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Battle Scenarios

The Battle of Chalons (451 AD)

At Chalons or Chalons-sur-Marne (also referred to as the Battle of the Catalunian Plains, Maurica or Campus Mauriacus), the western Roman general Aetius with a coalition of Alans, Amoricans, southern Burgundians, Gallo-Romans, Salian Franks and Visigoths was able to defeat Attila's Hunnic host, which included allied contingents of northern Burgundians, Gepids, Heruli, Ostrogoths, Ripuarian Franks, Rugians, Sciri, and Thuringians. One of the truly underrated "decisive" battles of history, Chalons put a stop to Attila's campaign in Gaul.

The Armies

Patrician Roman (II/83a):

Left Flank - Romans, Franks and German allies (Aetius): 1 x 4Bd, 2 x 4Aux, 2 x 4Wb
Center - Alans (King Sangiban): 1 x 3Kn, 2x 2LH
Right Flank - Visigoths (King Theodoric and his son Thorismund): 2 x 3Kn, 2 x 4Wb

Hun (II80a)

Left Flank - Ostrogoths (Valamir, Theodemir and Videmir): 1 x 3Kn, 1 x 2Ps
Center: Huns (Attila): 1 x 3Cav, 7 x 2LH
Right Flank - Gepids and German Allies (King Adaric of the Gepids): 2 x 4Wb

Big Battle: Patrician Romans (II/83a), Later Visigoths (II/82a), and Franks (II/72) vs. Huns (II/80a), Early Ostrogoths (II/67b) and Gepids (II/71).

The Historical Battle

In early 451, Attila crossed the Rhine River with a large army of Huns, Ostrogoths, Gepids and other allies and ravaged Gaul, sacking Rheims, Mainz, Strasbourg, Cologne, Worms and Trier. Even Paris was threatened behind its thick walls before Attila turned his attention to Orleans. With the approach of Aetius and his Roman forces, Attila was forced to abandon the seige of Orleans and retired with his army to the open country near Chalons and Troyes known as the Catalaunian Plains.

Hard pressed by Aetius and especially by Theodoric and his Visigoths along the way, Attila was brought to bay and forced to give battle. Perhaps unsure of victory, he held his army in their laagered camp until late afternoon. When he finally issued forth, he formed his army in three divisions, with his Hunnic cavalry in the center, the Gepids and other German allies on the right, and his Ostrogothic allies on the left.

The Roman army was also formed into three main divisions. On the left he posted most of his infantry, consisting of Romans, Gallo-Romans, Frank and allied Germans. In the center, he placed his Alan horse. On the right, was King Theodoric and his Visigothic cavalry and infantry. Aetius' plan, it seems, was to encourage Attila to strike at his center drawing the Huns in and exposing their flanks to an enveloping movement by both wings of the Roman army.

The battle began with skirmishing on the Roman left as Aetius advanced his infantry to seize high ground overlooking the Marne River (note: some accounts place the highground on the Visigothic side of the field). Attila then addressed his Huns, apparently telling them to charge the Alans and Visigoths and ignore the contemptible Romans, for "the dust of battle overwhelms them while they fight in close formation under a screen of protective shields."

Attila's Huns and Ostrogoths then charged home. The Ostrogoths made little impression on the Visigoths, while the Huns were able to drive back, but not break the Alan formation. Spotting advantage, Attila then turned his Huns to strike the Visigoths in the flank, and gained temporary advantage when King Theodoric was killed. The Visigoths rallied under command of Theodoric's son, Thorismund and struck back, driving both the Huns and Ostrogoths before them. Meanwhile, as planned, the Romans and Franks advanced from their high ground to threaten Attila's other flank. With night falling and his men exhausted, Attila recalled his army to the safety of their wagon laager, where he built a hugh pyre of his spoils, and placed himself and his household atop it, having resolved not to be taken alive if the encampment fell.

The Visigoths were not done, and small bands impetuously pursued the retreating Huns and Ostrogoths to their laager. It is reported that Thorismund was thrown from his horse during the pursuit and had to be rescued by his comitatus. To discourage further raids, Attila dismounted archers who ringed the camp and were able to keep Aetius and the Visigoths at bay for the rest of the night.

Both sides anticipated that the battle would resume the next day. The next day, however, Aetius declined to renew the fighting and Attila's army was allowed to escape westward, eventually recrossing the Rhine. Why Aetius did this is a subject of much controversy. It may have been that his army was too badly used up to press their advantage and he feared that defeat in renewed fighting would have put all of Gaul at risk. It has also been conjectured that he wanted the Huns to remain a viable threat to keep the Visigoths in check and ensure their future cooperation. In any event, Attila quickly restored his army and the next year turned his sights southward, crossing the Alps to ravage Italy.

Deployment

Normal deployment rules can be used. To fight the historical battle, elements should be deployed in divisions as indicated above.

Game Map (ASCII)


=================Roman Baseline==================
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================Hunnic Baseline==================

SCALE: The distance between each dot/letter is one inch.

TERRAIN KEY:

.=Good Going (Good Going)
r=River
h=Hill
b=bad going

Terrain Notes

All hills have gentle slopes. Treat the Marne River as uncrossable.

In addition to the terrain indicated on the map, each player is allowed to place one piece of bad going (no larger than 2 inch radius) anywhere between the middle of the board and their own base-line during their deployment phase.

Special Rules

Although subordinate generals are indicated, only one General per side may be fielded. One account of the battle, written by the historian Jordanes 100 years after the fact, asserts that Aetius was not present to direct the fighting. To represent this possibility, the Roman player may elect to designate King Theodoric of the Visigoths as his general.

Victory Conditions

Use the normal DBA victory conditions.

Notes

The following web sites provide useful background information on the Battle of Chalons:


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Last Updated: August 26, 2001

Questions, comments, and feedback are welcome. Sent them to my attention at IamFanaticus@gmail.com.