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Author Topic: Late Ruman "Pulp" Skirmish Game "Roma Victa?"  (Read 10498 times)

Offline Viper4Dan

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Late Ruman "Pulp" Skirmish Game "Roma Victa?"
« on: June 10, 2013, 01:42:54 AM »
Having run a series of Back of Beyond 1920's Pulp skirmish games, called "Mongols With Mausers", at various conventions in Ontario for more than a decade, I've turned that experience to the development of a new game set in late 4th century Roman Syria. "Roma Victa?"  combines historical skirmish gaming and role-playing in the Roman back of beyond during the turbulent years just before the "fall" of Rome. Each of my games takes place in the border town of Canus Minor. The introductory background note on each player's scenario sheet sets the stage"

"Its hot! So hot you can see the camels sweat. But here you are in this stinking border town of Canus Minor…”Dogtown” to the locals. The only claim to fame of this miserable little one chariot town is that its far enough south of Palmyra to avoid too much attention from Imperial authorities, and too far west to be looted by desert bandits. It’s the perfect place for a man to earn an honest (!?) living on both sides of the frontier, or to live in the shadows and not draw too much attention to himself.  As a result, it has become a magnet for every smuggler, hustler, charlatan, snake oil salesman, magician, holy man,  or people with secrets to keep. In other words, its an opportunity!"

Included on this sheet is a collection of common knowledge that all of the players would know about "Canus Minor":
a) Life is cheaper than a skin of wine left out in the sun for a week!
b) Anything can be bought or sold, if you know who to ask and have enough money.
c) The local Dromedary Auxilia unit police the town efficiently. They are tough, honest and loyal to Rome. They are also grossly undermanned.
d) Nomads, traders and merchant caravans are common daily sights.
e) The going rate for healthy slave is 7 Solidi.
f) The local Arab tribes are controlled by Sheik Ibn ben Dhovar. He is are loyal to Rome, but, being of a proud and temperamental nature, could turn on Rome if insulted.
g) Spies, murderers and petty thieves haunt the back alleys and taverns of the town.
h) The inn keeper at “Ptolemy’s Retreat” waters his wine.
i) The best “comfort girls” can be found at “Tiberius' Tavern”.
j) In the past two months, ever since Gaius Marius Germanicus (an Equestrian Aristocrat) came into town, many strange men have been seen coming and going from his home.
k) Proximo’s gladiator show is the best entertainment in Canus Minor since the camel chariot races of last Winter.
l) There is one prisoner in the city jail.
m) The police will pay a “finder’s fee” for useful information, returned stolen property, escaped slaves, or deserters returned in working order (ie alive).
n) A good camel will cost you 10 Solidi. A healthy sheep will cost you 1 Solidus.
o) The shrine to the god Abgal (Abgal was a genie of the desert, the patron of camel travel and Bedouins of the Palmyrene steppe.) is believed to be the wealthiest shrine in town.
p) The only good doctor in town is the Army Medicus, Aurelius.
q) Abdul the carpet salesman is hiding something.
r) All the merchants support Vatia for the aedileship.
s) Arab nomads are not trusted in Canus Minor, and are watched carefully. Lock up your daughters, hide your sons, and guard your sheep!
t) 1 Solidus will get you a good meal and a jug of strong wine at most local taberna.

I ran the first go of this game with a group of my university Classics students. The scenario "Market Day, 397 AD", was based on the chaos that ensued when brigands, thieves and pretenders to the purple all descend on the town at the same time.

