The purpose of a play test is to see how things work or don’t, as the case might be. So how did it go?
Most pleasing for me was that the Drungus and Chariot rules worked, the latter less spectacularly than I might have wished, but it seamlessly delivered both a missile platform and battle taxi.
The Drungus showed its strength, and the reasons for its longevity, when an unarmoured unit of Roman cavalry sent twice its number of Pict spear men reeling back at no loss to itself. It showed its weakness when the same cavalry got emmeshed in a second group of Pict spearmen and lost half its fighting strength.
The Legions did what they were supposed to do and routed everyone in front of them-but they were trained and armoured and fighting unarmoured part timers.
Unarmoured Roman close fighters didn’t do as well but could still take on greater numbers and if not prevail at least hold their own. The artillery wasn't ready but it will be there next time.
Archery worked but unarmoured archers were vulnerable to both Missilery and Melee.
Armour and luck allowed the Roman cavalry survive against twice their number of equally well motivated and skilled but unarmoured, and in dice terms unlucky, Drungus using Pict noble cavalry. I’m comfortable with that level of combat uncertainty.
The Picts won in terms of holding the field and achieving their own pre-declared battle objectives but they lost two units and had the Romans not ran out of steam (Army Morale Points) would have lost more.
The terrain fought for the Picts as it should for any competent defending force.
Leaders had to work to keep their troops fighting and surprisingly none of them were killed.
The Romans did not lose a single unit but might have lost the Army had they continued beyond their last Army Morale Point. As it was, a despatch home might have said something like “I Remain in the field having inflicted losses on the enemy”.
I’m happy with At the Ends of Empire so far, but the true test will be a much bigger expedition into Persia against a very different enemy.