II/33 Polybian Roman 275 BC – 105 BC

This list covers the wars between Rome and that of the major states of Carthage, Macedonia and the Seleucids as well as the conflicts between several several smaller states and tribal areas. The list start date is 275 BC and aligns with the final year of the wars against Pyrrhos of Epeiros, while the end date marks the reforms of Marius.

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The Romans at this time were organised into legions comprising several types of troops. These were the young or less well armoured hastati, the experenced principles and the veteran triarii. These were supported by light infantry, the velites who by 211 BC had shields, and cavalry. The hastati and principes were armed with a heavy throwing javelin (pilum), as well as the Spanish style sword (gladius), DBA they are rated as ‘blade’. The triarii retained the long thrusting spear (hasta) and are rated as ‘spear’. A Polybian legion comprised 4,200 infantry, but on occasion could be larger, and 300 Roman cavalry.

A consular army, that is one commanded by a consul, comprised two Roman legions and was supported by two allied Italian legions possibly using a similar organisation, though the infantry contributions could be larger and the allied Italian cavalry were three times as many as the Romans. Combined, a consular army woud have a nominal strength of around 20,000 men.

The Polybian Romans in DBA:

The army has a relatively high aggression, being rated at 3. As such you can expect to be invading reasonably often.

In DBA 3.0 the Polybian Romans can field 12 elements comprising: 1 x General (Cv), 1 x equites (Cv), 4 x hastati/principes (4Bd), 2 x hastati/principes (4Bd) or allies (3/4Ax), 2 triarii (Sp), 2 velites (Ps). This represents the Roman and allies that often fought in support. It can be supplemented by a selection more significant foreign allied contingents.

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Above, the basic army with Italian allies fighting in the same methods as the Romans. I interpret the Italian allies as generally fighting in the Roman style so the above figures represent both Romans and their Italian allies who have adopted the Roman style of fighting. The figures comprise a mixture Essex and Museum figures. The general is with the Roman cavalry (right) while Italian cavalry are on the left. Below, the very important camp.

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The hastati and principes are rated as ‘blade’ or more specifically, 4Bd. In the standard game of DBA I tend to consider a single stand represents both the hastati and principes. On the table the hastati and principes win a melee combat against most enemy foot they follow up. This follow up can be a two edged sword and it is advisable to have a reserve to strengthen the line where it is not so succesful. I tend to do this with my triarii. The are rated as ‘spear’ and benefit from being ‘supported’ in some situations. Under 2.2 the triarii were inferior to the hastati and principes while now they are on similar factors, at least when supported. Further, they show a little more control in the melee as they do not pursue enemy foot. I think this is a very useful and certainly subtle change that is not appreciated at first glance.

The velites are in DBA 3.0 are very useful. They can of course be used to hold areas of bad going. However, I typically deploy them in front of the other infantry as they were historically, where they can be used to delay and disrupt enemy foot, and to counter elephants. In due course they retire behind the main line to add a useful reserve.

The cavalry, represent the Roman cavalry and those provided by Rome’s Italian allies, the latter providing the majority of the mounted component. There are never enough and they risk being driven from the field possibly with the early los of the consul. Consider deploying them withdrawn from the main line when on the flanks.

In the list above you will have noticed the Polybians have a couple of options in their base list. Specifically, one or two stands of hastati/principes can be replaced by allies and are rated as auxilia. These stands must all be represented as 3Ax or 4Ax, that is, they can’t be mixed.

The DBMM list provides some additional detail on what the stands of auxilia would represent. Prior to 211BC many are likely to represent allied Italian troops fighting in more traditional styles, who have not adopted Roman arms and training. I have yet to paint some figures to represent these, but it won’t be long I’m sure. However, other light troops can to be fielded, though in more limited numbers. These include small numbers of Spanish or Illyrian mercenaries or if representing armies in Greece and Asia from 198BC, Macedonian, Thracian or Ligurians. For my Polybians I therefore have a stand of Spanish (3Ax) or Ligurians (4Ax).

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While they can’t be used together I’ve provided a photo of the two stands with the Spanish on the left. These provide some additional infantry to contest areas of bad going.

Allied Contingents:

Yet the variety of troops for the Polybians doesn’t stop with these troops. One of the fascinating additions to DBA 3.0, at least in my opinion, was the introduction of allied contingents into the standard DBA army. In DBA 3.0 the Polybian Romans can draw allied contingents from no less than six different lists.

If a single ally is selected three elements of the army are removed from the primary army and replaced by three elements drawn from the allied list, with some restriction on the choice. The first element is that of the allied armies general while the second is that of the most common type. The third element can be selected freely from elements not selected.

As way of an example a Numidian allied contingent, which was historically used in Africa between 204 to 202BC would contain: 1 x General (Cv or LH); 1 x horsemen (LH) or javelinmen (Ps); and one other element. This very different army, with the potential for two stands of light horse, would be well at home on the fields of Zama.

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When using a Numidian Ally I tend to drop the two stands of triarii (Sp) and one stand of velites (Ps). I replace these with two stands of Numidian light horse and one of Numidian light infantry (Ps), shown previously. This allows me to mass the Numidian light horse on one flank and the Roman cavalry on the other. This potentially creates command issues, as the general’s element is on one flank. However, as light horse operate at an increased command range this tends to be less of a problem than it would seem.

An alternate ally for the Polybians, historically used from around 212BC in Spain, could be the Iberians (II/39a) or Celtiberian (II/39b). Here an Iberian allied contingent would contain: 1x General with long-shield cavalry (Cv); 1 x scutarii (3/4Ax); and one other element. In contrast the Celtiberians would contain: 1x General with long-shield cavalry (Cv); 1 x scutarii (3Bd); and one other element. I suspect that when I field these options I will use two stands of scutarii. These two contingents provide additional variety, and an interesting feel well suited to campaigning in Spain. While not battle winning they provide a little of the frustration of using local allies.

Romans fighting in Greece or Asia, from 198BC, called on contingents from their Greek or Pergemene allies. A Pergemene allied contingent (II/34) would comprise: 1 x  Pergamene General (3Kn or Cv); 1 x mercenary peltasts (Ps); as well as one additional element. This provides a very different army from the Numidian contingent, especially if you select a 3Kn.

A few armies are allowed two allied contingents at the same time and the Polybian Romans are one such list. In this case (II/31j) and (II/34) which represents those armies in Greece and Asia. In this situation four elements are removed from the base army and two each from the allied armies are used. I suspect the PIP penalties with this arrangement may be very prohibitive.

Suggested Reading:

Phil Barker has suggested several references in the Polybian Roman list. I will add a few of my own thoughts.

Much of what we know of the Roman military system, as well as the campaigns and battles, is recorded by Polybius. His history, “ The Rise of the Roman Empire” is both readable and absorbing. I would recommended it to anyone interested in this period.

Another excellent resource is Duncan Head’s “Armies of the Macedonian and Punic Wars“. It includes sections on the army, organisations tactical methods and major battles before looking at various trooms of Rome, and her enemies, using well explained black and white drawings.

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