It bugs me when rules writers introduce arbitrary distinctions between troop types and armies. From what I’ve read there was little difference between the Germanic tribes operating in western europe during the migration period leading to the Fall of Rome. I’m interested in the Early Visigothic, Early Vandal and Suevi because they operated in Spain and Portugal, either passing through or settling permanently. The DBA army lists for these armies, II/65, II/66 and II/72c respectively, highlight the issue for me as they differ in ways that are inexplicable to me. DBA is not alone as other rule systems also distinguish these armies in various ways. It is all too much for me. Too made up by the list writers. So here is my blended army list for a generic Western Germanic horde, whether Visigothic, Vandal or Suevi.
Why a Revised / Blended Army List
From my perspective these armies were basically the same so it bugs me that various rule sets introduce differences. Here are some examples of differences introduced by various rule systems:
- DBA Vandals have less Noble Cavalry and more Warband compared to the Visigoths and Suevi. I’m not aware of any census that shows this was actually the case. Although I’m not convinced by Jacobsen (2012), he goes the other way and claims the Vandals were entirely mounted throughout this period! Clearly scope for debate.
- DBA Visigoths can have Warband Generals but the Vandals and Suevi are restricted to mounted Knights. I guess the logic is that at Adrianople (378 AD) the Visigothic general dismounted to defend the wagon laager with the infantry. We don’t have a record of a Roman army attacking a Vandal or Suevi horde on the march however I’m pretty sure a Vandal or Suevi general would have done the same.
- Aside from the dismounting Visigothic general mentioned above DBA doesn’t let the Germanic cavalry dismount. However MacDowall (1996) believes Germanic cavalry were generally willing to dismount and cites several examples.
- Archers in a DBA Suevi army are close formation archers (Bow) but in the Vandal and Visigoth lists are restricted to skirmishers (Psiloi). I suspect these Bow appear only because DBx lumps the Alamanni with the Suevi in the same list and in DBM the Alamanni can downgrade warriors from Warband to Bow. Similarly in the equivalent Field of Glory army list, only the Alammani get massed archers – the Suevi do not. So not a very strong argument for Bows in the DBA Suevi list but it gets worse. The evidence for the Alamanni massed archers are grave goods, which MacDowall (1996) points out is unsound way to assess what German warriors actually fought with. Bows might have been cheap, hence went in the graves, but swords and armour being expensive would have been handed down to other family members. On a related theme it seems the Ostrogothic massed archers – a DBx favourite – were a myth without evidence (Hughes, 2009). Ostrogoths had the normal Germanic spearmen and they were heavily armoured at that. So I see no evidence for Suevi massed archers and it more likely that dedicated archers were skirmishers.
- Field of Glory gives Suevi cavalry Light Spears but their Vandal and Visigothic contemporaries Lance. Even if it is true, and it isn’t a given, that is too much focus on the weapon and not enough on on the men. Heavy armoured, professional warrior, with an attitude and a sharp pointy thing, on a horse, but willing to fight dismounted.
- DBM Suevi and Frankish Warriors were Superior, supposedly because they used heavy throwing weapons, whereas Vandal and Visigothic warriors were ordinary because they only have a light spear. Nonsense. Apparently all Germanic tribes used a mix of light and heavy throwing weapons (MacDowall, 1996). Even the “Frankish” throwing axe (fransisca) was used extensively by other tribes so wasn’t very “Frankish” at all. Similarly for the angon, a heavy javelin the DBx lists seem to think was the preserve of the Suevi and their kin.
- I have a dim memory that WRG Ancients 7th Edition had Vandal and Suevi Nobles as unarmoured but Visigothic Nobles were armoured. I suspect this is because of lack of archeological evidence, i.e. empty Suevi graves. However lack of weapons and armour in Germanic graves doesn’t mean the guys weren’t well equipped (MacDowall, 1996). Expensive weapons and armour were recycled not deposited with dead guys.
All very silly to me. Artificial differences with little or no basis in fact.
The Revised List
So I have merged together all three army lists that I’m interested in. This is my Germanic Horde to fling against the Late Romans.
Revised DBA Army list for Western Germanic Horde
Early Visigothic (II/65) to 419 AD, Early Vandal (II/66) to 442 AD and Suevi (II/72c) to 584 AD
- 2 x 3Kn//4Wb (Gen) [Nobles]
- 7 x 4Wb (Gen) [Warriors]
- 1 x 4Wb [Warriors]
- or 2LH [Alans, Huns] 1
- 1 x 4Wb [Warriors]
- or 2Ps [Archers, Javelinmen]
- 1 x 2Ps [Archers]
(1) Technically the Vandals and Suevi can have Alans but not Huns. Visigoths can have combined Alans and Huns; if you are a purist you’ll restrict that to 378 AD and only in the Greece. But does any of that really matter? We’re talking a couple of figures on a wargaming table.
This list corresponds to the following Field of Glory army lists:
- Early Visigothic or Early Vandal (Legions Triumphant)
- Early Frankish, Alamanni, Burgundi, Limigantes, Quadi, Rugii, Suebi or Tercilingi (Legions Triumphant) – Specifically Suebi
Hughes, I. (2009). Belisarius – The Last Roman General. Pen and Sword.
Jacobsen, T. C. (2012). A History of the Vandals. Westholme Publishing.
MacDowall, S. (1996). Germanic Warrior AD 236-568 [Warrior 17]. Osprey.