Impetus Battle Report – Roman-Parthian Stalemate

After a hiatus (i.e. Stu putting work before gaming…sheesh), we finally got the Impetus ball rolling again. Stu started painting again, we have attracted some new blood, so we were all pumped and ready to go.

The Armies

We both used the same 500-point armies from The Revenge of Parthia report, so I won’t bother listing or detailing the units a second time.

Terrain & Deployment

We set-up the table according the system in the rulebook again. The biggest difference this time… we moved from a 4×4 ft playing surface to a 6×4 ft surface. I laid out two large clumps of forests, and Stu (as the attacker) moved two of the forests. The end result was a large open battlefield with a large forested area on my left.

The armies deployed as shown below…

…with a large command of Parthian horse archers deployed to Stu’s right. I assume the original plan was to circumvent the forested area and coordinate a rear attack.

Best Laid Plans…

It had been a while since the last battle, so we were both a little sketchy on some of the rules. However, I hadn’t forgotten how I had over-extended my forces during the last battle, and had, in turn, allowed the Parthian cavalry to destroy my army piecemeal. This time I vowed that I would use the forests to protect my flank, and NOT get carried away by charging out in the name of imperial glory.

The Battle

I started by advancing the force as best I could. I wanted to move into an adjacent position with the forest while keeping the Roman line more or less intact.

Early on, Stu realized that the flanking force would be better served moving up to harrass my cavalry and protect his own flank. These units spent a couple of turns moving towards the main battle while trying to avoid getting too disordered.

The first couple of turns saw cautious advances on the part of both armies. I was trying hard to stick to my plan and not expose the left flank.

Archers and Parthian light horse exchanged fire, and from there, the battlefield exploded into action.

Roman javalinmen shot out from the line and finished off a unit of light horse. As we are learning, missile weapons are devastating at point-blank range; the trick is positioning the units the right way.

On the left flank, I was moving the Numidian horse into position to deal with the 6 units of horse archers approaching from Stu’s right. I realized after the fact that I had forgotten my interpenetration rules – light horse cannot interpenetrate infantry. Damn!

This photo gives a good idea of early game manouvre. Stu was pushing the right flank hard, and causing disorder as a result. He had no choice however, as he realized my forward advance had left them out of the battle unless he redeployed them.

In the meantime, the Parthian centre kept advancing under a skirmisher screen. I still haven’t fully discovered how to deal with skirmisher screens.

My left flank (and Stu’s right) traded fire for most of the game. As the battle wore on, we both suffered permanent hits, and eventually, casualties. Fire exchanges between light cavalry units tend to be pretty devastating affairs. At point-blank range, even with negative modifiers, it isn’t uncommon for each unit to roll 5 or 6 dice per attack.

Melee finally broke out in the centre of the field. A unit of legion to my right charged a unit of cataphracts…

…and you’ll never believe the dice I rolled. I won the combat, but couldn’t pursue. (i.e. infantry can’t pursue cavalry)

Stu finally sent the first unit of cataphracts into the Roman line, all but trampling a unit of archers into the ground.

In succession, the rest of the cataphracts charge into the line. The combat in the middle of the table had ground to a halt after the Parthian charges. Damage was dealt by both sides, but for the most part, the Romans held the line, and both sides started grinding each other down.

Meanwhile, on my right, the dance between Stu’s heavy and light cavalry and my skirmishers and heavy horse was playing out in my favour. Skirmishers used javelins and slings to weaken and disorder the Parthian heavies and the Roman heavy cavalry charged in to finish the job.

The final unit of Stu’s left flank charge in to take out my heavy cavalry, but Stu’s left command was removed from the table at the end of the turn.

As I alluded to earlier, the micro-battle between the light cavalry continued throughout the game…

…and although my Numidians were driven back, heavy casualities were inflicted on both sides and neither flank seemed to be making decisive moves.


It was getting near 11:00 on a work night, and we both called it a draw. Stu proclaimed a Roman victory, but I could see it going either way, depending especially on the middle engagement between the cataphracts and the legions. In short, the flanks had fallen apart everything rested on the fighting in the centre of the battlefield.

Although it’s a slow learning curve, I am getting a better handle on how to effectively use my force against Stu’s very mobile and reactive army. I’m realizing that heavy cavalry has one obvious Achilles Heel – fast-moving troops attacking in the flanks, away from those deadly charge corridors. I am continually impressed with the legions’ ability to hold the line in the face of heavy horse charges, especially when one unit takes the charge, and others move in to support once battle is joined.

As mentioned in my previous post, it looks as if there will be more players and more armies in our future, so I look forward to bringing you battle footage of new opponents in the not-too-distant future.

Thanks for reading,

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