The factions for this scenario included:
a) Proximo Julianus –  Freedman & Gladiator Trainer
You are Proximo Julianus, former hero of the gladiator ring, freedman, and now a successful trainer of gladiators. Your troupe of combatants travels from town to town throughout the East, putting on shows for the locals. By the standards of the Colosseum, you’re not much, but you’re more than good enough for this lot of rustic provincials. When not plying your trade in the arena, your troupe also makes a healthy profit in smuggling (anything or anyone), selling information, and subtle assassination. Yes, it’s a good life.
You have come to Canus Minor to not only make some money through your entertainments, but to recover some property left there by your late partner. With his dying words he shared (forcibly!) that he had left a treasure map to his hidden wealth buried in the ground at the foot of the statue to Hera.

b) Gaius Marius Germanicus – Equestrian Aristocrat
You are Gaius Marius Germanicus, former Tribune of the 13th Legion and advisor to the Governor, now semi-retired, ambitious and bored. Most of your success and influence has come from your marriage to a Syrian princess, Roxanne, and the wealth her family possesses. You feel that you were meant for greater things than to be just another wealthy Equestrian. In recent months you have put events in motion in order to make a bid to become Emperor of the East. Under the guise of going to spend time with your relatives in the East, you have tried to keep a low profile while hiding out in Canus Minor, far from the prying eyes of Rome. The time has come for you begin your march to glory. Your spies have told you that an Imperial payroll is coming into town today. This would help bankroll your bribes to the local government officials. You may not have enough men to carry this off on your own, but you can recruit local forces to help out if need be. However, you need to be wary of Marcus Aurelius Galba , Commander of the Roman Dromedarii unit. He is friendly enough, but he is loyal to Rome and his duty. He cannot be bought. He may be a problem!

c) Marcus Aurelius Galba  – Commander of Roman Dromedarii Auixilia Unit
You are Marcus Aurelius Galba, commander of a small Auxilia unit of dromedarii scout “cavalry” stationed in Canus Minor. Your role is to patrol the outlying areas along your section of the frontier and look for the first sign of invasion, as well as police the town against thieves, brigands and the scum of Roman Syria. Your men are in good spirits today since their back pay is about to be delivered from Palmyra. In addition to this, you are also to meet with a local Arab sheik and camel trader,  Ibn ben Dhovar, who helps patrol the frontier (which his lands straddle) as well, for a price. With the payroll from Palmyra will come the sheik’s tribute from Rome, which you have the honor of delivering to him personally.

d) Lucius Verrus Metellus – Commander of Payroll Escort
You are Lucius Verrus Metellus, commander of a small unit of German Legionaries, stationed in Palmyra. Your men are hot, tired and miserable. This stinking desert is nothing like your home in Germania! On top of that, you have been ordered to deliver a payroll convoy to this cesspool called Canus Minor. It is to be delivered to the commander of the Dromedarii unit, Marcus Aurelius Galba.  Your miserable commander thought it funny to make you march the 30 miles here on foot as punishment for your unit’s drunken brawl in the taverns of Palmyra a few nights ago (it was a good brawl too!). Well, once you deliver the payroll, its off to the nearest tavern for wine, women and song. There’s got to be at least one decent taberna in this stinking little village!

e) Hasan – Leader of Arab Nomad traders
You are Hasan, leader of a small group of Arab nomad traders (thieves, cut throats and brigands are such harsh terms!). After many unsuccessful attempts to obtain loot from travelling caravans in the desert (too large, too well defended & too dangerous), your men have captured what appears to be a deserter from the Roman Army in the desert. You have decided to take him to the local garrison commander and demand 10 Aureus as a reward. If you cannot get this from the Roman dogs, you will try and sell him to any slaver. If all else fails, you’ll see what opportunities arise in town for some subtle looting.

f) Ibn ben Dhovar – Arab Sheik & Camel Trader
You are Ibn ben Dhovar, sheik of the Howentat tribe, great desert warrior, and  prosperous camel trader. Your tribal lands straddle both sides of the Roman frontier. For several years, you have kept the peace along the border in your tribal lands, scouting for the Romans and hunting down desert brigands. But all of this comes at a price. The Romans pay you a healthy tribute twice a year. Today that tribute is due. You have brought a small retinue to Canus Minor to receive your tribute from the local Roman commander, Marcus Aurelius Galba. If that tribute is not forthcoming this very day, it will be an insult to your honor and disgrace you in front of your men. If that happens, then the Romans will know what the sting of a scorpion really feels like!

