A Wargamers Guide to
The Early Roman Empire

A Wrgamers Guide to The Early Roman Empire

By Daniel Mersey

This is an excellent introduction to Wargaming the Early Roman Empire. The Principate (27 BC to AD 284) is the most popular period of history from which Roman Armies are collected. It is one of the most versatile forces that a wargamer can choose to collect. This book will help you collect and field Roman Armies for your wargames table.

The list below is of the Emperors’ who were in charge during the specified dates. As you read the book, you will often reference the identical chart in the book to see who was the Emperor during that period of time. The Emperors are:





27 BC – 14 AD Augustus 218 Diadumenianus
14 – 37 Tiberius 218 – 222 Elagabal
37 – 41 Gaius / Caligula 222 – 235 Severus Alexander
41 – 54 Claudius 235 – 238 Maximus
54 – 68 Nero 238 Gordian I
68 – 69 Galba 238 Gordian II
69 Otho 238 Balbinus
69 Vitellius 238 Pupienus
69 – 79 Vespasian 238 – 244 Gordian III
79 – 81 Titus 244 – 249 Philip
81 – 96 Domitian 249 – 251 Decius
96 – 98 Nerva 251 – 253 Trebonianus
98 – 117 Trajan 251 – 253 Volusianus
117 – 138 Hadrian 253 Aemilianus
138 – 161 Antoninus Pius 253 – 260 Valerian
161 – 180 Marcus Aurelius 253 – 268 Gallienus
161 – 169 Lucius Verus 268 – 270 Claudius II
176 – 192 Commodus 270 Quintillus
193 Pertinax 270 – 275 Aurelian
193 Didius Julianus 275 – 276 Tacitus
193 – 211 Septimius Severus 276 Florianus
193 – 197 Clodius Albinus 276 – 282 Probus
193 -194 Pescennius Niger 282 – 283 Carus
198 – 217 Caracalla 283 – 285 Carinus
209 – 211 Geta 283 – 284 Numerianus
217 – 218 Macrinus 284 – 305 Diocletian


The first chapter introduces you to the Roman Empire 27 BC – AD 284. Here you receive a nice short background history of the period in this book. Your knowledge starts with Emperor Augustus and ends with Emperor Diocletian. Here you see that the Imperial era had a huge range of operations throughout Europe and the Middle East. The Army was a machine of.

  • Conquest
  • Consolidation
  • Occupation
  • Rapid Reaction

The Roman Army brought peace and order to Europe and the Middle East during this time period. You can see that the different emperors presence and the effect they had on the civilization of that time.

Collection Of Britons & Caledonii

Collection Of Britons & Caledonii

Chapter Two is titled Armies, Organization, and Equipment. This chapter starts by taking a look at how the armies of Imperial Rome were equipped and fought. Here there are several pages that cover the types of troops that make up a Roman Army. In this chart you are provided with the following information:

  • Troop Type
  • Armor
  • Movement
  • Formation
  • Notes

And the Troop Types covered are.

Troop Type Troop Type
Extra Heavy Cavalry Medium Infantry
Tiberius Light Medium Infantry
Heavy Cavalry Light Infantry
Medium Cavalry Chariots
Light Cavalry Camelry
Heavy Infantry Elephants
Light Heavy Infantry Artillery


The next part of the chapter delves a little more into Roman history and the general types of troops that Rome deployed. There were basically three types of troops, and they are the Legionary Infantry, the Auxiliary Infantry and the Cavalry. The author is aware of the limitations that he has put forth in writing this Wargamers Guide. To that end, he does provide the reader with a bibliography in the Appendix for further study.

28mm Early Germans
28mm Early Germans

In this section we learn that the Legionary Infantry usually fought their enemies as Heavy Infantry. The well all similarly equipped with a with a uniform, metal armor, carried a shield, wore helmets, armed with a sword, the gladius, and carried a heavy throwing weapon, which was the pilum. You also begin to learn how the Legionary was organized for battle.

Next the book looks at the Praetorian Guard, the Auxiliary Infantry, and all of the different types of Cavalry. Here again we look at the units and what weapons they employed on the battlefield. Once all of these units are completed, we have looked at our Roman Army and next we need to dive into their tactics.

