Friday, May 10, 2013

Res Mechanica: Mechanized Cavalry

Historically, when Sabinus and his supporters barricade themselves on the Capitoline Hill, there was a battle fought between Vitellius’ supporters and Flavian cavalry at the Roman suburb of Saxa Rubra. It’s not entirely clear if the cavalry attack occurred as an attempt to rescue Sabinus or was the event that precipitated Sabinus seizing the Capitol. For my game, I chose to let it be the former.

While part of the force will be traditional cavalry, I wanted to give them support mechanized support. Since one of the inspirations for this game came from the famous image of Hiero of Alexandria’s steam aeolipile, I decided to give them steam powered vehicles.

The miniatures game, Arcane Legions, actually had a couple of steam-powered ballista-armed chariots that I used as the start.

These are virtually unmodified, other than the crew which are some Old Glory and RAFM artillery crews.

For heavier support, I created this heavy steam car.

It’s scratch-built from two cheap plastic toy chariots plus some odd and ends that I had in my bits box.

It is armed with the Archimedean Heat Ray.

As a side note, I usually try to give each player a distinct character to lead his or her forces. This encourages the role-playing aspect that I look to include in my games. This cavalry force will be commanded, as it was historically, by Petilius Cerialis, a relative of Vespasian, possibly son-in-law, who crops up repeatedly in the military history of era, mostly as the commander in disasters or near disasters. Prior to getting his cavalry slaughtered at Saxa Rubra, he commanded the IXth Legion when it was ambushed at the start of Boudicca’s rebellion, Cerialis escaping with the Legion’s cavalry troop while most of its infantry was slain. After the Flavian victory, he was given a huge army to suppress the Batavian revolt along the line. Although ultimately successful, he had a couple of close calls due mostly to his rashness and incompetence, resulting in a negotiated settlement to the revolt. He went on to be governor of Britain and seems to have done a workmanlike job without any major disaster recorded, perhaps he had finally learned something by then. But definitely a colorful character to include in the game.

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