g) Odenthius Lysander – Palmyran noble
You are Odenthius Lysander, a Palmyran noble and wealthy silk merchant. Canus Minor is your last stop before crossing the frontier to the East. You carry a rich cargo as dowry for the hand of the daughter of a powerful Persian noble. But, before you go, you must make an offering at the shrine to the god Abgal, whose inscription reads “Let Abgal, his brothers, and the members of his house be remembered to Iarhibol, who gave the god Abgal authority over this locality. Let whoever fears the god Abgal be remembered!" (Abgal was a genie of the desert, the patron of camel travel and bedouins of the Palmyrene steppe.). To that end, you will deliver the flock of sheep you possess to the priestess of the shrine in return for the blessing of the god Adgal.

The game ended with the town in turmoil, a tavern on fire, a running battle through the streets and rooftops between Arab warriors, Roman rebels, gladiators and prostitutes (!), and the local dromedary auxilia apoplectic from their inability to be everywhere at the same time. Basically, it was a good day of gaming!

Offline Viper4Dan

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Re: Late Roman "Pulp" Skirmish Game "Roma Victa?"
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2013, 01:54:57 AM »
1) Arab traders pass the urban renewal work on the Temple of Demeter.

2) Gladiators and Palmyran caravan guards battle in the streets of the bazaar.

3) Arab nomads advance on the town.

4) The Dromedary patrol wade into the battle

5) The scorpion looks for targets.

Offline Furt

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Re: Late Ruman "Pulp" Skirmish Game "Roma Victa?"
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2013, 07:53:38 AM »
A very different and very interesting looking game. Kudos to you for trying something so offbeat.  :)
“A prisoner of war is a man who tries to kill you and fails, and then asks you not to kill him.”


Offline Turbo-Ben

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Re: Late Ruman "Pulp" Skirmish Game "Roma Victa?"
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2013, 03:02:38 PM »
I love this idea! Makes me want to buy three or four dozens of figures right now...  ;D

Offline Poiter50

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Re: Late Ruman "Pulp" Skirmish Game "Roma Victa?"
« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2013, 03:43:38 PM »
Are you using Bob as the rule set or do you have your own rules for that? I can see all sorts of possibilities with the Foundry Ancient Civilian range!  :o

Offline vonplutz

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Re: Late Ruman "Pulp" Skirmish Game "Roma Victa?"
« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2013, 08:08:14 PM »
I saw the Mongols with Mausers game a Hot Lead this year and it was very tempting to try but filled up mighty fast. I'd love to give this a try as I'm even more interested in this time period!

Offline Hussar072

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Re: Late Ruman "Pulp" Skirmish Game "Roma Victa?"
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2013, 11:18:04 PM »
Dan that looks great! I can't wait to try it out!

Offline Viper4Dan

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Re: Late Ruman "Pulp" Skirmish Game "Roma Victa?"
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2013, 01:47:09 AM »
Poiter50, I use my own quick & dirty homebrew rules. I design my games for convention games, so I need something simple enough to teach in 5 minutes, and then let the hayhem begin. These rules are D10 based, where every figure is individually based. They can go where they like, as a unit or as individuals sent out on a task. Here thery are (but I promise, nothing impressive...):


Infantry   6”   Add D5”
Cavalry   10”   Add D5 +2 “
Pack Animals   8”   -

(-1 to hit)   SPECIAL RULES
Javelin   6”   9”   
Pilum   6”   -   -1 to save
Sling   6”   12”   
Infantry Bow   12”   24”   
Ballista   18”   36”   -4 to save
Horse Bow   9”   18”   
Each figure has a “Shooting” Factor of between 1 and 5 (the higher the better). This is the number, or less, that needs to be rolled on a D10 to hit a target. This number can be reduced by any of the following:
Movement Penalties -1 if moving
Range Penalties -1 long range
Being Wounded -2 wounded
If a figure has to roll less that 1 to hit, it must roll a 1, and then re-roll their Shooting Factor to actually score the hit.