Generally speaking, the Roman tactics of the day were rather simple. They had their Heavy Infantry units in the center and the Cavalry were on the wings. They fought in a linear manner with a depth of the line. This way as units got tired it was a simple matter of replacing the front units with units behind the original unit and in this way the enemy always faced a fresh Legionnaire. Then when the enemy broke, it was up to the Auxilia to finish mopping up the enemy as they were running away from the battlefield.

During the three centuries covered by this Wargamer Introduction, there were numerous enemies to fight. Listed below are some of the more common enemies for which miniature armies are available. The enemies of Rome are.

  • Rome (numerous Civil Wars)
  • Britons
  • Caledonians and Picts
  • Dacians
  • Germans
  • Parthians
  • Sassanids

The final areas of this Chapter are a Painting Guide. Here you receive some guidelines to painting uniforms and metal armor. You are given a guide as to how to paint Celts, shields and Horses. While the author does not go in depth on how to paint your miniatures, he does at least scratch the surface. There are other guides available that detail the how’s of painting Roman Legionaries and their enemies.

Chapter Three provide some of the larger scale battles that were fought by the Roman Armies. While only a few battles were selected, they do provide for some very interesting and entertaining tabletop scenarios. The following are the key battles covered in the book A Wargamers Guide to The Early Roman Empire.


Year Battle
AD 9 Teutoburg Forest
AD 16 Idistavisus
AD 43 Medway
AD 69 Cremona
AD 84 Mons Graupius
AD 101 Tapae
AD 194 Issus
AD 197 Lugdunum
AD 217 Nisibis
AD 272 Emesa


While reading this book, you begin to get the idea that fighting against a Roman Army is futile. But, such is not the case, in Chapter 4 the author provides a few simple rules to following that will give you an idea of how to setup your battles. The suggestions he offers for balance are;

  • Setup a table with difficult terrain
  • Give the Romans smaller forces
  • Play scenarios with asymmetric victory condition
  • Fight smaller battles

Adding just one of these above modifications to a battle will change the outcome and offer a more balanced battle providing the barbarians a chance for victory.

The biggest difference between a Roman army and the barbarians was in their command structure and in their training. This chapter provides hints and tips that can balance armies that battle.

Chapter 5 looks at Rules that can be used to fight your battles. Ten short reviews are provided to the reader so they can decide which rule set may be best for them to use. After this, you are provided with a number of other rules specifically for skirmish games.

A Battle
A Battle

Chapter 6 the author takes us on a tour of the different miniature manufacturers by scale. We are given manufacturers for 28mm, 20mm (1/72nd ), 15mm, 10mm and 6mm scales. From these charts you can choose your armies as each manufacturer is presented with the troop types that a manufacturer sells.

Chapter 7, the final chapter provides the gamer with some scenarios to play. Here, you are presented with an Introduction to the Scenario, a description of the forces involved, how to setup the table, Victory Conditions and finally rules considerations. A total of xx scenarios are presented and they are;

The Supply Wagon Massacre
When Vanguards Collide
The Dissenter
The Return of the Eagle
The Mysterious Ninth: A Mini-campaign


The Appendix provides a full two pages that are dedicated to “Further Reading.” In this appendix you are given reference books to Weapons, Armies, Uniforms, and Tactics. While not in depth it does go deep enough to flush out your knowledge to the Roman Army and their enemies.


Roman Testudo
Roman Testudo

A Wargamers Guide to the Early Roman Empire is a tremendous book that provides the reader with an introduction to this extremely important period of history. I have been a wargamer/boardgamer for almost 50 years and this is one of the best books I have read on the subject. I have always enjoyed the Roman period of history and, while most of what I read has been covered by other books (many of which are out of print), I was still impressed with the contents of this book. A Wargamers Guide to the Early Roman Empire provides the reader with a look at the Roman Empire and guides you through an overview of its history in a concise 126-page book and it is a book that I can highly recommend.

This 126-page paperback book is available from Casemate Publications.

MSRP        $16.95