown. 2D6 morale throws started below average before negative modifiers were computed. Both Numidian bodies routed as shown by green arrows.

One body threw 2D6 = 4 -2 most melee casualties - 2 disorganized = 0. 
The other threw 2D6 = 5 -2 most melee casualties -4 disorganized = -1.

A modified 6 was needed to hold to allow a third and last round of melee.

Legio II let the Numidians go and reformed on the ridge.
Decimated by combat.

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Final Losses:

Archers: 1 KIA + 23 Routed = 24  --- Warriors: KIA = 62 --- Total: 86 lost 
168 warriors -86 lost (51%): 82 survivors

Javelins: 3 KIA + 17 Routed = 20 --- Legionaries: 31 KIA --- Total: 51 lost
116 soldiers -51 lost (44%): 65 survivors

Numidian Advantages
Enemy javelin screen easily chased away without being able to fire/evade.

Two very large melee units armed with mixed missiles/swords.

48 warriors meleed the foe in two rounds by filling in from the back. The foe always fought with fewer men.

Neither mass fell below half original #s which helped morale checks.

Numidian Disadvantages
Archer screen easily chased away without being able to fire/evade.

Warrior saving throws/hit = 1D6 5-6.

Deep formation caused some extra missile losses.

Disordered after the Hastati withdrew.

Each mass was flanked in melee.

Unlucky card draw to fire missiles before the foe.

Maniple withdrawal rule brought in fresh Romans.

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  1. Interesting to see how you have handled the Maniple problem, successfully in my opinion.

  2. The problem I have with the maniple system is shown in your pictures. The maniples attacked and closed up showing a solid line. This seems logical. But the enemy not flowing round the ends is not. The other is the open space between maniples, often postulated, is that the maniples were spaced when engaging. Again, the presumption is that the enemy wouldn't filter into the spaces and attack the sides and back of the front maniples and even the second line. I think the solid line is more probable but would the enemy give the subsequent line time to form into a solid line? I don't think so

  3. Thank you very much Allan and Khusru. Khusru, we've wrestled with the analysis you mention. In this test I did not deploy my entire Legion. Had I, the lateral width would have been greater; historically very wide to prevent flanking. Hence I deliberately did not allow the Numidians to wrap around the ends for the purpose of a narrow test. What is your solution to allow Maniple withdrawal and replacement? Respectfully, Bill P.

    1. I'm wondering if the the maniples were replaced similar to the change of the front ranks when tiring/injured/dead. Similar how it was done in Gladiator. The Hastati engaged in a solid line with the Princeps behind, perhaps a maniples depth away, the Triari the same to the Princeps. As fortune dictates the Princeps close behind the Hastati which would give the look of a solid line in depth. The Hastati file back through the Princeps gradually.. This should always leave a solid formation and front to the enemy. Easy to say but probably harder in practice

  4. Using the KISS methodology, I’d have the maniples. Losing up to form a single battle line. This solves the problem of the open gaps in the Roman line. While we don’t know much about manipular tactics, it makes no sense that an army wouldn’t form a solid battle line in ancient warfare.

    I would allow the Romans to replace entire units with a reserve unit that is posted behind them. This would happen during the movement phase of your rules. Let’s say Romans have a front line composed of Hastati 1, 2, and 3. There is a second line of Princeps 1, 2 and 3 and a third line of Triarii 1, 2 and 3.

    H1 has lost 40% of its strength so when the Romans move, P1 takes the place of H1 in the ROMAN battle line so now that part of the Roman battle line is at full strength versus a foe that has lost figures. The foe can’t replace units in the manner that the Romans can. This is the advantage that Roman armies had over its foes.


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