Figures must be in base to base contact. Each figure also has a Melee (M) factor from 0-5, representing their training and desire to fight hand-to-hand (the higher the better). Each figure rolls 1D10 and adds it to their Melee factor. Wounded figures subtract 2 from their D10 roll. High total wins. If a figure’s final total is double their opponent, the loser is dead. If a figure wins by more than 1, roll to wound on the Melee Wounds Chart.

Figures can only fight (with a hope of inflicting a casualty) once per melee phase. If outnumbered, they fight the first figure as above. They then roll against other opponents, but if they win they have no effect on the opponent, except to hold them off.

A figure who is hit by a melee or missile weapon rolls a D10.
A Roll of 1 is a result of “No Damage”
A Roll of 2--9 is “Wounded”
A Roll of 10 is “Dead”

Figures with armour and/or shields and/or cover can use this “Save Modifier” to reduce the chance of taking a “Wound”. For example, a Roman Auxilliary Infantryman wearing a light chainmail shirt  and carrying a  Shield would take “No Damage” (ie Save) on a D10 roll of 1-5, but, a roll of 6-9 would be a “Wounded” result, and a roll of 10 would be “Dead”.

Type of Armour/Cover   Save Modifier
Civilian   1
Velite   1-3
Auxiliary   1-5
Legionnaire   1-6
Mounted   +1
Behind Light Cover   +1
Behind Heavy Cover   +2

Units have a Morale Factor of 1-6 (the higher the better). Units that fall below half strength must also make a morale roll at the beginning of every turn. They roll one D10 for each figure still alive in the unit (wounded count for half, rounded up). So long as at least one of the rolls is equal or under the unit’s moral number, the unit carries on. If it fails, the unit will Retreat away from the nearest enemy and towards the nearest table edge (if not in heavy cover), will not shoot and will surrender if contacted by enemy troops. If in heavy cover, each figure will not move or shoot for the remainder of the turn. The unit may roll again at the beginning of the turn to rally from their failed  Morale.

Offline Poiter50

  • Scatterbrained Genius
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Re: Late Ruman "Pulp" Skirmish Game "Roma Victa?"
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2013, 02:14:46 AM »
Viper4dan, That's great, thanks. I have been looking for something simple to use for riots and this sort of simpler game with the visual effect you have achieved.  :-*

Offline Mad Doc Morris

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Re: Late Ruman "Pulp" Skirmish Game "Roma Victa?"
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2013, 05:40:09 AM »
Now, that's a bit special. Love it. Took me a while to read through, so a belated "thanks for sharing". :)

Offline von Lucky

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Re: Late Ruman "Pulp" Skirmish Game "Roma Victa?"
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2013, 08:53:14 AM »
Thanks for sharing.
- Karsten

"Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality."
- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Blog: Donner und Blitzen

Offline nervisfr

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    • Ch'ti Ré-Animator
Re: Late Ruman "Pulp" Skirmish Game "Roma Victa?"
« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2013, 01:35:52 PM »
Great idea to base your game in this period , too many time forgoten .
Looks very interesting. :-*
Frenchy Eric, aka Ch'ti Eric or Re-Animator
"J'ai bon caractere mais j'ai le glaive vengeur et le bras seculier"


Offline FramFramson

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Re: Late Ruman "Pulp" Skirmish Game "Roma Victa?"
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2013, 02:56:13 PM »
So good on so many levels!

Love love love this period!

I joined my gun with pirate swords, and sailed the seas of cyberspace.

Offline Teshub

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    • Sword and Sorcery RPG
Re: Late Ruman "Pulp" Skirmish Game "Roma Victa?"
« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2013, 03:37:54 PM »
I love this, wonderful stuff here!   :o
\"what slaughters of the people there were, what famine and what thirst oppressed the wretched earth.\" -History of the Franks


Offline Duke Donald

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Re: Late Ruman "Pulp" Skirmish Game "Roma Victa?"
« Reply #14 on: June 17, 2013, 06:52:31 AM »
This is really excellent and it's refreshing to see something so different.


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