Impetus Battle Report – The Revenge of Parthia

After being driven from the field, the Parthian army reconsolidated its position and rode forth to engage the advancing Romans. In other words, Stu and I broke out the Impetus rulebook and had a 500-point grudge match (and our first 500-point game ever!)

The Roman Army

This time round, I decided to drop one general and split my army into two commands. With a GOOD command structure and lots of slower-moving infantry, I don’t find the Roman army needs a lot of generals in order to function.

My commands were deployed in lines. The CIC’s command is the thin red line shown below. It consisted of six units of legionnaires and a unit of medium cavalry. The front command contained Auxilia x 3, Archers x 3, Slingers x 2, Javelinmen x 1, Numidian Horse x 2, and my newly-painted Heavy Horse x 1.

The Parthian Army

Stu’s army was split into three commands. I think this is necessary for a mounted army with an AVERAGE command structure. His CIC led five units of cataphracts and four units of skirmising archers. The command in front consisted of seven units of horse archers.

Stu also fielded a small flanking force consisting of one cataphract unit and three units of light horse.

Terrain & Deployment

This time we decided to use the terrain and deployment rules in the book. With so many mounted units, Stu was the attacker (no surprise), and I placed six pieces of terrain. Stu moved one and removed one, as is the attacker’s right. This still allowed me accomplish what I wanted – placing two firm anchors for flanks. One of the keys to beating an army of light troops is to force them into the front.

Best laid plans…

My plan was fairly simple. Move the army up patiently, anchor the flanks on the terrain elements, harrass with bow fire and slings. In order for Stu to threaten my army, he would have to send light horse within 15cm. If I had units of light foot and cavalry on opportunity, I would be ready to charge out and deal with the screen of light horse, and then move up with heavy troops and start dealing with the heavy horse. Remember this plan – I’ll be referring back to it later.

The Battle

The battle started out according to plan. Both of us advanced cautiously towards the enemy line. The bottom of the photo shows my plan being followed, the line of mobile troops moving up to the terrain, and the heavy infantry following up in line formation.

The Parthians seemed to stall in the middle of the field and proceeded to place the horse archer command on opportunity. I advanced a little more and reorganized slightly to face the oncoming threats.

And here’s where the plan goes out the window. Like many impetuous generals who have come before me, I discarded my battle plan in favour of boldness and potential glory. We all know what happens to those generals.

Stu used the interpenetration rules to displace the light cavalry and move up with the cataphracts, screened by the skirmishers (the narrowest bases in front of the cavalry) I caused a little disorder in the ranks, but nothing worth talking about.

Here’s a better shot of the approaching lines. Light troops trade fire in preparation of what is to come.

Then, Stu, using those excellent interpenetration rules again, shot out with light cavalry. He was careful to avoid occupying the front corridor of my lights, so I couldn’t evade. He even managed to start breaking through to my second line. Towards the bottom of the photo, you can see the disordered legions (marked with red circles)

By the next turn, the Parthians had taken out over half of my first command’s VD, so the remainder was removed from the field. This was bad, but on the other hand, I was getting close to removing a couple of his. I had no option but to get aggressive with my legions.

The legions stood up surprisingly well against the cataphracts, causing disorder and damage in the ranks. At the end of this turn, the primary horse archer command suffered enough damage to be removed (a mistake we learned later – JET), and the field was really starting to clean out.

And here’s where it all came down to it for me. This legion had been trading blows with the Parthian flank force for half of the game. I kept defeating the cataphract unit, but wasn’t killing it. If I could just take it out, the command would route, and over half of Stu’s army VD would be gone, causing the whole army to route. Oh the tension!

The centre of the field at the end of the game. The legions and cataphracts kept wearing each other down, and it could have gone either way. However, as suspected, the cataphracts in the flank charged the legion, and this time, finished them off. It was just enough to route my second, and only remaining command. The battle was done.


What a game. It was a massacre on both sides of the table, and if it were a historical battle, both sides would have spent considerable time licking their wounds and recovering from it. However, it was an undeniable Parthian victory, as the remaining Romans routed the field in shame.

Criticisms on my gameplay…
Stick to the plan. I ran off half-cocked against an army that I can’t outrun or outmanouvre. I should patiently hold the line, and use a combination of firepower and opportunity to draw the Parthians in, as they have no real options at a distance – they have to approach the enemy in order to win.

Criticisms on Stu’s gameplay…
Stu won. So one could argue that there’s no need for improvement. However, he would agree with me on one point. He is still gradually learning how to use the cataphracts more effectively. This battle, they actually got in the fight, which was an improvement. However, they seem to spend a lot of the battle sitting back, while the rest of the army is dying. I know Stu is, and will continue experimenting with ways to improve their utility.

Regardless of outcome, fun was had by all again, and I really can’t say enough good about Impetus. Its simple yet seamless manner of representing how troops actually performed makes other rulesets seem clunky by comparison. It can be annoying when your army is getting bombarded by horse archer volleys, but the rules provide recourse for those patient enough to discover them. I’m working on my patience.

Thanks for reading,

P.S. There will be new 6mm armies in the works within the next week or so. You’ll just have to wait and see 😉

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