The second battle of our celebratory wargames weekend was a re-run of the Eagle in the Snow game I first staged a couple of years ago. This was a re-creation of Wallace Breem’s fictional account of a Roman last stand as the barbarians crossed the Rhine mid winter AD 406.
After playing out several strategic moves by email we ended up with Maximus, the Roman commander taking a stand at the ‘30th Milestone’ after falling back from Mainz. We played it out on a table sprinkled with snow for atmosphere (although we could have used a bit more) using my Comitatus rules and miniatures from my 15mm late Roman collection.
Maximus sends out a messenger to the horde Suebi advancing out of the woods
After sacking Koblenz, Rando, king of the Suebi, cut a deal with Tibatto, leader of the Roman rebel Bacaudae. In an exchange for a share of the loot the Bacaudae led the Suebi through hidden paths to bypass other Roman garrisons and emerge to the immediate north of the 30th Milestone.
Rando challenged Maximus to personal combat. A Roman champion met the challenge and killed the Suebian king. This resulted in a furious but doomed assault by Rando’s comitatus against the Roman fortifications.
Roman reinforcements arrived along the road from the north, causing the Vandals, who we’re advancing from east to west, o turn to meet them. In a short fierce engagement Quintus, the leader of the Roman reinforcements was killed, the Romans were flanked and their line broke but Gunderic, king of the Asding Vandals also met his end and Fredibal, leader of the Silings was wounded.
Meanwhile a contingent of Alans who had taken service with the Romans arrived on the southern tale edge. They, together with a Roman cavalry unit, were the survivors of the sack of Worms by the Burgundians. The Alans, led by Goar, were quite happy to take advantage of Maximus’s difficult position to squeeze more tribute from the Romans.
After regrouping the Suebi, supported by the Bacaudae, surged forward for another assault on the Roman fortifications as the Vandals closed in from the east. There was a fierce back and forth combat around the west gate with the Romans only just holding on.
Meanwhile the Alans extracted yet more tribute from Maximus in return for charging in against the bacaudae and Suebi who were threatening to break through.
More troops arriving from the West raised the hopes of the beleaguered Roman garrison that the Gallic field army had come to their rescue. As it turned out it was Artorius, magistrate of Trier, who had gathered up the civic militia to do his bit for the glory of the Republic.
The Suebi prepare for a second assault
In the end the Suebi, Vandals and bacaudae were thrown back from the fortifications. The Alans turned against their Roman employer and took as much loot as they could carry before heading off to the West.
Maximus held the 30th Milestone but it would have been cold comfort as at this point the barbarians would have bypassed him to march on Trier which was now undefended. Tibatto of the bacaudae would no doubt carry on ruling his patch of territory in the Rhine/Mosel valleys like a prototype Robin Hood.