Let me invite you to the second part of my and Marcin’s (stormwalker) great adventure with The Gothic War – emperor Justinian reconquest of Italy – as depicted by the Commands & Colors Medieval. You can find first part of the campaign here: Playing Gothic War using Commands Colors Medieval – part 1.

This is a compilation of six scenarios – they cover some of the major engagements of the Gothic War that ravaged Italy in the first part of the sixth century. Through a series of pitched battles and sieges, Emperor Justinian I and his generals, most notably the famous Belisarius and Narses, succeeded in conquering a large part of the Italian peninsula, destroying the Ostrogoth Kingdom that ruled that land since the deposition of the last Western Roman Emperor in 476 AD.

The whole campaign was created and published by g1ul10 in a Gothic War campaign file (BGG access required). It is also part of the newest Vassal module, just make sure you downloaded The Gothic War extension. As you wil see below, that gives a completely new and fresh look at CCM game.

Other interesting C&C Medieval articles:
C&C: Medieval vs Ancients – Part 1 – Major Changes
C&C: Medieval vs Ancients – Part 2 – Minor Changes
C&C: Medieval vs Ancients – Part 3 – Comparative Plays
CCM Belisarius Campaign
Playing Gothic War using Commands Colors Medieval – part 1

With such a great material – not only scenarios, but also historical background and setting the battles in logical, chronological order – I knew we would have a lot of fun. I was to lead the Ostrogoths while Marcin (my C&C buddy) – Romans. Looking at how the scenarios were designed, I was sure a completely different experience is awaiting us in comparison to the base game. Let us see how it went!

Battle of Taginae 552 AD

Historical Background:

From as early as 549 the Emperor Justinian I had planned to dispatch a major army to Italy to conclude the protracted war with the Ostrogoths. The imperial chamberlain (cubicularius) Narses was appointed to command in mid 551. The following spring Narses led this Byzantine army around the coast of the Adriatic as far as Ancona and then turned inland aiming to march down the Via Flaminia to Rome. At a place known as Busta Gallorum, near the village of Taginae, the Byzantines encountered the Ostrogothic army commanded by King Totila, who had been advancing to intercept them. Although he enjoyed superiority in numbers, Narses deployed his army in a strong defensive position. In the center, he massed the large body of Germanic mercenaries dismounted in a dense formation and placed the Byzantine troops to either side.

Session report:
Click on the image to enlarge the animated report

This is one is pretty confrontational and you can easily predict what will happen (Ostrogoth charge in the center) – but not how it will end! Let us see key actions of our game:

  • My Goths were slowly approaching the Roman Infantry line, being all the time harassed by the range fire.
  • And then they charged into the weakest point of the Infantry Line, where there was no leader. Byzantines were killed in droves, and when I was launching a second charge…
  • …I was stopped by timely play of Ambush! Marcin’s Heavy Infantry rolled 7 dice and wiped out my full-strength heavy cavalry. That was most painful.
  • As a next step Byzantines converged on me from both wings and a brutal, chaotic struggle ensued only to be marginally won by the Romans! A very close and fun battle!
  • Michal (Ostrogoths) 5 Marcin (Romans) 6

Battle of Mons Lactarius 552 AD

Historical Background:

After the Battle of Taginae, in which the Ostrogoth king Totila was killed, the Byzantine general Narses captured Rome and besieged Cumae. The newly elected Ostrogoth king Teia then raised an army and moved to relieve the besieged city. This was the occasion Nanrses was waiting for. He called back all his lieutenants and moved toward the Ostrogoths. The two armies camped near Mount Vesuvius for more than two months in close proximity to each other, without clashing directly. The situation changed when the Byzantines intercept the Ostrogoth fleet which, through the river, supplied the Ostrogoth army. This forces the Ostrogoths to fall back on the Lattari Mountains. But soon they understood their mistake, being up there without any food for themselves and for the horses. Having no other choice, the Ostrogoths, therefore, decided to face the imperials in a desperate battle, descending from the mountains and attacking the enemy. In the battle, fought in October 552, the Ostrogoths fight with great honor, putting in difficulty the Byzantines, who, surprised by the sudden attack, were not properly deployed. In particular, Teia displayed his heroic value, undergoing constant attacks on his person by the Imperials. Only on one occasion was his chest uncovered, and on that occasion he was hit by a fortuitous dart, being killed.

Session report:
Click on the image to enlarge the animated report

This time my Ostrogoth will be repealing the enemy onslaught while Marcin need to crack the defenses of Mount Lactarius. Not an easy task but as we shall see, he will be fully capable of solving that puzzle. Main actions:

  • While I was showering the approaching Byzantines with arrows, Marcin was forming for the charge on his right. When he sprung it, the skirmish finished in a draw, with each side losing one units.
  • Seeing the exposed right flank of Roman army, my Gothic warriors charged in center with tremendous impact and… zero result!
  • Fortunately, Marcin’s counter attack was weak so I managed to push with warriors even deeper into Byzantine ranks.
  • However, when the Roman left joined the fray, and attacked my column from the flank, all hopes were gone. The game ended with the Ostrogoths severely routed!
  • Michal (Ostrogoths) 3 Marcin (Romans) 6

Battle of the Volturnus 554 AD

Historical Background:

During the later stages of the Gothic War, the Gothic king Teia called upon the Franks for help against the Roman armies under the eunuch Narses. Although king Theudebald refused to send aid, he allowed two of his subjects, the Alemanni chieftains Leutharis and Butilinus, to cross into Italy. In the spring of 554, the two brothers invaded central Italy, plundering as they descended southwards until they came to Samnium. Leutharis soon turned back home, laden with spoils. Butilinus, on the other hand, more ambitious and possibly persuaded by the Goths to restore their kingdom with himself as king, resolved to remain. The following summer he marched back to Campania and erected a camp on the banks of the Volturnus. When Narses found out about the location of the Alemanni camp, he set forth at the head of an 18,000 strong force, including strong contingents of Heruli mercenaries.

Click on the image to enlarge the animated report

Another scenario similar to the first in that article (Taginae). Byzantines formed in a wedge, with flanks supported by the terrain, ready to meet the barbarian charge.

  • Once again my forces had to slowly advance under the shower of enemy arrows. But once I was within the charge distance, the barbarian warriors rushed forward!
  • They stuck into thin enemy line, quickly breaking it and veering left. Four banners were scored that way in one turn!
  • Marcin never had a chance to move his reinforcements on the map, although he was very close to it (he just needed 2 hits on 4 dices).
  • In the end Byzantines counter-attacked my exposed berserkers, but it was definitely one of those days when everything conspired against Marcin – not only I survived but killed the leader on 2 dice check and then also the last unit. No victory for Romans this time.
  • Michal (Alemanni) 6 Marcin (Romans) 2


The campaign score after our six games altogether :
Michal (Ostrogoths) 32 Marcin (Romans) 19

In the end, the campaign was much more brutal for the Romans than historically – their losses most probably would mean that the reconquest of Italy was failure. Still, that was great fun to play and I really appreciate the effort put by the author into creating and publishing this material. Thank you Giulio!