Thursday, 22 October 2015

What's in a Name

With the Romans nearing completion I need to identify them, Cohort I or II is not enough, they represent a military unit of a formidable and well organised military machine with a pedigree which covered hundreds of years so it would be unforgivable in my books to simply plonk them on the table as a representation Roman unit. My troops are based in the East so that cuts it down to around five or six legions which were almost permanently stationed there apart from when they were required as ‘fire brigades’ elsewhere. There are a couple of famous legions, III Gallica and IV Scythica come to mind but I don’t always like to plumb for the obvious so I have gone for Legio XII Fulminata or in layman’s terms ‘Thunderbolt Twelfth Legion’, aka Paterna, Victrix, Antiqua, Certa Constans and Galliena.

This is one of Caesar’s original legions and seems to have been active in the East from the end of Augustus’ reign, it lost its Eagle in 66AD during the Jewish Revolt but returned to form under its commander T. Flavius Vespasian whom it supported gaining the Imperial throne. During my chosen period it fought against the Parthians under Lucius Verus, then moved with Marcus Aurelius to fight the Quadi in modern Slovakia before remaining loyal to Marcus when Giaus Avidius Cassius revolted. It did not remain loyal in 193 when it sided with Pescennius Niger against Septimius Severus and it was punished by being reduced to the status of a reserve for a time. It was still guarding the frontier as late as the 5th Century.

There is something about military numbers which I think fascinates us all, you can see a 3 but if you see 3rd Regiment of Foot, there is instantly a history, battles, campaigns and characters for us to delve into, we can simply skim the surface or we can garner enough information to bore someone to death. It even doesn’t have to be numbers, in my Dark Age armies the units are identified by their banners, the Horses, the Wolf the Praying Man etc. and of course when I had medieval armies it would be a lord, Bruce, Warwick, Douglas or whatever. But it has to be something, I could not simply throw a bunch of troops onto the table and say, the blue guys will fire at the red guys or some such thing.

What is even better is when your miniature warriors gain their own reputations, and I know I am bordering on madness here. My Iron Brigade for instance has yet to come close to the real one, my 39th New York should not be put where you need stalwart troops, but you can rely on the 44th, nearly all my elites are not worthy of the name despite the lavish paint jobs and beautiful banners, numerous pep talks and tantrums. My most notable unit ever was the Comte de Alencon who only ever lost one fight, I was crazy enough to record every battle back then, when he was surrounded by Sung Chinese infantry and chariots, hit in the flanks and rear. Even my opponents eventually asked me to point him out on the table, top man.

So how will the ‘Thunderbolt Twelfth’ fare, I have no idea who will be the stars and who will be decimated but the time is approaching when they will have to draw their weapons in anger and begin to build their own reputation, I am expecting big things.


  1. Imbuing your soldiers with a life of their own, a history, etc, is all part of building a narrative for your forces that makes them far more than just a collection of models. Even when I only played WHFB I still had a background and "history" for my forces. Now I play historical games it's even easier to build a force with a ready-made narrative.
    That's also why I like campaigns and scenario based games. It all adds an extra dimension, an extra layer of fun and interest to the games.

  2. I do like to personalize my troops as well, it almost like role playing (but not) and like Matt said above, it does add that extra dimension. I once several years ago played a game of Fire and Fury ACW rules, I was in control of a Wisconson Division. One unit, the 3rd Wisconsin, refused to move, for nearly the whole game, I kept throwing 1's on a D10 for them. Then on the last turn I managed to get the bugger moving, only to push it forward to far, just in range of 2 enemy units, who proceeded to soot it to pieces, which made it route. So when ever we play ACW I cringe if I get the 3rd Wisconsin, they never seem to do what I want and always under perform ;0(

  3. I didn't think I was alone. I once threw a bunch of fanatical, elite Islesmen down a hill with big axes, impetuous and every plus under the sun for them to run back up the hill a minute or so later terrified, but I had a bunch of English Ribauds, Z class, and they were tremendous fighters.