This weekend I went to the Society of Ancients Conference, the first for almost 25 years. The venue was an enormous hotel/conference palace in Warwickshire, which seemed to be a reasonable geographic location. The folks from furthest afield came from Stonehaven in the north and Brussels a bit farther south. A good time was had by all, in a mix of talks and various types of gaming sessions. I did a talk on Shakespeare's representations of Roman warfare as a precursor to my rather large recreation of Philippi. A few taster photos:
These two battles were played as separate halves; Antonius against Cassius in the morning, and Octavius and Brutus in the afternoon, since I don't have 38 legions or whatever it was. Strangely enough, both times saw a historical result, which is rather gratifying with a large (and unpredictable!) game. Antonius' veterans stormed across the stream between the camp of Cassius and the marsh, and Cassius tried to shore up his central legions with his presence - which they ignored completely and ran for it, sweeping him with them. Antonius' far left was slightly weakened, and he lost a legion there, but even so it was a pretty emphatic victory overall. In the other half, the charge of Brutus' incensed troops helped them to the victory there, and the same thing happened to Octavius as he was swept away in exactly the same fashion as Cassius on the other side of the field. Having 14 legions meant that the game was not as large as it needed to be to give even more historical flavour, so I compensated. The Republican legions were understrength compared to their Caesarean opponents, so I ruled that in effect their cohorts had seven figures instead of the usual eight. This was compensated by the stream in the first game and the impetuous attack in the second. Both were hard fought contests, with many legionaries falling on both sides, but overall the victories felt about right.
On the Saturday evening we had the Society dinner, which was a rather jovial event, and Will Whyler gave a nice speech about his feelings as a longstanding member, along with some compliments about Slingshot, which was nice to hear.
We then resumed on the Sunday morning, with the clincher between Brutus and Antonius, as indeed was the case historically, since the second battle of Philippi occurred three weeks after the first. I had no particular plans for this one, the intention always having been to fight the two victors against each other. And if they happened to be from the same initial sides, the idea would be to see who won the next, inevitable, civil war. Having a historical result really did seem appropriate. I asked Will to draw up a plan for Antonius, although he wasn't able to play (too many goodies going on elsewhere), while Geoff Fabron gave me a deployment and played as Brutus. I ruled that each side had six legions plus cavalry and, in the case of Brutus, some light infantry.
There is actually some reasoning behind the way I ran all of this. I already knew beforehand that the first battle would have the most terrain and scenery, so when we arrived on the Friday evening (thanks to Roy!), I set up Antonius versus Cassius first. This had the advantage of getting all of the figures on the table while also being the most straightforward of the three contests: an infantry clash with no cavalry present. Set-up for the second battle was much less time-consuming, as was the third. Brutus against Octavius saw the addition of some cavalry and light infantry, while the third battle added in some light horse and free deployments. In other words, it was a good way for the players to learn the rules step by step as they went. By the middle of the second battle, the game was pretty much running itself, and I was only called upon to help out if a tricky multi-unit melee appeared, or in cavalry actions. We had six players in game one, eight in game two, and six in games three (although not quite always the same players throughout), including me as the poor Republican senator tasked with holding Antonius' cavalry attack on the left of Brutus' army.
Needless to say, I failed, but it was incredibly close. Both right wings won, and each army lost two legions are their extreme left. Both then also lost a legion in the centre. Finally, with a great shout, Antonius broke through in the very centre of the field and the day was his - another historical result. I know I'm the one who set it up, but it was a great game, with swings of fortune throughout until the last die roll.
Giving a talk and then running three 3-hour battles was a bit tiring, but fun. It meant I didn't get to see much of the rest of the conference events, mainly because in between times I was busy setting up for the next fight, but I did get to go to Matt Bennett's talk on Arsuf, which is going to be the subject of the next Battle Day in 2017. I'll go to that, and fortunately it isn't one I could run, so I can join in with someone else this time.
Finally, a big thank you to our players:
Battle 1: Tom Ashworth as Antonius, and Nick Higby and John Drewienkiewicz as his fellow Caesareans; and Will Whyler as Cassius, together with those famous Republicans John Hastings and Bill Pavely.
Battle 2: The Caesareans were the same players, with the addition of David Marks, while the Republicans were played by John Hastings, Tom Marks, Terry Shoebridge, and Geoff Fabron as Brutus. Tom Ashworth got to be Octavius, after his earlier win as Antonius, but a repeat victory was not to be.
Battle 3: Will Whyler set up the Caesareans, although Antonius was played by Malcolm Williams. Tom Ashworth and Nick Higby again played as Caesareans, meaning that they played all three games on the same side. Opposing them were Geoff Fabron as Brutus again, along with John Hastings and myself. So John played as a Republican in all three games, and Geoff was Brutus in person for two of them.
I did award Malcolm with a commemorative Caesar figure for coming out on top as Antonius, but I would like to send one each to Tom and Nick for being such good sports in what I think was their first ancients game - a fitting memento. I just need to get my act together!
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