‘Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!’ The Victory of Arminius Game Review
The Victory of Arminius – Teutoburg Forest, IX AD Game Review. Publisher: Turning Point Simulations Designer: John Prados Price: $29.95 (zip lock) $34.95 (boxed)
Passed Inspection: Interesting subject, attractive mounted map board, small footprint, seems to capture the feel of the battle, easy to learn and fast to play. Good solo play based upon the static set up of the Romans.
Failed Basic: Editorial issues in the 1st edition rule book but a second edition was posted on-line with some changes, needs larger hexes, counters difficult to read, too many die rolls which I found exhausting. A “turn counter” is provided but no turn track is included.
Arminius’ total victory over Varus’ three Roman legions marked a turning point in Imperial Rome’s expansion in to lands held by the Germanic tribes. It showed to the Germans that Rome was not invincible on the battlefield and shattered Roman moral. This decisive battle is game number 5 in Turning Point Simulations’ Decisive Battles of the World series.
For those unfamiliar with this decisive battle, here is a information from Turning Point Simulations’ description of this battle:
“Caesar Augustus had seen plenty of cataclysm and tragedy in his life. From the assassination of his adopted father to two civil wars, betrayal by allies, and the deaths (possibly murders) of his beloved heirs. And yet, we are told the thing that had him pacing the halls late on sleepless nights happened in a German forest. Legend says he would pound the walls and scream, ‘Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!’
It was supposed to be easy.
Earlier, a massive Roman expedition of over 100,000 soldiers had driven out the tribes and conquered, they believed, the newest Roman province, “Germania.” But a massive rebellion in the Balkans drew over half the entire Roman army, and a new governor, Publius Quinctilius Varus, moved to consolidate Germania with just three legions. His skills as a veteran administrator who was totally ruthless were thought to be the perfect combination to settle the new province. Neither troops nor ruthlessness would be enough, because they faced ruthlessness of a different order.
The Romans called him “Arminius,” but he was just “Hermann” to the Germans. He had grown up in Rome as an honored princely hostage and the Romans assumed he liked what he had learned. Instead, he was learning the strengths and weaknesses of a Roman army and planning for the future. He managed to become a trusted assistant of Varus and was assumed to be a useful ally to his and other tribes. He was, indeed, forging an alliance. He then faked an uprising that Varus was encouraged to quell immediately, using an unfamiliar route that Arminius selected…which turned out to be a narrow track through swamps and heavy woods, where the German warriors waited. It was almost too easy.
When several days of battle were over, some- where between 15-20,000 Roman soldiers were dead – three full legions had disappeared from the rolls (and would not be reconstituted!)”
The Victory of Arminius game comes either in a zip lock bag or boxed. It contains one 11” x 17” full color mounted map, 140 die cut mounted ½” counters and an 8 page rule book. The boxed game comes with 8 six sided dice. The map and rule booklet are very nice to look at but the counters are a little difficult to read.
The Victory of Arminius is an operational level war game which can be played in one afternoon. Its total focus is this one battle. Quite simply, the Romans have to get as many units off the map as possible while the Germans must destroy as many of the Roman forces as possible. The Germans have units representing various tribes and their leaders which must be unified to defeat the Romans while the Roman forces consist of the XVII, XVIII and XIX plus auxiliaries, leaders, siege engines, wagons and camp followers.
Each unit is rated for Combat Value, Movement Rating, Morale Value plus each army is marked for its forward facing. The armies are double sided – one side is the deployed for combat side while the other is the marching side. When a unit is on its marching side, its attack value is lower while its movement value is higher. In addition, Leaders are rated for a Leadership Rating and Movement Value. Counters are present for Roman “Eagles” and Roman fortifications of various levels.
Wagons counters show their “travel” side or their other side for Camps and Catapults.
Counters are also provided to mark assaults and disruptions and a turn counter is provided and referenced in the rules but no “turn track” is provided to use the counter on! Since the game is limited to 15 turns, I ended up using a 20 sided die to track turns.
The Roman player sets up his units in the marching order that he wants to use beside the map while the Germans set up some of their forces on the map. The Roman’s goal to is to get his units off the other side of the map and he gets no points for killing the Germans. So each turn he must march his units on the road and wait until the Germans attack him. The Germans must initially keep their units away from the road so as not to be sighted and alert the Romans and then pick his time to attack. Initially this makes for a very boring first few turns. I would have preferred if each turn, the German player has to roll a morale roll to see if his forces jump the gun and attack early before all the Romans have entered the road.
When combat is engaged, the players will want to change from marching to combat formation to avoid lethal attacks on unprepared troops. The first German attack will be against unprepared Roman forces in marching formation but after that things get tough for the Germans.
For each point of the Combat Value, the players roll 1 six sided die. Dice are then added based upon leadership ratings and support units such as siege engines. This makes for an awful lot of die rolls for each combat. A table provides combat results based upon how many total points each side gets in the combat. Results range from retreating to disruption to total destruction of units and/or capturing of Roman Eagles. If the Germans capture an eagle banner, the Romans suffer morale set-backs. The rules for disruption need a little tweaking as what to do when a unit is disrupted twice is covered on the combat results table and the combat section of the rules but not in section 10 which is dedicated to rules for “disruption”.
In addition, the combat result “Battle Rages” never occurred in my game but was extensively covered in the rules. I would suggest that the rule needs to be changed to make it more widespread and far less limited than the current rules allow.
The game plays fast and furious (after the first few turns of course) and the tide of battle can shift quickly. In my review game, the Romans counter attacked and trapped Arminius on a hilltop with some of his warriors but just as things looked bad, a German counter attack hit hard and killed Varus, destroying his legions and winning the game.
Optional rules are provided for the Romans bringing in the Ist Legion Germanica in to the area in order to try and save Varus and his forces. I would also provide rules for adding victory points based upon the units the Romans destroy.
While the Rule Book is nicely laid out and includes informative examples, there are far too many typos which could have been corrected if given an extra editing pass.
Also the hexes are a little too small for the counter stacks. I would recommend that if this game is reprinted, the hexes are increased in size.
All in all, I really like this game but think it needed a little more development time. None-the-less, with its low cost, it deserves to be on the shelf of those gamers interested in this fascinating time period.
Armchair General Rating: 83 %
Solitaire Rating: 4 (1 is not suitable at all, 5 is perfect for solo play)
About the Author
A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!