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Battle of Teutoburger Wald (9 A.D.)

By Chris Jones

Quinctilius Varus. Not a household name maybe but he changed the course of history in 9 A.D. His actions led to the frontier of the Roman Empire being on the Rhine rather than the Elbe. The Germanic peoples remained outside the immediate control of Rome and eventually Germanic influxes were responsible for the fall of the Western Empire. Rome was forced to maintain a strong garrison on the Rhine frontier which limited their expansion elsewhere. All this came about through a display of military incompetence which is hard to credit in the professional Marian Roman army.

Essentially Varus was in command of three Legions of crack Roman troops - the finest soldiers of their day. These were Legions XVII, XVIII and XIX. Never heard of them - there is a reason. Read on. Varus was operating on the German frontier and had agreed an alliance with the chief of the Cherusci tribe, a certain Arminius (or Hermann the German). Varus then proceeded to take his forces with heavy baggage through the Teutoburger Wald, a rough region of steep hills, forest and bogs.

However, unbeknownst to him, Hermann had other ideas than an alliance. Having served in the Roman army he was aware of the inability of the Roman army of his day to operate succssfully in such terrain. To cut a long story short he launched a series of ambushes against the Romans marching in column along such tracks as there were and wiped out all three legions.

The Emperor Augustus was inconsolable, did not eat or drink for days and ran around his palace in Rome shouting 'Varus, Varus, give me back my eagles!' Hermann was wounded in a later battle and his resistance to Rome faltered. However, the cost of replacing the Legions meant that Rome never seriously attempted to conquer the Germans. There is a large memorial today in the Teutoburger Wald to 'Hermann der Cherusker' in which he is portrayed as an early German resistance fighter.

Simulating Teutoburger Wald in DBA

The Armies

Marian Romans (#59) - 8 x Bd, 2 x Ps, 2 x Cv, 2 x Baggage

Early German (#57) - 1 x Bd, 8 x Wb, 3 x Ps


The majority of Terrain should be bad going - forest and steep hills mainly. There should be a road leading from one base edge to the other. Basically the terrain should look like the last place you would wish to lead a heavy infantry force.

The actual battlefield was discovered at Kalkriese near Osnabrück and is the subject of an on-going archaelogical project.


The Romans must deploy on the road in column. They cannot leave the road until the ambush is sprung.

The Germans can be deployed anywhere within 1 move (200p) of the road in ambush. They cannot be seen until they move. The ambush is automatically triggered on a PIP score of 1 if there are Romans within 1 move, or otherwise when the German player decides.

Special Rules

Warband have only a -1 in close combat in bad going.

The Romans do not have a camp but instead have two elements of baggage, which move as artillery and fight as camp followers.

Victory conditions

Normal DBA. However, the Romans win if they can get 6 elements off the German base board.

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Last Update: Jan. 31, 2000

My thanks to Chris Jones for this scenario. Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome. Send them to Chris Brantley at IamFanaticus@gmail.com.