At the close of play last week, I thought that a Roman victory was fairly certain, but this week's events changed all that. The right hand warband surged across the stream and attacked the Roman archers. An ineffectual shower of arrows failed to halt the Picts and they charged forward screaming war cries, falling on the archers, inflicting heavy casualties. The small swords of the archers were no match for the axes and swords of their attackers and in no time the archer unit was reduced to a few scattered men desperately seeking safety.
The Roman commander moved over to his right flank and ordered his legionaries to advance on the village. One century was to move into the wood, the other to move around the wood's edge. As they moved forward the scorpion artillery which had previously inflicted heavy casualties on the Pictish centre divided. Two units accompanied the legionaries, the others stood their ground to give fire support. Before the supporting artillery could deploy they were overrun by the warband which had dispersed the archers. It was at this point that the second warband attacked out of the wood. Caught unaware the lead century took heavy casulaties, but managed to stand its ground and counter attack. The century in the wood fared worse. Hampered by the trees the Romans could not make use of their main advantage, unit cohesion. A bloody melee ensued, with casualties mounting on both sides, but with the Picts having the advantage of numbers.
On the Roman left, the two centuries of legionaries continued their advance, though they were suffering casualties from archers in some rough ground to their flank. Doggedly, they advanced, crossing a final ridge and found their way open to the Pictish village.
The Roman cavalry on the Roman right had defeated the last of the chariots, but was struggling to disperse a small unit of slingers (This was one aspect of the rules which we decided needed to be amended. Several times a light infantry unit defeated cavalry, or at least traded casualties at one to one). The Pictish cavalry was also struggling to win a melee against the Roman commander, who had charged with his bodyguard to protect the flank of his legionaries.
The vicious melee by the wood was eventually won by the Picts, after they charged in with their second warband. Outnumbered by 5 to 1 the legionaries fought to the end, but were finally overwhelmed. In the centre the Roman commander fought on against the Pictish cavalry, but his luck ran out and he fell to a spear thrust. His opposite number was also suffering in the desperate fight. Most of his bodyguard were dead or wounded and has he looked around he saw that the Romans had almost reached the village. The warbands were still recovering from their long melee with the legionaries. The day may well be lost. However, the new Roman commander, saw things in a different light. He had only two units remaining, one of which was down to half strength. If he fell back now, he may just, with luck, reach the camp they had marched out of that morning. The garrison would add to their number and they may then be able to reach the relative safety of Britannia.
A good game, in a period we don't often play, was in the balance right to the end. Fortune favoured the Picts with some fortitous die rolls and the late discovery of the advantages for warbands fighting in woods.